Technology in Place for Electronic Submission of Veterans’ Disability Claims

Technology in Place for Electronic Submission of Veterans’ Disability Claims

Capability Marks Major Milestone in VA Transformation to Digital Claims Process

WASHINGTON – A new online application from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) enables disability compensation claims to be processed faster in a more end-to-end electronic environment, and VA is urging Veterans and their Veterans Service Organization  (VSO) representatives to make full use of its capabilities to receive speedier decisions and reduce the backlog of claims. 

The availability of the joint VA-Department of Defense Web portal eBenefits, which now integrates with the new internal Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) electronic claims processing system, marks a major milestone in VA’s transformation from paper claims records to a fully digital operating environment, one of the keys to VA’s goal to eliminate the disability claims backlog by the end of 2015. VBMS has now been fielded at all 56 Regional Offices across the country, ahead of schedule.  VA will continue to upgrade and improve VBMS based on user feedback, and add features and tools that make it faster and easier to process claims. Instead of filling out and mailing paper forms to VA, Veterans can now use eBenefits to enter claim information online using a step-by-step, interview-style application, with pre-populated data fields and drop-down menus similar to popular tax preparation software. 

“There are so many advantages to making this move from paper to digital – for both Veterans and VA” said Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey. “Veterans can now file their claims online through eBenefits like they might do their taxes online.”

By filing electronically, any compensation benefits that are awarded will be effective back to the date the Veteran started entering their claim information in eBenefits.  From that initial claim establishment date, each Veteran has up to a year to gather all necessary records and hit “submit” to preserve their original date of claim. 

eBenefits allows Veterans to upload digital images of records and evidence to support their claims, bypassing the need to physically mail in personal records and wait for confirmation of receipt. VA is advising Veterans to gather and submit all relevant medical records and file a Fully Developed Claim (FDC) in eBenefits, which entails entering all available evidence at the time the claim is submitted and verifying to VA that they have no more evidence to submit. Veterans filing an FDC will receive priority processing over the traditional claims process.   VA can typically process FDCs in half the time it takes for a traditionally filed claim, and there is no risk to Veterans in filing an FDC.  If VA finds that there is a piece of relevant evidence that was not submitted by the Veteran, but is needed for a rating decision (like private medical records), claims processors will work to obtain that evidence on the Veteran’s behalf and process the claim in the traditional way.

Once logged into eBenefits, Veterans can also choose to have an accredited VSO representative assist with their claim submission by filing an electronic power of attorney form.  Using this new system, the chosen VSO representative, with proper authorization, will be able to see the contents of a Veteran’s claim, track its status, and add additional information when needed. A Veteran and his or her representative can even work a claim simultaneously while both are logged into the system, enabling VSOs to assist more Veterans in their homes or even remotely. 

VA will still accept claims in paper form, though processing may take longer than for an electronically-submitted claim.  As of this summer, VA scans all new paper claims and uploads them into VBMS so they too can be processed electronically, though without many of the benefits provided when Veterans initiate the process in eBenefits such as guided questions that help ensure complete and accurate information and the immediate receipt of information without having to wait for the scanning and processing of paper documents. In addition to filing claims online, registered eBenefits users can track their claim status and access information on a variety of other benefits, like pension, education, health care, home loan eligibility, and vocational rehabilitation and employment programs. 

A free Premium eBenefits account is required to file claims electronically. The quickest and most convenient method of establishing a free premium eBenefits account is to complete the remote verification process through the eBenefits home page, or use DoD’s common access card (CAC) to register for and/or upgrade to a free premium account.  Veterans can also establish an account by telephone at 1-800-827-1000, option 7, if they are in receipt of VA benefits via direct deposit, or by visiting a VA regional office or TRICARE Service Center (if they are a military retiree). For the location of the nearest VA regional office, visit www.va.gov and search the VA regional benefits office locator.

While compensation claims are pending, eligible Veterans are able to receive healthcare and other benefits from VA.  Veterans who have served in recent conflicts are eligible for 5 years of free healthcare from VA. Currently, over 55% of returning Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans are using VA healthcare, a rate of utilization greater than previous generations of Veterans.

This is the latest effort in support of the Secretary’s plan to eliminate the backlog. On May 15, VA announced that it is mandating overtime for claims processors in its 56 regional benefits offices through the end of fiscal year 2013 to help eliminate the backlog, with continued emphasis on high-priority claims for homeless Veterans, those claiming financial hardship, the terminally ill, former Prisoners of War, Medal of Honor recipients, and Veterans filing Fully Developed Claims.

In April, VA announced an initiative to expedite compensation claims decisions for Veterans who have waited one year or longer.   On April 19, VA began prioritizing claims decisions for Veterans who have been waiting the longest by providing decisions based on evidence currently in hand that allow eligible Veterans to begin collecting compensation benefits quickly while waiting for theirfinal eligibility decision. 

For more information about VA benefits, go to http://www.benefits.va.gov.  For more information on VA’s Transformation, go to http://benefits.va.gov/transformation.

 

VA HIRING MENTAL HEALTH PROVIDERS- MANCHESTER VA HIRES 15

For Immediate Release

VA Hires Over 1,600 Mental Health Professionals to Meet Goal,

Expands Access to Care and Outreach Efforts

Manchester VAMC Hires 15 New Mental Health Professionals

 

Manchester, NH  – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it has met the goal to hire 1,600 new mental health professionals outlined in President Obama’s August 31, 2012, Executive Order to Improve Access to Mental Health Services for Veterans, Service Members, and Military Families. Manchester VA Medical Center has hired 15 new mental health professionals toward this goal.

