When confirmation hearings for the next Veterans Affairs secretary begin in a few weeks, privatization of the department will be the main focus of most lawmakers’ questions. Nearly everyone in the veterans community and on Capitol Hill is against privatizing VA — and nearly everyone has a different definition of what privatization is. Last week, VA officials released a statement titled “Debunking the VA Privatization Myth,” which insists “there is no effort underway to privatize VA,” and “to suggest otherwise is completely false and a red herring designed to distract and avoid honest debate on the real issues surrounding veterans’ health care.” The move came in response to comments from former VA Secretary David Shulkin, fired by President Donald Trump. In an op-ed just hours after his dismissal, Shulkin warned of individuals within the White House who “seek to privatize veteran health care as an alternative to government-run VA care.” But the definition of what privatizing the nearly $200 billion department would mean depends largely on who is making the argument. The VA “debunking” statement notes that the department budget has gone up five times in the last 20 years, and the VA workforce has increased about 60 percent since then (to around 385,000 workers). The argument is that adding more resources to the bureaucracy can’t be considered privatizing VA. But veterans groups have noted that increase is a function of inflation and increased demands on the department, and has little to do with future plans to shift more resources into community care programs.
Lifting The 15-Year Time Limit To Use GI Bill
The law eliminated the current 15-year time limit on use of the Post-9/11 GI Bill for those who were discharged on or after Jan. 1, 2013. This means that you have forever to use your GI Bill benefits! This removal of the 15 year time limit also applies to surviving dependents using the Fry Scholarship. Surviving spouses and children who first became eligible after Jan. 1, 2013 will have no time limit to use their Fry Scholarship benefits.
GI Bill Benefits Restored For Those Who Attended Some Colleges That Closed
If you went to a school that closed or lost accreditation and you didn’t get credit for the classes you took, the GI Bill that you used for those classes will be given back to you. This is effective for any school closings after Jan. 1, 2015.
More Guard, Reserve Members Now Eligible
Reservists called to active duty under sections 12304(a) (when a governor requests federal assistance in responding to a major disaster or emergency), or 12304(b) (when the DoD mobilizes reservists in support of a combatant command) are now eligible. Previously, only reservists called to active duty by presidential order as a result of a national emergency were eligible.
This applies to all reservists mobilized after Aug. 1, 2009, but reservists can get only get paid for classes that started after Aug. 1, 2018.
CHANGES EFFECTIVE AUGUST 1, 2018
All Purple Heart Recipients Get Full Benefit
Anybody who is awarded the Purple Heart will get the full GI Bill amount no matter how long they served on active duty.
Dependents’ Education Assistance (DEA)
Dependents’ Education Assistance (DEA) monthly payments will increase by about 50 percent, but the maximum number of months that a dependent can get DEA decreases from 45 to 36. This applies if you begin using the benefit after Aug. 1, 2018. Individuals who first enrolled in school before Aug. 1, 2018, would still qualify for a maximum of 45 months of entitlement.
Reserve Duty That Counts Toward Post-9/11 Eligibility
If a Reservist was ordered to active duty after September 1, 2010 to receive authorized medical care, be medically evaluated for disability, or complete a DoD health care study, that time will count as active duty toward GI Bill eligibility. The reservist can use their Post-9/11 GI Bill, if otherwise eligible after August 1, 2018.
Arlington National Cemetery is reaching out to the public for suggestions after Congress asked to find the means necessary to keep the burial site open — despite estimates it could run out of space in approximately 23 years.
Army National Military Cemeteries Executive Director Karen Durham-Aguilera testified before a House panel on March 8 and warned about the grim future of capacity at Arlington based on current eligibility requirements, according to a press release.
“Without changes to the current eligibility requirements and physical footprint, Arlington National Cemetery will not be a burial option for most who served in the Gulf War – or any conflict since – regardless of their contribution, achievements, or valor,” she said.
In a sweeping legal victory for veterans, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overturned a 19-year lower court precedent which prohibited the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from awarding disability benefits to a veteran for disabling pain if it was not linked to a medical diagnosis.
“What this ruling means is that if a physician cannot diagnose the cause of the pain the veteran is experiencing,but the pain is related to an event, injury, or disease that occurred during the veteran’s military service, the veteran should now win disability benefits,” said Bart Stichman, executive director and co-founder of the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) and one of the attorneys who represented the veteran in the case.
