27 November 2015

Tricare Can Pay for Medical Travel for C-123 Vets With Agent Orange Illnesses*

Combat-Related Special Compensation Travel Benefit - offered to C-123 Vets who are military retirees with Agent Orange Illnesses!

Are you a retired military?
Were you awarded Combat-Related Special Compensation? CRSC is available for Agent Orange-related illnesses such as prostate cancer, IHD, diabetes, soft tissue sarcoma, ALS and other problems.
If you answered yes to both of these questions, you probably qualify for the combat-related special compensation (CRSC) travel benefit.

What is the CRSC Travel Benefit?

If you have to travel more than 100 miles for specialty care related to your combat-related disability, the CRSC travel benefit reimburses your travel expensesThe actual costs incurred while traveling, including meals, gas, tolls, parking and tickets for public transportation (i.e., airplane, train, bus, etc.).. If you need to see a specialist but need to travel 100 miles or more...Tricare can cover your expenses.

How do you qualify for the benefit?

To qualify, you must:
  • Get retired pay 
  • Be awarded a CRSC determination letter from AFMC’s CRSC Board identifying your combat-related disability or disabilities
  • Live in the United States
  • Be covered by TRICARE Standard and Extra or TRICARE For Life
  • Get a referral from your provider for specialty care related to the combat-related disability
  • Travel more than 100 miles from your referring provider's office to get the care
Note: If you're enrolled in TRICARE Prime or the US Family Health Plan, you qualify for the TRICARE Prime Travel Benefit, so you won't qualify for the CRSC Travel Benefit.

What can be reimbursed?

Only costs for actual travel expenses such as lodging, fuel (rather than mileage), meals, parking, tolls or other costs associated with getting the specialty care.
  • You must use the least costly mode of transportation 
  • Government rates are used to estimate the reasonable costs for allowable expenses
Please contact your TRICARE Regional Office for more information about reimbursable expenses and authorization requirements.

26 November 2015

VA Forbids C-123 Veterans' Retroactive Compensation Due Our Agent Orange Claims

In June 2015, VA published its Interim Final Rule (IFR) which recognized C-123 Agent Orange exposures. It set the date for honoring C-123 claims as June 19 2015. It has been interpreted to deny C-123 veterans' retroactive benefits for claims filed even years before the Interim Final Rule.

Years earlier, VA regional claims offices and the Board of Veterans Appeals had started receiving C-123 exposure claims with virtually all being denied. But not all.

Honored before the June 2015 Interim Final Rule were claims from Paul Bailey and Dick Matte (74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Westover) and a handful of others from Hanscom and Rickenbacker. Just a few honored versus dozens denied.

Why were at least some honored? Because over the years that C-123 vets began experiencing Agent Orange illnesses at least some VA claims officers and BVA adjudicators obeyed the law. At least a very few claims (we've only found five) were properly interpreted by claims officers and BVA adjudicators who resisted HQ VA pressures and considered the evidence of DOD, CDC, US Public Health Service and other expert input. The law and VA 21-1MR were obeyed and at least these few claims honored. Here's why:
66 Fed. Reg. 23166 (May 8, 2001). VA explained for non-Vietnam veterans exposed to an herbicide agent defined in 38 C.F.R. 3.307(a)(6) during active military service and with diseases on the list of presumptive service connection (which includes diabetes mellitus type II and ischemic heart disease), VA will presume that the diseases are due to the exposure. 66 Fed. Reg. 23166; 38 C.F.R.  3.309(e).“ 
It turns out that one of the two the Interim Final Rule accomplishments was to make clear the legal "veteran" status of exposed C-123 maintainers and aircrew, but that was already accomplished by earlier Federal Register postings and binding Office of General Counsel precedential opinions.

The other major accomplishment of the Interim Final Rule was to block retroactive benefit awards due C-123 veterans!

Thats right...the VA's new rule served principally just to clean up the VA's opposition to our claims and to prevent our retroactive compensation due all veterans whose claims sit before the VA for years while the Department stalls. 

