COVID-19 Update: We are actively serving our clients and welcoming new clients while conducting all business by telephone.

News

Delays Continue on VA’s Hospital Rating System

January 19, 2021

Veterans are complaining that the Department of Veterans Affairs has yet to deliver on its promise to create a more transparent way to compare the quality of its hospitals with others. This information is important because it helps veterans confirm that they are getting quality care that is comparable to other providers and also highlights the areas in which VA healthcare needs to improve.

According to Stars and Stripes “Public online quarterly reports that measured 46 categories of VA hospital issues, such as infection and mortality rates, have not been updated since 2019, though VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said they would be. At the same time, the VA has dumped its hospital rating system that awarded one to five stars for quality and replaced it with incomplete or confusing information, some veterans say.”

Relevant pages: Veterans Disability

Categories: Veterans Disability News

Author: Michael Brown





VA Benefit Overpayment Notices to Resume

January 6, 2021

This month, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that they will be resuming benefit overpayment notifications and all veterans who received benefit overpayments in 2020 are now responsible for paying them back.

According to an article published by 8 News, “The VA announced Wednesday that it is resuming its mailing notification letters to veterans for benefit overpayments that were suspended from April 3 to Jan. 1, 2021. According to a release, the collection of these overpayments was deferred to provide financial relief to veterans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Have questions? You may submit a request or call 800-827-0648 for more information (call volume is generally lower Tuesday – Friday).

Relevant pages: Veterans Disability

Categories: Veterans Disability News

Author: Wolf & Brown Law Offices





Happy Holidays from the Wolf & Brown Team

December 23, 2020

We wish you and yours a happy (and safe!) holiday season. We will be closed on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24), Christmas Day (Dec. 25), and New Year’s Day (Jan. 1), but you can always contact us anytime. We will respond as soon as possible when we return.

 

Categories: Wolf and Brown News

Author: Wolf & Brown Law Offices





Veterans With Serious Cases of COVID-19 to be Eligible VA Disability Benefits

December 21, 2020

As part of new legislation approved by Congress this month, veterans who have tested positive for COVID-19 while on duty and suffered disability or death, will be entitled to VA benefits.

According to an article published by Military Times, “A provision in the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020 designates COVID-19 as a presumptive illness – a descriptor that paves the way for affected service members or veterans who suffer long-term consequences of the virus to receive compensation and benefits. To be eligible for disability, the individual must have served on active duty for more than 48 hours at one time and developed the illness during service or within 14 days after the qualifying period of duty.”

Relevant pages: Veterans Disability

Categories: Veterans Disability News

Author: Matthew Brown





Social Security Administration’s New Proposal May Prevent Benefits for Older Americans

December 9, 2020

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently sent a proposal to President Trump’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that may likely prevent hundreds of thousands of American citizens from receiving Social Security benefits.

According to an article published by The Hill, “The document that leaked suggests the proposal could ultimately prevent as many as 500,000 Americans from receiving benefits. [The] proposal, as described in press reports, would make it harder for older workers to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. By law (not regulation), SSA is required to consider age, education, and work experience when determining whether a person meets the statutory definition of disability.”

Relevant pages: Social Security Disability

Categories: Social Security Disability News

Author: Michael Brown





Lawmakers Push for Military Records Processing to Resume

December 8, 2020

After an almost complete halt in operations due to the pandemic, congress members are desperately urging the National Personnel Records Center (based in St. Louis) to resume military records request processing.

According to an article published by Military.com, “Led by Reps. Van Taylor, R-Texas, and Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., the group expressed dismay that the center, which falls under the National Archive and Records Administration, pared its staff down to less than 10% of full strength Nov. 7 and announced its effective closure except for emergencies. This follows a similar closure from March 23 to June 23 this year due to COVID-19. There’s no indication from the center on when full operations will resume.”

Relevant pages: Veterans Disability

Categories: Veterans Disability News

Author: Matthew Brown





VA Blames Agent Orange Care Study Delays on Pandemic

December 4, 2020

Early last year, the Department of Veterans Affairs stated that their goal was to make a decision on whether to extend care and benefits to veterans affected by Agent Orange. Now, more than a year later, the VA has announced that the decision won’t be made for at least six more months.

According to an article published by Radio.com, “On Nov. 17, VA Press Secretary Christina Noel said in a statement that the department had no announcements on changes to the list of presumptive Agent Orange conditions or updates on the two internal studies which Secretary Robert Wilkie said previously would be key in his decision. That list of “presumptive” conditions includes all of the illnesses VA recognizes as service-connected diseases related to the toxic herbicide and therefore provides coverage and benefits for. Days later, however, Noel told Connecting Vets that a decision is unlikely before mid-2021, when the results of the studies are now expected.”

