VA News


Apply in Advance for Burial Eligibility in a VA National Cemetery

VA’s new pre-need eligibility determination program allows you to find out in advance if you are eligible for burial in a VA national cemetery.

This allows families to plan ahead, and streamlines access to the burial benefits that Veterans have earned through military service for themselves and their eligible family members.

Want more information about this new program? Visit ExploreVA or click the button below to learn how to apply in advance for burial in a VA national cemetery.

Here is the direct link:


Death Preparations  What Beneficiaries Should Know in Advance

Sometimes the most difficult conversations to have are the most important, like helping your loved ones be prepared for when you die. Talking to your family about this topic beforehand is a way to show that you care, and it will help to ease the financial burdens they may face.  Following are 6 things you should brief your beneficiaries on:

First.  Make sure you understand what an (AOP) beneficiary is and the nature of the benefit to which they are entitled. Find more information on this benefit at

Second.  Tell your beneficiaries who they are! Hopefully, you’ve designated your beneficiaries for any (AOP) that may be due. When no beneficiary is named, the payment is made to the highest person in what is known as the “Order of Precedence.” The Order or Precedence is the federally mandated order of inheritance that applies to legacies without a designated beneficiary. Refer to for more information on “Order of Precedence”. Keep in mind that it can take many months to locate your survivors, identify who comes highest in the Order of Precedence and then make the payment. That’s why having a current, correct and complete beneficiary designation on file is important to prevent delays or errors in your arrears payments.

Designating a sole beneficiary in your will does not automatically make that person your AOP beneficiary. AOP determination is based exclusively on the AOP beneficiary election in your retired pay account. To review your current arrears of pay beneficiaries and to make changes, visit the Beneficiaries for Arrears link once you’ve signed in to your myPay account. For more detailed instructions on designating an Arrears of Pay beneficiary on myPay, review our article at  on this subject.

Third.  Let your beneficiary know that sometimes money that has already been deposited into your checking account needs to be returned to DFAS. Military retired pay is only payable for as long as you are alive. Entitlement to your military retirement ends when you die. Most banks will automatically deduct any overpaid funds without warning, which can be troublesome if you share a joint account.

Fourth.  Tell your beneficiaries what documents they will need to send in to make their claim. One copy of the death certificate that includes the manner of death needs to be sent to us. Also, each beneficiary should complete a Claim for Unpaid Compensation (SF 1174). It’s a great idea to go over this claim form with your beneficiaries to make sure they will have all of the information they need to fill it out. If you want a more detailed explanation of this process, check out the instructions on our website at

Fifth.  Let your beneficiaries know that sometimes there is no money due. Each situation is different. It depends how up to date the account was kept. You can make sure your account is in good standing by performing a yearly audit.

Sixth.  When an arrears payment is made, there is a statement on the check that reads, “Retired Pay Payable only during life of Payee.” Please do not let this statement alarm your beneficiaries. As long as the beneficiary’s name is accurate on the check, the check can be cashed.

DFAS wants to take the best care of your loved ones when you die. You can help them by having a conversation with them to know what to expect. We know talking about it might be difficult, but hopefully this checklist gives you an idea of the things to say. Don’t put it off. Have a conversation about it with your loved ones today.  [Source:  DFAS Retiree Newsletter | September 2016 ++]


VA Guide & Service Dog Program ► Parameters & Access

Are you aware that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a Guide and Service Dog program? What’s the difference between the two? A guide dog is trained to lead the blind or vision impaired, while the service dog is trained to do specific tasks for someone that can’t do them because of a disability. Guide dogs act as pilots for their owners; blind veterans get assessed and trained for orientation and mobility. If a veteran prefers a guide dog, the VA will provide information on contacting guide dog schools. A veteran’s partnership with the guide dog is provided by non-VA affiliated guide dog schools.

The VA will provide veterinary care (including prescribed medications, office visits for medical procedures, and dental procedures where the dog has been sedated, and follow up on vaccinations) and equipment (such as a harness, backpack or both) through the VA Prosthetics and Sensory Aids Department. The VA will not pay for boarding, grooming, food or other routine expenses of owning a dog. A service dog receives training to do specific tasks the veteran cannot do as a result of a disability. Service dogs can pick things up, guide someone with vision problems or help someone who falls or loses balance easily. Service dogs go through rigorous training, learning to:

  • Do things different from natural dog behavior
  • Do things the owner cannot do because of a disability
  • Work with the new owner in ways to help manage the owner’s disability

As a result of this relationship, service dogs are allowed to enter most public places the owner goes, even if it’s somewhere dogs can’t usually go, like restaurants and airplanes. There are some exceptions, and service dogs can be asked to leave if they misbehave. In order for a veteran to receive a service dog, they are evaluated; the prescribing clinician must determine:

  • Ability and means, including family or caregiver, to care for the dog currently and into the future
  • Goals and tasks that the dog would help the veteran accomplish
  • Goals and tasks that other assistive technology or therapy would help the veteran accomplish

The veteran will be notified of approval or disapproval. If approved, they will be referred to Assistance Dogs International-accredited agencies. There is no charge for the dog or its associated training. Recently, the VA announced a pilot program to implement veterinary health benefits for veterans’ mobility service dogs with chronic impairments that substantially limits mobility associated with mental health disorders.

Service dogs are distinguished from pets and comfort animals because they have been specially trained to perform tasks for a specific individual with a disability who cannot perform the task independently. If you would like further information regarding this benefit, you need to start the process with your primary care doctor to get the referral to the VAMC Fresno Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services Department. If you need assistance in enrolling into the VA Healthcare system, we can help you complete the enrollment form to take to them.  [Source: The Californian | Ken Cruickshank | September 24, 2016 ++]


VA Geriatrics & Extended Care Update 01 ► An Aging Society

In 1960, just over 500,000 American veterans were 65 years old or older — 2.3 percent of our veteran population. In 2020, over 9.4 million are projected to be 65 or older — almost 47 percent of veterans. Aging veterans are a harbinger of our nation’s aging population; between now and 2050, Americans aged 65 and over will grow from 15 percent to 22 percent of the population. Those 85 and older will grow from about 6 million to near 19 million. Longer lives and advances in medicine are accompanied by increased needs for the treatment for chronic diseases like diabetes, arthritis, hypertension and dementia. Three-fourths of U.S. health care expenditures are for chronic disease.

Fortunately, we have a health care system with unparalleled expertise in geriatric care; it’s called the Veterans Health Administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VA leads the nation in addressing the care of an aging society because one out of every two VA patients is a senior citizen. Of 22 million living American veterans, over 6 million seek VA care in a given year; over 52 percent of these are age 65 and over. Though most of these veterans are eligible for other care systems and insurance, most of them choose VA. VA has a visionary system of geriatric research, education and clinical centers (“GRECCs”) created by Congress in 1975 to guide VA in meeting its mandate to care for America’s surviving warriors as they aged into their 70s, 80s and beyond. There are now 20 GRECCs in the 150 VA medical centers in the U.S. devoted to training health care professionals in assessing and managing health needs of elderly clients. They perform pioneering work on the impacts of diet and exercise and investigate diseases of aging, rehabilitation of stroke victims, the genetics and neurobiology of Alzheimer’s disease and on the cellular mechanisms of Parkinson’s disease, among many other accomplishments.

