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Obama signs law giving health care to Lejeune tainted water victims

LEJEUNE WATER

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/08/06/160517/obama-signs-law-giving-health.html#storylink=cpy


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Veterans Affairs on WJHL (CBS) - Tri-Cities, TN
04/27/2012 18:06:21
11 Connects News at 6 (News)

... action in afghanistan has ties to the tri-cities region. veterans affairs announced the death of specialist jason edens of franklin. edens died yesterday at a ...


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Fallen Heroes Medal on WZTV-NAS (FOX) - Nashville, TN
04/27/2012 21:16:17
FOX 17 News at 9:00 (News)

... stationed in fort bliss, texas. eden's family will be given the tennessee fallen heroes medal during a private service. covering the capitol... 3 ...


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Fallen Heroes Medal on WRCB (NBC) - Chattanooga, TN
04/28/2012 18:07:08
Eyewitness News (News)

... unit in afghanistan. edens will receive the tennessee fallen heroes medal during a private service. the brother-in-law of auto dealer joe prebul has agreed to pay more than half a million ...


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Department of Veterans Affairs on WSMV-NAS (NBC) - Nashville, TN
04/28/2012 18:12:07
Channel 4 News @ 6 (News)

... the military. tennessee's department of veterans affairs... is calling this the "women's veterans summit". ...






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Veterans Affairs on WSMV-NAS (NBC) - Nashville, TN
04/29/2012 06:36:20
Channel 4 News Today Sunday (News)

... the tennessee department of veterans affairs is putting the spotlight on female veterans. yesterday the ...


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Department of Veterans Affairs on WSMV-NAS (NBC) - Nashville, TN
04/29/2012 08:35:35
Channel 4 News Today Sunday (News)

... hayes street. the tennessee department of veterans affairs is putting the spotlight on female veterans. ...


TDVA Headlines

April 26-30, 2012

Specialist Jason Edens died from injuries sustained during combat in Afghanistan

Read the TDVA release:

http://news.tn.gov/node/8741

Photos from the Women's Veterans Summit can be found at facebook/myTDVA

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.368963533138713.75833.194170840617984&type=3

Women in uniform recognized for their service-WSMV

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - The work of women in the military was recognized today as 150 people joined what is being called the "Women's Veterans Summit."

http://www.wsmv.com/story/17906262/women-in-uniform-recognized-for-their-service

Tennessee soldier dies in combat-TriCities.com

Bill Haslam and Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder respectfully announce the loss of Tennessee soldier, Specialist Jason K. Edens of Franklin. Edens died on April 26, in Bethesda, Maryland from wounds he sustained during an ...

http://www2.tricities.com/news/2012/apr/27/tennessee-soldier-dies-combat-ar-1874496/

Franklin High grad injured in Afghanistan dies-The Tennessean

“Our sympathy goes out to the family of Specialist Jason Edens as they mourn during this difficult time of loss,” Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder said in the state press release. “I join Tennesseans in remembering the ...

http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120427/WILLIAMSON01/120427007/Franklin-High-grad-injured-Afghanistan-dies?odyssey=tab%7Ctopnews%7Ctext%7CFRONTPAGE

Tenn. soldier dies after injury in Afghanistan-Johnson City Press

Edens graduated from Franklin High School in 2007, according to the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder expressed their condolences.

http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/News/article.php?id=99973

Tenn. soldier dies after injury in Afghanistan | Washington Examiner

Edens graduated from Franklin High School in 2007, according to the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs. Edens is survived by his wife Ashley Edens of ...

http://washingtonexaminer.com/entertainment/health/2012/04/tenn-soldier-dies-after-injury-afghanistan/542246

TN Soldier, Spc. Jason Edens, Dies From Combat Injuries – RIP-Blue Collar Muse (blog)

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder respectfully announce the loss of Tennessee soldier, Specialist Jason K. Edens of Franklin.

http://bluecollarmuse.com/2012/04/27/tn-soldier-spc-jason-edens-dies-from-combat-injuries-rip/

TDVA hosts first annual Women Veterans Summit in Nashville-Business Clarksville

By Turner McCullough, Jr. | April 26, 2012 | World War II United States Army Veteran Laura Rhodes will also be in attendance during the morning session.

http://businessclarksville.com/2012/04/26/tdva-hosts-first-annual-women-veterans-summit-in-nashville-42632/

TDVA hosts first annual Women Veterans Summit in Nashville Topix

TDVA hosts first annual Women Veterans Summit in Nashville. Full story Business & Heritage Clarksville · Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs ...

http://www.topix.com/city/nashville-tn/2012/04/tdva-hosts-first-annual-women-veterans-summit-in-nashville


 

 

 

1.    North Korea highly likely to stage nuke test after missile launch, expert says. 

2.    Military career skills program for spouses under scrutiny. 

3.    Afghan forces to lead special operations under agreement with US. 

4.    Prosthetics get the personal touch. 

5.    Vet Affairs not a money-making assignment . 

6.    Lessons learned in Libya. 

7.    P-Noy bares more medical benefits for war veterans. 

8.    Homeless veterans need our help. 

9.    Veterans sign petitions for East Tennessee VA hospital. 

10. Tougher citizenship requirements nearly kept Lacey Army veteran from 6-figure. 

11. More women vets are homeless, but housing scarce. 

12. For-Profit Schools Under Fire For Targeting Veterans. 

13. Official Touts VA Efforts To Care For Women Vets.

14. VA Offering Assistance To Vets With PTSD. 

15. Tightening The Lid On Pain Prescriptions.

16. VA Seeks To Eliminate Copay For In-Home Video Health Care. 

17.  Advocates Of The Plain Writing Act Prod Federal Agencies To Keep It Simple. 

18. Program Could Help Oklahoma City Homeless Veterans. 

19. Group Of Retired Vets Stands Fast In Fight For Homeless. 

20. Hospice Honored For Veterans Care. 

21. Tri-State Open House Planned For Vets. 

22. VA Nurse Recipient Of TB Hero Award. 

23. Veterans Sign Petitions For New VA Hospital. 

24. Brockton VA Outreach Coordinator Working To Get More Veterans In The Door. 

25. Ike's Memorial. 


 

26. Veterans And Their Families Get Help To Become Homeowners. 

27. Japanese-American Soldier: Japanese-American Soldier Proud Of Congressional Gold Medal. 

28. Bataan's Survivors Are Almost Gone. 

29. Golf Tournament To Benefit Semper Fi Fund. 

30. Tougher Citizenship Requirements Nearly Kept Lacey Army Veteran From 6-Figure Overseas Job. 

31. Tim Tuttle And Other Volunteer Drivers Give The Gift Of Transportation. 

32. 500 Missouri Veterans Have Been Hired Under State's Show-Me Heroes Program. 

33. US VETS Helps Homeless Veterans Become Self Sufficient. 

34. Helping Area Veterans Find Their Place In The Working World. 

35. Veterans Group Works To Engage Female Students. 

36. Resource For Troops With PTSD Could Run Out Of Money. 

37. VA / VSO-MSO Hearings as April 10, 2012:

38. Today in History:


 

1.   North Korea highly likely to stage nuke test after missile launch, expert says.  It is highly likely that North Korea is preparing for an underground nuclear test in another apparent snub of the international community, a South Korean spokesman said.

 

2.   Military career skills program for spouses under scrutiny.  My Career Advancement Account has proved wildly popular: More than 147,000 spouses have participated since it began in 2009, and demand was so high the military briefly suspended the program, retooled it to apply only to the spouses of junior servicemembers and reduced the maximum benefit from $6,000 to $4,000.
 Afghan forces to lead special operations under agreement with US.  All special military operations in Afghanistan - including night raids - will be led by Afghan security forces under a deal signed Sunday between the United States and Afghanistan.

 

3.   Prosthetics get the personal touch.  Prosthetics long have focused on function. But the same design sensibility that has come to influence practical items like smartphones is turning synthetic limbs into a platform for self-expression. As Scott Summit helps fulfill that desire, he is influencing what it means to live with a disability.

 

4.   Vet Affairs not a money-making assignment .  Watchdog group puts the House Veterans Affairs Committee among the worst for congressional fundraising efforts

 

5.   Lessons learned in Libya.  When Operation Odyssey Dawn launched in March 2011, AFRICOM found itself in an unlikely role: leading a kinetic military operation on the African continent. While the no-fly zone mission over Libya eventually proved to be a success, AFRICOM's unique structure complicated U.S. efforts, particularly during the early stages of the mission, according to an article in the March edition of PRISM, a National Defense University security studies journal.

 

6.   P-Noy bares more medical benefits for war veterans.  Philippine Star  Leslie Bassett, deputy chief of mission of the US embassy, said the US Department of Veterans Affairs celebrated 90 years of service to veterans in the Philippines this year. “Every month we are honored to distribute over $8 million in benefits to ...


 

7.   Homeless veterans need our help.  Rapid City Journal  Thanks to a public-private partnership in our state, Scott now has a roof over his head while he gets back on track. The Berakhah House in Sioux Falls and similar facilities around our state are showing veterans like Scott how much we care about them.

 

8.   Veterans sign petitions for East Tennessee VA hospital.  Chattanooga Times Free Press  WBIR-TV reports that veterans gave the petitions to elected leaders during a meeting Saturday in the hope of enticing them to vote in favor of a plan that would create a veteran's facility from an old hospital in the city of Harriman.

 

9.   Tougher citizenship requirements nearly kept Lacey Army veteran from 6-figure.  TheNewsTribune.com  The couple has struggled to pay their bills with his Army retirement pay and his wife's salary as a nurse at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Lakewood. Rhonda Phillips' niece had drug problems, and the state placed the niece's three children, ...

 

10.               More women vets are homeless, but housing scarce.  CBS News  A new report from the VA inspector general examining veteran housing that receive VA grants found bedrooms and bathrooms without locks, poorly lit hallways and women housed in facilities approved for men only. Nearly a third of the 26 facilities ...

 

11.               For-Profit Schools Under Fire For Targeting Veterans.  North Country Public Radio  Lawmakers have even asked the US Department of Veterans Affairs to trademark terms like "GI Bill," so commercial sites cannot use the words to gain veterans' trust. Jim Sweizer is vice president for military programs at the American Public University ...

 

12.               For-Profit Schools Under Fire For Targeting Veterans.  NPR  Some "members of Congress are worried" about for-profit schools "ripping off the government by luring students" with Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits "into programs that seldom lead to good jobs. Lawmakers have even asked the US Department of Veterans Affairs to trademark terms like 'G.I. Bill,' so commercial sites cannot use the words to gain veterans' trust." Jim Sweizer, vice president for military programs at the American Public University System, "says he would like to see the VA become the ultimate college guidance counselor to vets." NPR points out that VA already offers lots of advice on its website to vets who want to attend college.


 

13.               Official Touts VA Efforts To Care For Women Vets. WSOC-TV  An interview with Veterans Affairs' Shinseki Williams-Johnson, who spoke about the "quality healthcare that the VA provides for...women." For example, she said, VA has "addressed many privacy, security issues that made inpatient and outpatient units safer, not for only women veterans, but for all of our veterans."

 

14.               VA Offering Assistance To Vets With PTSD. KFBB-TV "Many combat veterans find themselves dealing with a condition known" as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to KFBB, Veterans Affairs offers treatment to help such vets "through the constant uphill struggle" that is PTSD.

 

15.               Tightening The Lid On Pain Prescriptions. New York Times "Data suggests that hundreds of thousands of patients nationwide may be on potentially dangerous dosages" of powerful painkillers like OxyContin. The "Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are trying new programs to reduce use among active-duty troops and veterans. Various states are experimenting with restrictions."

 

16.               VA Seeks To Eliminate Copay For In-Home Video Health Care.  CQ  "As Medicare is experimenting with plans for more extensive in-home health care it could look to the Veterans Affairs Department, which has had a similar program in place for three decades, one the VA is proposing to make even easier to use." According to a "proposed rule posted on the Federal Register," VA "wants to do away with copayments for video telehealth care that veterans get in their homes, a kind of video 'house call.'" CQ adds, "The comment period for the proposed rule ended Friday and the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare, a group of home health care providers, praised the VA for doing away with the copay."

 

17.               Advocates Of The Plain Writing Act Prod Federal Agencies To Keep It Simple.  Washington Post  "Federal agencies must report their progress this week in complying with the Plain Writing Act, a new decree that government officials communicate more conversationally with the public. Speaking plainly, they ain't there yet.," although "law professor Joseph Kimble, author of a forthcoming book on the benefits of plain language," has taken note of an effort by Veterans Affairs to improve in this area. According to Kimble, calls to one regional VA center went from approximately 1,100 a year to approximately 200 calls a year after VA revised one of the letters it sends out. The Post adds, however, that at a "January meeting of the Plain Language Information & Action Network," Meredith Weberg, an editor at VA's inspector general's office, "described how she butted up against an 'obstinate' boss" who would not let change the words "'concur' and 'not concur' to 'agree' and 'disagree.'"


 

18.               Program Could Help Oklahoma City Homeless Veterans.  Oklahoman  "A federal program credited with decreasing Oklahoma City's population of homeless veterans stands to grow. Forty homeless Oklahoma City veterans will be eligible for housing vouchers after an injection of cash from the Department of Housing and Urban Development." The "housing assistance is provided through the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program, which is administered by HUD, the VA and local public housing agencies across the country."

 

19.               Group Of Retired Vets Stands Fast In Fight For Homeless.  Santa Monica (CA) Daily Press  70-year-old veteran Bob Rosebrock is part of a group of veterans who want land on the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs campus to be used to shelter "homeless veterans who are physically disabled or suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the alcoholism and drug addiction that so often comes from self medicating." But officials "with the West L.A. VA said they have a number of programs to help veterans," including one that uses vouchers to help homeless vets make rent payments. That, however, is not enough for Rosebrock or the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which has filed a "lawsuit on behalf of four homeless veterans with PTSD that challenges the VA to provide permanent supportive housing at the West L.A. campus."

 

20.               Hospice Honored For Veterans Care.  Rapid City Journal  The Rapid City Regional Hospital's Hospice of the Hills program has been "awarded Level One status by the We Honor Veterans Partner Program for their end-of-life care to veterans. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organizations in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs launched We Honor Veterans, a campaign to help improve the care veterans receive from hospice and palliative care providers." The City Journal quotes Marcia Taylor, director of Hospice of the Hills, who said, "We have the honor of being able to hear amazing stories, honor the sacrifices our veterans have made, and help them reflect on their experiences in a healing way."

 

21.               Tri-State Open House Planned For Vets.  Sioux City Journal  "An outreach initiative to provide rural-area Veterans information and counseling about benefits and services is planned for Friday, April 27 and Saturday, April 28." The US Department of Veterans Affairs is "partnering with the Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs, service agencies, county service officers and military transition assistance advisors to bring information and services at the Veterans of the Armed Forces Open House."


22.               VA Nurse Recipient Of TB Hero Award.  Brockton (MA) Enterprise "Nancy O'Neil, of the VA Boston Healthcare System, was recognized with the TB Hero Award at the 2012 'World No TB Day' event at the State House on March 27. The Medical Advisory Committee for the Elimination of Tuberculosis, a group of physicians and other TB experts held the event," which was "attended by state legislators, Department of Public Health officials, physicians, nurses and community members. O'Neil, a licensed practical nurse, was selected as the TB Hero for Massachusetts ;because of her tireless work at the VA Boston Healthcare System,; according to a VA press release."

 

23.               Veterans Sign Petitions For New VA Hospital.  AP  "Hundreds of veterans have signed petitions in support of a new" Veterans Affairs "hospital in East Tennessee.

 

24.               Brockton VA Outreach Coordinator Working To Get More Veterans In The Door.  Brockton (MA) Enterprise  David Hencke, a "lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts National Guard, became VA Boston Healthcare System's outreach coordinator this year. One of his key goals is getting the current generation of veterans – Iraq and Afghanistan service members – to start using the Veterans Affairs' services." The Enterprise adds, "Helping veterans sooner, Hencke added, can help prevent future health issues."

 

25.               Ike's Memorial.  Washington Post  "Recent weeks have seen an escalation of passions surrounding architect Frank Gehry's design for the $112 million" Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial "planned for land just south of the Mall near the National Air and Space Museum." The "House subcommittee on national parks, forests and public lands held an unusual hearing in which there were calls to scrap the plans." But the Post concludes that the "bipartisan commission" behind the current plans "has undertaken a meticulous, public process that took pains to include the Eisenhower family," and "should not be deterred in its efforts to break ground."

 

26.               Veterans And Their Families Get Help To Become Homeowners.  Kansas City (MO) Star

 

27.               Japanese-American Soldier: Japanese-American Soldier Proud Of Congressional Gold Medal.  Orlando Sentinel


28.               Bataan's Survivors Are Almost Gone.  San Antonio Express-News

 

29.               Golf Tournament To Benefit Semper Fi Fund.  Riverside (CA) Press Enterprise

 

30.               Tougher Citizenship Requirements Nearly Kept Lacey Army Veteran From 6-Figure Overseas Job. Tacoma (WA) News Tribune

 

31.               Tim Tuttle And Other Volunteer Drivers Give The Gift Of Transportation.  Muncie (IN) Star Press

 

32.               500 Missouri Veterans Have Been Hired Under State's Show-Me Heroes Program.  Southeast Missourian

 

33.               US VETS Helps Homeless Veterans Become Self Sufficient.  Prescott (AZ) Daily Courier

 

34.               Helping Area Veterans Find Their Place In The Working World.  Windsor (CO) Beacon

 

35.               Veterans Group Works To Engage Female Students.  Columbia Spectator

 

36.               Resource For Troops With PTSD Could Run Out Of Money.  KCNC-TV

 

37.               VA / VSO-MSO Hearings as April 10, 2012:

               April 10, 2012.  Senator Daniel K. Akaka is planning to hold a Senate Veterans Affairs Field Hearing in Hawaii.  Hearing will be entitled “VA Healthcare and Services for Hawaii Veterans”.  10:00 A.M.; Oahu Veterans Center, 1298 Kukila Street. Honolulu, HI


 

 

            April 16, 2012. HVAC-Health will hold a legislative hearing on the following bills:                                    HR 1460, to provide for automatic enrollment of Veterans returning from combat zones into the VA medical system;

                        HR 2619, the Veterans Affairs Active Shooter Training Act of 2011;

                        HR 3016, to direct the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to jointly operate the Federal recovery Coordination Program;

                        HR 3245, the Efficient Service for Veterans Act;

                        HR 3279, to amend Title 38, to clarify that caregivers for Veterans with serious illnesses are eligible for assistance and support services provided by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs;

                        HR 3337, the Open Burn Pit Registry Act of 2011;

                        HR 3723, the Enhanced Veteran Healthcare Experience Act of 2011

                        HR 4079, the Safe Housing for Homeless Veterans Act.

4:00 P.M.; 334 Cannon

38.               Today in History:

 

 

 

1.    Japan PM discusses options for US troops during Okinawa visit. 

2.    Suicidal veteran charged with weapons violations is allowed to enroll in. 

3.    Hundreds protest proposed Hot Springs VA closure. 

4.    Veteran hopes story will help others. 

5.    Veterans learn tools of business. 

6.    VA Orders A Pause For The "Heart" Of Integrated Health Record System.

7.    Gov. Patrick Signs Bill For Korean War Memorial. 

8.    Bills Boost Job Prospects For Veterans. 

9.    Pickens Woman Faces Prison For Taking Veterans Benefits. 

10. Support Program Helps Veterans Change Lives. 

11. Remote "Eye In The Sky" Keeping Tabs On VA Hospital Patients. 

12. New $9.3 Million VA Clinic Set To Open In NE Ohio. 

13. Changes Slow VA Hospital Project In Orlando. 

14. More Than 1,000 Participate In "Welcome Home Veterans" March Saturday. 

15. Out Of The War Zones, Into A Brutal Labor Market. 

16. Counseling Available For Veterans Through Cal U Office. 

17. Treating War Trauma Local Center Helps Veterans Readjust To Society. 

18. Bring A Veterans Center To Helena.    

19. Michaud Raises Money For Army Veteran Who Lost His Legs. 

20. Local Hero Turns 100 Years Old. 

21. Group Raising Money To Give Cayuga County Veterans Free Bus Trip To See Washington War Monuments. 

22. Veteran Describes Experience In Vietnam. 

23. VA / VSO-MSO Hearings as February 28, 2012: 

24. Today in History:


 

1.   Japan PM discusses options for US troops during Okinawa visit.  Japan and the United States are working out the details of closing some military facilities on Okinawa, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Monday.

 

2.   Suicidal veteran charged with weapons violations is allowed to enroll in.  Roanoke Times  Duvall's attorney, public defender Randy Cargill, had argued that a help line run by the US Department of Veterans Affairs was supposed to be confidential, and that Duvall's constitutional right to due process was violated when the information he gave ...

 

3.   Hundreds protest proposed Hot Springs VA closure.  Daily Republic  Hundreds of people showed up in Hot Springs on Saturday to protest the proposed closure of the US Department of Veterans Affairs clinic.

 

4.   Veteran hopes story will help others.  Florida Times-Union  The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that PTSD affects one in five Iraq War veterans. And on a more personal level for Van Winkle, it shows how hard it can be for a veteran to seek help, especially in a society where mental illness, ...

 

5.   Veterans learn tools of business.  The Advocate  Veterans eligible for the program are those who have a service-connected disability, designated by the US Department of Veterans Affairs, and who served on active duty after September 2001, according to an LSU news release. Twelve veterans signed up ...

 

6.   VA Orders A Pause For The "Heart" Of Integrated Health Record System. Federal News Radio  VA "has issued a stop-work order on a key component of the integrated electronic health record system it is developing with the Defense Department. Virginia-based ASM Research was awarded the contract to build a central hub that would let the agencies incorporate private-sector products more easily into the combined system." A stop-work order has been put on the hub, which VA's assistant secretary for information and technology and chief information officer Roger Baker has called the hub the "'heart' of the integrated electronic health record (iEHR) system."


 

7.   Gov. Patrick Signs Bill For Korean War Memorial.  WFXT-TV  Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick "has signed a bill giving $10,000 to the Massachusetts Korean War Veterans Memorial" in Charlestown, a neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts. The signing "comes two months after FOX Undercover revealed that lawmakers had forgotten about the state's official memorial to 'The Forgotten War.'" WFXT added, "In next fiscal year's budget," Patrick has "proposed creating a fund that will pay for the maintenance costs for all the state's war memorials."

 

8.   Bills Boost Job Prospects For Veterans.  Mechanicsville (VA) Local  "Efforts to expand job opportunities for veterans are receiving overwhelming support" in Virginia's "General Assembly this session." However, "veterans' requests for tax exemptions and easier access to retail discounts have gained little traction."

 

9.   Pickens Woman Faces Prison For Taking Veterans Benefits.  AP  "A South Carolina woman could get up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine after her conviction for using her husband's name to collect veteran's benefits. Federal prosecutors say 26-year-old Megan Mosteller of Pickens was convicted by a federal jury" of stealing over $37,000 from Veterans Affairs. The AP adds, "US District Judge Terry Wooten will impose sentence after reviewing a presentencing report on the case."

 

10.               Support Program Helps Veterans Change Lives.  AP  16 veterans living at the Veterans Life Changing Services home are "hoping for a better life." The transitional housing program recently marked its two-year anniversary, according to Bessie Hitchcock, who, along with "her husband, Henry Hitchcock, created Veterans Life Changing Services, as a support program." The home, located in Gary, Indiana, "is a tranquil place where many clients are referred to Veterans Affairs offices for assistance."

 

11.               Remote "Eye In The Sky" Keeping Tabs On VA Hospital Patients.  Minneapolis Star Tribune  Katie McQuillan is part of a "team of doctors and nurses" that is "helping to transform the way the VA cares for patients in its intensive care units by tracking them remotely from a new Tele-ICU center" in VA's Minneapolis-based hospital. With the system, McQuillan, who is an intensive care nurse, "can tell if someone in the Iowa City VA is having trouble breathing, someone in Omaha has an irregular heartbeat, or someone in Spokane is going into kidney failure."


 

12.               New $9.3 Million VA Clinic Set To Open In NE Ohio.  AP  "The outpatient clinic at the site of a former driving range in Parma," Ohio, "is opening Monday on a limited basis. The Department of Veterans Affairs says the 75,000-square-foot facility eventually is expected to serve more than 20,000 people through 125,000 outpatient visits annually." The "clinic's grand opening will be March 10."

 

13.               Changes Slow VA Hospital Project In Orlando.  Florida Today  "Originally projected to open in October of this year, the new" Veterans Affairs hospital in Orlando - "which will treat veterans in Central Florida, including Brevard County - hit snags that will delay its opening at least until summer 2013." Florida Today adds, "The opening of the hospital was delayed because of errors and omissions in the original design, changes in medical equipment and equipment procurement problems, according to the VA." Florida Today notes that additional "people have been put on the project."

 

14.               More Than 1,000 Participate In "Welcome Home Veterans" March Saturday.  Hot Springs (SD) Star  During a "Welcome Home Veterans" parade on Saturday, more "than 1,000 veterans, family members and supporters took to the streets of Hot Springs, forming a throng of people – dozens of Native Americans on horseback, hundreds more on foot – who marched from the Hot Springs American Legion to the VA Black Hills Health Care System campus. The walk was a protest over the proposed elimination" of the VA hospital in Hot Springs and of the "moving of the domiciliary -- for post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse treatment -- to Rapid City."

 

15.               Out Of The War Zones, Into A Brutal Labor Market. Raleigh (NC) News & Observer "It's a difficult job market for everyone, but veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have had higher-than-average unemployment rates across the country." But dozens of "programs created by federal, state and local governments, veterans advocacy groups and interest by private businesses have cut the unemployment rate among vets of Gulf War II, a statistical category used by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics to describe those who served during either the Iraq War or the Afghanistan War." The News & Observer pointed out that in North Carolina, "unemployment among Gulf War II vets is 8.9 percent, better than the state's population as a whole."


 

16.               Counseling Available For Veterans Through Cal U Office.  Pittsburgh Tribune-Review  "California University of Pennsylvania will offer free counseling services to military veterans and their families through the university's Office of Veterans Affairs." Appointments "are available from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. every Tuesday through May 8," although counseling "will not be available on March 13, during the university's spring break. Licensed professional counselor Jason Brosk from the Vet Center, Department of Veterans Affairs, will meet with clients in the university Office of Veterans Affairs, Room 33-G, Carter Hall."

 

17.               Treating War Trauma Local Center Helps Veterans Readjust To Society.  Hudson (NJ) Reporter  Veteran David Cathcart "provides individual counseling to veterans returning from war at a local Vet Center located on Meadowlands Parkway in Secaucus." The Reporter added, "Part of Veterans Affairs, the Vet Center program was established in 1979 to provide free and confidential readjustment services to veterans and their families. The Secaucus Vet Center had over 4,000 visits last year between family and individual counseling sessions combined."

 

18.               Bring A Veterans Center To Helena.    Helena (MT) Independent Record  Montana Lt. Governor John Bohlinger said in a letter to the editor that he and the people of his state are hoping that Secretary Shinseki will reconsider a decision not to put a Vet Center in Helena. Bohlinger states, "There are nearly 8,000 veterans who live in and around" Helena. Bohlinger says those vets "need a place" to "drop in for readjustment counseling services, as needed, rather than wait for a twice a week visit from someone who lives in Great Falls." Several other letters to the editor of the Independent Record also urge VA and/or Shinseki to put a Vet Center in Helena.

 

19.               Michaud Raises Money For Army Veteran Who Lost His Legs.  Portland (ME) Press Herald   27-year-old veteran "Jeremy Gilley managed to survive multiple tours of duty in Iraq without injury." But in December, "while helping an injured driver on Route 3 in Palermo after a crash, a minvan crashed into Gilley and pinned him between the two cars," an injury that led to the loss of both legs for Gilley. The Press Herald adds, "On Saturday, US Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, headlined a charity fundraiser for Gilley at the American Legion Post 43 in Belfast,


 

20.               Local Hero Turns 100 Years Old.  WDBJ-TV  On Sunday, "friends and family who have been a part" of Clyde Bowling's "life all came together to honor him" and celebrate his 100th birthday. Bowling is "originally from Bluefield, Virginia, and now lives at the VA retirement home in Salem. His lifetime accomplishments include...fighting in World War II." This story is also covered by the WSLS-TV Roanoke, VA (2/27) website.

 

21.               Group Raising Money To Give Cayuga County Veterans Free Bus Trip To See Washington War Monuments.  Syracuse (NY) Post-Standard

 

22.               Veteran Describes Experience In Vietnam.  Salisbury (MD) Daily Times

 

23.               VA / VSO-MSO Hearings as February 28, 2012:

            February 28, 2012.  Joint Hearing:  House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a joint hearing to receive the Legislative Presentation of the Disabled American Veterans.  2:30 P.M.; 345 Cannon

 

            February 29, 2012 (Formerly February 8th).  The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a hearing entitled “The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2013.”  10:00 A.M.; 418 Russell

 

            February 29, 2012. The House Appropriations Committee will hold a FY 2013 Budget hearing.   2:00 P.M.; H-140 Capitol

 

            March 7, 2012.  House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a series of joint hearings to receive the legislative presentations of Veterans’ Organizations.  10:00 A.M.; G-50 Dirksen

 

            March 14, 2012. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a hearing entitled “Ending Homelessness Among Veterans:  VA’s Progress on its Five Year Plan.”

10:00 A.M.; 418 Russell

 

            March 15, 2012.  The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies will hold a FY13 VA Budget hearing.  10 A.M.; 124 Dirksen


 

            March 21, 2012.  Joint Hearing:  House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a joint hearing to receive the Legislative Presentations of the Military Order of the Purple Heart; Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America; Non Commissioned Officers Association; American Ex-Prisoners of War; Vietnam Veterans of America; Wounded Warrior Project; National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs and Retired Enlisted Association.  10:00 A.M.; G-50 Dirksen

 

            March 22, 2012.  House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a series of joint hearings to receive the legislative presentations of Veterans’ Organizations.  10:00 A.M.; 345 Cannon

 

March 28, 2012 (Formerly December 14th).  SVAC will hold a hearing on the nomination of Margaret Bartley, and Coral Wong Pietsch to be Judges of United States Court of Veterans Appeals for Veterans Claims.  10:00 A.M.; 418 Russell

 

24.               Today in History:

·         1525 – The Aztec king Cuauhtémoc is executed by Hernán Cortés's forces.

·         1638 – The Scottish National Covenant is signed in Edinburgh.

·         1710 – In the Battle of Helsingborg, 14,000 Danish invaders under Jørgen Rantzau are decisively defeated by an equally sized Swedish force under Magnus Stenbock. This is the last time Swedish and Danish troops meet on Swedish soil.

·         1811Cry of Asencio, begin of the Uruguayan War of Independence

·         1827 – The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad is incorporated, becoming the first railroad in America offering commercial transportation of both people and freight.

·         1838Robert Nelson, leader of the Patriotes, proclaims the independence of Lower Canada (today Quebec)

·         1844 – A gun on USS Princeton explodes while the boat is on a Potomac River cruise, killing eight people, including two United States Cabinet members.

·         1849 – Regular steamboat service from the west to the east coast of the United States begins with the arrival of the SS California in San Francisco Bay, 4 months 22 days after leaving New York Harbor.

·         1883 – The first vaudeville theater opens in Boston, Massachusetts.

·         1885 – The American Telephone and Telegraph Company is incorporated in New York State as the subsidiary of American Bell Telephone. (American Bell would later merge with its subsidiary.)

·         1893 – The USS Indiana, the lead ship of her class and the first battleship in the United States Navy comparable to foreign battleships of the time, is launched.

·         1897Queen Ranavalona III, the last monarch of Madagascar, is deposed by a French military force.

·         1900 – The Second Boer War: The 118-day "Siege of Ladysmith" is lifted.

·         1922 – The United Kingdom ends its protectorate over Egypt through a Unilateral Declaration of Independence.

·         1933Gleichschaltung: The Reichstag Fire Decree is passed in Germany a day after the Reichstag fire.

·         1935DuPont scientist Wallace Carothers invents nylon.

·         1939 – The erroneous word "dord" is discovered in the Webster's New International Dictionary, Second Edition, prompting an investigation.


 

·         1940Basketball is televised for the first time (Fordham University vs. the University of Pittsburgh in Madison Square Garden).

·         1942 – The heavy cruiser USS Houston is sunk in the Battle of Sunda Strait with 693 crew members killed, along with HMAS Perth which lost 375 men.

·         1947228 Incident: In Taiwan, civil disorder is put down with the loss of 30,000 civilian lives.

·         1953James D. Watson and Francis Crick announce to friends that they have determined the chemical structure of DNA; the formal announcement takes place on April 25 following publication in April's Nature (pub. April 2).

·         1954 – The first color television sets using the NTSC standard are offered for sale to the general public.

·         1959Discoverer 1, an American spy satellite that is the first object to achieve a polar orbit, is launched.

·         1972Sino-American relations: The United States and People's Republic of China sign the Shanghai Communiqué.

·         1985 – The Provisional Irish Republican Army carries out a mortar attack on the Royal Ulster Constabulary police station at Newry, killing nine officers in the highest loss of life for the RUC on a single day.

·         1986Olof Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden, is assassinated in Stockholm.

·         1991 – The first Gulf War ends.

·         1993Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents raid the Branch Davidian church in Waco, Texas with a warrant to arrest the group's leader David Koresh. Four BATF agents and five Davidians die in the initial raid, starting a 51-day standoff.

·         1997 – The North Hollywood shootout takes place, resulting in the injury of 19 people and the deaths of both perpetrators.

·         1998 – First flight of RQ-4 Global Hawk, the first unmanned aerial vehicle certified to file its own flight plans and fly regularly in U.S. civilian airspace.

·         1998 – Kosovo War: Serbian police begin the offensive against the Kosovo Liberation Army in Kosovo.

·         2004 – Over 1 million Taiwanese participating in the 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally form a 500-kilometre (310 mi) long human chain to commemorate the 228 Incident in 1947

·         2005 – A suicide bombing at a police recruiting centre in Al Hillah, Iraq kills 127.

 

 August 15 Newsletter!

1.      Invisible women: The number of homeless female veterans outpaces help. 

2.      Plan to help vets use benefits builds. 

3.      Alexandria VA Medical Center adding services, looking for volunteers. 

4.      Dogs help veterans with PTSD cope, improve. 

5.      Veterans' groups are frustrated by scams that prey on patriotism. 

6.      For disabled vets seeking tax relief, the wait is over. 

7.      Agent Orange buried on Okinawa, vet says. 

8.      Services availble to veterans through number of programs. 

9.      Man gets jail time for false mileage claims. 

10. Federal, local officials hail construction of new VA clinic in Jacksonville. 

11. Helping Hometown Heroes. 

12. Woman speaks out about rights involving service animals after incident at fair. 

13. White House Rural Council Delivers Report On Rural America. 

14. Disabled Veterans Recover, Find Employment Through Farming. 

15. Vietnam Veteran Uses Comics To Recount War Experience. 

16. Army Reports Record Suicide Numbers For July. 

17. Vermont High Court: Disability Payments Aren't Part Of Garnishment Calculations. 

18. New Law To Improve Veterans' Voting Rights. 

19. Federal, Local Officials Hail Construction Of New VA Clinic In Jacksonville. 

20. Claim Payments For Three New "Agent Orange" Illnesses Surpass 84,000. 

21. Senators Call For Safe Housing For Women Veterans. 

22. VA Secretary Makes Appearance In St. Louis. 

23. Veterans Court Offers Treatment, Other Services. 

24. Changes Coming To Post-9/11 GI Bill. 

25. VA Adds Tablet Computers To Massive Technology Buy. 

26. Veterans Share Frustrations Over Filing Claims, Accessing Services. 

27. Research Targets Veterans' Brain Damage. 

28. ICD Shocks Again Linked To Mortality. 

29. Wounded Warrior Complex Symbolizes Covenant, Stanley Says. 


 

30. New Challenges Face Health Care System Treating Women Veterans. 

31. VA Seeking Mental Health Stories. 

32. VA "Making Strides In Treating" PTSD. 

33. Supporters Of Iraq Vet To Call For Better Suicide Prevention Efforts By US Military. 

34. VA Med Center May Become Home For Homeless Vets. 

35. Canandaigua VA Awards Volunteers. 

36. Logan VA Clinic Increases Hours To Assist Williamson Vets. 

37. Vet Homecoming Planned. 

38. Honor Guard Gives Veterans A Fitting Farewell At Lincoln Cemetery. 

39. Man Sentenced In Theft Of Dead Mother's VA Benefits. 

40. Woman Gets Five Years In Navy Veterans Scam. 

41. VA / VSO-MSO Hearings as August 15, 2011:

42. Today in History:


 

 

1.      Invisible women: The number of homeless female veterans outpaces help.  Fayetteville Observer  Veterans Affairs is taking the lead on homelessness among its veteran population in part because of an agencywide push that began in 2009, when VA Secretary Eric Shinseki declared that the VA would seek to end homelessness among veterans by 2015. ...

 

 

2.      Plan to help vets use benefits builds.  The Columbian  Washington has 640000 military veterans — about 10 percent of the state's population. Allman said the program has helped move about 10000 Washington veterans and their family members to the federal Veterans Affairs health-care system. ...

 

 

3.      Alexandria VA Medical Center adding services, looking for volunteers.  Alexandria Town Talk  Tia Owens-Powers/ towens@thetowntalk.com Gracie Specks was named director of the Alexandria Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Pineville in July 2010. She is a native of Ruston and graduate of Grambling State University. ...

 

 

4.      Dogs help veterans with PTSD cope, improve.  York Daily Record  Little study exists on the effectiveness of dog training in treating PTSD, because "it's still too new," said Tom Murray, a readjustment counseling therapist and a licensed clinical social worker with the US Department of Veterans Affairs. ...

 

 

5.      Veterans' groups are frustrated by scams that prey on patriotism.  TheDay.com  Blumenthal said he would consult the US Department of Veterans' Affairs and Federal Trade Commission about stronger laws to protect against scams. Blumenthal likened the scams to those that flowered in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and more recently ...

 

 

6.      For disabled vets seeking tax relief, the wait is over.  The Virginian-Pilot  In order to get the best experience with our full-size images, you should enable JavaScript in your browser. Mark Jacobs, a PTSD-disabled veteran, poses for a photo at his home in Hampton, Va., on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011. He doesn't want other veterans ...

 


 

7.      Agent Orange buried on Okinawa, vet says.  The Japan Times  Since his exposure to the defoliant's dioxin during the salvage operation, the veteran has suffered serious illnesses, including strokes and chloracne. The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) — which handles compensation for ailing service members ...

