9 New Cancers Added

On April 26, VA announced the addition of nine rare respiratory cancers to the list of presumed service-connected disabilities due to exposure to fine particulate matter for Veterans who served any amount of time in

  • Afghanistan, Djibouti, Syria or Uzbekistan during the Persian Gulf War, from September 19, 2001, to the present, or
  • The Southwest Asia theater of operations from August 2, 1990, to the present.

VA is taking a new approach to making decisions on presumptives, one that takes all available science into account, with one goal in mind – getting today’s Veterans, and Vets in the decades ahead – the benefits they deserve, as fast as possible.

VA identified, through a focused review of scientific and medical evidence, a biological plausibility between airborne hazards, specifically particulate matter, and carcinogensis of the respiratory tract; the unique circumstances of these rare cancers warrant a presumption of service connection.

Veterans and survivors who had claims previously denied for any of the below respiratory cancers are encouraged to file a supplemental claim for benefits;

  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx;
  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the trachea;
  • Adenocarcinoma of the trachea;
  • Salivary gland-type tumors of the trachea;
  • Adenosquamous carcinoma of the lung;
  • Large cell carcinoma of the lung;
  • Salivary gland-type tumors of the lung;
  • Sarcomatoid carcinoma of the lung and;
  • Typical and atypical carcinoid of the lung.

VA will contact impacted Veterans and survivors to inform them about their eligibility and it will provide information on how to apply.

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Useful Tool

S. 3304/H.R. 5754, the Patient Advocate Tracker Act would require the Office of Patient Advocacy to either develop a new IT system or upgrade its existing one to allow patients, or their designated representatives, to electronically file complaints and view the status of those complaints.

VA’s current IT system allows all veterans’ interactions with patient advocates to be monitored, compiled and analyzed however, veterans lack access to the system. This legislation would require VA to develop the IT infrastructure to allow veterans to have direct access to file and track their complaints in the system.

DAV believes veterans have the right to a transparent process that adequately addresses their complaints and we are pleased to support this legislation. DAV Resolution No. 025 calls upon VA to establish equitable grievance processes and train staff to administer them.

We call on all DAV members and supporters to contact their Senators and Representative and urge them to co-sponsor and support this legislation.

Thank you for supporting DAV as we fight for improvements in VA’s patient advocacy program. .Take Action!

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Long Term Care

On March 18, 2022, Rep. Clay Higgins introduced H.R. 7158, the Long-Term Care Veterans Choice Act. This legislation would give VA the authority to place and pay for veterans who want to reside in a medical foster home. Veterans who have a service-connected disability rated at 70% or greater, or who need nursing home care due to a service-connected disability, would be able to request placement in a medical foster home certified and inspected by the VA.

Medical foster homes offer veterans long-term care in a more family- and community-oriented setting. These homes provide a long-term care alternative for veterans who want to have greater independence and remain closer to their families and communities than institutional care might provide. It also allows VA to meet the veterans’ needs for assistance with daily living when these needs are no longer able to be met safely at home.

Currently, while veterans eligible for nursing home care may elect to receive their care at medical foster homes VA does not cover the cost for such placement. Instead, these veterans must pay for this service out of pocket or through private insurance. H.R. 7158—the Long-Term care Veterans Choice Act would authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to cover the cost of medical foster homes for veterans otherwise eligible for nursing home care through the VA.

As the number of veterans needing long-term care is expected to significantly increase over the next decade, it is important that VA implement policies that honor veterans’ preference to age at home or in their communities. DAV strongly supports this legislation, in accordance with DAV Resolution No. 022, which notes that VA lacks sufficient non-institutional long-term care alternatives, such as medical foster homes, and calls for VA to provide veterans access to a wider range of options for this unique type of care support.

We are calling on all DAV members and supporters to contact their Representatives and urge them to co-sponsor and support H.R. 7158. Thank you for all you do for America’s veterans and their families. Take Action!