VA pioneered and broadly implemented home-based primary care in which clinicians make house calls to veterans with serious, disabling diseases, and we established teams of clinicians in every medical center to provide end-of-life care that provide comfort and dignity for veterans and their families when it is most needed. Since the late 1940s, VA has maintained close working relationships with most U.S. medical schools. Over 70 percent of U.S. physicians receive some clinical instruction in VA settings. Though there is an acute shortage of health personnel with advanced training in geriatrics, VA has many initiatives to educate and train future clinical leaders in geriatrics. This country owes its freedom to veterans, men and women who have “borne the battle” for us all. VA is setting the bar in optimizing the well-being and independence of an increasingly elderly veteran-patient population. America would do well to follow VA’s lead as it prepares to address its looming geriatric challenges.  [Source:  Reno Gazette-Journal | Robert A. McDonald & Richard C. Veith | September 6, 2016 ++]


Top 10 Reasons Veterans Don’t Pursue Benefits

1.  I don’t trust the Government.

Many veterans have indicated that they don’t trust their Government in matters of confidentiality and privacy, and therefore, have no interest in pursuing benefits.  Veterans from the Vietnam era are particularly sensitive regarding their distrust of the Government.  Many veterans from that era have indicated that they had a very bad experience while in uniform, and felt as though the Government is not really inclined to assist or help them.  One veteran said, “The Government did me wrong while I was in Vietnam, and I am sure they’ll do me wrong again.”

2.  I didn’t know I was eligible.

Far too many veterans are unaware of their eligibility status.  Many veterans assume that since they aren’t registered to use VA services, they are automatically ineligible for benefits.  One veteran said, “I never retired from the military so I always believed I was ineligible for benefits.”

3.  I am not eligible.

Military discharge status plays in big role in determining if a veteran is potentially eligible for benefits.  Honorably discharged veterans are 100% eligible for benefits if they meet the criteria.  Veterans with a Bad Conduct Discharge are not eligible for benefits.  However, some veterans fall some place between an Honorable Discharge and a Bad Conduct Discharge.  For instance, a veteran with a General Discharge is oftentimes eligible for benefits.  Best to visit with a Veterans Service Officer to find out if you qualify.  One veteran said, “My discharge papers show that I was forced out of the military due to the needs of the Government and my bad foot.  I have a General Discharge with medical stipulations.  I always thought that made me ineligible for future benefits.”

4.  I don’t want to go through the “red tape.”

Many veterans are of the belief that pursuing benefits from the VA is a matter of navigating a very complex and confusing system that involves mounds of documentation.  While it may be true that there is a lot of paperwork, most, if not all is handled by a competent VSO and not the veteran.  The VSO is trained to work with the bureaucracy, not the veteran, and takes much the complexity away from the veteran.  One veteran said, “It’s just too confusing to get started.”

5.  I don’t know how.

While there are many veterans service organizations in existence, many veterans do not understand how those organizations can truly help them apply for benefits.  Also, many veterans don’t know where to begin.  One veteran said, “I always thought a VFW was a bar for veterans, and they sit around and swap war stories.  I never knew they had staff on board that could help me apply for benefits.”

6.  I make too much money.

There are many veterans who make over one hundred thousand dollars annually, and are receiving compensation for a service-connected disability.  A veterans’ disability is independent from their income from other sources, and is not a factor to determine eligibility.  There are a few millionaire politicians who are service-connected and receive monthly compensation from a service-connected disability.  One veteran said, “I never applied for benefits because I always believed I made too much money to be eligible for compensation.”

7.  I was denied after the war.

Sure, many veterans are denied after first applying for benefits, whether a few months after serving in a war zone or years later.  Bottom line, sometimes it takes a few tries to get it right.  One veteran said, “I applied for compensation after being diagnosed with PTSD and was quickly denied.  I decided it wasn’t worth my time to try again.”

8.  Don’t know what to apply for.

Some veterans have many post war ailments and aren’t sure which ones to submit for service-connected compensation, while other veterans appear healthy, except for a few nagging conditions, and aren’t sure if their condition would be considered for compensation.  Discussing your issue with a respected and competent VSO is very important.  They often know what is potentially eligible for compensation and what is not and most importantly, how to get your benefits package started.  One veteran said, “I have so many things wrong with me I don’t know where to start.  If I submit claims for all of my conditions the VA will reject them all thinking I am not telling the truth.”

9.  I can’t prove my health problems are related to my time in the military.

Finding a good VSO is very important in securing disability compensation for a service-connected condition.  The VSO will help you connect the dots.  Some VSOs are very innovative in helping veterans find the appropriate proof needed for their claims.  While other VSOs have great “inside connections” that may be able to locate documents needed to show proof for a veteran.  One veteran said, “The VA can’t find my medical records so I can’t prove I was injured in Vietnam.”

10.  Other veterans are more deserving.

Too many veterans take this stance to keep themselves from attempting to apply for benefits they may be eligible to receive. The forces and influences that kept many soldiers alive by watching each other’s back live with them forever.  One veteran said, “It took guys in my group one year to convince me that I should apply for compensation.  I did, and six months later I was 80% service-connected for PTSDdepression, and diabetes.  I never would have put in for benefits if they didn’t talk me into it.”


Below are links to two articles of info on medical care with the VA

You do not have to be a disabled veteran to qualify


VA to Change Disability Claims Rules for Camp Lejeune Veterans

By Patricia Kime, Marine Corps Times – December 18, 2015

The Veterans Affairs Department has determined that eight medical conditions are linked to service at Camp Lejeune, N.C. from 1953 to 1987, and veterans with these diseases who were stationed at the sprawling Marine Corps basare eligible for disability compensation.

VA officials said Thursday that these eight diseases that have been determined to be service-connected to consuming contaminated drinking water at the base: kidney cancer, liver cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma, scleroderma, Parkinson’s disease and aplastic anemia or other myelodysplastic syndromes 

VA Secretary Robert McDonald said research by health experts at the Veterans Health Administration and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indicated that the risk of developing these illnesses is elevated by exposure to contaminants found in the water, including perchloroethylene, trichlorotheylene, benzene and other volatile organic compounds 

“The water at Camp Lejeune was a hidden hazard, and it is only years later that we know how dangerous it was,” McDonald said. “We thank ATSDR for the thorough review that provided much of the evidence we needed to fully compensate veterans who develop one of the conditions known to be related to exposure to the compounds in the drinking water. 

Nearly a million people, including troops, family members and civilian employees working at Camp Lejeune from the 1950s through the 1980s were exposed to these chemicals and other cancer-causing agents in the base’s drinking water, supplied by two water treatment facilities polluted by dry cleaning compounds, leaking underground storage tanks, industrial spills and poor disposal practices.

The VA has provided health care or reimbursement for medical costs for veterans who served at Camp Lejeune at least 30 days during the affected period or family members with 15 illnesses related to exposure to water contaminated by solvents and fuels, but it had not awarded “presumptive status” to any condition until now.

The changes will take effect after VA publishes regulations regarding these presumptions, and will apply to new disability claims. Veterans who have previously been denied on such claims may seek to be re-evaluated. Also, any pending claims that might be denied under current regulations will be placed on hold until the VA issues its final rules, according to a department press release 

The bedrock eligibility rules will be that veterans must have one of the eight specified conditions and must have served at Camp Lejeune between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987.

The new rules also will expand eligibility to reserve and National Guard members who served at Camp Lejeune for any length of time during that period.

The VA did not provide a timeline for when the new rules will go into effect, but officials said more details will be published in the Federal Register in the coming days.

Vterans have expressed frustration over the low rate of claims approvals for illnesses related to the Camp Lejeune water. Hundreds of veterans attended a meeting of the Camp Lejeune Community Assistance Panel on Dec. 5 in Tampa to express frustration with the VA’s handling of claims and plead with VA officials to improve the process 

aul Maslow, a veteran who walks with a cane and said he has inoperable tumors on his spine and elsewhere, said he and thousands of former troops need assistance.

