web-sites that provide information on Veterans benefits and how to file for them

War related Illness and Injury Study Center  http://www.wri.med.va.gov/

Depression and Trauma http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/depression-and-trauma.asp

Appeals http://www.warms.vba.va.gov/admin21/m21_1/mr/part1/ch05.doc

Board of Veteran’s Appeals http://www.va.gov/vbs/bva/

CARES Commission http://www.va.gov/vbs/bva/

CARES Draft National Plan http://www1.va.gov/cares/page.cfm?pg=105

Center for Minority Veterans http://www1.va.gov/centerforminorityveterans/

Center for Veterans Enterprise http://www.vetbiz.gov/default2.htm

Center for Women Veterans http://www1.va.gov/womenvet/

Clarification on the changes in VA healthcare for Gulf War Veterans http://www.gulfwarvets.com/ubb/Forum1/HTML/000016.html

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

Compensation for Disabilities Associated with the Gulf War Service http://www.warms.vba.va.gov/admin21/m21_1/part6%20/ch07.doc

Compensation Rate Tables, 12-1-03 http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/Rates/comp01.htm

Department of Veterans Affairs Home Page http://www.va.gov/

Directory of Veterans Service Organizations http://www1.va.gov/vso/index.cfm?template=view

Disability Examination Worksheets Index, Comp http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/Benefits/exams/index.htm

Due Process http://www.warms.vba.va.gov/admin21/m21_1/mr/part1/ch02.doc

Duty to Assist http://www.warms.vba.va.gov/admin21/m21_1/mr/part1/ch01.doc

Electronic Code of Federal Regulations http://www.gpoaccess.gov/ecfr/

Emergency, Non-emergency, and Fee Basis Care http://www1.va.gov/opa/vadocs/fedben.pdf

Environmental Agents http://www1.va.gov/environagents/

Environmental Agents M10 http://www1.va.gov/vhapublications/ViewPublication.asp?pub_ID=1002

Establishing Combat Veteran Eligibility http://www1.va.gov/vhapublications/ViewPublication.asp?pub_ID=315

EVALUATION PROTOCOL FOR GULF WAR AND IRAQI FREEDOM VETERANS WITH POTENTIAL EXPOSURE TO DEPLETED URANIUM (DU) http://www1.va.gov/gulfwar/docs/DUHandbook1303122304.DOC and http://www1.va.gov/vhapublications/ViewPublication.asp?pub_ID=1158

See also, Depleted Uranium Fact Sheet http://www1.va.gov/gulfwar/docs/DepletedUraniumFAQSheet.doc

EVALUATION PROTOCOL FOR NON-GULF WAR VETERANS WITH POTENTIAL EXPOSURE TO DEPLETED URANIUM (DU) http://www1.va.gov/gulfwar/docs/DUHANDBOOKNONGW130340304.DOC

Fee Basis, PRIORITY FOR OUTPATIENT MEDICAL SERVICES AND INPATIENT HOSPITAL CARE http://www1.va..gov/vhapublications/ViewPublication.asp?pub_ID=206 Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependants 2005 http://www1.va.gov/opa/vadocs/fedben.pdf OR, http://www1.va..gov/opa/vadocs/current_benefits.htm

Forms and Records Request http://www.va.gov/vaforms/

General Compensation Provisions http://www.access.gpo.gov/uscode/title38/partii_chapter11_subchaptervi_.html

Geriatrics and Extended Care http://www1.va.gov/geriatricsshg/

Guideline for Chronic Pain and Fatigue MUS-CPG http://www.oqp.med.va.gov/cpg/cpgn/mus/mus_base.htm

Guide to Gulf War Veteran’s Health http://www1.va.gov/gulfwar/docs/VHIgulfwar.pdf

Gulf War Subject Index http://www1.va.gov/GulfWar/page.cfm?pg=7&template=main&letter=A

Gulf War Veteran’s Illnesses Q&As http://www1.va.gov/gulfwar/docs/GWIllnessesQandAsIB1041.pdf

Hearings

http://www.warms.vba.va.gov/admin21/m21_1/mr/part1/ch04.doc

Homeless Veterans http://www1.va.gov/homeless/

HSR&D Home http://www.hsrd.research.va.gov/

Index to Disability Examination Worksheets C&P exams http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/benefits/exams/index.htm

Ionizing Radiation http://www1.va.gov/irad/

Iraqi Freedom/Enduring Freedom Veterans VBA http://www.vba.va.gov/EFIF/

M 10 for spouses and children < http://www1..va.gov/vhapublications/ViewPublication.asp?pub_ID=1007

M10 Part III Change 1 http://www1.va.gov/vhapublications/ViewPublication.asp?pub_ID=1008

M21-1 Table of Contents http://www.warms.vba.va.gov/M21_1.html

Mental Disorders, Schedule of Ratings http://www.warms.vba.va.gov/regs/38CFR/BOOKC/PART4/S4_130.DOC

