Congress is very close to finally passing Blue Water Navy legislation, but unless the Senate acts in the next two weeks, that effort will fail.
Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed legislation to finally provide full benefits to Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans by a unanimous, bipartisan vote of 382 to 0; however, the bill has been stalled in the Senate since June. With just days remaining in the 115th Congress, we need to get the support of all Senators in order to pass this legislation now.
The best way to send this message is by making a quick phone call to your Senators offices and letting them know that you want the Senate to pass Blue Water Navy Veterans legislation this year. Be sure to give them your name and address and ask that the Senator report back to you what actions they take. If you don’t know who your Senators are, you can find a list of them here:www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm or you can call the Senate switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and asking to be connected to your Senator.
In addition, please take a minute to click the “Take Action” link below to send the prepared electronic letter to your Senators urging them to pass Blue Water Navy legislation and finally provide justice for thousands of deserving Vietnam veterans.
Thank you for continuing to support all of the men and women who served.
from an article by Leo Shane III
New research linking veterans’ high blood pressure with wartime exposure to chemical defoliants could dramatically expand federal disability benefits for tens of thousands of Vietnam-era troops. The findings, from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, conclude that “sufficient evidence” exists linking hypertension and related illnesses in veterans to Agent Orange and other defoliants used in Vietnam, Thailand and South Korea in the 1960s and 1970s.
They recommend adding the condition to the list of 14 presumptive diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure, a group that includes Hodgkin’s Disease, prostate cancer and Parkinson’s Disease. That’s an upgrade from past research that showed a possible but not conclusive link between the toxic exposures and high blood pressure problems later in life.
If Veterans Affairs officials follow through with the recommendation, it could open up new or additional disability benefits to thousands of aging veterans who served in those areas and who are now struggling with heart problems.
Gulf War veterans with unexplained illnesses that cause fatigue, headaches, respiratory disorders and memory problems can improve their balance with a device developed by Rutgers University researchers. The study is the first to examine how Gulf War illnesses affect veterans’ vestibular systems, which are integral for balance, memory and brain blood flow. The findings are being presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. This prominent condition affecting Gulf War veterans includes a cluster of medically unexplained chronic symptoms that can also include joint pain, indigestion, insomnia, and dizziness, according to the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs, which supported the study. The disorder affects about 25 percent of the 700,000 veterans who served in Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield in 1990-1991. “Although it’s been more than 25 years since the conflict, we still do not understand the underlying cause of these symptoms and have yet to develop an effective treatment,” said lead author Jorge M. Serrador, associate professor in the departments of pharmacology, physiology and neuroscience at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and a scientist at the New Jersey War Related Illness and Injury Study Center.
Researchers with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found for the first time that enough evidence exists to link hypertension to Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War. The finding, announced Thursday, bolsters the case for veterans with hypertension to be granted easier access to Department of Veterans Affairs benefits, advocates argued. Before last week’s announcement, researchers had determined there was only “limited” or “suggestive” evidence hypertension could be caused by chemical herbicides used in Vietnam. In addition to hypertension, researchers determined there’s sufficient evidence linking Agent Orange to monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, or MGUS, a condition in which an abnormal protein is in the blood that progress to other disorders, including some forms of blood cancer. A link between the condition and Vietnam War service hadn’t been considered previously. Based on the new report, Vietnam Veterans of America and the Veterans of Foreign Wars called on VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to add hypertension and MGUS to the list of diseases presumed to be caused by Agent Orange. There are 14 diseases on the list, and veterans suffering from them are allowed quicker access to VA benefits.
Many Veterans filing a disability claim with VA simply fill in the 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits, list the disabilities they are filing a claim for, cross their fingers and hope for the best. Here are some suggestions to help you be successful with your claim the first time it’s submitted.
Intent to file – It may take some time for you to gather the information to support your fully developed claim, such as private treatment records and written statements. You can hold your effective date by filing a VA Form 21-0966, Intent To File A Claim For Compensation and/or Pension, or Survivors Pension and/or DIC. The date this form is received by VA is used as your potential effective date for payment purposes. You have a year after it’s received by VA to file your completed claim application.