Relevant pages: Veterans Disability

Categories: Veterans Disability News

Author: Michael Brown





VA’s decision to shutdown in-house compensation and pension exams raises concerns

December 3, 2020

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ plan to shut down in-house compensation and pension exams is raising serious concerns amongst ex-employees and lawmakers alike.

According to an article published by Stars and Stripes, “In addition to concerns about the backlog, lawmakers are worried about the quality of exams performed by contractors. [Senators] argued that contractors had less experience evaluating veterans’ unique conditions and could misdiagnose them, leading to an increase in appeals.”

Relevant pages: Veterans Disability

Categories: Veterans Disability News

Author: Matthew Brown





VA Continues to Deny Healthcare to Veterans With Toxic Exposure

November 23, 2020

According to Dr. Patricia Hastings, chief consultant for post-deployment health services at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), more scientific information is needed in order for the VA to confirm or correctly assume the possible or known long-term adverse health effects caused by toxic exposure.

However, according to an article published by Stars and Stripes, “[Recently] declassified Defense Department documents show the Pentagon knew troops were exposed to multiple toxins and hazards that have led to hundreds of cancer cases and dozens of dead veterans after deploying to the Karshi-Khanabad Air Base, known as K2, in Uzbekistan in the early days of the War on Terror.”

House lawmakers continue to be frustrated by the agency’s continued unwillingness to provide healthcare to veterans who have been exposed to toxic substances during service.

Relevant pages: Veterans Disability

Categories: Veterans Disability News

Author: Wolf & Brown Law Offices





Wolf and Brown Secures Service-Connection for Vietnam-Era Veteran

November 11, 2020

Matthew J. Brown, Esquire, the accredited VA attorney for the Veterans Department at Wolf & Brown, successfully secured a favorable decision and settlement for a Vietnam-era veteran, who has been denied service-connection since 1968.

The crux of the veteran’s appeal was whether he was “boots on the ground,” serving in the Republic of Vietnam, during the war effort, to be an entitlement to the presumption of exposure to herbicide, or more commonly known as Agent Orange. The veteran’s hurdle in proving he served in-country was due to the secret nature of his missions in Vietnam.

The veteran’s military occupational specialty was as a teletype interceptor. He was trained by the National Security Agency, for the purpose of serving with the Army Security Agency, in an effort to support the forces serving in Vietnam.

For historical background, in 1965, the U.S. was concerned about the North Vietnamese Army continued attacks further into the Republic of Vietnam and in response, General Westmoreland recommended combining

the strengths of the Army and Marine forces, together with the support of air and naval forces to support the existing level of U.S. aid.

The need for in-country analysts and equipment was highlighted during Operation Silver Bayonet, wherein the 1st Cavalry Division and Republic of Vietnam forces launched a pursuit operation against two regiments of the North Vietnamese 325th Division. It was learned that a high rate of disclosures of communication frequencies, operational plans, and intelligence formation was being disclosed by the 1st Cavalry themselves; thus, compelling the Joint Chiefs of Staff to order the shipment of all available voice encryption devices to Vietnam to help stem the tide of COMSEC violations.

The 371st RRC, formed by the United States Army Security Agency in 1962, was attached or assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division for most of its life. It is this division that it saw wartime service in the Republic of Vietnam from 1966 to 1971. The unit rosters were filled utilizing temporary duty (TDY) assignments. The reason for not utilizing full-time deployment assignments was fear of exposing installation teams to enemy attack outweighed the intelligence gathered. The mission of the 371st was to provide combat information to the Division Commander in pursuit of his mission. The company served well and faithfully, earning two Presidential Unit Citations, four Meritorious Unit Commendations, and one Valorous Unit Award.

The veteran has a TDY travel from his duty station to the 371st RRC. However, because of the nature of his military occupation code (MOS), his TDY assignment was never recorded, and his in-country service never documented.

Wolf and Brown successfully argued at a hearing before a Veterans Law Judge, that absent direct evidence of in-country service, the veteran has presented substantial, probative, and relevant evidence documenting his association with the United States Army Security Agency (ASA), his training for the documented MOS, relevant testimony supported by the evidence of record, and also corroborative evidence from his family, treating doctors, service records, and historical researcher that tends to prove by a preponderance of the evidence the veteran served in-country and should be extended the presumption of exposure to Agent Orange and recognized for his in-country service.

And in a Board of Veterans Appeals decision dated September 9, 2020, the veteran was rightfully awarded entitlement to the presumption of exposure to Agent Orange, and collaterally entitlement to service-connection for his claimed presumptive conditions.

This case stands out for Wolf and Brown as the veteran, for over 53 years, was “ashamed” to wear any identifiable clothing that he was a service-member and proudly served his country in Vietnam. We are now proudly able to state, with affirmation, the veteran is now recognized by the Veterans Administration as a Vietnam veteran who valiantly served his country.

Categories: Veterans Disability News

Author: Wolf & Brown Law Offices