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Call to Action

On March 3, 2022, in a bipartisan vote, the House passed H.R. 3967, the Honoring our PACT Act. It is now up to the Senate to pass this historic comprehensive toxic exposure legislation that will impact all generations of veterans. Over 40 veteran and military service organizations support the Honoring Our PACT Act.

DAV testified before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee on March 29, in support of this legislation that would:

  • Provide health care based on toxic exposures;
  • Add 23 burn pit and toxic exposure-related diseases;
  • Add hypertension as a presumptive disease associated with Agent Orange exposure;
  • Concede exposure to burn pits and toxic environments;
  • Provide a new framework for establishing presumptive diseases in the future;
  • Expand radiation-risk activities to include veterans who participated in radiation cleanup at Enewetak Atoll, Palomares, Spain and Thule, Greenland;
  • Include Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, American Samoa and Johnston Atoll as conceded locations for Agent Orange exposure; and
  • Require registries for veterans who served at Ft. McClellan and for those exposed to PFAS chemicals.

The Senate will be voting on the Honoring Our PACT Act soon. Contact your Senators today and urge them to vote “YES” for the Honoring Our PACT Act. This bill provides a truly comprehensive solution to toxic exposures and our fellow veterans and their families can’t afford to wait.

Thank you for your support of America’s service disabled veterans and their families. Take Action!

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2022 State Convention

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VA Regional Office

Veteran Stakeholders –

On Monday, March 8, 2021, the Muskogee VA Regional Benefits Office resumed public-facing services, including in-person interviews at our Muskogee location.  The office also began scheduling in-person Veteran Readiness & Employment (VR&E) counseling services and Board of Veteran Appeals (BVA) hearings.  Our Oklahoma City office is on track to open to the public the week of March 15th

Despite our office being unable to provide in-person services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our office has continued to make benefit entitlement decisions and serve Veterans through remote services, including:

  • 4,958 virtual interviews
  • 9 virtual outreach events
  • 229,447 electronic inquiries completed
  • 3,488 VR&E tele-counseling appointments

As we resume in-person services, our office will operate with an enhanced safety posture, with all employees and visitors to the Muskogee office having their temperature taken by an automated, no touch, sensor.  Any individual with a temperature of 100.4, or higher, will not be permitted to enter, nor will any individual exhibiting symptoms associated with COVID-19.  The automated, no-touch sensor can also alert security if a facial covering is not being utilized.  As a federal government facility, the use of a face covering is required when entering our facilities.  The face covering must cover your nose and mouth and be worn at all times when in close proximity to others.    

For visitors meeting face-to-face with VA, protective screening has been installed in all public access areas and seating in the waiting room has been reduced to enforce social distancing among visitors and employees.  Should the number of visitors exceed the reduced waiting room capacity, visitors will be asked to wait in the overflow waiting areas, or remain in their vehicle, and we will notify them by phone, when they may re-enter the building to meet with a VA team member.  

We are proud to have been able to serve our Veteran community with benefit entitlement decisions, remote and virtual customer service, and tele-counseling/outreach during these historic times, and we appreciate the support that we have received as we worked to balance access and safety for all.  If there are opportunities for us to better serve our Veterans, their dependents, or the greater stakeholder community, please don’t hesitate to reach out. 

Thank you. Muskogee Proud.

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Protect Individual Unemployability

On November 8, 2019, Representative Maxine Waters (CA) introduced H.R. 5028, the Protecting Benefits for Disabled Veterans Act.  The bill would codify regulations on Individual Unemployability (IU) into federal law.

When a veteran’s disability is rated less than a total 100 percent evaluation, but he or she is unable to obtain or maintain substantial gainful employment, VA regulations allow the veteran to apply for Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (IU).  It is based on the severity of the individual veteran’s unique disability picture and its impact on the veteran’s ability to obtain and maintain substantial gainful employment. Generally, the veteran must have a single disability rated at 60 percent or a combined evaluation of 70 percent to be eligible for IU. 

