 Senate Votes to Expand Veterans’ Access to Private Care:

The Senate on Thursday unanimously passed legislation instructing the Veterans Affairs Department to allow veterans living within 40 miles of a VA facility to get non-VA care if the department hospital or clinic cannot provide the service.
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, filed the bill as an amendment to the Senate Budget Resolution, Moran spokeswoman Garrette Tuner said. The vote was 100-0. Turner said that Moran’s amendment will ensure VA administers the Choice Act “as Congress intended.” It calls on the VA to provide veterans access to non-VA health care when the nearest VA medical facility within 40 miles drive time is incapable of offering the care the veteran seeks, she said.

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 Run For The Wall – May 13 – 23, 2015:

The mission statement for this run is “To promote healing among ALL veterans and their families; to call for an accounting of POW/MIA’s; honor the memory of those killed in action and to support our military personnel all over the world.
These riders start in California and during their journey to Washington, DC they visit VA medical centers, Veterans’ Memorials, Veterans’ Outreach Facilities, and schools along the 3 routes.
They also participate in Rolling Thunder in support of their demand for government accountability for POW/MIA’s.
As of April 1, 2015 there are 208 registered motorcycle riders who will be on the route riding through Oklahoma and we need to show our support for these riders as they pass.
We should recognize DAV chapter 54 in Shawnee for meeting the riders in Shawnee and showing their support.

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 VA Aid & Attendance Update:

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs is proposing new rules on who can get monthly Aid & Attendance benefits. The VA feels the rules are needed to prevent people from “gaming” the system by giving away assets and then applying for aid. However, The Aid & Attendance benefit provides money to needy veterans and surviving spouses who require daily assistance for necessary activities such as eating, bathing and dressing. For now, if a veteran or surviving spouse has less than $80,000 in assets — not including a house or car — and that veteran has a high deductible medical expenses that net out his/her income, they may qualify. A single veteran’s maximum monthly benefit is $1,788, and a surviving spouse’s is $1,149, tax -free. The proposed rules would establish a new combined net worth and income limit of $ 119,220, impose a 36-month look- back period on asset transfers (like Medicaid’s Congressionally -mandated five-year look- back period), and a penalty period of up to 10 years related to gifts.

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 VA Vet Choice Program Update:

The Veterans Affairs Department has asked for new legislation that would let it pay for private health care for veterans who live near a VA clinic but can’t get the treatment they need because it’s not offered at that location. VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson told the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee 24 MAR that vets are “frustrated” with the VA Choice program, particularly the requirement that measures eligibility by a veteran’s proximity to any VA health facility
even those that are not full-service medical centers. Gibson said many veterans are excluded from the program because of this provision in the law and few have applied or waivers to the rules. “Many veterans are frustrated with the Choice program,” Gibson said. “Such confusion leads to lower use of Choice.”
VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson acknowledged that veterans are frustrated with the Veterans Choice program, but said VA is intent on fixing the issues that have cropped up with the new initiative.

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H.R. 303, the Retired Pay Restoration Act.

This bill would end the unfair policy of forcing many military longevity retirees to forfeit some of their retired pay in order to receive equal amounts of disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The effect of this policy means military retirees are paying for their own disability with their military retired pay. This unfair policy has adversely impacted disabled veterans and their families for more than a century, but was partially repealed by Congress in 2004. Under current law disabled veterans with 20-plus years of active military service who are also in receipt of a VA disability determination of 50 percent or higher may retain both military retirement pay and their VA compensation.

In line with DAV resolution 014, H.R. 303 would end the longstanding and unfair practice of the government’s withholding of military longevity retired pay in exchange for VA disability compensation, regardless of disability rating. DAV believes what is unfair for a veteran rated 50 percent disabled or higher by the VA is equally unfair for a disabled veteran rated 40 percent disabled or lower. Disabled military longevity retirees should not be penalized by the government for any reason.

Currently, H.R. 303 has bipartisan support. This legislation was referred to the House Committee on Armed Services, and in addition to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs for a period to be determined by the Speaker of the House. Please use the prepared email, or draft your own message, to request that your Representative support this important bill and ask that it be brought to the floor for a vote and passed as soon as possible.

Thank you for all that you do for veterans and their families. We need your grassroots action to gain Congressional enactment of this important legislation.

