24 March 2017

VA disability claims – a couple hints for your disability claim

The Department of Veterans Affairs doesn't easy. Some of the most important benefits available to disabled veterans aren't well known and are difficult to dig up. The veteran service organizations often don't know them or don't have the time to pursue, leaving details out of the disability claim and costing the veteran time and money over the years to correct... If at all.

Let's look at a few of these:

1: bilateral. That means both of some of your parts. Both arms, both legs, both hips, etc. In most cases, VA Will assign an extra 10% to a disability if it is a bilateral issue. (38 CFR 4.26 )
• Ratings for the disabilities of the right and left sides will be combined in order of severity and 10 percent of its value will be added. 
• These disabilities will be treated as one disability & will be arranged in order of severity with other disabilities and then combined. 

2. home healthcare. If your doctor has recommended that you receive assistance at home with the normal activities of life (cooking, cleaning, transport, meds, dressing, hygiene, etc,) related to your agent orange disability, VA can provide special monthly compensation (SMC) as well as the care itself. This seems to be much like palliative care.

3. if you have received your 100% disability award from the VA, you might be eligible for a free $10,000 dollars life insurance policy but there are time limits on applying so check details carefully.

4. many vets with incontinence haven't filed for that problem VA has disability percentages between 20, 40 and 60% depending on the frequency of changes and the number of times you get up each night.

5. Agent Orange disabilities such as prostate cancer are considered "instrumentalities of war." Retirees can file for Combat-Related Special Compensation. It's kind of complicated but the service figures out how much your due and at least you save taxes and in many cases your monthly check is larger. This is only for military retirees.

6. unemployability. If a veteran has a service-connected 60% disability there's a possibility that it can be raised to a 100% level with what VA calls Temporary Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU.) Regardless of your age, if you are unemployable because of the physical disability, the pain or other issues you can read about online, BA can consider you for as total of 100% disability and although they call it temporary, it can be for the rest of your life because it is not age-dependent. Further,  if the veteran is 65 years or older, the VA presumes disability and unempoyability, it does not have to be proven.

7.  A 0% service connected disability rating still gives you priority in the VA health care system.

8. A 30% or higher rating will pay you a higher amount of money if you have a spouse or dependents.

9. a 50% or higher rating means VA will provide all your necessary medical care without charge except dental.

10. A 70% or higher rating will allow a claimant to reside in a federal VA nursing home, usually at no charge.

11. When rated at 100% disability or if rated as unemployable, you will receive the highest rating and the highest pay, and you are also entitled dental and to the aid and attendance" supplement to compensation (not to be confused with the Aid and Attendance Pension benefit) if you need another person to help with activities of daily living (walking, bathing, dressing, toileting, etc.).

14 March 2017

VA-Care vs. ObamaCare vs. TrumpCare: do we have a good deal?

I recently had a VA appointment for which the clinician noted care that he didn't actually provide and didn't provide care for serious issues impacting my health. I complained about the falsification of records and inadequate medical treatment to what I believe were proper authorities.

That didn't work out.

I haven't heard anything from VA since my inquiry. I spoke to the local hospital patient advocate and to administrators but it seems difficult to find the right place to lodge a complaint. This seems to be a systemic problem in many medical organizations but particularly one as large as the VA.

 I have strongly recommended that VA modify its "I care" and integrated ethics programs by requiring a clinician or administrator to "own" a veteran's ethics complaint until routed to the proper authority. The VA constantly states that it is as easy as always doing the right thing and yet we see from 2014 on (the Phoenix waitlist scandal) VA's problems rest mostly in its individual and departmental failure to do just that.

In my recent experience, there was nothing but "we don't do that here" or "I don't know who handles this" useless responses. Even the VA National Center for Ethics in Healthcare, a function you might expect to be a clearinghouse for every sort of ethical complaint, responded that they could not resolve or even address complaints raised about employee ethical failures.

So I'm left a little unsatisfied, and greatly concerned because as a former health services administrator in the Air Force, if this happened to me what about a young private, sailor or airman unfamiliar with medical issues and trusting of the VA to provide the care and concern necessary?

Still, after a quarter century in the VA healthcare system I do believe it has gotten better year after year even faced with monumental budget and patient population problems.

It is so easy to bitch and moan about failures in VA healthcare but in total, I believe a disabled veteran has a better package than many other Americans. It is an earned benefit and treatment for what in other occupations would be considered on the job injuries, but all in all, there is much for which we should be  (and are) grateful. 

I also believe that such comprehensive care is warranted because unlike other Americans we cannot refuse hazardous or even life-threatening duties. In fact, we have to have the initiative to step into hazardous or life-threatening situations when necessary, and not just wait for orders to do so. 

Civilians just don't face occupational hazards such as IEDs, RPGs, or Agent Orange or enemy machine gun fire, but military folks don't even have the option of avoiding them: the law says we can't say no and few of us would shirk the duty of facing those hazards.

No soldier is in a foxhole, no pilot is in an airplane for the money. If they survive getting hurt and make it home, as much as possible of the burden of their care and recovery should be lifted from their own shoulders. The basic objective of VA benefits of all sorts is to give the veteran something of the same quality of life as enjoyed by his neighbor who chose not to serve.