“You are not helping us, you are hurting us,” Maslow told VA officials attending the meeting. “And the more you delay, the more of us … are going to die.”



Comment: Someone has gone to a lot of trouble. If this helps one person, then it was worthwhile. Below are web-sites that provide information on Veterans benefits and how to file/ask for them. Accordingly, there are many sites that explain how to obtain books, military/medical records, information and how to appeal a denied claim with the VA. Nearly 100% of this information is free and available for all veterans, the only catch is: you have to ask for it, because they won’t tell you about a specific benefit unless you ask for it. You need to know what questions to ask so the right doors open for you and then be ready to have an advocate who is willing to work with and for you. stay in the process, and press for your rights and your best interests.

Appeals Lp:// 1/mr/part1/ch05.cioc. Board of Veteran’s Appeals

CARES Commission H,tto://

CARES Draft National Plan Center for Minority Veterans .ttp:// Center for Veterans Enterprise http://www.vetbiz.qov/default2.htm

Center for Women Veterans

Clarification on the changes in VA healthcare for Gulf War Veterans htto:// html

Classified Records – American Gulf War Veterans Assoc http://www.gulfwarvets.comiubb/Forum18/HTML/000011.html

Compensation for Disabilities Associated with the Gulf War Service http://www. 1/part6°/020/ch07.doc

Compensation Rate Tables, 12-1-03 http://www.vba.valov/bIn/21/Rates/compOthtm Department of Veterans Affairs Home Page ittp://

Directory of Veterans Service Organizations

Disability Examination Worksheets Index, Comp

Due Process 1/mr/partlich02.doc Duty to Assist ttp:// 1/mr/part1/ch01.doc Electronic Code of Federal Regulations http://www.dpoaccess.dov/ecfr/
Emergency, Non-emergency, and Fee Basis Care htto://

Environmental Agents

Environmental Agents M10 ID=1002

Establishing Combat Veteran Eligibility ID=315


See also, Depleted Uranium Fact Sheet


hap://wv,/w1 .va.doviciultwarldocs/DUHANDBOOKNONGW130:3403.64.DOC

Fee Basis, PRIORITY FOR OUTPATIENT MEDICAL SERVICES AND INPATIENT HOSPITAL CARE http://www1.valgov/vhapublicationsNiewPublictinn.asp?pub I D=206 Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependents 2005 OR, http://www1.valgov/opa/vadocs/current benefits. htm

Forms and Records Request ittp://

General Compensation Provisions

http://www.access.gpo.dov/uscode/title38/partii chapter11 subchaptervi . html

Geriatrics and Extended Care

Guideline for Chronic Pain and Fatigue MUS-CPG base.htm

Guide to Gulf War Veteran’s Health http://m/

Gulf War Subject Index

Gulf War Veteran’s Illnesses Q&As


nttp.// 1/mr/part1/ch04.doc
Homeless Veterans ‘,ttp:// HSR&D Home

Index to Disability Examination Worksheets C&P exams http://\„Aiww.vba va.govibln/21/benefits/exams/index.htm

Ionizing Radiation

Iraqi Freedom/Enduring Freedom Veterans VBA

M 10 for spouses and children < ID=1007

M10 Part Ill Change 1

1ittp://vk1wmil va ciov/whapublicationsNiewPublication.asp?pub ID=1008

M21-1 Table of Contents 1.html Mental Disorders, Schedule of Ratings 130. .Doc

Mental Health Program Guidelines ID=1094

Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Centers,

MS (Multiple Sclerosis) Centers of Excellence .ttp:// My Health e Vet .p:// NASDVA.COMhttp://nasdva.corn/ National Association of State Directors

National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

Neurological Conditions and Convulsive Disorders, Schedule of Ratings htto:// 124a.doc

OMI (Office of Medical Inspector)

Online VA Form 10-10EZ ttps://

Parkinson’s Disease and Related Neurodegenerative Disorders and,

Peacetime Disability Compensation usc&docid=Cite:+38USC1131
Pension for Non-Service-Connected Disability or Death chapter15 subchapteri .htry and, http://www.access.gpo.qov/uscode/title38/partii chapter15 subchapterii .htri and, http://www.access.gpo.qov/uscode/title38/partii chapter15 subchapteriii .html

Persian Gullf Registry, ID=1003

This program is now referred to as Gulf War Registry Program (to include Operation Iraqi Freedom) as of March 7, 2005

http://wwwl ID=1232

Persian Gulf Registry Referral Centers I D=11)

Persian Gulf Veterans’ Illnesses Research 1999, Annual Report To Congress httr://wwwl.v. goviresdev/1999 Gulf War Veterans%27 Illnesses Annenciices.doc

Persian Gulf Veterans’ Illnesses Research 2002, Annual Report To Congress war 2002/GulfVVarRpt02.pdf

Phase I PGR ID=1004

Phase II PGR ID=1005

Policy Manual Index Atp://

Power of Attorney

http://www.warms.vba./.va.qov/admin21/m21 1/mr/part1/ch03.doc Project 112 (Including Project SHAD) !lttp://

Prosthetics Eligibility

http://wvv’w1.v..qov/vhapublicationsNiewPublication.asp?pub ID=337

Public Health and Environmental Hazards Home Page http://wv,/w.vetheelth\

Public Health/SARSIttp://www./

Publications Manuals

Publications and Reports individual.cfm?webpaqe=qulf war.htm

Records Center and Vault Homepage nttp:// Records Center and Vault Site Map

Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses

April 11, 2002 ittp:// Aori1112002.doc

Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses 2004.pdf

Research and Development programs.cfm

Survivor’s and Dependents’ Educational Assistance

htto://y   y.acoess.ono.00v/uscode/title38/partiii chapter35 .html

Title 38 Index Parts 0-17

idx?sid=1b0c269b510d3157fbf8f8801bc9b3dc&c=ecfr&tp1=/ecfrbrowse/Title38/38cfrvl 02..tpl

Part 18 http://ecfr.qpoaccess.qov/cqi/t/text/text-

dx?sid=1b0c269b510d3157fbf8f8801bc9b3dc&c=ecfr&tp1=/ecfrbrowse/Title38/38cfrv2 07 _t_pi

Title 38 Part 3 Adjudication Subpart A “Pension, Compensation, and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation http://ecfr.qpoaccess.qov/cqi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&sia=1b0c269b510d3157fbf8f8801bc9b3dc&tpl=tecfrbrowse/Title38/38ofr3 main 02.tpl

Title 38 Pensions, Bonuses & Veterans Relief (also A,A§ 3.317 Compensation for certain disabilities due to undiagnosed illnesses found here) m ain Cr tol



idx?c=ecfr&sid=ab7641afd195c84a49a2U6 icioocf95c0&rqn=div6&view=text&node=38:

Title 38A§ 4.16 Total disability ratings for compensation based on unemployability of the individual. PART A “SCHEDULE FOR RATING DISABILITIES Subpart A “General Policy in Rating http://ecfr.qpoaccess.qov/cqi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=1b0c269b510d3157fbf8f8801bc9b3dc&rqn=div8&view=text&node=38: 1

U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims ‘ttp://
VA Best Practice Manual for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

(PTSD) http://www.avapkorg/pub/PTSM/020Manual°/020final°/0206.pdf

VA Fact Sheet Httr.):/./\,

VA Health Care Eligibility ittp://

VA INSTITUTING GLOBAL ASSESSMENT OF FUNCTION (GAF) httpiiwww.avapi.orgicial/qat. html

