• Veteran and active duty credit scores:

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) is pushing legislation to protect the credit ratings of military veterans with unpaid medical bills. Donnelly said 7 SEP that veterans can be “wrongly penalized” when the Department of Veterans Affairs is slow to pay for health care they receive from non-VA physicians. Such delays “can create a financial hardship for some veterans and even damage credit scores,” Donnelly, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters in a conference call. Donnelly is the Senate sponsor of the Protecting Veterans Credit Act, which would impose a 1-year delay on the reporting of medical debt to credit agencies for veterans who access health care through the Veterans Choice Program. The delay would begin when a debt collector contacts the veteran. Under the Veterans Choice Program, VA is to reimburse non-VA physicians to care for veterans who must wait at least 30 days for a VA appointment or who live more than 40 miles from a VA clinic or hospital.
House co-sponsors include Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) , Roscoe Butler, deputy director for health care for the American Legion, said during Wednesday’s conference call that veterans should “not have to worry about whether VA has paid the bill timely.” Veterans’ credit ratings can be “destroyed,” Butler said, “because of VA’s slow payment process. That is wrong.” Donnelly said he does not know how many veterans have been adversely affected by tardy reimbursements from the Veterans Choice Program, although he said “one is too many.” “The VA should take care of this, and it shouldn’t ever even get to the point where this act, that we hope will become law, has to even be needed,” Donnelly told reporters. “It’s clearly something the VA should be handling, and we’re going to stay after them to get it right,” he said.
There are several instances known by me where either a veteran or an active duty individual went to a private doctor at the request of the VA for specific tests and the VA took 6 months to pay the bill

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• VA appointments:

Veterans receiving care at Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Medical Centers will now be able to schedule routine ear and eye appointments at local VA Audiology and Optometry clinics without a primary care referral – a move that eliminates multiple steps and gets Veterans into appointments quicker. Before now, Veterans seeking appointments with audiologists or optometrists had to first make an appointment with a primary care physician for a referral for a routine clinic consult visit. A clinic representative would contact the patient to set up the consult
appointment, which could result in a several weeks’-long lag between the appointment and when the Veteran was actually seen. The new process, the Audiology and Optometry Direct Scheduling Initiative, which began as a successful pilot at three sites in 2015, is being expanded to all VA Medical Centers.

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• VA now taking health benefits applications by phone:

Veterans can now apply for Veterans Affairs health benefits over the phone. The VA published a final regulation on Monday that allows former service members to complete VA health care applications by calling 877-222-8387.
Note – this applies only to applications for health benefits; it does not apply to making appointments with your primary physician or a specialty clinic.

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2016 Oklahoma Fall Conference

2016 Fall Conference

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Call to Action H.R. 5620

The Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, the Honorable Jeff Miller, introduced H.R. 5620, the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016. This legislation could significantly improve the ability of veterans to receive more timely and accurate decisions on their claims, and appeals of denied claims, for earned benefits.

This bill contains a new processing framework that would make positive and fundamental changes in the way VA adjudicates benefits. This legislation would create multiple options for veterans to redress benefits decisions. Under this legislation, for example, as long as a veteran continuously pursued redress within one year of the most recent decision, the veteran would be able to preserve the earliest effective filing date. This legislation also would allow veterans to present new evidence and obtain hearings before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals or the Veterans Benefits Administration if they so desired.

Over the past few years, the number of appeals awaiting decisions has risen dramatically – to almost 450,000 – and the time for an appeal decision ranges between three and five years, a delay that is simply unacceptable. If faithfully implemented and if fully funded by Congress in the years ahead, H.R. 5620 would enable veterans to get more timely and accurate decisions on their claims and appeals.

Please use the prepared electronic letter to urge your Representative to cosponsor H.R. 5620 and to urge the House Leadership to bring this bill to the floor of the House for a vote before the end of the 114th Congress.

As always, we appreciate your support for DAV and your grassroots activism and participation in DAV CAN.  Your advocacy helps make DAV a highly influential and persuasive organization in Washington.

Click the link below to log in and send your message:

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 Vet appeals legislation – H.R.5260:

VA convened a workgroup in March consisting of DAV, other stakeholders and VA officials in order to seek common ground on a new framework for appeals. After months of intensive efforts, the workgroup was able to reach consensus on a framework of a new appeals system that could offer veterans quicker decisions, while protecting their rights and prerogatives. The number of appeals awaiting decisions has risen dramatically – to almost 450,000 – and the average time for an appeal decision is between three and five years, a delay that is simply unacceptable.
Before Congress took recess in July, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Congressman Jeff Miller of Florida, introduced H.R.5620, the “VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016” to the Committee. This legislation could significantly improve the ability of veterans to receive more timely and accurate decisions on their claims and appeals for earned benefits. H.R. 5620, which contains the new appeals framework, would make fundamental changes to the appeals process by creating multiple options to appeal or reconsider claims’ decisions, either formally to the Board or informally within the Veterans Benefits
Administration. The central feature of the legislation would provide veterans three options, or “lanes,” to appeal unfavorable claims decisions; and if they were not satisfied with their decisions, they could continue to pursue one of the other two options.
• As long as a veteran continuously pursues a new appeals option within one year of the last decision, they would be able to preserve their earliest effective date.
• This legislation also allows veterans to present new evidence and
• This legislation also allows veterans to have a hearing before the Board or VBA if they so desire.
“If faithfully implemented as designed by the workgroup, and if fully funded by Congress and VA in the years ahead, H.R.5620 would make a marked improvement in the ability of veterans to get timely and accurate decisions on appeals of their claims,” said DAV Washington Headquarters Executive Director Garry Augustine. “We urge the House to swiftly approve this legislation and then work with the Senate to reach agreement on final legislation that
can be sent to the President to sign this year.” [Source: NCOA Advocate | Mary Dever | August 24, 2016 ++]