Write a Statement in Support of Claim -When filing your claim, include a VA Form 21-4138, Statement in Support of Claim. Do a separate paragraph for each disability you are claiming, and explain the event in service (be specific) and your current disability or symptoms related to your injury or illness. Provide any evidence available on the event, such as personnel records, award narrative, and medical records .
Compensation and Pension (C&P) Exam.- Even if you submit all of your medical records, you may be scheduled for a C&P exam. This is not a typical doctor’s exam, and in some cases, the doctor may just review your records – including any statements in your file – and ask you a few questions. While this may seem unusual for an exam, the doctor is actually filling in a Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ), which the rater will use to determine if your claim can be granted, and at what percentage. Some information for the form will come from your medical records, and additional information is gathered from you. Failure to have this examination may result in an immediate disqualification of your claim.
VA and the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Veterans Administration (VA) are currently engaged in a joint effort to develop long-term plans for addressing chemical warfare agents (CWA) and weaponized toxic industrial chemical exposure, including plans for medical follow-up, surveillance, risk communication, benefits, and outreach. DoD tested CWAs on thousands of service member volunteers between 1922 and 1975. They recruited service members on a volunteer basis, but the details of the associated risks were not fully understood at the time. • DoD sent a letter to approximately 3,859 identified Veterans involved in testing, stating that medical care is available from the Army. This is in addition to any VA medical care that Veterans are already receiving or are entitled to receive. The Army will facilitate care at a VA facility if a Veteran wishes to continue using VA facilities.
• For those who may have been exposed to CWA during current operations, including Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and New Dawn (OND), DoD has investigated any possible CWA contacts and identified 411 Service Members who may have been exposed. Possible chemical warfare agents Chemical weapons that OEF/OIF/OND Veterans may have been exposed to fall into four main categories: harassing, incapacitating, lethal, and blister agents. These vary in terms of onset and severity of symptoms and long-term health implications. Exposure to industrial chemicals that can be toxic if/when weaponized should also be considered for long-term follow up. The chemical and industrial agents most commonly encountered are: • Nerve agents (e.g., Sarin, Tabun, VX)
• Blister agents (e.g., mustard, Lewisite) • Respiratory agents (e.g., chlorine, phosgene, ammonia) • Cyanides and blood agents (e.g., hydrogen cyanide) • Harassing agents (e.g., tear gas)
On November 5, 2018 the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) together with representatives from the departments of Labor, Justice, Defense, Homeland Security, the U.S. Navy and others, signed a joint statement aimed at improving access to free legal services for Veterans in need.
Federal agencies and the Veterans legal services community came together at VA headquarters in Washington D.C. to celebrate VA’s Medical Legal Partnerships and to recognize volunteers who serve at VA-based free legal clinics. Currently, VA hosts at least 170 free legal clinics in its VA Medical Centers, Community Based Outpatient Clinics and Vet Centers across the country, by partnering with external legal service providers, such as local bar associations, legal aid organizations and law school clinics. “Legal assistance stands high on the list of many Veterans’ important but unmet needs,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Our goal is to make sure our Veterans have access to not only health care and disability benefits, but to community legal services that are central to their overall well-being.” Veterans often face stressful legal situations — such as eviction, foreclosure, child support or driver’s license revocations — that can affect their ability to gain or maintain employment and housing, or focus on medical treatment. At the VA-hosted event today, VA and other federal agencies committed to encourage and further the provision of volunteer legal services to Veterans.
As a prime example of the VA-based legal clinics nationwide, attorneys and paralegals from VA and 13 other federal agencies have provided pro bono legal assistance on their own time to Veterans at the Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center’s legal clinic, run by the Veterans Pro Bono Consortium. During the past year, the legal clinic at that facility has served more than 800 Veterans.
Veterans receiving disability pay and military retirees will see a 2.8 percent cost-of-living boost starting in December, their largest increase in six years.