Mental Health Program Guidelines http://www1.va.gov/vhapublications/ViewPublication.asp?pub_ID=1094

Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Centers http://www.mirecc.med.va.gov/

MS (Multiple Sclerosis) Centers of Excellence http://www.va.gov/ms/about.asp

My Health e Vet http://www.myhealth.va.gov/

NASDVA.COM http://nasdva.com/

National Association of State Directors http://www.nasdva.com/

National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention http://www.nchpdp.med.va.gov/postdeploymentlinks.asp

Neurological Conditions and Convulsive Disorders, Schedule of Ratings http://www.warms.vba.va.gov/regs/38cfr/bookc/part4/s4%5F124a.doc

OMI (Office of Medical Inspector) http://www.omi.cio.med.va.gov/

Online VA Form 10-10EZ https://www.1010ez..med.va.gov/sec/vha/1010ez/

Parkinson’s Disease and Related Neurodegenerative Disorders http://www1.va.gov/resdev/funding/solicitations/docs/parkinsons.pdf

and, http://www1va.gov/padrecc/

Peacetime Disability Compensation http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=browse_usc&docid=Cite:+38USC1131

Pension for Non-Service-Connected Disability or Death http://www.access.gpo.gov/uscode/title38/partii_chapter15_subchapteri_.html and, http://www.accessgpo.gov/uscode/title38/partii_chapter15_subchapterii_.html

and, http://www.access.gpo.gov/uscode/title38/partii_chapter15_subchapteriii_.html

Persian Gulf Registry http://www1.va.gov/vhapublications/ViewPublication.asp?pub_ID=1003

This program is now referred to as Gulf War Registry Program (to include Operation Iraqi Freedom) as of March 7, 2005: http://www1..va.gov/vhapublications/ViewPublication.asp?pub_ID=1232

Persian Gulf Registry Referral Centers http://www1.va.gov/vhapublications/ViewPublication.asp?pub_ID=1006

Persian Gulf Veterans’ Illnesses Research 1999, Annual Report To Congress http://www1.va.gov/resdev/1999_Gulf_War_Veterans’_Illnesses_Appendices.doc Persian Gulf Veterans’ Illnesses Research 2002, Annual Report To Congress http://www1.va.gov/resdev/prt/gulf_war_2002/GulfWarRpt02.pdf

Phase I PGR http://www1.va.gov/vhapublications/ViewPublication.asp?pub_ID=1004

Phase II PGR http://www1.va.gov/vhapublications/ViewPublication.asp?pub_ID=1005

Policy Manual Index http://www.va.gov/publ/direc/eds/edsmps.htm

Power of Attorney http://www.warms.vba..va.gov/admin21/m21_1/mr/part1/ch03.doc Project 112 (Including Project SHAD) http://www1.va.gov/shad/

Prosthetics Eligibility http://www1.va.gov/vhapublications/ViewPublication.asp?pub_ID=337

Public Health and Environmental Hazards Home Page http://www.vethealth.cio.med.va.gov/

Public Health/SARS http://www..publichealth.va.gov/SARS/

Publications Manuals http://www1.va.gov/vhapublications/publications.cfm?Pub=4

Publications and Reports http://www1.va.gov/resdev/prt/pubs_individual.cfm?webpage=gulf_war.htm

Records Center and Vault Homepage http://www.aac.va.gov/vault/default.html

Records Center and Vault Site Map http://www.aac.va.gov/vault/sitemap.html

REQUEST FOR AND CONSENT TO RELEASE OF INFORMATION FROM CLAIMANT’S RECORDS http://www.forms.va.gov/va/Internet/VARF/getformharness.asp?formName=3288-form.xft

Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses April 11, 2002 http://www1.va.gov/rac-gwvi/docs/Minutes_April112002.doc

Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses

http://www1.va.gov/rac-gwvi/docs/ReportandRecommendations_2004.pdf

Research and Development http://www.appc1.va.gov/resdev/programs/all_programs.cfm

Survivor’s and Dependents’ Educational Assistance http://www.access.gpo.gov/uscode/title38/partiii_chapter35_.html

Title 38 Index Parts 0-17

http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?sid=1b0c269b510d3157fbf8f8801bc9b3dc&c=ecfr&tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title38/38cfrv1_02.tpl

Part 18

http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?sid=1b0c269b510d3157fbf8f8801bc9b3dc&c=ecfr&tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title38/38cfrv2_02.tpl

Title 38 Part 3 Adjudication Subpart A “Pension, Compensation, and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=1b0c269b510d3157fbf8f8801bc9b3dc&tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title38/38cfr3_main_02.tpl