In recent years, reducing or limiting IU has been the focus of many Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports and Government Accounting Office (GAO) reports as a proposed deficit reducing measure.  The Administration’s proposed 2018 budget also contained a proposal to terminate IU ratings for veterans at age of 62 and cut off IU benefits for any veteran already in receipt of Social Security retirement benefits.  In December 2018, it was suggested to terminate and cutoff IU benefits at the age of 65.

H.R. 5028 would provide additional protections for IU and prohibit the VA from considering the age of the veteran or their eligibility to any retirement benefit, including Social Security, in making such determinations.  This bill would protect IU benefits from any ill-conceived cost-saving measures in the future.

DAV strongly supports H.R. 5028, as it would protect IU for approximately 200,000 veterans currently receiving it, over the age of 65. This would ensure the availability of IU for all veterans regardless of age or receipt of any other earned federal benefits.  Consistent with DAV Resolution No. 004, DAV supports the protection of IU as it is not a retirement or pension program and is neither similar nor related to Social Security Retirement benefits; it is a disability compensation benefit.

We are calling on all DAV members and supporters to contact their Representatives and urge them to co-sponsor and support H.R. 5028 to protect veterans and their families now and in the future from these harmful proposals.  Thank you for all you do for America’s veterans and their families.

 Take Action 

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 VA, Walmart open telehealth locations to serve Veterans in rural areas:

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Walmart cut the ribbon in Asheboro, North Carolina,  Dec. 10, for a new VA-led Accessing Telehealth through Local Area Stations (ATLAS) services pilot  location.

The public-private affiliation provides convenient health care to Veterans in their communities.

 “This type of collaboration is the way of the future,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Veterans need the expansion of choice, and this partnership is vital to affording them convenient access to VA health care services where they live.”

 Walmart has donated equipment and space at five sites as part of a pilot initiative allowing Veterans to meet with a VA provider in a private room via video technology. VA telehealth clinical services vary by location and may include: primary care, nutrition, mental health and social work

 This new option makes VA care easier to access and eases the burden of long travel times to appointments. 

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Keeping Our Promise Act

On April 10, 2019, Representative Bruce Westerman (AR), introduced H.R. 2200, the Keeping Our Promises Act. This legislation would add multiple diseases to the presumptive disease list for Agent Orange exposure.    

In the Veterans and Agent Orange update in 2016, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) committee concluded there was compelling evidence for adding bladder cancer and hypothyroid conditions to the presumptive disease list. Further, the study clarified that Vietnam veterans with “Parkinson-like symptoms,” but without a formal diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, should be considered under the presumption of Parkinson’s disease.  In the Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 11, released in November 2018, the NAM concluded that there is sufficient evidence of an association between Agent Orange and the development of hypertension.  The report elevated hypertension from suggestive evidence to sufficient evidence of a link. 

The VA has not taken any action on adding these four diseases.  We are concerned by the recent release of internal documents that indicate Administration officials challenged the previous Secretary’s authority to add these four diseases and may have even impeded action.  Even more troubling is the possibility that the Administration is outweighing the cost of adding these diseases over those veterans in need of VA benefits and health care. Three of these pending presumptive diseases have been held up for more than three years, leaving affected veterans, family members and survivors waiting.

DAV led a coalition of 20 military and veterans service organizations to bring this issue to the forefront.  Earlier this month we called on Secretary Wilkie directly, to add these four diseases.  To date, we have not had any response from the VA. 

Because the VA and the Administration are not taking action, we must turn to Congress.  H.R. 2200 will add bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, “Parkinson’s-like symptoms”, and hypertension to the presumptive disease list for Agent Orange exposure.  All four of these diseases have been scientifically associated with Agent Orange and are recommended for inclusion by the National Academy of Medicine.  

DAV strongly supports H.R. 2200 as it is aligned with DAV Resolution No. 174, which calls for the addition of these presumptive diseases.  Please use the prepared letter or draft your own to urge your Representatives to support and cosponsor H.R. 2200.  Stand with us and support the addition of these diseases as presumptive to Agent Orange.  Thank you for your continued support of the DAV Commander’s Action Network.

 Take Action 

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