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2015 Oklahoma Veterans Awareness Day

“Job well done” to all the Members and Chapters who made their way to our State Capital on Wednesday April 1st.  Remarks by the Lt Governor Todd Lamb, Speaker of the House Jeffrey Hickman and Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman were very gracious and respectful to the Service and Sacrifices made by our Military and fellow Veterans. While both the Citizens and elected officials in Oklahoma honor our service it is our “collected responsibility” as Veterans to remain vigilant in all matters that affect the men and women who have borne battle; to that end I would ask each and every one who attended Veterans Awareness Day to not only “spread the word” but return next year with someone new….for there truly is “strength in numbers”

Thank You for your continued service to our Country and fellow Veterans                               OKDAV Adjutant

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Please Pass the Word

On January 13, 2015, Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL) introduced H.R. 303, the Retired Pay Restoration Act.  This bill would end the unfair policy of forcing many military longevity retirees to forfeit some of their retired pay in order to receive equal amounts of disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  The effect of this policy means military retirees are paying for their own disability with their military retired pay.  This unfair policy has adversely impacted disabled veterans and their families for more than a century, but was partially repealed by Congress in 2004.  Under current law disabled veterans with 20-plus years of active military service who are also in receipt of a VA disability determination of 50 percent or higher may retain both military retirement pay and their VA compensation.

In line with DAV resolution 014, H.R. 303 would end the longstanding and unfair practice of the government’s withholding of military longevity retired pay in exchange for VA disability compensation, regardless of disability rating.  DAV believes what is unfair for a veteran rated 50 percent disabled or higher by the VA is equally unfair for a disabled veteran rated 40 percent disabled or lower.  Disabled military longevity retirees should not be penalized by the government for any reason.

Currently, H.R. 303 has bipartisan support.  This legislation was referred to the House Committee on Armed Services, and in addition to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs for a period to be determined by the Speaker of the House.  Please use the prepared email, or draft your own message, to request that your Representative support this important bill and ask that it be brought to the floor for a vote and passed as soon as possible.

Thank you for all that you do for veterans and their families.  We need your grassroots action to gain Congressional enactment of this important legislation.

Click the link below to log in and send your message:
https://www.votervoice.net/link/target/dav/J5EEQ4Gg3.aspx

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VA rule change could double number of vets eligible for health care

Responding to pressure from Congress and veterans groups, the Department of Veterans Affairs is relaxing a rule that makes it hard for some veterans in rural areas to prove they live at least 40 miles from a VA health site.
The change comes amid complaints from lawmakers and advocates who say the VA’s current policy has prevented thousands of veterans from taking advantage of a new law intended to allow veterans in remote areas to gain access to federally paid medical care from local doctors.
The VA said it will now measure the 40-mile trip by driving miles as calculated by Google maps or other sites, rather than as the crow flies, as currently interpreted. The rule change is expected to roughly double the number of eligible veterans.

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• VA Establishes MyVA Advisory Committee;

On Friday, March 13, 2015, the Department of Veterans Affairs today announced the establishment of the MyVA Advisory Committee. The Committee brings together skilled experts from the private, non-profit and government sectors to assist in reorienting the Department to better meet the needs of Veterans. This Committee is charged with advising the Secretary of Veterans Affairs with a focus on improving customer service, Veteran outcomes and setting the course for long-term reform and excellence.

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• VA: No date set for Agent Orange C-123 decision:

The VA said Friday, March 13, 2015, that no date has been set for a decision on whether to award benefits for Agent Orange exposure to Air Force reservists who flew C-123 aircraft contaminated with the herbicide.
The department is weighing the issue after a recent study confirmed the possibility of health risks as well as lobbying from veteran groups and former crew members. But it did not plan to make an announcement this week, despite an earlier indication by VA officials, spokeswoman Meagan Lutz said.
There is no definite timeline for a decision, she said.
Veterans say herbicide residue left inside the aircraft from service during the Vietnam War sickened them and they deserve the VA health care coverage for Agent Orange-related conditions extended to nearly all servicemembers deployed to the war zone.
The C-123s were used to spray during Operation Ranch Hand and were later brought back to the United States and repurposed as military cargo aircraft. About 1,500 to 2,100 personnel flew and trained on the C-123 aircraft from the early 1970s to the 1980s.

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