“I am proud of the hard work our staff has completed to bring these new staff members on board,” said Susan A. MacKenzie, PhD, Acting Medical Center Director. “We are not slowing our efforts however, and will continue to actively recruit for any vacant mental health positions for the future so Veterans will get the care they need. Not only have we hired new mental health professionals but the Manchester VAMC has specialty areas related to Mental Health, such as Veterans Justice Outreach, Homeless Veterans Outreach, Military Sexual Trauma, Women’s Wellness Group, just to name a few.”

As of May 31, 2013, VA has hired a total of 1,607 mental health clinical providers to meet the goal of 1,600 new mental health professionals outlined in the Executive Order. Additionally, VA has hired 2,005 mental health clinical providers to fill existing vacancies.

“Meeting this hiring milestone significantly enhances our ability to improve access to care for those Veterans seeking mental health services and demonstrates our continued commitment to the health and well-being of the men and women who have served the Nation,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “Meeting this goal is an important achievement, but we recognize that we must continue to increase access to the quality mental health care Veterans have earned and deserve.”

VA provides a full range of comprehensive mental health services across the country.  In Fiscal Year 2012, more than 1.3 million Veterans received specialized mental health care from VA.  This number has risen each year from 927,052 in Fiscal Year 2006. In addition to hiring more mental health professionals, VA is expanding the use of innovative technology to serve Veterans in rural or underserved areas. VA expects to increase the number of Veterans receiving care from tele-mental health services in fiscal year 2013, and has increased the number of Vet Centers, which provide readjustment counseling and referral services from 233 in 2008 to 300 in 2012.

In November 2011, VA launched an award-winning, national public awareness campaign called Make the Connection, which is aimed at reducing the stigma associated with seeking mental health care and informing Veterans, their families, friends, and members of their communities about VA resources.  More information on Make the Connection can be found at www.maketheconnection.net.

Mental health professionals interested in seeking employment with the Department of Veterans Affairs can obtain information at www.vacareers.va.gov. Veterans and their families interested in learning more about the mental health services provided by VA can go to

www.mentalhealth.va.gov.

WASHINGTON WEEK 7 JUNE 2013

           