VA Life Insurance Handbook A–.” Chapter 3

VA Loan Lending Limits and Jumbo Loans ttp:// facts limits.cfm

VA MS Researchtto://v,,

VA National Hepatitis C Program

VA Office of Research and Development

VA Trainee Pocket Card on Gulf War ittp://



VAOIG Hotline Telephone Number and Address

Vet Center Eligibility – Readjustment Counseling Service http://wvv-vv..v.govircs/Eligibility.htm

Veterans Benefits Administration Main Web Page Http:// Veterans Legal and Benefits Information iittp://

VHA Forms, Publications, Manuals Ittp://

VHA Programs – Clinical Programs & Initiatives

http://wavvi .va.govineaith DerieTitsipage.cfm?pq=1 3

VHA Public Health Strategic Health Care Group Home Page http:

VHI Guide to Gulf War Veterans A–,(tm) Health nd study/gultwarilstudv/index.asp
Vocational Rehabilitation ttp://

Vocational Rehabilitation Subsistence

VONAPP online WARMS – 38 CFR Book C

Wartime Disability Compensation http://frwebgate.access.dpo.dovicgi-binideWoc.cgli)abname=Orowse usc&docid=Cite:+38USC1110

War-Related Illness and Injury Study Center – New Jersey

Welcome to the GI Bill Web Site

What VA Social Workers Do eittp://

VVRIISC Patient Eligibility ,ttp://www.illedion.ord/va1.html

Save this in your VA files. There may be a time for use in the future.


Awards Replacement Update 05 ► New Reg Offers GuidanceThe newly revised edition of the Army regulation for military awards, AR 600-8-22, lays out the procedures that service members, veterans and surviving family members need to follow for requesting replacement medals of previously awarded decorations. Replacement medals will be issued on a one-time, no-cost basis to the recipient of the award, or the primary next of kin to a deceased recipient. Subsequent replacement medals or service ribbons for individuals not on active duty may be made at cost price, according to the 25 JUN update of the regulation. Government replacement of service medals and ribbons that predate World War I is not possible, as these items no longer are carried in the military supply system. However, many of these decorations may be purchased from private dealers in military insignia. Medals and appurtenances issued by the Army include decorations, service medals and ribbons, palms, rosettes, clasps, arrowheads, service stars (campaign/battle), the French Fourragere, Netherlands Orange Lanyard, and Army Good Conduct Medal. In addition to these are oak leaf clusters, numerals, “V” devices, certificates for decorations, lapel buttons for decorations, ten year devices, Berlin Airlift Devices, containers for decorations, miniature decorations to foreign military personnel, letter “M” devices and the Medal of Honor flag. Badges and appurtenances issued by the Army include combat and special skill badges; Basic Marksmanship Badges; Distinguished Marksmanship Badges; excellence in competition badges; Basic Marksmanship Qualification Badges and bars; Army Staff Identification Badge; The Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Identification Badge; Army Recruiter Badge; Career Counselor Badge; and the new Basic, Senior and Master Instructor Badges. Items not issued or sold by the Army include miniature medals, service ribbons, devices and appurtenances; lapel buttons for service medals, and lapel buttons for service prior to Sept. 8, 1939; Active Reserve lapel buttons; lapel buttons for badges; certificates for badges; foreign badges, and miniature Combat Infantryman, Expert Infantryman, Combat Medical, Expert Field Medical and Aviation badges, and dress miniature badges.When requesting replacement medals for awards issued by the U. S. military services, individuals should access the website of the National Personnel Records Center ( Medals and appurtenances awarded while in federal service with the Army or a sister U.S. service will be issued on request to the appropriate military service as follows: Requests for personnel in active federal military service, or the Army National Guard or Army Reserve should be submitted to the individual’s unit commander.


 Requests for personnel who do not hold current Army status, or who died before Oct. 1, 2002, should be submitted to the National Personnel Records Center, 1 Archives Drive, St. Louis, Mo. 63138-1002.


 Requests for individuals who retired, were discharged (or have a Reserve obligation), or who died (except for general officers) after Oct. 1, 2002, should be submitted to the Commander, Army Human Resources Command (AHRC-PDP-A), 1600 Spearhead Division Ave., Fort Knox, Ky.40122-5408.


 Requests for general officers should be submitted to the Commander, Army Human Resources Command (AHRC-PDP-A), 1600 Spearhead Division Ave., Fort Knox, Ky. 40122-5408.


Addresses for requesting medals from the non-Army U.S. military services are:

 Navy awards: Chief of Naval Operations (DNS-35), Navy Pentagon, Washington, D.C. 20350-2000.


 Air Force awards: Air Force Personnel Center, Attn: AFPC/DSPSIDR, 550 C St., Randolph Air Force Base, Texas 78150-4712.


 Marine Corps awards: Commandant, Marine Corps, Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Code MMMA, 3280 Russell Road, Quantico, Va. 22134-5103.


 Coast Guard awards: Commandant (G-PS-5/TP41, U.S. Coast Guard, Washington, D.C. 20593-7238.


[Source: FRG-BVA | Jim Tice | July 07, 2015 ++]



Veteran Benefit/Info Sites ► Alphabetical Listing | 2015

Below are web-sites that provide information on Veterans benefits and how to file/ask for them. Accordingly, there are many sites that explain how to obtain books, military/medical records, information and how to appeal a denied claim with the VA. Nearly 100% of this information is free and available for all veterans, the only catch is: you have to ask for it, because they won’t tell you about a specific benefit unless you ask for it. You need to know what questions to ask so the right doors open for you — and then be ready to have an advocate who is willing to work with and for you, stay in the process, and press for your rights and your best interests. Note: Some of these links may be outdated, so you would have to do a Google search…..


Appeals Pamphlet


Board of Veteran’s Appeals


Center for Minority Veterans


Center for Veterans Enterprise


Center for Women Veterans


Compensation Rate Tables, 12-1-03


Department of Veterans Affairs Home Page


Directory of Veterans Service Organizations


Disability Examination Worksheets Index, Comp its/exams/index.htm


Due Process


Duty to Assist


Electronic Code of Federal Regulations


Environmental Agents .gov/environagents/


Establishing Combat Veteran Eligibility


Evaluation Protocol for Gulf War And Iraqi Freedom Veterans With Potential Exposure to Depleted Uranium (DU) See also,


Depleted Uranium Fact Sheet


Evaluation Protocol for Non-Gulf War Veterans With Potential Exposure to Depleted Uranium (DU)


Fee Basis, Priority For Outpatient Medical Services And Inpatient Hospital Care


Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependants


Forms and Records Request


General Compensation Provisions


Geriatrics and Extended Care


Guideline for Chronic Pain and Fatigue


Guide to Gulf War Veteran’s Health


Gulf War Registry Program (to include Operation Iraqi Freedom)


Gulf War Subject Index


Gulf War Veteran’s Illnesses Q&As


Hearings n21/m21_1/mr/part1/ch04.doc


Homeless Veterans


HSR&D Home


Index to Disability Examination Worksheets C&P exams


Ionizing Radiation


Iraqi Freedom/Enduring Freedom Veterans VBA


M21-1 Table of Contents


Mental Disorders, Schedule of Ratings


Mental Health Program Guidelines


Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Centers


MS (Multiple Sclerosis) Centers of Excellence


My Health e Vet


National Association of State Directors


Neurological Conditions and Convulsive Disorders, Schedule of Ratings


OMI (Office of Medical Inspector)


Online VA Form 10-10EZ


Parkinson’s Disease and Related Neurodegenerative Disorders http://”” and,


Peacetime Disability Compensation


Pension for Non-Service-Connected Disability or Death title=”“>


Persian Gulf Registry Referral Centers


Persian Gulf Veterans’ Illnesses Research 2002, Annual Report To Congress h


Policy Manual Index


Power of Attorney


Project 112 (Including Project SHAD)