The loss to our veterans? In some cases, up to $200,000 each! Our claims, many filed as early as 2007 but denied justice until June 18 2015, are denied the retroactive compensation which the few C-123 claims honored before the IFR received in full, as per the law and federal circuit court actions.

We're now denied retroactive compensation which all other veterans receive once VA honors their claims.

In 2013, before the IFR was imposed on us, one of the men I worked with was overcome with emotion when he called to say the VA had deposited the $120,000 due him in retroactive compensation, money due him from the date VA first received his claim.

But this can't happen today. Even though we flew the former Agent Orange spray C-123 in manday status or annual tour (thus meeting the law's "active duty" definition described above) VA has maneuvered us out of all compensation due each of us...compensation dated from the submission of our disability claims to the VA. Even DOD regulations and VA's own rules say we were veterans once we were exposed to Agent Orange while on manday or annual tour status, but not VA today as they act behind their IFR action!

FulI Disclosure: I'm retired military and already VA 100% disabled so none of the VA's C-123 actions affect me...I'm already receiving all the VA owes me and it all comes out of my AF retirement. But anyone else in my situation, as an example, with a claim filed in May 2011 and with a total disability with special circumstances, would be due around $236,000.

But our vets won't ever see their retroactive pay, thanks to the sneaky Interim Final Rule. In at least a few situations prior to June 2015, such as with Bailey and Matte, our vets' claims were properly resolved and their retroactive pay due them was awarded. But after June 2015...not a penny will anyone ever see.

VA disregarded dozens of suggestions posted in the Federal Register prior to implementation of the IFR...just as they'd already decided to do. VA ignored our having established veteran status per the law, and instead pretended it had to construct veteran status for us and further pretended their action prohibited all retroactive compensation.

And that was their intent all along. VA was faced with the inevitable recognition of C-123 veterans'
exposure claims once the C-123 January 2015 report was released from the Institute of Medicine. VA stalled for six more months so as to block claims then, faced with action by several senators to block confirmations, yielded to permit the claims but also slapped us in the face with their scheme to block retroactive claims which we'd been waiting patiently for over these years.

Sneaky. And very wrong!

Here's what we've said to VA leaders:
A great deal of Reserve flying is accomplished in "man day" status, distinct from Annual Tour, Unit Training Assembly and Additional Flight Training Period status. Frequently, these man day tours were between a week and a month long, sometimes several times a year to accomplish cross-country or overseas airlift. 
DOD policy and AF Instruction 39-2619 state that man day tours are considered regular active duty tours, however brief. Thus, shouldn't C-123 Agent Orange exposures experienced during these periods of active duty tours entitle affected Reservists to the same presumptive service connection as other servicemembers in other active duty periods? The precedential opinions come into play here, I believe. 
If not, in what way are these Reservists' exposure injuries during man day active duty tours disqualifying as regards VA care and benefits for other active duty situations? Can I have an explanation to better inform our membership? 
Doesn't the Interim Final Rule seem to serve principally to limit (as to the June 19 2015 date) rather than facilitate, VA benefits, at least in some situations? 
It would be great if VA acted on our complaint but that's not likely. Instead, we'll have to continue bringing this injustice to the attention of our legislators and veterans organizations, and perhaps to another forum with authority to direct VA to do the right thing! Stay tuned.

25 November 2015

Shamed St. Paul VA executive "demoted" to highly desired job at troubled Phoenix VA Regional Office

St Paul Administrator Ms. Kim Graves

– Embattled former St. Paul veterans benefits director Kim Graves is being moved a lesser (but one still highly desired and richly rewarded) VA job in Phoenix, senior House Veterans Affairs Committee officials said Tuesday.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said last week that they demoted Graves to assistant director after the department’s Inspector General found she orchestrated a move to Minnesota from the East Coast and received $130,000 in moving expenses. She also kept her high $173,949 salary, even though her VBA responsibilities in St. Paul were greatly diminished.
After the inspector general’s findings, Graves was forced to testify in Washington. She pleaded the Fifth Amendment in front of the committee, in order to avoid making any self-incriminating statements.
The inspector general’s report, which uncovered similar instances of potential misconduct from other administrators, drew intense and bipartisan criticism in Washington, where VA officials have been scrambling to correct the problems.
Top VA officials in Washington reassigned Graves to the assistant director position in Phoenix, a much larger organization, VA officials told the House Committee.
Graves will take a pay cut, too, though will likely make more than $100,000 a year.
Kay Anderson, the current assistant director in St. Paul, has taken over the helm of the regional benefits office.
The VA has not commented on the shuffling and has not taken steps to make Graves pay back her relocation allowance to St. Paul. It was not clear whether she would get another relocation stipend to move to Arizona.
Graves and other administrators identified in the inspector general’s report could still face criminal prosecution.

