Veterans-For-Change NEWS

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Urgent message for Vietnam Vets

Tens of thousands of Vietnam veterans with ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease or B cell leukemia should file claims now with the Department of Veterans Affairs for disability compensation, not wait until VA publishes a regulation officially linking these diseases to wartime service.

Advocacy groups are urging the swift filing of claims because veterans eventually found eligible for disability pay for these diseases will be able to receive compensation back to the date their claims were filed. Those who wait for a regulation to add these ailments to VA’s list of diseases presumed caused by exposure to Agent Orange and other toxins used in the war could lessen, by several months of compensation, any retroactive pay that they will be due once their claims have been approved.

Help in filing claims is available through the Legion and its service officers as well as through most other major veterans’ organizations. A law firm representing the Legion, the Military Order of the Purple Heart and the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) sent a March 1 letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki demanding that VA publish by March 12 an interim regulation for adding these illnesses to its list of diseases presumed caused by Agent Orange — or face a lawsuit.

Longer delays in rulemaking, the letter said, will “result in irreparable harm to thousands of Vietnam veterans who suffer from these diseases” because VA compensation is not owed to “new claimants for any period prior to publication of a final regulation.”

What the letter didn’t make clear is that veterans can avoid the “irreparable harm” if they don’t wait for the regulation to file their claim.

The Agent Orange Act of 1991 requires VA to publish final regulations to expand its list of presumptive diseases within 210 days of receiving a report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) linking more illnesses to use of the herbicide during the war in Southeast Asia. That 210-day deadline was reached Feb. 19 without VA having published even an interim regulation.

A VA official said the Office of Management and Budget is expected to complete its review of VA’s interim regulation by the end of March. It then will be published in the Federal Register for public comment.

Shinseki had delighted veterans’ groups last October by announcing that VA would not challenge a July 24 report by the IOM that found sufficient epidemiologic evidence to suggest a link between wartime herbicide exposure and Parkinson’s disease, B cell leukemia and ischemic heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease.

Veterans who set foot in Vietnam from 1962 to 1975 and suffer today from one of these diseases will be in line for a disability rating and compensation once the regulation is final and claim adjudicators begin using it. By one estimate, as many as 185,000 veterans could be eligible for disability pay for these diseases.

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Vietnam Veterans Of America Commends Va  For Attempting To Use Modern Technology

(Washington, D.C.) – Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc (VVA) applauds the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for attempting to utilize modern technology in the adjudication of claims for VA benefits.  “We have been advocating for years that the VA implement some type of meaningful adjudication software and lifetime electronic health records,” said John Rowan, VVA National President.

“Although we commend the VA in their recent decision, we are somewhat disappointed that it took them this long to attempt to put a plan into action.  VA also has a horrendous track record in managing and supervising IT contracts.  We only hope they have learned from past mistakes and that they are prepared to use the lessons they have learned,” noted Rowan.

“There are, of course, many unanswered questions about VA’s proposal for which we hope to receive answers in the very near future.  The VA News Release stated, ‘The contract is expected to be awarded in April with proposed solutions offered to VA within 90-days.  Implementation of the solution is expected within 150 days.’  What concerns us is that VA will issue a contract for claims adjudication assistance before it knows what it wants and needs.  It would obviously be poor judgment to execute a contract before the terms and conditions have been enunciated,” said Rowan.

There is also a concern that claimants for benefits with a claim based on ischemic heart disease may have their claim granted before a similar claimant with a claim such as diabetes type II related to exposure to Agent Orange.  We must ensure that all veterans, no matter when or where they served, are treated equally.  An additional concern is for claimants who file a claim based on ischemic heart disease and other conditions not related to exposure to Agent Orange.  How will the VA process these claims in two different locations when there is only one claims file?

We are grateful to the VA and Secretary Shinseki, however we are still awaiting additional details regarding the implementation of this proposed initiative.

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BROKEN VA CLAIMS SYSTEM TOPS VFW LEGISLATIVE AGENDA

600 War Veterans to Storm Capitol Hill Tuesday

WASHINGTON (March 5, 2010) – A broken Department of Veterans Affairs disability claims system will be the top legislative issue next week when more than 600 war veterans storm Capitol Hill for the annual legislative conference of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S.

“VA healthcare is world-class, but the VA’s benefits administration is the key to everything the VA does — and that key is broken,” said Thomas J. Tradewell Sr., the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., the nation’s largest and oldest major combat veterans’ organization.