Social Security Administration officials announced that the cost-of-living adjustment for 2019 for their beneficiaries will be 2.8 percent, the biggest increase since 2012. Last year the increase was 2 percent, and the previous three years were only 2 percent combined.
Congress finalized work on the veterans benefits cost-of-living issue late last month. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed the measure into law. The end result is a boost in disability pay, dependents compensation, clothing allowances and a handful of other veterans benefits, set to start at the beginning of January.
Many VSO service officers receive questions regarding burial allowances from either veterans or their surviving spouse. Following is, hopefully, an answer to your questions (you may want to keep this in a secure location).
VA burial allowances are flat rate monetary benefits that are generally paid at the maximum amount authorized by law for an eligible Veteran’s burial and funeral costs. A VA regulation change in 2014 simplified the program to pay eligible survivors quickly and efficiently. Eligible surviving spouses of record are paid automatically upon notification of the Veteran’s death, without the need to submit a claim. VA may grant additional benefits, including the plot or interment allowance and transportation allowance, if it receives a claim for these benefits. “Plot” means the final disposition site of the remains, whether it is a grave, mausoleum vault, columbarium niche, or similar place. “Interment” means the burial of casketed remains in the ground or the placement of cremated remains into a columbarium niche.
Who is eligible? If the burial benefit has not been automatically paid to the surviving spouse, VA will pay the first living person to file a claim of those listed below: • Veteran’s surviving spouse; OR • The survivor of a legal union* between the deceased veteran and the survivor; OR • The Veteran’s children, regardless of age; OR • The Veteran’s parents or surviving parent; OR • The executor or administrator of the estate of the deceased Veteran. * Legal union means a formal relationship between the decedent and the survivor that existed on the date of the Veteran’s death, which was recognized under the law of the State in which the couple formalized the relationship and evidenced by the State’s issuance of documentation memorializing the relationship. The Veteran must also have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. In addition, at least one of the following conditions must be met. The veteran: • Died as a result of a service-connected disability, OR • Was receiving VA pension or compensation at the time of death, OR • Was entitled to receive VA pension or compensation, but decided instead to receive his or her full military retirement or disability pay, OR • Died while hospitalized by VA, or while receiving care under VA contract at a non-VA facility, OR • Died while traveling under proper authorization and at VA expense to or from a specified place for the purpose of examination, treatment or care, OR • Had an original or reopened claim for VA compensation or pension pending at the time of death and would have been entitled to benefits from a date prior to the date of death,
Although VA pension benefits are “means-tested” (i.e. the applicant’s income and assets are considered in determining eligibility), there was previously no specific asset limitation, and applicants were assessed on a case-by-case basis. The new rules provide a countable asset “cap” which matches the Community Spouse Resource Allowance for Medicaid ($123,600 for 2018). An applicant’s annual income is included in calculating their countable assets, as are the assets and income of the applicant’s spouse.
Assets – The VA suggests that its adjudicators use a certain amount of personal judgment on this issue. But the bottom line is: does it realistically appear that the veteran or surviving spouse may outlive their assets? If so, they are likely eligible for aid and attendance. In determining assets:
• Do NOT count their residence or vehicle when estimating net worth
• Do NOT count a life insurance policy (because the policy holder must be deceased in order to benefit from it). DO count CDs, annuities, stocks, bonds, savings, checking, IRAs, Keogh, etc
• DO count any assets owned by the spouse as well.
• As a rule of thumb, assets should not exceed $123,600. That amount drops depending on the age of claimant
• Estimate total annual income for the veteran and his spouse (if any). All income must be included. This includes social security, pensions including VA’s, interest income, dividends, income from rental property, etc.
• Deduct from income all annual unreimbursed, recurring health care expenses. This includes: o Assisted living cost o Nursing home cost o Home care service o Health insurance premium o Medicare premium o Regular unreimbursed prescriptions verifiable through a pharmacy printout
• The difference of the preceding is your countable income.