Allison Sherry • 202-383-6120

24 November 2015

Salisbury VA Hospital Given "High Marks" Following Inspection. Justified? I don't think so.

I disagree completely with the satisfactory inspection score...VA termed it "high marks"...given the
Salisbury NC VA Medical Center by a hospital accreditation commission. I'm a former health services administrator so perhaps I was more critical, but I' prefer not to seek care at Salsbury if I could find it elsewhere.

“We are continually striving to provide the best care we possibly can to our Veterans, and we take that obligation and privilege to heart,” stated Salisbury administrators. However, in my visits to that hospital I've seen little to prove it.

My observations:
• a six-hour wait in the Emergency Department for a simple request for prescription refills
• a television in the ED showing nothing but white noise
• hard plastic chairs in the ED, providing very uncomfortable seating for patients having to wait so long to see a physician
• a physician I met stated the services at Salisbury seemed of a lower quality than other North Carolina VA hospitals and suggested it reflected the VA disregard for this facility which I understood to have the state's highest percentage of minority patients
• no refreshments, other than discount colas behind a steel bar security barrier, priced at $1.50/can
• no books or magazines in the ED
• no patient transportation between far-flung buildings
• a patient canteen open only limited hours, and a long walk from most other buildings
• a very worn and tired appearance, older buildings, poor landscaping
• I saw no volunteer services, but such services may have been offered in other areas I didn't visit
• I saw patients in the ED who'd waited hours, and who decided to instead carpool to the Asheville VA hospital (about two hours away) expecting they'd be seen earlier at that better VA hospital
• I couldn't find a cup of coffee, nor could I find the veterans service organizations I needed to visit

Seven Dates = years of VA blocking C-123 Agent Orange exposure claims

I'd like to put seven events before veterans, our legislators and the public to illustrate VBA's tortuous and wrong-headed struggle to prevent C-123 veterans' Agent Orange claims. VA dragged out justice for years, with acts I feel violated VA21-1MR, VA's pro-veteran duty, the VA duty to process claims in a non-adversarial manner, the Veterans Claims Assistance Act and the Due Process Clause in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.

This is an important matter because VA's misdeeds denied our veterans up to $150,000 in retroactive compensation generally awarded other Agent Orange veterans once claims are resolved. Plus, C-123 vets were denied years of vital medical care. Important issue, because it shows VA disregard for its own regulations and obligation for a pro-veteran perspective.

1. VBA's Agent Orange desk repeatedly informs veterans that JSRRC confirmation is required to acknowledge claims, saying VA cannot act and citing VA21-1MR requirements for JSRRC report
2. March 12 2013: VBA Agent Orange desk receives JSRRC director's confirmation of evidence for C-123 Agent Orange exposure which cites numerous government records
3. March 12 2013: VBA and VHA discuss JSRRC confirmation in their internal communications, its role and its availability to veterans and whether it triggers presumptive service connection; decision to disregard as irrelevant (violates VCAA and Due Process at this point)
4. May 9 2013: Two months after JSRRC official confirmation, VBA corresponds with C-123 veterans informing them JSRRC confirmation is necessary but does not reveal JSRRC confirmation already received two months earlier
5. June 10 2013: VBA Agent Orange desk drafts letter for Under Secretary Hickey to Oregon Governor, avoids mention of JSRRC and other government proofs received by VA, cites non-existent "specific scientific investigation" (which was instead a VHA staff consensus...no scientific study was ever done) against C-123 claims
6. July 10 2013: Mr. John Kruse (Director Benefits Team VA Congressional and Legislative Liaison) submits detailed letter from C-123 veterans re: JSRRC, VCAA violations and other issues to Secretary Shinseki, without response
7. May 2014: VBA begins receiving individual veteran JSRRC confirmations in May 2014 but does not act or inform veterans, stating it will delay and, await the IOM study (which resulted in the June 2015 Interim Final Rule)