VFW Washington Weekly June 7, 2013
In This Issue: 1. New Stolen Valor Law 2. Senate Discusses Sexual Assault in Military 3. MST Bill Clears House 4. Military-VA Funding Bill Clears House 5. House Armed Services Moves NDAA 6. VFW Defends Commissaries 7. Burn Pit Registry Seeking Public Comment 8. Three MIAs Identified 1. New Stolen Valor Law: The president signed the new VFW-supported Stolen Valor Act of 2013 into law on Monday. Said VFW National Commander John Hamilton, “the new law is bullet-proof against another constitutional challenge because the focus is now on the intent to profit from the lie — to obtain money, property or something of a tangible benefit or value — which is what con artists have been doing throughout history.” Not every combat award is covered, but the ones most coveted will now have wannabe heroes facing up to a year in jail and $100,000 fines for each offense. For the VFW statement click here: http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/2013-Articles/VFW-Salutes-New-Stolen-Valor-Law/
2. Senate Discusses Sexual Assaults in Military: On Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing to discuss pending legislation regarding sexual assaults in the military. The hearing marked the first time that each service chief answered specific questions on sexual misconduct in the military and the committee took advantage of the opportunity to speak at length with all stakeholders about legislative proposals. The VFW has consistently advocated for improved reporting mechanisms and recourse for victims of sexual assault in the military, as well as streamlining the path to necessary health care and benefits for victims. For more information, including the archived webcast of the hearing, visit our Capitol Hill blog at: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/06/senate-discusses-sexual-assault-in.html. 3. MST Bill Clears House: VFW-supported legislation, HR 671, The Ruth Moore Act passed the house this week. The bill brings military assault victims a step closer to receiving the care and compensation they deserve. VFW will be testifying on the Senate version, S. 294, introduced by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) next week when the Senate VA Committee holds its hearing on pending benefits’ legislation. Tester’s bill contains stronger language then what was passed in the House, requiring a law change to aligned MST claims with combat PTSD regulations within current VA regulations. VFW has strongly supported this change and looks to the Senate to move the bill quickly.
4. Military-VA Funding Bill Clears House: This week, The House passed the Military Construction-VA funding bill 421-4. HR 2216 is the first appropriations measure to be advanced by the House this session. Overall the bill provides $157.8 billion for veterans programs and military construction in FY 2014. The bill also included several amendments designed to reduce wait times for disability claim decisions to include increased funding for a paperless claims system for digital scanning of health and benefits files to help VA in its goal to end the backlog by 2015. Other Highlights included: * $57.5 billion for VA medical care accounts (this includes $54.5 billion for advanced appropriations for FY 2014). * $55.6 billion in advanced funding for VA Medical programs for FY 2015. * $290 million for disability claims systems * $35 million for TBI and PTSD research * $252 million to establish a single, integrated Department of Defense (DOD) and VA electronic health record system. Short comings include: * Prosthetics research, $586 million requested, $25 million less than the IB request * Medical Facilities (which include non-recurring maintenance), $4.87 billion requested, $698 million less than the IB request. * Construction, $1.2 billion requested, $1 billion less than the IB request. For the IBs press release regarding the Administration’s budget request click here: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/veterans-groups-president-budget-falls-212200801.html. For more highlights of the bill, visit the House Appropriations website at: http://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=336730. 5. House Armed Services Moves NDAA: This week, the House Armed Services Committee cleared their FY 2014 Defense Authorization bill (HR 1960) after a long day of amendments and discussion about military programs. Among the provisions included in the bills mark was personnel subcommittee language that would bar commanders from dismissing all but minor sexual offenses from a court martial, and prohibit them from reducing a guilty finding in a sexual assault case to a lesser offense. The language adopted comes just a day after the Senate discussed similar bills within their chamber with top military leaders in a hearing about military sexual assaults (see item #2). Other key provisions included a 1.8. percent pay raise for service members, rejection of Tricare Fees or higher pharmacy co-pays except for a $4 increase in out-patient co-pays for Tricare Prime beneficiaries. Members also adopted a bill by Congressman John Kline (R-MN) that would allow those beneficiaries to stay under Tricare Prime using one-time “opt-in” feature — DOD is requiring Prime enrollees who reside more than 40 miles from a military treatment facility to switch to Tricare Standard, effective October 1, 2013. The House is expected to vote on the bill next week and the Senate is schedule to begin discussion on their authorization bill as well. Check back here for more coverage of the NDAA as it moves through Congress. For complete highlights of the bill visit the HASC website at: http://armedservices.house.gov/index.cfm/press-releases?ContentRecord_id=dd06bb6d-c031-488d-88c4-b60e8ff35e28. 6. VFW Defends Commissaries: Last weekend the Washington Post published an article defending critics of military commissaries while attacking groups like the VFW who they believe are advocating to save “wasteful” military programs. The VFW first called attention to proposals to gut the commissary system as part of our “10 for 10” campaign in 2011. Now, it seems the opposition is coming after groups like the VFW. VFW will never apologize for advocating for our active duty military, veterans, retirees and their families. To read our entire blog posting, to include the Washington Post article, and our 10 for 10 campaign talking points, click here: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/06/defending-military-commissariesagain.html.
7. Burn Pit Registry Seeking Public Comment: The VA is asking for public comment on a planned registry of military members potentially exposed to open-air burn pit toxins from our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the from the first Gulf War. To establish its “Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry,” the VA is required to solicit public comment on the proposed collection of information for the index. According to a VA press release issued Wednesday, the registry will include a web-based questionnaire for troops and veterans to report health concerns and exposures. The 2012 Dignified Burial and Veterans Benefits Improvement Act required VA to establish a burn-pit registry by January 2014. Read more at https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/06/05/2013-13224/proposed-information-collection-open-burn-pit-registry-airborne-hazard-self-assessment-questionnaire.
8. Three MIAs Identified: The Defense POW/MIA Affairs Office announced the identification of remains belonging to a World War II airman and two Korean War soldiers. Returned home are: * Army Air Force Sgt. Charles R. Marshall, 19, of Martin, Ky. On July 21, 1944, a B-24H Liberator with nine crew aboard was shot down and crashed while on a bombing raid against enemy targets in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. Of the nine crew members, six parachuted to safety; a seventh crewmen’s remains were recovered near Hadorf. Marshall and another crewman were not recovered, and attempts to recover their remains after the war were unsuccessful.
* Army 1st Lt. Douglas H. Haag, 26, of Louisville, Ky. In early July 1950, Haag, and elements of the 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, were deployed along the Kum River in western South Korea when North Korean forces struck and overran the U.S. positions. Haag was reported missing, and later would be presumed dead and his remains non-recoverable.
* Army Master Sgt. Olen B. Williams, 37, of Verbena, Ala. In late 1950, Williams and elements of the 31st Regimental Combat Team were establishing a defensive line south of a bridge across the P’ungnyuri River, near a small village in Sinhung-ni, North Korea, when they were attacked by enemy forces. Williams was reported missing in action after the battle. Read more about their individual recovery stories at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/news/news_releases/.
As always, we want to share your advocacy stories on the VFW Capitol Hill blog. To share your stories, either fill out our online form by clicking here, http://www.vfw.org/Forms/Capitol-Hill-Blog-Submissions/, or simply email photos and stories directly to vfwac@vfw.org.

     

VA Mandates Overtime to Increase Production of Compensation Claims Decisions

May 15, 2013

 

VA Mandates Overtime to Increase Production of Compensation Claims Decisions

Latest Initiative aimed at reducing the backlog

WASHINGTON – As part of its ongoing effort to accelerate the elimination of the disability compensation claims backlog, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is announcing today that it is mandating overtime for claims processors in its 56 regional benefits offices. This surge, which will be implemented through the end of fiscal year 2013, will be used to help eliminate the backlog with continued emphasis on high-priority claims for homeless Veterans and those claiming financial hardship, the terminally ill, former Prisoners of War, Medal of Honor recipients, and Veterans filing Fully Developed Claims.

“VA is dedicated to providing Veterans with the care and benefits they have earned and deserve,” said VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki. “This increased overtime initiative will provide more Veterans with decisions on their claims and will help us achieve our goal of eliminating the claims backlog.”

