News

New Social Security Changes May Cut Off Benefits For Disabled Recipients

January 14, 2020

If enacted, new changes to federal disability assistance may mean many more case reviews and therefore case denials for current disability benefits recipients.

According to an article published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “The federal government is accepting public comments on the proposal until the end of January. Under the proposal, millions of more reviews would be conducted and hundreds of thousands of people would have reviews more frequently. Anyone applying for Social Security Disability Insurance, Supplemental Security Income or both already faces a lengthy and complex application process that can take years to complete. Once approved, recipients are already subject to what’s called continuing disability review. The proposal would create an additional review category where cases would be reviewed every two years.”

Officials from the Social Security Administration declined to comment on any proposed rulemaking or legislation. Critics have claimed that the agency has failed to provide any explanation about its process for selecting which recipients will get additional reviews.

Relevant pages: Social Security Disability

Categories: Social Security Disability



Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 Claims Now Being Decided



This month the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that they had begun the claims decision process for veterans exposed to toxins such as Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

According to an article published by Sierra Sun Times, “The [Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019] extends the presumption of herbicide exposure, that include toxins such as Agent Orange, to veterans who served in the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Signed into law Jun. 25, the law specifically affects Blue Water Navy (BWN) Veterans who served no more than 12 nautical miles offshore of the Republic of Vietnam between Jan. 6, 1962 and May 7, 1975, as well as Veterans who served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between Jan. 1, 1967 and Aug. 31, 1971.”

If the above-mentioned veterans suffer from one of 14 conditions (that are presumed to be related to exposure to herbicides) they can now apply for disability benefits without needing to prove that they were exposed.

When asked about the decision process, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said, “For six months, [the] VA worked diligently to gather and digitize records from the National Archives and Records Administration to support faster claims decisions…These efforts will positively impact the claims process for Veterans filing for these benefits.”

Relevant pages: Veterans Disability

Categories: Veterans Benefits



Military Records Will Now Show Service Member’s Blast Exposure

January 10, 2020

U.S military medical records will now document service member’s blast exposures in an attempt to aid and inform future medical treatments and VA benefits eligibility.

According to an article published by Connecting Vets, “Troops are often exposed to explosions and the concussive wave that they produce. This can include soldiers who work around artillery, infantrymen working with explosive breaching charges, Explosive Ordinance Techs who destroy munitions, and many other occupations in the military. Additionally, soldiers are sometimes caught near detonations in combat, often caused by Improvised Explosive Devices. These explosions can result in a physiological disorder called Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI which the Center for Disease Control defines as, “a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury. Everyone is at risk for a TBI, especially children, and older adults.”

The Department of Defense is now required to track blast exposure, durations, and if possible, blast pressure readings as outlined by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Relevant pages: Veterans Disability

Categories: Veterans Benefits



Malaria Drug Research Expected to Release Results in March

January 8, 2020

This year, a panel of researchers and scientists plan to publish the results of a year-long study that looked at anti-malarial drugs given to U.S. troops suspected to have caused serious mental and physical health symptoms. These results are greatly anticipated by former service members and Peace Corps volunteers who claim that their debilitating health symptoms were caused by malaria preventive drugs issued to them.

According to an article published by Military Times, “At the request of the Department of Veterans Affairs, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine researchers are examining existing scientific literature to determine whether anti-malaria drugs, including mefloquine, also known as Lariam, cause brain damage, neurological conditions or psychiatric disorders.”

Service members told members how their lives have been deeply affected by the drug at a scientific panel meeting last year with symptoms including vivid dreams, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and “brain fog”, and vertigo.

Relevant pages: Veterans Disability

Categories: Veterans Benefits



Air Force Funds Efforts to Stop PFAS Water Contamination in Montgomery County

January 7, 2020

According to an announcement made by officials last week, the Air Force will spend an excess of $2 million in order to permanently eradicate PFAS-contaminated water from local waterways which has been flowing from a former Montgomery County base.

According to an article published by The Philadelphia Inquirer, “The agreement to fund the fix comes after more than two years of requests from local residents and officials to address the highly contaminated water that has flowed off the former Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove and into local creeks.”

PFAS contaminated water has proven to be linked to various health conditions and affects millions of individuals across the country, including thousands in Bucks County and Montgomery County.