Title 38 Pensions, Bonuses & Veterans Relief (also �§ 3.317 Compensation for certain disabilities due to undiagnosed illnesses found here) http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=1b0c269b510d3157fbf8f8801bc9b3dc&tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title38/38cfr3_main_02.tpl Title 38 PART 4–SCHEDULE FOR RATING DISABILITIES Subpart B–DISABILITY RATINGS

http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=ab7641afd195c84a49a2067dbbcf95c0&rgn=div6&view=text&node=38:1.0.1.1.5.2&idno=38

Title 38§ 4.16 Total disability ratings for compensation based on unemployability of the individual. PART A “SCHEDULE FOR RATING DISABILITIES Subpart �”General Policy in Rating http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=1b0c269b510d3157fbf8f8801bc9b3dc&rgn=div8&view=text&node=38:1.0.1.1.5.1..96.11&idno=38

U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims http://www.vetapp.gov/

VA Best Practice Manual for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) http://www.avapl.org/pub/PTSD%20Manual%20final%206.pdf

VA Fact Sheet http://www1.va.gov/opa/fact/gwfs.html

VA Health Care Eligibility http://www.va.gov/healtheligibility/home/hecmain.asp

VA INSTITUTING GLOBAL ASSESSMENT OF FUNCTION (GAF) http://www.avapl.org/gaf/gaf.html

VA Life Insurance Handbook ¬” Chapter 3 http://www.insurance.va.gov/inForceGliSite/GLIhandbook/glibookletch3.htm#310

VA Loan Lending Limits and Jumbo Loans http://valoans.com/va_facts_limits.cfm

VA MS Research http://www.va.gov/ms/about.asp

VA National Hepatitis C Program http://www.hepatitis.va.gov/

VA Office of Research and Development http://www1.va.gov/resdev/

VA Trainee Pocket Card on Gulf War http://www.va.gov/OAA/pocketcard/gulfwar.asp

VA WMD EMSHG http://www1.va.gov/emshg/

VA WRIISC-DC http://www.va.gov/WRIISC-DC/

VAOIG Hotline Telephone Number and Address http://www.va.gov/oig/hotline/hotline3.htm

Vet Center Eligibility – Readjustment Counseling Service http://www.va.gov/rcs/Eligibility.htm

Veterans Benefits Administration Main Web Page http://www.vbava.gov/

Veterans Legal and Benefits Information http://valaw.org/

VHA Forms, Publications, Manuals http://www1.va.gov/vhapublications/

VHA Programs – Clinical Programs & Initiatives http://www1.va.gov/health_benefits/page.cfm?pg=13 http://webmaila.juno.com/webmail/new/UrlBlockedError.aspx>

VHA Public Health Strategic Health Care Group Home Page http: // www.publichealth.va.gov/

VHI Guide to Gulf War Veterans ¬(tm) Health http://www1.va.gov/vhi_ind_study/gulfwar/istudy/index.asp

Vocational Rehabilitation http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/vre/

Vocational Rehabilitation Subsistence http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/vre/InterSubsistencefy04.doc

VONAPP online http://vabenefits.vba.va.gov/vonapp/main.asp

WARMS – 38 CFR Book C http://www.warms.vba.va.gov/bookc.html

Wartime Disability Compensation http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=browse_usc&docid=Cite:+38USC1110

Welcome to the GI Bill Web Site http://www.gibill.va.gov/

What VA Social Workers Do http://www1.va.gov/socialwork/page.cfm?pg=3

WRIISC Patient Eligibility http://www.illegion.org/va1.html

Print this out and save it in your VA files. There may be a time for use in the future.

Apply in Advance for Burial Eligibility in a VA National Cemetery

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: https://explore.va.gov/memorial-benefits?utm_source=govdelivery&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=april-memorial-monthly_4.5&utm_term=body-button-page&utm_content=memorial-application-all-null

VA Individual Unemployability Update 04 ►  No Cuts in 2018

VA Individual Unemployability Update 04 ►  No Cuts in 2018

Months after Veterans Affairs officials dropped plans for a controversial benefits cut, the families of those who would have been affected still fear they could lose thousands in monthly payouts. Confusion over the short-lived plan this week forced department leaders to issue a letter to veterans groups clarifying they will not change the Individual Unemployability program in fiscal 2018, and are looking for other cost-saving solutions in the future. “The department does not support a termination of [the program],” VA Secretary David Shulkin wrote in a letter to veterans groups Thursday. “We are committed to finding ways that empower disabled veterans through vocational rehabilitation and employment opportunities.”

Advocates praised the move, noting they have been inundated with questions about the potential cut, even months after Shulkin said the department was abandoning the proposal. At issue is a provision in the federal budget plan unveiled by the White House last spring. Included in plans for a $186.5 billion VA budget for fiscal 2018 was a provision to dramatically change eligibility rules for the IU program, which awards payouts at the 100-percent disabled rate to veterans who cannot find work due to service-connected injuries, even if their actual rating decision is less than that. The program is essentially an unemployment benefit for veterans not officially labeled as unable to work.