This is the latest effort in support of the Secretary’s plan to reduce the backlog. Last month, VA announced an initiative to expedite compensation claims decisions for Veterans who have waited one year or longer.   On April 19, VA began prioritizing claims decisions for Veterans who have been waiting the longest, by providing provisional decisions that allow eligible Veterans to begin collecting compensation benefits quickly.  With a provisional decision, a Veteran has a year to submit additional information to support a claim before the decision becomes final.  More information can be found here.

“We’re committed to getting Veterans decisions on their claims as quickly and accurately as possible,” said Undersecretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey. “We need to surge our resources now to help those who have waited the longest and end the backlog.”

Claims for Wounded Warriors separating from the military for medical reasons will continue to be handled separately and on a priority basis with the Department of Defense through the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES). On average, Wounded Warriors separating through IDES currently receive VA compensation benefits in 2 months following their separation from service.

Veterans can learn more about disability benefits on the joint Department of Defense—VA web portal eBenefits at http://www.ebenefits.va.gov.

More information about filing Fully Developed Claims is available at: http://www.benefits.va.gov/transformation/fastclaims/.

 

VFW Washington Weekly
May 10, 2013

In This Issue:
1. VFW Testifies on VA   Construction Process
2. House Committee   Clears Veterans Bills
3. Senate VA Committee   Discusses Healthcare Bills
4. Two MIAs Identified

1.VFW Testifies on VA   Construction Process: This week, VFW testified before the   House VA Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, discussing   shortcomings in VA’s construction planning process. A recent GAO report   finding discrepancies in costs and delays averaging 35 months on critical   medical facility projects was also debated. Our testimony centered on how VA   could deliver new medical facilities in a timely manner with more accurate   cost projections. As the author of the IB section on VA major and minor   construction, we shared our thoughts on how VA should develop a master plan   for major medical construction projects, to include forecasting future needs   for veterans in certain areas. Other witnesses concluded that the process VA   uses to build its health care facilities has to be changed in order to avoid   delays in caring for veterans. We will continue monitoring and working with   all parties to ensure that major health care facilities can be delivered in a   timely manner to meet the health care needs of all veterans. For the hearing   specifics or to view the archived webcast, click here: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/05/watch-vfw-testifies-before-house-on-va.html.   For more on VA’s major and minor construction needs in the IB click here, http://www.independentbudget.org/
2. House Committee   Clears Veterans Bills: Earlier this week, the House VA committee   cleared six pieces of veterans’ legislation. All of the bills now move to the   House floor for consideration and debate. Some of the VFW- supported bills   included:
HR 671, The Ruth Moore Act was amended to include more stringent reporting   requirements for VA which the committee hopes will pressure VA to update and   improve its sexual trauma regulations. VFW was disappointed that the bill did   not require a law change to aligned MST claims with combat PTSD regulations.
HR 357 included the original provision which requires public universities to   charge only what is equal to in-state tuition for veterans, and a   controversial amendment banning bonuses for senior VA executives for five   years. It also contains provisions of 6 other bills including HR 1405, HR 1305,   HR 844 HR 631, 562 and HR 1453.
HR 844 extends the eligibility period for veterans enrolling in vocational   rehabilitation programs from 12 years following discharge to 17 years.
For complete coverage of all the related bills visit the House VA website at:   http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/legislative-hearing-on-hr-569-hr-570-hr-602-hr-671-hr-679-hr-733-hr-894-and-hr-1405.   For VFW’s April testimony on the bills, click here: http://www.vfw.org/VFW-in-DC/Congressional-Testimony/HVAC-DAMA-Bill-Hearing/
3. Senate VA Committee   Discusses Healthcare Bills: The Senate Veterans Affairs’   Committee held a lengthy bill hearing examining a variety of healthcare   bills. Many of the bills would expand or extend existing programs for   veterans and their families. VFW provided testimony for the record and gave   our support to:
S. 851 which would expand the caregiver program and extend these services and   benefits to the caregivers of veterans of all eras.
S. 825, Homeless Veterans Prevention Act would improve and expand homeless   programs within VA.
S. 131, Women Veterans and Other Health Improvements Act would advance VA   programs for women veterans and their families by offering reproductive and   fertility services for service-connected veterans as well as require VA, DOD   and IOM to collaborate on research to improve the long-term reproductive   health needs of veterans. It also would provide child care assistance and   readjustment counseling in retreat settings for those seeking mental health   services.
S. 422, Chiropractic Care Available to All Veterans Act would require VA to   establish programs for chiropractic care and services in at least 75 medical   centers by December 2014.
For more on the hearing to include testimony and the recorded webcast click   here: http://www.veterans.senate.gov/hearings.cfm?action=release.display&release_id=784bc3b3-ec97-4437-b8a3-0fe3bf0c5e4d
To read VFW’s submitted testimony click here: http://www.vfw.org/VFW-in-DC/Congressional-Testimony/SVAC-Bill-Hearing/

4. Two MIAs   Identified: The Defense POW/MIA Office announced the   identification of remains belonging to:
* Army Sgt. William C. Knight, 20, of West Brookfield, Mass. In late November   1950, Knight and elements of the Headquarters Battery, 57th Field Artillery   Battalion, 31st Regimental Combat Team, known historically as Task Force   Faith, began a fighting withdrawal to a more defensible position south of the   Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. Knight would be reported missing during the   withdrawal.
* Navy Lt. Richard L. Laws, 26, of West Sacramento, Calif. On April 3, 1966,   Laws was strafing enemy targets in Thanh Hoa Province, North Vietnam, when   his F-8E Crusader was struck by enemy ground fire. His mission commander saw   his aircraft crash into a nearby hillside and explode. As a result, Laws   would be declared killed in action/body not recovered.
Read more about their individual recoveries at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/news/news_releases/.