Net effect: eligible deserving veterans were denied VA medical care and other benefits for over four years following CDC, NIH and US Public Health Service confirmation of our exposures, and for over two years following DOD JSRRC confirmation of our exposures which satisfied the VA's own regulation VA21-1MR but which VA ignored, violating Veterans Claims Assistance Act and Due Process Clause.

Agent Orange Vets Face Increased Risk of Aggressive Recurrence of Prostate Cancer Following Treatments

A study of 1,495 veterans who underwent radical prostatectomy to remove their cancerous prostates showed that the 206 exposed to Agent Orange had nearly a 50 percent increased risk of their cancer recurring despite the fact that their cancer seemed relatively nonaggressive at the time of surgery. And, their cancer came back with a vengeance: the time it took the prostate specific antigen, or PSA, level to double – an indicator of aggressiveness – was eight months versus more than 18 months in non-exposed veterans.

"There is something about the biology of these cancers that are associated with prior Agent Orange exposure that is causing them to be more aggressive. We need to get the word out," says Dr. Martha Terris, chief of urology at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta and professor of urology at the Medical College of Georgia School of Medicine.

Dr. Terris, corresponding author on the study published in the British Journal of Urology International, says she wants her colleagues following prostate cancer patients with Agent Orange exposure to know those patients may need more meticulous scrutiny and so-called salvage therapy quickly if their prostate cancer returns. "Not only are their recurrence rates higher but their cancers are coming back and growing much faster when they do come back," the Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar says.

The PSA of prostate cancer patients is typically measured every three months for two years after surgery then every six months for life. After surgery to remove the diseased prostate, the PSA should be zero, but any prostate cancer cells left behind continue to make PSA, a red flag of recurrence, Dr. Terris says. The PSA often "percolates along" so physicians tend to watch it for a while to determine if additional therapy is needed. However in patients with Agent Orange exposure, radiation or hormone therapy to kill remaining cells may need to be done sooner rather than later, she says.

Increasing evidence is emerging that exposure to Agent Orange, a herbicide and defoliant used during the Vietnam War, increases risk for a variety of health problems, including prostate cancer, although the exact mechanism is unclear. (NOTE: A 2011 investigation for the American Cancer Society, conducted by Dr. Mark Garzotto of Oregon Health Sciences University as well as Chief of Urology Oncology at the VA Medical Center, Portland Oregon, identified Agent Orange exposure as having doubled the rate of highly aggressive cancers in exposed veterans.) Dioxin, its known carcinogen, also is found in herbicides and pesticides used by U.S. farmers, forestry and chemical plant workers who studies have shown to have an increased cancer risk. Scientists suspect dioxin activates regulatory regions of genes to enable the uncontrolled cell division that is a cancer hallmark.

23 November 2015

VA Adds More Ships to Agent Orange Benefits List

U.S. Navy and Coast Guard Ships in Vietnam

Servicemen in a boat on an inland waterway of Vietnam
VA maintains a list of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships associated with military service in Vietnam and possible exposure to Agent Orange based on military records.
This evolving list helps Veterans who served aboard ships, including "Blue Water Veterans," find out if they may qualify for presumption of herbicide exposure as do Vietnam "boots on the ground" veterans, Korean DMZ vets and C-123 veterans.
Veterans must meet VA's criteria for service in Vietnam, which includes aboard boats on the inland waterways or brief visits ashore, to be presumed to have been exposed to herbicides. Blue Water Navy veterans have struggled for years to win back presumptive service connection for their members, and this addition of six vessels helps many.
Veterans who qualify for presumption of herbicide exposure are not required to show they were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides when seeking VA compensation for diseases related to Agent Orange exposure.