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 Women veterans call center:

Calling All Women Who Served in the United States Military! Do you know your Veteran status? Do you have a Veteran ID card? Should you receive any benefits from VA, like the GI Bill? Do you know what health care benefits you have earned? If you do not know the answer to even one of these questions, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has established the Women Veterans Call Center (WVCC) just for you. The WVCC staff is trained to provide women Veterans, their families, and caregivers about VA services and resources. They are ready to respond to your concerns. The call is free, and you can call as often as you like until you have the answers to
your questions. The Call Center is available M-F 08-2000 EST, and on Saturdays from 08-1830 EST. The number is – 1-855-VA-Women
Any women veteran can use the WVCC, even if they are not registered with the VA or enrolled in VA health care and/or receiving care. You do not need to have wartime or combat experience to be considered a Veteran. Women Veterans should enroll for health care benefits to ensure they receive the comprehensive benefits package offered through VA’s national health care system. A review of the 33,000 calls received to date found the most common reasons people call in to the Call Center are to learn about benefits and eligibility and to discuss issues they face like homelessness, maternity care, Military Sexual Trauma, and environmental exposures. At times, there are issues that the Call Center cannot immediately resolve. In those cases, they research the best course of action/ locate the appropriate resources, and call the Veteran back to help her address her issues and concerns

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 VA Blue Water claims update:

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has once again turned down an effort by Navy veterans to get compensation for possible exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. In a document released 12 August, the VA said it would continue to limit benefits related to Agent Orange exposure to only those veterans who set foot in Vietnam, where the herbicide was sprayed, and to those who were on boats in inland rivers. The VA compensates these veterans for a litany of associated illnesses, including diabetes, various cancers, Parkinson’s disease,
peripheral neuropathy and a type of heart disease.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims last April struck down VA rules that denied compensation for sailors whose ships docked at certain harbors in South Vietnam, including Da Nang. Those ports, the court determined, may have been in the Agent Orange spraying area. The court ordered the VA to review its policy. But on Friday, the VA largely stood by its old policy and once again asserted that there’s no scientific justification or legal requirement for covering veterans who served off the coast. “Environmental health experts in VA’s Veterans Health Administration have reviewed the available scientific information and concluded that it is not sufficient to support a presumption that Blue Water Navy Veterans were exposed to Agent Orange,” the VA said in a fact sheet.

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Commander Dave Riley Needs our help!!!! Let Washington hear Oklahoma “Roar”

Please Scroll down and look at the bill numbers and ask our Oklahoma elected officials to SUPPORT THEM……PLEASE make YOUR VOICE HEARD….Let them know who elected them…….

When Congress returns to Washington after Labor Day, they will have less than four weeks to deal with unfinished legislative matters prior to the November elections.  There may even be less time if one chamber of Congress decides to leave earlier than currently planned.

With the number of legislative days dwindling, key legislative priorities of the DAV have yet to be passed by Congress.

Women Veterans: DAV’s special report-Women Veterans: The Long Journey Homeidentified gaps in benefits and services across the federal landscape for women service members and veterans.  Congress must act to improve services for women veterans and ensure their unique transition needs are met. Several bills are pending in both the House and Senate to aid women veterans.

Caregivers: Today, only veterans severely injured on or after September 11, 2001 are eligible for comprehensive VA caregiver supports and services.  Congress must pass legislation to expand the eligibility for VA’s Caregiver Support Program to veterans of all eras.

Appeals Reform: Because VA’s inventory of appeals continues to outpace its processing capacity, passing of reform legislation is needed to correct this unacceptable situation and modernize VA’s appeal process.

Several bipartisan legislative measures are awaiting Congressional consideration that would address these problems.  With elected officials now back in your home state, now is the time to call your elected representatives’ district and state offices.

You can find your elected officials’ district telephone numbers by entering your zip code here. Please call them with this message:

Ask for their commitment to pass legislation: 1) to ensure VA meets the unique needs of women veterans, including H.R. 1356 and S. 471; 2) to expand access to VA’s comprehensive caregiver support program, H.R. 2894 and; 3) to modernize VA’s appeal process, H.R. 5620. Also, please press for passage of S. 2921, the Veterans First Act, which contains many of these same provisions.

