31 August 2013

A Lighter Spirit, Saturday Morning After Feeding the Grandkids

What not to ask a veteran...

Always my favorite - beats "I'm with Stupid –>"

Fully Developed Claims - A GREAT VA Deal for all new claims

VA has introduced much improved Fully Developed Claims, which involve the on-line application for service connected benefits. GREAT idea, VA!

• One year retroactive benefits (in some situations)

The Big Wait - Claim Decided But WHAT Was Decision?

I'm away from home but noticed on eBenefits my two claims has been decided and notification sent.

So...I won't know the results for quite some time. I expect, however, that all issues have been denied because eBenefits' letter request section hasn't changed in any way...it should have if my percentages had been upgraded as requested.

So, the "Big Brown Envelope" will be waiting for me at home in a few weeks. Once I return I'll finally know, after waiting 27 months, if VA has continued their compassionate response to C-123 veterans's claims as per Paul Bailey's award exactly one month ago, or if they continue to oppose our arguments for service connection.

I am a bit surprised on the claim I filed this year, as I haven't even had C&P exams for several of those claimed disabilities...yet it has also been decided.

Let's hope it is good news, as friends like Dick Matti, Mrs. Bill Schindler, Mrs. Aaron Olmsted and others are waiting with even greater concern than I have!

VA Needs Better Oversight of Veterans Service Organizations' Service Officers

Florida's Sen. Nelson calls for improvements in VA benefit application process By  , 
The process veterans face when applying for benefits is complex and often takes years. So, many veterans turn to representatives, accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs, to help them navigate the system.
But the GAO report, requested by Nelson (R-FL) and other senators last year, was released today and shows that the VA does not do a good enough job vetting those representing the veterans, relying on “limited, self-reported information to determine whether applicants have a criminal history or their character could be called into question.”
As a result, the GAO report found “some representatives had histories of bankruptcies or liens, and a number of other issues that would raise concern.”
Nelson and fellow Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Richard Burr (R-NC) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) asked the GAO – the nonpartisan research arm of Congress - to examine the VA’s Aid & Attendance program after the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing last year that focused on veterans who needed help getting pension benefits. Nelson earlier this year became chairman of that committee.
Hundreds of thousands of veterans rely on representatives to help them with their claims, according to the GAO.
“However, current program implementation and requirements do not ensure that veterans and their families are protected against potential abuses,” according to the report, “or that VA has the ability to identify and address situations where representatives are not acting in the best interests of clients.”
Nelson is asking that the VA provide a “clear definition of the requirement that an accredited individual have ‘good moral character.’ ”
The VA should also create a way for complaints to be lodged against representatives, supported by written policies ensuring “an appropriate series of actions are taken to respond to, monitor, and follow-up on complaints.”
VA officials did not respond to a request for comment about Nelson’s letter to Shinseki.
In responding to the GAO, VA officials agreed that while it needs more staffing and technology resources to deal with the issue, any increases must come under its existing budget. The VA also “concurred in principle” to “strengthening initial and continuing” requirements that claimants have qualified representation, according to the report.
The VA told the GAO that “it is in the best interest” of veteran service organizations, like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, AMVETS and other groups,”to ensure their representatives are competent and qualified.” However, the VA said it will request and review training programs for about 10 percent of recognized organizations each year.
Leo Dougherty, an accredited representative from Tampa, said that the VA increasing its oversight is not adequate.
“I applaud Senator Nelson and those other elected officials in Congress for conducting oversight of the VA,” said Dougherty. “However, I’m not sure taking the Department of Veterans Affairs to task on this particular issue is the correct way to go. While the VA can discipline accredited representatives by warning, suspension of accreditation, or termination of accreditation they really don’t have much authority in the way of prosecution.”
Another problem, said Dougherty, is that most veterans don’t know how to file a complaint if they have one.
“The VA’s Office of General Counsel can take no action against an accredited representative without first knowing that a breach of ethics or legal responsibility has occurred, and most veterans would not know how to contact OGC to submit an allegation,” said Dougherty. “There is a process in place for this but it is not generally known and therefore not acted upon by OGC.”

30 August 2013

VA Abuses Physician Incentives

Note: The C-123 Veterans note that performance expectations of military personnel, up to the point of sacrifice of life and limb, are expected and not rewarded with any bonus.
The Department of Veterans Affairs awards performance-pay bonuses to doctors without a clear policy on merits for the payments that average $8,000 a year and that go, in some cases, to physicians disciplined or reprimanded, says a governmental review.
According to a Government Accountability Office report recently issued, investigators found that during the 2010 and 2011 fiscal years:
• A $7,663 performance-pay bonus went to a VA doctor who was reprimanded for practicing medicine with an expired license for three months.
• A $11,189 bonus was given to a surgeon who was suspended without pay for 14 days after leaving an operating room before surgery was completed, allowing residents to continue unsupervised.
• A $7,500 pay bonus went to a doctor who was reprimanded for refusing to see assigned patients in an emergency room, actions that forced 15 patients to wait six hours to be treated and led nine other patients to leave without treatment.
• An $8,216 bonus was paid to a radiologist whose privileges had been reduced for failing to read mammograms and other complex images competently.