So the country assigns us EisenhowerCare, KennedyCare, JohnsonCare, NixonCare, FordCare, CarterCare, BushCare, ClintonCare, ObamaCare or TrumpCare, all AKA the VA healthcare system, all paid for with a stripe on the sleeve or a bar on the shoulder. If you make it home with an injury or wound, the VA care is not too bad.

07 March 2017

Important VA and military abbreviations

This list copied from a YUKO post by SC Vet .

Acronyms Used When Veterans Benefits Are Involved. 

Acronymns, Abbreviations, and Short-cuts used by the Government, both State and Federal, as well as by involved individuals when discussing Veterans Benefits, Retirement and Disability:

38 CFR - Title 38 Code of Federal Regulations
38 USC - Title 38 of the United States Code
A&A - Aid and Attendance
AAFES - Army & Air Force Exchange Service
ABD - Annuity Beginning Date
ACE Automated Certificate of Eligibility
AD - Active Duty
ADA - Americans with Disabilities Act
AFEES - Armed Forces Examining and Entrance Station
AIS - Automated Information Systems
AL - American Legion
ALS - Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
AMC - Appeals Management Center
AMVETS - AMVETS (American Veterans)
AO - Agent Orange
BCD - Bad Conduct Discharge


0% To 20% 
Certification of Eligibility for home loan guaranty. 
Home loan guaranty fee exemption. 
VA Priority medical treatment card. 
Vocational Rehab & Counseling, title 38 USC Chapter 31 (must be at least 10%) 
Service Disabled Veterans insurance (Maximum of $10,000 coverage) must file within 2 years from date of new service connection. 
10 point Civil Service Preference (10 points added to Civil Service test score). 
Clothing allowances for veterans who use or wear a prosthetic or orthopedic appliance (artificial limb, braces, or wheelchair) or use prescribed medications for skin condition, which tend to wear, tear or soil clothing. Can be more than one allowance.)
Temporary total evaluation (100%) based on hospitalization for a service connected disability in excess of 21 days; or surgical treatment for a service connected disability necessitating at least 1 month of convalescence or immobilization by cast, without surgery of more major joints. 

30% In addition to the above: 
Additional allowances for dependent(s) [spouse, child(ren), step child(ren), helpless child(ren), full-time students between the ages 18 to 23, and parent(s)] 
Additional allowances for a spouse who is a patient in a nursing home or helpless or blind or so nearly helpless or blind as to require the aid and attendance of another person. 

40% In addition to the above: 
Automobile grant and/or special adaptive equipment for an automobile provided there is loss or permanent loss of use of one or both feet, loss or permanent loss of one or both hands or permanent impaired vision of both eyes with central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in better eye. 
Special adaptive equipment may also be applied for if there is ankylosis of one or both knees or one or both hips. 

50% In addition to the above: 
VA Medical outpatient treatment for any condition except dental. 
Preventive health care services. 
Hospital care and medical services in non-VA facilities under an authorized fee basis agreement. 

60% In addition to the above: 
Increased compensation (100%) based on individual Unemployability (applies to veterans who are unable to obtain or maintain substantially gainful employment due to service-connected disability) 

100% In addition to the above: 
Dental treatment. 
Department of Defense Commissary privileges. 
Veterans employment preference for spouse. 
Waiver of National Service Life Insurance premiums. 
National Service Life insurance total disability income provisions. 
Specially adapted housing for veterans who have loss or permanent loss of use of both lower extremities or the loss or blindness in both eyes having light perception only plus loss or permanent loss of one lower extremity or the loss or permanent loss of use of one lower extremity with loss or permanent loss of use of one upper extremity or the loss or permanent loss of use of one extremity together with an organic disease which affects the function of balance and propulsion as to preclude locomotion without the aid of braces, crutches, canes or wheelchair. 
Special home adaptation Grant (for veterans who dont qualify for Specially Adapted Housing) may be applied for if the veteran is permanently and totally disabled due to blindness in both eyes with visual acuity or 5/200 or less or loss of or permanent loss of use of both hands. 

100% (Permanent and Total) in addition to the above: 
Civilian Health and Medical Program for dependents and survivors (ChampVA) 
Survivors and dependents education assistance 

03 March 2017

CAUGHT: vet faked blindness for SMC

By Nick Viviani | Posted: Thu 4:21 PM, Mar 02, 2017
WICHITA, Kan. (WIBW) -- A Kansas Army veteran allegedly pretended to be blind in order to collect tens of thousands of dollars in benefits.

U.S. Attorney Tom Beall said authorities were tipped off after the suspect was seen driving away from his appointment at the VA Hospital in Wichita.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Billy J. Alumbaugh, 61, of Turon, lied about being legally blind and claimed he needed help with some tasks, like reading medication labels, grocery shopping, and going to doctor's appointments. As a result, he was receiving supplemental monthly pensions.

Alumbaugh would periodically go to the Wichita VA hospital where specialists stumped as to why he couldn't see, Beall said.

He even reportedly maintained his Kansas driver's license, which said he didn't need corrective lenses, from 2009 to 2016 and kept driving during that time.

He was even seen driving away from the VA shortly after a visit last October, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. His ex-wife Debra K. Alumbaugh, of Turon, was allegedly driving when they arrived for an appointment. After the appointment, however, she helped him get back into the passenger seat and they drove for a few blocks before switching seats so he could drive.