As always, we want to   share your advocacy stories on the VFW Capitol Hill blog. To share your   stories, either fill out our online form by clicking here, http://www.vfw.org/Forms/Capitol-Hill-Blog-Submissions/,   or simply email photos and stories directly to vfwac@vfw.org

 
 

VFW Washington Weekly 3 May 2013

May, 3 2013

In   This Issue:
1. New Student   -Veteran Support Program
2. VFW Joins Discussion on Credentialing
3. Congress returns to   Busy May Schedule
4. Vietnam MIAs Buried

1. New Student-Veteran   Support Program: In partnership with Student Veterans of   America, the VFW launched 1studentveteran@vfw.org   to provide direct assistance to student-veterans on 800 college and   university campuses who may experience problems accessing their GI Bill or   other earned benefits provided by VA. Said VFW National Commander John   Hamilton, “Student-veterans will now have a place to turn to for   reliable and timely help when they encounter problems with the VA.” Read   more at http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/2013-Articles/VFW,-SVA-Launch-New-Initiative-to-Help-Student-Veterans/.

2.   VFW Joins Discussion on Credentialing: This week, VFW   spent some time at the White House for a series of roundtable discussions on   military professional credentialing and academic credit for military training   and experience. The discussion is part of First Lady Michelle Obama, and Dr.   Jill Biden’s Joining Forces initiative. Hundreds of stakeholders across the   federal government, private industry, military and the veterans’ community   were on hand to discuss ways to improve the portability of military training   for civilian professional licenses and credentials as well as academic credit   toward a college degree. VFW has been and will continue to be a vocal   advocate on both of these issues. We have helped champion legislation in the   last Congress to improve career portability and academic preparedness for   transitioning service members and veterans. We will continue to work with the   White House, VA, the Pentagon and Congress to ensure that separating service   members have access to quality careers after leaving the military. For more   on the event and the Joining Forces campaign visit our blog at: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/04/vfw-joins-white-house-roundtables-on.html

3. Congress Returns to Busy May Schedule: Congress returns   to Washington next week for a busy month of bill hearings, appropriation   wrangling and mark-ups. Some of the bills that will be debated in committee   are those VFW has been monitoring since the beginning of Congress. They cover   a wide- range of topics to include homeless veteran programs, chiropractic   care, caregiver expansion, research sharing, and improvements to women   veterans’ health care within VA. Check back next week for full coverage of   the bill hearings and our testimony.
For our blog postings, click here: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/
For the Senate VA Committee website, click here: http://www.veterans.senate.gov/

4. Vietnam MIAs   Buried: On July 19, 1967, Navy Lt. Dennis W. Peterson of   Huntington Park, Calif., was the pilot of an SH-3A helicopter that took off   from the USS Hornet on a search and rescue mission of a downed pilot in Ha   Nam Province, North Vietnam. A concealed enemy 37mm gun targeted the   helicopter as it flew in. Also aboard were Ensign Donald P. Frye of Los   Angeles, and Aviation Antisubmarine Warfare Technicians William B. Jackson of   Stockdale, Texas, and Donald P. McGrane of Waverly, Iowa, all of whom had   been previously identified. The reunited crew was buried as a group on May 2   at Arlington National Cemetery. Read more at http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=15968.

As always, we want to   share your advocacy stories on the VFW Capitol Hill blog. To share your   stories, either fill out our online form by clicking here, http://www.vfw.org/Forms/Capitol-Hill-Blog-Submissions/,   or simply email photos and stories directly to vfwac@vfw.org

 
 

VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY APRIL 26

In This Issue:

1. House VA Committee Moves Vet Bills

2.  VFW Attends House Leadership Roundtable –Discusses Claims Backlog

3. Affordable Care Act and VA Debated

4. Armed Services Committees Discuss Cuts and TAP

5. New VA Hotline for Women Veterans

6. Support Tools for Military Kids

7. Korean War MIA Recovered

 

1. House VA Committee Moves Vet Bills: This week, the House Subcommittees on Disability and Memorial Affairs and Economic Opportunity moved several VFW-supported bills that would improve benefits and employment/transition options for veterans. All of the bills now move to the full committee for consideration.

Bills cleared by the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity include

HR 631 – A bill which was amended to now mandate participation in the new education TAP classes for service members who plan to use their GI Bill education benefits.

HR 357 – The GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act of 2013, which will require public universities to charge only what is equal to in-state tuition for veterans, and was amended to give states two years to comply.

HR 844 – A bill which extends the eligibility period for veterans enrolling in vocational rehabilitation programs from 12 years following discharge to 17 years.

Five other bills (HR 562, HR 1305, HR 1316, HR 1402, HR 1412, and HR 1453) cleared committee, which the VFW recently supported in testimony. To read VFW’s testimony on these bills, click here: http://veterans.house.gov/witness-testimony/mr-ryan-m-gallucci-1.