26 August 2013

Vietnam Vets Announce Legislative Goals for 113th Congress

The Vietnam Veterans of America concluded their annual conference earlier this month, and continue to support C-123 veterans with the following initiative:

  •   VVA shall continue to advocate on behalf of the veterans of the crews who flew C-123s contaminated by the Agent Orange they once sprayed over Vietnam and are now suffering some of the same peculiar health ills as are in-country Vietnam veterans. 

VA Saves Money by Delaying Claims!

Too often folks think a delayed VA claim is merely that...postponement of compensation which will all catch up eventually. That is a terribly false impression. 
The truth is quite bad...the truth is that the VA saves immense amounts of budget by denying claims whenever possible, and by postponing claims’ approval as long as possible. While some veterans’ disabilities are minor, other vets are totally disabled with military injuries, without funds, without medical care, and with families left destitute until a VA clerk gets around to approving their claim after years waiting.
The advantages and savings (to the VA) are obvious when you think about it:

      • No medical care at all is provided during the application phase or appeal
  • No dental, pharmacy, vision, rehabilitation, prosthetics, lab, imaging, social services or any other vital care provided until a claim is finally approved
  • No travel or special clinics, such as the Spinal Cord Injury Centers 
  • No family benefits, such as ChampVA and dependents’ educational allowance (the loss of these two can be devastating to college-age families!)
  • No interest paid on retroactive settlements; no reimbursement for medical bills paid by veteran for military injuries even when claim is approved
  • No state benefits, such as tuition, property taxes, auto allowances; no disabled veteran hiring preference until claim is approved
  • If the veteran dies without eligible survivors, even the retroactive disability payments and burial fees are “saved”
  • Adaptive housing and other special housing needs denied until claim awarded means veteran usually pays for such modifications rather than wait
  • No clothing or automobile allowances
  • No aid & attendance allowance, nor nursing home
  • Burial allowance if veteran dies before claim awarded

24 August 2013

C-123 Agent Orage Kindle PDF Version

The C-123 Veterans have modified our FREE Agent Orange book to a small enough size to accommodate loading into a Kindle, (29MB). This is the same copy as our iBooks edition for the iPad, however the interactive graphics are disabled as are most of the hyperlinks, an issue with conversion into PDF format.

The FREE iBooks file is through Apple iTunes.

17 August 2013

Wrong-thinking Sequester Ideas: This Has To Change!

George F. Will
George F. Will
Opinion Writer

The sequester’s a public health hazard

“The capacity to blunder slightly is the real marvel of DNA. Without this special attribute, we would still be anaerobic bacteria and there would be no music.”
The pedigree of human beings, Thomas wrote, probably traces to a single cell fertilized by a lightning bolt as the Earth was cooling. Fortunately, genetic “mistakes” — mutations — eventually made us. But they also have made illnesses. Almost all diseases arise from some combination of environmental exposures and genetic blunders in the working of DNA. Breast cancer is a family of genetic mutations.
The great secret of doctors, wrote Thomas — who was a physician, philosopher and head of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center— “is that most things get better by themselves; most things, in fact, are better in the morning.” But many things require intelligent interventions — cures. So, to see the federal government at its best, and sequester-driven spending cuts at their worst, visit the 322 acres where 25,000 people work for the National Institutes of Health.
This 60th anniversary of the Clinical Center, the NIH’s beating heart, is inspiriting and depressing: Public health is being enhanced — rapidly, yet unnecessarily slowly — byNIH-supported research here, and in hundreds of institutions across the country, into new drugs, devices and treatments. Yet much research proposed by extraordinarily talented physicians and scientists cannot proceed because the required funding is prevented by the intentional irrationality by which the sequester is administered.
A2percent reduction of federal spending would be easily manageable. It has, however, been made deliberately dumb by mandatory administrative rigidities intended to maximize pain in order to weaken resistance to any spending restraint. Spending on basic medical research is being starved as the river of agriculture subsidies rolls on.
For Francis Collins, being the NIH’s director is a daily experience of exhilaration and dismay. In the past 40years, he says, heart attacks and strokes have declined 60percent and 70percent, respectively. Cancer deaths are down 15percent in 15years. An AIDS diagnosis is no longer a death sentence. Researchers are on the trail of a universal flu vaccine, based on new understandings of the influenza virus and the human immune system. Chemotherapy was invented here — and it is being replaced by treatments developed here. Yet the pace of public health advances, Collins says, is being slowed by the sequester.
He entered federal service to oversee decoding of the human genome, which he describes as “reading out the instruction book for human beings.” We are, he says, at the dawn of the era of “precision medicine,” of treatments personalized for patients’ genetic makeups.
This will be, Collins believes, “the century of biology.” Other countries have “read our playbook,” seeing how biomedical research can reduce health costs, produce jobs and enhance competitiveness. Meanwhile, America’s great research universities award advanced degrees to young scientists from abroad, and then irrational immigration policy compels them to leave and add value to other countries. And now the sequester discourages and disperses scientific talent.
In the private sector, where investors expect a quick turnaround, it is difficult to find dollars for a 10-year program. The public sector, however, with its different time horizon, can fund for the long term, thereby drawing young scientists into career trajectories and collaborations impossible elsewhere.
Collins is haunted by knowledge that the flow of scientific talent cannot be turned on and off like a faucet. Unfortunately, recent government behavior has damaged the cause of basic science. It has blurred the distinction between fundamental research and technical refinements (often of 19th-century technologies — faster trains, better batteries, longer-lasting light bulbs). It has sown confusion about the difference between supporting scientific research and practicing industrial policy with subsidies — often incompetently and sometimes corruptly dispensed — for private corporations oriented to existing markets rather than unimagined applications. And beginning with the indiscriminate and ineffective2009 stimulus, government has incited indiscriminate hostility to public spending.
NIH scientists seek intensely practical, meaning preventive and therapeutic, things that can save society more than any sequester can. The scientists also know, however, that the enchantment of science is in the phrase “You never know.” You never know where things might lead. Sixty years ago, James Watson and Francis Crick published a paper in the journal Nature describing the double-helix structure of DNA and noting almost laconically that it “suggests a possible copying mechanism for the genetic material.” They could not have known that this would lead to Collins’s career, which has led him here to days of dismay about exhilarations postponed.