Find your ship:

Ships or boats that were part of the Mobile Riverine ForceInshore Fire Support (ISF) Division 93 or had one of the following designations operated on the inland waterways of Vietnam. Veterans whose military records confirm they were aboard these ships qualify for presumption of herbicide exposure.

21 November 2015

What are we waiting for? Agent Orange/dioxin care is an urgent health issue for war veterans and our offspring

Birth defects are affecting three generations of 

American military families

Lawmakers show off during veterans activities, but have not taken action by co-sponsoring needed bills before Congress


Agent Orange/dioxin has killed more Americans than al-Qaida, the Islamic State, Boko Haram, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard combined. It has managed to do this without any significant action from our government to stop the slaughter of American veterans and their families.

Currently two bills, Senate Bill 901 and House Resolution 1769, the Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015, languish in Congress because those we elect choose to ignore the simple fact that Agent Orange/dioxin is injuring and killing people 40 years after the Vietnam War ended.

It is now 50 years since our “official” entry into the war in Vietnam on Nov. 14, 1965, when elements of the 1st Air Cavalry Division engaged a superior North Vietnamese force in the Ia Drang Valley. Gen. Hal Moore and journalist Joe Galloway chronicled this battle in the book “We Were Soldiers Once and Young,” subsequently made into the Mel Gibson film “We Were Soldiers.”

What are we waiting for?

In 1983, scholar Fred Wilcox penned a book titled “Waiting for an Army to Die” about the tragedy of Agent Orange/dioxin. In it, the author quotes a young Vietnam veteran, 28-year-old Paul Reutershan, who told the “Today” show in spring 1978, “I died in Vietnam, but I didn’t even know it.”

This was only three years after we left Vietnam. He died less than six months later from the cancer that had destroyed his colon, liver and abdomen.

These two bills are very simple in their effort to address the crisis of birth defects in the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of those men and women who served our nation in Vietnam.

It is interesting to note that our local congressional delegation, Jim Costa, D-Fresno, Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, David Valadao, R-Hanford, and Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, have chosen not to join over 130 of their colleagues from both sides of the aisle and co-sponsor HR 1769.

Ironically, they are always the first in line at Memorial Day and Veterans Day events, VA hospital openings and other veteran gatherings demonstrating their commitment to veterans. Likewise, Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein have yet to sign on as co-sponsors of the companion SB 901.

What are they waiting for?

These bills address the legacy effects of Agent Orange/dioxin, a lethal combination of 2-4-5-T and 2-4-D, and its unintended byproduct, dioxin, the most toxic chemical known to science. Dioxin was the culprit in Times Beach and Love Canal.

This is not just a problem for Vietnam veterans. Agent Orange/dioxin was mixed, stored and used on bases in Okinawa, Guam, Fort McClelland, Fort Detrick, Puerto Rico, and dozens of other U.S. military facilities across the country and around the world. Many thousands of service members of the era and their offspring were exposed to this poison.

AL amyloidosis, chronic B-cell leukemias, chloracne, diabetes mellitus type 2, Hodgkin’s disease, ischemic heart disease, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate cancer, respiratory cancer and soft-tissue sarcomas are just a few of the diseases experienced by veterans that have a direct link to exposure to this chemical weapon.

Many Vietnam veterans have long since given up hope their health issues will be resolved any time soon. Their primary concern now is the health of the generations who follow them.

In June 2009, The Bee published an article I wrote coincidental to the release of a Ford Foundation research study on the long-term effects of Agent Orange/dioxin. “Who Drafted These Kids?” addressed the long list of diseases that affect our children and their children and grandchildren.

Offspring of Vietnam veterans suffer from a wide spectrum of conditions including achondroplasia, a type of dwarfism, and Williams syndrome, a rare disorder caused by “erasure” of about 26 genes from a specific chromosome that can cause mental retardation, a distinctive facial appearance and cardiovascular problems for starters. Other problems include cleft lip and palate, congenital heart disease, fused digits, hip dysplasia, neural tube defects and undescended testicles. The list goes on.