Administration officials had considered stopping those payouts once veterans become eligible for Social Security retirement benefits, arguing that retirement-age individuals should no longer qualify for unemployment payouts. Veterans ineligible for Social Security would be exempt. The move would have saved $3.2 billion next year alone. But it also would have taken away thousands of dollars annually from up to 210,000 veterans over the age of 60, a move which veterans groups decried as devastating. After a public outcry, Shulkin publicly dropped the idea in June. “The budget is a process, and it became clear this [plan] would hurt some veterans,” he told lawmakers during a Senate hearing. “I’m not going to support policies that hurt veterans.”

But concerns about a potential cut have lingered. Leaders from veterans groups said they have received numerous letters and calls in recent months from veterans who still believe the cuts are under consideration. Shulkin’s latest letter is designed to end that speculation. In it, he promises to continue working with veterans groups on future changes to the program. Administration officials have said they want to re-examine the IU program in the future but don’t want that debate to take away from other budget priorities. The federal government is currently operating under a three-month extension of the fiscal 2017 budget. Congress must find a long-term solution or a short-term fix for the funding fight by mid-December, or trigger a partial government shutdown.  [Source:  MilitaryTimes |  Leo Shane III | October 13, 2017 ++]

VA Rating Criteria ► Review & Update | Dental and Oral Conditions

VA Rating Criteria ► Review & Update | Dental and Oral Conditions

If you’ve ever wondered how VA rates disabilities for compensation, you’ll be interested to know that after more than 70 years they are doing a review and update of the rating criteria for all 15 body systems. Previous updates have been done as needed, but this is the first comprehensive review of the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities. https://www.benefits.va.gov/WARMS/bookc.asp.  The first of these updates, for Dental and Oral Conditions, went into effect 10 SEP. This update includes updated medical terms, new diagnostic codes for conditions previously rated under other conditions, and added disability levels. No existing dental or oral conditions were removed.

Often referred to as the “VASRD” or rating schedule, directs claims processors on how to assess the severity of disabilities related to military service. While VA has routinely updated parts of the VASRD, for the first time since 1945, VA is updating the entire rating schedule to more accurately reflect modern medicine. Since 2009, subject matter experts, including physicians, reviewed each of the 15 body systems that make up the VASRD. This effort is part of VA’s continued commitment to improving the delivery of disability compensation benefits to Veterans and modernizing our systems.

If you have a claim or appeal pending for a dental or oral condition before Sept. 10, 2017, VA will consider both the old and new rating criteria when making a decision. All claims for dental or oral conditions received by VA on or after Sept. 10 will be rated under the new rating criteria.  If you are already service-connected for a dental or oral condition and submit a claim for increase, your disability rating may increase (or decrease) based on the new rating criteria. However, VA will not change your disability rating just because of the update to the rating criteria.  In the coming months, more body systems will be updated until all 15 are modernized, ensuring VA provides the most accurate ratings for disability compensation claims based on modern medicine.   [Source: VAntage Point  | September 8, 2017 ++]

VA Burial Benefits: The VA offers two different types of Burial Benefits when a Veteran passes away

VA Burial Benefits: The VA offers two different types of Burial Benefits when a Veteran passes away-

Service Connected Burial Benefit– If a Veteran passes away from a service connected condition or a presumptive condition that was not previously claimed, the VA will pay a one-time payment of $2,000.

Non-Service Connected Burial Benefit– If a Veteran is in receipt of a monetary award from the VA (VA Disability Compensation or Non-Service Connected Pension) or passes away at a VA Medical Center or VA Contract Care Facility while enrolled in VA Medical Care, the VA will pay a one-time payment of $300 and possibly reimburse the person who paid for the funeral the cost of transportation of remains from the place of death to the funeral home as long as the amount is broken out in the itemized funeral bill.

Plot Allowance– The VA will pay a $749 Plot Allowance for internment costs of the Veteran as long as the Veteran is eligible for receipt of service connected or non-service connected burial benefits. The VA will pay the $749 Plot Allowance to a State Veteran Cemetery for internment of a Veteran regardless of eligibility of the Service Connected or Non-Service Connected Benefit.

Survivor’s Benefits– There are two different Survivor Benefits that a Surviving Spouse/Child under 18 (or unmarried child enrolled in school under the age of 23)/or Adult Helpless Child of the Veteran may be eligible for:

Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC)– DIC is paid to an eligible spouse/dependent if the Veteran passed away from a service connected condition, a previously unclaimed presumptive condition, or from any condition if the Veteran was rated 100% (or Individual Unemployability) for 10 years or longer. Note- The Spouse had to be married to the Veteran for at least one year prior to the Veteran’s death and will lose the DIC award if they remarry before the age of 57. If they do remarry before age 57 and lose the DIC Award and that subsequent marriage ends in divorce or death, the Surviving Spouse may file for DIC again due to the Veteran’s passing.