Prosthetics Eligibility


Public Health and Environmental Hazards Home Page


Public Health/SARS


Publications Manuals


Publications and Reports


Request For And Consent To Release Of Information From Claimant’s Records


Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses


Research and Development


Survivor’s and Dependents’ Educational Assistance


Title 38 Index Parts 0-17


Title 38 Index Part 18


Title 38 Part 3 Adjudication Subpart “Pension, Compensation, and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation



Title 38 PART 4–Schedule For Rating Disabilities


U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims


VA Best Practice Manual for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)


VA Fact Sheet


VA Health Care Eligibility


VA healthcare for Gulf War Veterans


VA Instituting Global Assessment Of Function (GAF)


VA Life Insurance Handbook


VA Loan Lending Limits and Jumbo Loans


VA MS Research


VA National Hepatitis C Program


VA Office of Research and Development


VA Trainee Pocket Card on Gulf War


VA Emergency Management




VA OIG Hotline Telephone Number and Address


Vet Center Eligibility – Readjustment Counseling Service


Veterans Benefits Administration Main Web Page


Veterans Legal and Benefits Information


VHA Forms, Publications, Manuals


VHA Programs – Clinical Programs & Initiatives


VHA Public Health Strategic Health Care Group Home Page http: //


VHI Guide to Gulf War Veterans Health


Vocational Rehabilitation


Vocational Rehabilitation Subsistence


VONAPP online


WARMS – 38 CFR Book C


Wartime Disability Compensation


War-Related Illness and Injury Study Center – New Jersey


Welcome to the GI Bill Web Site


What VA Social Workers Do


[Source: MOWW | PI Officer | June 15, 2015 ++]




VA Disability Ratings | 100% ►   When You Are Allowed to Work  

Veterans are often confused about Department of Veterans Affairs 100 percent disability ratings and whether or not they can work if rated at 100 percent.  There are four types of 100 percent disability ratings.


  1. Combined. When a veteran’s service-connected disabilities combine to 100 percent, he can work full-time.


  1.  TDIU or IU.  This stands for Total Disability/Individual Unemployability. It is a specific type of claim made by a veteran, requesting he be paid at the 100 percent rate even though his disabilities do not combine to 100. This request is made because the veteran is unable to maintain “gainful employment” because his service-connected disabilities prevent him from doing so.  The basic eligibility to file for IU is that the veteran has one disability rated at 60 percent or one at 40 percent and enough other disabilities that result in a combined rating of 70 percent or more. The one disability at 40 percent criteria can be a combined rating of related disabilities. Meeting the basic criteria is not a guarantee that the veteran will be awarded 100 percent under IU. The medical evidence must show that the veteran is unable to work in both a physical and sedentary setting. A veteran not meeting the percentage criteria may still be awarded IU if the disabilities present a unique barrier to gainful employment. If a veteran is granted 100 percent under IU he is prohibited from working full-time, because in filing the claim for IU the veteran is stating he is unable to work because of his service-connected disabilities. Receiving IU is not a bar to all employment. The veteran can work in part-time “marginal” employment and earn up to a certain amount annually.


  1. Temporary 100 percent rating. If a veteran is hospitalized 21 days or longer or had surgery for a service-connected disability that requires at least a 30-day convalescence period, the VA will pay at the 100 percent rate for the duration of the hospital stay or the convalescence period. For example, if a veteran has a total knee replacement for a service-connected knee disability, the VA will pay 100 percent compensation for 13 months, the standard recovery period for a replacement of a major joint. The duration of 100% temporary disability for any other type of surgery will depend on what the doctor reports as the recovery period.


  1. Permanent and total. A 100 percent “permanent and total” rating is when the VA acknowledges that the service-connected conditions have no likelihood of improvement and the veteran will remain at 100 percent permanently with no future examinations. The P&T rating provides additional benefits, such as Chapter 35 education benefits for dependents, among others. Veterans sometimes make the mistake of requesting a P&T rating simply because they want education benefits for their dependents. Veterans need to keep in mind that when P&T is requested, all of their service-connected disabilities will be re-evaluated. If improvement is noted during the subsequent examinations, a reduction from 100 percent can be proposed.


Because many veterans are service-connected for conditions that VA says have a “likelihood of improvement,” most ratings are not considered permanent and are subject to future review. The only time veterans can’t work a full-time, gainfully-employed job is if they were awarded 100 percent disability through a claim for IU. Also, a 100 percent rating under either IU or combined ratings may or may not be rated as permanent and total. A temporary 100 percent rating is just that: temporary due to being hospitalized or recovering from surgery on a service-connected condition. It is always best for a veteran to work with an accredited veterans service officer who can explain the complex workings of the VA benefit system.  [Source:  Montgomery County TN | VSO Sandy Britt | May 21, 2015 ++]





VA Burial Benefits Update 35    Unclaimed Veteran Remains Fact Sheet


The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) works with Veteran service groups, funeral industry partners, public administrators and other concerned citizens to ensure the dignified burial of unclaimed Veterans. “Unclaimed Veterans” are defined as those who die with no next of kin to claim their remains and insufficient funds to cover burial expenses. A VA pension or other compensation is no longer a pre-requisite for these “Unclaimed Veterans” to receive burial benefits. Below is a step-by-step process for determining eligibility and arranging burial for unclaimed Veterans.


Step 1: Determine Eligibility:

  • Contact the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 1-800-535-1117 to determine if an identified, unclaimed decedent is a Veteran and eligible for burial in a VA national cemetery. The process may require 48 hours or more; or
  • State or tribal Veterans cemeteries also offer burial options for eligible Veterans. Contact the state or tribal Veterans cemetery for eligibility determination and scheduling the burial. A listing is available at


Step 2: Arrange for the deceased, unclaimed Veteran’s burial in either:

  • A National Cemetery – Contact the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 1-800-535-1117 to arrange burial for eligible Veterans in any of VA’s 131 national cemeteries with available space.
  • A State or Tribal Veterans Cemetery – Contact the state or tribal Veterans cemetery to schedule the burial. A listing is available at
  • A Private Cemetery – Veterans buried in a private cemetery may be entitled to a headstone or marker. To apply, complete VA Form 40-1330, Claim for Standard Government Headstone or Marker (  NOTE: The cost of setting the headstone or marker is the responsibility of the requestor.

Step 3: Apply for monetary burial benefits associated with the burial of the unclaimed Veteran. Eligibility may depend on the Veteran’s place of burial. Monetary Burial Benefits Available for Unclaimed Veterans by Place of Burial

  • National Cemetery – Reimbursement for the cost of a Casket or Urn (VA National Cemetery Only), Reimbursement for transportation to a National Cemetery,  Burial Allowance
  • VA-Funded State or Tribal Veterans’ Cemetery – Burial Allowance
  • Private Cemetery – Burial Allowance and Plot Allowance


Monetary Burial Benefit Descriptions:

Casket or Urn: An individual or entity that pays for the casket or urn used to inter an unclaimed Veteran, in a VA national cemetery, who died on or after January 10, 2014, may apply for reimbursement of the cost through the National Cemetery Administration. The casket or urn must meet certain standards and must be used for burial or inurnment of the unclaimed Veteran in a national cemetery. Reimbursement is for actual cost, not to exceed an annually established average, published each year in the Federal Register. VA will process claims retroactively to the effective date of the benefit, January 10, 2014. Review for instructions on how to apply.


Veteran Remains – Casket or Urn Reimbursement Program Fact Sheet for instructions on how to apply.

