Help Support COLA and DIC

Senator Johnny Isakson (GA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced S. 3089-the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2018.

This bill would authorize a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for veterans in receipt of compensation and pension, and for survivors of veterans who died from service-incurred disabilities and are in receipt of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). The bill would provide an increase by the same percentage as Social Security, effective December 1, 2018.

Receipt of annual COLA increments aids injured and ill veterans, their families, and their survivors to help maintain the value of their VA benefits against inflation. Without COLAs, these individuals, who sacrificed their own health and their family life for the good of our nation, may not be able to maintain a quality of life in their elder years.

DAV strongly supports S. 3089 as it is in accord with DAV Resolution 031. Earlier this year we asked for your support of H.R. 4958-the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2018 in the House of Representatives. H.R. 4958 was passed by the House on May 21, 2018. We are now seeking your support of S. 3089.

Take Action Today! Please use the prepared electronic letter or draft your own to urge your Senators to support and cosponsor S. 3089.

As always, we appreciate your support for DAV and your grassroots activism in participating in DAV CAN. Your advocacy helps make DAV a highly influential and effective organization in Washington. Thank you for all you do for America’s veterans and their families.

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“Forever GI Bill” update

WASHINGTON — Effective Aug. 1, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) implemented 15 more provisions of the Harry W. Colmery Educational Assistance Act of 2017, also referred to as the Forever GI Bill.

These provisions, in addition to the 13 implemented since the law was signed less than a year ago, will have an immediate and positive impact on Veterans and their families using VA benefits to pursue their educational goals.

“We are excited to get the word out about implementation of the provisions,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “From the day the Forever GI Bill was signed into law, VA, in collaboration with Veterans service organizations, state approving agencies and school certifying officials, has taken an expansive approach to ensure earned benefits are provided to Veterans in a timely, high-quality and efficient way.”

Some of the provisions that began Aug. 1 include:
Recipients of a Purple Heart awarded on or after Sept. 11, 2001, are now eligible for full Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for up to 36 months, if not already entitled.
Military and Veteran families who have lost a family member can now reallocate transferred Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.
Additional Guard and Reserve service now counts toward Post-9/11 GI Bill eligibility.
Post-9/11 GI Bill students may now receive monthly housing allowance for any days they are not on active duty, rather than having to wait until the next month; and
Expansion of the Yellow Ribbon Program, which makes additional funds available for GI Bill students, now covers more students.

More provisions are scheduled related to science, technology, engineering and math benefit extensions; increased benefit levels; a pilot program for high-technology training geared toward “upskilling” Veterans to enter the workforce quickly; and another expansion of the Yellow Ribbon Program, which will be implemented by Aug. 1, 2022.

For more information, visit the Forever GI Bill – Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act page.

Visit the Education and Training webpage for more information. For questions about GI Bill benefits, call the Education Call Center at 888-442-4551 from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. (CST) Monday through Friday. Join the conversation via Facebook or follow Veterans Benefits Administration on Twitter.

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Mark Takai Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act

Senator Tina Smith (MN), introduced S. 2821, the Mark Takai Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act. The bill is named after the late Hawaii Congressman Mark Takai, a veteran of the U.S. Army and Hawaii Army National Guard who passed away in 2016 and was the original sponsor of the bill in the House of Representatives.

From 1977 to 1980, the United States conducted nuclear testing on the Enewetak Atoll. More than 30 megatons of TNT nuclear testing took place and a concrete dome was built to deposit radioactive soil and debris. However, existing statutes only recognize those veterans who participated in nuclear testing on Enewetak Atoll from 1951 to 1959.

Current statutes regarding presumptive service connection for radiation exposure defines a radiation-exposed veteran as a veteran that, while on active duty, participated in a radiation risk activity. S. 2821 will expand recognized radiation risk activities to include the cleanup of Enewetak Atoll from January 1, 1977, to December 31, 1980. This bill will provide presumptive exposure to thousands of veterans who participated in the testing and clean-up and who were previously excluded as radiation exposed veterans.

DAV supports this legislation as it is in concert with DAV Resolution No. 043, to recognize veterans exposed to radiation while performing clean-up duties. Please use the prepared letter or draft your own to urge your Senators to support and cosponsor S. 2821.

Your commitment and advocacy helps make DAV a highly influential and effective organization in Washington. Thank you for all you do for America’s veterans and their families.

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 House passes the following veteran bills:

The following bills have gone to senate for review and vote; if you are a believer in any of the following bills you should write your senator and let him/her know your thoughts:
H.R. 2409 would extended existing federal protections to cable and satellite television – under the Civil Relief Act. Under this legislation, service members would only need to provide notice and a copy of their active duty orders to cable and satellite providers to terminate their contracts without penalty.
H.R. 5538: The Reserve Component Vocational Rehabilitation Parity Act The Reserve Component Vocational Rehabilitation Parity Act would add eligibility for Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) for active service under certain reserve orders.
H.R. 5882: The Gold Star Spouses Leasing Relief Act The Gold Star Leasing Relief Act would allow surviving spouses to terminate residential leases at the time of a service member’s death without penalty.

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 9 reasons to appeal any VA decision:

1. Medical codes and diagnoses are incorrect.
2. Secondary medical conditions. All secondary conditions should be covered, even if at 0%- so that as you age you will be correctly rated.
3. Tertiary medical conditions (which are secondary to secondary medical conditions). All tertiary conditions should be covered- even if at 0%- so that as you age you will be correctly rated. Example: An ankle injury makes you fall and you get a secondary spine injury. Then the spine injury causes your kidneys to fail (tertiary).
4. 100% is not permanent until 20 years have elapsed, as per VA rules thus all secondary and tertiary claims should be pursued.
5. A 100% award via TDIU might be phased out at a certain age when the patient applies for social security (VA rumor) thus a 100% scheduler rating might be more secure.
6. Dates of claim payment (AKA effective dates) may be incorrect thus an appeal may be required.
7. 100% Plus special monthly compensation (SMC) will result in a higher monthly benefit if you are eligible.
8. Permanent and total (P&T) – PT is a suffix that has to be added to the 100% ratings for additional benefits to kick in such as the state property tax exemption.
9. CUE (Clear & Unmistakable Error).

