 New Rules for Service Dogs at VA Facilities

According to an August 18 Military Times article by Patricia Kime, the VA will put new rules in place next month to ensure that veterans and visitors to VA facilities can bring their service dogs to appointments. The regulation—in the works since 2012 when Congress ordered the VA to expand access for assistance animals—will allow any service dog to enter a VA facility, as long as it is under a handler’s control and is trained to perform tasks or work for a person with a disability, whether it be physical, psychiatric, or intellectual

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 VA’s Revised Regulations Betray Blue Water Navy Veterans:

In a press release issued August 13 by the Military-Veteran Advocacy, MVA Executive Director Commander John B Wells, USN (Retired) responded to the VA’s recent revision to its manual, defining what areas can be considered for the presumption of Agent Orange exposure. This revision specifically excludes the crews of ships that entered the major bays and harbors of Vietnam, including Navy personnel who were exposed to Agent Orange in Da Nang, Nha Trang, Vung Tau and Cam Ranh Bay. The provision was issued in response to a court order from the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims decision entitled Gray v. McDonald, which found the old regulation to be improper and ordering the VA to re-write it. Wells described the new regulation as a “betrayal.”

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 Health Screening Update:

Over the past year, men were 24% less likely than women to see a doctor. This reluctance to seek medical care is dangerous. Many of the health risks that men face can be prevented or treated with early diagnosis. All adults should visit their health care provider from time to time, even if they are healthy. The purpose of these visits is to:
• Screen for diseases
• Assess risk of future medical problems
• Help develop a healthy lifestyle
• Update vaccinations
• Maintain a relationship with a doctor in case of an illness
Even if you feel fine, it is still important to see your health care provider regularly to check for potential problemS.

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 GI Bill Update

Beginning 1 AUG, all active duty personnel who may choose to transfer Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to a family member will be required to serve in uniform an additional four years, regardless of the years already served. The current policy allows service members to transfer benefits if they have served at least six years and agree to four additional years on active duty. Those who had 10 or more years of service could transfer the benefits without further commitment, but now they must also agree to serve four more years. Transferability is only available to active duty members. If a service member transferred the benefit and voluntarily leaves the military prior to completing the four additional years of service, the individual may be required to pay back those benefits. However, the requirement may be waived, if the service member is involuntarily separated. To apply to transfer the benefit, service members should first contact the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to establish their eligibility and then submit a transferability application. For additional information on GI Bill benefits visit httpp://www.gibill.va.gov.
According to an AP report, the Senate may soon have the chance to vote on whether or not to remove the time limit for GI Bill benefits. Currently veterans have 10 years to use their Montgomery GI Bill (or 15 years to use their Post-9/11 GI Bill). The so-called delimiting date is determined by the veterans last discharge date. Senator Richard Blumenthal announced his new bill the Veterans Back to School Act of 2013 (S.873) on 28 MAY, saying the new bill that would repeal the “unfair and arbitrary time limits.” Blumenthal said more than 2 million veterans who
missed the 10-year expiration date have been denied the benefits despite paying the required Montgomery GI Bill enrollment fee of $1,200. While the bill would not have an immediate effect on Post-9/11 vets, it would restore the GI Bill for many Vietnam, Cold-War, and Gulf-War era veterans who were unable to take advantage of their benefits within

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 VA ID Card Update – | Sent to President for Signature

A bill that would create a uniform identification card for U.S. military veterans is in the final stages of its journey from idea to law, and is being seen both as a nice benefit for America’s fighting men and women and an illustration of just how hard it can be to get anything through Congress. Sponsored by U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Florida Republican, the bill directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to issue a veteran’s 50 identification card. Such a card would allow veterans to prove their status without having to carry around military service records, such as the common form known as a “DD-214.”

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 Awards Replacement Update – New Regulation Offers Guidance

The newly revised edition of the Army regulation for military awards, AR 600-8-22, lays out the procedures that service members, veterans and surviving family members need to follow for requesting replacement medals of previously awarded decorations. Replacement medals will be issued on a one-time, no-cost basis to the recipient of the award, or the primary next of kin to a deceased recipient. Subsequent replacement medals or service ribbons for individuals not on active duty may be made at cost price, according to the 25 JUN update of the regulation
When requesting replacement medals for awards issued by the U. S. military services, individuals should access the website of the National Personnel Records Center http://www.archives.gov/veterans/replacemedals.html

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 VA Issues Findings on Airborne Hazards & Open Burn Pit Registry:

Nearly 30,000 Veterans and active duty Servicemembers have participated in VA’s Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry through December 2014. The VA’s June 2015 report highlights health conditions and physical limitations experienced by burn pit registry participants. The most common doctor-diagnosed health problems reported were insomnia and neurological problems. Other commonly diagnosed health problems reported include allergies, high blood pressure, and lung disease like emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and asthma.
VA’s Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry allows eligible Veterans and Servicemembers to document their exposures and report health concerns through an online questionnaire.
Eligible Veterans and Servicemembers include those who served in:
Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn
Djibouti, Africa on or after September 11, 2001
Operations Desert Shield or Desert Storm
Southwest Asia theater of operations on or after August 2, 1990
For more information you can contact a service officer to assist you or you can go directly to the Dept. of Veteran Affairs

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Pending Legislation FYI

H.R.1769 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)
Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015

Directs the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to select a VA medical center to serve as the national center for research on the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions of the biological children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren of individuals exposed to toxic substances while serving as members of the Armed Forces that are related to such exposure.
Requires: (1) the Department of Defense (DOD) or the head of a federal agency to make available to the VA for review records held by DOD, an Armed Force, or that federal agency that might assist the VA in making determinations regarding individuals and descendents afflicted with a health condition as a result of such exposure; (2) the VA and DOD or such agency head to jointly establish a mechanism for the availability and review of records by the VA; and (3) the national center to employ at least one licensed clinical social worker to coordinate access of individuals to appropriate social and health care programs and to handle case management.
Establishes an Advisory Board to oversee and assess the national center and to advise the VA regarding the center’s work.
Directs DOD to declassify documents (other than documents that would materially and immediately threaten national security) related to any known incident in which at least 100 members of the Armed Forces were exposed to a toxic substance that resulted in at least one case of an associated disability.
Directs the VA to conduct a national outreach and education campaign directed toward members of the Armed Forces, veterans, and their family members to communicate information on: (1) incidents of exposure of members of the Armed Forces to toxic substances, health conditions resulting from such exposure, and the potential long-term effects; and (2) the national center. Requires DOD and the Department of Health and Human Services to assist the VA in implementing such campaign.

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 Agent Orange Registry Health Exam for Veterans:

This comprehensive health exam includes an exposure history, medical history, physical exam, and any tests if needed. A VA health professional will discuss the results face-to-face with the Veteran and in a follow-up letter.
Important points about registry health exams:
• Free to eligible Veterans and no co-payment
• Not a disability compensation exam or required for other VA benefits
• Enrollment in VA’s health care system not necessary
• Based on Veterans’ recollection of service, not on their military records
• Will not confirm exposure to Agent Orange
• Veterans can receive additional registry exams, if new problems develop
• Veterans’ family members are not eligible for an Agent Orange Registry health exam.
Contact your local VA Environmental Health Coordinator about getting an Agent Orange Registry health exam
These Veterans are eligible for the Agent Orange Registry health exam:
 Veterans who served in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975, regardless of length of time.
 Veterans who served aboard smaller river patrol and swift boats that operated on the inland waterways of Vietnam (also known as “Brown Water Veterans”). Check VA’s list of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships that operated in Vietnam
 U.S. Air Force Veterans who served on Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) bases near U-Tapao, Ubon, Nakhon Phanom, Udorn, Takhli, Korat, and Don Muang, near the air base perimeter anytime between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975.
 U.S. Army Veterans who provided perimeter security on RTAF bases in Thailand anytime between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975.
 U.S. Army Veterans who were stationed on some small Army installations in Thailand anytime between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975. However, the Army Veteran must have been a member of a military police (MP) unit or was assigned a military occupational specialty whose duty placed him or her at or near the base perimeter.
Other potential Agent Orange exposures
 Veterans who may have been exposed to herbicides during a military operation or as a result of testing, transporting, or spraying herbicides for military purposes. Learn about herbicide tests and storage outside Vietnam.

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• Congress presses VA to identify high-risk colleges:

According to a June 22 Stars and Stripes story by Travis J. Tritten thirteen House and Senate lawmakers wrote a letter to VA Secretary Bob McDonald urging him to add a list of high-risk institutions to its online GI Bill education benefit tool as a way to arm veterans against what they say can be unscrupulous and predatory institutions.
“Veterans using the GI Bill comparison tool should be made aware that a school is under investigation by or has settled with federal or state enforcement agencies for misleading students or predatory practices,” the lawmakers wrote. “While an investigation does not amount to a finding of guilt, it does indicate that there are serious concerns with a school that warrant law enforcement action.”
The VA said it will review the congressional proposal

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