Transportation to a National Cemetery: Any individual or entity that pays for the transportation of an unclaimed Veteran’s remains to a national cemetery for burial may apply for reimbursement of the costs through the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), VA Form 21P-530, Application for Burial Benefits ( must receive a receipt, preferably on letterhead, showing who paid the costs, the name of the deceased Veteran, the specific transportation expenses incurred, and the dates of the services rendered. Reimbursement will not exceed the cost of transporting the unclaimed Veteran’s remains to the national cemetery closest to the Veteran’s last place of residence in which burial space is available.


Burial Allowance: Any individual or entity that pays for the costs associated with preparing the remains of an unclaimed Veteran for burial or inurnment may be eligible for a burial allowance. Submit burial allowance requests through VBA, using VA Form 21P-530, Application for Burial Benefits. VBA currently reimburses these costs at a flat rate of $300. For more information read VBA’s Burial and Plot-Interment Allowances Fact Sheet at


Plot Allowances: Any individual or entity that pays for a plot for the burial of an unclaimed Veteran in a private cemetery may be eligible for a plot allowance. Submit plot allowance requests through VBA, using VA Form 21P-530, Application for Burial Benefits. VBA currently reimburses these costs at a flat rate of $745. For more information read VBA’s Burial and Plot-Interment Allowances Fact Sheet at



  • Veterans eligible for burial in a VA national, state or tribal Veterans’ cemetery may receive a headstone or marker, a U.S. Burial Flag and a Presidential Memorial Certificate.
  • Applicants should annotate “unclaimed remains” to define relationship to the Veteran when completing VA Form 21P-530, Application for Burial Benefits. Use one VA Form 21P-530, Application for Burial Benefits, to apply for the Transportation Reimbursement, Burial Allowance and Plot Allowance. There will be a separate form for the casket or urn reimbursement when the final rule is published.
  • If a Veteran dies while at a VA facility under authorized VA admission, and the remains are unclaimed, the facility director will ensure proper burial for the Veteran as defined by VHA Handbook 1601B.04, Decedent Affairs, Section 8, and “Unclaimed Remains.”
  • If a Veteran dies at a non-VA facility under authorized admission at VA’s expense, and is unclaimed, contact the closest VA healthcare facility to arrange for proper burial of the unclaimed Veteran. Go to for a listing of facilities.


[Source:  VA Unclaimed Veteran Remains Fact Sheet | News Release | May 2015 ++]





New VA Changes Effective Immediately


To expand eligibility for the Veterans Choice Program, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it will determine eligibility for the Veterans Choice Program based on the distance between a veteran’s place of residence and the nearest VA medical facility using driving distance rather than straight-line distance.  This change has been published in the Federal Register and is effective immediately.  The change from straight-line to driving distance roughly doubles the number of eligible Veterans. Letters are being sent to the newly eligible veterans to let them know they are now eligible for the Veterans Choice Program under this expansion.  If a veteran does not remember receiving a Veterans Choice Card or has other questions about the Choice Program, they can call (866) 606-8198. Effective immediately, VA is also changing the mileage calculation for beneficiary travel. The change will ensure consistency in VA’s mileage calculations across the two programs.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Making health care more accessible for veterans everywhere.

On March 24, 2015, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it will change the measurement calculation from geodesic straight line to actual driving distances to determine if veterans are eligible for non-VA care closer to where they reside.

The announcement was exactly what the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States wanted to hear, especially since more than 2,500 member responses to an initial report released in early March revealed that veterans strongly opposed the use of “as the crow flies” distances to determine whether or not they were eligible for the Veterans Choice Program.

In a statement, the VFW national commander said VA now needs to take the next step.

“The VFW is glad the VA agreed to change the measurement to actual driving distances, but the VA and Congress must now eliminate the 40-mile bubble they placed around their medical facilities,” said VFW National Commander John W. Stroud. “If a local VA cannot meet someone’s medical requirements, then it is absurd to require any veteran to drive hundreds of miles to another VA that can. The intent of the Veterans Choice Program is to better serve veterans, period.”

Read the VA press announcement.


VA Vet Choice Program Update 08 Only 1 in 5 Offered Option

Only 1 in 5 veterans eligible for the Choice Card were offered the option to get private care outside the Veterans Affairs Department, according to a report released 3 MAR by Veterans of Foreign Wars. (Refer to ation.pdf). The report found that just 19 percent of veterans who either live more than 40 miles from the nearest VA facility or had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment were offered the option to receive non-VA care. Almost all of those veterans who were not offered the option said they were interested in private care.

The president’s budget released last month sought to defund parts of the program. VA Secretary Robert McDonald defended that budget, saying that since veterans are choosing not to use the program, he needs to use that money to see those who are coming to the VA instead. About half of VFW survey participants who were offered outside care opted to go to the VA instead. VFW officials will deliver the survey results, compiled from more than 2,500 responses, to members of Congress this week, according to a statement. “The Veterans Choice Program is an ambitious initiative that is supposed to offer more options to veterans who need it, which is why the VFW has an obligation to keep our pulse on the veterans’ community to ensure the program works,” said VFW National Commander John W. Stroud. The VA said that it appreciated the VFW’s input and would continue to work with it and other veterans service organizations “to learn from their members and better inform veterans of their eligibility and options available.” “The Department of Veterans Affairs remains committed to providing veterans with the care that they have earned where they want it and how they want it,” the statement said.

A bill to reform the VA became law in August as a response to the wait-time scandal where a whistleblower alleged veterans were dying while waiting for care on secret lists. Part of the law established the Choice Card program, which let veterans who lived too far from a facility or waited too long for an appointment to go to a private healthcare provider in an attempt to cut down wait times. The program has faced several problems, including a delayed roll out and veterans complaining that it’s difficult to use. Some vets have also said that the 40 mile rule is defined “as the crow flies,” not by the distance a veteran actually has to travel.

[Source: The Washington Times | Jacqueline Klimas | Mar. 03, 2015 ++]


VA Vet Choice Program Update 09 Service Availability Not Considered

Lawmakers and veterans groups have been dismayed with the implementation of the new Choice Card system so far, complaining that program officials seem more focused on keeping individuals out of the program than getting it running. VA officials note that Congress — not the department — set the eligibility rules and needs to make fixes if gaps are emerging. A survey this week by the Veterans of Foreign Wars found 80 percent of individuals who thought they qualified for the outside care options were rejected by VA, a figure the group calls call unsettlingly high. “This program is intended to be the solution to last year’s nationwide crisis in care and confidence,” VFW National Commander John Stroud said in a statement. “[We] will not let it fail.”

Choice Cards

VA officials have received more than 500,000 inquiries into the program since cards went out last fall, but only about 30,000 have been able to receive private care appointments through the program, and only a small fraction of those veterans live far enough from VA facilities to qualify. Last week, 41 senators petitioned the department to relax its interpretation of the 40-mile rule, taking service availability into account instead of just geography. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said he and his colleagues will take up legislative fixes to the problem in coming weeks. VA Secretary Bob McDonald said his department is looking into fixes too, and said he’ll come back to Congress with a “reinterpretation” of the 40-mile rule in the near future. But he also lamented that, despite his promises to reform VA into a more customer-focused organization, “I’m kind of a prisoner of the system.”