 

 

8.      Services availble to veterans through number of programs.  PNW Local News  Part of providing those services is making sure that veterans know they are available. Veterans services are provided by county, state and federal agencies, most notably the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the VA. It's opening a new office in the ...

 

 

9.      Man gets jail time for false mileage claims.  Bellingham Herald  Michael Edward Harrison received the jail time in US District Court for his earlier guilty pleas to four counts of making a false claim for travel benefits from the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Once released, Harrison will be under court ...

 

 

10. Federal, local officials hail construction of new VA clinic in Jacksonville.  Florida Times-Union  The clinic will provide 90 percent of a veteran's daily care, Shinseki said. It will also benefit from $284 million the VA has spent on telemedicine technology the past two years to connect local physicians with experts at larger facilities. ...

 

 

11. Helping Hometown Heroes.  TribLocal  The Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs is hosting a free Helping Our Hometown Heroes benefits fair that will offer veterans a chance to learn about the benefits they have earned. The fair will bring federal, state and local agencies and ...

 

 

12. Woman speaks out about rights involving service animals after incident at fair.  Chillicothe Gazette  The US Department of Veterans Affairs has been placing more service animals with veterans in recent years. Both Lucas and Newstrom think veterans are more likely to be asked for identification because they often have the animals for "invisible" ...


 

13. White House Rural Council Delivers Report On Rural America. Whitehouse.gov Previewing next week's White House Rural Economic Forum at Northeast Iowa Community College as part of President Obama's three-day Midwestern bus tour, offers a lengthy round-up of administration activities and initiatives on rural issues. The list includes events by Secretary Shinseki last month in North Dakota and Montana, and upcoming appearance in Nevada (August 17), Nebraska (August 19), Minnesota (August 31) and Iowa (September 1).

 

14. Disabled Veterans Recover, Find Employment Through Farming. WFGA-TV The Veterans Farm, founded by a former Army sergeant injured in Iraq, that gives area veterans a chance to learn about agriculture, earn money and participate in "agriculture therapy" for PTSD.

 

15. Vietnam Veteran Uses Comics To Recount War Experience. AP  Don Lomax, the creator of Vietnam Journal, a comic which "offers an honest depiction of the Vietnam War," drawing on his experience there. Introduced in 1987, the comic "chronicles the lives and events of soldiers on the front line during Vietnam."

 

16. Army Reports Record Suicide Numbers For July. Stars and Stripes  "As many as 32 soldiers killed themselves in July, the Army reported Friday, a figure that, if confirmed, would be the highest total since the Army began releasing the figures in 2009. The Army suffered 31 suicides in June 2010. Among active-duty troops, three of 22 cases have been confirmed as suicides. Of 10 potential suicide cases among reserve troops, all remain under investigation, the Army said."

 

17. Vermont High Court: Disability Payments Aren't Part Of Garnishment Calculations. Leagle, Inc.  The Supreme Court of Vermont, in Cote v. Cote, decided August 12, overturned a lower court's inclusion of veterans' disability payments within the total income of a husband whose Social Security payments were being garnished after he failed to make court-ordered alimony payments. The Federal Consumer Credit Protection Act caps at 55% the percentage of aggregate disposal earnings that may be garnished; by including the husband's monthly $2,721vetrans' disability payment within its calculation of his aggregate disposal earnings, the lower court had garnished his entire $1,569 Social Security payment. The state Supreme Court ruled, however, that veterans' disability payments were not "remuneration for employment" within the meaning of federal law, and therefore should not be counted. As a result, 55% of the husband's Social Security payment was all that could be garnished.


 

18. New Law To Improve Veterans' Voting Rights. Carol Stream (IL) Press  "A new Illinois law will soon ensure residents at federal veterans facilities have the same voting options and assistance offered at statewide veterans facilities and nursing homes. Senate Bill 98 was signed into law this week" and takes effect on January 1, 2012.

 

19. Federal, Local Officials Hail Construction Of New VA Clinic In Jacksonville.  Florida Times-Union On Thursday, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki "presided over the ceremonial ground breaking for the Jacksonville Replacement Clinic, a $35 million, 133,500-square-foot facility that will serve up to 35,000 veterans a year. About 200 veterans, city, state and federal officials attended the event on North Jefferson Street." In attendance was US Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) and Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, who both talked about how the new facility will benefit area veterans. The Times-Union adds, "The department will close the existing clinic near downtown but maintain a Southside facility it has been leasing for almost two years."

 

20. Claim Payments For Three New "Agent Orange" Illnesses Surpass 84,000.  Stars And Stripes "More than 84,000 Vietnam veterans afflicted with heart disease, Parkinson's disease or B-cell leukemia are drawing disability compensation today thanks to a decision by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki to expand the list of ailments presumed caused by exposure to herbicides, including Agent Orange, used during that war. Another 74,000 veterans have claims pending, and will only need to show VA that they set foot in Vietnam and have one of the diseases added last year to the list of Agent Orange 'presumptive' conditions." While such "payments comfort veterans and their families, they have upset some Republican senators who argue" that VA should not pay benefits if there is only an "association" between a disease and Agent Orange exposure, especially during a time when tough budget choices must be made.


 

21. Senators Call For Safe Housing For Women Veterans. CQ  "Sens. Richard J. Durbin and Patty Murray are calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure safe housing conditions for women veterans who are homeless, after a group of them was placed this year in a shelter that was found to be unsafe." In a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki "on Thursday, the Democratic senators expressed disappointment over...VA's decision to place women veterans who were enrolled in the department's Grant and Per Diem (GPD) program in a homeless shelter in Chicago geared toward men." While VA said the women were relocated earlier this summer, the "senators called the incident 'unacceptable' and asked the department to report to Congress on the steps that have been taken to ensure such incidents are not repeated."

 

22. VA Secretary Makes Appearance In St. Louis. KSFX-TV Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki on Wednesday told "a crowd of veterans in St Louis" that "his administration is doing all it can to help them," including by expediting its benefit application process. The Secretary made his comments while speaking "at the AMVETS national convention going on this week in St. Louis, Missouri." Shinseki "also met with officials from the embattled John Cochran VA Hospital, saying he's pleased with the progress there."

 

23. Veterans Court Offers Treatment, Other Services. Thousand Oaks (CA) Acorn  "The judges of the Ventura Superior Court have established a Veterans Court that began hearing cases involving veterans of the US military as a pilot project in November 2010." The court is a "coordinated effort of the Ventura Superior Court, Department of Veterans Affairs and Ventura County district attorney, public defender and probation agency offices. Under the California Penal Code, defendants eligible for this court are US military veterans who would otherwise be sentenced to county jail or state prison and who committed a criminal offense as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, substance abuse or psychological problem stemming from US military service."

 

24. Changes Coming To Post-9/11 GI Bill. Frederick (MD) News-Post Several "changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill just took effect, with a second wave of changes coming Oct. 1." One of the changes which went into effect at the beginning of this month is that private and "foreign tuition payments will be capped at $17,500 per academic year, except for those" although veterans in certain states will not be subject to the cap. Veterans Affair is "reaching out to veterans so they better understand these changes, and they're also reaching out to colleges to boost participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program, where colleges and the VA help cover some of the additional costs of attending private and out-of-state institutions."


 

25. VA Adds Tablet Computers To Massive Technology Buy.  NextGov Reports, tablet "computers gained a spot on the Veterans Affairs Department's upcoming procurement of desktop, laptop and server computers." It is the "first large-scale buy of tablets in the federal government." Roger Baker, VA's chief information officer, "Baker said he expects the more than 200,000 employees in the Veterans Health Administration, including 17,000 doctors, will be early users of tablet computers."

 

26. Veterans Share Frustrations Over Filing Claims, Accessing Services.  Kitsap (WA) Sun "Ex-servicemembers applying for veterans' assistance face paperwork nightmares and long delays in getting help," while Federal "veterans assistance programs are skimpy on the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas. That's what several people told US Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington on Thursday," at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 239 in Bremerton. According to the Sun, approximately "100 people attended a discussion of veterans issues with Murray," who is supporting a bill that "would require every departing service member to go through the Transition Assistance Program, which tackles resume writing, interviewing skills and job hunting."

 

27. Research Targets Veterans' Brain Damage.  St. Louis Post-Dispatch Researchers "at St. Louis University School of Medicine want to detect and categorize mild brain damage suffered in military combat" by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Dr. Richard Bucholz, director of the St. Louis University Advanced Neurological Innovation Center, is "leading the Traumatic Brain Injury Research Study, funded by $5.3 million from the Department of Defense."

 

28. ICD Shocks Again Linked To Mortality.  MedPage Today  "Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) shocks may contribute to mortality risk, researchers suggested" in a study that appeared "online in Heart Rhythm." MedPage Today adds, "Patients who got a jolt of any kind from their ICD were 55% more likely to die over a nearly 4.5-year period than those who didn't (P=0.02), Merritt Raitt, MD, of the Oregon Health & Science University and VA Medical Center in Portland, and colleagues found."


 

29. Wounded Warrior Complex Symbolizes Covenant, Stanley Says.  American Forces Press Service  "The Wounded Warrior Barracks and Wounded Warrior Complex at the National Naval Medical Center...are symbols of the military covenant of caring for troops whether they are at home or deployed, and after hospital discharges, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness said" this week. The American Forces Press Service adds, "The new barracks and complex for wounded warrior care are provisions of the Base Closure and Realignment Commission, which consolidates NNMC and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the two military flagship hospitals."

 

30. New Challenges Face Health Care System Treating Women Veterans. Camp Pendleton (CA) Patch  "In a military healthcare system originally geared for men, are women veterans getting the health care they need? The Veterans Administration is doing a lot to ensure that they do, according to the July/August Women's Health Issues, a journal of the Jacobs Institute of Women's Health at The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services." The Patch notes, however, that "female veterans also say the quality of care varies from VA hospital to hospital and clinic to clinic and that the battle for services geared for women has been hard-fought."

 

31. VA Seeking Mental Health Stories.  American Legion  The American Legion  is "asking its members planning on attending the 2011 National Convention in Minneapolis to share their stories of mental health treatment" with VA. The "American Legion Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division is working with VA on a mental health anti-stigma campaign called 'Make the Connection.' During the national convention, VA representatives will be in the convention center to interview American Legion members about their mental health treatment to encourage other veterans to reach out for assistance."

 

32. VA "Making Strides In Treating" PTSD.  WPTV-TV  VA is "making strides in treating" post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) "after possibly missing it in older war veterans." Since "2004, federal funding has increased so much for PTSD treatment that...VA staff treating the disorder has doubled across the country." WPTV added, "At the West Palm Beach VA, PTSD treatment has its own specialized building."


 

33. Supporters Of Iraq Vet To Call For Better Suicide Prevention Efforts By US Military.  KOMO-TV  According to US Army veteran Mike Prysner, Sgt. Derrick Kirkland, who committed suicide after serving in Iraq, had been rated as low-risk for suicide by Madigan Army Hospital, despite having already tried to kill himself on three other occasions. Kirkland's "supporters say the Army cleared itself in an internal investigation, but they want the investigation reopened." Kirkland's supporters also "say it's going to take public pressure on the military" to get it to increase suicide prevention efforts. On Friday night, near the military base, those supporters will try to gain the military's attention by speaking out about their concerns.

 

34. VA Med Center May Become Home For Homeless Vets.  Dayton (OH) Daily News The Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center hopes by the end of this year to "find nonprofit partners to develop 29 acres on the southern and eastern side of its campus, addressing the Department of Veterans Affairs' top national goal of ending homelessness for veterans by 2015 while marking a return of permanent residential living to the site." St. Mary Development Corp., a "nonprofit neighborhood development agency, already has plans to build a $6.5 million, 67-unit low-income housing development on 6 acres on the southwest side of the campus. That project, endorsed by the VA, hinges on receipt of $4.8 million in federal Housing and Urban Development funding, plus tax credits."

 

35. Canandaigua VA Awards Volunteers.  Canandaigua (NY) Daily Messenger The Canandaigua Veterans Affairs Medical Center "honored a number of volunteers at its recent Volunteer Picnic and Student Award Ceremony." During an event attended by 75 volunteers, "14 students were recognized for their efforts in providing care to veterans."

 

36. Logan VA Clinic Increases Hours To Assist Williamson Vets. Williamson (WV) Daily News  After the Veterans Affairs clinic in Williamson was temporarily closed following an inspection by the Huntington VA Medical Center, the US VA "announced expanded hours" at the Logan Community-Based Outpatient Clinic, which "will now operate five days a week. The measure is being taken to accommodate veterans in the Williamson area, according to a statement made by the VA." The Daily News adds that Huntington VAMC Director Edward H. Seiler said problems at the Williamson clinic did not have negatively impact patient care.


 

37. Vet Homecoming Planned.  Laurinburg (NC) Exchange The Veterans Affairs hospital in Fayetteville, North Carolina, "will host a welcome home event for Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn veterans and their families on Sept. 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m." The "event is sponsored on behalf of the employees and volunteers" at the hospital "to thank the troops for their service."

 

38. Honor Guard Gives Veterans A Fitting Farewell At Lincoln Cemetery.  Chicago Sun-Times  The Memorial Squad, whose volunteers serve as honor guards accompanying 15 to 30 military funerals daily at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. One member, bugler Rich Yndestad, started after he attended a military funeral where "Taps" came from a boombox, rather than a live bugler. "He has played at 430 funerals since then. A veteran himself, Yndestad sees his volunteerism as a way of giving back."

 

39. Man Sentenced In Theft Of Dead Mother's VA Benefits. Tulsa (OK) World  Timothy Gaffney, 50, "was sentenced Friday to one year and three months in prison after he pleaded guilty to illegally taking more than $23,000 in Department of Veterans Affairs funds meant for his dead mother." He admitted having accepted $23,724 in Veteran Dependency and Indemnity Compensation from Dec. 1, 2008, to April 1, 2010, without informing the VA that his mother had died in November 2008.

 

40. Woman Gets Five Years In Navy Veterans Scam.  UPI

 

41. VA / VSO-MSO Hearings as August 15, 2011:

            August 30, 2011. SAC-MILCON/VA will hold a field hearing on VA’s collaboration with Indian Health Service (IHS) titled: Improving Access to Care for Native American Veterans by Maximizing the Use of Federal Funds and Services. (10:00 A.M.; Rapid City, South Dakota)

            September 8, 2011. HVAC will hold a full Committee mark-up on pending legislation.  (10:00 A.M; 334 Cannon)

            September 21, 2011. SVAC and HVAC will hold a full committee joint hearing on the legislative agenda of the American Legion. (8:00 A.M.; G-50 Dirksen)


 

            September (Date TBD). The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will conduct a hearing on “Is This Any Way to Treat Our Troops? Part IV:  Lack of Progress and Accountability.”

42. Today in History:

·                    778 – The Battle of Roncevaux Pass, at which Roland is killed.

·                    927 – The Saracens conquer and destroy Taranto.

·                    982Holy Roman Emperor Otto II is defeated by the Saracens in the battle of Capo Colonna, in Calabria

·                    1018 – Byzantine general Eustathios Daphnomeles blinds and captures Ibatzes of Bulgaria by a ruse, thereby ending Bulgarian resistance against Emperor Basil II's conquest of Bulgaria.

·                    1040 – King Duncan I is killed in battle against his first cousin and rival Macbeth. The latter succeeds him as King of Scotland.

·                    1057 – King Macbeth is killed at the Battle of Lumphanan by the forces of Máel Coluim mac Donnchada.

·                    1281Mongol invasion of Japan: The Mongolian fleet of Kublai Khan is destroyed by a "divine wind" for the second time in the Battle of Kōan.

·                    1248 – The foundation stone of Cologne Cathedral, built to house the relics of the Three Wise Men, is laid. (Construction is eventually completed in 1880.)

·                    1309The city of Rhodes surrenders to the forces of the Knights of St. John, completing their conquest of Rhodes. The knights establish their headquarters on the island and rename themselves the Knights of Rhodes.

·                    1430Francesco Sforza, lord of Milan, conquers Lucca.

·                    1461 – The Empire of Trebizond surrenders to the forces of Sultan Mehmet II. This is regarded by some historians as the real end of the Byzantine Empire. Emperor David is exiled and later murdered.

·                    1599Nine Years War: Battle of Curlew Pass – Irish forces led by Hugh Roe O'Donnell successfully ambush English forces, led by Sir Conyers Clifford, sent to relieve Collooney Castle.

·                    1695French forces end the Bombardment of Brussels, leaving a third of the buildings in the city in ruins.

·                    1760Seven Years' War: Battle of LiegnitzFrederick the Great's victory over the Austrians under Ernst von Laudon.

·                    1843 – The Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu, Hawaii is dedicated. Now the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu, it is the oldest Roman Catholic cathedral in continuous use in the United States.

·                    1843 – Tivoli Gardens, one of the oldest still intact amusement parks in the world, opens in Copenhagen, Denmark.

·                    1863 – The Anglo-Satsuma War begins between the Satsuma Domain of Japan and the United Kingdom (Traditional Japanese date: July 2, 1863).

·                    1907 – Ordination in Constantinople of Fr. Raphael Morgan, first African-American Orthodox priest, "Priest-Apostolic" to America and the West Indies.

·                    1914 – A male servant of American architect Frank Lloyd Wright sets fire to the living quarters of the architect's Wisconsin home, Taliesin, murders seven people and burns the living quarters to the ground.

·                    1914 – The Panama Canal opens to traffic with the transit of the cargo ship Ancon.

·                    1914 – The First Russian Army, led by Pavel Rennenkampf, enters Eastern Prussia.

·                    1935Will Rogers and Wiley Post are killed after their aircraft develops engine problems during takeoff in Barrow, Alaska.

·                    1939 – 13 Stukas dive into the ground during a disastrous air-practice at Neuhammer. No survivors.

·                    1940 – An Italian submarine torpedoes and sinks the Greek cruiser Elli at Tinos harbour during peacetime, marking the most serious Italian provocation prior to the outbreak of the Greco-Italian War in October.

·                    1941 – Corporal Josef Jakobs is executed by firing squad at the Tower of London at 7:12am, making him the last person to be executed at the Tower for treason.

·                    1942World War II: Operation Pedestal – The SS Ohio reaches the island of Malta barely afloat carrying vital fuel supplies for the island's defenses.

·                    1944World War II: Operation Dragoon – Allied forces land in southern France.

·                    1945 – World War II: Japan surrenders to end the war.

·                    1947India gains Independence from the British Indian Empire and joins the Commonwealth of Nations.

·                    1948 – The Republic of Korea is established south of the 38th parallel north.

·                    1961Conrad Schumann flees from East Germany while on duty guarding the construction of the Berlin Wall.

·                    1962James Joseph Dresnok defects to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea after running across the Korean DMZ. Dresnok still resides in the capital, Pyongyang.

·                    1963 – Execution of Henry John Burnett, the last man to be hanged in Scotland.

·                    1963 – President Fulbert Youlou is overthrown in the Republic of Congo, after a three-day uprising in the capital.

·                    1965 – The Beatles play to nearly 60,000 fans at Shea Stadium in New York City, in an event later seen as marking the birth of stadium rock.

·                    1969 – The Woodstock Music and Art Festival opens.

·                    1971President Richard Nixon completes the break from the gold standard by ending convertibility of the United States dollar into gold by foreign investors.

·                    1971 – Bahrain gains independence from the United Kingdom.

·                    1973Vietnam War: The United States bombing of Cambodia ends.

·                    1974Yuk Young-soo, First Lady of South Korea, is killed during an apparent assassination attempt upon President of South Korea, Park Chung-hee.

·                    1975Bangladesh's founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is killed along with most members of his family during a military coup.

·                    1975 – Miki Takeo makes the first official pilgrimage to Yasukuni Shrine by an incumbent prime minister on the anniversary of the end of World War II.

·                    1977The Big Ear, a radio telescope operated by Ohio State University as part of the SETI project, receives a radio signal from deep space; the event is named the "Wow! signal" from the notation made by a volunteer on the project.

·                    1984 – The PKK in Turkey starts a campaign of armed attacks upon the Turkish military

·                    1995 – In South Carolina, Shannon Faulkner becomes the first female cadet matriculated at The Citadel (she drops out less than a week later).

·                    1998Omagh bomb in Northern Ireland, the worst terrorist incident of The Troubles

·                    1999Beni Ounif massacre in Algeria; some 29 people are killed at a false roadblock near the Moroccan border, leading to temporary tensions with Morocco.

 

News Releases  (05/02/2011 - 06/01/2011)

 VA Honors Military Sacrifice on Memorial Day - From parades to somber ceremonies and moments of silence, on Memorial Day, Monday, May 30, Americans will honor the sacrifices of military men and women who paid the ultimate price in their service to our nation. (5/27/11)

 VA Announces Disaster Assistance After Tornado Outbreaks - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today that special disaster assistance may be available to Veterans with VA-guaranteed home loans who have been affected by recent tornados in Missouri. (5/26/11)

 Veterans Descend on Honolulu to Compete in the National Veterans Golden Age Games - For 25 years, military Veterans age 55 and older have come to the National Veterans Golden Age Games to compete and demonstrate the warrior spirit never fades. This year, the competition will be held in Honolulu, Hawaii, May 26 – 31. More than 900 Veterans from across the country will compete in 14 different categories for medals. (5/25/11)

VA Processing Hundreds of Applications for New Family Caregiver Benefits in First Week - In the first week for open applications, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has assisted more than 625 Veterans, Servicemembers and their Family Caregivers in applying for new services under the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act 2010. (5/18/11)

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) App Helps Thousands - The PTSD Coach smartphone application (app), launched in April by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD), has already helped more than 5,000 users connect with important mental health information and resources. (5/17/11)

VA Announces Disaster Assistance After Tornado Outbreaks - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today that special disaster assistance may be available to Veterans with VA-guaranteed home loans who have been affected by recent tornados in the South. Veterans living in the designated disaster areas in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee may receive mortgage assistance through their loan servicers. (5/17/11)

VA Honored by 2011 “Innovations in American Government” Award - The ethics program used by the Department of Veterans Affairs to handle issues affecting its patients was named one of the top 25 innovations in American Government by Harvard University. It is the third time in a decade that VA has received the prestigious award. (5/11/11)

VA Partners with Easter Seals to Train Family Caregivers of Wounded Warriors - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Easter Seals formally announced a partnership to provide comprehensive Caregiver Training to Family Caregivers of eligible post-9/11 Veterans as authorized by the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010. (5/9/11)

VA Putting “Point-of-Care Research” to the Test - A team from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Stanford University is exploring a new approach to clinical trials that experts say will cost less and be easier to translate into practice.  (5/6/11)

VA Names New Industry Innovation Competition Winners - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced today the second round of awards from the agency’s Industry Innovation Competition to six commercial and non-profit organizations. Five projects will provide new tools for Veteran entrepreneurs, reduce the risk of adverse drug reactions and streamline clinical coordination in VA hospitals.  (5/6/11)

VA Honors Veteran Mothers and Daughter - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has always recognized and appreciated the special sacrifice that families make when military service crosses generations. In recent years, VA has watched with pride as this special generational service has increasingly extended to mothers and their daughters.  (5/6/11)

Four VA Employees Are Finalists for Top Government Award - Four Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees are finalists for the prestigious Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal, which honors outstanding federal employees who are making high-impact contributions critical to the health, safety and well-being of Americans. (5/6/11)

VA-Army Agreement Helping Transform Health Care for Patients - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Department of the Army are working together to provide cutting-edge simulation-based training for medical staff to enhance the quality of patient care at VA medical facilities across the Nation.  (5/5/11)

The Million Veteran Program: VA’s Genomics Game-Changer Launches Nationwide - An unprecedented Veterans Affairs (VA) research program that promises to advance the sophisticated science of genomics goes national today.  (5/5/11)

“Discovery and Collaboration for Exceptional Health Care” Research Week Celebrates VA Investigators’ Achievements and Affiliations - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is celebrating exceptional care for Veterans this week, May 2 – 6 as part of the nationally recognized Research Week. This year’s theme, “Discovery and Collaboration for Exceptional Health Care,” celebrates two crucial elements of VA research: dedicated follow-through on important research findings to optimize medical therapies for Veterans and others; and vital research and care collaborations between VA and academic institutions, other government agencies, and health-related industry. (5/3/11)

VA Hosts Veteran Small Business Conference in New Orleans - The Department of Veterans Affairs will host the upcoming National Veterans Small Business Conference and Expo, Aug.15-18 in New Orleans. It will be the largest nationwide conference of its kind focused on helping Veteran-owned businesses succeed in winning federal contracts. (5/3/11)

VA to Take Applications for New Family Caregiver Program - Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) published the interim final rule for implementing the Family Caregiver Program of the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act 2010. This new rule will provide additional support to eligible post-9/11 Veterans who elect to receive their care in a home setting from a primary Family Caregiver. (5/3/11)

Atomic Veterans Have New Voice on Advisory Board
April 28, 2011 - Dr. Charles H. Roadman II, a retired Air Force lieutenant general and professor of military and emergency medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, assumed duties as the chairman of the Veterans’ Advisory Board on Dose Reconstruction last month.

Nationwide 2K Event Will Support Homeless Veterans and Promote Employee Wellness
April 22, 2011 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is hosting a nationwide 2K Walk and Roll event at more than 130 VA facilities on June 2 in support of employee wellness month. The event will also encourage employee and local community support of homeless Veterans.

VA Dedicates New Wind Turbine at Massachusetts National Cemetery
April 22, 2011 - The Department of Veterans Affairs held a dedication ceremony today to dedicate a new 50-kilowatt wind turbine at Massachusetts National Cemetery. The 120-foot tall structure is projected to produce up to 95 percent of the cemetery’s annual electricity usage which will allow it to operate almost entirely on renewable energy.

VA/DOD Smart Phone App Helps Veterans Manage PTSD
April 19, 2011 - Veterans dealing with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can turn to their smart phones for help anytime with the PTSD Coach application created by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense.

VA Infection Control Practices Featured in New England Journal of Medicine
April 13, 2011 - A Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) initiative that reduced the global health care issue of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections by more than 60 percent in intensive care units (ICU) across the Nation is featured in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. It reports data from the first three years of the initiative that is now in its fourth year of implementation, and which continues to be associated with decreased rates of MRSA infections.

Richmond VA Medical Center Launches Health Information Exchange
April 7, 2011 - The Department of Veterans Affairs today announced a new pilot project in the Richmond region to improve the delivery of Veterans health information. The Richmond VA Medical Center will partner with MedVirginia (MedVA) to create a comprehensive health information network for exchanging health information in the area.

VA Changes Billing Process for Third Party Pharmacy Prescriptions
April 7, 2011 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is implementing a new billing process for charging third party insurers for outpatient prescription medications provided to Veterans for conditions unrelated to their military service. This change will not affect Veterans’ co-payments for prescriptions.

Paralympic Veterans May Qualify for New Benefit
April 1, 2011 - Some Veterans in training for the Paralympics will be able to qualify for a monthly subsistence allowance from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), under a new program to help disabled Veterans more easily take part in competitive sports.

VA Begins Process to Create Open Source Electronic Health Record
April 1, 2011 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today released a draft Request for Proposal (RFP) aimed at forming an Open Source community around its ground-breaking VistA (Veterans Integrated System Technology Architecture) electronic health record (EHR) system. When award is made under a planned RFP for a custodial agent, VA will commit to deploy the Open Source version of VistA to all of its facilities, and will contribute all non-security essential modifications to the product it makes or pays for directly to the Open Source custodian. VA will also commit to participate in Open Source VistA with other public and private sector participants.

VA Extends Post-Incarceration Health Care
March 30, 2011 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will extend health care to eligible Veterans in halfway houses and other temporary, post-incarceration housing under a new program aimed at cutting back on repeat offenses.

Veterans Tackle the Slopes at 25th Winter Sports Clinic
March 29, 2011 - This week, more than 300 Veterans will hit the slopes at the 25th National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, taking place this week in Snowmass Village, Colo., March 27 – April 1. The clinic provides newly injured Veterans, and those from years past, the opportunity to learn life changing skills through rehabilitative winter sporting events.

VA, AFGE Reach Agreement on New Union Contract
March 18, 2011 - Officials of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) have reached final agreement on a new national collective bargaining agreement, their first since 1997. This contract will enhance VA’s partnership with the union, change the rules for teleworking and expand the use of e-mail in labor-management relations.

VA Launches New PSA on Suicide Prevention for Veterans
March 15, 2011 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is reaching out to Veterans in crisis and their families in a new public service announcement to raise awareness about suicide prevention resources, such as the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

VA Reaching Out to Veterans on Campus Through VetSuccess
March 11, 2011 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is making a concerted effort this Spring to reach out to student Veterans at eight VetSuccess on Campus sites to make them aware that VA counselors are standing by to help ease their transition from active-duty military to college life.

Dr. Haru Okuda Named National Medical Director for SimLEARN
March 10, 2011 - Dr. Haru Okuda was recently named national medical director for the Department of Veterans Affairs Simulation Learning Education and Research Network (SimLEARN) program. Okuda leads a staff of clinical simulationists and educators in conducting research, developing curricula and best practices and coordinating acquisitions of clinical simulation training systems in support of health care providers at VA medical centers.

Schools Encouraged to Join VA’s Yellow Ribbon Program
March 10, 2011 - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki is encouraging interested colleges and universities to join the Department of Veterans Affairs in participating in the Post-9/11 GI Bill Yellow Ribbon Program for the upcoming 2011-2012 academic year.

U.S. and Australian Departments of Veterans Affairs Research Impacts of Recent Conflicts
March 10, 2011 - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will collaborate with the Australian Department of Veterans Affairs on a new research effort focused on investigating the impact of recent conflicts on the health of returning Servicemembers.

VA Honors Military Women of Past, Present
March 7, 2011 - The Department of Veterans Affairs joins with the nation to observe Women's History Month in March by recognizing and honoring women Veterans.

New Members Appointed to VA Committee on Women Veterans
March 4, 2011 - Four new members have been appointed to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Advisory Committee on Women Veterans, an expert panel that advises VA on issues and programs affecting women Veterans.

New Members Appointed to VA Committee on Minority Veterans
March 2, 2011 - The Secretary of Veterans Affairs has announced the appointment of eight new members to VA’s Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans, an expert panel that advises him on issues involving minority veterans.

VA’s Caregiver Support Program Expanding
March 1, 2011 - The Department of Veterans (VA) is expanding support nationally to caregivers of Veterans with Alzheimer’s disease. A pilot program of the REACH VA (Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregiver Health in VA) program showed great success in reducing stress on caregivers while improving care outcomes for the Veterans.

VA Marks 20th Anniversary of Ground Combat in Gulf
February 22, 2011 - On Feb. 23, the men and women of the Department of Veterans Affairs will mark the 20th anniversary of the start of ground combat in the 1990-1991 Gulf War. Fighting ended 100 hours later after a U.S.-led coalition drove Iraqi forces from the small nation of Kuwait.

VA Observes Recovery Act Anniversary With More Progress Nationwide
February 18, 2011 - On the second anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that Recovery Act funds are playing a major role this year in advancing much-needed infrastructure and other construction nationwide to benefit our Nation’s Veterans.

VA Completes Initial Evaluations of Technology Proposals
February 17, 2011 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has completed the initial evaluation of proposals for its Transformation Twenty-One Total Technology (T4) solicitation to transform its information technology programs, which will result in improved quality of health care and benefits services to Veterans, their families and survivors.

VA Announces 2011 Industry Innovation Competition
February 15, 2011 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced the opening of the 2011 Industry Innovation Competition to identify, fund and evaluate promising innovative technology proposals to improve the quality of health care for Veterans.

VA Seeks Western New York Land for Cemetery
February 15, 2011 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today it is seeking land on which to build a new national cemetery to serve Veterans in Western New York, including the Buffalo and Rochester areas.

VA Announces Budget Request for 2012
February 14, 2011 - In announcing the proposed budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) during the next fiscal year, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki emphasized “making every dollar” count in the $132 billion budget proposal for VA.

Sports Programs for Disabled Veterans Expanding
February 11, 2011 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is awarding two grants totaling $7.5 million to the U.S. Olympic Committee to enhance recreation and sporting activities for disabled Veterans and disabled members of the Armed Forces.

VA & HUD Issue First-Ever Report on Homeless Veterans
February 10, 2011 - For the first time, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development today published the most authoritative analysis of the extent and nature of homelessness among Veterans. According to HUD and VA’s assessment, nearly 76,000 Veterans were homeless on a given night in 2009 while roughly 136,000 Veterans spent at least one night in a shelter during that year.

New and Enhanced VA Benefits Provided to Caregivers of Veterans
February 9, 2011 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is launching the first of a series of new and enhanced services supporting family caregivers of seriously ill and injured Veterans. In May 2010, President Obama signed the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 legislation authorizing VA to establish a wide range of new services to support certain caregivers of eligible Post 9/11 Veterans.

New VA Support Line Provides Important Assistance to Caregivers
February 8, 2011 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is increasing its support to caregivers with a new, toll-free telephone line for the caregivers of Veterans of all eras.

VA Announces Award of First Industry Innovation Competition Projects
February 4, 2011 - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki officially announced today the first VA Innovation Initiative (VAi2) awards under the agency’s Industry Innovation Competition, its third competition since it began in early 2010. These four projects will use innovative new technologies in VA facilities to improve the quality of patient care for Veterans. They represent the first of nearly two-dozen more awards to be made in the coming months.

VA Automating Educational Benefits under Post-9/11 GI Bill
January 31, 2011 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has successfully deployed a new automated system that is delivering faster, more accurate payments to Veterans attending school under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

VA Expands Outreach to American Indians, Hawaiians, Alaska Natives
January 31, 2011 - The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced the creation of a new Office of Tribal Government Relations to ensure the more than 200,000 Veterans who are American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians receive the VA benefits they have earned.

VA Hosts Public Forum to Improve Disability Compensation Criteria
January 31, 2011 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is hosting a public forum in Scottsdale, Ariz., aimed at improving the fairness of payments for Veterans who are service-connected for genitourinary, digestive, dental, infectious, immune disorder and nutritional deficiency diseases and injuries.

VA Publishes Final Regulation to Aid Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange in Korea
January 25, 2011 - Veterans exposed to herbicides while serving along the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in Korea will have an easier path to access quality health care and benefits under a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) final regulation that will expand the dates when illnesses caused by herbicide exposure can be presumed to be related to Agent Orange.

VA’s National Cemeteries Lead Nation in Satisfaction Survey
January 25, 2011 - For the fourth consecutive time in 10 years, the system of national cemeteries operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs has bested the nation’s top corporations and other federal agencies in a prestigious, independent survey of customer satisfaction.

VA Office Developing Innovative Patient-Centered Model of Care for Veterans
January 19, 2011 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is creating a new office to develop personal, patient-centered models of care for Veterans who receive health care services at VA’s more than 1,000 points of care across the Nation.

VA Adds Chat Feature to Online Application for Health Benefits
January 18, 2011 - Veterans will find it easier and faster to apply for their health care benefits now that the Department of Veterans Affairs has enhanced and streamlined its online Form 10-10EZ, “Application for Health Benefits.”

Enhanced VA Health Care Enrollment Opportunity Closing for Certain Combat Veterans
January 10, 2011 - Certain combat Veterans who were discharged from active duty service before Jan. 28, 2003 have until Jan. 27, 2011 to take advantage of their enhanced health care enrollment opportunity through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

VA Posts Annual Medical Quality Report
January 6, 2011 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued the 2010 annual VA Facility Quality and Safety Report on Jan. 5 that reports on VA health care for Congressional review and offers Veterans the opportunity to see the quality and safety findings specific to their VA medical cente

President Signed Improvements to Post-9/11 GI Bill
January 5, 2011 - To bring the educational benefits of the Post-9/11 GI Bill closer to more Veterans and Service Members, President Obama signed legislation Jan. 4 that streamlines the 18-month-old education program administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

VA Set to Verify Veteran Small Businesses
January 3, 2011 - To further advocate for Veterans, VA announced that companies identifying themselves as small businesses or Veteran-owned businesses to gain priority for some Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) contracts must now provide documentation verifying their status within 90 days of receiving notice from the agency.

http://www1.va.gov/opa/pressrel/

 

 

 

                 DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

                      Veterans Benefits Administration

                              Washington, D.C.  20420

 

September 2, 2010

 

Director (00/21)                                                                       In Reply Refer To:  211B

All VA Regional Offices                                                            Fast Letter 10-35

 

 

SUBJECT:  Modifying the Development Process in Claims for Hearing Loss and/or Tinnitus

 

Purpose

 

This letter introduces the Duty MOS Noise Exposure Listing, a rating job aid for determinations regarding service connection of hearing loss and/or tinnitus.  The Duty MOS Noise Exposure Listing is a compilation of Department of Defense-verified lists of military occupational specialties (MOSs) and the corresponding probability of hazardous noise exposure.  Use of a single listing of duty position and probability of exposure to hazardous noise will help to standardize processing of these claims.

 

Background

 

Each branch of the Armed Services has reviewed and endorsed lists of military occupational specialties and the corresponding probability of hazardous noise exposure related to an individual’s occupational specialty.  The Duty MOS Noise Exposure Listing is available at http://vbaw.vba.va.gov/bl/21/rating/docs/dutymosnoise.xls.

 

Direct service connection may not be granted without medical
                                    evidence of a current disability; medical or, in certain circumstances, lay evidence of in-service incurrence or aggravation
                                    of a disease or injury; and medical evidence of a nexus between the claimed in-service disease or injury and the present disease
                                    or injury.  See Caluza v. Brown,
7 Vet. App. 498, 506 (1995) aff'd, 78 F.3d 604 (Fed. Cir. 1996).
 
A Veteran is competent to report symptoms of hearing loss and/or tinnitus as a disability because symptoms of hearing
                                    loss and tinnitus are capable of lay observation.  See Charles v. Principi, 16 Vet. App. 370 (2002);
                                    Espiritu v. Derwinski, 2 Vet. App. 492 (1992).  Consequently, a Veteran’s testimony regarding
                                    hearing loss and/or tinnitus is sufficient to serve as evidence that the disability(ies) currently exists. 

 

 

 

 

 

Instructions

 

Effective immediately, when a claim for hearing loss and/or tinnitus is received, the decision maker must review the claim for:

 

-         Sufficient evidence of a current disability (including lay evidence); and

-         Evidence of hearing loss and/or tinnitus in service; or

 records documenting an event, injury, disease, or symptoms of a disease  

 potentially related to an audiological disability.  

 

If there is no documented evidence of an in-service illness, injury, or event with which the claimed conditions could be associated, the Duty MOS Noise Exposure Listing will be considered.  Based on the Veteran’s records, each duty MOS, Air Force Specialty Code, rating, or duty assignment documented will be reviewed for a determination as to the probability of exposure to hazardous noise on the Duty MOS Noise Exposure Listing.  If the duty position is shown to have a “Highly Probable” or “Moderate” probability of exposure to hazardous noise, exposure to such noise will be conceded for purposes of establishing the in-service event.