Bills cleared by Subcommittee on Disability and Memorial Affairs –

H.R. 570 – A bill to provide an automatic COLA (tied to social security and CPI) increase thereby ending the need for Congress to introduce a bill each fiscal year.
H.R. 671 – The Ruth Moore Act of 2013, which would relax evidential standards and make it easier for military sexual assault victims to receive VA disability benefits

H.R. 679, the Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Retirees Act, legislation which would recognize those men and women who choose to serve our nation in the Reserve component as veterans

To read VFW’s testimony on these bills, click here: http://www.vfw.org/VFW-in-DC/Congressional-Testimony/HVAC-DAMA-Bill-Hearing/

For a list of all the bills and subcommittee action, visit the House VA Committee Website at: http://veterans.house.gov/

 

2. VFW Attends House Leadership Roundtable – Discusses Claims Backlog: On Thursday, VFW attended a roundtable discussion hosted by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi as part of ongoing efforts between the VSO community and House leadership to address the critical issues facing veterans, service members and their families. The main topic of discussion was the disability claims backlog with a nod to the goal of eliminating the backlog by 2015 using the new electronic filing system –Veterans Benefits Management System or VBMS. VFW suggested that VA must be held accountable as we move closer to the 2015 goal, but Congress should ask for milestones moving forward and VA must provide results. Criticism directed at VA has been ongoing, but VFW commented that in order to fix the broken system, VA must receive the resources needed to achieve their self-imposed goal of providing quality and timely disability ratings. To learn more about what VFW had to say, click here: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/04/vfw-discusses-claims-backlog-at-house.html.

 

For pictures and the Democratic Press release click here: http://www.democraticleader.gov/Pelosi_Holds_Roundtable_with_Veterans_Groups_to_Address_Disability_Claims_Backlog.

 

3. Affordable Care Act and VA Care Debated: On Wednesday, the House VA Committee held a hearing entitled “Examining the Implications of the Affordable Care Act on VA Healthcare.”  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or ACA became law in March 2010 and will be fully implemented in January 2014.  V.A.’s fiscal year 2014 budget proposal includes a request of $88.4 million to implement the provisions of the ACA and meet the department’s responsibilities as a provider of required essential coverage. The Committee asked Dr. Robert Petzel, Undersecretary of Health, Veterans Health Administration and a Ms. Lisa Zarlenga, Legislative Council, Department of the Treasury to discuss factors that may affect veterans.  Dr. Petzel discussed enrollment changes and funding levels for medical care and IT to help meet any increase in care.  He acknowledged to committee members that they have estimated about 66,000 new enrollees (based on VA surveys of veterans) who may use VA as their choice of health care under the new law. Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) and other members were skeptical of that number and believe that the influx of veterans who may choose VA for their health care needs will be much higher.  Confusion on health care coverage and choices for those veterans living in remote and rural areas was also discussed.  Ms. Zarlenga noted the Treasury and IRS worked side-by-side with VA and HHS to make sure the rule of law provided flexibility and clarity for veterans when deciding their health care coverage. For full hearing coverage and the recorded webcast, click here: http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/examining-the-implications-of-the-affordable-care-act-on-va-healthcare.

 

4. Armed Services Committees Discuss Cuts and TAP: This week your VFW was on hand as the House and Senate Armed Services committees hosted hearings to discuss proposed military cuts and the revamped military Transition Assistance Program, or TAP. The Senate hosted each service’s assistant secretary for manpower to discuss proposed cuts to TRICARE, military pay raises, as well as morale and readiness in the wake of sequestration. The subcommittee pushed hard for increases to TRICARE fees, which the VFW vows to oppose. The House hosted officials from the departments of Defense, VA, and Labor to discuss the ongoing roll-out of the new military TAP, which VFW has played a key role in evaluating. To learn more about each hearing and to view archived webcasts, click here: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/04/armed-services-committees-discuss.html.

 

5. New VA Hotline for Women Veterans: The VA launched a new hotline, 1-855-VA-WOMEN or 1-855-829-6636, to respond to questions from women veterans, families and caregivers about the many VA services and resources available to women veterans. Women make up nearly 15 percent of today’s active duty military and 18 percent of Guard and Reserve forces. Yet even though the number of women using VA healthcare has doubled over the past decade to more than 350,000, women still only account for 6 percent of the total number of veterans seeking VA healthcare. “Many women who served don’t self-identify as veterans and therefore don’t think they qualify for VA benefits,” said Irene Trowell-Harris, director of VA’s Center for Women Veterans. “We need to correct existing misinformation and misperceptions so we can serve more women veterans with the benefits they’ve earned.” The new hotline joins numerous other VA hotlines that provide critical information and assistance to all veterans, such as those in crises or in danger of becoming homeless. Learn more at www.eBenefits.va.gov and MyHealtheVet.va.gov.

 

6. Support Tools for Military Kids: April is the Month of the Military Child, which recognizes the nation’s 1.8 million military children for their character, courage, sacrifices and resilience in the face of unique challenges — deployments that take parents away for months at a time; frequent moves that involve changing schools and leaving friends behind; and parents returning home with combat-related injuries. If you’re a service member with children, here’s a strong list of resources to help you help them cope with whatever military life might bring their way: http://www.dcoe.health.mil/blog/13-04-23/Support_Tools_for_Military_Families_Military_Kids.aspx.

 

7. Korean War MIA Recovered: The Defense POW/MIA Office announced the identification of remains belonging to Army Master Sgt. Robert A. Stein, 29, of Jamestown, N.Y. In late 1950, Stein and elements of the 31st Regimental Combat Team were engaged by vastly superior numbers of enemy forces east of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. Remnants of the 31st RCT, known historically as Task Force Faith, began a fighting withdrawal to a more defensible position south of the reservoir. Stein was reported missing Dec. 2, 1950. Read more at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/news/news_releases/.