McDonald has asked for flexibility to shift Choice Card funds to other accounts if needed, noting that planners still have questionable estimates about veterans’ interest in and use of the program. Critics have called that an attempt to undermine the still-new offering, rather than investing time into making sure it works. VA officials have said they have numerous tools to send veterans to outside care if needed, but integrating all of them together will take time. Veterans denied the Choice Card program can request a “geographic burden” exception if they think the 40-mile rule is being applied unfairly. But fewer than 50 veterans have done so, prompting department officials to ask if patients and administrators are aware of the option. And while the fight over the program rages in Washington, D.C., veterans like Gendron are left waiting for a fix. The Minnesota veteran said he already has an overdue bill of about $1,500 for outside VA medical services, a debt that will only grow with his new out-of-pocket psychiatry expenses. “There’s a problem with what they’re doing,” he said. “I don’t understand why I’m left suffering here, and that’s what really bothers


The VFW has commissioned a second survey to poll members on their experiences accessing the Veterans Choice Program. Participation to date has allowed the VFW to continue to keep its finger on the pulse of this important program and evaluate progress as the Veterans Choice Program enters its fifth month. If you took their first survey, but have not taken the second survey, which went live on 6 FEB, you can help them track any changes in your experiences. If you are taking this survey for the first time, your input is critical to holding VA accountable for delivering timely non-VA care options to veterans. You can take the survey at: To learn more about the Veterans Choice Program or to share your stories with the VFW, visit:

[Source: MilitaryTimes & VFW Action corps Weekly | Leo Shane | Mar. 04 & 13, 2015 ++]


VA Phone Scam Calls to Change Vet’s Medications

VA officials want to warn veterans about a new phone scam that’s making its rounds across the nation. In the scam, the caller will claim to be from the VA, and that the veterans doctor wants to change their medication. They will then ask for personal information such as Medicare details and social security numbers. Public Affairs Officer Brad Nelson with the Iron Mountain VA says that’s proof positive the caller is a scammer. “We want our veterans to know that’s something the VA would never ask,” said Nelson. “If they ever do get those types of calls, they should call their nearest medical center or clinic and let them know. We’ll make sure we get that information to our privacy officer.” Nelson also advises that veterans never give out personal information over the phone to anyone and always ask the caller for identification and a callback number to ensure the call is legitimate.

[Source: TV 6 FoxUp | Nick Brennan | Mar. 06, 2015 ++]


DoD/VA VLER Update 10 ► Connect Your Docs

Do you see a Non-VA health care provider? ”Connect Your Docs” through VLER Health (Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record) can help your VA and non-VA health care providers have the best possible picture of your current state of health. (VLER) Health is a program that shares important parts of your Veteran health record between the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and participating private health care providers. This sharing of information enables your health care providers to access important information about your health history so they can provide you the best possible care. This exchange occurs over a secure and confidential network known as the eHealth Exchange. This program is free and voluntary for Veterans, but requires your consent to participate. An easy way to do this from your home is through the VA eBenefits website. If you have not already, go to the eBenefits website and register. (It’s free!). Participating in VLER Health may:

 Reduce the need for you to carry paper records between appointments

 Give your provider immediate access to more health care information during a trip to the Emergency Room

 Reduce your chances of having duplicate tests done

 Increase your safety by providing a more complete health record, such as your medications and allergies

As a Level 2-authenticated eBenefits user, signing up is fast and easy, just follow the steps below:

 Go to

 Scroll down to “Health” and look for Manage My Authorizations and Preferences (VLER) Click on “Manage My Authorizations and Preferences (VLER)”

 Click: “Share your Electronic Health Information with Non-VA Health Care Providers”

If you want to use the mail: You can send in your health care sharing preferences by either completing VA Form 10-0485 and Faxing, mailing or hand carrying it to your nearest VA Medical Center Release of Information Office (ROI). If you would like more information about this program, watch for eBenefits’ “Connect Your Docs” sign and check out the VLER Health website

[Source: eBenefits Online Application Jan. 16, 2015 ++]



VA Appeals Backlog Update 02 Wait Times Average 1,937 Days


At a 22 JAN congressional hearing, The American Legion noted that decisions on about 288,000 veterans’ benefits claims have been appealed. “With appealed claims, you can no longer think in terms of how many days you’ve been waiting,” the Legion stated in its written testimony. “Appealed claims are measured in terms of how many years the veteran has been waiting.” Zachary Hearn, deputy director of benefits for the Legion’s Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division, amplified the Legion’s views while testifying before the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. The hearing focused on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ appeals system for veterans’ claims. Veterans who have appealed their disability claims wait an average of 1,937 days for final decisions, according to numbers listed in VA’s Monday Morning Workload Report of 5 JAN. That time span is about 500 days longer than a standard four-year enlistment in the military.


Hearn told the committee that nearly 75 percent of claims presented at Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) have either been improperly denied at a VA regional office, or inadequately developed and denied prematurely. Many claims were also appealed because their claims adjudicators failed to follow their legally mandated duties to assist veterans. In reviewing claims appeals, The American Legion often notes that VA claims adjudicators do not consider secondary medical conditions that have been caused or aggravated by previous service-connected conditions. If VA workers were compelled to consider those conditions, Hearn said, many remands for medical examinations would be eliminated. But such additional consideration is time consuming.


“While VA asserts it does not place a higher priority on the amount of claims adjudicated,” Hearn said, “its current work-credit structure does not address accuracy in its metric, which rewards speed over quality.”


The American Legion represented more than 9,100 veterans at the BVA between October 2013 and last September. About three-fourths of those claims were either granted outright to the veteran (28.1 percent) or sent back to regional offices because of improper work (46.4 percent). Once a BVA judge remands a claim, instructions are forwarded to VA’s Appeals Management Center for further development. Hearn said these remands, or returned claims, come with clear and distinct instructions from the judges, yet The American Legion consistently sees cases remanded multiple times, despite the instructions. “This is what is known as the ‘hamster wheel’ of remands, where a veteran remains in adjudication purgatory, waiting for VA to conduct proper development and finally render a decision,” Hearn said. “The greatest impact on the appeals process would be eliminating the need to appeal in the first place.”


While VA has published accuracy rates above 90 percent for claims processing, the Government Accountability Office reported last November that the Veterans Benefits Administration “does not follow accepted statistical practices and thus generates imprecise accuracy data.” “This is what veterans face: An adjudication process that rewards the quick and not the accurate, an appellate process that repeatedly notes errors in development, and adjudication that may cause years of hardship for our nation’s veterans,” Hearn said. VA needs to eliminate its current work-credit structure, Hearn said, because it places greater emphasis on the quantity of claims adjudicated, rather than the quality of those adjudications.

[Source: American Legion | Marty Callaghan | Jan. 22, 2015 ++]

VA Means Test Update 01 Net Worth No Longer a Factor

To align VA’s healthcare program with the financial assessment requirements for other federal healthcare

programs, the SECVA has approved a process change to cease collection of veterans’ net worth information

for purposes of means testing for health benefits. Effective Jan. 1, 2015, VA will only consider a veterans’

previous year’s gross household income (earned and unearned income) and deductible expenses to determine

eligibility and/or copay responsibility for purposes of VA healthcare enrollment/benefit purposes. Note.

This does not impact net worth development for purposes of VHA’s Extended Care Services or VBA’s

Pension Program. Software changes to remove the net worth prompts from VistA and the Enrollment System

are expected to be released in second quarter FY 15. Until the software is implemented, VA intake staff will

enter “zero-dollars” ($0) into the net worth prompts for new applicants’ or when updating an existing

enrollees’ Means Test. Changes to the online application and VA Forms 10-10EZ/EZR and 10-10HS are

expected to be available by January 1, 2015. VA will be sending letters to current enrollees who may benefit

from this change. Point of Contact: Ms. Benita Miller, Health Eligibility Center Director, or (404) 828-5300. [Source: NAUS Weekly Update November 07, 2014 ++]



Long Term Care 10 Things You Should Know


  1. Long-Term Care Awareness Month, held each November, is the ideal time to learn about long-term

care planning, including how to make a strategy to pay for expenses. Most Long Term Care is not medical

care, but rather assistance with everyday tasks, such as bathing, dressing, eating or housework. Although

many people think that Medicare will cover their long-term care costs, in actuality, it only covers a small

percentage. The Your Long-Term Care Path section of gives an overview of things you

should know and do in order to plan for yourself or a loved one. A recent newspaper article, “Prepare Ahead

for Long-Term Care Costs,” provides practical advice on financial planning, as well as some of the pitfalls

you could encounter by not doing so. Another valuable resource is the American Association for Long-Term

Care Insurance website where consumers can learn about long-term care insurance

eligibility, compare costs and get tax deduction information.