 

In such cases, where there is sufficient evidence of a current disability and the in-service exposure to hazardous noise is conceded based on the Duty MOS Noise Exposure Listing, we would be obligated to request a VA examination and opinion to determine if there is a medical nexus.  The level of probability of exposure conceded, such as “Highly Probable” or “Moderate,” should be included in the information provided to the examiner in the body of the examination request. 

 

Additionally, in other cases where an examination and opinion request are otherwise warranted, the probable level of exposure to hazardous noise associated with the Veteran’s documented duty position will be provided in the examination request remarks.

Finally, the Duty MOS Noise Exposure Listing is not an exclusive means of establishing a Veteran’s in-service noise exposure.  Claims for service connection of hearing loss must be evaluated in light of all evidence of record in each case, including treatment records and examination results.

 

Questions

 

Questions should be e-mailed to VAVBAWAS/CO/21Q&A.

 

 

                                                                                   

                                                                                    /S/
                                                                        Thomas J. Murphy

                                                                        Director

                                                                        Compensation and Pension Service

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News Releases  (12/08/2010 - 01/07/2011)

 VA Posts Annual Medical Quality Report - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued the 2010 annual VA Facility Quality and Safety Report on Jan. 5 that reports on VA health care for Congressional review and offers Veterans the opportunity to see the quality and safety findings specific to their VA medical cente (1/6/11)

 President Signed Improvements to Post-9/11 GI Bill - To bring the educational benefits of the Post-9/11 GI Bill closer to more Veterans and Service Members, President Obama signed legislation Jan. 4 that streamlines the 18-month-old education program administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. (1/5/11)

 VA Set to Verify Veteran Small Businesses - To further advocate for Veterans, VA announced that companies identifying themselves as small businesses or Veteran-owned businesses to gain priority for some Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) contracts must now provide documentation verifying their status within 90 days of receiving notice from the agency. (1/3/11)

 Update on Cost-of-Living Adjustment for Veterans Compensation and Pension Benefits in 2011 - The Social Security Administration has announced that no cost-of-living adjustments will be made to Social Security benefits in 2011 because the consumer price index has not risen since 2008 when the last Social Security increase occurred. (12/30/10)

Awareness of Services During the Holiday Season - The holidays are a traditional time of joy, laughter and sharing with family and friends. They are also a time of remembrance of past celebrations and anticipation of family gatherings. (12/23/10)

VA Starts Mentoring for Veteran-Owned Small Businesses - To help small businesses owned by service-disabled Veterans and other Veteran-owned small businesses become more competitive in the marketplace, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has selected 20 mentor-protégé teams to participate in a new program.  (12/22/10)

A Christmas Message from Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki - The second year of our declared independence found General George Washington’s Continental Army encamped at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. In the week before Christmas of 1777, more than 12,000 poorly-clothed, hungry and near-frozen American soldiers were huddled against a brutal winter, enduring the numbing cold as disease ravaged their ranks. As many as 2,000 of them did not survive Valley Forge. (12/22/10)

VA Urges Veterans to Sign Up for Direct Deposits - The Department of the Treasury announced a new rule that will extend the safety and convenience of electronic payments to millions of Americans and phase out paper checks for federal benefits by March 1, 2013. Officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) urge Veterans to sign up for electronic payment of their benefits.  (12/21/10)

VA Processes First Claims for New Agent Orange Presumptives - The Department of Veterans Affairs has decided more than 28,000 claims in the first six weeks of processing disability compensation applications from Vietnam Veterans with diseases related to exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange. (12/17/10)

VA’s Homeless Intervention Program Nears Roll Out - A homeless-prevention program by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which seeks to help Veterans and families who are on the verge of becoming homeless, has moved closer to implementation. The program marks the first time that VA will fund services for the spouses and children of Veterans at risk of becoming homeless. (12/16/10)

VA Announces Use of Standard Payment Rates for Some Non-VA Care - The Department of Veterans Affairs announced today it will begin using Medicare’s standard payment rates for certain medical procedures performed by non-VA providers on Feb. 16, 2011. (12/16/10)

Military Members and Veterans with Disabilities Learn Life-Changing Skills - This week more than 120 wounded military personnel, disabled Veterans and their families are traveling to Walt Disney World in Orlando for the 6th Annual Road to Recovery Conference. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is providing on-site counseling and information about VA programs. (12/15/10)

Federal Agencies Share Latest Research on Polytrauma and Reintegration at Conference - Helping severely wounded Veterans and Servicemembers recover and reintegrate into their families and communities was the theme of a joint Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) two-day conference at the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md. (12/10/10)

New Approach to Smoking Cessation Boosts Quit Rates for Veterans with PTSD - Smoking cessation treatment that is made part of mental health care for Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) improves quit rates, according to a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) study published in the Dec. 8 Journal of the American Medical Association. (12/8/10)

News Releases  (09/26/2010 - 10/26/2010)

 New Medical Forms Will Streamline Veterans Claims Process - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has released three new disability benefits questionnaires for physicians of Veterans applying for VA disability compensation benefits. This initiative marks the beginning of a major reform of the physicians’ guides and automated routines that will streamline the claims process for injured or ill Veterans. (10/26/10)

 VA’s ‘Medical Team’ Approach Reduces Operating Room Mortality Rates - A Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) study published October 20 in the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes that a concept called Medical Team Training (MTT) improves communication, teamwork, and efficiency in VA operating rooms, resulting in significantly lower mortality rates. (10/21/10)

 VA Taking Life-Saving Campaign to Streets - This week, nearly 1,200 life-saving advertisements will go up on city buses, bus shelters, rail and subway stations across the Nation displaying a message of hope for those who have served their country and may be facing an emotional crisis. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is advertising its Suicide Prevention Hotline through Jan. 9, 2011. (10/19/10)

 Secretary of Veterans Affairs Designates 54 Regional Veterans Day Observances - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced today the designation of 54 regional Veterans Day observances. These sites are recognized as model events for the observance of Veterans Day on November 11. (10/19/10)

 VA Funds Solar Energy Projects at 12 Hospitals, Clinics, Cemeteries - The Department of Veterans Affairs has awarded nearly $78 million in contracts to build solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in support of ongoing energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced.  (10/19/10)

 VA Tops $1B Mark in Recovery Act Distributions - he Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has distributed more than $1 billion in funds made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, agency officials have announced. Recovery Act funding is being used to modernize and replace existing VA medical facilities, make improvements at national cemeteries and award grants to states for Veterans homes. (10/15/10)

VA Video Outreach Message Aimed at New Veterans - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is launching a new television advertisement encouraging Veterans to take full advantage of the VA benefits and services they have earned. The ad is one step in a robust outreach effort aimed at welcoming returning Servicemembers and easing their transition from military to Veteran status.  (10/12/10)

VA Announces $22.9 Million Expansion of Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki has announced a $22.9 million construction contract to develop another section of Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Ill. for local Veterans. (10/6/10)

VA Announces Expansion of VetSuccess on Campus Pilots - Two community colleges and three other four-year colleges and universities are being added to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) VetSuccess on Campus pilot program. VA counselors are being assigned to assist Veterans attending school under the Post-9/11 GI Bill make the most of their educational opportunities at Salt Lake City Community College, the Community College of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, Arizona State University and Texas A&M University -- Central Texas.  (10/5/10)

VA Awards Contract to Austin Clinic - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) awarded a $224 million contract to Cullinan Properties, Ltd., for the construction of a new state-of-the-art medical clinic in Austin. The VA clinic will be the largest of its type in the country.  (10/5/10)

Secretary Shinseki Announces $41.9 Million to Help the Homeless - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki has announced that 40 states will share more than $41.9 million in grants to community groups to provide 2,568 beds for homeless Veterans this year.  (10/1/10)

Top VA Physician Appointed to PCORI Board of Governors - Dr. Robert Jesse, Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Health at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), accepted an appointment to the first Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute’s Board of Governors. (9/30/10)

VA’s Disclosure Policy Lauded in New England Journal of Medicine - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) policy on disclosure of adverse medical events was praised as a “valuable resource for all health care institutions” in an article in a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (9/29/10)

VA Publishes Final Regulation on “Presumptive” Illnesses for Gulf War and Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki today announced the publication of a final regulation in the Federal Register that makes it easier for Veterans to obtain Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care and disability compensation for certain diseases associated with service in Southwest Asia (including Iraq) or Afghanistan.  (9/28/10)



News Releases  (08/21/2010 - 09/20/2010)

 VA Earns ‘A’ in Annual Small Business Scorecard - VA has been recognized by the Small Business Administration with a rating of “A” on its Small Business Scorecard for its success in contracting with small businesses. VA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) collaborated with other VA acquisition professionals to achieve the high rating. (9/17/10)

 VA Awards $19 Million Contract for Puerto Rico Cemetery Improvements - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has awarded a nearly $19 million construction contract for gravesite expansion and cemetery improvements at Puerto Rico National Cemetery in Bayamón. (9/17/10)

 VA Honors Veterans on POW/MIA National Recognition Day - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki wants former American prisoners of war (POWs) to be aware of the benefits and services available to them as Americans across the nation show respect and appreciation for this special group of men and women during POW/MIA National Recognition Day. (9/17/10)

 VA Continues to Ensure and Protect Servicemembers’, Survivors’ Life Insurance Benefits - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has reviewed the account administered by Prudential that includes Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) and Veterans' Group Life Insurance (VGLI) programs to ensure beneficiaries are protected, being treated fairly, and accorded the utmost care and respect. VA is also ensuring that benefits are delivered in a transparent way that clearly outlines all available options.  (9/14/10)

 Message from Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki on the Anniversary of September 11, 2001 - Today, September 11, 2010, we remember our fellow citizens who lost their lives nine years ago in New York City, at the World Trade Center, in Washington, D.C., at the Pentagon, and in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Every American was touched by those horrific events-those who reside in our largest cities and those living in our smallest towns. We all knew someone who was touched by those acts of terrorism. The pain of that touch is with us still.  (9/11/10)

 Post-9/11 GI Bill Sponsoring NASCAR Weekend in Richmond - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will partner with Richmond International Raceway for the upcoming NASCAR doubleheader titled, the “Post-9/11 GI Bill NASCAR Weekend at Richmond,” culminating with the Sept. 11 Air Guard 400 Sprint Cup series race. (9/10/10)

 Secretary Shinseki Announces $13 Million Gravesite Expansion at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced today that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has awarded a nearly $13 million construction contract for gravesite expansion at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis. (9/10/10)

 VA Announces Contract for New Denver Medical Center - The Department of Veterans Affairs has selected the construction contractor to build the Denver VA Medical Center (VAMC) replacement hospital. The new hospital will be on the same campus as the University of Colorado Hospital complex in Aurora, site of the former Fitzsimons Army Medical Center. (9/8/10)

VA Celebrates Workforce, Unions and Veterans - The Department of Veterans Affairs workforce of more than 300,000 – including more than 90,000 who are Veterans – knows one of its objectives as it observes Labor Day is to help young Veterans find jobs.  (9/3/10)

International Study Led by VA-Harvard Physician Yields Insight on Risks from Fatty Arteries - An international study of clinical data led by a Department of Veterans Affairs-Harvard University cardiologist found that patients with deposits of fatty plaque in their arteries are at especially high risk for life-threatening cardiovascular events if they have diabetes, disease in multiple arteries or a history of heart attack or stroke.  (9/3/10)

VA Publishes Final Regulation to Aid Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange - Veterans exposed to herbicides while serving in Vietnam and other areas will have an easier path to access quality health care and qualify for disability compensation under a final regulation that will be published on August 31, 2010 in the Federal Register by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The new rule expands the list of health problems VA will presume to be related to Agent Orange and other herbicide exposures to add two new conditions and expand one existing category of conditions. (8/30/10)

VA Secretary Addresses Traumatic Brain Injury Conference - Recognizing the longstanding, integrated collaboration shared by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense, VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki gave the keynote address Monday at the fourth annual Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Military Training Conference here. (8/30/10)

VA/NIH Award $6 Million for Substance Abuse Research - The Department of Veterans Affairs is partnering with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to award $6 million in grants for research examining the link between substance abuse and military deployments and combat-related trauma.  (8/26/10)

Veterans with Disabilities to Learn Life-Changing Skills at Summer Sports Clinic in San Diego - The National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic is an event like no other, uniquely designed to teach recently-injured Veterans how to surf, kayak, sail, cycle and enjoy other sports. The 3rd National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic, sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), will be held September 19 - 25 in San Diego.  (8/26/10)

Veterans with Disabilities to TEE Off in Iowa - Nearly 200 military Veterans are registered to tee-off in a unique golf tournament in Riverside, Iowa, September 6 - 9, 2010, proving that having a visual impairment or other disability does not mean they cannot lead a full and rewarding life.  (8/25/10)

Indianapolis VA Medical Center Launches Health Information Exchange - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced a new pilot in the Indianapolis region that will improve the delivery of Veterans health information. The Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis will partner with the Indiana Health Information Exchange (IHIE), the largest health information exchange organization in the United States, to securely exchange electronic health record (EHR) information using the Nationwide Health Information Network.  (8/24/10)

VA Makes Filing Claims Easier and Faster for Veterans



http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-526EZ-ARE.pdf


http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-527EZ-ARE.pdf



VA Makes Filing Claims Easier and Faster for Veterans
Simpler Forms and New Program Reduce Paperwork and Speed Process

WASHINGTON (June 15, 2010) - As part of Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Eric K. Shinseki's effort to break the back of the backlog, the
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is reducing the paperwork and
expediting the process for Veterans seeking compensation for
disabilities related to their military service.  

"These reductions in paperwork, along with other improvements to
simplify and speed the claims process, symbolize changes underway to
make VA more responsive to Veterans and their families," said Secretary
Shinseki.

VA has shortened application forms to reduce paperwork for Veterans. The
new forms, which are being made available on VA's Web site at
www.va.gov/vaforms <http://www.va.gov/vaforms/> , include:

*        A shortened VA Form 21-526 for Veterans applying for the
first-time to VA for disability compensation or pension benefits.  This
form has been cut in half - from 23 to 10 pages.  It is immediately
available to Veterans via Web download, and will be available through
VA's online claim-filing process later this summer at
http://vabenefits.vba.va.gov/vonapp/main.asp
        
*        VA Form 21-526b for Veterans seeking increased benefits for
conditions already determined by VA to be service-connected.  This new
form more clearly describes the information needed to support claims for
increased benefits.

In order to make the claims process faster, VA has also introduced two
new forms for Veterans participating in the Department's new fully
developed claim (FDC) program, which is one of the fastest means to
receive a claims decision.

Gathering the information and evidence needed to support a Veteran's
disability claim often takes the largest portion of the processing time.
If VA receives all of the available evidence when the claim is
submitted, the remaining steps in the claims-decision process can be
expedited without compromising quality.

To participate in the FDC program, Veterans should complete and submit
an FDC Certification and VA Form 21-526EZ, "Fully Developed Claim
(Compensation)," for a compensation claim, or a VA Form 21-527EZ, "Fully
Developed Claim (Pension)," for a pension claim.  

The forms were designed specifically for the FDC program.  These
six-page application forms include notification to applicants of all
information and evidence necessary to "fully develop" and substantiate
their claims.  With this notification, Veterans and their
representatives can "fully develop" their claims before submission to VA
for processing.  

Along with the application and certification, Veterans must also submit
all relevant and pertinent evidence to "fully develop" their claims.  A
claim submitted as "fully developed" may still require some additional
evidence to be obtained by VA, to include certain federal records and a
VA medical examination.

VA provides compensation, pension, education, loan guaranty, vocational
rehabilitation, employment, and insurance benefits to Veterans and their
families through 57 VA regional offices.

Disability compensation is a tax-free benefit paid to a Veteran for
disabilities that are a result of -- or made worse by -- injuries or
diseases that happened while on active duty, active duty for training or
inactive duty training.  Pension is a benefit paid to wartime Veterans
with limited income, and who are permanently and totally disabled or age
65 or older.

For additional information, go to www.va.gov <http://www.va.gov/>  or
call VA's toll free benefits number at 1-800-827-1000.

News Releases  (05/16/2010 - 06/15/2010)

 VA Makes Filing Claims Easier and Faster for Veterans - As part of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki’s effort to break the back of the backlog, the Department of Veterans Affairs is reducing the paperwork and expediting the process for Veterans seeking compensation for disabilities related to their military service.  (6/15/10)

 Secretary Shinseki Honors Returning Veterans at Event in Bowie, Md. - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki joined returning combat Veterans from all branches of the armed forces today during a "Welcome Home" celebration at Prince George’s Stadium in Bowie, Md., sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense.  (6/12/10)

 Department of the Army Taps VA to Help Serve Our Nations Veterans - Today, at the request of the Army Secretary John McHugh, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced that Patrick K. Hallinan, a over 31-year employee of VA’s National Cemetery Administration (NCA), is being detailed to the Army to assist in the management of Arlington National Cemetery. (6/10/10)

 VA Announces Change to Medication Copays for Some Veterans - As previously announced on January 7, 2010, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) froze prescription copayment increases for six months. Veterans who generally have higher income and no service-connected disabilities - referred to as Priority Groups 7 and 8 Veterans - will now pay an additional $1 for each 30-day supply of outpatient medications. Taking effect July 1, the increase to $9 from $8 is the first change in VA’s medication copay since Jan. 1, 2006.  (6/10/10)

 Celebrate Independence Day with Disabled Veterans - The Fourth of July celebration in Denver takes on special importance this year when more than 500 wheelchair athletes who are all military Veterans begin competition at the 30th National Veterans Wheelchair Games. The event, presented each year by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Paralyzed Veterans of America, runs July 4 through July 9. (6/9/10)

 VA Announces Industry Innovation Competition - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced today the opening of the Industry Innovation Competition by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the most recent effort under the VA Innovation Initiative. With this competition, VA seeks the best ideas from the private sector to address the department’s most important challenges. (6/7/10)

 VA Research Offers Insight on Parkinson’s Disease - Veterans and others with Parkinson’s disease who undergo deep brain stimulation (DBS) may benefit from research co-sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and published recently in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. (6/4/10)

 Secretary Tours Recovery Act Improvements - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki visited the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center today and received a first-hand update on Recovery Act-funded projects that will help Veterans access VA care and provide surgical ward upgrades. The Cleveland VA Medical Center provides both inpatient and outpatient health care services at two facilities located in Cleveland (Wade Park) and Brecksville, Ohio. (6/4/10)

 VA Secretary Announces New Hotline for Homeless Veterans - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced today the establishment of a new telephone hotline to provide emergency support and resources to homeless Veterans. He made the announcement as he toured the facility at the VA medical center in Canandaigua, N.Y. (6/3/10)

VA Announces Winners of Health Information Technology Initiative - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced today the selection of 26 winning ideas in the Veterans Health Administration / Office of Information and Technology (VHA/OIT) Innovation Competition. (5/28/10)

VA Honors Military Sacrifice on Memorial Day - From parades to somber ceremonies and a moment of silence, Americans will recall the sacrifices of military personnel who paid the ultimate price for freedom on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31. (5/28/10)

Secretary Shinseki Announces $19.5 Million Cemetery Construction Contract for Greater Philadelphia - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced today a nearly $19.5 million contract to develop the next phase of Washington Crossing National Cemetery, in Newtown, Pa. (5/28/10)

Shinseki Delivers Commencement Address at University of Vermont - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki urged graduates to “share your time, talents and energy with those less fortunate” at the University of Vermont's commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 23.  (5/24/10)

Des Moines Set to Host National Veterans Golden Age Games - Hundreds of Veterans from around the nation will make their way to Des Moines, Iowa, May 26-31 to compete in the 24th National Veterans Golden Age Games, the largest annual sports competition of its kind in the world.  (5/24/10)

I invite you to add our new website to your favorites.  It has our past Veterans Service Officer (VSO) meeting minutes, a future schedule of calls, and our present schedule of outreach activities.   You'll also find a reference source for VA Compensation and Pension benefits, and a slide show on PMC performance. 

Possibly of most importance is the Contact Section.  It includes the national Pension toll free number, as well as the fax number that will get claims directly into Virtual VA.  Of special note, we have a phone number and two email addresses posted exclusively for VSOs, to include Country Veterans Service Officers (CVSOs).  Feel free to send this link to VSOs and CVSOs.  But please remind them to keep this website and the contact information it provides within the VSO/CVSO community.  Only then can we provide you with the enhanced level of service you deserve.

http://www.vba.va.gov/ro/milwaukee/pmcvso12.htm


<<...>> <<...>>
Sincerely,

Chris Fischer,

Milwaukee Pension Center Manager


Meeting Minutes

PMC and State Department of Veterans Affairs Conference Call

http://www.vba.va.gov/ro/milwaukee/pmcvso12.htm

March 5, 2010 10:00 AM CST

800-767-1750 - Access code 20362

 

I. Call to Order

Jennifer Stone-Barash, Milwaukee PMC Acting Director, called to order the State Department of Veterans Affairs conference call at 10:00 A.M. CST on March 5, 2010.

 

II. Roll Call

            The following State Department of Veterans Affairs representatives were

in attendance:

a)  Arkansas: David Fletcher, Director

b)  Illinois: Anthony Vaughn, Appeal Supervisor

c)  Indiana: Tom Applegate, Director

d)  Kentucky: Roger Romine, Branch Manager

e)  Michigan: Brigadier General Carol Ann Fausone, Assistant Adjutant General 

 

The following Milwaukee PMC representatives were in attendance:

a)     Jennifer Stone-Barash, Acting Director

b)   Thomas Braun, Management Analyst and Privacy Officer

c)   Christopher Fischer, PMC Manager

d)   Beverly Latham, PMC Assistant Manager

e)   Sergio Chao, PMC Assistant Manager

f)    Kim Michalowski, Coach

g)   Greg Silva, Assistant Coach

h)       Andrea Pottebaum, Management Analyst

 

III. Discussion

a)     All items on the conference call agenda were discussed.

b)     Workload

a.      Original and Reopened Pension (live and death) was transitioned to the PMC from May 1, 2008, through September 2, 2008.

b.      Survivor Benefit Claims (DIC, burials, accrued) were transitioned to the PMC from November 3, 2008, through August 3, 2009.

c.      Dual Claims were transitioned to the PMC from January 1, 2009 through April 15, 2009 (only from Wisconsin, Alabama, Louisiana, and Ohio).

c)      The Milwaukee PMC initiated a local upfront processing pilot program for maintenance claims.  If you would like to fax a claim to Virtual VA (VVA), the fax number is 414-902-9470.  It takes approximately three to four days for the data to be viewable within the claimant’s VVA profile.

d)     As part of our outreach to Veteran Service Officers (VSOs), the Milwaukee PMC conducts quarterly conference calls, sends out a quarterly newsletter, and sends presenters to training conferences.  These communications includes tips and suggestions for proper claim procedures, as well as news information.

e)     The Milwaukee PMC has several methods for County Veteran Service Officers (CVSOs) and VSOs to contact us regarding priority cases:

a.      Phone Line: 414-902-5062 (is answered by a manager)

b.      Encrypted Mailbox: VAVBAMIW/PMC/VSO

c.      Unencrypted Mailbox: milpenctrvso@va.gov

d.      Internet Site: http://www.vba.va.gov/ro/milwaukee/pmcvso12.htm

 

IV. Question and Answer

a)  Question: Why is the power of attorney (POA) not receiving notification of appeal hearings?

 

Answer: When the Milwaukee PMC schedules a hearing, one letter is sent to the claimant and two copies of the letter are sent to the POA.  If the POA has an encrypted email address, a letter is sent via email as well.  It is possible the POA is not receiving the mailed letters due to mail routing within the home regional office (HRO).  The PMC Manager contacted the Veterans Service Center Managers to address this topic on March 8, 2010.

 

b)  Question: Why does VVA not have enough of the veteran’s records scanned in for representatives to do an adequate enough review of record to write a proper VA Form 646, Statement of Accredited Representative in Appealed Case.

 

Answer: When a claim folder is sent to the claimant’s representative, the VA Form 646 and the statement of the case (SOC) are enclosed.  The SOC lists all applicable evidence to the appeal.  Also, all of this evidence is listed in VVA. The PMC is piloting upfront processing to ensure that not only all information is put into Virtual VA but that it is done at the beginning of the process.

 

c)  Question: Why are some dual claims not within the Milwaukee PMC’s jurisdiction being sent to that office? 

 

Answer: The Milwaukee PMC is processing original VETSNET pension awards for dual claims from HROs where pension was found to be the greater benefit. This is being completed because the HROs do not have the training necessary to accomplish this task.  A notification letter is sent to the veteran when this action occurs.

 

d)  Question: Why is the Milwaukee PMC only working dual claims from Wisconsin, Alabama, Louisiana, and Ohio, rather than all 12 states under its jurisdiction?

 

Answer: The dual claim workload transition started on January 1, 2009.  However, it was put on hold before every state’s workload was transitioned.  The transition will be on hold until further notice.

 

e)  Question: Why did the Milwaukee PMC return an Eligibility Verification Report (EVR) to an 88 year old widow because the questions regarding dependent children were not filled out?

 

Answer: Any EVR that is not completely filled out must be returned to the claimant.  This procedure is conducted by all three PMCs and is required by M21-1MR V.iii.7.B.9.

 

f)   Question: Why did the Milwaukee PMC request marriage information from a widow who was married to the veteran for over 40 years and it was the only marriage for both individuals? 

 

Answer: This is required by M21-1MR III.iii.5.E.20.b, which states:

 

“The fact that benefits were paid for a person as the spouse of the veteran during the veteran's lifetime does not automatically establish that person's status as the surviving spouse after the veteran's death.

 

The surviving spouse claimant must submit satisfactory evidence of his/her status as the surviving spouse of the veteran based on a marriage that is either legal or deemed valid and must meet the other requirements set forth in this topic.”

 

g)  Question: What is the Milwaukee PMC doing to improve timeliness for claims with fiduciary involvement?

 

Answer:  The Milwaukee PMC created a fiduciary team in July 2009.  While the HRO still conducts the field exam, the fiduciary team coach regularly communicates with the HRO to ensure claims are completed in a timely manner.

 

h)  Question: Why is the Milwaukee PMC requesting banking information from widows via telephone?

 

Answer: The Milwaukee PMC will call a claimant if the direct deposit account number is illegible.  This is done as a courtesy to help pay the claimant in the format requested.  If the claimant does not want to provide this information via telephone, a hard copy check will be mailed instead. 

 

i)   Question: Why is the Milwaukee PMC taking so long to input VA Form 21-22, Appointment of Veterans Service Organization as Claimant’s Representative, into the system? DIC/Death are not being loaded.

 

Answer:  BIRLS is currently programmed to automatically remove the POA when a widow’s claim is established.  In some cases on subsequent claims the establishment of a claim is removing the POA from the system. The PMC is then re-entering the POA after each claim establishment. 

 

*The following questions were submitted and not addressed directly on the call due to time concerns.

 

j)   Question: Why doesn’t the PMC have its own toll-free telephone number so calls don’t get shunted to Philadelphia or Cleveland or wherever?

 

Answer:  A national decision was made to consolidate pension calls to the Philadelphia Regional Office. To ensure that the Milwaukee PMC is still accessible for VSOs we have established specific contacts for priority claims as well as general information on our website. 

o       Phone Line: 414-902-5062 (is answered by a manager)

o       Encrypted Mailbox: VAVBAMIW/PMC/VSO

o       Unencrypted Mailbox: milpenctrvso@va.gov

o       Internet Site: http://www.vba.va.gov/ro/milwaukee/pmcvso12.htm

 

k)   Question: Why does it take nine months or more to decide a claim when all the information is obvious?

 

Answer:  Although regrettably there are claims that do take nine or more months to process, on average claims do not take that long to process. We have and will continue to work towards improving timeliness.

 

l)   Question: Transfer of claim folders back and forth between VARO and PMC cause a number of problems, and potential for loss of files.

 

Answer:  Until we are operating completely in an electronic environment there continues to be a need to transfer folders. Now that the PMC works original claims the need to recall that claims folder in the future should be reduced.

 

m)   Question: Why is the VARO not scanning in the new VA Form 21-0845 (Disclose Personal information to a Third Party), or making a notation on some screen that there is one on file, thereby authorizing the release of claims information to the CVSO?

 

Answer:  Currently the PMC is imaging these upon receipt and review for completeness.

 

n)   Question: Why does the PMC send the widow a letter requesting more information and, even though the widow responds within a day or two of getting the letter from the PMC, later on gets a letter stating she has been denied because she didn’t reply?

 

Answer:  Without claim specific information this question is difficult to answer. It may be that the information received was not in its entirety what was requested or that the information submitted was not associated with the claim in time for a decision. Faxing documents into Virtual VA and/or imaging development responses should assist with reducing these occurrences.

 

o)   Question: If the death certificate shows the cause of death as “ALS” and the veteran was a Vietnam veteran, why do they need more evidence? Why does it matter when the veteran was diagnosed?

 

Answer:  Because of liberalizing law, the date of diagnosis might allow us to give them an earlier effective date [i.e. if proof of diagnosis is shown prior to the law change, we can go back up to one year from the date of claim for an effective date (or to the date of the law change if filed within one year of that law).....of course, no earlier than the date of death].  

 

p)   Question: When the widow of a veteran who was killed during World War II files a claim, why would the PMC tell the widow there is not a record of him ever filing a claim for compensation? The man was killed during the Battle of the Bulge! Of course he never filed a claim. And that information was included with the claim.

 

Answer:  Without claim specific information this question is difficult to answer. It is possible that development was undertaken without the claims folder and service data was not available.

 

V. Action Items

a)     If you have contact information for yourself or another individual who should be attending these conference calls, please send this information to Andrea Pottebuam (andrea.pottebaum@va.gov).

b)     If you would like to be included in the distribution list for the quarterly VSO calls, please send your contact information to Andrea Pottebaum.

c)      If there is additional information that you would like covered in the next conference call, please send this information to Andrea Pottebaum.

d)     The Milwaukee PMC will look into the possibility of:

a.      A group email distribution list

b.      A Share Point website

e)     Prior to the next conference call, the Milwaukee PMC will disseminate:

a.      A list of questions being asked of the Milwaukee PMC

b.      A conference call agenda

f)        The Milwaukee PMC will be expecting an invite from Director David Fletcher regarding attendance of the Arkansas VSO conference during          April 1-3, 2010.

 

VI. Adjournment

            Jennifer Stone-Barash adjourned the meeting at 11:00 A.M. CST.

 

Minutes submitted by: Andrea Pottebaum, Management Analyst

Minutes approved by:  Chris Fischer, Pension Center Manager

 

 

 

 

News Releases  (01/24/2010 - 02/23/2010)

 Shinseki Announces Winners of Innovation Competition for Improving Claims Processing - The Department of Veterans Affairs selected 10 winners in a competition that solicited ideas from VA employees and co-located Veterans service organizations to improve claims processing and provide greater transparency to Veterans.  (2/19/10)

 Petzel Sworn in to Head Veterans Health Care System - Dr. Robert A. Petzel has taken the oath of office as the Under Secretary for Health within the Department of Veterans Affairs, stepping up to lead the nation's largest integrated health care system. (2/18/10)

 “Innovation Initiative” Underway for Health Records Improvements - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki launched the “Veterans Health IT Innovation Initiative,” an employee-based Health Information Technology (HIT) competition to spur VA’s transformation into a 21st Century organization that is Veteran-centric, results-oriented, and forward-looking.  (2/18/10)

 Secretary Shinseki Mourns Loss of Rep. Murtha - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki mourned the loss of Rep. John P. Murtha, Chairman of the House Appropriations’ subcommittee on defense and a champion of the Nation’s Veterans. (2/10/10)

White House Seeks $125 Billion for Veterans in 2011 - To expand health care to a record-number of Veterans, reduce the number of homeless Veterans and process a dramatically increased number of new disability compensation claims, the White House has announced a proposed $125 billion budget next year for the Department of Veterans Affairs. (2/1/10)

Miramar National Cemetery Dedicated - The Department of Veterans Affairs held a dedication ceremony today in San Diego for the Miramar National Cemetery. (1/30/10)

VA Secretary Shinseki Helps Veterans at VA Medical Center Homeless Stand Down - At the VA Medical Center in Washington, D.C., (DCVAMC), Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki joined hundreds of volunteers in support of homeless Veterans in our Nation’s capital.  (1/24/10)

Public and Intergovernmental Affairs


News Releases  (10/16/2009 - 11/15/2009)

 On Veterans Day, Nation Salutes Those Who Served - On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki called on Americans to honor the 48 million men and women – including America’s 23 million living Veterans – who have served our Nation in uniform.  (11/11/09)

 VA Suffers Losses and Offers Help at Ft. Hood - In the midst of providing mental health services and other support to the Ft. Hood community following the recent shooting, the Department of Veterans Affairs learned about its own losses from the violence. Two VA employees, both serving on active duty with their Army Reserve units, were among the slain. A third VA health care worker on reserve duty was seriously wounded. (11/10/09)

 Secretary Shinseki Addresses Florida Educators - The Department of Veterans Affairs is working with Florida and other states to help Veterans make the transition from combat to college life. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki addressed educators and Veterans during a conference this week at the University of South Florida (USF) on the importance of programs that ease the transition from active duty to Veteran status. (11/6/09)

 Secretary Shinseki Announces $10 Million for Leavenworth Cemetery - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki has announced a $10 million contract from the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand the Leavenworth National Cemetery in Leavenworth, Kan. (11/5/09)

 Secretary Shinseki Announces $12 Million for Jacksonville Cemetery - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki has announced an $11.8 million contract to develop the next phase of the Jacksonville National Cemetery, which opened for burials in January 2009. (11/5/09)

 Craigslist Founder Joins VA Innovation Search Panel - Craig Newmark, the founder of “craigslist” and a well-known technology visionary, has agreed to serve on the blue-ribbon panel of the Department of Veterans Affairs that will review and evaluate ideas to improve disability claims processing times and provide greater transparency to Veterans.  (11/4/09)

 Shinseki Announces Veterans’ Stories Posted on VA’s Web Page - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced the Department of Veterans Affairs will join with the Library of Congress to host a “Veterans History Countdown” on the VA Web site – www.va.gov – featuring the oral histories of Veterans from every state and U.S. territory.  (11/4/09)

 Secretary Shinseki Details Plan to End Homelessness for Veterans - Today, at the “VA National Summit Ending Homelessness among Veterans,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki unveiled the department’s comprehensive plan to end homelessness among Veterans by marshalling the resources of government, business and the private sector. (11/3/09)

VA Seeks Temporary Contractor to Help Process Education Claims - On Oct. 21, the Department of Veterans Affairs issued a solicitation for temporary contractor support to assist in processing the increased volume of education claims received since implementing the new Post-9/11 GI Bill. (10/28/09)

VA, DoD Host National Mental Health Summit - The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense are hosting a first-of-its-kind national summit to address the mental health care needs of America’s military personnel, families and Veterans, harnessing the programs, resources and expertise of both departments to deal with the aftermath of the battlefield. (10/26/09)

Secretary Shinseki Visits Duke University for Memorial Dedication - Returning today to his alma mater at Duke University for the dedication of a Veterans memorial, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki honored alumni who have lost their lives in service to America.  (10/23/09)

Secretary Announces Expansion of Veterans Appeals Board - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced the addition of four new Veterans Law Judges to the Board of Veterans' Appeals (BVA), which will enable the board to increase the number of cases being decided. (10/21/09)

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Olympic Committee Launch Paralympic Community Initiative to Serve Physically Disabled Veterans - Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) signed a memorandum of understanding to provide Paralympic sport programming and additional community support, including funding and resources, to injured servicemembers and Veterans across the country.  (10/21/09)

VA Contacting Veteran-Students about New GI Bill - Representatives of the Department of Veterans Affairs will be telephoning Veterans across the country to explain their education benefits under the new Post-911 GI Bill and ensure beneficiaries are able to receive payments due them (10/19/09)

News Releases  (10/16/2009 - 11/15/2009)

 On Veterans Day, Nation Salutes Those Who Served - On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki called on Americans to honor the 48 million men and women – including America’s 23 million living Veterans – who have served our Nation in uniform.  (11/11/09)

 VA Suffers Losses and Offers Help at Ft. Hood - In the midst of providing mental health services and other support to the Ft. Hood community following the recent shooting, the Department of Veterans Affairs learned about its own losses from the violence. Two VA employees, both serving on active duty with their Army Reserve units, were among the slain. A third VA health care worker on reserve duty was seriously wounded. (11/10/09)

 Secretary Shinseki Addresses Florida Educators - The Department of Veterans Affairs is working with Florida and other states to help Veterans make the transition from combat to college life. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki addressed educators and Veterans during a conference this week at the University of South Florida (USF) on the importance of programs that ease the transition from active duty to Veteran status. (11/6/09)

 Secretary Shinseki Announces $10 Million for Leavenworth Cemetery - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki has announced a $10 million contract from the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand the Leavenworth National Cemetery in Leavenworth, Kan. (11/5/09)

 Secretary Shinseki Announces $12 Million for Jacksonville Cemetery - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki has announced an $11.8 million contract to develop the next phase of the Jacksonville National Cemetery, which opened for burials in January 2009. (11/5/09)

 Craigslist Founder Joins VA Innovation Search Panel - Craig Newmark, the founder of “craigslist” and a well-known technology visionary, has agreed to serve on the blue-ribbon panel of the Department of Veterans Affairs that will review and evaluate ideas to improve disability claims processing times and provide greater transparency to Veterans.  (11/4/09)

 Shinseki Announces Veterans’ Stories Posted on VA’s Web Page - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced the Department of Veterans Affairs will join with the Library of Congress to host a “Veterans History Countdown” on the VA Web site – www.va.gov – featuring the oral histories of Veterans from every state and U.S. territory.  (11/4/09)

 Secretary Shinseki Details Plan to End Homelessness for Veterans - Today, at the “VA National Summit Ending Homelessness among Veterans,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki unveiled the department’s comprehensive plan to end homelessness among Veterans by marshalling the resources of government, business and the private sector. (11/3/09)

VA Seeks Temporary Contractor to Help Process Education Claims - On Oct. 21, the Department of Veterans Affairs issued a solicitation for temporary contractor support to assist in processing the increased volume of education claims received since implementing the new Post-9/11 GI Bill. (10/28/09)

VA Extends "Agent Orange" Benefits to More Veterans

Parkinson's Disease, Two Other Illnesses Recognized

 

WASHINGTON (Oct. 13, 2009) - Relying on an independent study by the
Institute of Medicine (IOM), Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K.
Shinseki decided to establish a service-connection for Vietnam Veterans
with three specific illnesses based on the latest evidence of an
association with the herbicides referred to Agent Orange.

