News

New VA appeals process promises to be quicker

This week the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) officially switched their benefits appeals process to a new system that promises more clarity and quicker decisions for the 1-million-plus cases handled annually.

VA leaders are describing the move to the new process as another expansion of “choice” for veterans. At a launch event on Tuesday, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie stated that the move was “the greatest transformation event in the history of the department”.

The new changes will essentially shorten wait times for appeals decisions and simplify the process, eventually removing the backlog of over 400,000 cases in the system.

According to an article published by Military Times, “Veterans can choose one of three options for their appeals — a supplemental claim (introducing evidence left out of the initial decision), a review by a senior official (“calling the manager to complain,” as one advocate called it), and a direct line to the Board of Veterans Appeals, where a panel of judges will rule on the case.”

The first two options have a goal of 125 days in total and the third has a target goal of one year. VA officials are promising that all three will be significantly faster than the old system, where veterans face typical wait times of three to seven years.

To learn more about the new VA process, click here.


“Blue Water” veterans may finally be entitled to Agent Orange disability benefits

A recent federal appeals court ruling could expand disability benefits to Navy Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange, a chemical weapon known to cause serious health problems in those exposed.

After realizing the deadly long-term health impacts Agent Orange had on those who served, Congress passed the Agent Orange Act of 1991 in an attempt to provide some financial relief.

However, in an article published by WCPO 9, the Department of Veterans Affairs continued to deny claims by “Blue Water” veterans, saying that only soldiers present on the Vietnamese mainland would have reasonably been exposed to the substance.

Although the VA may still continue to fight the recent federal court’s ruling extending benefits to “Blue Water” veterans, it will need the support of the Supreme Court of the United States to succeed.

For more information on this court ruling, click here.

Veterans’ Disability COLA Act reintroduced

This month, the Veterans’ Disability Compensation Automatic Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) Act was reintroduced by Senators Brian Schatz and John Thune. This reintroduction requires federal government to provide disabled veterans with an automatic COLA in years when there is an increase in disability insurance benefits payable under title II of the Social Security Act.

“Every year Congress has to pass legislation to make sure disabled veterans receive a COLA. Enacting this bill would…allow Congress and Veterans Service Organizations to focus their efforts on other needed reforms to deliver for our veterans.” said Senator John Thune on the Veterans’ Disability Compensation Automatic COLA Act.

According to Big Island Now, the veterans’ COLA does not happen automatically, but is instead enacted each year. Additionally, the bill is budget-neutral which will provide disabled veterans added certainty from year to year.

To learn more about the Veterans’ Disability Compensation Automatic COLA Act and how it affects you, click here.

The SSA requests public feedback on pain evaluation

Applying for social security disability insurance (SSDI) can be a lengthy and complicated process, especially since chronic pain is considered a subjective condition.

With appeals by disabled applicants commonly denied, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is now realizing the challenge that this poses and has begun taking steps to correct this by requesting public feedback.

The SSA is asking both adult and child disability claim applicants about how it currently considers pain and the documentation of it. These responses will be used to determine whether the SSA should revise its policy regarding pain evaluation.

According to an article published by The Mighty, the “potential problem with the current process is that pain is largely subjective, and many chronic pain conditions lack a definitive diagnostic test.” This can make it problematic for both applicants and health care providers to submit “evidence” of the person’s medical condition.

To learn more about the SSA’s pain evaluation process, click here.

New VA rule grants veterans access to private health care

In the most recent rule change released by the Department of Veterans Affairs, veterans who live as little as a 30-minute drive from a VA health care facility will be able to opt for private care instead.

A New York Times article states that in order for veterans to take advantage of these benefits, they must be able to prove that a VA clinic is at least a 30-minute drive from their home. If they are able to prove this, they will be allowed to seek primary care and mental health services from private institutions outside of the department’s system.

The new policy, which will likely be effective in June, is aimed at providing veterans with quality care and easier, streamlined access to health care.

To learn more about this rule change, click here.

Military base water contamination claims denied

The Department of the Navy has announced that they will deny all civil claims made by people who were exposed to contaminated drinking water at a major US Marine Corps base.

According to an article published by CNN.com, hazardous chemicals were accidentally introduced into drinking wells from the 1950s to the 1980s located at Camp Lejeune, a military base in Jacksonville, North Carolina. The claims by some 4,400 claimants, allege personal injury or wrongful death resulting from exposure to these harmful chemicals. The total amount claimed was approximately $963 billion, including a single claim for $900 billion.

Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, said that the decision to deny the claims was made mostly due to a court decision that found similar claims against the US government were not exempted from the principle of sovereign immunity, thus restricting the type of law suits that can be brought against the government.

To learn more, click here.

Blue Water Navy bill gains traction

A court ruling that went against opposition from the Department of Veterans Affairs caused a bipartisan push in Congress on a bill to get Agent Orange benefits for “Blue Water Navy” veterans.

This court ruling could extend benefits and health care to an estimated 90,000 veterans who served off the coast of Vietnam.

However, in an article published by the Military Times, the VA states that it has yet to decide whether to appeal the decision or continue to oppose congressional efforts to pass the “Blue Water Navy” veterans bill.

According to a VA spokesman, the “VA is reviewing this decision and will determine an appropriate response,”.

Click here to keep an eye on this important news for veterans.

Veterans discriminated against by the bankruptcy code

The current bankruptcy code by Congress excludes disabled veterans from being classified amongst other disabled Americans. This makes the process for bankrupt veterans a much longer, and more difficult one.

The “current monthly income” definition prevents disabled veterans from being classified as Chapter 7 cases and instead classifies them as Chapter 13 cases. Chapter 7 (also know as Liquidation) is a traditionally fast process, but Chapter 13 (Reorganization), can take anywhere from three to five years to resolve.

However, according to an article published by The Hill, the Honoring American Veterans in Extreme Need (HAVEN) Act promises a “simple fix” to this problem. 

Click here to learn more about HAVEN and how it can help veterans in need.

New VA claims appeals program promises to reduce processing times

The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced a new program for appealing disability claims decisions that is due to begin on February 19th, 2019.

According to the Military Times, the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) will be a vast improvement in the claims appeals process. This new procedure will aim to reduce the delays veterans face when appealing the VA’s decisions on disability claims.

Click here to learn more about the RAMP program and how it affects veterans.

Shorter Wait Times at VA Hospitals and Clinics

An article recently published by the Military Times stated that wait times at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics are now shorter than those in private-sector health care institutions.

According to a study conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in major cities across the country, these wait times have decreased significantly on average from recent years.

To learn more about this important veterans news, click here.