[T]he government’s interest in veterans cases is not that it shall win, but rather that justice shall be done, that all veterans so entitled receive the benefits due to them.” Barrett v. Nicholson, 466 F.3d 1038, 1044 (Fed.Cir.2006)
VA has introduced much improved Fully Developed Claims, which involve the on-line application for service connected benefits. GREAT idea, VA! Advantages:
• One year retroactive benefits (in some situations)
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!
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.”
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.
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.
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
“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
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
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
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
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.
Navigating the road to benefits, health care and other services offered by VA and the federal government can be difficult, frustrating and often confusing. Add that to the fact that each Veteran is different can increase the difficulty of trying to figure out what a person qualifies for or is eligible to receive. Fortunately, VA has a product that covers it all in one easy-to-read reference – the 2013 Federal Benefits for Veterans Dependents and Survivors handbook. The 206-page book is inclusive to all Veterans and their family members despite their type of service or the era in which they served. From the Mexican Border War period beginning May 9, 1916 through today, the book offers information on education assistance, disability compensation, pension, home loan guaranty, vocational rehabilitation, life insurance, burial assistance as well as complete listing of VA facilities, addresses, phone numbers and important websites. Need help adapting a car due to a service-connected disability? You can find that information on page 37. Having problems securing a loan to buy a home? Chapter 6, beginning on page 59, is dedicated to the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program. Read it, know it, and share it with your realtor.For those still serving and not yet a Veteran, now is the time to read the book and prepare for your transition to civilian life. While Chapter 11 focuses on leaving active duty, numerous other portions of the book dive deeper into the specifics – very helpful things to know.
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
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twitter: Tom Philpott @Military_Update
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.