 

The illnesses affected by the recent decision are B cell leukemias, such
as hairy cell leukemia; Parkinson's disease; and ischemic heart disease.

 

Used in Vietnam to defoliate trees and remove concealment for the enemy,
Agent Orange left a legacy of suffering and disability that continues to
the present.  Between January 1965 and April 1970, an estimated 2.6
million military personnel who served in Vietnam were potentially
exposed to sprayed Agent Orange.

 

In practical terms, Veterans who served in Vietnam during the war and
who have a "presumed" illness don't have to prove an association between
their illnesses and their military service.  This "presumption"
simplifies and speeds up the application process for benefits.

 

The Secretary's decision brings to 15 the number of presumed illnesses
recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  

 

"We must do better reviews of illnesses that may be connected to
service, and we will," Shinseki added. "Veterans who endure health
problems deserve timely decisions based on solid evidence."

 

Other illnesses previously recognized under VA's "presumption" rule as
being caused by exposure to herbicides during the Vietnam War are:

 

*  Acute and Subacute Transient Peripheral Neuropathy
<http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/condi
tions/peripheral_neuropathy.asp>

*  AL Amyloidosis
<http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/condi
tions/al_amyloidosis.asp>

*  Chloracne
<http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/condi
tions/chloracne.asp>

*  Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
<http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/condi
tions/chronic_leukemia.asp>

*  Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2)
<http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/condi
tions/diabetes.asp>

*  Hodgkin's Disease
<http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/condi
tions/hodgkins.asp>

*  Multiple Myeloma
<http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/condi
tions/multiple_myeloma.asp>

*  Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
<http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/condi
tions/nh_lymphoma.asp>

*  Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
<http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/condi
tions/porphyria.asp>

*  Prostate Cancer
<http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/condi
tions/prostate_cancer.asp>

*  Respiratory Cancers
<http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/condi
tions/respiratory_cancers.asp> , and

*  Soft Tissue Sarcoma (other than Osteosarcoma, Chondrosarcoma,
Kaposi's sarcoma, or Mesothelioma)
<http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/condi
tions/st_sarcoma.asp>

 

Additional information about Agent Orange and VA's services and programs
for Veterans exposed to the chemical are available at
www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange
<http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/> .

 

News Releases  (08/19/2009 - 09/18/09)

 Inspector General Completes Study of VA Endoscopic Programs - The Department of Veterans Affairs' Office of Inspector General inspected every VA medical site with endoscopic equipment, independently verifying the success of a national program VA instituted to ensure safe and sterile procedures for reprocessing endoscopic equipment across the country. (9/18/09)

 VA Secretary Helps Launch The Red Sox Foundation-Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki joined The Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) to launch a new initiative to help returning OEF/OIF Veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain injuries and their families. (9/17/09)

 VA Warns Veterans of Telephone Prescription Scam - The Department of Veterans Affairs is warning Veterans not to give credit card numbers over the phone to callers claiming to update VA prescription information. (9/17/09)

 Secretary Shinseki Announces $1 Million for Aurora Site - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki has announced the award of a $936,276 contract by the Department of Veterans Affairs to a Washington state company for demolition and site clearing of VA’s new medical center in Aurora, Colo. (9/15/09)

 Secretary Shinseki Announces $19 Million for Columbia, Mo., Facility - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced the award of a $19 million contract to an Illinois firm to construct a new surgical suite and renovate existing surgical support areas within the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital in Columbia, Mo. (9/14/09)

 Secretary Shinseki Announces New Efforts to Explore Health Consequences of Service in Vietnam - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced today plans to begin additional research by the Department of Veterans Affairs to better understand the health consequences of service in Vietnam. (9/14/09)

 “Innovation Competition” Begins at Veterans Affairs - To speed its transformation into a 21st Century organization that is Veteran-centric, results-oriented and forward-looking, the Department of Veterans Affairs has launched one of the largest innovation competitions in the agency’s history. The competition solicits ideas from VA employees and co-located Veterans Service Organizations who are on the front lines of the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and encourages them to submit entries addressing everything from claims processing times to better process transparency. (9/10/09)

 Secretary Shinseki Announces $7 Million Grant to Virginia - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced that Veterans living in southwestern Virginia will soon have a final resting place that honors their service to the nation. The Department of Veterans Affairs has awarded $7,218,366 to the Commonwealth of Virginia to establish the Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery in Dublin.  (9/10/09)

 Veterans to TEE Off in Iowa City at National Tournament - More than 100 Veterans with visual or mobility impairments, blindness and other disabilities hit the golf course at the National Veterans TEE Tournament, September 6 - 10, in and around Iowa City, Iowa. (9/6/09)

Secretary Shinseki Announces $6 Million Grant to Kentucky - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki has announced Veterans living in northeastern Kentucky will soon have a final resting place that honors their service to the nation.  (9/4/09)

VA To Host Summer Sports Clinic in San Diego - Recently-injured Veterans will learn how to surf, kayak, sail and enjoy other summer sports at a rehabilitative clinic sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs.  (9/3/09)

Secretary Shinseki Announces $3.9 Million Grant to Wisconsin - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki has announced a grant of $3,896,563 from the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand the Southern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Union Grove. (9/2/09)

VA Honors Veterans Who Are Artists, Performers - More than 120 Veterans from across the country who are medal winners in national music, dance, drama, creative writing or visual arts contests are preparing to attend the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival in San Antonio from Oct. 5 – 11.  (9/1/09)

VA’s Suicide Prevention Program Adds Chat Service - The Suicide Prevention campaign of the Department of Veterans Affairs is expanding its outreach to all Veterans by piloting an online, one-to-one “chat service” for Veterans who prefer reaching out for assistance using the Internet. (8/31/09)

VA Awards $526,000 for Wisconsin State Veterans Home - To support high-quality health services for Veterans at the state home in King, Wis., the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is awarding a grant of up to $526,000 for upgrades to the facility’s water supply well. (8/28/09)

Secretary Shinseki Announces $11 Million for Alabama Cemetery - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki has announced an $11 million contract from the Department of Veterans Affairs to develop the next phase of the Alabama National Cemetery, which opened for burials on June 25. (8/28/09)

VA Continues Gulf War Research, Cancels Contract with UTSW Medical Center - Citing persistent noncompliance and numerous performance deficiencies, the Department of Veterans Affairs will not exercise the third year of a five-year, $75 million contract with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSWMC) to perform research into Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses (GWVI). (8/26/09)

VA Pledge to Women Veterans on Women’s Equality Day - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki pledged today on Women’s Equality Day that the Department of Veterans Affairs will work to ensure the nation upholds its obligation to meet the needs of our Veterans – including women Veterans. (8/26/09)

Secretary Shinseki Moves to Simplify PTSD Compensation Rules - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced the Department of Veterans Affairs is taking steps to assist Veterans seeking compensation for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). (8/24/09)

Secretary Shinseki Announces Expansion in Albany - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki has announced a plan to expand health care in Albany, N.Y., by leasing 2.4 acres to a private-sector medical facility in exchange for construction of a 30,000 square-foot building for the Department of Veterans Affairs at its Samuel S. Stratton VA Medical Center. (8/21/09)

Secretary Shinseki Announces $8.8 Million for Washington Cemetery - Ensuring that military Veterans living in eastern Washington have a final resting place that honors their service to the nation, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced the award of $8.8 million to establish the Washington State Veterans Cemetery in Medical Lake. (8/20/09)

Secretary Shinseki Announces Award of $1.8 Million to Delaware - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki has announced the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is awarding $1.8 million to the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Sussex to expand its facility. (8/20/09)

VA Reaching Out to Suppliers, Contractors - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is strengthening its working relationship with the private-sector to improve service for Veterans, cut costs for taxpayers and enhance the operation of federal employees, VA’s Deputy Secretary W. Scott Gould said recently. (8/20/09)

Secretary Shinseki Announces Expansion of Jefferson Barracks Cemetery - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki today announced the Department of Veterans Affairs is awarding more than $898,000 to URS Group Inc., a St. Louis-based company, to design a gravesite expansion project at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis. (8/19/09)

Secretary Shinseki Announces $8.7 Million Contracts in Philadelphia - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki today announced the Department of Veterans Affairs has awarded two contracts totaling $8.7 million to prepare the new Washington Crossing National Cemetery near Philadelphia for its first burials. (8/19/09)

Secretary Shinseki Moves to Simplify PTSD Compensation Rules

 

WASHINGTON (Aug. 24, 2009) - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K.
Shinseki announced the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is taking
steps to assist Veterans seeking compensation for Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder (PTSD).

 

"The hidden wounds of war are being addressed vigorously and
comprehensively by this administration as we move VA forward in its
transformation to the 21st century," said Secretary Shinseki.

 

The VA is publishing a proposed regulation today in the Federal Register
to make it easier for a Veteran to claim service connection for PTSD by
reducing the evidence needed if the stressor claimed by a Veteran is
related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity.  Comments on
the proposed rule will be accepted over the next 60 days.  A final
regulation will be published after consideration of all comments
received.

 

Under the new rule, VA would not require corroboration of a stressor
related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity if a VA
psychiatrist or psychologist confirms that the stressful experience
recalled by a Veteran adequately supports a diagnosis of PTSD and the
Veteran's symptoms are related to the claimed stressor.

 

Previously, claims adjudicators were required to corroborate that a
non-combat Veteran actually experienced a stressor related to hostile
military activity.  This rule would simplify the development that is
required for these cases.

 

PTSD is a recognized anxiety disorder that can follow seeing or
experiencing an event that involves actual or threatened death or
serious injury to which a person responds with intense fear,
helplessness or horror, and is not uncommon in war.

 

Feelings of fear, confusion or anger often subside, but if the feelings
don't go away or get worse, a Veteran may have PTSD.

 

VA is bolstering its mental health capacity to serve combat Veterans,
adding thousands of new professionals to its rolls in the last four
years.  The Department also has established a suicide prevention
helpline (1-800-273-TALK) and Web site available for online chat in the
evenings at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/Veterans
<http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/Veterans/> .

 


News Releases  (07/03/2009 - 08/02/09)

 Secretary Shinseki Meets with Philippine President Arroyo - The status of benefits to Filipino Veterans of World War II was a prime topic recently when Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki met with Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. (7/31/09)

 VA Medical Imaging Reaches Record Level - VistA Imaging, the medical and health care imaging system used in Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers, attained over one billion stored images in January this year, according to the department. (7/24/09)

 Veterans Affairs Helps Veteran Small-Business Owners - More than 1,000 Veterans who own small businesses and seek to do more contracting with the federal government recently heard Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki extol the importance of small businesses and reaffirm the commitment of the Department of Veterans Affairs to help veterans start or expand their companies. (7/22/09)

 Top Obama Administration Officials Hold Rural Health Community Forum - Four Cabinet Secretaries will host a rural health community forum today in St. John Parish, La., to share information about the federal government’s efforts to rebuild and revitalize rural America. This is the next leg of a tour launched by President Obama, showcasing how communities, states, and the federal government can work together to help strengthen rural America.  (7/20/09)

Secretary Shinseki Announces Next Steps in Technology Advancements to Reduce Wasteful Spending and Increase Accountability - The Department of Veterans Affairs announced today that it will temporarily halt 45 information technology projects which are either behind schedule or over budget. These projects will be reviewed, and it will be determined whether these projects should be continued. (7/17/09)

VA Leaders Discuss Diversity and Benefits at LULAC Convention - Joining other top administration officials addressing America’s Hispanic leaders this week at the 80th annual convention of the League of United Latin American Citizens were two Department of Veterans Affairs executives with pledges of ethnic inclusion and outreach to Veterans from the nation’s second largest government department.  (7/17/09)

VA Expanding Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery - The Department of Veterans Affairs awarded an architect-engineer contract for more than $1.3 million to SmithGroup JJR, LLC, to prepare construction documents for a gravesite expansion and other improvements at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Ill. (7/15/09)

VA Announces $26 Million Construction Contract for Palo Alto - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the award of a $26 million contract to a San Francisco firm to construct a new 80-bed acute psychiatric facility at VA’s Palo Alto Health Care System. (7/15/09)

More Than 1,100 Colleges and Universities Partner with VA to Improve GI Bill Benefits - Over 1,100 colleges, universities and schools across the country have entered into “Yellow Ribbon” program agreements with the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve financial aid for Veterans participating in the Post-9/11 GI Bill.  (7/13/09)

VA Expands Acute Inpatient Care Services for New Hampshire Veterans - Veterans in New Hampshire will have improved access to acute inpatient hospital care from the Department of Veterans Affairs, thanks to VA’s decision to expand its community partnership with Concord Hospital. Concord Hospital is a centrally located regional medical center that offers traditional acute care services in 42 medical specialties. (7/13/09)

VA Secretary Announces $1 Million to Develop New Miramar Annex - The Department of Veterans Affairs has awarded nearly $1 million to a small business to begin expanding burial services for Veterans in the San Diego area by developing the new Miramar Annex.  (7/10/09)

Milwaukee VA Hospital Gains New Spinal Cord Treatment Center - The Department of Veterans Affairs has awarded a $26.9 million contract to design and build a free-standing spinal cord injury center at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center. (7/10/09)

VA Awards $3.7 Million for El Paso Cemetery Project - The Department of Veterans Affairs has awarded more than $3.7 million for a construction project at Fort Bliss National Cemetery in El Paso.  (7/9/09)

VA Expanding Fort Jackson National Cemetery - The Department of Veterans Affairs has awarded more than $10 million to a construction company based in Charleston, S.C. to develop the next phase of the Fort Jackson National Cemetery in Columbia, which opened for burials in January. (7/9/09)

VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans Visits Dallas - As part of a Department of Veterans Affairs upgrade of programs and services for women Veterans, the Department’s Advisory Committee on Women Veterans, an expert panel that advises VA on issues and programs affecting women Veterans, recently traveled to the VA North Texas Health Care System in Dallas.  (7/9/09)

Stimulus Funds Support VA Energy Conservation Efforts - As part of a clean-energy transformation, the Department of Veterans Affairs is targeting nearly one-quarter of its $1.4 billion in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to investments in clean energy generation and energy conservation.  (7/8/09)

VA Secretary Announces Opening Alabama National Cemetery - The Department of Veterans Affairs officially opened its 129th national cemetery June 25 with the first burials at Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo. (7/6/09)

29th Annual Veterans Wheelchair Games Scheduled for Spokane - A wide range of disabilities cannot stop more than 500 of America’s greatest wheelchair athletes, all U.S. military Veterans who will begin competition at the 29th National Veterans Wheelchair Games being held July 13-18 in Spokane, Wash. (7/6/09)

Check out VSO Tool Box.

ECS 2009 Update 08: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides for a one-time payment of $250 to individuals who receive benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), including Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), or Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). However, the law allows only one $250 payment per individual. VA beneficiaries who are also eligible for SSA, SSI, or RRB benefits will be paid through the SSA or RRB, and will therefore not receive payment from VA. To be eligible for the $250 payment, VA beneficiaries must have received compensation, pension, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), or spina bifida benefits at any time between NOV 08 and JAN 09. VA will use its existing payment records to determine eligibility to the $250 payment. No application is necessary. VA expects to release payments in JUN 09. Beneficiaries will receive their payments in the same way they receive their monthly VA benefits (either by direct deposit or mail). VA will inform both the general public and actual beneficiaries when releasing the payments. This payment is not countable in determining eligibility for any Federal program, including VA pension or Parents’ DIC. The beneficiaries must reside within the United States or its territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). This does not apply to Filipino vets residing overseas who submit claims authorized under the ECS Plan for WWII U.S. service payments of $15,000 if they are U.S. citizens or $9,000 if they are non-U.S. citizens.



An Open Letter to Veterans

From Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki

 

WASHINGTON (March 13, 2009) - Following is an open letter to Veterans
from Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki:

 

"My name is Ric Shinseki, and I am a Veteran.  For me, serving as
Secretary of Veterans Affairs is a noble calling.  It provides me the
opportunity to give back to those who served with and for me during my
38 years in uniform and those on whose shoulders we all stood as we grew
up in the profession of arms.

 

"The Department of Veterans Affairs has a solemn responsibility to all
of you, today and in the future, as more Veterans join our ranks and
enroll to secure the benefits and services they have earned.  I am fully
committed to fulfilling President Obama's vision for transforming our
department so that it will be well-positioned to perform this duty even
better during the 21st Century.  We welcome the assistance and advice of
our Veterans Service Organizations, other government departments and
agencies, Congress, and all VA stakeholders as we move forward,
ethically and transparently, so that Veterans and citizens can
understand our efforts.

 

"Creating that vision for transforming the VA into a 21st Century
organization requires a comprehensive review of our department.  We
approach that review understanding that Veterans are central to
everything VA does.  We know that results count, that the department
will be measured by what we do, not what we promise, and that our best
days as an organization supporting Veterans are ahead of us.  We will
fulfill President Lincoln's charge to care for ". . . him, who shall
have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan . . ." by
redesigning and reengineering ourselves for the future.

 

"Transforming any institution is supremely challenging; I know this from
my own experience in leading large, proud, complex, and high-performing
organizations through change.  But the best organizations must be
prepared to meet the challenging times, evolving technology and, most
importantly, evolving needs of clients.  Historically, organizations
that are unwilling or unable to change soon find themselves irrelevant.
You and your needs are not irrelevant.

 

"Veterans are our clients, and delivering the highest quality care and
services in a timely, consistent and fair manner is a VA responsibility.
I take that responsibility seriously and have charged all of the
department's employees for their best efforts and support every day to
meet our obligations to you.  Our path forward is challenging, but the
President and Congress support us.  They have asked us to do this
well-for you.  Veterans are our sole reason for existence and our number
one priority-bar none.  I look forward to working together with all VA
employees to transform our department into an organization that reflects
the change and commitment our country expects and our Veterans deserve.

 

"Thank you, and God bless our military, our Veterans, and our Nation."

 

Signed: Eric K. Shinseki

VA, DOT, DOD Steer Vets toward Safe Driving
Deadly Toll from Post-Deployment Car Crashes
WASHINGTON (Jan. 12, 2009) - With motor vehicle crashes being a leading
cause of deaths among combat veterans during the first years after their
return home, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of
Transportation (DOT) and the Department of Defense (DOD) are working
together to reduce these accidents.

Today, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake, Deputy Under
Secretary of Defense for Installations and Environment Wayne Arny, and
Acting Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration David Kelly announced the creation of a new program
designed to identify needed research involving recently returned
veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan and to increase awareness of the
importance of safe driving among newly-demobilized veterans.

"VA is committed to helping our returning heroes with world-class health
care and educational benefits, home loans, job training and now with a
specific safe-driving program," said Secretary Peake. "Together with our
partners at DOT and DOD, we will be able to collect and analyze data
that will be used to develop a comprehensive outreach initiative to
target veterans with specific needs -- and ultimately to save lives."

Experts in transportation safety, veterans' health and medical care, and
public health are identifying gaps in current knowledge and developing a
strategic plan for addressing key research questions, in fields ranging
from epidemiology to psychology and biomechanics. 

Participants in the strategic planning process include scientists and
policy officials from VA, DOT, DOD and Department of Health and Human
Services, as well as non-governmental experts.  The resulting strategic
plan will lay out research needs and identify priorities for the
initiative.

"Our returning combat veterans have already put themselves in harm's way
to protect our way of life.  Now it's our turn to take action," said
David Kelly, Acting Administrator of the National Highway Transportation
Safety Administration (NHTSA).  "NHTSA can offer knowledge and expertise
to address challenges such as these. Working side-by-side with the
Department of Veterans Affairs, we are committed to tackling this
problem and reducing the number of veterans killed and injured on our
nation's roadways."

The safe-driving initiative strives to increase awareness of motor
vehicle crashes among veterans and the importance of safe driving,
seatbelt and helmet usage, and other measures.  To reach out to veterans
and their families, VA will create a national educational program using
the Department's network of medical centers, community clinics, drop-in
counseling centers (Vet Centers), and veterans benefits offices.

The initiative will also include outreach to mobilize national veterans
service organizations; the nation's governors and state police, safety
officers, and state highway safety officials; and the private sector -
including employers; automobile, motorcycle and sports vehicle dealers
and manufacturers; the motor vehicle insurance industry; and driving and
motorcycle racing enthusiasts' organizations.  NASCAR legend and safe
driving advocate, Richard Petty, will also be an active partner in the
initiative. 

"Richard Petty Driving Experience (RPDE) is thrilled to be working with
VA, DOT and DOD on such a worthwhile project to save veterans' lives,"
said NASCAR legend Richard Petty. "We want to bring more attention to
the continuing problem of veteran drivers and their safety through our
involvement.  Last year alone, RPDE operated over 1,100 event days, ran
almost 1 million miles on track and had a staff of professional drivers.
We have the commitment, the knowledge to teach, and the infrastructure
to take this initiative to many markets."

According to the Department of Transportation, motor vehicle crashes are
the leading cause of death for all Americans between the ages of eight
through 34.  Men constitute about 70 percent of all traffic deaths.  In
the past decade, both deaths and injuries from motor vehicle crashes
have gone down in the United States, due to increases in seat-belt use
and decreases in alcohol involvement, among other factors. 

Nonetheless, motor vehicle accidents remain a major concern in the
military and among veterans as the greatest cause of accidental
fatalities.  Several studies have reported an increase in
post-deployment deaths among military personnel who served in a combat
zone compared to their non-deployed counterparts, who are in the
military but not deployed to a war, after both the Vietnam War and the
1991 Gulf War.  Preliminary evidence also indicates this is the case
with veterans from the Global War on Terror.

For more information regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs and
the Department of Transportation's safe driving initiative for veterans,
please visit www.safedriving.va.gov <http://www.safedriving.va.gov/> .

VA Announces $22 Million for Rural Veterans

Peake: Down Payment on Expansion of Services

WASHINGTON (January 9, 2009) -- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
has provided $21.7 million to its regional health care systems to
improve services specifically designed for veterans in rural areas.
      "This special allocation is the latest down payment on VA's
commitment to meet the needs of veterans living in rural areas," said
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. "VA will take to our
rural veterans the health care services they have earned."
      Within the last year, VA has launched a major rural health
initiative.  The Department has already created a 13-member committee to
advise the VA secretary on issues affecting rural veterans, opened three
rural health resource centers to better understand rural health issues,
rolled out four new mobile health clinics to serve 24 predominately
rural counties, announced the opening of 10 new rural outreach clinics
in 2009 and launched a fleet of 50 new mobile counseling centers.
      The extra funding is part of a two-year VA program to improve the
access and quality of health care for veterans in geographically
isolated areas.  The program focuses on several areas, including access
to health care, providing world-class care, the use of the latest
technology, recruiting and retaining a highly educated workforce and
collaborating with other organizations.
      More specifically, the new funds will be used to increase the
number of mobile clinics, establish new outpatient clinics, expand
fee-based care, explore collaborations with federal and community
partners, accelerate the use of telemedicine deployment, and fund
innovative pilot programs. 
      The new funds will be distributed according to the proportion of
veterans living in rural areas within each VA regional health care
system, called VISNs, for "Veterans Integrated Service Networks."
      VISNs with less than 3 percent of their patients in rural areas
will receive $250,000.  Those with population of rural veterans between
3 percent and 6 percent will receive $1 million each.  And VISNs with
more than 6 percent of their veterans population in rural areas will
receive $1.5 million.

Special VA Funding for Rural Health
(By VISN number and VISN Headquarters)

#1. Bedford, Mass., $1 million
#2. Rochester, N.Y., $1 million
#3. New York, N.Y., $250,000
#4. Wilmington, Del., $1 million
#5. Baltimore, Md., $250,000
#6. Durham, N.C., $1.5 million
#7. Atlanta, Ga., $1.5 million
#8. Bay Pines, Fla., $1 million
#9. Nashville, Tenn., $1.5 million
#10. Cincinnati, Ohio, $1 million
#11. Ann Arbor, Mich., $1 million
#12. Chicago, Ill., $1 million
#15. Kansas City, Mo., $1.5 million
#16. Jackson, Miss., $1.5 million
#17. Arlington, Texas, $1 million
#18. Mesa, Ariz., $1 million
#19. Denver, Colo., $1 million
#20. Vancouver, Wash., $1 million
#21. Palo Alto, Calif., $1 million
#22. Long Beach, Calif., $250,000
#23. Lincoln, Neb., $1.5 million

VA Launches Partnership for NGO Outreach
Peake: VA Tapping the Power of Communities

WASHINGTON (Jan. 7, 2009) -- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has
announced a new partnership to help non-government organizations (NGOs)
plan, improve and carry out their own programs on behalf of veterans,
their families and their survivors.

"VA has a track record of success in working with non-profit groups and
businesses that have their own programs for veterans, but we can do
more" said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. "By tapping
into the power and resources of NGOs, we can ensure more veterans,
families and survivors receive not only VA services, but also other
assistance in their own communities."

Under the new NGO Gateway Initiative, launched today with the Veterans
Coalition Inc., a non-profit organization formed more than two years ago
by several major national veterans groups, the Veterans Coalition is
available to assist NGOs in identifying the unmet needs of veterans,
families and survivors, working with VA to help minimize duplication of
effort and confusion among NGOs with programs for veterans.  In
addition, the program will encourage continuous feedback from NGOs on
issues such as physical and mental health, employment, and satisfaction
with government services and benefits affecting veterans.

"The Veterans Coalition is dedicated to marshalling energy and resources
from all communities to better serve service members, veterans and their
families", said Harry Walters, chairman of the Veterans Coalition and
former administrator of the Veterans Administration. "Together we can do
a better job than any of us can do alone."

VA will provide a senior-level, career federal employee to serve as an
ombudsman to assist NGOs with their programs to serve veterans.  To
ensure a cooperative relationship, VA's deputy secretary will serve as a
non-voting advisory liaison to the group's board of directors.

VA has a long tradition of working with national veterans service
organizations on programs benefitting all veterans.  VA also has had
close relationships with private-sector groups, churches, charities and
other non-profit organizations that provide housing for homeless
veterans.  This new gateway initiative is one more way to extend
services to our veterans.


_______________________________________________

VA Assisting Veterans with Health Care Costs

WASHINGTON (Jan. 6, 2009) -- For veterans struggling financially due to
a job loss or decreased income, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
offers an assortment of programs that can relieve the costs of health
care or provide care at no cost. 

"With the downturn in the economy, VA recognizes that many veterans will
feel the effects," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B.
Peake. "Therefore, it is important that eligible veterans learn of the
many ways VA has to help them afford the health care they have earned."

Veterans whose previous income was ruled too high for VA health care may
be able to enter the VA system based upon a hardship if their current
year's income is projected to fall below federal income thresholds due
to a job loss, separation from service or some other financial setback.
Veterans determined eligible due to hardship can avoid copays applied to
higher-income veterans.  Qualifying veterans may be eligible for
enrollment and receive health care at no cost. 

Also eligible for no-cost VA care are most veterans who recently
returned from a combat zone.  They are entitled to five years of free VA
care.  The five-year "clock" begins with their discharge from the
military, not their departure from the combat zone.

Each VA medical center across the country has an enrollment coordinator
available to provide veterans information about these programs.
Veterans may also contact VA's Health Benefits Service Center at
1-877-222 VETS (8387) or visit the VA health eligibility website at
www.va.gov/healtheligibility .

VA Sends Latest Gulf War Illness Report to IOM for Review

WASHINGTON (Dec. 1, 2008) -- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has
sent the October 2008 report from the VA Research Advisory Committee on
Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses to the National Academy of Sciences'
Institute of Medicine (IOM) for review and recommendations.

The October report from the advisory committee identified potential
causes for -- and asserted that research supports the existence of -- a
multi-symptom condition resulting from service in the 1990 - 1991 Gulf
War, which the committee identified as Gulf War Illness (GWI).

Because VA has traditionally and by law relied upon IOM for independent
and credible reviews of the science behind these particular veterans'
health issues, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake has
asked IOM to review the advisory committee's report before VA officially
responds to the report's conclusions.

"I appreciate the committee's work on this report, and I am eager to see
the results of further independent study into their findings," Peake
said. "Of course, VA will continue to provide the care and benefits our
Gulf War veterans have earned through their service, as we have for more
than a decade."

VA has long recognized conditions, granted benefits and provided health
care to Gulf War veterans suffering from a broad range of symptoms, even
though these conditions have not been scientifically recognized as a
specific disease or injury or GWI.

These include chronic fatigue, persistent rashes, hair loss, headaches,
muscle pain, joint pain, neurologic symptoms, neuropsychological
symptoms (such as memory loss), respiratory system symptoms, sleep
disturbances, gastrointestinal symptoms, cardiovascular symptoms,
abnormal weight loss and menstrual disorders.

New information concerning VBA Policy on Management of Veterans' and other Governmental Paper Records

VBA Letter 20-08-63 

Dated 14 Nov 2008

________________________

FYI UPDATE: VA RESPONDS TO SERVICE ORGS'
RECOMMENDATIONS ON DOCUMENT HANDLING --


UPDATE: VA RESPONDS TO SERVICE ORGS'

RECOMMENDATIONS ON DOCUMENT HANDLING --

VA developing policy that affords veterans the benefit

of the doubt as to whether they had a document

or evidence lost or improperly handled.


All stories regarding the VA's shredder and document handling scandal can be found on this page... click here...
http://www. vawatchdog. org/VAshredderscandal. htm

See below:

by Larry Scott



On Wednesday, November 5, 2008, officials of the Veterans' Benefits Administration (VBA) of the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) met with leaders of a number of veterans' service organizations (VSOs).


The VSOs had made recommendations to VBA about document handling, shredding and the general mess currently at VBA's Regional Offices (VAROs). All articles about VA shredding and document handling are here...

Put on your reading glasses, because we have a number of documents.


1. List of recommendations and the VA response.


2. The draft of the VBA's new policy on document handling. Original of #1 and #2 is here...

3. A letter from VA Secretary Peak to Senators regarding the shredder scandal. Original of #3 is here...

Below is the list of recommendations and VA's response.




Recommendations from Meeting with Veterans Service Organizations

Recommendation 1: VA should develop an informal process to accept late-flowing documents subject to a review board.


VA Response: The Compensation and Pension Service is developing a policy for handling assertions from claimants and veterans' representatives that a claim or evidence was submitted to the VA and not properly considered. The policy will provide for a relaxed evidentiary burden for a limited period of time.


Recommendation 2: VA should conduct a stand-down to search for loose documents.


VA Response: Procedures have been developed regarding the disposition and disposal of all documents in VBA's custody. These procedures will include a search for loose documents.


Recommendation 3: VA should research how other organizations have encountered similar incidents.


VA Response: VA is developing a policy that is consistent with the law and regulations, yet affords veterans the benefit of the doubt as to whether they had a document or evidence lost or improperly handled.


Recommendation 4: VA should expand the search for shred mail to the Office of General Counsel (OGC) and the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA).


VA Response: VBA has informed OGC and BVA of this recommendation.


Recommendation 5: VA should consider notifying claimants of the evidence in VA's possession prior to rendering a decision on their claim.


VA Response: VA does not concur with this recommendation as the Rating Decision clearly lists the evidence considered in the decision. Further, claimants have one year from the date of the VCAA notice to submit new evidence and they have one year from the date of the decision notification letter to file a Notice of Disagreement. Both of these protections afford claimants an opportunity to ensure that all of the evidence in support of their claim was considered.


Recommendation 6: Add a paragraph in the award notification letter informing claimants that they should review the evidence considered in their Rating Decision.


VA Response: Concur.


Recommendation 7: VA should inform claimants in the VCAA Notice letter that they should keep a copy of claims and evidence submitted to VA in support of their claim.


VA Response: Concur in principle, however VA is considering whether this poses an undue hardship on claimants.


Recommendation 8: Issue press release informing claimants that they should review the evidence used to render a decision on their claim.


VA Response: VA will issue a press release informing veterans about this incident and what they should do.


Recommendation 9: VA should develop a rights and responsibilities pamphlet.


VA Response: VA is exploring this recommendation.


Recommendation 10: VA should review Public Contact logs when attempting to corroborate a claimant's assertion that they previously submitted a claim or evidence that was not considered.


VA Response: Concur.




Below is the draft of VBA's new policy on document handling.




DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
Veterans Benefits Administration
Washington, D.C.
20420
November XX, 2008 DRAFT DRAFT
VBA Letter 20-09-XX

Director (00)
All Regional Offices and Centers

SUBJ: VBA Policy on Management of Veterans' Paper Records 1.
Purpose

This letter establishes additional policies for the maintenance, review, and appropriate destruction of veterans' paper records located in all VBA facilities and worksites, including VBA Headquarters facilities, all regional offices and centers, outbased sites, and briefing locations, as well as for approved work-at-home or telecommuting sites. These policies are for immediate implementation.


The moratorium on shredding remains in place at each facility/work site until the regional office director certifies to his/her area director that the policies outlined in this letter have been fully implemented.


Directors will ensure all VBA employees, contractors, co-located employees of other federal and state agencies (e.g., DOL employees), volunteers, and veterans service organization (VSO) staff located within their facilities and under their areas of organizational responsibility receive a copy of this policy letter and fully implement it.


2.
New Positions/Responsibilities

Two new positions are established to ensure the appropriate management and safeguarding of veterans' records as follows:

a. Records Management Officers (RMOs) will be responsible for overseeing all programs established for the management of veterans' records. Enclosure 1 is the standardized RMO position description. Further description of RMO duties and responsibilities is provided in enclosure 2. Directors will immediately designate a full-time Acting Records Management Officer pending hiring a permanent RMO. Requests to establish more than one RMO must be approved by your area director. Also, small offices must receive approval from their area director if they propose to establish the RMO position as less than full-time. The Associate Deputy Under Secretary for Management will determine the appropriate number of RMOs for the Headquarters organization.


b. Division Records Management Officers (DRMOs) will be designated by directors through delegations of authority. DRMO duties will be collateral. It is recommended that one DRMO be designated for every 15 employees in the division. The director will determine the appropriate number of DRMOs at a regional office or other VBA facility to fully carry out the DRMO responsibilities. Further description of DRMO duties and responsibilities is provided in enclosure 3. All Headquarters Service and Staff Office Directors will designate the appropriate number of DRMOs for their organization.


3.
Document Destruction Policy for All VBA Benefit Programs

a.
Individual Employee Shredding Envelopes

Each employee will be given a red Optional Form 65 (OF65) envelope that will be used as a "shredding envelope." The envelope will be labeled with the employee's name. Regional offices are to purchase sufficient quantities of red OF65 envelopes for all employees under their jurisdiction. Envelopes shall be either the 10X13 or 12X16 size.


b.
Documents Requiring Two Signatures

Documents identified for destruction that could potentially affect benefit entitlement require the employee's signature, as well as the signature of the employee's supervisor, before they can be destroyed. These documents would under most circumstances be duplicates of documents already of record in the claims file.


Documents requiring two signatures before destruction include all application forms, as well as supporting evidence submitted by the claimant or the claimant's representative, all evidence received from third parties in support of a claim, and other VA claims records (e.g., Capri records, copies of medical examinations, etc.). Additionally, all computer-generated writeouts that could potentially result in an adjustment to a veteran's or other beneficiary's award must have two signatures before destruction.


The following steps will be taken when employees identify claims-related documents for destruction meeting the above criteria:

1. Documents will be bundled by beneficiary name.

2. Employee will initial, date, and annotate the reason for destruction, (e.g., "duplicate record").

3. Employee will hand carry the document, along with the claims folder (if needed to determine the appropriateness of the destruction) to his/her supervisor for review and approval.

4. Supervisor will review and, if destruction is approved, initial and date the document· If destruction is determined inappropriate, the supervisor will provide additional records management training to the employee.

5. The employee will place the document(s) in the red OF65 envelope.

Each day (or other frequency as determined appropriate by the
director) the OF65 envelope will be hand carried to the Division
Records Management Officer (DRMO).

6.
The DRMO will review the envelop for appropriateness of destruction
and forward appropriate materials in the envelop to the RMO.

7. The RMO will place the materials in the shredding bin, as appropriate.


c.
Internally Generated Papers Not Requiring Signature

Screen or award prints and other system-generated prints and work papers that are not appropriate for inclusion in the claims record must be placed in the OF65 shred envelope. It is not required that these be initialed or dated, but they are subject to review by the DRMO and the RMO and must be shredded.


d.
All Other Paper in Employees' Work Environment

In order to effectively control and manage the document destruction process, all paper in VBA employees' work environment, even if it does not contain any PII and it is not related to any specific claim, will be placed in the OF65 for shredding. There will be no separate recycling bins for paper. Papers will not be placed in trash receptacles. All paper must be shredded and then recycled as appropriate.


4.
Procedures for Outbased Locations and Work-at-Home Employees

Outbased locations are authorized to have shredders that comply with VA standards. Staff members at these locations are required to follow the same document-destruction procedures outlined in paragraph 3 above. Local supervisors must be the designated DRMO and the officer-in-charge the RMO.


Outbased locations staffed by only non-supervisory employees and work-at-home employees are not authorized to destroy any paper documents. Claims-related documents must be initialed and dated by the employee and annotated with reason for destruction. All paper must be brought to the regional office or sent to the regional office via Federal Express on a regular schedule for review and disposition by the Records Management Officer.


5.
Guidance on Method of Shredding

Paper recycle bins are no longer authorized at VBA facilities. All paper will first be shredded, and then recycled as appropriate.


The use of shredding service contracts is preferred unless a contract is not available or it is operationally inefficient to use a contract due to special local conditions. If a shredding service contract is used to dispose of VA documents, the facility Records Management Officer must witness the destruction. Material should not be transported away from the VA office before destruction. The destruction of restricted records must be completed by pulping, macerating, shredding, or otherwise definitively destroying the information contained in the records.


Access to shredders, shredder bins, or other methods of document destruction will be strictly controlled and limited to senior management, RMOs, and DRMOs at all VBA locations. Shredders and shredder bins are to be kept secure with locks or in locked rooms.


6.
How to Handle Destruction of Sensitive Materials

Sensitive records maintained by supervisors, human resources, union representatives, and veterans service organizations should be delivered directly to the RMO in a sealed envelop, with the source and type of documents clearly identified on the outside, and signed by the appropriate official.


7.
Maintenance of Government Records in the Workplace

All official claims folders and claims-related documents must be stored in open areas on desks, in clearly marked claims file banks, or unlocked file drawers specifically provided to employees for storage of cases under their jurisdiction. Enclosures 4 and 5 provide more detailed guidance and also provide guidance for employees working at home, employees engaged in outreach activities where claims or evidence is received and employees engaged in off-site activities.