The Federal Circuit’s decision in Saunders v. Wilkie overturned the 1999 precedential decision issued by the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims that said VA had no authority to award benefits for pain alone, if the pain was untethered to a medical diagnosis explaining its cause.
Under this seldom used education program, family members of troops killed in action or those with 100% serviceconnected disabilities are able to obtain up to 45 months of education benefits in the form of a monthly stipend. The DEA program provides education and training compensation 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 as a result of a service-related condition. The amount allocated to a dependent can be up to a maximum of $1,021.00 a month for full-time students per rates as determined in October 2015. The money from this program is intended to be used as supplemental income for dependents seeking degrees, certificate programs, apprenticeships, or on-the-job training. The DEA program is separate from the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. Dependents of service members who died in the line of duty or served adequate time to be able to transfer their G.I. Bill benefits can also be eligible for the DEA program, but only for up to 81 months of total full-time benefits. However, both programs may not be used concurrently. Dependent children planning to apply for this benefit must fall between the ages of 18 and 26. As a dependent child, he/she will have up to age 26 to use the benefits. Spouses must use it within 10 years from the date VA finds one eligible or from the date of death of the Veteran. The bill appears to be flexible in that children of fallen or disabled service members can be married, the money can be used for colleges or job training programs, and there are rates that vary and can apply to part-time or full-time schooling — unlike with the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. In order to apply, dependents must complete VA Form 22-5490 [https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/vba-22-5490-are.pdf] and submit it to the VA for consideration.
A federal bill seeks to extend an aspect of burial benefits for Native American veterans provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Senate Bill 2248 proposes that the distribution of headstones upon request be provided to spouses and dependent children of veterans interred in tribal veterans cemeteries operated or funded by the VA’s National Cemetery Administration. There are 11 tribal veterans cemeteries — located in Arizona, California, Maine, Montana, Oklahoma and South Dakota — that are eligible for programs administered by the VA’s National Cemetery Administration. The two cemeteries in Arizona are the San Carlos Apache Tribal Veterans Cemetery in San Carlos and the Monte Calvario Cemetery in Tucson. The bill, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) was passed by the Senate this month. It moved to the House of Representatives on 5 MAR for consideration there. We owe a solemn debt to these men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country, and I applaud Sen. Tester’s leadership to correct this disparity,” Udall said in a press release from his office. The Navajo Nation has a community veterans cemetery in Fort Defiance, Arizona, and several cemeteries in communities on the reservation designate areas for the burial of veterans. Sen. Tom Udall Ned Adriance, a spokesman for Udall, said the federal proposal does not address any benefits for community cemeteries specifically or for interment in burial sites on family land. Adriance added the VA website indicates that the VA will furnish, on request, a government headstone or marker for any deceased eligible veteran in any cemetery, regardless of location. [Source: Farmington Daily Times | Noel Lyn Smith | March 19, 2018 ]
Most major cell phone providers — including AT&T, Boost Mobile, Sprint, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon — offer military discounts on wireless plans to current and former servicemembers. To find the best deal for your family, do some shopping and focus on the plan that is right for you
Do you have Tricare Retiree Dental Program coverage now? If so, then you need to know that this program will end on December 31st, 2018. Anyone who’s enrolled this year or who’s eligible for the plan can choose a dental plan from among 10 dental carriers in the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program or FEDVIP. You can begin reviewing program options now at opm.gov/fedvip. And you’ll be able to enroll in FEDVIP during the 2018 Federal Benefits Open Season, which runs from November 12th to December 10th. Coverage begins on January 1st, 2019.
An effort gained momentum in Congress on Wednesday to protect veterans’ credit scores when the Department of Veterans Affairs is slow to reimburse private-sector doctors for their medical care. The House Financial Services Committee advanced legislation that would provide a one-year grace period before veterans’ credit reports could be negatively affected because of slow VA payments
VA Secretary David Shulkin suggests he favors expansion of Agent Orange-related health care and disability compensation to new categories of ailing veterans but that factors like cost, medical science and politics still stand in the way.
Shulkin told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday that he made recommendations to White House budget officials last year on whether to add up to four more conditions — bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinson-like tremors and hypertension (high blood pressure) — to the VA list of 14 illnesses presumed caused by exposure to herbicides used during the Vietnam War.