The VA claims backlog for disability, compensation, education and appeals currently exceeds 1.1 million, which results in average waiting times ranging from 180 days for new claims to be adjudicated to two years for appeals.  Worse still, according to Tradewell, is the adjudication error rate.

The VA cites a system-wide error rate of 17 percent, but the VA Inspector General reported error rates ranging from 25 to 38 percent in VA regional offices in Virginia, Alaska and Maryland for three of the most commonly filed claims — Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injuries, and illnesses related to exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange.

“Asking a veteran to wait half of a year or more for a rating decision that could have a one-in-three chance or more of being incorrect is absolutely unacceptable,” said Tradewell, a combat-wounded Vietnam veteran from Sussex, Wis.

“Veterans have earned the right to better service from our nation, and VA has the undeniable responsibility to properly review and take corrective action on claims processed at regional offices with abysmal quality standards.”

Tradewell is scheduled to testify Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. before a joint hearing of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees in room G-50 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Aside from the claims issue, other VFW high interest items include the proper care and treatment of servicemen and women returning home with traumatic injuries to mind and body, the need for an integrated information technology system to bring the VA into the 21st century, veterans’ unemployment and homelessness, and military caregivers and survivor benefits, among others.

Joining Tradewell at the three-day legislative conference will be VFW and Ladies Auxiliary leaders from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Europe, Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean.  They will carry the VFW legislative agenda to their congressional members and staffs following the Tuesday testimony.

The conference kicks off Monday at the Hyatt Regency-Crystal City with the presentation of VFW national awards and special guest speakers who include VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr., and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

National awards to be presented are the VFW Congressional Award to Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.,), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee; the VFW News Media Award to Army Times Publishing Company; a VFW Gold Medal and Citation to the Army’s Old Guard; and VFW Teachers Awards to Patricia Mazure of Taylor Elementary School in Trenton, Mich., Mark D. Leet of Simons Middle School in Flemingsburg, Ky., and William V. Melega of Chapel Hill High School in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The Monday conference will stream live on www.vfw.org, and video of Tradewell’s testimony will be available online Tuesday afternoon.

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Secretary Seeks Fast Track to Process Claims Focus on 200,000 Veterans Expected to File Claims under New Agent Orange Presumptives over Next Two Years

WASHINGTON (March 9, 2010) – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today an aggressive new initiative to solicit private-sector input on a proposed “fast track” Veterans’ claims process for service-connected presumptive illnesses due to Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War.

“This will be a new way of doing business and a major step forward in how we process the presumptive claims we expect to receive over the next two years,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said. “With the latest, fastest, and most reliable technology, VA hopes to migrate the manual processing of these claims to an automated process that meets the needs of today’s Veterans in a more timely manner.”

Over the next two years, about 200,000 Veterans are expected to file disability compensation claims under an historic expansion of three new presumptive illnesses announced last year by Secretary Shinseki.  They affect Veterans who have Parkinson’s disease, ischemic heart disease and B-cell leukemias.

In practical terms, Veterans who served in Vietnam during the war and who have one of the illnesses covered by the “presumption of service connection” don’t have to prove an association between their medical problems and military service.  This “presumption” makes it easier for Vietnam Veterans to access disability compensation benefits. Vietnam Veterans are encouraged to submit their claims as soon as possible to begin the important process of compensation.

Along with the publication of proposed regulations for the three new presumptives this spring, VA intends to publish a formal request in Federal Business Opportunities for private-sector corporations to propose automated solutions for the parts of the claims process that take the longest amount of time.  VA believes these can be collected in a more streamlined and accurate way.

Development involves determining what additional information is needed to adjudicate the claim, such as military and private medical records and the scheduling of medical examinations.

With this new approach, VA expects to shorten the time it takes to gather evidence, which now takes on average over 90 days.  Once the claim is fully developed and all pertinent information is gathered, VA will be able to more quickly decide the claim and process the award, if granted.

The contract is expected to be awarded in April with proposed solutions offered to VA within 90 days.  Implementation of the solution is expected within 150 days.

“Veterans whose health was harmed during their military service are entitled to the best this nation has to offer,” added Secretary Shinseki. “We are undertaking an unprecedented modernization of our claims process to ensure timely and accurate delivery of that commitment.”

Last year, VA received more than one million claims for disability compensation and pension.  VA provides compensation and pension benefits to over 3.8 million Veterans and beneficiaries.  Presently, the basic monthly rate of compensation ranges from $123 to $2,673 to Veterans without any dependents.

Disability compensation is a non-taxable, monthly monetary benefit paid to Veterans who are disabled as a result of an injury or illness that was incurred or aggravated during active military service.