Supervisors are responsible to ensure adherence to all aspects of this policy, to include inspection of employee work stations.


8.
VA National Rules of Behavior

VA Handbook 6500, Appendix G, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National .Rules of Behavior, dated September 18, 2007, must be signed annually. The Rules of Behavior (ROB) establish responsibilities and expected behavior of all employees regarding the appropriate use and protection of information that is used to support VA's missions and functions. These guidelines also state clearly the consequences of behavior that is not consistent with these rules of behavior.


All employees must sign the VA National Rules of Behavior (see enclosure 6) . The employee must initial and date each page of the ROB, complete the information requested on the last page, sign and date it, and return to their supervisor by November 7, 2008.


9.
Questions

Questions may be directed to the Associate Deputy Under Secretary for Management or to your area director.


P. W.
Dunne
Under Secretary for Benefits



And, below is VA Secretary Peake's letter to Senators about the shredder / document problems at VBA.




THE SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
WASHINGTON
October 31, 2008
United States Senate Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator

I am writing to advise you of the actions the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is taking to address the Office of Inspector General's (OIG's) findings that veterans' claims documents had been improperly identified by VA regional offices for shredding. This problem was uncovered by the OIG during an audit to determine if the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) regional offices have effective controls for the accurate and timely processing of claims-related mail. VA regional offices receive approximately 25 million claims-related documents through the mail every year.


The OIG audited four regional offices (Detroit, St. Louis, St. Petersburg, and Waco) and discovered documents had been inappropriately placed in the shred bins, affecting between two and five veterans at each office. VBA immediately ceased all shredding activities while a nationwide review was conducted of all documents in shred bins. Approximately 500 documents that could potentially affect a claimant's entitlement to benefits were found improperly placed in shred bins at various regional offices. These regional offices are taking appropriate action on all of the documents found.


I am deeply concerned that improper actions by VA employees could have caused any veterans to receive less than their full entitlement to the benefits they earned through their service to our Nation. I have directed that immediate action be taken to address this most serious issue. Document shredding will not be resumed until we ensure measures are in place to prevent future incidents of employees inappropriately discarding veterans' paperwork.


Our action plan includes establishment of a special Records Control Team that is currently meeting to strengthen our policies and procedures for the protection of veterans' records and the proper handling and disposal of documents. Our new procedures will require employees to date and initial all claims-related documents they have determined are appropriate for shredding. Employees will forward all claims documents identified for shredding to their supervisor for approval.
This two-person review and approval process will be required prior to the destruction of any claims document·

Employees will maintain all documents to be shredded in a special receptacle, which will be open to spot checks by their supervisor. We also are creating a Records Control Officer at every regional office to strengthen oversight of all records management and disposal activities. Reviews of documents identified for shredding will be integrated into the site visits performed by Headquarters program offices and area offices. Regional offices will also be subject to unannounced site visits.


Special training is being conducted this week on the proper handling and disposal of documents. The training emphasizes every employee's responsibility for protecting the documents and records entrusted to our care by those we serve. Directors are required to certify to their Area Director that all employees completed the training by November 3, 2008. Additionally, a separate training module on ethics will be developed and administered in November.


A workgroup convened this week to determine how to handle, in the fairest manner possible, the claims from veterans and their families who may have been affected by inappropriate destruction of documents. This workgroup will confer with the veterans service organizations, with whom we have already been in dialog, and our oversight committees in Congress before finalizing our policy.


The OIG is continuing its investigation of those cases where inappropriate shredding may be traceable to a specific employee or employees. I assure you that legal and disciplinary action will be pursued to hold accountable any employee who has acted improperly.


VBA briefed the majority and minority staff members of both the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committees on this situation. A briefing has been also provided to the six largest veterans service organizations. We will continue to frequently update you and the other members of our oversight committees, as well as our other stakeholders, on our ongoing actions to ensure we are fulfilling our obligations to protect and serve our Nation's veterans.


The shredding of documents that affect the benefits of veterans cannot be excused. As I have testified, we must move rapidly to the paperless processing of claims. There is no excuse for failing to leverage industry standards and technology in support of our veterans.


Sincerely yours,
James B.
Peake,

NVS Weekly Updates – October 31, 2008

Fast Letter 08-34, 10/10/2008. Revised Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Worksheet,

 

Effective immediately, a revised TBI disability examination worksheet is available for national use. 

 

Fast Letter 08-33, 10/10/2008, Updated Audio Compensation and Pension Examination Worksheet.

 

As a result of the Martinak v. Nicholson decision, the requirement for the audiologist to comment on the effects of the condition on occupational functioning and daily activities has been reinstated.  It replaces the requirement for the audiologist to comment on the situation of greatest difficulty. In addition the questions for tinnitus have been revised to clarify what is required.

 

Fast Letter 08-32, 10/8/2008,  Agent Orange Outreach Letter

           

 An outreach letter is being sent to approximately 28,000 Vietnam veterans.  This letter provides information about the presumptive conditions for "in-country" Vietnam veterans.  The letter lists the presumptive conditions and provides information on how to apply for compensation and/or pension benefits.  This outreach campaign will result in additional compensation claims from Vietnam veterans as well as increased inquiries on the topic of Agent Orange. 

 

Fast Letter 08-31, 10/7/2008, Interim Final Rule:  Presumption of Service Connection for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

 

Rescinds Fast Letter 01-100, Call Up and Identification of Cases of Gulf War Veterans with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)/Lou Gehrig's Disease, dated December 19, 2001.

 

An interim final rulemaking establishing a presumption of service connection for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) for any veteran who develops the disease at any time after separation from service was published in the Federal Register on September 23, 2008 at 73 FR 54691.  This rulemaking is necessary to implement a decision by the Secretary to establish such a presumption based primarily on a November 2006 report by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (IOM) on the association between active service and ALS.

 

ALSO ATTACHED IS THE LATEST INFO ON TBI AND SCARS RATING.  PLEASE READ!!! 

38 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 3 Changes

New pages to Part 3 of 38 CFR can be found at: http://www.warms.vba.va.gov/regs/38CFR/BOOKb/supple-b-82.pdf

 

These changes should be reviewed as they will have a direct impact on processing future claims.

 

38 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 4 Changes

New pages to the Rating Schedule may be found at: http://www.warms.vba.va.gov/regs/38CFR/BOOKc/supple-c-45.pdf

 

These changes reflect changes in the Rating Schedule as to Diagnostic Codes and rating percentages.

 

This Update is a service provided by the National Veterans Service of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.  It is intended as a summary of items of potential interest to and use by Department Service Officers and their staff.  Readers are encouraged to thoroughly review the original documents which are the source of items found in this Update

 

 

Release No. 10-14-08

Oct. 30, 2008

DOD announces 2009 retired, annuitant pay adjustments

WASHINGTON (AFRNS) -- Based on the increase in the U.S. Consumer Price Index, there will be a cost-of-living adjustment increase for retired pay and Survivor Benefit Plan annuities effective Dec. 1, according to Pentagon officials.

Retirees being paid on an account where the retiree first became a member of the uniformed services before Sept. 8, 1980 and retired before Jan. 1, 2008 will receive the full COLA increase of 5.8 percent.  Retirees being paid on an account where the retiree first became a member of the uniformed services before Sept. 8, 1980 and retired Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2008 will receive a COLA increase of up to 5 percent. 

The COLA increase for retirees being paid on an account where the retiree first became a member of the uniformed services on or after Sept. 8, 1980 will be as follows:

--  5.8 percent for those retiring before Jan. 1, 2008

--  5 percent for those retiring in the first quarter of calendar 2008

--  3.8 percent for those retiring in the second quarter of calendar 2008

--  1.2 percent for those retiring in the third quarter of calendar 2008

--  No increase for those retiring in the fourth quarter of calendar 2008

Retirees who first became a member of the uniformed services on or after Aug. 1, 1986, elected to receive a Career Status Bonus, and retired before Jan. 1, 2008, will receive a COLA as follows:

--  4.8 percent for those retiring before Jan. 1, 2008

--  4.2 percent for those retiring in the first quarter of calendar 2008

--  3.3 percent for those retiring in the second quarter of calendar 2008

--  1 percent increase for those retiring in the third quarter of calendar 2008

--  No increase for those retiring in the fourth quarter of calendar 2008

The COLA increase will be reflected in the Jan. 2 payment. 

For more information, contact the Defense Finance and Accounting Service at (800) 321-1080, or visit the DFAS Web site at www.dfas.mil/index.html.

New Law Authorizes Veterans' Salutes during National Anthem

WASHINGTON (Oct. 30, 2008) -- Veterans and active-duty military not in
uniform can now render the military-style hand salute during the playing
of the national anthem, thanks to changes in federal law that took
effect this month.

"The military salute is a unique gesture of respect that marks those who
have served in our nation's armed forces," said Secretary of Veterans
Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. "This provision allows the application of
that honor in all events involving our nation's flag."

The new provision improves upon a little known change in federal law
last year that authorized veterans to render the military-style hand
salute during the raising, lowering or passing of the flag, but it did
not address salutes during the national anthem.  Last year's provision
also applied to members of the armed forces while not in uniform.

Traditionally, members of the nation's veterans service organizations
have rendered the hand-salute during the national anthem and at events
involving the national flag while wearing their organization's official
head-gear. 

The most recent change, authorizing hand-salutes during the national
anthem by veterans and out-of-uniform military personnel, was sponsored
by Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, an Army veteran.  It was included in the
Defense Authorization Act of 2009, which President Bush signed on Oct.
14. 

The earlier provision authorizing hand-salutes for veterans and
out-of-uniform military personnel during the raising, lowering or
passing of the flag, was contained in the National Defense Authorization
Act of 2008, which took effect Jan. 28, 2008.

NVS Weekly Updates – October 29, 2008

 

 

New VA Home Loan Guaranty Provisions

On October 10, 2008, the President signed S. 3023, the Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 2008. Following are the three major impacts to the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program:

1. Authority to guarantee adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) and hybrid adjustable rate mortgages (HARMs) has been extended through September 30, 2012.

2. The maximum guaranty for cash-out refinance loans has been made the same as purchase loans - they are no longer limited to $36,000. In addition, cash-out refinance loans may now be made up to 100% of the appraised value of the home.

3. The temporary increase to the maximum guaranty has been extended through December 31, 2011. When combined with new locality-based Freddie Mac conforming loan limit in January 2009, VA's maximum county “loan limit” will be $1,094,625 ($1,641,937.50 in Alaska, Guam, Hawaii, and the Virgin Islands). This results in unique county "loan limits" for VA.

 

Note: The significance of number 2, above, is that veterans with adjustable rate (and other) mortgages may be able to refinance through the VA for the first time with no money down.

 

 

VA Issues Interim Final Rule on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Effective October 29, 2008, VA eliminated the requirement that in-service stressors must be verified in cases where a diagnosis of PTSD was made during service.  This amendment is necessary to facilitate the proof of service connection in such claims. By this amendment, VA intends to reduce claim-processing time for such claims.

 

More information on this interim rule may be found at: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/E8-25735.htm.

 

Loss of Control Puts Vets Documents at Risk

VA's inspector general initiated an investigation in October after discovering more than 10 veterans’ documents in shredder room bins at VA regional offices in Detroit, St. Louis, St. Petersburg, FL, and Waco, TX.  VA ordered an immediate freeze on further document shredding while its officials tried to determine if the problem was more widespread.  It was.

 

On October 23, VA told VFW that nearly 490 documents had been recovered from its 57 regional offices. Sixty percent of the documents recovered were found in shredder bins in Columbia, SC, St. Louis and Cleveland.  VA is still checking to see if some of those documents were duplicates already present in claims files.

 

Note:  VFW is working with VA to ensure that veterans with missing records are not adversely effected by this problem.  Suggest to veterans that they:

 

·        Submit all claims and evidence through your office;

·        Keep copies of all claims and evidence they submit directly to VA;

·        Note dates documents were mailed to VA

·        Let you know if they hear nothing from VA within 45 days of filing a claim with VA since VA should acknowledge all claims within 30 days.

 

Security of Claimant Information

Regional Office and the VFW Policy and Procedure clearly state that information concerning a claimant may not be released to another person or organization without the express written authorization of the claimant.

 

This means that VFW service officers, claims consultants and staff may not provide any individually identifiable information to a county or state service officer without the claimant’s express written consent. 

 

This Update is a service provided by the National Veterans Service of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.  It is intended as a summary of items of potential interest to and use by Department Service Officers and their staff.  Readers are encouraged to thoroughly review the original documents which are the source of items found in this Update

 

COLA boost higher than pay raise


By Rick Maze - Staff writer
  

With inflation running at a rate of 5.4 percent a year, military retirees and disabled veterans are getting a 5.8 percent pay increase — while active-duty service members and reservists are getting a 3.9 percent pay increase.

Although current service members may feel cheated, there’s really nothing wrong with this picture.

The two annual increases became set for the end of the year after two events that came just days apart:

• President Bush signed the 2009 Defense Authorization Act on Oct. 14 that includes the 3.9 percent pay increase, an amount that would have been 3.4 percent if Congress had not backed a bigger increase than what the White House originally proposed.

The 3.9 percent military raise, which applies to basic pay and drill pay, takes effect on Jan. 1 and should first appear in mid-January paychecks.

• Two days later, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the September results of its monthly survey of the cost of goods and services that allowed the calculation of the automatic cost-of-living adjustment in military and federal civilian retired pay, military survivor benefits and Social Security.

The 5.8 percent retiree COLA is based on a comparison of consumer prices in the third quarter of the fiscal year — July, August and September — to the third quarter of the previous fiscal year.

Veterans’ disability pay, dependency and indemnity compensation for survivors, and pensions for low-income veterans, don’t automatically increase each year, but Congress traditionally orders that these veterans’ benefits increase by the same amount. The 5.8 percent increase takes effect on Dec. 1, and first appears in Jan. 1 checks.

The fact that current and former service members are not getting the same increase should come as no surprise, said retired Air Force Col. Steve Strobridge of the Military Officers Association of America, a former director of compensation for the Air Force.

“The pay raise and the retiree COLA are based on different things, and it would be unbelievably rare for them to be the same,” Strobridge said.

In fact, over the last 40 years, the two amounts have never been the same.

Pay raises since the start of the all-volunteer force in 1971 have been designed to keep military wages competitive with the private sector, he said. The federal government skimped on raises in 1980s and ’90s, which some military advocates say allowed a gap to grow between military and private-sector raises that peaked at 13.5 percent in 1999. The pay gap has been shrinking since 2000 because annual military raises have been slightly larger than private-sector increases.

The pay gap today is 3.4 percent, and it will fall to 2.9 percent after the Jan. 1 raise.

Retired pay increases have a different purpose, Strobridge said. “The idea here is to protect the value of retired pay so the purchasing power of your check remains the same as it was on the day you retired,” he said.

Big COLAs — and the 5.8 percent hike is the biggest since 1982 — are not necessarily good news, Strobridge said.

“When people get big COLAs, they are getting them because there have been big increases in prices,” he said. “Since most military retirees do not live on their retirement check alone, that means they are not fully protected.”

Anticipating complaints from active-duty service members that they are being cheated by getting a smaller raise, Strobridge said the two different formulas generally work out fine for both groups.

“One is bigger one year, the next is bigger another year,” he said.

Since 1970, military raises have outpaced retirement COLAs 23 out of 40 times, including in seven of the last 10 years. But retiree COLAs have been larger than military raises in three of the last four years, he said.

Enhanced VA Mortgage Options Now Available for Veterans


Of Potential Benefit to Those in Financial Distress


WASHINGTON (Oct.24) -- Veterans with conventional home loans now have
new options for refinancing to a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
guaranteed home loan.  These new options are available as a result of
the Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 2008, which the President
signed into law on October 10, 2008.



"These changes will allow VA to assist a substantial number of veterans
with subprime mortgages refinance into a safer, more affordable, VA
guaranteed loan," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake.
"Veterans in financial distress due to high rate subprime mortgages are
potentially the greatest beneficiaries."



VA has never guaranteed subprime loans.  However, as a result of the new
law VA can now help many more veterans who currently have subprime
loans.



The new law makes changes to VA's home loan refinancing program.
Veterans who wish to refinance their subprime or conventional mortgage
may now do so for up to 100 percent of the value of the property.  These
types of loans were previously limited to 90 percent of the value. 



Additionally, Congress raised VA's maximum loan amount for these types
of refinancing loans.  Previously, these refinancing loans were capped
at $144,000.  With the new legislation, such loans may be made up to
$729,750 depending on where the property is located.



Increasing the loan-to-value ratio and raising the maximum loan amount
will allow more qualified veterans to refinance through VA, allowing for
savings on interest costs or even potentially avoiding foreclosure.



Originally set to expire at the end of this month, VA's authority to
guaranty Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs) and Hybrid ARMs was also
extended under this new law through September 30, 2012.  Unlike
conventional ARMs and hybrid ARMs, VA limits interest rate increases on
these loans from year to year, as well as over the life of the loans. 

Since 1944, when home loan guaranties were offered with the original GI
Bill, VA has guaranteed more than 18 million home loans worth over $911
billion.  This year, about 180,000 veterans, active duty servicemembers,
and survivors received loans valued at about $36 billion.



For more information, or to obtain help from a VA Loan Specialist,
veterans may call VA at 1-877-827-3702 or visit www.homeloans.va.gov
<http://www.homeloans.va.gov/> .

VA Announces "In House" Option to Implement IT Aspects of New GI Bill

WASHINGTON (Oct. 10, 2008) -- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
announced today that it will rely upon its own workforce to set up the
information technology programs needed to implement the educational
benefits of the new Post-9/11 GI Bill.

The Department's announcement came after VA officials did not receive
enough proposals from qualified private-sector contractors to create an
information technology program that implements the new benefit.  At no
time did VA consider contracting out responsibility for actually
administering this educational assistance.

"Many private contractors were apparently reluctant to offer proposals
because of external misconceptions as to the scope of the work involved.
While it is unfortunate that we will not have the technical expertise
from the private sector available to assist us in developing the
information technology solution, the VA can and will deliver the
benefits program on time," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James
B. Peake.

"The Post-9/11 GI Bill is unusually complex, with payments being
tailored to tuition costs and going to both students and educational
institutions," said Patrick W. Dunne, the Under Secretary for Benefits.
"Some benefits are determined by a school's zip code, and others by
in-state rates for tuition."

Dunne said the Department would have been remiss if it had failed to
assess the ability of the private sector to assist VA to set up the
technology aspects of the program's implementation.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill will provide educational assistance to veterans,
military members, reservists and National Guard members who have served
since Sept. 11, 2001.  By law, the new benefits are scheduled to start
on Aug. 1, 2009.



VA Secretary Establishes ALS as a Presumptive Compensable Illness
Cites Association between Military Service and Later Development of ALS

WASHINGTON (Sept. 23, 2008) - Veterans with amyotrophic lateral
sclerosis (ALS) may receive badly-needed support for themselves and
their families after the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced
today that ALS will become a presumptively compensable illness for all
veterans with 90 days or more of continuously active service in the
military.

"Veterans are developing ALS in rates higher than the general
population, and it was appropriate to take action," Secretary of
Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake said.

Secretary Peake based his decision primarily on a November 2006 report
by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine (IOM) on the
association between active-duty service and ALS. 

"We are extremely grateful to Secretary Peake, Congressman Henry Brown
and Senator Lindsey Graham for standing on the side of veterans with ALS
across the country," said Gary Leo, president and CEO of The ALS
Association. "Thanks to their leadership, veterans with ALS will receive
the benefits and care they need, when they need them.  Thanks to their
efforts, no veteran with ALS will ever be left behind." 

The report, titled Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in Veterans: Review of
the Scientific Literature, analyzed numerous previous studies on the
issue and concluded that "there is limited and suggestive evidence of an
association between military service and later development of ALS." 

"ALS is a disease that progresses rapidly, once it is diagnosed," the
Secretary explained.  "There simply isn't time to develop the evidence
needed to support compensation claims before many veterans become
seriously ill.  My decision will make those claims much easier to
process, and for them and their families to receive the compensation
they have earned through their service to our nation."

ALS, also called Lou Gehrig's disease, is a neuromuscular disease that
affects about 20,000 to 30,000 people of all races and ethnicities in
the United States, is often relentlessly progressive, and is almost
always fatal. 

ALS causes degeneration of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that
leads to muscle weakness, muscle atrophy, and spontaneous muscle
activity.  Currently, the cause of ALS is unknown, and there is no
effective treatment.

The new interim final regulation applies to all applications for
benefits received by VA on or after September 23, 2008, or that are
pending before VA, the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans
Claims, or the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on
that date.

VA will work to identify and contact veterans with ALS, including those
whose claims for ALS were previously denied, through direct mailings and
other outreach programs. 

To view the entire regulation published in the Federal Register today,
go to: www.federalregister.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2008-21998_PI.pdf. For
more information on VA's disability compensation program, go to
www.va.gov or contact 1-800-827-1000.

NVS Weekly Updates – Sep 24, 2008

 

VA
                                    Publishes Interim Rule on Presumption of Service Connection for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
 
Federal Register, September 23, 2008 (Volume 73,
                                    Number 185 – FR Doc E8-21998) published the interim final rule to establish a presumption of service connection for
                                    Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  This document amends the Department of
                                    Veterans Affairs (VA)adjudication regulations to establish a presumption of service connection for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
                                    (ALS) for any veteran who develops the disease at any time after separation from service. This amendment is necessary to implement
                                    a decision by the Secretary to establish such a presumption based primarily on a November 2006 report by the National Academy
                                    of Sciences Institute of Medicine (IOM) on the 
association
                                    between active service and ALS.
 
You are encouraged to read the entire document
                                    at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/E8-21998.htm. 
 
VA Publishes Final Rule on Schedule for Rating Disabilities; Evaluation
                                    of Scars
 
Federal Register, September 23, 2008 (Volume 73,
                                    Number 185 – FR Doc E8-21980) published the final rule on schedule for rating disabilities; evaluation of scars. 
                                    This amendment shall apply to all applications for benefits received by VA on or after October 23, 2008. A veteran whom VA
                                    rated before such date under diagnostic codes 7800, 7801, 7802, 7803, 7804, or 7805 of 38 CFR 4.118 may request review under
                                    these clarified criteria, irrespective of whether his or her disability has worsened since the last review. The effective
                                    date of any award, or any increase in disability compensation, based on this amendment will not be earlier than the effective
                                    date of this rule, but will otherwise be assigned under the current regulations regarding effective dates, 38 CFR 3.400, etc.
 
You are encouraged to read the entire document at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/E8-21980.htm. 
 
VA Publishes Final Rule on Schedule for Rating Disabilities; Evaluation
                                    of Residuals of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
 
Federal Register, September 23, 2008 (Volume 73,
                                    Number 185 – FR Doc E8-22083) published the final rule on schedule for rating disabilities; evaluation of residuals
                                    of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).  The amendment shall apply to all applications for benefits received by VA on or after
                                    October 23, 2008. The old criteria will apply to applications received by VA before that date.  However, a veteran whose
                                    residuals of TBI were rated by VA under a prior version of 38 CFR 4.124a, diagnostic code 8045, will be permitted to request
                                    review under the new criteria, irrespective of whether his or her disability has worsened since the last review or whether
                                    VA receives any additional evidence. The effective date of any increase in disability compensation based solely on the new
                                    criteria would be no earlier than the effective date of the new criteria. The effective date of any award, or any increase
                                    in disability compensation, based solely on these new rating criteria will not be earlier than the effective date of this
                                    rule, but will otherwise be assigned under the current regulations governing effective dates, 38 CFR 3.400, etc. The rate
                                    of disability compensation will not be reduced based solely on these new rating criteria.
 
You are encouraged to read the entire document at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/E8-22083.htm. 
 
NOTE:  Attached is a news release from the Department of Veterans affairs (VA)
                                    concerning the above Federal Register articles
 
Information on Dependents Indemnity Compensation
                                    (DIC)Benefits
 

One of our fellow service officers shared an interesting situation in a widow’s claim that had VACO concurrence.  The veteran had a total disability rating for more than 10 years but died as a result of a nicotine-related disorder.  Normally, the issue of cause of death would bar payment under the provisions of 38 CFR 3.300.  However, the widow was found entitled to Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) under the provisions of 38 U.S.C. 1318.  In such a case, the relevant fact is the total disability in existence for 10 years or more and not the cause of death.  Provided there is no obvious misconduct, the Compensation and Pension Service stated the plain language in 38 U.S.C. 1318 supports the recognition of entitlement to DIC benefits.  The DIC is payable regardless of the existing SC condition or the cause of death.  If you have any questions on this matter, you may contact Rick Hirst, NVS Manager of Training and Quality Assurance, at (202) 608-8368 or rhirst@vfw.org.

 

This Update is a service provided by the National Veterans Service of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.  It is intended as a summary of items of potential interest to and use by Department Service Officers and their staff.  Readers are encouraged to thoroughly review the original documents which are the source of items found in this Update

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 23, 2008

 

VA Announces Changes to the Disability Rating Schedule for Traumatic Brain Injuries and Burn Scars

Increased Compensation Possible for Some Veterans

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced changes in the way VA will evaluate traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and burn scars for purposes of determining the appropriate level of compensation veterans receive for these injuries.

“These important regulatory changes will allow VA decision makers to better assess the consequences of these injuries and ensure veterans are properly compensated for their residual effects,” stated Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake.

VA has revised the Disability Rating Schedule in light of current scientific and medical knowledge in order to provide VA employees with more detailed and up-to-date criteria for evaluating and compensating veterans with these injuries.

Two groups of veterans may be affected by these changes.  The first group includes veterans who will be awarded disability compensation for TBI and burn injuries in the future.  The second group includes veterans already receiving compensation for these injuries whose disabilities are reevaluated under the new criteria.

The effects of blast injuries resulting from roadside explosions of improvised explosive devices have been common sources of injury in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and appear to be somewhat different from the effects of trauma seen from other sources of injury.

As of September 2008, there are more than 22,000 veterans being compensated for TBI, of whom more than 5,800 are veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

Traumatic brain injuries result in immediate effects such as loss or alteration of consciousness, amnesia and sometimes neurological impairments.  These abnormalities may all be transient, but more prolonged or even permanent problems with a wide range of impairment in such areas as physical, mental, and emotional/behavioral functioning may occur.

More than 90 percent of combat-related TBIs are closed head injuries, with most servicemembers sustaining a mild TBI or concussion.  Difficulties after TBI may include headache, sleep difficulties, decreased memory and attention, slower thinking, irritability, and depression.

To view the entire regulation published today in the Federal Register, go to: www.federalregister.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2008-22083_PI.pdf.  For more information about VA disability compensation, go to www.va.gov or call 1-800-827-1000.

VA Loans Remain a Strong Option for Veterans

September 19, 2008

Agency Sees Significant Increase in Loan Volume over Past Year

WASHINGTON – More servicemembers and veterans are using their Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) home loan guaranty benefit, as VA’s loan program remains a strong option in today’s housing market.

VA is experiencing a significant increase in home loan volume, with more than 162,000 home loan guaranties provided this year, an increase of more than 31 percent over the same period last year.

“VA attributes this increase to the favorable terms traditionally offered with VA loans and the elimination of many no-downpayment products in the conventional mortgage market,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. 

No-downpayment loans are increasingly difficult to obtain with conventional financing.  Under recently enacted legislation, VA now uses a locality-based approach in determining ceilings on its no-downpayment home loans.  VA no-downpayment loans are available for as much as $729,000.  Larger VA loans may be obtained with relatively small down payments.

Not only is the VA program one of the few remaining no-downpayment programs in the market today, but lenders and veterans using the program are finding that it provides a timely and user-friendly product.  

Focus in recent years on improvements in information technology has helped streamline the loan process and has made the program more accessible.  Veterans no longer need to obtain a VA Certificate of Eligibility prior to contacting a lender.  

Lenders can access the program’s web portal to use VA’s online Automated Certificate of Eligibility (ACE) system and obtain the certificate for the veteran.  Many times, lenders can receive the certificate within seconds.  

VA lenders have the authority to process and approve veterans’ loan applications. Lenders can order appraisals online, review and determine the appraised value of the property themselves, electronically submit the information VA needs to process a loan guaranty, and then receive the guaranty electronically within 24 hours. 

VA’s is also revolutionizing its loan servicing activity through implementation of a new web-enabled and rules-based ‘smart’ system called VALERI (VA Loan Electronic Reporting Interface).  Standardized servicing criteria on par or ahead of industry norms and instant access to acquisition and claim payment status make it easier for servicers to work and communicate with VA.  It also allows servicers to help veterans who are experiencing financial difficulty avoid foreclosure.

VA-guaranteed home loans are made to eligible veterans, servicemembers, and surviving spouses through private mortgage lenders throughout the United States.  Since 1944, when home loan guaranties were first offered with the original GI Bill, VA has guaranteed more than 18 million home loans worth over $965 billion.  

Last year, about 135,000 veterans, servicemembers and surviving spouses received loans valued at nearly $24 billion.  More than 90 percent of VA loans were made without any down payment.

To obtain more information about the VA Loan Guaranty Program, veterans can call VA at 1-877-827-3702.  Information can also be obtained at www.homeloans.va.gov.

 

VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY
July 25, 2008

In This Issue
1. Guard/Reserve Access to VA
2. Agent Orange Bill


1. Guard/Reserve Access to VA: The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held an oversight hearing this week on Guard and Reserve access to VA benefits. The hearing focused on a recent VA audit report on outreach and transition assistance programs to veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the IG report - entitled "VBA: Transition Assistance for Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom Service Members and Veterans" - VA is not meeting its obligation to inform new veterans of the benefits they may have earned, and more than half of those left out are Guard and Reserve veterans. Committee Chairman Daniel Akaka (D-HI) relayed his concerns to the VA panel and other witnesses, and asked them to look into why Guard and Reserve members are not receiving the same level of support from VA. Panelist Sgt. Roy Meredith, Maryland National Guard, offered his personal insight and told senators that to be effective in providing Guard and Reservists with information and access to their benefits; a formal and defined program with proper oversight at the state level is critical.


A copy of the IG report is at http://www.va.gov/oig/52/reports/2008/VAOIG-06-03552-169.pdf
Hearing information is at
http://veterans.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?pageid=16&release_id=11732&view=all

2. Agent Orange Bill: VFW attended a Wednesday press conference held by House Veterans Affairs' Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-CA). The press event introduced VFW-supported legislation HR 6562, "The Agent Orange Equity Act of 2008." The bill would clarify the laws related to VA benefits provided to Vietnam War veterans suffering from Agent Orange exposure. Currently, VA requires Vietnam veterans to prove "foot on land" in order to qualify for the presumptions of service-connection for herbicide-exposure related illnesses. If enacted, this bill will make it easier for VA to process Vietnam War veterans' claims for service-connected conditions that scientists have linked to toxic exposures during the Vietnam War. It will also provide coverage and compensation to "Blue Water Navy" veterans and those who flew within Vietnamese airspace.
For more, go to
http://veterans.house.gov/news/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=288


NVS WEEKLY UPDATES – July 23, 2008

 

No Presumption of Service Connection for Gulf War Veterans Exposed to Sarin

In
                                    the Federal Register, July 21, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 140), the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has
                                    determined that there is no basis to establish a presumption of service connection for any of the diseases, illnesses, or
                                    health effects discussed in the August 2004 report of the National Academy of Sciences, titled ``Gulf War and Health: Updated
                                    Literature Review of Sarin,'' based on exposure to sarin during service in the Persian Gulf during the Persian Gulf
                                    War. You can find more information at:  http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/E8-16525.htm. 

 

VA/DFAS Retro Payment Update

Tens of thousands of veterans may not have been paid money owed them by the government because of hasty efforts to clear a massive backlog of claims.  In mid-2006, DFAS had hired Lockheed Martin to help it work through the long list of cases. The government identified some 133,000 veterans who were eligible for money through its "VA Retro" program. The list quickly grew by another 84,000 names because newly retired veterans or those with a changed disability status were being added. Officials finally cleared the backlog this summer, several months after the original deadline.  According to a House of Representatives investigation, officials reached their goal only after lowering their standards. DFAS, the Pentagon's accounting arm, was concerned about the number of errors in Lockheed Martin's work, but eventually suspended quality control procedures to prevent further program delays.

 

A reminder that anyone who has been denied a Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC) pay or a DFAS retro payment by DFAS, may appeal such a decision by using DD Form 149 (Application for Correction of Military Record), and forwarding the completed form to the respective Board for Correction of Military Records (BCMR) listed on the reverse of the form.

VA’s On-line Application Website (VONAPP) now Accepts Claims without Claimant’s Signature

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that on-line applications are now accepted from veterans, survivors and other claimants filing initial applications for disability compensation, pension, education, and vocational rehabilitation and employment benefits without the additional requirement to submit a signed paper copy of the application. 

 

Effective immediately, VA will now process applications received through its on-line application website (VONAPP) without the claimant's signature.  The electronic application will be sufficient authentication of the claimant's application for benefits.  Normal development procedures and rules of evidence will still apply to all VONAPP applications. 

 

VONAPP (www.va.gov/onlineapps.htm) is a Web-based system that benefits both internal and external users.  Veterans, survivors and other claimants seeking compensation, pension, education, or vocational rehabilitation benefits can apply electronically without the constraints of location, postage cost, and time delays in mail delivery. 

 

VONAPP reduces the number of incomplete applications received by VA, decreasing the need for additional development by VA claims processors.  The on-line application also provides a link to apply for VA health care benefits and much more.

 

This Update is a service provided by the National Veterans Service of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.  It is intended as a summary of items of potential interest to and use by Department Service Officers and their staff.  Readers are encouraged to thoroughly review the original documents which are the source of items found in this Update

 

Fully Paid Outward Bound Wilderness Excursions for OEF/OIF Veterans

Outward Bound, an international non-profit outdoor education program, is offering fully funded outdoor adventure excursions to all OEF/OIF veterans.  It doesn’t matter what your current military status is (active, inactive, discharged, retired) – you’re eligible to attend as long as you deployed in support of OEF/OIF combat operations while in the military. 


These five-day excursions offer adventure activities such as backpacking, rock climbing, canyoneering, canoeing, and dog sledding in beautiful wilderness areas in Maine, Texas, Colorado, California, and Minnesota.  Scheduled courses from Sep 08-Feb 09 are listed below, and future courses will be scheduled soon.  All expedition costs for lodging, equipment, food, and instruction are completely funded by a multi-million dollar Sierra Club grant, including the participants’ round-trip transportation between home and the wilderness site.  The excursion is offered at no cost to the participant.  To sign up for one of the prescheduled courses, please contact Doug Hayward at 1-866-669-2362, ext. 8387, or simply e-mail him at obvets@outwardbound.org.  To learn more about the OEF/OIF program, visit the website at www.outwardboundwilderness.org/veterans.html.  You can also contact two of our retired Judge Advocates, Joe and Amy Frisk, who are working for Outward Bound on this incredible program at vetsor@outwardbound.org, or at (303) 968-4420. 

OPEN ENROLLMENT COURSES FOR 2008/2009
OUTWARD BOUND OEF/OIF WAR VETERANS EXPEDITIONS


Leadville, Colorado:  Backpacking and Rock Climbing in the Colorado Rockies

·       September 3-7, 2008
·       October 4-8, 2008

Newry, Maine:  Backpacking and Canoeing

·       October 7-11, 2008 
·       October 19-23, 2008 

Big Bend, Texas:  Back packing and Cayoneering

·       November 2-6, 2008 
·       November 15-19, 2008 

Joshua Tree National Monument, California:  Backpacking and Rock Climbing

·       December 3-7, 2008 
·       December 14-18, 2008 

Ely, Minnesota:  Dog Sledding

·       February 3-7, 2009

VA, Monster Partner for Veteran Job Seekers
Veteran-Owned Businesses Listed

WASHINGTON (July 22, 2008)- In a new plan to help veterans find jobs,
the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has partnered with Monster
Government Solutions, a division of Monster Worldwide, Inc., a company
that markets online employment services to employers and job seekers.

Part of VA's mission is to assist veterans to gain employment.  Monster,
in partnership with VA's Center for Veterans Enterprise, provides
veteran-owned small businesses the opportunity to post job openings for
veterans, including service-disabled veterans, at a large price
discount.  Monster will post the job openings for 60 days, twice as long
as for other employers.

"This government-corporate partnership represents the best kind of
effort to help those who gave up time in their lives to serve their
country and return to an economic community that may not recognize their
skills," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. "The
program should make it easier for employers to find qualified job
candidates as well as veteran suppliers and service contractors."

To participate in Monster job listings, veteran business owners must be
listed in VA's online Vendor Information Pages (VIP) maintained by the
Department's Center for Veterans Enterprise at http://www.VetBiz.gov.

In addition to helping veteran owners get business from other companies
and prospective veteran employees find jobs, VA's VIP pages will give
Monster a source for purchasing services itself and VA will refer
appropriate, listed suppliers to Monster.

The VA-Monster agreement is initially for two years and provides for
extensions.

 

VFW Washington Weekly
July 21, 2008

In This Issue:
1. FY2009 VA Funding Bill
2. House VA Committee Action
3. VA Outreach Hearing
4. SECDEF Recommends New Guard Chief

1. FY2009 VA Funding Bill: The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously cleared its version of the 2009 VA Funding Bill. The bill provides $72.7 billion in discretionary funding for military construction and Veterans Affairs. This is about $5 billion more than the current fiscal year, and is in line with the House Appropriations Committee's recommendations. It includes:
$47.7 billion in total VA discretionary funding.
$41.1 billion for VA health care.
$1.2 billion for VA construction projects, nearly double the president's request, and $1.1 billion for hospital maintenance and repairs.
$84 million more than the president's request for medical and prosthetic research.
$350 million to help certain higher income Category 8 veterans to begin enrolling in VA.
$250 million targeted to the care of rural veterans.
The bill now moves to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

2. House VA Committee Action: The House Veterans Affairs Committee cleared seven benefit-related bills which now move to the floor for final passage. Among the bills is HR 6445, which will eliminate co-payments for catastrophically disabled veterans. VFW Resolution 639 supports this action. The VFW also supports other features of HR 6445 that would direct VA to develop and implement a comprehensive policy on the management of pain, mandate the VA to centralize third party billing, and allow family members of veterans receiving non-service connected treatment to be eligible for counseling.