As always, DAV appreciates your advocacy and participation in the Commander’s Action Network. Your grassroots activism makes DAV more influential in promoting policies and programs to aid injured and ill veterans.

Click the link below to log in and send your message:

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VA News Releases

VA News Release


Information for Reporting on Veteran Suicides

WASHINGTON – For Journalists writing about Veteran suicides and Suicide Prevention Month in September, the Department of Veterans Affairs is providing the following information for reporting on the sensitive issue of suicide.  VA encourages journalists writing about this important issue to visitwww.ReportingOnSuicide.Org, for guidance on ways to communicate suicide from the independent National Action Alliance on Suicide Reporting.


  • Suicide is an issue that affects all Americans. Recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data reported in April 2016 show that from 1999 through 2014 (the most recent year with data available from CDC), suicide rates increased 24 percent in the general population for both males and females. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports on average that there are 117 suicides per day, making suicide a nationwide public health issue.
  • Previously, it was reported that 22 Veterans die by suicide per day.  A new VA study released August 3 representing the most comprehensive analysis of Veteran suicide rates in the United States, examining more than 55 million Veterans’ records from 1979 to 2014 from every state in the nation, shows an average of 20 Veterans a day died from suicide. The effort advances VA’s knowledge from the previous report in 2012, which was primarily limited to information on Veterans who used Veterans Health Administration health services or from mortality records obtained directly from 20 states and approximately 3 million records. The complete report may be found here.
  • Approximately 65 percent of all Veterans who died from suicide in 2014 were 50 years of age or older.
  • Veterans accounted for 18 percent of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults. This is a decrease from 22 percent in 2010.
  • Since 2001, U.S. adult civilian suicides increased 23 percent, while Veteran suicides increased 32 percent in the same time period. After controlling for age and gender, this makes the risk of suicide 21 percent greater for Veterans.
  • Since 2001, the rate of suicide among U.S. Veterans who use VA services increased by 8.8 percent, while the rate of suicide among Veterans who do not use VA services increased by 38.6 percent.
    • In the same time period, the rate of suicide among male Veterans who use VA services increased 11 percent, while the rate of suicide increased 35 percent among male Veterans who do not use VA services.
    • In the same time period, the rate of suicide among female Veterans who use VA services increased 4.6 percent while the rate of suicide increased 98 percent among female Veterans who do not use VA services.


VA is aggressively undertaking a number of new measures to prevent suicide, including:

  • VA has implemented comprehensive, broad-ranging suicide prevention initiatives, including a toll-freeVeterans Crisis Line, placement of Suicide Prevention Coordinators at all VA Medical Centers and large outpatient facilities and improvements in case management and tracking. In addition, VA recently announced the creation of a satellite Veterans Crisis Line site in Atlanta, Georgia, for increased staffing capability and geographic redundancy; the satellite site is expected to operational in October 2016 with 200 additional responders.
  • Ensuring same-day access for Veterans with urgent mental health needs at over 1,000 points of care by the end of calendar year 2016. In fiscal year 2015, more than 1.6 million Veterans received mental health treatment from VA, including at over 150 medical centers, 820 community-based outpatient clinics and 300 Vet Centers that provide readjustment counseling.  Veterans also enter VA health care through the Veterans Crisis Line, VA staff on college and university campuses, or other outreach points.
  • Using predictive modeling to determine which Veterans may be at highest risk of suicide, so providers can intervene early. Veterans in the top 0.1% of risk, who have a 43-fold increased risk of death from suicide within a month, can be identified before clinical signs of suicide are evident in order to save lives before a crisis occurs.
  • Expanding telemental health care by establishing four new regional telemental health hubs across the VA healthcare system.
  • Hiring over 60 new crisis intervention responders for the Veterans Crisis Line. Each responder receives intensive training on a wide variety of topics in crisis intervention, substance use disorders, screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment.
  • Building new collaborations between Veteran programs in VA and those working in community settings, such as Give an Hour, Psych Armor Institute, University of Michigan’s Peer Advisors for Veterans Education Program (PAVE), and the Cohen Veterans Network.
  • Creating stronger inter-agency (e.g. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health) and new public-private partnerships (e.g., Johnson & Johnson Healthcare System, Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation, Walgreen’s, and many more) focused on preventing suicide among Veterans.

Suicide is a public issue that affects all Americans.  Recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data reported in April 2016 that from 1999 through 2014 (the most recent year with data available from CDC), suicide rates increased 24 percent in the general population for both males and females.

A link to the report may be found at: http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/docs/2016suicidedatareport.pdf  .

Other VA mental health information can be found on the VA Mental Health page at:www.mentalhealth.va.gov.

Information about the Crisis Line is available at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net; Veterans in crisis can call Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (press 1) or texting 838255.

A Suicide prevention fact sheet may be found atwww.va.gov/opa/publications/factsheets/Suicide_Prevention_FactSheet_New_VA_Stats_070616_1400.pdf

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