It is now nearly seven years since the Ford Foundation report and not surprisingly, nothing has been done to address the health issues raised by the study.

Contact your local congressional delegation and implore them to co-sponsor and vote to adopt the provisions of HR 1769 and SB 901.

What are you waiting for?

Jim Doyle of Fresno is a freelance writer and veterans advocate.

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/readers-opinion/article45524013.html#storylink=cpy

20 November 2015

A little C-123 Agent Orange history:

• October 2011: teleconference with VA where they insist no possibility of C-123 veteran Agent Orange exposure

• January 2012: following request from C-123 veterans, CDC Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry informs VA and USAF C-123 veterans experienced a 182-times higher exposure to dioxin than standards, and experienced a 200-fold greater cancer risk; VA dismisses everything

• May 2012: USAF School of Aerospace Medicine completes report demanded by C-123 veterans, finds no evidence of Agent Orange exposure or harm; "command interference" suggested by scientists associated with the study

• December 2012: USAF Surgeon General DECLINES request to notify C-123 veterans of potential exposures, stating, "Given the absence of a clear finding of potential harm, we believe it unnecessary to relay such individual findings to persons whom had entered or worked on C-123s between 1972 and 1982, and whom may be unaware of this assessment."

• January 9 2015: National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine reports C-123 veterans were exposed to harmful amounts of Agent Orange, repeating the CDC report that C-123 aircraft were unsafe in American airspace and should have been grounded, and the aircrews should have been flying them in full HAZMAT protection, not simple NOMEX flight suits. IOM also concludes the May 2012 USAFSAM C-123 report was scientifically flawed

• After four and a half years of foot-dragging VA begins awarding C-123 veterans Agent Orange exposure benefits, having denied them all medical care and other benefits prior to June 18 2015, and forbidding any retroactive compensation

19 November 2015

C-123 Agent Orange Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC) Benefits

Replaces VA Disability Offset for C-123 Retirees with Agent Orange-Related Disabilities - now considered combat related!

Did you know that if you are a military retiree with a C-123 Agent Orange-related disability you may be eligible to receive additional compensation through the Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC) program? This is a new eligibility for C-123 veterans because Agent Orange illnesses are considered "combat related" because Agent Orange is an instrumentality of war.
Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC) Benefits
C-123 Vets may be eligible to receive additional compensation.
Until 2004, there was a law on the books that prevented military retirees from receiving both military retirement pay and VA service-connected disability compensation at the same time. Military retirees could choose to receive VA disability compensation if they were eligible, but their military retirement pay would be offset by the exact amount of compensation they received from the VA. The veteran received the same total compensation as their full retirement pay, however, the spending power was greater because VA disability compensation is tax-exempt.
In 2004, a law called Concurrent Retirement Disability Pay (CRDP) was passed. CRDP allows military retirees to receive both military retirement pay and VA disability compensation if they held a VA disability rating of 50% or greater. This is a substantial increase in compensation for these veterans who are eligible to receive their full military retirement pay and their full VA disability compensation.
But retirees with less than a 50% disability rating were left in the dark when it came to receiving greater compensation. While lawmakers didn’t extend the concurrent receipt laws to cover all disability ratings, they did create a similar law for veterans with a “combat related” disability, even if they do not have an overall disability rating of 50%. In 2008, Congress passed a law called the Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) (10 U.S. Code § 1413a), which allows military retirees, including traditional Reservists, to receive monthly compensation to replace some or all of their VA disability offset if they have a combat-related injury. Let’s take a deeper look at CRSC, what it is, who it affects, and how C-123 vets can apply for this benefit.

What Is Combat Related Special Compensation?

Combat-Related Special Compensation was created to replace the VA disability offset for service-connected disabilities that are a direct result of combat related injuries, to include injuries that occur during combat or armed conflict, or during combat training, training that simulates war, while performing hazardous duty, or from exposure to an instrumentality of war (such as military combat vehicles, C-123 Agent Orange exposure, etc.).
Combat-Related Special Compensation provides compensation to eligible military retirees that will replace some or all of the VA disability offset. Their military retirement pay will no longer be deducted by the amount of their VA disability compensation. Instead, they will receive their full military retirement pay (based only on active duty total longevity, not percentage of disability!) and a CRSC payment based on the percentage of their disability rating that is considered combat-related. It’s important to note that CRSC payments only apply to the disabilities that are considered combat related. So it is possible that your CRSC payment can be less than your overall VA disability rating, and thus less than your VA disability offset. Like VA Disability compensation, CRSC payments are tax free.