– Basic DIC Rate is $1,257.95/Month

– If the Veteran was rated 100% (or I.U.) for 8+ years and married to the same spouse for at least 8 years, the Spouse will receive an additional $267.12/month

– If the Surviving Spouse is entitled to the Aid and Attendance Rate (Based upon the need of help

With activities of daily living), the spouse will receive an additional $311.64/month.

** Note- If the Veteran was a DOD Retiree and paid into the DFAS Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) (6% of the monthly retired pay which allows the Surviving Spouse to receive 55% of the Veteran’s Retired Pay at the time of their death) and also qualifies for DIC based upon a service connected cause of death, the current Federal Law does not permit payments of both SBP and DIC. The current Federal Law only allows the payment of the greater amount and possibly the SBP/DIC Offset which is currently $310/month.

Survivor’s Pension– This is the only other type of Survivor Benefit. To be eligible, the Veteran had to have wartime service, had to have at least 90 days of active duty service before 1980 or at least 2 years after 1980, been married to the surviving spouse for at least one year prior to the Veteran’s passing, and then meet the financial requirements of having less than $80k in assets (not to include the spouse’s primary residence). Assets include additional houses, excessive property, amounts in checking/savings accounts, IRAs, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, trusts, etc… If below the $80k threshold, the VA will determine the Pension Rate that the spouse would be eligible for. Once the rate is determined, the surviving spouse’s annual income- which includes all sources of income to include Social Security (which will be adjusted by subtracting recurring monthly medical costs) must be below the Maximum Annual Pension Rate for that specific level of Pension. Note- If a surviving Spouse remarries after the death of the Veteran, they will lose the Pension and can never claim it again regardless of what happens to the subsequent marriage.

– Basic Pension Rate– If the surviving spouse can live on their own and take care of themselves.

Maximum Annual Pension Rate is $8,656.00/year

– Housebound Rate– If the surviving spouse can live on their own and take care of themselves but are indoors all day and need help to leave their residence.

Maximum Annual Pension Rate is $10,580.00/year

Aid and Attendance Rate– If the Surviving Spouse requires assistance from someone else to Take care of activities of daily living (Bathing, dressing, feeding, etc…) then the cost of Home Healthcare, Assisted Living or Skilled Nursing can be counted as recurring monthly medical Expenses. This is the only level that these costs will be counted as medical expenses.

Maximum Annual Pension Rate is $13,836.00/year

The VA will never pay above the Maximum Annual Pension Rate for the level that they qualify for. For example, if a spouse is entitled to pension at the A&A Rate and the cost of assisted living is more than his/her income, the VA will pay $13,836.00/year or $1,153.00/month.

VA Health Care Access Update 57►   Tips to Reduce Wait Time

VA Health Care Access Update 57►   Tips to Reduce Wait Time

Wait times at Veterans Affairs medical centers continue to be an issue. Here are a few tips to help save you time and energy as you manage your way through the VA:

  1. Schedule your appointment first thing in the morning or right after lunch. Many doctors, outside of the VA, are bound by quotas and have to see as many patients as possible. VA doctors focus on quality instead of quantity. Because of this, they tend to run over scheduled times. Making an appointment for either first thing in the morning all but guarantees that you’ll be seen on time.
  1. Have a referral to a specialty clinic? Schedule that appointment yourself! Don’t wait around for the clinic to call you, this could take a while. Sometimes the VA just automatically schedules you for your appointment, but you can always take control of this. Ask the physician or nurse for the number to the clinic. You can either call or go there in person and let them know you have a referral and set up an appointment time that works best for you.
  1. Ask for an appointment tomorrow. According to the VA, the majority of veterans receive their appointments within 14 days of the desired date. That’s a rather odd statement because when was the last time you were asked and not told when you could have your appointment? It never hurts to ask for a specific appointment time and from what I hear, it works a good amount of times too.
  1. Use MyHealtheVet (https://www.myhealth.va.gov/mhv-portal-web/home)  secure messenger to talk to your physician. Need an appointment? Just have a question? Need to check your appointment schedule? Want to refill your meds? You can do all of this by downloading the VA’s MyHealtheVet app. Every VA facility has a coordinator who can help you with any issues that come up with the app and most staff can help you if you have a technical problem. If you haven’t tried this yet, from what I hear it’s a game changer!
  1. Choose a different VA. You have the right to go to any VAMC you choose. If you don’t like the one closest to you, try another one. You can use the VA’s Access to Care site to check wait times for all VA facilities. And this breaks down into types of care too.
  1. Go to the emergency room if you need anything. If you can’t wait, use the emergency room at the VAMC closest to you. If they can’t help you, they’ll at least get a referral in for you. This isn’t something you should do every time you need to see a doctor! But if your condition is getting worse, go get help!
  1. Use the kiosks. You can check in for an appointment or look for future ones by using one of these kiosks. They are in VAMC’s and outpatient clinics. Most facilities have staff that will show you how they work. Soon you’ll even be able to pay your copay through one as well! The kiosk will even tell you if you’re in the right place or not.
  1. Prepare and double check! Show up with a list of questions written out. Check them off as you go over each one with your doctor. Take notes and then verify that the physician did enter the referrals if any are needed.
  1. Have a problem? Tell someone about it! Every VAMC has quarterly town hall meetings that you can attend. These meetings are held specifically so you can talk to leadership and give feedback. The majority of VA employees want to help you so let them!

