 VA reexaminations and reductions of veterans disability benefits:

Many veterans currently receiving disability benefits often ask service officers about the possibility of getting their disability benefits reduced. The following tries to answer some of those questions:

What Is a VA Reexamination?
A reexamination can be a medical examination or, if the VA feels it is necessary to evaluate the severity of your disability, a period of hospital observation. The VA is legally entitled to require an exam or hospitalization, so it is critical that you comply with a reexamination request in order to preserve your benefits.
Scheduled Reexaminations
After you are awarded disability compensation benefits, the VA will evaluate whether your disability is such that you ought to be scheduled for a future reexamination to determine if your benefits need to be adjusted. Types of disabilities subject to reexamination are those that can be expected to improve over time. If the VA determines that your disability requires a future reexamination, typically the first reexamination will be scheduled two to five years from the date of the decision to grant you benefits.
Evidence of Change in Condition
The VA can also order a reexamination at any time if there is new, material medical evidence that your disability has gotten better, at least temporarily. For example, if you have cancer and it goes into remission, the VA will call you in for a reexamination for the purpose of reducing your benefits.
If the VA temporarily decreases your benefits, you can request an increase of your condition worsens again. Going back to the example above, if your cancer comes back, you can request an adjusted disability rating to increase your benefits.
To request an increased rating after your disability, worsens all you need to do is write a letter to the VA regional office stating you believe an increase is needed and providing medical evidence to support an increase. A word of caution, however. Sometimes when you request an increase, you will actually end up getting a decrease in benefits. If that happens, you can appeal this decrease in the same way that you can appeal a denial of VA benefits

Posted in News | Leave a comment

 Burn Pit Toxic exposure update – Petraeus states: ” It’s Time To Get Serious”:

Retired Army Gen. David Petraeus urged Congress in an interview with Fox News on 3 SEP to make good on its “sacred obligation” to support the growing number of veterans sickened by exposure to burn pits at U.S military bases abroad. “By and large, our country does an extraordinary amount for our veterans and for those who are serving in uniform, and for their families,”
Claims arising from burn pit exposure claims are usually handled slowly and inconsistently by VA medical centers. Veterans’ advocates have for years urged the VA to define illnesses arising from burn pit exposure as presumptiveservice connected disabilities tied to the circumstances of a deployment. While the Pentagon and VA maintain that there is empirical evidence of correlation or causality between burn pit exposure and deadly respiratory illness among U.S. service members, a February ruling by an administrative court judge established an important precedent by detailing the connection between exposure and lung disease in a federal contractor

Posted in News | Leave a comment

 GI Bill transferability update – Purple Heart recipient’s exemption:

Purple Heart recipients on active duty will soon be exempt from a new policy barring troops from transferring their post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits to their dependents if they cannot commit to an additional four years of service. The policy update, announced in July, immediately excluded those who could not extend their service by four years, including wounded troops in the medical retirement process, from the ability to transfer. A change that takes effect in July 2019 will also block those with 16 years of service from making the switch.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

 VA Medical Marijuana update – Senate bill to remove vet access barriers:

A bill introduced in the Senate on 4 SEP would remove some of the barriers making it difficult for veterans to access medical cannabis programs in their states. The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, introduced by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), would allow veterans to use, possess, or transport cannabis as permitted by state law without fear of federal prosecution, and would allow doctors in the Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) system to recommend medical cannabis to their patients. It also calls on the VA to commence a study into the effects of cannabis on pain in veterans within two years of passage, and allocates $15 million for that purpose.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

 Disabled vets space “A” Update -100% disabled vets now authorized travel:

Under the new Disabled Veterans Access to Space-A Travel Act, veterans with a service-connected, permanent disability rating of 100% can hop on any scheduled or unscheduled military flight within the continental United States (and scheduled overseas flights) operated by Air Mobility Command (AMC). The new Act would authorize veterans who have a service-connected, and permanent disability rated as 100 percent to travel on Space-A at no additional cost to the Department of Defense (DoD) and without aircraft modifications, according to military officials. Clarification on whether or not required caregiver accompaniment is authorized has not yet been promulgated. This is a huge benefit to disabled veterans who travel on aircraft. Many veterans find airports unaccommodating, and difficult to get around. Flying from military terminals are much less congested, and will probably be more suitable for disabled veterans. To sign up for Space A Travel complete AMC Form 140, Space Available Travel Request (https://www.amc.af.mil/Portals/12/documents/AFD-140926-014.pdf) form and e-mail it to your desired AMC Passenger Terminal. Info you need to complete the form includes: • Email address • Personal information (Rank/Grade, First Middle Last Name) • Service Branch (AF, Army, Marines, Navy, CG) • Status (Active, Guard, Reserve, Retired, Disabled Veteran, etc.) • Other Travelers (dependents names) • Total number of seats required • Travel status (See Travel Eligibility-Category I-VI). The form has not yet been modified to reflect 100% disability eligibility. In the interim suggest use Category VI until otherwise advised. • Overseas Travel Ready Status (Have Required Passports/Visas etc.) • 5-Destinations (Sign-up for up to 5 Destinations e.g. Germany, USA, Japan, Alaska, or Hawaii)