Combat Related Special Compensation Eligibility for C-123 Veterans:

Here are the eligibility requirements, according to DFAS — To qualify for CRSC:
  • You must be entitled to and/or receiving military retired pay (Active or Reserve with 20 years or creditable service; Chapter 61 medically retired with less than 20 years of service; Retired under Temporary Early Retirement Act (TERA); or  retired under the Temporary Disabled Retirement List (TDRL)).
  • You must have a VA service-connected disability rating of at least 10 percent
  • Your military retirement pay is currently being reduced by your VA disability compensation (VA disability offset)
  • You must file a CRSC application with AFPC
Disabilities that may be considered combat related include injuries incurred as a direct result of:
  • Armed Conflict / Combat: This can include direct or indirect wounds which occurred during armed conflict.
  • Hazardous Duty: This can include activities such as demolition duty, diving, parachuting, aerial flight, and more.
  • An Instrumentality of War: An instrumentality of war is a device such as a weapon or weapon systems specifically designed for military duty or warfare. This can include certain military combat vehicles, vessels, aircraft, or an injury or sickness caused by exposure to fumes, gases, or chemicals. C-123 Agent Orange exposure qualifies as an instrumentality of war.
  • Simulated War: This can activities such as military training, exercises, airborne ops, live fire exercises, hand-to-hand combat training, and more. This does not include standard physical training such as running, jogging, or group sports activities.
Eligibility Based on Service Dates and Back Pay: Anyone can be eligible to receive benefits under CRSC as long as they meet the eligibility requirements. This means it can apply to veterans who retired decades ago, or as recently as a month ago. There is even the possibility of receiving back pay if you are determined to be eligible for this benefit. However, if you retired with full longevity (20 or more years of service), you can only receive back pay as early as June 1, 2003, which was the effective date authorized by Congress. If you were medically retired under Chapter 61 with less than 20 years of service, back pay can only go back to January 2008, which was the effective date for authorizing veterans who retired with a medical retirement.

How to Apply for CRSC Benefits

Combat-Related Special Compensation is not automatic. You will need to apply for these benefits with AFPC. They will assess your claim and determine your eligibility. To apply, you will need to fill out DD form 2860, along with the required documentation mentioned below, and send it to AFPC.
CRSC can be a complicated benefit because each case is unique. As always, it would be a good idea to consider using a Veterans Service Officer to help you with your benefits claims. They are often well-versed in applying for military and veterans benefits, and offer free assistance to veterans.
Documentation of Combat-Related Injury Required: You must be able to show a causal link between your service-connected disability rating and a combat-related event. You will need to provide documentation of your military service, including your Form DD-214 or Form DD-215, military medical records pertaining to your injuries, military personnel files, line of duty determinations, safety mishap (accident) reports, military personnel data system printouts, prior military disability board decisions, casualty reports, official orders or travel vouchers, AF Form 5s, flight orders, VA summary letters, or other official documents that can substantiate your claims. Here is the important thing to remember: your records must clearly show your injury is combat-related or associated with C-123 aircrew, AME, life support or maintenance duties.

Here is the contact info for submitting your CRSC claim. Takes about a month.
Air Force
CRSC Program Office
550 C Street West, Suite 6
Randolph AFB
TX 78150-4708
Phone: 1-800-525-0102
Website: http://www.afpc.af.mil/library/combat.asp

Federal Times video report on VA C-123 Agent Orange decision

Federal Times video report on VA C-123 Agent Orange decision (give video a few seconds to load)

Includes video clip of Dr. Al Young's standard famous "We just don't know."