 

As always, we want to share your advocacy stories on the VFW Capitol Hill blog. To share your stories, either fill out our online form by clicking here, http://www.vfw.org/Forms/Capitol-Hill-Blog-Submissions/, or simply email photos and stories directly to vfwac@vfw.org

VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY 26 APRIL 2013

VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY
April 26, 2013

In This Issue:
1. House VA Committee Moves Vet Bills
2. VFW Attends House Leadership Roundtable –Discusses Claims Backlog
3. Affordable Care Act and VA Debated
4. Armed Services Committees Discuss Cuts and TAP
5. New VA Hotline for Women Veterans
6. Support Tools for Military Kids
7. Korean War MIA Recovered

1. House VA Committee Moves Vet Bills: This week, the House Subcommittees on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs and Economic Opportunity moved several VFW-supported bills that would improve benefits and employment/transition options for veterans. All of the bills now move to the full committee for consideration.
Bills cleared by the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity include –
HR 631 — A bill which was amended to now mandate participation in the new education TAP classes for service members who plan to use their GI Bill education benefits.
HR 357 — The GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act of 2013, which will require public universities to charge only what is equal to in-state tuition for veterans, and was amended to give states two years to comply.
HR 844 — A bill which extends the eligibility period for veterans enrolling in vocational rehabilitation programs from 12 years following discharge to 17 years.
Five other bills (HR 562, HR 1305, HR 1316, HR 1402, HR 1412, and HR 1453) cleared committee, which the VFW recently supported in testimony. To read VFW’s testimony on these bills, click here: http://veterans.house.gov/witness-testimony/mr-ryan-m-gallucci-1.
Bills cleared by Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs
H.R. 570 — A bill to provide an automatic COLA (tied to social security and CPI) increase thereby ending the need for Congress to introduce a bill each fiscal year.
H.R. 671 — The Ruth Moore Act of 2013, which would relax evidential standards and make it easier for military sexual assault victims to receive VA disability benefits
H.R. 679, the Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Retirees Act, legislation which would recognize those men and women who choose to serve our nation in the Reserve component as veterans
To read VFW’s testimony on these bills, click here: http://www.vfw.org/VFW-in-DC/Congressional-Testimony/HVAC-DAMA-Bill-Hearing/
For a list of all the bills and subcommittee action, visit the House VA Committee Website at: http://veterans.house.gov/

2. VFW Attends House Leadership Roundtable – Discusses Claims Backlog: On Thursday, VFW attended a roundtable discussion hosted by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi as part of ongoing efforts between the VSO community and House leadership to address the critical issues facing veterans, service members and their families. The main topic of discussion was the disability claims backlog with a nod to the goal of eliminating the backlog by 2015 using the new electronic filing system –Veterans Benefits Management System or VBMS. VFW suggested that VA must be held accountable as we move closer to the 2015 goal, but Congress should ask for milestones moving forward and VA must provide results. Criticism directed at VA has been ongoing, but VFW commented that in order to fix the broken system, VA must receive the resources needed to achieve their self-imposed goal of providing quality and timely disability ratings. To learn more about what VFW had to say, click here: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/04/vfw-discusses-claims-backlog-at-house.html.

For pictures and the Democratic Press release click here: http://www.democraticleader.gov/Pelosi_Holds_Roundtable_with_Veterans_Groups_to_Address_Disability_Claims_Backlog.

3. Affordable Care Act and VA Care Debated: On Wednesday, the House VA Committee held a hearing entitled “Examining the Implications of the Affordable Care Act on VA Healthcare.” The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or ACA became law in March 2010 and will be fully implemented in January 2014. V.A.’s fiscal year 2014 budget proposal includes a request of $88.4 million to implement the provisions of the ACA and meet the department’s responsibilities as a provider of required essential coverage. The Committee asked Dr. Robert Petzel, Undersecretary of Health, Veterans Health Administration and a Ms. Lisa Zarlenga, Legislative Council, Department of the Treasury to discuss factors that may affect veterans. Dr. Petzel discussed enrollment changes and funding levels for medical care and IT to help meet any increase in care. He acknowledged to committee members that they have estimated about 66,000 new enrollees (based on VA surveys of veterans) who may use VA as their choice of health care under the new law. Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) and other members were skeptical of that number and believe that the influx of veterans who may choose VA for their health care needs will be much higher. Confusion on health care coverage and choices for those veterans living in remote and rural areas was also discussed. Ms. Zarlenga noted the Treasury and IRS worked side-by-side with VA and HHS to make sure the rule of law provided flexibility and clarity for veterans when deciding their health care coverage. For full hearing coverage and the recorded webcast, click here: http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/examining-the-implications-of-the-affordable-care-act-on-va-healthcare.

4. Armed Services Committees Discuss Cuts and TAP: This week your VFW was on hand as the House and Senate Armed Services committees hosted hearings to discuss proposed military cuts and the revamped military Transition Assistance Program, or TAP. The Senate hosted each service’s assistant secretary for manpower to discuss proposed cuts to TRICARE, military pay raises, as well as morale and readiness in the wake of sequestration. The subcommittee pushed hard for increases to TRICARE fees, which the VFW vows to oppose. The House hosted officials from the departments of Defense, VA, and Labor to discuss the ongoing roll-out of the new military TAP, which VFW has played a key role in evaluating. To learn more about each hearing and to view archived webcasts, click here: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/04/armed-services-committees-discuss.html.