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 Burn pit compensation:

Over 300 sites have been identified as have burn pit exposure and these sites can be found on vetshq.com/burn pit exposure. I find it interesting that there were ‘burn pits’ in Vietnam and yet there has been very little, if any, discussion on these burn pits by the VA.
The report that was conducted focused on pulmonary (lung) function, not respiratory disease, and noted that additional study was needed. The VA and Department of Defense posted a notice in the Federal Register outlining a long-term study that “will follow veterans for decades looking at their exposures and health issues to determine the impact of deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.” The agency places the burden on the veteran to establish the service connection to their conditions.
Any claim for burn pit compensation requires a veteran to establish a service-connected disability. A viable claim includes:
A current diagnosis of a chronic physical or mental disability
Eligible periods of service, or a verifiable stressor
A connection between your current diagnosis and the in-service event.

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Burn Pits

On May 1, 2018, Representative Tulsi Gabbard (HI) introduced H.R. 5671, the Burn Pits Accountability Act.

Since the Persian Gulf War, a common waste disposal practice at military sites outside the United States was the use of burn pits. Smoke from these pits contained toxic substances that may have short- and long-term health effects, especially for those who were exposed for longer periods. Many service members reported acute symptoms of respiratory or eye irritation, gastrointestinal distress, or rashes during or shortly after exposure, but the research thus far has been inconclusive about whether there are longer lasting consequences to these exposures, as many veterans still struggling with conditions that arose during or after military service believe.

H.R. 5671 will require the Secretary of Defense to ensure that periodic health assessments ascertain whether a service member has been at a location when an open burn pit was used or exposed to toxic airborne chemicals. It will further require the Secretary of Defense to enter into an information sharing agreement with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. If a service member was exposed, the VA Secretary will enroll the member into the VA Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, unless the member elects not to enroll.

In agreement with DAV Resolution No. 120, DAV supports H.R. 5671-legislation that would ensure that exposure to burn pits and airborne chemicals are recognized by both the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

Your commitment and advocacy helps make DAV a highly influential and effective organization in Washington. Thank you for all you do for America’s veterans and their families.

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 Military Tax Relief – H.R.5747 | Special Operations Forces Tax Cut

More special operators could receive a break on taxes next year. The Special Operations Forces Tax Cut Act would grant tax breaks to troops based on their mission, rather than location. The bill would benefit troops who deploy outside of combat zones not formally recognized in the IRS’ Combat Zone Tax Exclusion section. The Combat Zone Tax Exclusion allows service members who deploy to certain combat zones to exclude income from federal tax filings. Qualifying regions for the tax exclusion are Afghanistan, Kosovo and the Arabian Peninsula. “America’s military conducts global operations that don’t easily fit into one nation or geographic region,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Richard Hudson, whose North Carolina district includes Fort Bragg, home of U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

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 Agent Orange Thailand update – H.R. 4843:

In January 2018, Representative Bruce Westerman (R-AR) introduced H.R. 4843, a bill that would concede herbicide exposure to all veterans who served at any military installation in Thailand during the Vietnam Era for purposes of determining their eligibility for VA benefits. This measure is a companion bill to S. 2105, introduced by Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Joe Donelly (D-IN). DAV issued an alert in support of S. 2105 in December 2017. While VA’s internal manual acknowledges herbicide exposure for specific military occupational specialties on the perimeter of eight specific Thai Royal Air Force Bases, Thai statutes and regulations do not automatically recognize veteran exposure to herbicides while serving in Thailand during the Vietnam Era. H.R. 4843 would automatically concede herbicide exposure for all veterans who served at military installations in Thailand during the Vietnam Era, regardless of the base, duty on the perimeter or military occupational specialty. As a result, the presumptive diseases currently associated with herbicide exposure, including spina bifida for children, would be applicable to all veterans who served at military installations in Thailand during the Vietnam Era. Consistent with DAV Resolution No. 214, DAV supports the recognition of herbicide exposure to veterans who served at military installations in Thailand so that the presumption of service connection for Agent Orange related diseases would be available to service members exposed to include those who served in Thailand .

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 VA Survivors’ & DEA program – changes effective August 1, 2018:

Effective August 1, 2018, the entitlement available under the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) program will be reduced from 45 months to 36 months, but in October, the monthly allowance for eligible recipients will increase. These changes, part of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, aka “Forever GI Bill” were passed by Congress last summer. The DEA program offers education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of Veterans who are permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related condition, or of Veterans who died while on active duty or from a service-related condition.
DEA benefits may be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeships and on-the-job training. Surviving spouses-can use benefits for correspondence courses and remedial, deficiency and some approved refresher courses. What you need to know now: • If you’re already taking classes, or will start taking classes by July DEA 31, 2018, you remain eligible for up to 45 months of education entitlement benefits • Beginning Oct.1, 2018, all students will see a significant increase in the monthly benefit • Eligible DEA recipients will be entitled effective Oct. 1, 2018 to a monthly allowance of: o $1,224 for full-time coursework, compared to $1,041 currently as of Oct. 1, 2017 o $967 for three-quarter time coursework, compared to $780 currently as of Oct. 1, 2017 o $710 for half-time coursework, compared to $519 currently as of Oct. 1, 2017

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