10 November 2015

White House Seeks to Ease Veterans’ Access to Care

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Wednesday will call on Congress to enact measures to help military veterans gain easier access to health care, disability and educational benefits, part of a push to spotlight its efforts to improve the way the government treats veterans after a scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
President Obama will urge Congress to improve a program that allows veterans to receive private medical care, speed the appeal process for disability claims and pass legislation aiming to improve the quality of schools that serve veterans. Timed to coincide with Veterans Day, Mr. Obama’s proposals also come as the administration is promoting the first fruits of its efforts to reduce homelessness among veterans, with Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia set to announce that his state has become the first to end veteran homelessness.
The cities of Las Vegas; Syracuse; and Schenectady, N.Y., will also announce that they have ended veteran homelessness, the White House said.
The administration laid out a plan in 2010 to end chronic homelessness among veterans by the end of this year, saying that goal would be reached when there were no veterans sleeping on streets and no more than 12,500 veterans in shelters or transitional housing. In August, Connecticut became the first state to be designated by the administration as having achieved the milestone.
The Obama administration is also set to unveil a new tool to allow veterans to compare college and university options, modeled after a college scorecard website it started in September to provide information to prospective students and their parents about annual costs, graduation rates and salaries after graduation.
It will also announce that all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico will provide “recently transitioning veterans” and their dependents with in-state tuition at public colleges and universities, in line with a provision in the $16 billion overhaul of the Department of Veterans Affairs passed by Congress last year after the scandal.
The moves reflect the degree to which Mr. Obama is still fine-tuning that law, including provisions that allow veterans to use private doctors at the government’s expense if they cannot get an appointment with a Department of Veterans Affairs physician within 30 days. The White House said that 7 percent more veterans have been able to use that option over the past year, but that the program needs improvements. The agency sent Congress a plan to do so earlier this month.
Mr. Obama will also call for speeding what the White House called a broken appeals process for disability claims. Last month, the Department of Veterans Affairs administrator responsible for reducing the huge backlog of veterans benefits resigned after questions were raised about the agency’s assertions that it had drastically reduced the number of pending claims.
The steps come as the administration works to recover from the scandal of backlogs and wait times that last year caused the resignation of Secretary Eric K. Shinseki and the early retirement of the agency’s under secretary for health, Dr. Robert A. Petzel.

07 November 2015

Nurse Practitioners Urge Solution For VA Health Delays This Veterans Day – AANP Presses for Full Utilization of Nurse Practitioners in VA Settings

AUSTIN, Texas, Nov. 6, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) is marking Veterans Day, Wednesday, November 11th, by calling for a common sense solution that would immediately improve access to vital health care services for our nation's veterans.

AANP is urging the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Congress to grant full-practice authority to all advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) employed at VA facilities, including its nurse practitioners (NPs), clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives.

Full-practice authority allows APRNs such as NPs the ability to practice to the full scope of their education and clinical training. Widely regarded as a key means of solving health care access issues, the regulatory measure can be used to streamline health services for our nation's veterans, eliminating redundancies and bottlenecks, and alleviating delays in care delivery.

NPs with full-practice authority have patient outcomes that are equivalent to and often better than those of physicians, according to fifty years of peer-reviewed research. Such data-driven evidence has led national policy organizations and government bodies – the Federal Trade Commission, AARP, Institute of Medicine, National Governors Association and National Conference of State Legislatures – to urge greater autonomy for NPs across the nation. Currently, 21 states and the District of Columbia grant NPs full-practice authority.

"On behalf of the men and women who have bravely served our country in uniform, we ask our Congressional leaders and Secretary McDonald to fully utilize the 4,800 NPs who work across VA settings," said AANP president Cindy Cooke, DNP, FNP-C, FAANP, a family nurse practitioner who spent twelve years providing primary care services to active duty and retired military personnel and their families. "With full-practice authority, these expertly prepared, high-quality clinicians can play an even greater role meeting the health care needs of veterans nationwide."

NPs have become an increasingly vital segment of today's health care workforce and represent one of the fastest growing professions in health care today. With master's and often doctoral-level education, they provide primary, acute and specialty health services, including mental health care, serving patients from all socioeconomic backgrounds, and across both urban and rural settings.