16 August 2013

2013 VA Benefit Book Now Available

Learn Your Benefits: VA’s 2013 Benefits Book Now Available

15 August 2013

C-123 & Agent Orange: Stars & Stripes 15 Aug 201

UC-123K flyer wins Agent Orange claim
by Tom Philpott, 15 Aug 2013
After a two-year battle with the Air Force and Department of Veterans Affairs, a group of ailing Air Force Reserve aviators has won a bittersweet victory: VA acknowledgment that one of their own likely is gravely ill due to post-Vietnam War exposure to toxic residue on UC-123K Provider aircraft, which were used as herbicide “spray birds” during the war.
Lt. Col Paul Bailey of the White Mountains, N.H., a cancer patient in hospice care, received notice this month that the VA had approved his disability claim, citing a “preponderance of evidence” suggesting exposure to herbicides, including Agent Orange, on C-123s he flew on missions after the war.
The decision is important because, for the first time, a VA regional office is recognizing that a C-123 crewmember was exposed to herbicides and should be compensated for ailments the VA presumes are linked to Agent Orange. Former C-123 veterans who previously won VA compensation did so on appeal after the VA had denied their initial claims.  That meant payment delays in compensation and access to VA care for up to two years, said retired Maj. Wesley T. Carter, of McMinnville, Ore.
Carter, a retired reserve aviator and C-123 veteran himself, has led an intensive fight against bureaucratic resistance on behalf of his fellow crewmen since 2011.  That year, as we reported at the time, he filed a complaint to the Air Force inspector general that health officials knew since 1996 of contamination aboard aircraft flown by reserve squadrons until 1982, and failed to warn them of the health risks.
Carter learned the government had stopped a contract to sell C-123s because of dioxin contamination and that the Air Force struggled over how to dispose of the aircraft.  Even burying them could contaminate the ground.  In 2010, the last of the aircraft were quietly torn apart and melted down for disposal.
Reacting to Bailey’s award, Carter, who is rated 100-disabled from cancer and heart disease, said he felt “immense satisfaction and gratitude.  But I'm tired and ill.  Why did we have to work so hard to get our VA care?  As sick or injured veterans, our focus needed to be on our medical needs and our families, not on years of struggle with the VA.”
The Bailey claim decision, he said, “signals that regional offices can examine the full range of facts and reach a reasonable conclusion on other exposure cases as Manchester (N.H.) VA Regional Office did.”
To comment, write Military Update, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA, or email milupdate@aol.com or twitter: Tom Philpott @Military_Update

12 August 2013

President Announces Major Veterans Initiatives

The White House
On Saturday, August 10, President Obama addressed the Disabled American Veterans and discussed his Administration’s work to secure our nation, wind down the war in Afghanistan, better serve our troops and military families, and honor our veterans. 

In his remarks, President Obama outlined the five priorities his Administration is focused on to ensure we are fulfilling our promises to all those who have served – ensuring the resources our veterans deserve; delivering the health care veterans have been promised; ending the claims backlog; protecting the dignity and rights of wounded warriors; and making sure all veterans have every opportunity to pursue the American Dream.

The President announced a new national action plan to guide mental health research and commitments from 250 community colleges and universities to aid veterans in their efforts to complete their higher education so they can compete for the high-skilled jobs of the future.

Additionally the President noted that we are turning the tide on eliminating the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) disability claims backlog, with a nearly 20% reduction over the last five months. The President also renewed his call on Congress to pass his Veterans Job Corps proposal to put our veterans to work protecting and rebuilding America, and to extend permanently the Returning Heroes and Wounded Warrior tax credits for businesses that hire veterans. On Friday, August 9, the President signed into law the Helping Heroes Fly Act, to ensure wounded warriors and disabled veterans can travel with dignity.