Posted in News | Leave a comment

 Legislation

H.R.303 (Retired Pay Restoration Act) Cosponsors 92 – Referred to Committees: Armed Services; Veterans Affairs • Permits additional retired members of the Armed forces who have a service-connected disability to receive both disability compensation from the VA for their disability and either retired pay by reason of their years of military service or Combat-Related Spec
H.R.333 (Disabled Veteran’s Tax Termination Act) Cosponsors: 46 – Referred to Committees: Armed Services’ Veterans’ Affairs • Permits retired members of the Armed forces who have a service-connected disability rated less than 50% to receive concurrent payment of both retired pay and veterans’ disability compensation. • Extends eligibility for concurrent receipt tor Cahpter 61 retirees with less than 20 years of service.
H.R.3272 (Veteran Education Empowerment Act) Cosponsors 118 – Referred to Committee: Veterans’ Affairs • Directs the Secretary of Veteran Affairs to carry out a grant program to provide Veteran student Centers at institutions of higher education to assist veterans in the pursuit of higher education.
S.66 (Retired Pay Restoration Act) Cosponsors 12 – Referred to Committee: Armed Services • Permits additional retired members of the Armed forces who have a service-connected disability to receive both disability compensation from the VA for their disability and either retired pay by reason of their years of military service or Combat-Related Special compensation.
S.591 (Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act) Cosponsors 35 – Referred to Committee: Veterans’ Affairs. Expands eligibility of the program of comprehensive assistance for family caregivers of the Department of Veteran Affairs, to expand benefits available to participants under such program and to enhance special compensation for members of the uniformed services who require assistance in everyday life.
S.2117 (Fair Access to Insurance [FAIR] Heroes Act of 2017) Cosponsors 1 – Referred to Committee: Veterans’ Affairs. • Expands eligibility for the TRICARE program to include certain veterans entitled to benefits under the Medicare program due to conditions or injuries incurred during service in the Armed Forces and to waive the Medicare Part B late enrollment penalty for such veterans.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

 New GI Bill transfer limits:

The Pentagon’s new rules on transferring GI Bill benefits to dependents have created a lot of concern and confusion among service members, veterans, and families.
What changes have already taken effect?
DoD requires service members to commit to serve an additional 4 years in the military in order to transfer GI Bill benefits to a dependent.
How long must I serve to be able to transfer my GI Bill?
Previously DoD required troops to have served at least 6 years before requesting a GI Bill transfer and that requirement remains. The new policy will also require that service members not have served more than 16 years so you will need to be between 6 and 16 years in uniform.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Long Term Care Veterans Choice Act

Congressman Clay Higgins introduced H.R. 5693, the Long-Term Care Veterans Choice Act. This bill would provide veterans who are no longer capable of living independently an alternative to nursing home care, in which the veteran would continue to receive the care that they need in an intimate home-like environment through VA’s Home-Based Primary Care program, and the Medical Foster Home (MFH) attendant program. Medical Foster Homes are a type of Community Residential Care by which veterans with serious chronic disabling conditions requiring nursing home level care and coordination of services are able to receive these services in a non-institutional setting.

Currently, the administrative costs for VA per veteran in the MFH program, including the cost of Home Based Primary Care, medications and supplies average less than $63 per day. However, veterans who qualify for nursing home care fully paid for by the government, must pay the full cost for room, board, and personal assistance out of their own pocket, which averages to be about $110 per day to live in a MFH.

Veterans who wish to reside in a Medical Foster Home but are unable to pay approximately $1,500 to $3,000 per month are not able to avail themselves of this benefit, so many are placed in nursing homes at much greater cost to VA. This measure would address this inequity by giving VA a three-year authority to pay for veterans, who would qualify for VA-paid nursing home care placement, so they can reside in a VA-approved MFH.

As the veteran population continues to age, the need for long-term care services will continue to grow. Home-based community programs like MFHs will enable VA to meet the needs of aging veterans in a manner closer to independent living than institutionalized care. With the passage of this bill, veterans would have the option of care that more closely aligns with their independence while maintaining their quality of life.

This bill is in accordance with DAV Resolution No. 085, which calls for legislation to improve the comprehensive program of long-term services and supports for service-connected disabled veterans regardless of their disability ratings.

Please use the prepared letter to write your Representative to cosponsor and support passage of H.R. 5693, the Long-Term Care Veterans Choice Act. Thank you for your efforts and support of the Commander’s Action Network.

Take Action

Posted in News | Leave a comment

 Marijuana use and the Department of Veterans Affairs:

The Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t care much about you smoking marijuana. You won’t lose disability benefits if you’re smoking marijuana.
The only people who are concerned are in the health care arena of the VA…your doctors. Most enlightened physicians recognize that marijuana has some medicinal benefit and that there is no evidence of harmful side effects other than the obvious…inhaling hot smoke. Most agree that the single most devastating side effect of recreational marijuana use is that it remains illegal and you may be arrested for it. Having said that, your doctor may feel differently. If your doctor makes a decision that you shouldn’t be smoking, he or she has the right to ask you to stop. Few people will try to help you with that sort of problem as the doctor is the clinical authority and makes those decisions.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

 Forever GI bill expands VA educational benefits:

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. As of August 8, 2018 no additional provisions have been released.

Posted in News | Leave a comment