[Source: CBS News Radio | Andrea Estes | October 9, 2017 ++]

VA Rating Criteria ► Review & Update | Dental and Oral Conditions

VA Rating Criteria ► Review & Update | Dental and Oral Conditions

If you’ve ever wondered how VA rates disabilities for compensation, you’ll be interested to know that after more than 70 years they are doing a review and update of the rating criteria for all 15 body systems. Previous updates have been done as needed, but this is the first comprehensive review of the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities. https://www.benefits.va.gov/WARMS/bookc.asp.  The first of these updates, for Dental and Oral Conditions, went into effect 10 SEP. This update includes updated medical terms, new diagnostic codes for conditions previously rated under other conditions, and added disability levels. No existing dental or oral conditions were removed.

Often referred to as the “VASRD” or rating schedule, directs claims processors on how to assess the severity of disabilities related to military service. While VA has routinely updated parts of the VASRD, for the first time since 1945, VA is updating the entire rating schedule to more accurately reflect modern medicine. Since 2009, subject matter experts, including physicians, reviewed each of the 15 body systems that make up the VASRD. This effort is part of VA’s continued commitment to improving the delivery of disability compensation benefits to Veterans and modernizing our systems.

If you have a claim or appeal pending for a dental or oral condition before Sept. 10, 2017, VA will consider both the old and new rating criteria when making a decision. All claims for dental or oral conditions received by VA on or after Sept. 10 will be rated under the new rating criteria.  If you are already service-connected for a dental or oral condition and submit a claim for increase, your disability rating may increase (or decrease) based on the new rating criteria. However, VA will not change your disability rating just because of the update to the rating criteria.  In the coming months, more body systems will be updated until all 15 are modernized, ensuring VA provides the most accurate ratings for disability compensation claims based on modern medicine.   [Source: VAntage Point  | September 8, 2017 ++]

VA Burial Benefits: The VA offers two different types of Burial Benefits when a Veteran passes away

VA Burial Benefits: The VA offers two different types of Burial Benefits when a Veteran passes away-

Service Connected Burial Benefit– If a Veteran passes away from a service connected condition or a presumptive condition that was not previously claimed, the VA will pay a one-time payment of $2,000.

Non-Service Connected Burial Benefit– If a Veteran is in receipt of a monetary award from the VA (VA Disability Compensation or Non-Service Connected Pension) or passes away at a VA Medical Center or VA Contract Care Facility while enrolled in VA Medical Care, the VA will pay a one-time payment of $300 and possibly reimburse the person who paid for the funeral the cost of transportation of remains from the place of death to the funeral home as long as the amount is broken out in the itemized funeral bill.

Plot Allowance– The VA will pay a $749 Plot Allowance for internment costs of the Veteran as long as the Veteran is eligible for receipt of service connected or non-service connected burial benefits. The VA will pay the $749 Plot Allowance to a State Veteran Cemetery for internment of a Veteran regardless of eligibility of the Service Connected or Non-Service Connected Benefit.

Survivor’s Benefits– There are two different Survivor Benefits that a Surviving Spouse/Child under 18 (or unmarried child enrolled in school under the age of 23)/or Adult Helpless Child of the Veteran may be eligible for:

Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC)– DIC is paid to an eligible spouse/dependent if the Veteran passed away from a service connected condition, a previously unclaimed presumptive condition, or from any condition if the Veteran was rated 100% (or Individual Unemployability) for 10 years or longer. Note- The Spouse had to be married to the Veteran for at least one year prior to the Veteran’s death and will lose the DIC award if they remarry before the age of 57. If they do remarry before age 57 and lose the DIC Award and that subsequent marriage ends in divorce or death, the Surviving Spouse may file for DIC again due to the Veteran’s passing.

– Basic DIC Rate is $1,257.95/Month

– If the Veteran was rated 100% (or I.U.) for 8+ years and married to the same spouse for at least 8 years, the Spouse will receive an additional $267.12/month

– If the Surviving Spouse is entitled to the Aid and Attendance Rate (Based upon the need of help with activities of daily living), the spouse will receive an additional $311.64/month.