For more information about disability compensation, go to www.va.gov. Additional information about Agent Orange and VA’s services and programs for Veterans exposed are available at www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange

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National Gulf War Resource Center Holds Conference in Dallas

The National Gulf War Resource Center (NGWRC) will be holding a conference in Dallas, Texas this coming summer. I encourage everyone to attend, if at all possible. I realize the physical hardship in traveling for some of us, but I’m sure your ideas and comments will be welcomed via email if you can’t attend. It’s been a long time since we’ve had an opportunity to gather to fellowship and share information again.

Start Time: Thursday, August 5, 2010 at 3:10pm

End Time: Sunday, August 8, 2010 at 11:10am

Location: Dallas, TX

Phone: 866-531-7183

Email: [email protected]

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VFW CITES BACKLOG, HEALTH CARE AS TOP LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES

WASHINGTON (March 9, 2010) — In his opening statement today before a joint hearing of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees, Thomas J. Tradewell Sr., the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., testified about his organization’s concern with the national health care debate, and whether or not it will impact the health care programs currently provided to veterans and military retirees by the VA and the military’s Tricare system.

“Many promises have been made — by the president and by this Congress — that VA and Tricare will be protected, but a free press and an even freer Internet continue to fuel speculation that both health systems will be lost and/or absorbed into a larger national plan,” said Tradewell, who leads the nation’s largest and oldest major combat veterans’ organization.  “America’s veterans and military retirees look to you — our champions in Congress — to protect both programs, and to do so vocally at every opportunity.”

In his testimony, the combat-wounded Vietnam veteran from Sussex, Wis., addressed the number one VFW legislative issue: Fix the backlog of more than 1.1 million individual claims and appeals for compensation, pension and education benefits currently plaguing the Veterans Benefits Administration.

“The most important issue facing America’s veterans today is the unacceptable VA claims backlog, and an equally unacceptable processing error rate,” said Tradewell, referring to a system wide 17-percent average error rate that soars to 25, 29 and 38 percent in the VA Regional Offices in Virginia, Alaska and Maryland, respectively.

“This massive backlog has resulted in a six-month average wait for an initial rating decision, and a two-year average wait for an appeal decision.  That is completely unacceptable, [as is] asking a veteran to wait half of a year or more for a rating decision that could have a one-in-three chance of being incorrect.”

The VFW national commander commended VA Secretary Eric Shinseki for making the reform of the VA claims system a top VA priority, but cautioned against “silver bullet” fixes that could prove more harmful than helpful to veterans.

“We know that any single plan to make the overall claims process simpler could occur at the expense of the rights and benefits earned by veterans, their dependents and survivors,” he said.  “A quick fix plan is simply unacceptable, because fixing the backlog will require thoughtful solutions to avoid harming veterans and exacerbating the problem.

“VBA is the key to everything VA does, so the VFW will continue to offer its expertise to the VA and your committees so that we can solve this backlog problem together,” he said.  “Veterans have grown tired of the excuses.  They want and deserve action.  The VFW wants to help.”

Other VFW high interest issues addressed ranged from the proper care and treatment of returning servicemen and women with traumatic injuries to mind and body, the need for an integrated information technology system to bring the VA into the 21st century, veterans’ unemployment and homelessness, and military caregivers and survivor benefits.  Tradewell also provided testimony regarding further traumatic brain injury research and treatment, suicide awareness and prevention, and women veterans’ health care needs.

Joining Tradewell at the hearing were VFW and Ladies Auxiliary leaders from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Europe, the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean.

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Linda K. May

Self Proclaimed Agent Orange & Mold & Depleted Uranium International Expert

As many of you are aware, Linda K. May of Pontiac, Illinois has done everything in her power to inject herself into the limelight all across the country as a self proclaimed medical expert on Agent Orange Dioxin, Mold, and now an expert on Depleted Uranium.

If you’ve paid Ms. May any money at all, and not received the services as were promised, and if you’ve not done so already, I strongly advising to please spend the $30-50 dollars and file a claim in small claims court, and have the filing served to her Attorney Mr. Mark Cullen of Sorling, Northrup, Hanna, Cullen & Cochran, Ltd., 607 E. Adams Street #800, Springfield, Illinois.

You might also choose to simply write to Mr. Cullen, call or fax.  Their office telephone #217-544-1144, fax #217-522-3173.

Veterans-For-Change, OFFE and VFVC have all done their level best to insure veterans aren’t scammed and suckered into spending money they don’t have for a test that cannot prove whether you were contaminated by Agent Orange Dioxin 5-days ago or 40-years ago.