5. New VA Hotline for Women Veterans: The VA launched a new hotline, 1-855-VA-WOMEN or 1-855-829-6636, to respond to questions from women veterans, families and caregivers about the many VA services and resources available to women veterans. Women make up nearly 15 percent of today’s active duty military and 18 percent of Guard and Reserve forces. Yet even though the number of women using VA healthcare has doubled over the past decade to more than 350,000, women still only account for 6 percent of the total number of veterans seeking VA healthcare. “Many women who served don’t self-identify as veterans and therefore don’t think they qualify for VA benefits,” said Irene Trowell-Harris, director of VA’s Center for Women Veterans. “We need to correct existing misinformation and misperceptions so we can serve more women veterans with the benefits they’ve earned.” The new hotline joins numerous other VA hotlines that provide critical information and assistance to all veterans, such as those in crises or in danger of becoming homeless. Learn more at www.eBenefits.va.gov and MyHealtheVet.va.gov.

6. Support Tools for Military Kids: April is the Month of the Military Child, which recognizes the nation’s 1.8 million military children for their character, courage, sacrifices and resilience in the face of unique challenges — deployments that take parents away for months at a time; frequent moves that involve changing schools and leaving friends behind; and parents returning home with combat-related injuries. If you’re a service member with children, here’s a strong list of resources to help you help them cope with whatever military life might bring their way: http://www.dcoe.health.mil/blog/13-04-23/Support_Tools_for_Military_Families_Military_Kids.aspx.

7. Korean War MIA Recovered: The Defense POW/MIA Office announced the identification of remains belonging to Army Master Sgt. Robert A. Stein, 29, of Jamestown, N.Y. In late 1950, Stein and elements of the 31st Regimental Combat Team were engaged by vastly superior numbers of enemy forces east of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. Remnants of the 31st RCT, known historically as Task Force Faith, began a fighting withdrawal to a more defensible position south of the reservoir. Stein was reported missing Dec. 2, 1950. Read more at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/news/news_releases/.

As always, we want to share your advocacy stories on the VFW Capitol Hill blog. To share your stories, either fill out our online form by clicking here, http://www.vfw.org/Forms/Capitol-Hill-Blog-Submissions/, or simply email photos and stories directly to vfwac@vfw.org

VA to Expedite Claims Decisions for Veterans Who Have Waited a Year or More

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 19, 2013

 

VA to Expedite Claims Decisions for Veterans Who Have Waited a Year or More

 

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs announced today it is implementing an initiative to expedite compensation claims decisions for Veterans who have waited one year or longer. Effective today, VA claims raters will make provisional decisions on the oldest claims in inventory, which will allow Veterans to begin collecting compensation benefits more quickly, if eligible. Veterans will be able to submit additional evidence for consideration a full year after the provisional rating, before VA issues a final decision.

 

“Too many Veterans wait too long for a decision, and this has never been acceptable,” said VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. “That is why we are implementing an aggressive plan to eliminate the backlog in 2015.  This initiative is the right thing to do now for Veterans who have waited the longest.”

 

Provisional decisions will be based on all evidence provided to date by the Veteran or obtained on their behalf by VA.  If a VA medical examination is needed to decide the claim, it will be ordered and expedited.

 

“Issuing provisional decisions not only provides Veterans with applicable benefits much more quickly, but also gives them an additional one-year safety net to submit further evidence should it become available. Our door will remain open and if a Veteran has additional evidence, their case will be fast tracked,” said Allison Hickey, Undersecretary for Benefits.

 

If any increase is determined to be warranted based on the additional evidence received, benefits will be retroactive to the date the claim was initially filed.  The initiative protects the Veteran’s right to appeal the decision. If no further evidence is received within that year, VBA will inform the Veteran that their rating is final and provide information on the standard appeals process, which can be found at http://www.bva.va.gov/

 

Throughout this initiative, VA will continue to prioritize claims for homeless Veterans and those claiming financial hardship, the terminally ill, former Prisoners of War, Medal of Honor recipients, and Veterans filing Fully Developed Claims.  More information about filing Fully Developed Claims is available at: http://www.benefits.va.gov/transformation/fastclaims/

 

Claims for Wounded Warriors separating from the military for medical reasons will continue to be handled separately and on a priority basis with the Department of Defense through the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES).  Wounded Warriors separating through IDES currently receive VA compensation benefits in an average of 61 days following their separation from service.

 

As a result of this initiative, metrics used to track benefits claims will experience significant fluctuations.  The focus on processing the oldest claims will cause the overall measure of the average length of time to complete a claim – currently 286 days – to skew, rising significantly in the near term because of the number of old claims that will be completed. Over time, as the backlog of oldest claims is cleared and more of the incoming claims are processed electronically through VA’s new paperless processing system, VA’s average time to complete claims will significantly improve.  In addition, the average days pending metric – or the average age of a claim in the inventory – will decrease, since the oldest claims will no longer be part of the inventory.

 

While compensation claims are pending, eligible Veterans are able to receive healthcare and other benefits from VA.  Veterans who have served in recent conflicts are eligible for 5 years of free healthcare from VA. Currently, over 55% of returning Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans are using VA health care, a rate of utilization greater than previous generations of Veterans.

Veterans can learn more about disability benefits on the joint Department of Defense—VA web portal eBenefits at:  https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits-portal/ebenefits.portal