Categories: Wolf and Brown News



Solid Start Program Launched for Newly Separated Veterans

January 6, 2020

A new initiative launched by the Department of Veterans Affairs promises to contact troops recently separated from the military in order to educate them about benefits and support services available to them.

According to an article published by MilitaryTimes.com, “The Solid Start program, which began earlier this month, includes three calls from VA officials to new veterans in their first year of separation to “help you better understand the benefits available to you and help you get a solid start on your civilian life.”

The new program is estimated to reach out to around 200,000 individuals per year. Department officials say the first call can be expected within 90 days of separation and will include an in-depth conversation about goals and challenges in an effort to better understand what services the VA can provide to them.

Relevant pages: Veterans Disability

Categories: Veterans Benefits



New Social Security Disability Benefits Rules

January 3, 2020

For people with disabilities, the Trump Administration is proposing new rules that could potentially terminate benefits for thousands of people.

According to an article published by Tennesean.com, the process is known as a “continuing disability review” and will require frequent administrative checks of individuals receiving Social Security disability payments.

The proposed changes have caused some distress for advocates and people with disabilities. They are calling it a “backdoor way” to eliminate disabled individuals from a program that is already under scrutiny for taking lengthy periods (sometimes years) to review disability claims and wrongly denying benefits.

Social Security Administration officials say the plan would “enhance program integrity and ensure that only those who continue to qualify for benefits will receive them.”

Relevant pages: Social Security Disability

Categories: Social Security Disability



‘Healing PTSD’ Stamp Raises Funds for Veterans

December 23, 2019

This month, the United States Postal Service (USPS) released a new commemorative “Healing PTSD” stamp to help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The proceeds will be donated to the National Center for PTSD and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

According to an article published by the MilitaryTimes, “The image on the stamp, created by Mark Laita and Greg Breeding, features a sprouting green plant surrounded by withered leaves, a design meant to elicit feelings of growth, healing, and hope, the release said.

The vice-chairman of the Postal Service’s Board of Governors, David C. Williams, said “The Postal Service is honored to issue this semipostal stamp as a powerful symbol of the healing process, growth, and hope for tens of millions of Americans who experience PTSD…Today, with the issuance of this stamp, the nation renews its commitment to raise funds to help treat soldiers, veterans, first responders, health care providers and other individuals dealing with this condition.”

PTSD Stamp by U.S. Postal Service

(U.S. Postal Service)

Relevant pages: Veterans Disability

Categories: Veterans Benefits



New Funding Bill Demands VA to Reveal Plans for Adding Agent Orange Diseases to List

December 20, 2019

A federal funding bill that was introduced this month will require Veterans Affairs leaders and lawmakers to reveal plans regarding the addition of new diseases to the Agent Orange presumptive conditions list.

According to an article published by the Military Times, “The legislation includes a provision requiring VA to report to Congress within 30 days the reasons for a two-year delay in announcing any decisions, a cost estimate for adding new diseases and the date VA plans implement a decision. Although the bill doesn’t name the conditions under consideration, the list includes bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinson’s-like tremors, and hypertension. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in 2016 said there is suggestive evidence that the first three diseases are linked to herbicide exposure. Meanwhile, in November 2018, the Academies said sufficient evidence exists to connect hypertension and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, or MGUS, a blood disorder that can cause some cancers, to defoliants.”

Relevant pages: Veterans Disability

Categories: Veterans Benefits



Disabled Vets Exposed to Radiation from 1966 Nuke Disaster Can Sue for Benefits

December 12, 2019

Last week, an appeals court ruled that disabled veterans exposed to radiation while cleaning up a 1966 nuclear bomb disaster are now eligible to sue for disability benefits for their related illnesses as part of a class-action suit.

According to an article published by the AirforceTimes, “The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims issued a 6-3 decision in the case Skaar v. Wilkie certifying the class of veterans, who have been denied disability benefits for illnesses they have suffered as a result of their service in Palomares, Spain. About 1,600 veterans deployed thereafter a B-52 Stratofortress bomber collided in mid-air with a refueling tanker and crashed. Four hydrogen bombs were released, and two exploded conventionally, littering the countryside with radioactive plutonium dust.”

Relevant pages: Veterans Disability

Categories: Veterans Benefits