If you served in Korea, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, or one of the many other places including but not limited to CONUS, WE know you were contaminated so a test of any kind will not help in proving or disproving a claim for VA Benefits and Care.

Your military records, medical records, buddy & family letters can and would prove this for you.

We’re still seeking out any doctors who read our newsletter would be so kind as to contact us via E-Mail and let us know if you believe and can prove beyond a doubt that a DNA PCR test could be used to test human urine samples for Dioxin with documented scientific proof.

Everyone who walks this planet of ours has some level of dioxin in their body from grains such as whole wheat used to make bread, etc.

We’re attempting to gather any and all medical and scientific evidence we can to show the claim(s) being made are false and would post all information to the website for veterans to use to protect themselves.

Ms. May has claimed via E-Mail that she has over 40 investors and plans to make millions of dollars.  My question to those investors, have you actually seen the test performed?  Have you actually seen the laboratory?  Have you actually seen the registered patent for this test of Ms. May’s?

If you’ve been one of the past victims and actually received written “test results”, do you see the laboratory name clearly printed at the top or bottom of the report with their address, phone and fax number?  Do you see an FDA “CLEA” number printed on the report?  If not, then I’d say you were scammed by a sink lab operation!

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VA Targets $39 Million for Homeless Veterans

Women, Tribal Services Are Special Priorities

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs is allocating $39 million to fund about 2,200 new transitional housing beds through grants to local providers.

“VA is committed to ending the cycle of homelessness among Veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We will use every tool at our disposal – health care, education, jobs, safe housing – to ensure our Veterans are restored to lives with dignity, purpose and safety.”

The $39 million in funding is broken into two categories.  About $24 million in grants are available to renovate or rehabilitate space to create about 1,000 transitional housing beds.  The grants put a priority upon housing for homeless women and housing on tribal lands.

A second group of grants, valued at about $15 million, is expected to fund about 1,200 new beds for homeless providers who already have suitable transitional housing.  The grants will provide per diems based upon the number of homeless Veterans being served in transitional housing.

VA is the largest federal provider of direct assistance to the homeless, with 14,000 transitional beds in operation or development.  About 107,000 Veterans are homeless on a typical night.  Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki has committed the department to ending homelessness among Veterans within five years.

For more information, visit VA’s Web page for the grant and per diem program at www.va.gov/homeless or contact VA’s program office at 1-877-332-0334, or e-mail VA at [email protected].

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Ranks of Homeless Veterans Drop 18 Percent

Wide-Ranging Partnerships and VA Commitment Credited

The number of Veterans homeless on a typical night dropped 18 percent as the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) entered the second year of its campaign to eliminate homelessness among Veterans within five years.

“It will take the dedication, creativity and hard work of many parts of American society to end homelessness among Veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.  “But mostly it takes the resolve to say: It is unacceptable for a single Veteran to spend the night on the streets of America.”

VA’s Community Homeless Assessment Local Education and Networking Groups (CHALENG), which conducts a widely cited, annual census of homeless Veterans, estimated 107,000 Veterans were homeless each night last year.  That figure was 131,000 in 2008 and 154,000 in 2007.

“The reduction was achieved through VA’s commitment to end homelessness among Veterans through enhanced collaboration with other federal, state, faith-based, Veteran service organizations and community partners,” Shinseki said.

VA has approximately 4,000 agreements with community partners.  Last year, more than 92,000 homeless Veterans were served by VA’s specialized homeless programs.  This is an increase of 15 percent from the previous year.

An important program that has helped Veterans leave homelessness began in June 2008 when VA partnered with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  VA provides dedicated case management to homeless Veterans, and HUD provides housing vouchers to Veterans and their families.  Since the program, called HUD-VASH, began, 20,000 housing vouchers have been given for homeless Veterans.

A recent VA study of Veterans discharged from VA-funded residential rehabilitation and transitional housing programs indicated that 79 percent remained housed one year after discharge.

Many homeless Veterans are treated in VA mental health programs.  National policies on suicide prevention, medication management and substances abuse have improved the lives of homeless Veterans.

“To eliminate homelessness, we must help more than Veterans currently without a place to live,” said Shinseki.  “We must prevent approximately 27,000 new Veterans who are at risk of becoming homeless from crossing that tragic line each year.”

Information about the CHALENG process and previous CHALENG reports about homelessness can be found on the Internet at http://www1.va.gov/HOMELESS/chaleng.asp. The 2009 report is projected to be published in spring 2010.

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For more information on any veterans topics, issues, claim needs visit:  www.veterans-for-change.com

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