** Note- If the Veteran was a DOD Retiree and paid into the DFAS Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) (6% of the monthly retired pay which allows the Surviving Spouse to receive 55% of the Veteran’s Retired Pay at the time of their death) and also qualifies for DIC based upon a service connected cause of death, the current Federal Law does not permit payments of both SBP and DIC. The current Federal Law only allows the payment of the greater amount and possibly the SBP/DIC Offset which is currently $310/month.

Survivor’s Pension– This is the only other type of Survivor Benefit. To be eligible, the Veteran had to have wartime service, had to have at least 90 days of active duty service before 1980 or at least 2 years after 1980, been married to the surviving spouse for at least one year prior to the Veteran’s passing, and then meet the financial requirements of having less than $80k in assets (not to include the spouse’s primary residence). Assets include additional houses, excessive property, amounts in checking/savings accounts, IRAs, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, trusts, etc… If below the $80k threshold, the VA will determine the Pension Rate that the spouse would be eligible for. Once the rate is determined, the surviving spouse’s annual income- which includes all sources of income to include Social Security (which will be adjusted by subtracting recurring monthly medical costs) must be below the Maximum Annual Pension Rate for that specific level of Pension. Note- If a surviving Spouse remarries after the death of the Veteran, they will lose the Pension and can never claim it again regardless of what happens to the subsequent marriage.

– Basic Pension Rate– If the surviving spouse can live on their own and take care of themselves.

Maximum Annual Pension Rate is $8,656.00/year

– Housebound Rate– If the surviving spouse can live on their own and take care of themselves but are indoors all day and need help to leave their residence.

Maximum Annual Pension Rate is $10,580.00/year

– Aid and Attendance Rate– If the Surviving Spouse requires assistance from someone else to Take care of activities of daily living (Bathing, dressing, feeding, etc…) then the cost of Home Healthcare, Assisted Living or Skilled Nursing can be counted as recurring monthly medical Expenses. This is the only level that these costs will be counted as medical expenses.

Maximum Annual Pension Rate is $13,836.00/year

The VA will never pay above the Maximum Annual Pension Rate for the level that they qualify for. For example, if a spouse is entitled to pension at the A&A Rate and the cost of assisted living is more than his/her income, the VA will pay $13,836.00/year or $1,153.00/month.

Top 5 My HealtheVet Articles of 2017

Top 5 My HealtheVet Articles of 2017

VA Health Care Access Update 57►   Tips to Reduce Wait Time

Wait times at Veterans Affairs medical centers continue to be an issue. Here are a few tips to help save you time and energy as you manage your way through the VA:

  1. Schedule your appointment first thing in the morning or right after lunch. Many doctors, outside of the VA, are bound by quotas and have to see as many patients as possible. VA doctors focus on quality instead of quantity. Because of this, they tend to run over scheduled times. Making an appointment for either first thing in the morning all but guarantees that you’ll be seen on time.
  2. Have a referral to a specialty clinic? Schedule that appointment yourself! Don’t wait around for the clinic to call you, this could take a while. Sometimes the VA just automatically schedules you for your appointment, but you can always take control of this. Ask the physician or nurse for the number to the clinic. You can either call or go there in person and let them know you have a referral and set up an appointment time that works best for you.
  3. Ask for an appointment tomorrow. According to the VA, the majority of veterans receive their appointments within 14 days of the desired date. That’s a rather odd statement because when was the last time you were asked and not told when you could have your appointment? It never hurts to ask for a specific appointment time and from what I hear, it works a good amount of times too.
  4. Use MyHealtheVet (https://www.myhealth.va.gov/mhv-portal-web/home)  secure messenger to talk to your physician. Need an appointment? Just have a question? Need to check your appointment schedule? Want to refill your meds? You can do all of this by downloading the VA’s MyHealtheVet app. Every VA facility has a coordinator who can help you with any issues that come up with the app and most staff can help you if you have a technical problem. If you haven’t tried this yet, from what I hear it’s a game changer!
  5. Choose a different VA. You have the right to go to any VAMC you choose. If you don’t like the one closest to you, try another one. You can use the VA’s Access to Care site to check wait times for all VA facilities. And this breaks down into types of care too.
  6. Go to the emergency room if you need anything. If you can’t wait, use the emergency room at the VAMC closest to you. If they can’t help you, they’ll at least get a referral in for you. This isn’t something you should do every time you need to see a doctor! But if your condition is getting worse, go get help!
  7. Use the kiosks. You can check in for an appointment or look for future ones by using one of these kiosks. They are in VAMC’s and outpatient clinics. Most facilities have staff that will show you how they work. Soon you’ll even be able to pay your copay through one as well! The kiosk will even tell you if you’re in the right place or not.
  8. Prepare and double check! Show up with a list of questions written out. Check them off as you go over each one with your doctor. Take notes and then verify that the physician did enter the referrals if any are needed.
  9. Have a problem? Tell someone about it! Every VAMC has quarterly town hall meetings that you can attend. These meetings are held specifically so you can talk to leadership and give feedback. The majority of VA employees want to help you so let them!