Some of the other bills passed by the committee include:
HR 1527 would create a three-year pilot program to allow certain rural veterans to receive covered health services through outside providers. The bill defines rural veterans as one who lives at least 60 miles from a VA facility that provides primary care and 120 miles from an acute care provider.
HR 6225 would improve Servicemember Civil Relief Act and USERRA protections by capping interest rates at 6% during deployments, requiring institutes of higher learning to refund tuition and fees, as well as guarantee service members a place when they return to school. It will also allow service contracts to be terminated or suspended without penalty while on deployment.
For the entire list of bills and the House VA Committee press release, visit their website at:
http://veterans.house.gov/

For more information on the bills, type the bill number into the search box at: http://thomas.loc.gov/

3. VA Outreach Hearing: The House subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations talked to servicemembers, marketing and policy experts on how the VA can increase awareness of its programs to the newest generation of veterans. Subcommittee Chairman Harry Mitchell (D-AZ) believes that VA needs to reach out to current OIF/OEF veterans through Internet sites such as Facebook and television advertisements. Iraq veteran and National Guard member Liz O'Herrin testified that e-mail and other electronic modes of communication are critical today's veterans, whereas the VA still relies on mail, often to outdated addresses. She suggested that VA allow veterans to use their e-mail address as a way of communication. She also suggested that the creation of an electronic mail enrollment form by VA would enable veterans to select the areas they are interested in learning about regarding disability, healthcare and education benefits. Lisette Mondello, assistant VA secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs, said VA is looking into several types of advertising markets, including social marketing and internet-based, nontraditional media, to help pass on its message. For more about the hearing, go to: http://veterans.house.gov/hearings/hearing.aspx?newsid=278

4. SECDEF Recommends New Guard Chief: Defense Secretary Robert Gates has recommended to the president that Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig R. McKinley be nominated as the next Chief of the National Guard Bureau. McKinley is presently serving as the Director of the Air National Guard. With his pending nomination and Senate confirmation comes a promotion, as the FY2008 National Defense Authorization Act elevated the NGB chief to a four-star billet. Gates also announced that he is recommending the current NGB chief, Army Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, take over as the first guardsman to be the deputy commander of U.S. Northern Command, which oversees security in North America.

VA Announces New Sports Clinic for Newly Injured Veterans

WASHINGTON (July 16, 2008) - One hundred recently injured
veterans from around the country will participate in a unique
rehabilitative sports experience this September in San Diego, the
National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic, sponsored by the Department of
Veterans Affairs (VA).

"This new rehabilitative event is a therapeutic extension of the
superior health care veterans receive in our medical centers each day,"
said Dr. James B. Peake, Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  "The sports
clinic will strengthen veterans battling back from injury, improving
their mental and physical well-being."

The event is open to recently injured veterans who have spinal
cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, certain neurological
conditions, amputations, other mobility impairments, or post-traumatic
stress disorder.  For many injured veterans, this event will provide
their first exposure to recreational sports and other activities after
being injured.

The National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic will take place Sept.
28 through Oct. 3 at several venues in the San Diego area.  Events
include sailing, cycling, surfing, kayaking and track and field events.
Admission for the public is free.

Sea World and the San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina will be
the site of the opening and closing ceremonies along with some of the
week's events.  Other events will be held at the U.S. Olympic Training
Center in Chula Vista, Kellogg Park in La Jolla Shores, the Embarcadero
Marina Park and the Mission Bay Yacht Club.

Recreational sports can be an important part of the therapy for
many disabilities.  VA is a recognized leader in rehabilitation, with
therapeutic programs available at VA health care facilities across the
nation.

The event will become the fifth national rehabilitation event
offered by VA to promote the healing of body, mind and spirit, joining
the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, the National
Veterans Wheelchair Games, the National Veterans Golden Age Games and
the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival.

The VA San Diego Healthcare System is hosting the 2008 Summer
Sports Clinic.  Specific event activities offered will change each year.

For more information about the National Veterans Summer Sports
Clinic or to volunteer during the week, visit the clinic Web site at
www.summersportsclinic.va.gov.


Media Inquiries:
* Jose Llamas, (202) 461-7549
* Cindy C. Butler, VA Local Public Affairs Coordinator, (858)
552-4373
* Sandy Trombetta, VA Special Events Coordinator, (970) 242-0731

VA Announces On-Line Claims Applications

WASHINGTON (July 16, 2008) - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
announced today that on-line applications are now accepted from
veterans, survivors and other claimants filing initial applications for
disability compensation, pension, education, and vocational
rehabilitation and employment benefits without the additional
requirement to submit a signed paper copy of the application. 

Effective immediately, VA will now process applications received through
its on-line application website (VONAPP) without the claimant's
signature.  The electronic application will be sufficient authentication
of the claimant's application for benefits.  Normal development
procedures and rules of evidence will still apply to all VONAPP
applications. 

VONAPP (www.va.gov/onlineapps.htm) is a Web-based system that benefits
both internal and external users.  Veterans, survivors and other
claimants seeking compensation, pension, education, or vocational
rehabilitation benefits can apply electronically without the constraints
of location, postage cost, and time delays in mail delivery. 

VONAPP reduces the number of incomplete applications received by VA,
decreasing the need for additional development by VA claims processors.
The on-line application also provides a link to apply for VA health care
benefits and much more.

Over 3.7 million veterans and beneficiaries receive compensation and
pension benefits from VA and approximately 523,000 students receive
education benefits.  Approximately 90,000 disabled veterans participate
in VA's Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program.

For more information about VA benefits, go to VA's website at www.va.gov
<http://www.va.gov/>  or call our toll-free number at 1-800-827-1000.

Summit Brings Renewed VA Drive for Women Veterans
Peake: Reinventing to be "Women-Centric"

WASHINGTON (July 11, 2008) - An aggressive push to ensure women veterans
receive the highest quality of care in VA medical facilities was pledged
by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake at a recent VA
National Summit on Women Veterans' Issues.

Although VA already has services for women patients equal to those men
receive, Peake told the audience of more than 400 women-veteran
advocates, "We are reinventing ourselves by expanding our women-centric
focus to initiate new programs that meet the needs of women veterans."

Citing the demographic shift that brings increasing numbers of women to
VA for care and the need for changes, Peake announced formation of a
work group to focus on women's needs in prosthetics and rehabilitation,
hiring women's advocates in VA medical centers, developing quality
measurements specifically for women patients, purchasing more
state-of-the-art, specialized women's health care equipment, and
expanding medical education in women's health for VA care providers.

Summit attendees also learned that VA recently established a work group
whose goal is to ensure every female veteran enrolled in VA care has a
women's health primary care provider, especially to meet gender-specific
needs.

The June 20-22 conference in Washington focused on how to ensure VA
meets women-specific health needs and how to inform more women veterans
of their VA benefits.  It was the fourth women's summit, which VA holds
every four years.

Summit co-sponsors included the American Legion Auxiliary, AMVETS,
Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars.  Other
assisting veterans groups included the Blinded Veterans Association,
Military Officers Association of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America,
the American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America and TriWest.

PRESIDENT SIGNS NEW GI BILL INTO LAW

10-year VFW lobbying effort comes to fruition

 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (June 30, 2008) – President Bush’s signature today on a new GI Bill for the 21st Century is being hailed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. as a tremendous victory for a new generation of military servicemen and women who have been at war for almost seven years. 

 

"This is a tremendous victory for America's veterans, military and their families," exclaimed VFW national commander George Lisicki, a Vietnam combat veteran from Carteret, N.J. 

 

"I salute Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) for his determination to get this bill passed, the president for his strong support of our military, and the entire VFW membership for their untiring effort to get their congressional delegations to cosponsor S. 22 or its companion bill in the House, H.R. 5740.”

 

The new 21st Century GI Bill will pay the highest in-state public tuition rate, and provide for books, fees, and a living stipend.  It eliminates the $1,200 enrollment fee, extends the use-or-lose benefit requirement from 10 to 15 years, and greatly enhances the amount paid to Guard and Reserve members.  The new GI Bill automatically adjusts itself as tuitions increase, and provides a dollar-for-dollar tuition match for private colleges and universities who choose to participate in the program.  A new provision added to the bill also allows reenlisting servicemembers to transfer their educational benefit to their spouse and/or children. 

 

The VFW fought doggedly for more than a decade to bring an expanded GI Bill into reality.  Lisicki said the long-awaited victory would not have been possible without strong bipartisan support in Congress, the dedicated staff work and grassroots lobbying efforts of the VFW Washington Office, VFW Legislative Committee members, VFW Action Corps, and the entire VFW and Auxiliary membership of 2.3 million.

 

In 1944, the VFW also played a leading role to shape and bring to fruition the original World War II GI Bill, which is widely regarded as one of the most significant pieces of legislation enacted in the last century.  Almost half of the 16 million men and women who served in World War II took advantage of the education benefit, and they returned to federal coffers $7 for every $1 dollar spent on their education in the form of higher taxes paid on the higher wages earned. 

 

"Now, 64 years later, the VFW is proud to once again play a key role in the development and passage of a new GI Bill,” said Lisicki, “because it’s just one more shining example of the VFW fulfilling its mandate of service to others by backing the right piece of legislation that will have the most significant impact. 

 

“Our voices – united toward a common cause – urged America’s leaders to reward the gift of education to the men and women who protect our great country,” he said.  “This is why the VFW is just as relevant today as we were 109 years ago when we were founded.  We make a difference.

Subject: VSCM call - new presumption and no presumption for
hypertension.


Announced in today's June 2008 VSCM call, VA has added a new
presumption and decided to not add Hypertension as a presumption:


Additional Presumptive Condition -  Primary AL Amyloidosis
On July 27, 2007, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Institute of
Medicine issued its most recent report on its formal review of the
scientific and medical literature on health effects potentially related
to exposure to herbicides and related materials used during the Vietnam
War, Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2006.  A task force was formed to
review the findings of the report and to make recommendations to the
Secretary with respect to adding any additional diseases to the list of
diseases currently recognized as being associated with herbicide
exposure in Vietnam.  Based on the recommendations of the task force,
the Secretary announced his decision that the evidence warrants
establiSecretary has determined there is no evidence at this
time to support the establishment of presumption of service connection
for any other condition reviewed in the NAS report, including
hypertension.  Based on this decision, the stay on processing claims for
service connection of hypertension as due to exposure to herbicides
during service in the Republic of Vietnam is lifted and pending claims
are to be resolved based on the evidence of record.
shment of a presumption of service connection based on service in
the Republic of Vietnam for primary AL Amyloidosis.    As required by
law, a notice will be published in the Federal Register announcing this
addition and 38 CFR 3.309(e) will be amended to include this disease. 

Additionally, the

VA Reaching Out to Vets with Mortgage Problems
Peake: VA Has a "Solid Record of Success" in Helping

WASHINGTON (June 12, 2008) - Many home owners have found it difficult
recently to pay their mortgages, but quick intervention by loan
counselors at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has actually
reduced the number of veterans defaulting on their home loans.

"VA is reaching out to veterans -- both those who use our home-loan
guaranty program and those who don't take advantage of our guaranties --
to keep people in their homes," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr.
James B. Peake. "I'm proud of our solid record of success in helping
veterans and active-duty personnel deal with financial crises."

Accounting for much of this success are VA counselors at nine regional
loan centers who assist people with VA-guarantied loans avoid
foreclosure through counseling and special financing arrangements.  The
counselors also can assist other veterans with financial problems.  VA
counselors have helped about 74,000 veterans, active-duty members and
survivors keep their homes since 2000, a savings to the government of
nearly $1.5 billion.

Depending on a veteran's circumstances, VA can intercede with the
borrower on the veteran's behalf to pursue options -- such as repayment
plans, forbearance, and loan modifications -- that would allow a veteran
to keep a home.

To obtain help from a VA financial counselor, veterans can call VA
toll-free at 1-877-827-3702.  Information about VA's home loan guaranty
program can be obtained at www.homeloans.va.gov
<http://www.homeloans.va.gov/> .

Since 1944, when home-loan guaranties were offered with the original GI
Bill, VA has guarantied more than 18 million home loans worth $911
billion.  Last year, about 135,000 veterans, active-duty service members
and survivors received loans valued at nearly $24 billion.

About 2.3 million home loans still in effect were purchased through VA's
home-loan guaranty program, which makes home loans more affordable for
veterans, active-duty members and some surviving spouses by protecting
lenders from loss if the borrower fails to repay the loan.  More than 90
percent of VA-backed home loans were given without a downpayment.

April data shows that foreclosures are down more than 50 percent from
the same months in 2003.  VA attributes this to prudent credit
underwriting standards, its robust supplemental loan servicing program
and VA financial loan counselors.

Health Care "Report Card" Gives VA High Marks
Peake: Demonstrates VA's Openness and Accountability
WASHINGTON (June 13, 2008) - A new "hospital report card" by the
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) gives the Department's health care
system high marks, with VA facilities often outscoring private-sector
health plans in standards commonly accepted by the health care industry.

"This report is a comprehensive snapshot of the quality of care VA
provides to our veterans," said Dr. James B. Peake, Secretary of
Veterans Affairs. "From waiting times and staffing levels to hospital
accreditation and patient satisfaction, this report demonstrates VA is
providing high quality care to the veterans we serve."

Among the report's findings:

* 98 percent of veterans were seen within 30 days at primary care
facilities, 97 percent at specialty clinics.  (Veterans requiring
emergency care are seen immediately.)

* All of VA's 153 medical centers are accredited by the
independent Joint Commission which accredits all U.S. health care
facilities.

* The quality scores for older veterans are similar to those for
younger veterans.

Although screening for breast and cervical cancer for women in VA
facilities exceeds screening in private-sector facilities, women
veterans lag behind their male counterparts in some quality
measurements, the report noted. 

VA has already launched an aggressive program to ensure women veterans
receive the highest quality of care, including placement of women
advocates in every outpatient clinic and medical center.  Health care
will be a major topic at VA's National Summit on Women Veterans Issues
scheduled for June 20-22 in Washington.

The report also found minority veterans are generally less satisfied
with inpatient and outpatient care than white veterans.  That disparity
will be the focus of an in-depth study, based upon input from veterans,
which will be completed this summer.

"Disparities in treatment and satisfaction based on gender or ethnic
background are unacceptable," Peake said. "VA has a robust program to
look at disparities and to deal with the underlying causes."

The report card is available on the Internet at
http://www.va.gov/health/docs/Hospital_Quality_Report.pdf.  In February,
Congress directed VA to complete the report card, highlighting
measurements of quality, safety, timeliness, efficiency and
"patient-centeredness."

"This report demonstrates VA's determination to be open and accountable
for the quality and safety of the care we provide," Peake said. "No
other health care organization provides this much information about its
ability to care for its patients."

Indianapolis Set to Host National Veterans Golden Age Games
22nd Year of VA-Sponsored Sporting Competition

WASHINGTON (June 11, 2008) - An estimated 600 "golden age" veterans from
across the country will travel to Indianapolis to compete in the largest
sports and recreational competition for senior veterans in the world
August 20-24. 

"Staying active and healthy through sports and fitness is important to
all our nation's veterans," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James
B. Peake.  "We are proud to offer the Golden Age Games as a premier
sporting event for our senior veterans."

Golden Age Games competitions are open to all U.S. military veterans age
55 or older who receive care at a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
medical facility.  The games give participants the opportunity to
compete in ambulatory, visually-impaired and wheelchair divisions,
according to their ages.  Events include swimming, bicycling, bowling,
croquet, air rifle, golf, shuffleboard, horseshoes, discus and shot put.

The 22nd National Veterans Golden Age Games are co-sponsored by VA, Help
Hospitalized Veterans (HHV) and the Veterans Canteen Service (VCS).
This year's event is hosted by the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical
Center in Indianapolis.

The National Veterans Golden Age Games is the only national multi-event
sports and recreational seniors' competition program for older veterans.
It is designed to improve the quality of life for all older veterans,
including those with a wide range of abilities and disabilities.  For a
number of events, the games will serve as a qualifying competition for
participating in the 2009 National Senior Games in San Francisco.  The
National Senior Games is a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

"After HHV's initial co-sponsorship of the games in 2007, we are
extremely pleased to announce our continued support of this therapeutic
program," said Mike Lynch, Executive Director of HHV.  "The games touch
numerous lives, and we could not pass up the chance to be a part of this
great event again." 

"An active lifestyle is vital to everyone's health and well being, and
is even more important as we enter our senior years," said Marilyn
Iverson, Director of the Veterans Canteen Service.  "It is a great way
to stay healthy and prevent illness."

The majority of the Golden Age Games events, including opening and
closing ceremonies, will be held at the Indiana Convention Center.  The
opening ceremony will take place at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, August 20.
The competition begins with golf on Thursday, August 21, at 8:00 a.m.,
at Coffin Golf Course.  Closing ceremonies will be at 7:00 p.m. on
Sunday, August 24, at the convention center.

For more information on the Golden Age Games, look online at
www.veteransgoldenagegames.va.gov, or call Jenny Tankersley Ballou,
National Veterans Golden Age Games Public Affairs Coordinator, at (757)
728-3450 or (757) 254-6058. 


America Recognizes Military Sacrifices on Memorial Day
Veterans Urged to Wear Medals with Pride

WASHINGTON (May 23, 2008) - From concerts to somber ceremonies and a
moment of silence, Americans from coast to coast will recall the
sacrifices of military members who paid the ultimate price for freedom
on Memorial Day, Monday, May 26.

"This is our nation's day to remember its debt to those whose sacrifice
in blood and battle secured a legacy of liberty for future generations,"
said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake.

He reminded veterans to wear their military medals on Memorial Day, a
practice called the Veterans Pride Initiative launched by the Department
of Veterans Affairs (VA) in 2006.

The personal exhibition of service medals on patriotic holidays is one
way for veterans to show their support of the U.S. military and
particularly those serving in the Global War on Terror, and to inspire
conversation about military heritage with young people.

Information for veterans about the wearing of medals and how to replace
lost medals is available at http://www.va.gov/veteranspride/.

A tradition dating to the 19th Century after the Civil War and
originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day is marked at VA
facilities across the country, especially VA's national cemeteries,
whose commemorative events honor about 1 million American men and women
who died in service during wartime periods, including more than 651,000
battle deaths.

This year, more than 100,000 people are expected to attend activities at
VA's national cemeteries, with color guards, ceremonies honoring
decorated veterans, and band and choir performances.

Some national cemeteries will feature an "Avenue of Flags" flanking both
sides of the curb line, usually along the main entrance road, sometimes
consisting of burial flags donated by the next of kin of veterans who
are buried in these national shrines.  Other national cemeteries may
place individual flags at gravesites.

VA's 125 national cemeteries include 10 opened in the past nine years.
Another six cemeteries are under development.  VA currently maintains
17,000 acres where 2.8 million gravesites are located.  By 2010,
veterans burial space is expected to be available to 90 percent of
veterans within 75 miles of where they live.

Directions to VA's national cemeteries and a guide to their Memorial Day
activities are available at
http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/cems/2008MemorialDay.asp.  General information
about Memorial Day, including its history, a commemorative poster and
activities links, may be found at
http://www.va.gov/opa/speceven/memday/.

VA is a cosponsor with the White House Commission on Remembrance of an
annual Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. Eastern time, nationwide on
Memorial Day, a time to pause and reflect on the valor of the fallen and
the bond of freedoms that unite Americans.  Many institutions will pause
their activities -- from sporting events to announcements in public
facilities -- to call the nation together to share its common bond in
silence.



VA Secretary Appoints Panel of National Suicide Experts
Goal Is Reducing Veterans' Suicides

WASHINGTON (May 21, 2008) -Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B.
Peake today announced the names of members appointed to two special
panels that will make recommendations on ways the Department of Veterans
Affairs (VA) can improve its programs in suicide prevention, suicide
research and suicide education.

"There is nothing more tragic than the death by suicide of even one of
the great men or women who have served this nation," Peake said. "VA is
committed to doing all we can to improve our understanding of a
complicated issue that is also a national concern."

Membership in the first group, the "Blue Ribbon Work Group on Suicide
Prevention in the Veterans Population," will be comprised of government
experts in various suicide prevention and education programs.  Those
experts will come from agencies including the Department of Defense, the
Centers for Disease Control, the National Institute of Health, and the
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The five-member work group is expected to meet from June 11-13, and will
develop a report with recommendations for the Secretary within 15 days
of meeting. 

The second group is a nine-member expert panel, made up of nationally
renowned experts in public health suicide programs, suicide research and
clinical treatment programs, that will provide professional opinion,
interpretation, and conclusions on information and data to the work
group.  It will also make recommendations to the work group on
opportunities for improvement in VA's programs. 

Secretary Peake initially announced the formation of the work group
during testimony to the House Veterans Affairs Committee on May 6.

Members of the "Blue Ribbon Work Group on Suicide Prevention in the
Veterans Population" include:

* Cmdr. Alex E. Crosby, M.D., medical epidemiologist with the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;

* Colonel Charles W. Hoge, M.D., director of the division of
psychiatry and behavior services at Walter Reed Army Institute of
Research;

* Colonel Robert Roy Ireland, M.D., program director for mental
health policy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health
Affairs;

* Richard McKeon, Ph.D., special advisor for suicide prevention
with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and

* Jane Pearson, Ph.D., associate director for preventive
interventions, National Institute of Mental Health.

Appointees to the expert panel include:

* Dr. Dan Blazer II, professor of psychology at Catholic
University of America;

* Greg Brown, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania;

* Martha Livingston Bruce, Ph.D., professor in clinical
epidemiology and health services research at Weill Medical College of
Cornell University;

* Dr. Eric D. Caine, chair of the department of psychiatry at the
University of Rochester;

* Dr. Jan Fawcett, professor of psychiatry at the University of
New Mexico School of Medicine;

* Robert D. Gibbons, director of the Center for Health Statistics,
University of Illinois at Chicago;

* David Alan Jobes, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Catholic
University of America;

* Mark S. Kaplan, Ph.D., from Portland State University.  Member
of the Suicide Prevention Action Network-USA National Scientific
Advisory Council; and

* Thomas R. Ten Have, director of the Biostatistics Analysis
Center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

VA Names Members of Gulf War Veterans Advisory Committee
Secretary Peake to Hear Their Concerns, Issues

WASHINGTON (May 13, 2008) -- Veterans who served in the Southwest Asia
theater of operations during 1990-1991 will have their own special
advocates before Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake,
thanks to a new advisory committee Peake established to respond to
issues unique to them. 

The 14-member, independent panel will advise the Secretary and the
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on the full range of health care and
benefits needs of those who served in the conflict.

"Gulf War veterans made an invaluable contribution to national security
and peace in a volatile region," Peake said. "This new panel will ensure
that VA benefits and programs adapt to the needs of these veterans, just
as our services have adapted for veterans of other conflicts."

Serving on the committee are Gulf War and other veterans, veterans
service organizations' representatives, medical experts, and the
survivors of Gulf War veterans.  Members were selected to provide a
variety of perspectives, experiences and expertise.

The committee will be chaired by Charles Cragin, a retired Navy captain,
who has had several senior level positions within the federal
government, including Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel
and Readiness and Chairman of VA's Board of Veterans Appeals.

In January 2002, the Department created an advisory committee to assist
VA's secretary on research into the medical problems of Gulf War
veterans.  That older committee will retain responsibility for research
involving veterans of the 1990-1991 conflict in the Middle East.

This committee's first meeting will be held in mid-June in Washington,
D.C.  It is expected to complete its work within 18 months.  Committee
meetings will be open to the public.

A list of the members of VA's Gulf War Advisory Committee is attached.

Membership
VA Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans

* Charles Cragin, (Chair) of Raymond, Maine.  Currently serves a
senior counselor for Maine Street Solutions, LLC.

* Martha Douthit of Ashburn, Va.  Surviving spouse of Gulf War
Army veteran, member of the Gold Star Wives of America, currently an
international trade analyst with the U.S. Department of Commerce.

* Dr. Henry Falk of Atlanta.  Retired rear admiral and former
Assistant U.S. Surgeon General.  Currently director for the Coordinating
Center for Environmental Health and Injury Prevention with the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention.

* Mark Garner of Lorton, Va.  A retired Marine Corps chief warrant
officer-three and Gulf War veteran who served as a Nuclear, Biological,
and Chemical Defense Officer.

* Dr. Lynn Goldman of Chevy Chase, Md.  Vice chair of the
Institute of Medicine Gulf War and Health Study; currently professor of
environmental health sciences at Johns Hopkins University.

* Dr. John Hart of Plano, Texas.  Past president of the Society
for Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology, currently professor of neurology
and psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

* William (Rusty) Jones of South Riding, Va.  Retired Marine Corps
colonel, and veteran of Gulf War and Vietnam War.

* Kirt Love of Crawford, Texas.  An Army veteran of the Gulf War,
currently serving as director of the Desert Storm Battle Registry.

* Daniel Ortiz of Whittier, Calif.  An Army veteran of the Gulf
War, currently serving as department service director with the Veterans
of Foreign Wars.

* Daniel Pinedo of Oceanside, Calif.  Marine Corps colonel
currently serving as the comptroller for First Marine Expeditionary
Force at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

* Thomas Plewes of Annandale, Va.  A retired Army lieutenant
general and former chief of the Army Reserve.  Currently a senior
program officer with National Academy of Sciences. 

* Valerie Randall of Savage, Md.  A retired Army sergeant first
class; currently with the Department of Homeland Security.

* Edward (Randy) Reese of Washington, D.C.  An Army veteran of the
Gulf War; currently national service director for the Disabled American
Veterans.

* Steve Robertson of Fredericksburg, Va.  A Gulf War veteran who
served both in the Air Force and Army National Guard.  Currently
director of the national legislative commission for The American Legion.

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit finally issued decision in the Haas “blue water” case on Wednesday, May 8, 2008.  In its 59 page decision and dissent, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims decision which had ruled in favor of the veteran.

 

The Court of Appeals found that VA had properly exercised its rulemaking authority and that its definition of “service in the Republic of Vietnam”, used by VA for more than a decade, starting from a period prior to the date Mr. Haas filed his claim, should be accorded deference and the Veterans Court (CAVC) erred in not deferring to the VA's interpretation of its own regulation. 

 

Those interested in reading the Haas v. Peake decision can find it at: http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/opinions/07-7037.pdf

 

VSO Notes: 

 

1.     If the VA follows what it did in the Smith (tinnitus case) it will lift its stay on these cases and begin processing them.  The notes that follow are predicated on VA following this course of action.

2.     We have encouraged you to continue filing claims on behalf of “blue water” navy veterans who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam during the Vietnam war but who failed to set foot in Vietnam.   Today’s decision appears to close the door on these veterans.  While they can still receive service connection for disabilities presumptively related to herbicides, they must first prove that they were exposed to herbicides.  Obtaining such proof will be difficult.  Any “blue water” veteran who insists on filing a claim with VA should be counseled as to the evidence necessary to prove exposure.

3.     “Blue water” veterans who have filed claims may call you once word of the Haas decision becomes widespread.  Explain that the VA will move quickly to resolve (decide) their claims.  Their claims will almost certainly be denied unless they can show that their ship operated within the inland waterways of Vietnam or entered port in Vietnam.  If they previously stated that they had not put into port or set foot in Vietnam but now state that they remember doing so, ask them to obtain pertinent copies of their ship’s logs.  While ship’s logs do not routinely show crewmembers leaving their ship, they will show whether the ship entered an inland waterway (e.g. the Saigon River) or put into port.  VA will generally concede the issue if service records show a veteran was attached to a ship during the period that the ship put into port in Vietnam.

4.     When reviewing denial decisions by the VA, ensure the following:

a.     That VA has specifically addressed the evidence of service in or visitation to Vietnam.  They must discuss ships '  movements either shown by ships'  history or logs.  If the veteran has admitted never setting foot in Vietnam, VA must also discuss whether evidence shows that the ship operated in the inland waterways of Vietnam.  The negative decision in the Haas case does not relieve VA from the responsibility of making a legally correct decision that discusses all pertinent evidence and the reasons and bases for the decision.

b.     If the veteran has alleged exposure to herbicides on a direct basis, such as loading drums of defoliant on board helicopters or decontaminating aircraft or helicopters, VA must discuss such allegations and resolve them.  The Haas decision does not apply to these fact patterns.

5.      You may encounter veterans in the future who want to apply for service connection for a herbicide related presumptive disability but who  do not allege visitation to Vietnam.  Discuss the evidentiary requirements of direct service connection with them.  We are not seeking to discourage veterans from filing claims but, rather, explaining the evidence necessary to obtain a favorable decision.  If properly explained, most veterans who cannot produce appropriate evidence will not insist on filing a claim.  However, you should assist any veteran who insists on filing a claim.  It is for VA, not the VFW, to weigh the evidence and resolve issues of service connection.

6.     Finally, the veteran has several legal moves available to him.  First, he can ask the Court of Appeals to review the case using all the judges on the Court.  While the Court may decide to conduct an en banc review it doesn’t have to.  Failing that, the veteran could appeal to the Supreme Court.  During any given year the Supreme Court takes up only about 1 in 20 cases to decide.  You may recall that they rejected the Smith case.  Success at the Supreme Court is a long shot.

 

 

Recent VA News Releases

To view and download VA news release, please visit the following
Internet address:
http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel


VA Helps Vets Convert Military Experience to Work Place Success
"The American Veteran" Focuses on Opportunities

WASHINGTON (May 9, 2008) - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and
corporate America are working together  to provide veterans with the
skills they'll need to rejoin the civilian workforce, enhancing the
Department's traditional programs that help transitioning service
members.

Two important programs available from VA and partnering organizations
are the focus of the May edition of "The American Veteran," VA's monthly
half-hour news magazine.

"With their skills, work ethic and ability to deal with people, veterans
have been a powerhouse in the work-place," said Secretary of Veterans
Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. "These stories spotlight the determination
of veterans to succeed in the business world and the tools offered by VA
and our partners in the business world."

The top story highlights the partnership between VA's Center for
Veterans Enterprise and Little Caesar's Pizza, which provides money and
the training to help veterans own and operate a franchise.

A second feature looks at a program that helps veterans who qualify for
vocational rehabilitation to gain valuable work skills through non-paid
work experience.

In another story, "The American Veteran" visits the Miami VA Prosthetic
center where technology and teamwork combine to create prosthetics and a
lifetime of support to our veterans.

The series is designed to inform active duty members, veterans, their
families and communities about the services and benefits they have
earned and to recognize and honor them.  VA's Office of Public Affairs
and the VA Learning University/ Employee Education System (VALU/EES)
produce the program and broadcast it to VA facilities around the world
on The Pentagon Channel and to community cable outlets.

Aimed at veterans of all eras, VA also tells stories of heroism and
sacrifice, and relives moments in history with those who were there,
reminding veterans of the bond of service they share.

The VA Office of Public Affairs offers the program to local broadcasters
and cable outlets and makes it available for viewing on the VA Web site,
www.va.gov <http://www.va.gov/> .  Just click on "Public Affairs" and
then "Featured Items."

"The American Veteran" schedule on The Pentagon Channel is available at
http://www.pentagonchannel.mil <http://www.pentagonchannel.mil/> .  The
Pentagon Channel has more than 1 million military viewers and is
delivered domestically via DISH, EchoStar, T-Warner and Cox cable
systems.  (Check for service in your area.)

Additional stories on the April edition of "The American Veteran"
include:

*  Cheerios Box Champion -- Meet David Fowler, an athlete, gold
medal winner, Cheerios Box Champion and a paralyzed veteran who runs the
Texas chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America.

*  Updated edition of the 'Federal Benefits for Veterans and
Dependents" handbook provides information on health care services,
education benefits, the home loan guaranty program, life insurance,
disability compensation and more.

*  New, non-invasive technology looks at brain cell
communication patterns that may provide clues to Alzheimer's,
schizophrenia and other neurological diseases.

*  VA announces plans to open 23 new Vet Centers in the next two
years.

*  VA's mobile pharmacies are prepared for emergencies across
the country.

For information about "The American Veteran" program and how to obtain
it for local programming, contact VA at 202-461-7502.

Recent VA News Releases

To view and download VA news release, please visit the following
Internet address:
http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel


More than 85,000 Serve Veterans as VA Volunteers
Secretary: Volunteer Week a Time to Salute Service to Vets
WASHINGTON (April 25, 2008)  - As the nation prepares to mark National
Volunteer Week, April 27 to May 3, officials at the Department of
Veterans Affairs (VA) encourage more Americans to join the Department's
corps of 85,000 volunteers.

"Volunteers make important contributions to the operation of VA
hospitals, nursing homes and national cemeteries," said Dr. James B.
Peake, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. "I encourage everyone to
consider becoming a VA volunteer.  These dedicated private citizens
prove that one person can make a difference in the lives of our
veterans."

The 11.6 million hours of service donated last year by VA volunteers was
equivalent to 5,500 full-time employees, the Department estimated.  VA
officials say the donated time was worth nearly $220 million.

When VA's volunteer program began in 1946, volunteers helped primarily
in VA medical centers, escorting patients to appointments, helping with
administrative duties and overseeing recreational programs for patients.

In recent years, however, the role of VA volunteers has expanded.  In
the health care arena, the volunteers are involved in helping VA medical
staff in hospices, outpatient clinics and home-based programs.
Volunteers are also active at many of the 125 national cemeteries
managed by the Department, where they place flags on gravesites, provide
military honors and help with landscaping.

Volunteers are also important in programs reaching out to homeless
veterans, especially annual "stand downs" held in many communities to
provide health check ups, clothing, and benefits assistance to the
homeless.

To become a volunteer, contact the nearest VA facility, or complete a
form on the Internet at www.va.gov/volunteer.

VA Fact Sheet:VA Voluntary Service

VA's Voluntary Service is one of the largest volunteer programs in the
federal government.  Men and women from their teens to their nineties
become volunteer partners on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
health care team.  Some bring special skills and knowledge, while others
have a desire to explore and learn.  Many come with a gift for working
directly with patients, while others bring dependability to assignments
behind the scenes.  Voluntary Service matches the volunteer to the
assignment, provides orientation and training for volunteers and
maintains an awards program to recognize volunteer service.

Over the past 60 years, VA volunteers have donated more than 689 million
hours of service worth an estimated $12.9 billion.  In fiscal year 2007,
85,428 active volunteers contributed a total of more than 11.6 million
hours of service -- equal to 5,574 full-time employees worth $218
million.  Volunteers and their organizations generated another $59
million last year in direct gifts and donations.

Volunteer Activities
VA volunteers perform a variety of duties at VA medical centers,
national cemeteries, regional offices and regional counsel offices.  At
medical centers, their roles range from traditional ones, such as
escorting patients and administrative duties, to creative activities,
such as teaching arts and crafts and developing newsletters.  As VA has
expanded its care of patients into the community, volunteers now assist
VA staff in hospice programs, outpatient clinics, home-based primary
care and outreach centers.

At cemeteries, volunteers provide military honors at burial services,
create memorials, plant trees and flowers, build historical trails and
place flags on graves for Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

Volunteers have been particularly active in supporting community
programs aimed at reaching and serving the homeless in one- to three-day
events offering a variety of services.  Volunteers also have become an
integral part of national and local "showcase events" aimed at
introducing people with disabilities back to mainstream activities.
These include the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, the
National Veterans Wheelchair Games (the largest wheelchair athletic meet
in the world), the National Veterans Golden Age Games and the National
Veterans Creative Arts Festival.

Corporate volunteers play a strong role in these events, setting the
pace for the future of VA Voluntary Service, along with a strong and
growing youth volunteer program that is introducing teenagers and
college students to careers and community service.  In VA medical
centers, young volunteers work in such areas as audiology, speech
pathology, dietetics and physical therapy.  Scout groups assist in
landscaping and decorating at VA national cemeteries. 

History
On April 8, 1946, General Omar Bradley, then head of the Veterans
Administration, established a Voluntary Service National Advisory
Committee to assist hospital administrators in organizing the
spontaneous volunteer movements that developed in communities near
military and VA hospitals.  A national advisory committee was
established, made up of representatives of the American Legion and its
Auxiliary; American Red Cross; Disabled American Veterans and its
Auxiliary; United Service Organizations Inc.; and Veterans of Foreign
Wars of the United States and its Auxiliary.  The committee recommended
a plan for community volunteer participation in activities for
hospitalized veterans, including the establishment of advisory
committees at local hospitals.  The committee has grown from six to 65
major veterans, civic and service organizations and more than 350 local
organizations.  The committee gives direction for the recruitment,
training and placement of volunteers in medical centers.

 

VFW Washington Weekly
April 28, 2008

In This Issue:
1. Senate Passes Large Benefits Bill
2. House VA Committee Bills
3. Senate Hearing on VA/DOD Improvements
4. OIF/OEF Campaign Stars

1. Senate Passes Large Veterans Bill: The Senate passed 96-1 a large veterans' package that improves a wide-array of benefits, including life insurance, burial allowance and adaptive equipment grants. The package now moves to the House. Some of the VFW-supported provisions in S. 1315 would:
• Increase the maximum amount of supplemental Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance from $20,000 to $30,000.
• Expand eligibility for home improvement and structural alteration assistance to include permanently disabled servicemembers.
• Provide a specially-adapted housing grant to veterans and qualified servicemembers with severe burn injuries.
• Extend authority of the VA to assist individuals living temporarily in residences owned by family members.
• Provide automobile and adaptive equipment assistance to disabled veterans and servicemembers with severe burn injuries.
• Increase to $445 from the current $300 allowance for veteran burial plots.
• Provide a presumption of service-connection for osteoporosis for former POWs with post-traumatic stress disorder.
• Increase cost-of-living for additional dependency and indemnity compensation paid to certain surviving spouses with minor dependent children.
• Expand retroactive traumatic injury protection under SGLI (TSGLI) to include all servicemembers, not just those injured in Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom.
For a complete listing of S. 1315 provisions, visit the Thomas website at: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:s.01315:

 

2. House VA Committee Bills: The House Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity took quick action last Wednesday on several VFW-supported bills. The bills improve adaptive grants, vocational rehabilitation and home loans, and would also increase the Montgomery GI Bill to help veterans obtain a college education. VFW provided testimony in support of the bills at an earlier hearing. Below is a synopsis of the bills:
• HR 4883 would prohibit the foreclosure of property owned by a servicemember for one year following military service.
• HR 3889 would require VA to conduct a 20-year study of veterans participating in VA vocational rehabilitation programs, starting in 2011.
• HR 4884 would increase from 90 to 100 percent the amount of a veterans' home loan guarantee.
• HR 4889 would move educational benefits for the National Guard and Reserves under the authority of the VA, instead of DOD
• HR 3681 would authorize VA to purchase advertising in national media outlets to increase their veterans' outreach efforts on VA benefits.
• HR 5664 would require VA to update the adaptive housing handbook every six years, and to include new and/or unique disabilities, such as vision impairments and burn injuries.
• HR 5684 would increase GI Bill benefits from $650 to $1,250 for those with two years active duty, and would allow money to be used for business courses, continuing education and preparatory courses. It would provide a monthly stipend in addition to the tuition assistance benefit -- $500 for veterans attending school at least as half-time students, and $250 for less than half time hours. It also extends education eligibility from 10 to 15 years after release from active duty, and allows for enrollment in the GI Bill at any time while serving on active duty.
 