  1. Paying for Long-Term Care can be expensive, though necessary, for many families and their loved ones

who are aging, ill or have disabilities. Fortunately, there are many resources available to help families make

the best informed decision. While some people qualify for public programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid,

most use a variety of options to pay for long-term care services. Examples include long-term care insurance,

personal income and savings, life insurance, annuities and reverse mortgages. Visit for

helpful information on the different aspects of long-term care, such as The Basics; Where You Live Matters;

How to Decide; and Costs and How to Pay. The AARP Long-Term Care Calculator can help you estimate

expenses for long-term care options, such as a nursing home, assisted living facility, adult day care or home

health aide services. Simply select your state and region, along with the type of care, to get an

estimate. Finally, a recent U.S. News & World Report article, “You’ll Likely Need Long-Term Care, But

How Will You Pay for It?,” reviews the long-term care options currently available, as well as other matters

to consider when making this important decision.

  1. Acting as a Family Caregiver. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, there are nearly 66 million

caregivers in the U.S. who assist a loved one with daily living activities or medical tasks because of an illness,

age or disability. They represent 29 percent of the U.S. adult population or 31 percent of all households. An

infographic from PBS, “Profile of a Long-Term Care Caregiver,” gives a sobering look at some statistics for

this oftentimes unpaid position. For example, the typical caregiver is a 46-year-old woman who provides

more than 20 hours of care to her mother each week. Unsurprisingly, most family caregivers experience

conflicts between caring for their loved one and work, making them vulnerable to burnout and health risks.


A free e-book from AARP, Juggling Work and Caregiving, offers practical resources and tips to help you

navigate the demands of caring for a loved one and fulfilling your professional responsibilities, while also

taking care of yourself. This resource is available in Spanish, too.


  1. Choosing a Residential Care Facility for yourself or a loved one is a difficult decision that is influenced

by one’s level of independence, nearby family members, housing needs and health conditions. Planning ahead

is essential. Assisted Living Facilities are one option for older adults who cannot live alone and need help

with activities of daily living. These facilities, including group homes and continuing-care retirement

communities, typically provide services such as 24-hour staffing, housekeeping, meals, transportation,

recreation and health care. According to the Assisted Living Federation of America, the cost of a private onebedroom

apartment is approximately $3,000 per month, but that amount may vary depending upon the size

of the facility and the type of care offered. You can get help finding facilities through your local Area Agency

on Aging, Long-Term Care Ombudsman, the Assisted Living Federation of America (mostly for-profit

residences) or LeadingAge (mostly not-for-profit organizations). It’s important to carefully assess the

assisted living community, and once you make a decision, follow these tips to ensure that you or your loved

one transitions smoothly.


  1. Nursing Homes care for people who have a critical injury, severe illness or disability and need 24-hour

medical assistance and monitoring from skilled professionals. In addition to health care, nursing homes

provide a variety of services such as meals, activities and other support for residents. The cost of a nursing

home varies. Although the national average is $50,000 per year, Medicare or Medicaid may cover some

expenses. Determine which nursing home might be right for you or your loved one by considering its cost,

quality of care, staffing and availability. You should also compare nursing homes to help you make an

informed decision. While a loved one is in a nursing home, be vigilant about his or her health, happiness and

look for warning signs of fraud or abuse and neglect.


  1. Hospice Care provides individuals nearing the end of their lives with comfort and pain control during

their remaining days. It occurs most often at home with family members acting as the primary caregivers and

a visiting team of doctors, nurses and home health aides offering medical care and other services. If the

individual cannot be effectively cared for in his or her home, hospice care can take place in a nursing home,

special hospice facility or hospital. Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance plans cover hospice

services. Read the “Choosing a Quality Hospice for You or Your Loved Ones” factsheet for information on

things to consider while researching hospice care. In addition, the “Consumer Guide to Hospice,” recently

published in The Washington Post, lets you search for and compare providers by location.


  1. Taking Care of Veterans. There are more than 21 million veterans in the United States, many of whom

are currently receiving long-term care or will need it in the future. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’

(VA) Guide to Long Term Care explores the different options that are available, such as home and

community-based services, nursing homes or residential settings. Since deciding on long-term care options

often involves family members and service providers, the Shared Decision Making section offers helpful

resources to guide productive discussions. A worksheet for veterans asks about the type of care they need or

may need as they age, while a Caregiver Self-Assessment Worksheet lets caretakers chart and manage their

roles and responsibilities. Veterans or their surviving spouses who are eligible for a VA pension and require

a caregiver, or are housebound, may receive additional monetary assistance through the Aid and Attendance

program. Applications must be made through a VA regional office. The Veteran-Directed Care program

gives veterans of all ages and their family caregivers more access, choice and control over their long-term

care services by letting them decide which services best meet their daily living needs.


  1. Consider a Power of Attorney. A power of attorney (POA) is a legal agreement that allows someone to

act on your behalf, for example, to make health care decisions if you are seriously ill. Most often a written

document, the levels of power granted to the trusted representative depend on when you want the POA to

begin and end and how much responsibility you want to give the other person. You may choose a single

trusted person to be your POA or appoint more than one person to act as co-agents. When in effect, those

with POA can manage your daily financial affairs and put your estate plan into action. Since a POA grants

your designated representative authority over your finances, you can reduce risk by carefully selecting or

limiting their responsibilities. You will always have the option to cancel a POA at any time and still manage

your own affairs as long as you remain legally competent.


  1. It Takes a Senior Village. According to AARP, 88 percent of Americans age 65 or older prefer to live

independently or “age in place.” Through a new movement called “senior villages,” residents are able to do

just that. These neighborhood-based nonprofit membership organizations help seniors with transportation,

grocery shopping, home repairs, doctor’s appointments and other services. For an annual fee (usually less

than a $1,000), a senior village coordinates paid staff and volunteers to provide support to older residents,

allowing them to continue to live independently. The Village to Village Network, a national nonprofit,

provides guidance to communities interested in developing their own senior villages, including a map of

current locations in the U.S. To learn more about how the senior village phenomenon is working in different

parts of the country, read the articles in Crain’s Chicago Business and the U.S. News and World Report.


  1. Technology for Older Adults and People with Disabilities often equates greater independence by

helping them track important information and stay connected to their family and friends. It can also assist

caregivers who are looking after their loved ones. For example, GPS tools may be valuable for a family

member who has Alzheimer’s or dementia by keeping tabs on their whereabouts. Other applications, such as

RxmindMe or Personal Caregiver, track when medications have been taken. Technology even increases the

safety of seniors living at home. While technology is a blessing, sometimes it is difficult to use. Fortunately,

many universities and senior centers, such as OATS in New York and Teach Seniors Tech in California, offer

programs to help older adults improve their technology skills. To find classes in your community, contact

your local Area Agency on Aging. You can also read “Staying Connected: Technology Options for Older

Adults,” which explains how to set up email, send a text message or use Skype. If you are baffled by Facebook

or Twitter, the AARP Social Media Training Center can teach you how to become a social media pro.

[Source: Disability Connection Newsletter – November 2014 ++]