[Source: CBS News Radio | Andrea Estes | October 9, 2017 ++]

Sleep Update 05 ► Older Adults

Sleep Update 05 ► Older Adults

Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as all adults—7 to 9 hours each night. But, older people tend to go to sleep earlier and get up earlier than they did when they were younger. There are many reasons why older people may not get enough sleep at night. Feeling sick or being in pain can make it hard to sleep. Some medicines can keep you awake. No matter the reason, if you don’t get a good night’s sleep, the next day you may:

  • Be irritable
  • Have memory problems or be forgetful
  • Feel depressed
  • Have more falls or accidents

Being older doesn’t mean you have to be tired all the time. You can do many things to help you get a good night’s sleep. Here are some ideas:

  • Follow a regular sleep schedule. Go to sleep and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends or when you are traveling.
  • Avoid napping in the late afternoon or evening, if you can. Naps may keep you awake at night.
  • Develop a bedtime routine. Take time to relax before bedtime each night. Some people read a book, listen to soothing music, or soak in a warm bath.
  • Try not to watch television or use your computer, cell phone, or tablet in the bedroom. The light from these devices may make it difficult for you to fall asleep. And alarming or unsettling shows or movies, like horror movies, may keep you awake.
  • Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature, not too hot or too cold, and as quiet as possible.
  • Use low lighting in the evenings and as you prepare for bed.
  • Exercise at regular times each day but not within 3 hours of your bedtime.
  • Avoid eating large meals close to bedtime—they can keep you awake.
  • Stay away from caffeine late in the day. Caffeine (found in coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate) can keep you awake.
  • Remember—alcohol won’t help you sleep. Even small amounts make it harder to stay asleep.

Insomnia is the most common sleep problem in adults age 60 and older. People with this condition have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Insomnia can last for days, months, and even years. Having trouble sleeping can mean you:

  • Take a long time to fall asleep
  • Wake up many times in the night
  • Wake up early and are unable to get back to sleep
  • Wake up tired
  • Feel very sleepy during the day

Often, being unable to sleep becomes a habit. Some people worry about not sleeping even before they get into bed. This may make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. Some older adults who have trouble sleeping may use over-the-counter sleep aids. Others may use prescription medicines to help them sleep. These medicines may help when used for a short time. But remember, medicines aren’t a cure for insomnia. Developing healthy habits at bedtime may help you get a good night’s sleep.

Restless legs syndrome, periodic limb movement disorder, and rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder are common in older adults. These movement disorders can rob you of needed sleep. People with restless legs syndrome, or RLS, feel like there is tingling, crawling, or pins and needles in one or both legs. This feeling is worse at night. See your doctor for more information about medicines to treat RLS.  You can also check out www.rls.org. Periodic limb movement disorder, or PLMD, causes people to jerk and kick their legs every 20 to 40 seconds during sleep. Medication, warm baths, exercise, and relaxation exercises can help. Rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep behavior disorder is another condition that may make it harder to get a good night’s sleep. During normal REM sleep, your muscles cannot move, so your body stays still. But, if you have REM sleep behavior disorder, your muscles can move and your sleep is disrupted.

You may have heard about some tricks to help you fall asleep. You don’t really have to count sheep—you could try counting slowly to 100. Some people find that playing mental games makes them sleepy. For example, tell yourself it is 5 minutes before you have to get up, and you’re just trying to get a little bit more sleep. Some people find that relaxing their bodies puts them to sleep. One way to do this is to imagine your toes are completely relaxed, then your feet, and then your ankles are completely relaxed. Work your way up the rest of your body, section by section. You may drift off to sleep before getting to the top of your head. Use your bedroom only for sleeping. After turning off the light, give yourself about 20 minutes to fall asleep. If you’re still awake and not drowsy, get out of bed. When you feel sleepy, go back to bed. If you feel tired and unable to do your activities for more than 2 or 3 weeks, you may have a sleep problem. Talk with your doctor about changes you can make to get a better night’s sleep.

Try to set up a safe and restful place to sleep. Make sure you have smoke alarms on each floor of your home. Before going to bed, lock all windows and doors that lead outside. Other ideas for a safe night’s sleep are:

  • Keep a telephone with emergency phone numbers by your bed.
  • Have a lamp within reach that is easy to turn on.
  • Put a glass of water next to the bed in case you wake up thirsty.
  • Don’t smoke, especially in bed.
  • Remove area rugs so you won’t trip if you get out of bed during the night.

[Source:  National Institute on Ageing | May 01, 2016 ++]