Also on Wednesday, the Subcommittee on Health approved five VFW-supported bills at a markup. All now move to the full Committee. VFW has testified in support of all five bills, and has a resolution in support of two of them:
• VFW Resolution #649 supports HR 3819, which would require VA to pay for all emergency services a veteran receives at a non-VA facility until the veteran can be transferred to a VA facility
• VFW Resolution #640 supports HR 5729, which would give the full range of healthcare to children born with spina bifida of certain Vietnam veterans.
The other three VFW-supported bills include:
• HR 5554, which would improve the range of services VA provides for substance abuse disorders, particularly among OEF/OIF veterans, who are dealing with depression, PTSD and other mental health issues.
• HR 2790, which would create a VA director of physician assistant services to help plan and implement programs to better use the services of physician assistants throughout the VA healthcare system.
• HR 5856, which would authorize a number of VA construction projects for the coming year, allowing them to be funded at a later date.
For more information on any of the bills, enter the bill number at: http://thomas.loc.gov
For committee information, visit the House VA website at: http://veterans.house.gov/

3. Senate Hearing on VA/DOD Improvements: The Senate VA Committee held a hearing on how VA and DOD can improve care and services for returning servicemembers. DAV represented the Independent Budget and discussed our four areas of concern: the Disability Evaluation System, Mental Health (PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries), Care Management, and Data Sharing. The senators discussed the need for the two Departments to work together, especially with reports of increased suicides risks and severe PTSD among returning veterans. The hearing was the eleventh in a series on VA /DOD collaboration dating back to January of 2007. For more information, visit the Senate VA website at: http://veterans.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?pageid=16


4. OIF/OEF Campaign Stars: The Department of Defense announced last week that campaign stars are authorized for wear on the Afghanistan Campaign Medal (ACM) and Iraq Campaign Medal (ICM). Servicemembers who have qualified for the ACM and/or ICM may now display a bronze campaign star on their medal for each designated campaign phase they participated. You can find the campaign names and associated dates for each medal at http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=11848.

 


Haas v. Nicholson (Blue water Navy and presumptive exposure to herbicides in Vietnam)

 

While the Court of Appeals continues its consideration of the VA appeal in Haas v. Nicholson, VA has moved ahead to change its rules to clearly show that service in Vietnam, for purposes of presuming exposure to herbicides during the Vietnam war, is conceded only for those who actually set foot in Vietnam or were on board ships that operated in the inland waterways of Vietnam.

 

As part of that process, on April 15, 2008, VA made final the revocation of certain provisions of M21-1 which suggested that receipt of a Vietnam Service Medal extended the presumption of exposure to herbicides.   The manual precision is shown below.

 

 

[Federal Register: April 15, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 73)]
[Notices]              
                                    
[Page 20363-20365]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr15ap08-151]                        
                                    
 
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
 
 
VA
                                    Adjudication Procedures Manual, M21-1; Rescission of Manual 
M21-1 Provisions Related to Exposure to Herbicides Based on Receipt of 
the Vietnam Service Medal
 
AGENCY:
                                    Department of Veterans Affairs.
 
SUMMARY: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) rescinds provisions
                                    of 
its Adjudication Procedures
                                    Manual, M21-1 (Manual M21-1) that were 
found
                                    by the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (Veterans Court) 
not to have been properly rescinded.
 
DATES:
                                    This rescission is effective April 15, 2008.
 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On November 27, 2007, we proposed to
                                    rescind 
certain provisions of
                                    our Manual M21-1. 72 FR 66218. The notice was 
necessitated
                                    by the opinion rendered by the Veterans Court in Haas v. 
Nicholson, 20 Vet. App. 257 (2006). Although VA's appeal of that 
decision has been submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
                                    
Federal Circuit (Federal Circuit),
                                    that court has not yet issued a 
decision
                                    in the case. The comment period has ended, and we now rescind 
the provisions.
   
                                    We received more than 75 comments, most of which were very similar 
and can be addressed in three categories: (1) Citation to scientific 
evidence, in particular a 2002 study performed for Australia's
                                    
Queensland Health Scientific
                                    Services by their National Research Center 
for
                                    Environmental Toxicology, titled, Examination of the Potential 
Exposure of Royal Australian Navy Personnel to Polychlorinated 
Dibenzodioxins and Polychlorinated Dibenzofurans Via Drinking Water
                                    (the Australian study); (2) personal stories about the commenters' experiences during service and/or their current illnesses;
                                    and, (3) arguments presented in connection with the Haas litigation. We will address these three categories of comments,and
                                    then address a few additional comments that do not fit within these categories.
 
Comments
                                    Based on Scientific Articles
 
    Several commenters suggested that rescission
                                    of the Manual M21-1 is 
inconsistent
                                    with scientific articles purportedly showing that 
herbicide exposure in offshore waters could have occurred by virtue of 
wind drift or consumption of drinking water distilled from estuarine
                                    
waters. We make no change based
                                    on these comments for the reasons 
explained
                                    below.
    Several
                                    commenters cited the Australian study as proof that 
American military personnel on ships off the coast of Vietnam were 
exposed to herbicides in drinking water. The Australian study assumed
                                    
that ocean water near estuarine
                                    sources could contain dioxin if dioxin 
had
                                    been used over adjacent land. It then noted that Australian Navy 
boats distilled water, obtained primarily from locations near such 
estuarine sources, to use as drinking water. Based on these factual
                                    
predicates, the study found
                                    that the distillation process used by those 
boats
                                    did not remove dioxin when dioxin was added to salt water and the 
distillation process was performed in a laboratory, but, instead, the 
distillation concentrated the dioxin level in the water. The study
                                    was 
not peer reviewed or published
                                    and, to our knowledge, has never been 
cited
                                    in any subsequent reputable study concerning herbicide exposure.
    Even assuming that U.S. Navy ships used a distillation process to 
obtain drinking water from the ocean (VA has been unable to obtain
                                    
official confirmation of this
                                    from the Department of Defense), VA's 
scientific
                                    experts have noted many problems with this study that 
caution against placing significant reliance on the study. In 
particular, the authors of the Australian study themselves noted that 
there was substantial uncertainty in their assumptions regarding
                                    the 
concentration of dioxin
                                    that may have been present in estuarine waters 
during
                                    the Vietnam War. Further, although distillation concentrated the 
dioxin level in the water, the concentrating effect was shown to depend 
upon the amount of sediment in the water, such that a large sediment
                                    
level, consistent with estuarine
                                    waters, could significantly reduce the 
concentrating
                                    effect. Moreover, even with the concentrating effect 
found in the Australian study, the levels of exposure estimated in this 
study are not at all comparable to the exposures experienced by
                                    
veterans who served on land
                                    where herbicides were applied. This is true 
even
                                    if we were to assume that a person drank only such distilled water 
and did so for an extended tour.
    A few commenters cited other studies that discuss generally the 
nature of air and water pollution, the manner in which certain
                                    
pesticides can be borne by the
                                    wind, and the effect of water-borne 
pesticides
                                    on marine life. None of these studies bears significantly on 
the specific question whether herbicides used, and as administered, by 
the U.S. military during the Vietnam Era could have been blown
                                    by the 
wind into the ocean,
                                    or into inland waters that then carried the 
chemical
                                    into the ocean, to reach a boat offshore and result in any 
significant risk of herbicide exposure. Similarly, the studies do not 
suggest that if those herbicides could have been so transported,
                                    they 
could then be transmitted
                                    through a distillation process (assuming that 
one
                                    was used by U.S. ships) into drinking water, and then consumed by 
military personnel in any measurable quantity. One study merely 
indicated that Agent Orange is carcinogenic, a fact that VA does
                                    not 
dispute.
    Further, even if the studies show that herbicide
                                    exposure in 
offshore waters
                                    is possible in some circumstances, they do not provide 
a basis for maintaining a provision construed by the Veterans Court to 
impose a broad presumption of herbicide exposure based on receipt
                                    of 
the Vietnam Service Medal
                                    (VSM). The purpose of the presumption of 
herbicide
                                    exposure is to eliminate the need for case-by-case showings 
of exposure where there is a reasonable basis for presuming the fact. 
The possibility of exposure in certain circumstances of offshore
                                    
service does not, in our view,
                                    establish a basis for presuming exposure 
in
                                    all circumstances involving offshore service or receipt of the VSM.
    In our view, the cited studies are of minimal relevance to the 
instant action for the additional reason that the M21-1 provisions
                                    were 
not intended to establish
                                    a substantive rule, but to implement the 
congressional
                                    intent underlying the statutory presumption of herbicide 
exposure in 38 U.S.C. 1116(f). The commenters do not suggest that 
Congress relied upon the cited studies in enacting Sec.  1116(f),
                                    but 
appear only to argue that
                                    the cited studies would independently support 
a
                                    presumption of herbicide exposure for veterans who served offshore. 
It is VA's policy not to issue substantive rules through its M21-1 
manual or other internal documents, but through notice-and-comment
                                    rule 
making and subsequent codification
                                    in the Code of Federal Regulations. 
Because
                                    the Veterans Court's conclusion that the M21-1 provisions 
established a substantive rule is inconsistent with VA's intent in 
issuing the M21-1 provision, VA is rescinding the M21-1 provisions.
                                    As 
stated in the notice of proposed
                                    rule making, VA will shortly issue a 
proposed
                                    revision to its governing regulation, 38 CFR 3.307(a)(6)(iii), 
to clarify our interpretation of 38 U.S.C. 1116(f). The issue of 
whether and to what extent the cited studies bear upon the 
congressional intent underlying Sec.  1116(f) is most appropriately
                                    
dealt with in the context of
                                    that rulemaking.
   
                                    Additionally, we note that many VSM recipients did not even serve 
on ships off the shore of Vietnam. The VSM was awarded to all members 
of the Armed Forces who served between July 3, 1965, and March
                                    28, 
1973, either: (1) in Vietnam
                                    and contiguous waters and airspace 
thereover;
                                    or (2) in Thailand, Laos, or Cambodia, or airspace 
thereover, in direct support of operations in Vietnam. See Army Reg. 
600-8-22, para. 2-13.). Clearly, the studies cited by commenters
                                    would 
not affect our decision
                                    as to veterans who served in Thailand, Laos, or 
Cambodia,
                                    or in airspace far above the jungles of Vietnam. If 
commenters relying on these studies believe the studies are relevant to 
the question whether Vietnam service should be extended to the
                                    waters 
off the shore of Vietnam,
                                    we direct readers to the revision of 38 CFR 
3.307(a)(6)(iii),
                                    which we expect will be proposed before May 2008, and 
which will directly address the requirement of service on land in 
Vietnam. For the foregoing reasons, the Australian study and the
                                    other 
studies cited by commenters
                                    do not cause us to alter our decision to 
rescind
                                    the Manual M21-1 provisions.
   
                                    Similar to the above category of comments, several commenters 
argued that there is no scientific basis for VA to take the position 
that veterans who served on ships were not exposed to herbicides
                                    during 
that service. These comments
                                    misunderstand the nature of VA's action. 
This
                                    action would not result in a finding or presumption that veterans 
who served on ships were not exposed to herbicides; it would merely 
clarify that such veterans are not automatically presumed to have
                                    been 
exposed and that the issue
                                    of exposure must be resolved on a case-by-
case
                                    basis to the same extent as most other factual issues involved in claims for VA benefits.
 
Comments Based on Personal Experience
 
   
                                    The second group of comments received related the personal 
experiences of veterans who suffer from cancer and other ailments that 
can be caused by exposure to Agent Orange. While we are sympathetic
                                    to 
the needs of these veterans,
                                    Congress has been quite clear that VA 
cannot
                                    presume exposure to herbicides simply because a veteran has a 
disease linked to exposure to herbicides. Again, section 1116(f) states 
that a veteran with such a disease is presumed exposed only if
                                    he 
``served in the Republic
                                    of Vietnam.'' To the extent that these 
commenters
                                    seek relief in their own individual cases, these comments 
are beyond the scope of this notice. The issue presented here is 
whether VA should rescind a Manual M21-1 provision that the Veterans
                                    
Court misinterpreted as requiring
                                    VA to presume exposure for any 
veteran
                                    who received the VSM.
 
Comments Related to Haas Litigation
 
    The third category of comments received includes comments 
presenting the same statutory-interpretation arguments that have
                                    been 
presented to the Federal
                                    Circuit in the Haas litigation. These comments 
assert
                                    that the language of 38 U.S.C. 1116 plainly requires that 
offshore service be considered service ``in the Republic of Vietnam'' 
for purposes of that statute. We do not agree. In its Haas opinion,
                                    the 
Veterans Court held that
                                    neither the language nor the legislative 
history
                                    of Sec.  1116 reflects a clear intent to treat offshore service 
as service ``in the Republic of Vietnam.'' Haas, 20 Vet. App. at 264-
68. We therefore make no change based on these comments, but we
                                    note 
that this issue remains
                                    pending before the Federal Circuit.
   
                                    Additionally, some commenters suggested that VA, by this action, 
was usurping the power of the courts. We do not agree. VA has the legal 
right to engage in rulemaking and the legal obligation to interpret
                                    
title 38, United States Code.
                                    As the Federal Circuit has held, the fact 
that
                                    a court has interpreted VA's regulations does not bar VA from 
later revising those regulations. See National Organization of 
Veterans' Advocates v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, 260 F.3d 1365, 
1373-74 (Fed. Cir. 2001). This action in no way usurps the court's
                                    
authority to review our actions
                                    in this regard.
 
Other Comments
 
   
                                    In addition to the categories of comments addressed above, we 
received the following specific comments. First, one commenter asked 
why the proposed rescission did not address ``any action [VA] may
                                    
contemplate to sever service
                                    connection'' granted based upon the Manual 
M21-1
                                    provisions. We have no plans to undertake such action. The same 
commenter asked whether a claimant who had been presumed exposed to 
herbicides based on the Manual M21-1 provision would now, post-
rescission, not be presumed exposed if he filed a claim based on
                                    a new 
disease. VA has never
                                    interpreted the Manual M21-1 provision to require 
a presumption of service connection for every veteran who received the 
VSM. (In fact, this is precisely why VA denied Mr. Haas' claim.)
                                    That 
interpretation was made
                                    by the Veterans Court, not by VA. Therefore, if 
a
                                    veteran had been presumed exposed to herbicides before this 
rescission, it is because the evidence in his file, viewed as a whole, 
supported applying the presumption in the particular case.
    The same commenter added that if VA believes
                                    that other evidence 
besides
                                    the award of the VSM is relevant to a finding of service in 
Vietnam, then VA should identify such evidence. This comment is beyond 
the scope of this rescission, which simply removes from the Manual
                                    M21-
1 a provision that required
                                    VA to consider the VSM in connection with a 
claim
                                    for a disability allegedly caused by herbicide exposure. In this 
regard, the commenter may wish to review and comment on our revision of 
38 CFR 3.307(a)(6)(iii).
    Another commenter stated that he ``can understand why blue water
                                    
sailors [i.e., sailors who served
                                    off the coast of Vietnam] would be 
more
                                    closely scrutinized, but not automatically deemed ineligible.'' 
Removal of the Manual M21-1 provisions would not render blue water 
sailors ineligible for benefits based on herbicide exposure. Such
                                    
veterans could establish service
                                    connection for herbicide-related 
conditions
                                    by submission of evidence establishing exposure to 
herbicides during service, just as they always could. If a veteran is 
eligible for that presumption, then, as a result, VA will not further
                                    
scrutinize that veteran's claim
                                    on the issue of exposure. We are 
rescinding
                                    this misinterpreted Manual M21-1 provision precisely 
because, like the commenter, VA believes that blue water veterans' 
claims must be subjected to greater scrutiny than claims by veterans
                                    
who served on land. Blue water
                                    veterans who received the VSM can 
directly
                                    establish the fact of their exposure with evidence of contact 
with herbicides or evidence that they actually served on land.
    Several comments related to the exposure of veterans who served
                                    in 
Thailand, Cambodia and/or
                                    Laos. Persons who received the VSM could have 
served
                                    in these regions. However, because we have no confirmed evidence 
of the extent of the possible exposure of such persons to herbicides, 
and no statutory mandate to consider such persons to have been
                                    exposed, 
we make no change to
                                    our decision based on these comments.
   
                                    Based on the foregoing, VA rescinds the following manual provisions 
describing service in Vietnam for the purposes of the presumption of 
exposure to herbicides: M21-1, pt. III, para. 4.08(k)(1)-(2) (November
                                    
8, 1991); M21-1, pt. III, para.
                                    4.24(g)(1)-(2), change 23 (October 6, 
1993);
                                    M21-1, pt. III, para. 4.24(g)(1)-(2), change 41 (July 12, 1995); 
M21-1, pt. III, para. 4.24(g)(1)-(2), change 76 (June 1, 1999); M21-1, 
pt. III, para. 4.24(e)(1)-(2), change 88 (February 27, 2002).
 
    Approved: April 8, 2008.
Gordon H. Mansfield,
Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
[FR Doc. E8-7912 Filed 4-14-08; 8:45 am]

VA Announces SGLI and VGLI Premium Reductions
Peake: Change Makes Programs More Affordable

WASHINGTON (April 7, 2008) - Veterans and military personnel with life
insurance policies managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
will see a reduction in their premiums, thanks to improved investment
earnings and a reduction in non-combat claims.

The premium cuts affect military personnel covered by Servicemembers'
Group Life Insurance (SGLI) and veterans covered by the Veterans' Group
Life Insurance (VGLI).

"The reduction in SGLI premiums makes life insurance even more
affordable for today's men and women in uniform," said Secretary of
Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake.  "Lower VGLI premiums will allow
more veterans to provide this low-cost financial security to their
families."

On July 1, 2008, the premiums for basic SGLI will be 6.5 cents per month
for $1,000 of coverage, down from 7 cents per month for $1,000.  This
translates into a 7 percent savings. 

Servicemembers with the maximum $400,000 of coverage will see their
monthly premium reduced from $28 to $26.  Servicemembers are also
covered against severe traumatic injury for an additional dollar each
month.

The reduction in SGLI premiums is made possible by lower,
non-combat-related claims and increases in investment earnings.  VA
officials believe this premium reduction will help maintain the nearly
universal participation in the program.

VGLI provides renewable term policies for people after their discharges
from the military.  Veterans pay premiums according to their age for
this coverage.

On July 1, 2008, VGLI premium rates will be reduced for veterans aged 30
to 64, who make up 85 percent of those insured under the program.
Premium rates for those under age 30 are already competitive.

Premium reductions, ranging from 4 percent to 12 percent, are a result
of fewer claims being received.  The reductions will ensure that VGLI
remains highly competitive with similar insurance offered by commercial
insurers.

"With servicemembers putting their lives at risk against terrorism, life
insurance coverage is more important than ever," added Peake.

Peake said the premium reductions should result in increased program
participation and retention.  With increased enrollment, the department
may be able to reduce rates in the future.

More than 2.4 million people currently participate in the VA-managed
SGLI program, with another 433,000 in VGLI. 
To obtain more information about the SGLI and VGLI premium reductions or
to view a table with the new VGLI rates, visit the VA insurance Web site
at www.insurance.va.gov, or call the Office of Servicemembers' Group
Life Insurance at 1-800-419-1473.


To unsubscribe from this list, or to update your name or e-mail address,
please visit the following Internet address:
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TALKING POINTS FROM KNOXVILLE OUPATIENT CLINIC MARCH 2008 PROVIDED FROM LINDA BAILEY, DAV KOPC - VETERAN TRANSFERRING INTO THE EAST TN AREA ARE NOT RE-ENROLLING TO ESTABLISH CARE AT KOPC. A 10-10EZR MUST BE COMPLETED ACCOMPANIED BY THE COVER SHEET IN ORDER TO ENTER THE VETERANS CORRECT/CURRENT DEMOGRAPHICS. THIS PROCESS THEN ALLOWS FOR UPLOAD OF MEDICAL HISTORY FROM PREVIOUS VA INTO KOPC SYSTEM. 10-10EZ AND 10-10EZR AND AVAILABLE IN A PDF FILLABLE FORMAT AT WWW.VA.GOV UNDER VA FORMS. THE FORM CAN EITHER BE COMPLETED AND THEN PRINTED OR PRINTED AND FILLED OUT IN HAND WRITING WITH THE VETERANS SIGNATURE. THIS IS CURRENTLY A BIG ISSUE WITH VA BRASS THAT VETERANS ARE BEING TOLD THEY ARE RE-ENROLLING WHEN THEY TRANSFER THEIR CARE. PLEASE USE CARE IN COMMUNICATING THE PROCESS TO THE VETERAN. - THE KOPC CONTINUES TO RECEIVE A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF 10-10EZ'S AND 10-10EZR'S THAT ARE INCOMPLETE TO INCLUDE PREVIOUS YEARS FINANCIAL DATA, SPOUSE/DEPENDENT INFORMATION MISSING AS WELL AS MEMBER COPY -4 OF THE DD214 OR A DISCHARGE CERTIFICATE. DUE TO VA PRIVACY ACT POLICIES, WE ARE NOT ALLOWED TO CHANGE/CORRECT NOR ALTER A SIGNED 10-10EZ/IO-10EZRNOR ARE WE ALLOWED TO COLLECT THE INFORMATION OVER THE PHONE. THEREFORE, INCOMPLETE FORMS ARE RETURNED TO THE VETERAN WHICH IN TURN CAUSES A DELAY IN ENROLLMENT OR POSSIBLE CHANGE IN CO-PAY STATUS. THIS CREATES A FINANCIAL IMPACT ON THE VA AND VETERAN ALIKE DUE TO INCREASING POSTAGE COSTS. PLEASE ENSURE A COVER SHEET ACCOMPANIES ALL 10-10EZ/10-10EZR. THE COVER SHEET PROVIDES US WITH ADDITIONAL INFORMATION NEEDED FOR THE REGISTRATION PROCESS. COMBAT VETERANS MUST ENTER THEIR COMBAT DATES ON THE COVER SHEET. THESE DATES SHOULD BE REFLECTED ON THEIR DD214. THE COMBAT DATES ARE NECESSARY TO ENSURE COMBAT ELIGIBILITY WHEN REGISTERING THE VETERAN AND ARE VERIFIED THROUGH THE HEALTH ELIGIBILITY CENTER IN ATLANTA . WHEN ASSISTING A VETERAN OR FAMILY MEMBER IN COMPLETING THE FORMS, PLEASE ENSURE ALL PERTINENT INFORMATION IS IN FACT COMPLETE AND CORRECT BEFORE MAILING TO KOPC FOR PROCESSING. - PLEASE BE REMINDED THAT THE VA IN COOPERATION WITH THE IRS AND SSA HAVE STEPPED UP INCOME VERIFICATION FOR NSC VETERANS ENROLLING. WE HAVE HAD A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF VETERANS ENROLLED BASED ON THE PREVIOUS YEARS FINANCIAL INFORMATION (GROSS INCOME/ASSETS) SUBMITTED ON THE 10-10EZ AND WHEN THE INCOME VERIFICATION IS DONE, THE NUMBERS PROVIDED ARE INCORRECT. THIS THEN CAUSES THE VETERAN TO BE PLACED IN PRIORITY GROUP 8G AND IN A REJECTED STATUS. THE VETERAN COULD THEN BE SUBJECT TO REPAYMENT FOR ANY/ALL SERVICES DUE TO NOT BEING ELIGIBLE FOR THE CARE/SERVICES. PLEASE ASSIST THE NSC/0% SC VETERANS IN COMPLETING THE FINANCIAL PORTION AS ACCURATELY AS POSSIBLE SINCE IT WILL BE VERIFIED. THE VA CONTINUES TO NOT ENROLL NSCVETERANS WHO DO NOT WISH TO PROVIDE THEIR FINANCIAL INCOME. COMBAT VETERANS DO NOT HAVE TO PROVIDE FINANCIAL DATA TO ENROLL BUT, PLEASE ADVISE OUR COMBAT VETERANS THAT THE COMBAT ELIGIBILITY STATUS ONLY EXCLUDES THEM FROM CO-PAYS FOR MEDICAL CONDITIONS AND MEDICATIONS THAT THE PC PROVIDER CODES AS BEING COMBAT RELATED. ANY/ALL SERVICES PROVIDED THAT ARE NOT CODED AS BEING DUE TO COMBAT WILL CAUSE THE VETERAN TO BE CHARGED CO-PAYS. PLEASE ENSURE YOUR COMBAT VETERANS COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND THIS SINCE SOME ARE BEING TOLD THEY WILL NOT HAVE TO REPORT THEIR FINANCIAL INFORMATION AND WILL PAY NO CO-PAYS AT ALL AND THIS INFORMATION IS INCORRECT. - KOPC RECEIVES REQUESTS FROM VETERANS REQUESTING TO TRANSFER THEIR CARE FROM NASHVILLE, MURFREESBORO AND MOUNTAIN HOME ON A DAILY BASIS. CURRENTLY KOPC HAS A TRANSFER ELECTRONIC WAITING LIST. THIS IS DUE TO THE LIMITED AVAILABILITY OF NEW PATIENT APPOINTMENTS. THESE APPOINTMENTS ARE CURRENTLY BE UTILIZED FOR OUT OF STATE TRANSFERS, COMBAT VETERANS AS WELL AS VETERANS INITIALLY ENROLLING INTO THE VA. WE ARE REQUIRED TO HAVE THESE VETERANS SCHEDULED WITHIN A 30 DAY TIME FRAME UPON THEIR 10-10EZ/10-10EZR BEING PROCESSED. VETERANS WITH SIGNIFICANT MEDICAL ISSUES THAT MAY NOT ALLOW LONG DISTANCE TRAVEL DUE TO SPECIAL TRANSPORTATION NEEDS OR RAPIDLY FAILING HEALTH WILL BE TRANSFERRED UPON REVIEW OF THEIR MEDICAL RECORD. PLEASE BE REMINDED THAT THE ELIGIBILITY STAFF AT KOPC ARE AVAILABLE TO YOU IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS. THEY FOLLOWING STAFF ARE AVAILABLE TO YOU: NANCY SCHMIDT - LEAD PSA (865) 545-4592 EXT 243 DAVID GUNTER - ELIGIBILITY (865) 545-4592 EXT 227 KEITH WHALEN - ELIGIBILITY (865) 545-4592 EXT 303

March 20, 2008

 

VA to Open 14 New Clinics in Seven States

Peake: Health Care Closer for Veterans

WASHINGTON -- Veterans in seven additional states will have easier access to world-class health care under a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) plan to open 14 new outpatient clinics in 2008.  Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake today announced that VA will establish new clinics in Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Washington.

“VA is dedicated to providing the best in health care to the men and women who have served this nation in uniform,” Peake said.  “These new clinics will bring that care closer to veterans who have earned it through their service.”

Locations for the new clinics are:

·        ArkansasPhillips County

·        IllinoisColes County

·        IndianaScott County

·        KentuckyCarroll County, Christian County and Graves County

·        OklahomaStillwater

·        Tennessee – Bolivar, Campbell County, Dyer County, Roane County, Sevier County and Warren County

·        WashingtonLewis County

The new clinics are scheduled to activate in 2008.  The exact locations of the new facilities, along with their opening dates and the health care services they will provide, have to be determined.  VA has previously approved 50 additional clinics that will begin providing services in 2008 for a total of 64 new clinics throughout the country this year.

  

With 153 hospitals and more than 700 community-based clinics, VA has the nation’s largest integrated health care system.  The Department’s health care budget of over $36 billion this year will provide care to about 5.5 million veterans.

“Community-based medicine is better medicine,” said Dr. Michael Kussman, VA’s Under Secretary for Health.  “It makes preventive care easier for patients, helps doctors have closer relationships with their patients and permits easier follow-up for patients with chronic health problems.”

Many of the new clinics were designated as priorities under VA’s Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) plan.  CARES, completed in 2004, was intended to ensure that VA uses its resources as effectively and efficiently as possible.

NVS WEEKLY UPDATES – March 12, 2008

 

The Economic Stimulus payment does not count as income

Income from the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, Pub. L. 110-185, does not count as income for any of VA's need-based benefits (i.e., healthcare, pension). The applicable provision is Section 101(d) of Title I of the public law. It reads: "(d) Refunds Disregarded in the Administration of Federal Programs and Federally Assisted Programs- Any credit or refund allowed or made to any individual by reason of section 6428 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (as amended by this section) or by reason of subsection (c) of this section shall not be taken into account as income and shall not be taken into account as resources for the month of receipt and the following 2 months, for purposes of determining the eligibility of such individual or any other individual for benefits or assistance, or the amount or extent of benefits or assistance, under any Federal program or under any State or local program financed in whole or in part with Federal funds. 

 

THE 2008 EDITION OF FEDERAL BENEFITS FOR VETERANS AND DEPENDENTS

The Benefits Booklet is now available for download from the Internet as a PDF.  On the VA Home page (www.va.gov), click on "Benefits Booklet" in the Top Info Requests section on the right-hand side of page. 

 The popular booklet describing benefits and services available to veterans and their dependents is also available on OPA's Feature Items page (http://www.va.gov/opa/feature/index.asp).

 Anyone setting links on a Web page or in a newsletter or other document should link to http://www.va.gov/OPA/vadocs/current_benefits.asp, which is a page dedicated exclusively to the booklet. While the booklet will always be available from OPA's Feature Items page, it will not always be at the top of the page, as it is today.

 The book is being printed and should be available in printed form in 3 to 4 weeks.

MORE EDUCATION BENEFITS COMING TO RESERVISTS, GUARDSMEN

Some members of the National Guard and the Reserves who serve on active duty will see a significant increase in their VA educational benefits.  Under new provisions, members who accumulate three years on active duty, regardless of breaks in service, may be eligible for the maximum payment under the Reserve Education Assistance Program (REAP).  Previously, reservists and guardsmen had to serve two continuous years on active duty to receive the highest payment.  The new eligibility rules are retroactive to October, 1, 2007.  The top payment under REAP is currently $880.80 per month. 

The new law, part of the "National Defense Authorization Act," also expands the period of eligibility for certain Guard and Reserve members who complete their service obligation before separation from the selected reserve.  Members meeting these criteria may be eligible to use REAP benefits for a period of ten years following discharge.  Benefits typically end upon separation for members who do not complete their full, obligated service.

Additionally, some REAP-eligible National Guard and Reserve members may now make an extra contribution to the Department of Defense to increase their monthly benefit rates. Service members receive an additional $5 per month for each $20 contributed. With the maximum $600 contribution, this option can add up to $5,400 to a member’s total 36-month education benefit package.

Beginning on October 1, 2008, participants in REAP and the Montgomery GI Bill program for the Selected Reserve who pursue non-degree programs lasting less than two years may also be eligible to receive accelerated payments.

During FY 2007, more than 60,000 National Guardsmen and reservists were paid under REAP, more than 41,000 were paid under the Montgomery GI Bill program for the Selected Reserves, and approximately 344,000 participants were paid under the Montgomery GI Bill for active-duty members.

For more information on changes to VA’s GI Bill benefits, go to www.GIBILL.va.gov or contact VA directly at 1-888-GIBILL1 (or 1-888-442-4551).  

Additional Medical Information Resources

MyHealthevet is a website that contains links to a wealth of medical information available on the internet.  We suggest you take a few minutes to explore the links available at: https://www.myhealth.va.gov/mhv-portal-web/anonymous.portal?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=whatsNewOnMHVArchive .  Once on this page, scroll about 2/3 of the way down the page.  There you will find a table with health care resources.  Click on those and you will discover additional information that may be helpful.

 

This Update is a service provided by the National Veterans Service of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.  It is intended as a summary of items of potential interest to and use by Department Service Officers and their staff.  Readers are encouraged to thoroughly review the original documents which are the source of items found in this Update

 

STATEMENT OF

 

GEORGE LISICKI

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF

VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS OF THE UNITED STATES

 

BEFORE THE

 

JOINT HEARING OF THE

COMMITTEES ON VETERANS’ AFFAIRS

UNITED STATES SENATE AND

UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

TUESDAY, MARCH 4, 2008

9:30 AM

 

Chairmen Akaka and Filner, Ranking Members Burr and Buyer, Members of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees, Distinguished Comrades of the VFW and our Auxiliaries and our Honored Guests:

On behalf of the 2.3 million men and women of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and our Auxiliaries, I would like to express our gratitude for allowing us the opportunity to testify at this most important hearing.  We appreciate this annual tradition, not for tradition’s sake, but for the candid dialogue we have, and the special opportunity to present these legislative priorities before you in Congress.

We have enjoyed an excellent working relationship with these two Committees.  We may not agree 100 percent on every issue, but you hear us out and let veterans have their voice.  We are grateful for that.  We appreciate the dedication and hard work of all of you on these Committees – an appreciation I would like to extend to your excellent staff.  As always, we look forward to working with you in the coming year to improve programs and benefits for Americas true heroes, our nation’s veterans. 

 

VA MEDICAL CARE

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is the largest direct provider of health care in the nation, providing care at 153 medical centers and over 730 outpatient clinics.  VHA has four primary missions: Providing health care and services to America’s sick and disabled veterans; Training and educating doctors, nurses and other health care professionals; Conducting world-class research into medical issues and on prosthetics, and; Serving as the nation’s primary health care backup in times of war or domestic emergency.  These four missions benefit not just veterans, but the entire American public; an investment in VA health care benefits all Americans.

The primary mission, though, remains the care of this nation’s sick and disabled veterans.  Nearly 8 million veterans are enrolled in the VA health care system, and about 6 million of them are expected to receive care, nearly double the number from a decade ago.  Much of that increase is attributable to the improved access built into the system when VA shifted focus from an impatient provider into more of an outpatient health care provider, but the increase also is partially attributable to an aging veterans population combined with an influx of our newest veterans: those sick and disabled veterans from OEF/OIF.

The growing demand for VA health care shows the importance of proper funding of the system.  Despite all the wonderful work being done in the system – the delivery of care, the education of this nation’s medical practitioners and research – and its dedicated track record of efficiency and technological innovation, we face difficult annual fights for funding.  We sincerely appreciate the great strides that Congress has made in the last few years in increasing funding, but we must continue to urge for more.  VA funding simply must keep pace with the growing demand for care.

According to VA’s January 2008 statistics, 300,000 separated OEF/OIF veterans have sought care at VA out of a total potential pool of around 800,000.  The VFW and the Independent Budget expects that around 85,000 new veterans from this group will seek care, necessitating a further increase in funding.

In the past, when finances were tight, VA has rationed health care and limited access.  We are starting to see this again.  In recent budget testimony, VA admits that around 70,000 veterans are in line, forced to wait weeks and months for their earned health care.  This is unacceptable.  Further, with the hundreds of thousands of Category 8 veterans completely shut out of the system, we are concerned that without proper funding levels, we could return to an era of health-care rationing. 

Accordingly, the VFW, as part of the Independent Budget, recommends a funding level of $42.8 billion for veterans medical care in FY 2009.  This is $1.6 billion above what the President has requested for medical care, and $3.7 billion increase over the FY 2008 level.  Full funding would allow VA to care for that increasing number of veterans and would provide enough staff to ensure that the quality of care does not erode, nor does access become a problem.

We must also be mindful of the long-term care needs of our veterans.  VA has formed a worthwhile partnership with state nursing home programs to provide greater access to all veterans.  It is essential that we fully fund these programs, especially as the veterans population grows older.  We are concerned, however, with the overall direction of the program.  VA continues to miss the Congressionally mandated average daily census requirement.  We also want to see scrutiny of VA’s Long-Term Care Strategic Plan, including full funding for the programs contained therein.  We must also ensure that all gaps in care, especially for veterans living in rural areas or veterans with specialized needs – such as spinal cord injuries – are cared for properly.

 

COPAYMENTS AND FEES

While we appreciate that the Administration did not include increased fees as part of their VA funding level, we must continue to oppose these increases in the pharmaceutical co-payment amount and the institution of an annual enrollment fee for Category 7 and 8 veterans.

It is easy to point to the richest veterans in Category 8 and say that they should have to pay  However, the vast majority of all veterans in those categories – especially those that actually seek care – could hardly be considered wealthy.  For them, the proposed increases could have a dramatic impact, especially for those living in high-cost areas.

The proposed enrollment fee is a yearly fee.  Even if the veteran goes to VA just once a year, they would still be subject to it.  Also, the payment of the fee would not guarantee access to the system.  Charging veterans to wait in line – as the 70,000 veterans currently in line are doing – is patently unfair.

The pharmaceutical copayment increase has the potential of costing a great number of veterans significant amounts of money.  Nearly doubling the fee is unfair and unreasonable in many cases.  We strongly oppose the Administration’s proposal.

As in the past, we view these fees as a way for VA to ration health care services by limiting the number of veterans who would access the system.  Increased fees would drive many veterans – including those who could not otherwise afford the services – from the system.  This Congress has done the right thing in defeating these burdensome fees every other year in which they have been proposed, and we look forward to working with you to defeat them again.

 

HEALTH CARE FOR OEF/OIF VETERANS

As of January 2008, 799,791 OEF/OIF veterans have left active duty and become eligible for VA health care.  Of those, 408,679 are from the National Guard or Reserves.  The rest are Active Duty troops.  From that pool of nearly 800,000 eligible, 37% have sought access at VA for their health care needs.

These are numbers that can only go up, especially with the roughly 200,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The demand for service has created some major challenges for VA.  VA has responded, rightly, by making their health care a top priority.  The VFW feels that we must do everything we can to ensure that these men and women are properly cared for.  Their care is part of the ongoing cost of war and the fulfillment of that cost – a true national obligation – is central to the work of your Committees.

The health care problems this population faces have varied greatly, including the routine, but also a great number of issues that VA must place a special emphasis on.  This includes mental health issues such as PTSD and the war’s signature wound, Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI).  The range of these problems, their complexities, and the many things we do not know about their effects or treatments have created problems for VA as well as DOD.

TBI – Explosive blasts from roadside bombs and other IEDs are causing devastating and often permanent damage to the brain tissue of affected veterans.  Veterans with severe TBI will need a lifetime of intensive service to care for their disabilities, but we also need to study and develop programs for those suffering from mild or moderate TBI.

TBI can occur even without other forms of physical injury, making detection difficult.  Likely many hundreds of OEF/OIF veterans are suffering from the effects of this condition, and are unaware of the condition.

There is much we do not know about TBI.  Recent studies have suggested that even mildly impacted veterans can have long-term mental and physical health difficulties, and there is no clear treatment model to be followed, especially for those with moderate or mild impairment.  Accordingly, we strongly urge VA to research the long-term consequences and to develop optimal treatment choices.

Mental Health – VA’s January 2008 OEF/OIF treatment update shows that over 40% of all patients treated at VA have suffered from some form of mental health impairment – a truly staggering number.  Among the over 120,000 OEF/OIF veterans who have been diagnosed with some degree of mental disorder, about half are suffering from PTSD.  About one-third have been diagnosed with a depressive disorder.  Nearly 25,000 have been diagnosed with an affective psychosis.  It is clear that there is a problem.  We must do everything we can to fix it, and to make these brave men and women as whole as we possibly can, giving them the treatment options they need to care for themselves and their families.

We need strong outreach programs that eliminate the stigma of mental illness or other barriers to care.  Numerous studies have found that early treatment of many mental health illnesses leads to treatment that is more effective.  We need meaningful post-deployment health assessments to provide useful data and information.  They should be designed in a way that eliminates the disincentive service men and women sometimes feel in providing completely honest answers.  We need regular screenings of at-risk veterans as part of the routine examinations to reduce the stigma of these types of care and treatment.  We would like to see partnerships and participation that allow a veterans’ family to participate and receive counseling.  Providing a stable, safe and supportive home environment can only help to make the overall treatment course more effective.  VA must adequately train its staff to ensure that they know how to deal with the sometimes-unique needs of these veterans, but also to recognize warning signs and other signals to get veterans into the programs they need.  We need a continued emphasis on increasing the entry points for this care, especially with Vet Centers.  Access to these essential treatments should be as convenient as possible, increasing the likelihood that affected veterans utilize these essential services.

Suicide – The recent stories about the number of veterans who have killed themselves are truly heartbreaking.  It is a national tragedy when just one veteran ends their own life; when as many as has been reported do, it is a national shame.  VA has improved their outreach efforts, notably through the 1-800-273-TALK suicide prevention hotline, but more must be done. 

This has been especially true in cases where the separating veteran is a member of the National Guard or Reserves.  Too often, when they separate, they are away from their unit, thrust immediately into the difficult transition with little – if any – cooling off period.  The stresses and strains placed on these men and women are incredible, and it is no wonder that so many of them have difficulties.  A great number of these Guard and Reserve also find themselves returning to rural areas, where they are not just far away from the informal support network of their fellow veterans, but away from the services and programs provided to them for their benefit.  We must do everything we can to ease their transition, to let them know the programs available to them, and to improve their access to these programs.  With the problems they are dealing with internally, ease of access is paramount.  The easier it is on them, the more likely they are to partake.

Polytrauma and other issues – There have been well over 3,000 grievously wounded service men and women since the wars began.  These men and women are suffering from some truly traumatic injuries often to multiple physical regions or organ systems.  These men and women sadly are going to need life-long care for these wounds and disabilities and are truly a national priority.  VA has four polytrauma centers charged with overseeing the interdisciplinary treatment of these disabled veterans, with a fifth center in San Antonio coming on line soon.  These centers must actively provide follow-up care with all their patients and fully support families or other caregivers.  We need proactive solutions and oversight that VA is meeting the unique challenges of these patients.

Over 1,200 veterans have returned from these conflicts with serious eye injuries.  Some result from shrapnel or other direct blows, and others are coincident with TBI and other conditions and illnesses.  It is estimated that 60% of all TBI patients suffer from vision impairment to some degree.  To that end, we were pleased to see passage of the Center of Excellence for eye injuries authorized last year.  Tracking, researching, and providing treatment for these often debilitating impairments is a necessary step.  We are concerned, however, that funding was not appropriated for this important project and that it has not moved forward.  We would urge that this program be fully funded and begin operations as soon as possible.

 

SUFFICIENT, TIMELY AND PREDICTABLE VA FUNDING

Despite the best efforts of all of those in Congress, the VFW remains concerned with the current discretionary funding process for VA.  While great strides have been made in the yearly increases provided to VA, we are concerned that that same political will may not be there in the future once the nation’s attention shifts from the overseas conflicts.  Further, we are disappointed with the timeliness of the health care budget.  For 13 of the last 14 years, VA has not had its health care budget when the fiscal year began, forcing VA to make do with insufficient funding under continuing resolutions.  We have also seen in previous years the need to go back to the drawing board halfway through the fiscal year to provide more money for VA through an emergency supplemental appropriation because insufficient money was provided the first time.

Taken together, these all point to a system that is broken and a system badly in need of reform.

VA’s hospital managers cannot be expected to efficiently manage and plan for the health care needs of this nation’s veterans when they are unsure of their funding level from year to year and when the budget they do receive is months late.  This yearly uncertainty impairs VA’s ability to recruit and retain staff – a significant challenge recently with specialty care providers – contract for services and perform proper planning and other administrative functions.

We call on Congress and the administration to reform the budget process.  We need an assured funding mechanism that provides VA with a sufficient, predictable and timely funding stream so that VA can efficiently and effectively provide first-rate health care to this nation’s veterans.

 

VA CONSTRUCTION

The VFW is concerned with the under-funding of the construction budget.  Despite hundreds of pages of supporting documents covering millions of dollars of projects, the administration’s request essentially halves construction funding over the previous year’s level.  This will not meet the long-term needs of America’s veterans.

For major construction, the President has requested just $581 million, a cut of $487 million and well below the $1.275 billion called for by the VFW and other members of the Independent Budget.  While we appreciate that it begins the funding process of three new construction projects, if enacted, it would result in a $2 billion backlog of construction that would have to be funded in future years.  At the pace of this request, it would take over five years to fully fund that backlog and several more years beyond that for construction to actually be completed.

The administration has requested $329 million for minor construction, which is a cut of $301 million over the previous year’s funding level.  It is also far below the $621 million we have suggested in the IB.  VA’s budgetary documents list 145 separate minor construction projects it would like to being in the next fiscal year.  Using the average cost of construction for a minor construction project from fiscal year 2008 – which is over $5 million per project – the funding level is clearly not sufficient to meet VA’s own priorities.

Another area of concern is with respect to nonrecurring maintenance.  This funding enables VA facilities to make smaller repairs such as fixes to a roof, or repairs to an electrical system or even cosmetic improvements to improve the quality of the health-care environment.  Industry standard is for a medical facility to spend between two and four percent of plant replacement value on these projects.  Accordingly, VA should spend between $800 million and $1.6 billion.  We were pleased to see the administration request $802 million, but this is the low end of what is needed.  In fiscal year 2007, VA acknowledged a $5 billion backlog in maintenance needs as part of their facilities condition assessment program.  The administration’s request is for the bare minimum needed to maintain current facilities; it will not let VA cut into that backlog in a meaningful way.  Accordingly, we urge increased funding for this account.

VA CLAIMS BACKLOG

VA has nearly 900,000 individual claims and appeals for compensation, pension and education benefits.  This is a massive backlog of claims, which has resulted in six-month waits for initial ratings decisions.  This is unacceptable.

 

The majority of those claims are for disability compensation.  Any delay in providing benefits to these wounded and disabled veterans makes it hard for them to care for themselves and their families.  Further, because VA health care is curtailed to great numbers of non-service-connected veterans, delays in compensation decisions deny these veterans the health care and treatments they need to lead productive lives.

There are many reasons for the backlog, including an increasing complexity of claims.  Court decisions and changes to law have also caused the system to grow in complexity.  Although the net result is a better benefit for veterans, it creates management and administrative challenges, which VA has had a difficult time meeting.

Staffing levels have also contributed to the problem.  We sincerely appreciate the significant boost in claims decision raters you provided last year, but we need a continued staffing level and assurances that there will not be cuts in the future.  Uncertainty in the yearly budget process, as well as the lateness of a number of funding bills over the last few years, have created difficulties for VA’s hiring managers in sufficiently staffing the department and meeting the needs of veterans.

These are problems that have boiled up over the years, interwoven with each other, and become more complex.  Despite our deepest hopes, there is no quick fix to VBA; there is only the opportunity for steady and deliberate improvement.  Any single plan to make the claims processing system simple and easy will make things only marginally simpler and easier on the VA bureaucracy and will occur at the expense of the rights and benefits of at least some veterans, dependents and survivors.  Any such plan is simply unacceptable.

In testimony before your committees and in the Independent Budget, we have offered some answers to some of the problems, but we cannot wave a magic wand and make the problem go away.   Our suggestions have included improvements to the funding process; an increased emphasis on accuracy of ratings decisions over speed, which would reduce the demand for appeals; improvements in staff education and training; increased use of technology, especially in assisting in determining whether a claim is fully developed or even in making simple ratings decisions, and, especially; improvements in the electronic medical record, allowing VA and DOD to share appropriate medical and personnel information, and giving all pertinent information to the claims raters to speed the adjudication process.

CLAIMS ACCURACY

The VFW is greatly concerned with the accuracy of VBA’s claims ratings decisions.  VA’s own quality measurements show that VA makes a significant error in over 100,000 cases each year.  This is grossly unfair to our sick and disabled veterans.  After waiting months for a single ratings decision, they are too frequently left with an incorrect decision.  We cannot accept this.

 

The poor quality of these decisions only exacerbates VA’s problems.  In most cases, a veteran will file an appeal, adding to the swollen backlog.  This clearly could have been avoided had the case been resolved accurately in the first place.  Of special concern to the VFW, however, is the number of veterans who give up out of frustration.  We have a wide network of excellent service officers throughout the country, but we can only help those who seek us out.  For a veteran who navigates the bureaucratic process without a service officer to guide them, it can be a nightmare, and a number of them likely give up.  When they give up, they lose their earned benefits, their necessary disability compensation and access to health care.  This is not how a nation should treat its heroes.

To improve this, VA must improve education and training for the claims adjudicators.  With the significant numbers of new claims raters added over the last few years, this is especially true.  Rating claims can be a challenging process, especially with the complexities many claims present.  We need steady leadership and an emphasis on getting it right the first time, and that timeliness cannot override the need for accuracy.  Veterans deserve a system that can do both efficiently.

 

SEAMLESS TRANSITION

When our servicemen and women return from overseas, we need a system in place and cooperation among the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to ensure the smoothest possible transition.  As they move from active to veteran status, there should not be any bumps in the road, nor delays because of bureaucracy.  These delays force veterans to wait months for benefits and health care that they have earned by virtue of their service to this nation.  We must do everything we can to create a truly seamless transition.

The VFW envisions a system where an electronic medical and personnel file is created the day a service member enlists.  This electronic record should follow them wherever they are stationed.  When they separate or retire, it should be automatically sent to VA, facilitating their health care and disability claims, and will be continuously updated no matter which VA facility the veteran uses, giving the veteran and their medical providers easy access to any information they may need.

The smooth flow of information between the two departments and among facilities would help to ensure the high quality of care for the veteran, but would also greatly assist in the benefits process.  With the veterans’ full history in one file, disability claims development would become a simpler process, and it would lead to more timely, higher-quality and efficient ratings decisions.

We must also ensure that service men and women are taking full advantage of all the transition and separation services afforded to them, such as DOD’s pre-separation counseling and the Transition Assistance Program (TAP).  All veterans should have access to these programs at hours convenient to them.  We believe that these programs should also continue to emphasize the rights these men and women have for VA health care and benefits, but also for the programs available to them to assist with employment and job training.

The seamless transition is a problem that is talked about much, but one with little result.  We need this Congress to exercise its oversight authority to ensure that VA and DOD are showing true leadership in these issues instead of fighting turf battles over what their respective roles are.  With the hundreds of thousands of separating service members who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last few years, this is of increasing importance.  We need you to do what is right.

TASK FORCE AND COMMISSION REPORTS

The last year has seen the release of two major reports with hundreds of recommendations with respect to the seamless transition and the veterans disability compensation system.  The VFW urges careful and deliberate consideration and study of these important recommendations to ensure that any transformations to the systems in place truly benefit all service members and veterans.

 

We understand and greatly appreciate the interest that everyone in Congress has taken with respect to these important issues.  We can see – through the many bills introduced in Congress – that these are issues our elected leaders are responding to and that they are issues in which the American public is taking a great interest. 

The VFW, too, seeks improvements for America’s veterans.  We believe, however, that it is necessary to take a step back and thoroughly study the effects of any potential changes in the disability ratings schedule before moving ahead on dramatic changes that would permanently alter the system.  We urge careful consideration of any proposals, and we especially urge a close study of the recommendations of the Veterans Disability Benefits Commission (VDBC.)

Congress chartered the VDBC in 2004 to study the benefits that compensate and assist veterans and their survivors for disabilities and death attributable to military service.  For three years, the VDBC produced original research through close work with respected organizations as well as through interviews and investigations that it conducted on its own.  Its thorough 562-page report listed 113 detailed recommendations, all predicated on that close study and expert analysis of the entirety of the compensation system.

The VFW understands the desire to take action, especially with respect to the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Wounded Warriors – the Dole/Shalala Commission.  This Commission was created in March 2007 as the Administration’s response to the outpatient housing debacle at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and because of the time constraints written into the executive order establishing the Commission, it had four short months to study a range of issues beyond just the disability compensation system.  Its final 149-page report included six broad recommendations, the best of which we were happy to see included as part of the Wounded Warrior legislation that was enacted as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.

We are concerned that in the effort to do something now, Congress is going to create a system that does not meet the needs of veterans, or that creates a wealth of additional problems that we, in turn, will have to fix in the coming years.  For example, we are especially concerned with the Dole/Shalala Commission’s recommendations to create a two-tiered disability compensation system, which awards different levels of compensation for the same injury to different veterans simply based upon when the injury occurred.  That is clearly an issue of fairness and equity.

Congress must reject any changes to the well-established policy of providing veterans with identical disabilities equal compensation and other benefits. Specifically, benefits should be uniformly based on severity of service-connected disability without regard to the circumstances of the disability, e.g., wartime versus peacetime; training; or geographic location.

Everyone wants to do what's best for our troops and for our veterans – to include all the members of both commissions – but what we absolutely must not do is create conditions that could cause the VA to fail in its primary mission.   We cannot afford to rush into a decision that is going to affect so many millions of men and women who wore the uniform in defense of this great country. 

The VFW calls on your Committee and the entire Congress to thoroughly evaluate the recommendations from both Commissions before taking action.  The changes we make to the system do not exist in a vacuum.  Every little alteration affects great numbers of service men and women now and into the future.  We must be diligent and attentive to the changes that we make and ensure that, whatever we do, it is truly in the best interest of America’s veterans.

 

COMPENSATION AND PENSION ISSUES

The VFW, as we do every year calls for a cost-of-living adjustment to all appropriate veterans benefits.  Increasing the rates of monthly compensation, DIC and other important programs prevents the erosion of these benefits due to inflation, and allows these sick and disabled veterans to keep pace, enabling them to provide for their families.

We would, however, continue to oppose VA's efforts to round down the rates of compensation to the nearest whole dollar.  This was originally started as an attempt to temporarily reduce the budget deficit, but has been on-going for years.  Over a year or two the effects on veterans are minimal, but for the length of time this practice has been in effect, it could be costing veterans a hundred or more dollars a year, and as time goes on with this unfair practice in effect, that amount will only increase.  We see no need to balance the budget on the backs of our sick and disabled veterans, who really rely on the modest compensation levels to care for their families.  While seventy five cents might seem trivial, when that amount is magnified over an extended period of time it adds up, robbing our veterans of their earned compensation.  We must fix this.

With recent efforts to take a closer look at VA's disability compensation practices, the VFW must reaffirm our strong support of the current standards and definitions of service connection.  Recent talk has centered on whether this should be adjusted to a “performance of duty” standard.  We could not disagree with that further.

A veteran is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Few military members have a standard 8-hour work day, and they must be ready to do what is asked around the clock.  Even when not involved in tasks directly in support of their military career, they are still held responsible as members of the military.  There is no clear demarcation between when a serviceman or woman is on the clock, and when they are not.  Further, the unique characteristics of military service create physical and mental stresses even when not directly at a post.  There is nothing in the civilian world which can compare.  We have also seen that military personnel especially those servicing overseas are at increased risk of injury or disease at all hours.

For these reasons, it must stand that an illness or disability must only manifest itself “coincident with” military service.  Any changes to this standard would erode this necessary compensation, and could cynically be viewed as a budget-cutting maneuver.

We strongly urge this Congress to reject any and all changes to these definitions.

VA HOME LOAN PROGRAMS

The home loan program is an essential transition benefit, which allows veterans access to the true American dream: home ownership.  It is a program that does wonderful things for our former service members.

 

We are concerned, however, with the recent reliance on fees to fund this and other veterans' programs.  These fees, which come directly out of the veterans' pocket, should be repealed, especially because their original intent was for a deficit reduction measure.  Veterans have already done much for this country, and they should not be penalized further.  We must also prevent any future increases, and refrain from using these fees to subsidize other veterans programs, as has been done in the recent past.  No veteran should be forced to pay for another veteran's benefits.  That is a job for a grateful nation.

ADAPTIVE GRANTS

VA provides adaptive housing grants to certain disabled service members to help these men and women afford modifications to a house to increase their mobility.  These are essential increases which truly help our disabled veterans.  We would urge Congress to increase the amount of these grants, but also make sure that their value is indexed to the cost of living, so that the value of this important benefit does not erode.

 

We would also urge Congress to approve legislation that would allow VA to provide a second grant to a veteran should they change houses.  As families grow bigger or leave the house, the needs of a veteran may change, and we should not stick them with a house that does not suit their needs.  Giving them a second grant for these essential adaptations would also allow a veteran whose mobility or configuration demands change to upgrade their homes.

VA also provides grants to help cover the costs of automobiles and adaptations to them.  This important benefit has not kept pace with the rising costs of inflation.  The veterans eligible for this program are among the most severely disabled and often experience great mobility problems.  Even where public transportation is available, it is not typically a viable option.  Many of these veterans require handicap-equipped vans or large sedans, which cost well above the $11,000 allowance.

When the program was first created, it was traditionally indexed to around 85% of the average cost of an automobile.   The VFW believes that an amount of 80% of the average new car price would be appropriate.  We urge you to pass legislation to improve that, but also to index the amount in the future with the average cost of a new car.

INSURANCE PROGRAMS

VA runs a number of insurance programs that were designed to provide life insurance coverage to veterans and service members who may have difficult finding affordable coverage in the private sector due to their service-connected disabilities or because of the unique challenges of military service.  By and large these are effective and meaningful programs, but there are a few changes we would like to see.

 

On the Service Disabled Veterans Insurance (SDVI) program, the VFW calls for changes to the actuarial table to reflect more modern conditions.  The mortality table upon which rates are based comes from 1941 and does not reflect the longer life spans of those living today.  Accordingly, SDVI is no longer competitive with private insurance and is increasingly losing its value to veterans.  Congress must enact legislation to require VA to update the mortality table it uses when determining the premiums veterans must pay.

Additionally, the maximum coverage under the base SDVI program is a meager $10,000.  Amazingly, this is a number that remains from the original War Risk Insurance program of 1917.  After 90 years, veterans are more than due for an increase.  An amount of $50,000 would make a noticeable effect in the quality of lives of the veterans' survivors.

We also believe that it is time to increase Veterans' Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI).  This insurance program covers severely disabled veterans, allowing them to more easily obtain home loans.  The amount of coverage has not increased since 1992, and has remained at $90,000 despite the huge increases in housing costs over the last fifteen years.  These severely disabled veterans likely cannot obtain affordable secondary mortgage insurance to cover the gaps between what VA provides and what the mortgage issuers require, so we must increase the benefit to at least $150,000.

 

MONTGOMERY GI BILL (MGIB)

The VFW strongly supports a GI Bill for the 21st Century that is modeled on the WWII GI Bill.  Our vision is for a GI Bill that pays the full costs of attendance – to include tuition, books, room and board, and a living stipend – to any college or university at which a veteran is accepted.

The WWII GI Bill is credited with transforming society, by creating the middle class.  The education and training that these returning heroes received allowed them to take their place as the leaders of the work force.  The GI Bill is a great tool for social mobility, allowing those who otherwise would not have had access to an education, the opportunity to better themselves and assist their families.  Further, several years ago, the Senate Education Committee issued a report that found that the initial WWII GI Bill paid for itself because of these effects and the increased tax revenue they provided.  It is clearly a program that benefits society and is a worthy investment.

The MGIB receives a cost-of-living increase each year, but that rate is far below the sky-rocketing increases in college tuition costs.  According to the College Board, after adjusting for inflation, college costs have increased by 35% in recent years.  Even with the substantial increases of a few Congress' ago, the value of the benefit continues to erode as the MGIB pays for an increasingly smaller share of the costs of attendance.  It is time we look at increasing these benefits.

The VFW also believes that we must do more to improve upon the benefits given to our Guard and Reserve forces.  The nature of the service that the Guard and Reserve are providing has changed dramatically over the last twenty years.  In Iraq and Afghanistan tens of thousands of these citizen soldiers have been used as active duty troops for extended periods of time, yet most find themselves without benefits that correspond to their service.  The current $317 monthly stipend is just 29% of the $1101 monthly active duty benefit.  This is far short of the historical 47% difference. 

To that end, we applaud the creation of the Reservists Educational Assistance Program (REAP), which creates a sliding scale of enhanced eligibility depending on how long a member of the guard or reserve has served on active duty.  After as little as 90 days of service in Iraq or Afghanistan, an eligible service member can receive an enhanced benefit of 40% of the active duty rate.  We also applaud the recent changes, making the Guard and Reserve GI Bill portable.  Allowing them to take their earned educational benefits with them is the right thing to do, especially given their contributions to the wars overseas.

However, we can and must do more.  The VFW strongly urges Congress to allow the guard and reserve to count their total aggregate service for purposes of MGIB eligibility.  Currently, to qualify for the Active-Duty rate, they need 24 continuous months of service.  What happens though is that the guard and reserve are typically rotated out of active duty before that time period.  This resets their clock even if, as a great number of the men and women serving have done, they are re-deployed later on.  The guard and reserve make up about half the total force in Iraq and are serving on deployments as long as their Active Duty counterparts, but receiving benefits far below them.  Allowing them to qualify based upon the aggregate months of service is clearly the right thing to do to acknowledge their valuable contributions as activated active duty contributors.

The VFW also strongly supports the repeal of the $1,200 buy-in that is required for eligibility of the MGIB program.  No other form of Federal student aid requires the user to purchase eligibility, and it should not be this way for those who put their lives on the line to defend this country.

The current buy-in allows a service member to have only one chance for eligibility.  Upon joining, the service member either has to buy in, by having $100 withdrawn from their first 12 monthly paychecks, or they forever lose eligibility.  Not only is the amount unfair – E-1 service men and women make just over $1,300 per month – but it can be a difficult financial decision, especially if the service member has a family to support.

Additionally, we disagree with forcing them to make such an important decision in their lives at such an early time.  Circumstances change, and people's priorities change.  The young kid who walks into the military as an 18-year old isn't necessarily the same one that walks out a few years later.  The narrow rules of eligibility hurt the veteran who later decides that getting a good education is the best thing for him in life.  We need a GI Bill that not only adapts with the changing character of service, but with the changing character of those who wear the uniform.

VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION AND EMPLOYMENT

The influx of service-disabled veterans, is creating new challenges in vocational rehabilitation and employment, and we must have programs that adapt.

 

We applaud the end goal of these programs, but we need programs that look to the future.  They should not be about finding a quick job for veterans, but for giving them the training, education and skills they need to have a meaningful career so that they can care for themselves and their families.  We must be mindful of the long term and not just the quick fix.  To be truly effective, the program must be focused on a goal of avoiding disability-related unemployment later in life.

In addition, the VFW will continue to ensure that all eligible veterans retain their veterans’ preference rights.

HOMELESSNESS

VA has estimated that there are over 200,000 homeless veterans in this country.  This is a national tragedy.  VA has made it a goal to end veterans’ homelessness within a decade, something we strongly support.  It is an effort that will take lots of time, energy and resources, but it is something we must strive for.  No one who has worn the uniform of this great nation should have to suffer these problems.  We must do everything we can to give them a hand up, providing them with the health care, education and training they need to get back on to their feet and into productive society.  We need to do more with outreach.  VA has a wide variety of programs and partnerships with state and local officials, but we need to do more to ensure that these programs are helping all who need them.  Together, we can make a meaningful impact in these veterans’ lives.

 

ACTIVE DUTY ISSUES

With the ongoing war, we must focus attention on the important quality of life issues for those currently on the front lines.

We must strive for pay comparability with the private sector so that the military remains a viable career choice for many men and women, and we must ensure that fair-priced, quality housing is readily available and that the assistance provided to our service men and women keeps pace with the escalating housing prices in certain areas.

The VFW also calls for improvements to family readiness and various support structures to help them deal with the impact of frequent deployments.  We need strong, effective outreach so that everyone is aware of the assistance available to them, and so that they can properly plan for the emotional difficulties and financial changes when a service member deploys.  We need improvements to child care and education and training and educational opportunities for military spouses so that their family members are cared for, giving them piece of mind while they defend this country.  We also need effective mental health programs so that service members and their families can effectively deal with the unique stresses and strains of wartime service.

We can and must do more to help those who wear the uniform of this great nation.

POW/MIA ISSUES

The VFW has an unwavering commitment to obtaining a fullest possible accounting for those warriors still missing.  This is the most sacred of missions and none of our members will truly rest until we know the whereabouts of every one of our men and women who have served in uniform, even for those who have paid the ultimate price.  We urge full funding for this important mission.

 

Mr. Chairman, I again thank you for the honor to present the VFW’s priorities to you.  I would be happy to answer any questions that you or the members of the committees may have.

 

Economic Stimulus Tax Benefits for Veterans
Many veterans who receive benefits from Veterans Affairs are not required to file a tax return. But they need to this year to get the stimulus payment.  

Did you receive Compensation or Pension or Survivor's Benefits from the Dept of Veteran's Affairs???

Even if you are not otherwise required to file a tax return, you may still be entitled to an

economic stimulus payment from the federal government.

WHAT YOU COULD GET: You could receive a payment of $300 for individuals or $600 if you are

married and file a joint tax return with your spouse. Eligible taxpayers who qualify for a payment

may receive an additional $300 for each qualifying child. To qualify a child must be under age 17 as

of December 31, 2007.

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO: All you have to do to get the stimulus payment is file a 2007 IRS Form

1040 or Form 1040A and report at least $3,000 in qualifying income on the form. You can include

the amount of your VA benefits to qualify for the stimulus payment.

QUALIFYING INCOME: Add the amount of your VA disability compensation, pension, or survivors’

benefits to any other qualifying income you have to reach the $3,000 requirement. Other qualifying

income would include wage earnings or Social Security benefits.

WHAT YOU FILL OUT: Enter your name, address, Social Security Number, and filing status on the

form. Then just enter the amount of VA and Social Security benefits you received on line 14a of the

Form 1040A or line 20a of Form 1040. You can estimate the benefits you receive from VA or the

Social Security Administration by taking the monthly amount you received last year and multiplying

it by the number of months you received payments. If you need to include wage earnings to reach

the $3,000 qualifying level, enter that amount on Line 7 of Form 1040A or 1040. In addition, you

should write the words “Stimulus Payment” at the top of the 1040A or 1040.

IS THE STIMULUS PAYMENT TAXABLE NEXT YEAR? No!

WILL THIS PAYMENT AFFECT THE AMOUNT OF VA BENEFITS YOU RECEIVE? No!

WHEN WILL I RECEIVE MY PAYMENT? For those who file a 2007 tax return, IRS will begin

mailing checks in May.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: In late March 2008, the IRS will mail a packet of information to

recipients of VA benefits who did not file a tax return last year. The packet will contain guidance to

help you claim the stimulus payment. If you need information in the interim, you can visit the IRS

web site at www.IRS.gov or call Toll-Free, 1-800-829-1040 

Army drops disability ratings, aligns with VA

Change mandated by 2008 defense act

By Kelly Kennedy
Posted : February 25, 2008

The Army will no longer use its own disability ratings rules in addition to the Veterans Administration Schedule for Rating Disabilities, according to guidance from Army Brig. Gen. Stephen Jones, commander of the Army Physical Disability Agency.

The policy change may even out some of the differences in ratings assigned by the Army and the Department of Veterans Affairs, which became a contentious issue in the wake of the Walter Reed Medical Center controversy last year.

The change was prompted by a provision of the 2008 Defense Authorization Act that states the services must comply with VA’s disability ratings schedule in assessing injured troops, said Col. Andy Buchanan, Army Physical Disability Agency deputy commander.

Under the new law, all the services will have to update their policies so that their own rules do not override VA’s ratings schedule. Buchanan said Defense Secretary Robert Gates will send guidance to all the services making the change retroactive to Jan. 28, the date President Bush signed the 2008 Defense Authorization Act into law.

Retired Army Lt. Col. Mike Parker, who has long supported equal ratings across the services and VA, and has assisted many service members going through the disability evaluation process, said the change is “huge and long overdue.”

He said the fact that the services were allowed to use their own ratings rules was a major reason military disability ratings often have tended to be lower than VA ratings.

The new policy will change the way the Army rates soldiers for sleep apnea, narcolepsy, joint pain and mental health disorders.

“The Army is taking the most soldier-friendly approach we can within the law,” Buchanan said.

The Army is reviewing personnel separations in January and February to ensure those cases meet the new rules. “This is slowing our cases processing a bit, but it ensures are soldiers are better served in the long run,” Buchanan said.

A memo signed by Dennis Brower, legal adviser for the Army Physical Disability Agency, states that the new rules for rating strictly under the VASRD apply to cases that have not yet been decided or are on appeal.

Service members repeatedly have charged that service policies superseding VA’s ratings schedule often lead to lower disability ratings — and lower payments.

Last April, Eric Christensen of the Center for Naval Analyses presented a comparison of VA and military disability ratings by percentage from 2000 to 2006 to the Veterans’ Disability Benefits Commission. He found that VA tended to rate disabilities at least 7 percent higher — even though VA and the military use the same rating schedules and have the same legal mandates.

For mental health issues, the differences were even more pronounced. Christensen found that the military tends to hand out ratings of 10 percent for bipolar disorder, which the VA ups on average to 38 percent. The military also tends to award 10 percent ratings for major depressive disorder, which the VA ups to 34 percent.

Parker said part of the reason for the differences is that the military tends to add rules. For sleep apnea, for example, VA says anyone using a device to help them sleep should get a disability rating of 50 percent. Military guidance has been more stringent, requiring a person to have “considerable industrial impairment,” regardless of whether they use a device.

The Army policy change also kills a series of previous mental health guidelines that Parker said have been used to “sweep soldiers under the carpet” instead of rating their mental health issues fairly.

He cited as an example the Army’s previous refusal to use what it calls “convalescent ratings.” According to VA, if someone develops a mental disorder because of a highly stressful event that happened in service and is harsh enough to cause the person to leave the military, he should be rated at least 50 percent disabled, discharged and then examined again six months later to see if the rating should be changed.

Previous Army policy stated, “This is essentially a convalescent rating and will not be used.” Instead, the Army parked such soldiers on the temporary disability retirement list.

Critics also have claimed the military has tried to keep ratings low by diagnosing soldiers with “adjustment disorders” — non-ratable disorders that hinder a person in adjusting to military life, or personality disorders that existed before they joined the military.

In both instances, a member can be forced out of the military with no disability retirement benefits. But sometimes, as in several cases last year at Fort Carson, Colo., in which soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries received improper diagnoses.

The old Army policy included a mandate that psychiatrists who diagnose soldiers with mental disorders had to check to see if the condition could qualify as an adjustment disorder, and, if not, they had to fully explain why they were “rejecting” adjustment disorder as a diagnosis.

According to Brower’s memo, the Army has stopped using the following regulations as of Jan. 28:

• The joint-motion rating in Army Regulation 635-40 which requires a mechanical basis for limited range of motion, rather than a service member saying, “That hurts, I can’t move my arm any further,” as the VA requires.

According to the Army’s previous rules, “joint pain resulting in loss of motion does not constitute a mechanical basis for restricted motion.”

• Army Physical Disability Agency Issues and Guidance No. 1, which also pertains to painful joint motion, and states: “Limitation resulting solely from pain is not ratable” — a violation of the VASRD.

Parker said that as far as he is concerned, all of this should have happened “a long time ago.”

PTSD victims no longer need to prove trauma

By Kelly Kennedy

The Veterans Affairs Department has dumped a policy requiring combat vets to verify in writing that they have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event before filing a claim for post-traumatic stress disorder, said the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

“This change provides a fairer process for veterans with service-connected PTSD,” Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, said in a written statement. It “leaves claim adjudicators more time to devote to reducing the staggering backlog of veterans’ claims.”

In the past, a veteran has had to provide written verification — a statement from a commander or doctor, or testimony from co-workers — that he or she was involved in a traumatic situation in order to receive disability compensation for PTSD from VA. The Defense Department uses the same rules in evaluating PTSD for disability retirement pay.

In Iraq, troops joke about keeping a pen and paper on hand in case they witness a shooting or explosion or are injured themselves. That way, they can run around and have all their buddies sign a quick statement saying it really happened. The joke loses steam when a Marine has to prove he was involved in a traumatizing event when he had a hand blown off in that event, or when a soldier has to prove he watched his friends die to qualify for benefits.

The rule also slows the process as veterans wait for yet more documentation before their claims may be processed.

Akaka said he asked VA Secretary James Peake if the rule was necessary, and asked that it be removed. Peake agreed.

“I am pleased that the secretary took quick action to reverse this requirement after it was brought to his attention,” Akaka said.

In the future, veterans will be diagnosed with PTSD through a medical examination with no further proof necessary, Akaka said, adding that he’s been told that Peake has already informed VA regional offices of the decision.

 

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Recent VA News Releases

To view and download VA news releases, please visit the following Internet
address:
http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel

New Members Appointed to VA Panel on Minority Veterans

Peake: Members Represent "Diversity of America"

WASHINGTON (February 12, 2008) -- The Secretary of Veterans Affairs has
announced the appointment of six new members to the Advisory Committee on
Minority Veterans, an expert panel that advises him on issues involving minority
veterans.

"These new members are veterans who represent the diversity of America and are
recognized authorities in areas pertinent to the needs of our veterans," said
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. 

Chartered on January 30, 1995, the committee makes recommendations for administrative
and legislative changes.  The committee members are appointed to one-, two-, or
three-year terms.

The new committee members include retired Army Col. Dr. Doris Browne of
Washington D.C.; Army Reserve Lt. Col. Dr. Irene M. Zoppi of Crofton, Md.;
retired Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Furnie Lambert, Jr. of Maxton, N.C.; retired
Air Force Senior Master Sgt. John W. Jelks of Dale City, Va.; retired Army Spc.
and former POW Shoshana N. Johnson of El Paso, Texas and Navy veteran Alexander
Y. Chan of Fairfax Station, Va.

There are approximately 4.7 million minority veterans in the United States and
its territories.  They make up nearly 19 percent of the total veteran
population. 

VA has minority veterans program coordinators at each VA medical center,
regional office and national cemetery to assist minority veterans with health
and benefits issues.

A list of the full membership of VA's Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans is attached.
   
   
Membership

   VA Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans

* Diego E. Hernandez, Puerto Rican, Miami, Fla., a retired Navy vice admiral,
currently is an active consultant to private and public companies.

* James H. Mukoyama, Jr. (Chair), Japanese American, Glenview, Ill.  A retired
Army Reserve major general, currently the executive vice president and chief
operating officer of Regal Discount Securities in Chicago.

* Julia J. Cleckley, African American, Washington, DC.  A retired Army brigadier
general, currently is the director of armed forces education with the University
Alliance.

* Dr. Doris Browne, African American, Washington, DC.  A retired Army colonel,
currently the senior scientific officer of the Breast and Gynecologic Cancer
Research Group, Division of Cancer Prevention, National Cancer Institute,
Bethesda, Md.

* Reginald Malebranche, Haitian American, Alexandria, Va.  A retired Army
colonel with over thirty-five years of expertise in policy, planning and program management.

* Kerwin E. Miller, African American, Washington, DC.  A retired Navy commander,
currently serves as the first director of the newly-established District of
Columbia office of veterans affairs, within the executive office of the mayor.

* Joe C. Nuņez, Mexican American, Littleton, Colo.  A retired Air Force
lieutenant colonel, currently works for the Department of Health and Human
Services as a Regional Director.

* Dr. Irene M. Zoppi, Hispanic American, Crofton, Md.  An Army Reserve
lieutenant colonel, currently an adjunct professor at the College of Notre Dame,
Strayer University, and the Command General Staff College.

* Furnie Lambert, Jr., American Indian of the Lumbee Tribe, Maxton, N.C.  A
retired Marine master gunnery sergeant, currently serves as the chairman of
Veterans Affairs Committee for the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina.

* John W. Jelks, African American, Dale City, Va.  A retired Air Force senior
master sergeant, currently the coordinator for National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

* Debra L. Wilson, Lakota Sioux, Tahlequah, Okla.  A former Marine Corps staff
sergeant, currently works as a compliance officer for the Cherokee Nation gaming
commission.

* Nelson N. Angapak, Sr., Alaskan Native, Anchorage, Ala.  An Army veteran,
currently is the executive vice president of the Alaska Federation of Natives.

* Shoshana N. Johnson, Black Hispanic American, El Paso, Texas.  A retired Army
specialist who is the first black female POW in the U.S. history and currently
conducts speaking engagements across the country discussing her experience as a
POW in Iraq.

* Alexander Y. Chan, Asian American, Fairfax Station, Va.  A Navy veteran,
currently a senior enforcement officer and certified internal auditor in the
Federal Communications Commission's Enforcement Bureau.

* James T. McLawhorn, Jr., African American, Columbia, S.C.  Currently the
president and chief executive officer of the Columbia Urban League in South
Carolina.
    #   #   #

VA Distributes 2008 Insurance Dividends

 

VA has announced that more than a million veterans are in line to share $349 million in annual insurance dividends during 2008.

 

The dividend payments will be sent to an estimated 1.1 million holder of VA insurance policies on the anniversary date of their policies.  Sent automatically through different payment plans, the amounts will vary based on the age of the veteran, the type of insurance, and the length of time the policy has been in force.  The dividends come from the earnings of trust funds into which veterans have paid insurance premiums over the years, and are linked to returns on investments in U.S. government securities.

 

VA officials caution veterans about a long-running scam in which various groups charge fees to “locate” veterans who are eligible for the dividends.  Veterans eligible for the dividends have had VA life insurance policies in effect since they left the military and have received annual notifications from VA about those policies.

 

Dividends are paid each year to veterans holding certain government life insurance policies and who served between 1917 and 1956.  World War II veterans holding National Service Life Insurance (“V”) policies comprise the largest group receiving 2008 insurance dividend payments.  They are expected to receive $296.6 million.

 

Veterans who have questions about their policies may contact the VA Insurance toll-free number at 1-800-669-8477, or send an e-mail to VAinsurance@va.gov