Welcome to our Big News section for all the latest news concerning Military Disability.

We'll do our best to keep you up to date on everything that could affect your disability. Since the majority of our news will cover legal issues that can be dragged out for a long time, if you'd like an update on an issue, let us know, and we'll do what we can.

Please feel free to comment and submit questions. We want to give you the information you need, so help us by letting us know what you want to know.

This page is strictly for the latest and upcoming news. If you are looking for specific information about the disability system or your disability, see our Military Disability Blog: Advice From the Big Guy or our website,, for all the answers you'll need.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

VA Proposes to Eliminate Erectile Dysfunction Ratings

The VA recently released its proposed changes to the VASRD for ratings of the Genitourinary System, the details of which can be found in our blog post.

While most of the changes are intended to make the ratings criteria clearer and fairer, we anticipate that one section will be more controversial than the rest—the ratings for erectile dysfunction (ED), code 7522.

Currently, erectile dysfunction caused by deformity is rated 20%, but under the proposed changes, erectile dysfunction, for any reason, would be rated 0%.

The VA justifies this proposed change by stating that the “VA provides disability compensation for conditions that result in reduced earning capacity. Erectile dysfunction . . . is not associated with reductions in earning capacity.”

The basic idea behind all VA disability is to compensate veterans for the inability to work and make money because of their service-connected condition. This is the principle that guides all rating decisions—Does the condition decrease the veteran’s ability to work?

If this change is officially made, erectile dysfunction will not be the only condition rated 0% even though it is clearly a medical condition and disability by definition. For example, currently, the ratings for the eyes grant a 0% if contacts or glasses are able to fully correct a veteran’s vision. So even though the veteran can’t see across the room without their glasses (a clear disability), they aren’t compensated since it can be corrected and they can presumably still work just fine.

Now even though ED would only be rated 0%, this 0% rating, as opposed to no rating at all, is an important distinction. A 0% rating means that the VA recognizes it as a service-connected condition. As such, it could still qualify for Special Monthly Compensation, Category K (SMC-K). SMC-K provides a small amount of compensation for the loss of use of a creative organ. So if the erectile dysfunction effectively makes the veteran infertile, he would qualify for SMC-K.

Also, because the condition is considered service-connected, any conditions that it causes (“secondary conditions”) would also be eligible for compensation. So if the veteran developed depression because of his ED (a very common symptom), it would qualify for compensation. Depression is a condition that can definitely interfere with the ability of a veteran to properly function in his daily life and earn a living. So, even though the ED itself would only be rated 0%, any condition that it causes that interferes with the veterans ability to work, would still qualify.   

While it is still unknown whether or not this change will officially be made, the VA has made a distinct stand on the issue of infertility with this proposal. In 2016, when the VA published their proposed changes to the ratings for the Female Reproductive System, there was a significant push from female veterans claiming that they should receive compensation for sexual dysfunction since the men receive it for erectile dysfunction. This proposed change would seem to indicate that the VA is no longer going to consider any type of sexual dysfunction, regardless of gender, as a ratable condition.

If this change goes into effect, it is not clear in the proposal whether or not veterans who have already been awarded a disability rating for ED will retain that benefit.

Historically, ratings, once given, have often not been reduced or taken away when changes like this have been made. Sometimes, however, a rating that is being eliminated because of new changes to the VASRD will have a definite end-date for current beneficiaries. We will not know what the ruling will be in the case of erectile dysfunction until the VA publishes the final regulation in its entirety.

For all proposed changes, the VA grants a period of time when we can give feedback. How do you feel about eliminating the rating for ED? Check out our blog post about the changes and let us know your thoughts.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

LUKE Arm Now Available for Veteran Amputees

On June 30, 2017, VA Secretary David Shulkin revealed the Life Under Kinetic Evolution (LUKE) arm while making a visit to the Manhattan campus of the VA New York Harbor Health Care System. The LUKE arm is the most advanced prosthetic in the world and was demonstrated by 2 Veteran amputees who were the first to receive it.

Originally designed by Dean Kamen of DEKA Research and Development Corporation, the inventor of the Segway, and dubbed the “LUKE” arm in a nod to the ultra-bionic arm given to Luke Skywalker, this amazing prosthetic is the first of its kind. It can perform multiple powered movements simultaneously that make it possible for an amputee to experience “near-natural” control, including the ability to pick up small light objects such as a coin or grape, or even use a hand-held drill.

The result of almost 8 years of collaborative research and development between the VA, DEKA, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the LUKE arm is designed for a wider range of amputation levels than ever before, including below-elbow, above-elbow, and shoulder-level amputations. It has the first powered shoulder available, which allows amputees to reach behind their backs and over their heads, pour a glass of milk, and even pick up a full bag from the floor and lift it to table top.

The LUKE arm can be controlled by a number of sensors. The more traditional electrode sensors and pattern recognition systems are used to translate nerve signals into intended movements. More complex movements are then made possible by using special switches worn on the feet, which send wireless signals to the computer in the arm, giving the wearer the ability to simultaneously move multiple joints.

Of 36 participants in a VA-funded study who were fitted with the LUKE arm, 90% were able to perform tasks such as preparing food, combing their hair, and using keys—tasks most prosthetics aren’t capable of.

The VA provided health care for 90,000 amputees in 2016. Of those, 20,000 had upper-limb amputations. This is a very exciting time in the field of prosthetics, with numerous advances in technology and robotics. These new advances offer many solutions for amputees and the promise of even more options to come.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

White House Veterans’ Complaint Hotline Now Active

On June 1, 2017, President Trump’s promised White House VA Veterans’ Complaint Hotline went live. The hotline is intended to provide veterans with an avenue to report problems with and complaints about the VA. VA Secretary David Shulkin said that the initial soft launch of the hotline will only have live operators to take some of the calls at first, with a pledge to provide continuous 24/7 live coverage by August 15, 2017.

All calls made to the hotline will be confidential. However, depending on the issues involved, some may need to be referred to the appropriate VA department and some information may need to be shared with those departments in order for specific complaints to be addressed.

President Trump proposed the hotline during his campaign as a way for veterans to be able to bring their complaints and issues directly to the White House and not get lost in the VA system. According to VA officials, information from these calls will be used to address issues regarding benefits and receipt of care for veterans and their families.

Please remember that this is NOT a Veterans’ Crisis Line and is not intended to provide suicide prevention assistance. This is to report problems with the VA, such as difficulty receiving benefits or care, directly to the White House. If you or a family member are in crisis and in need of immediate help, please call the Veterans’ Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.

If you have an issue or a complaint to report to the White House, you may call the new hotline at 1-855-948-2311. Again, not all calls will be answered by a live operator at this stage since the program will not be fully staffed 24/7 by live operators until the official launch on August 15, 2017.

Monday, May 22, 2017

VA Creates Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection

On April 27, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order to improve accountability at the VA and protect whistleblowers. This order gives the VA 45 days to create an Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. A Special Assistant will be the Executive Director of the new office and will report directly to the VA Secretary.

On May 12, just 15 days after the signing of the Executive Order, VA Secretary David Shulkin announced the creation of this Office and named Peter O’Rourke as Senior Advisor and Executive Director.

The duties of the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection include helping the Secretary use all available resources to either discipline or fire employees who fail to adequately care for the needs of our veterans. Handling veterans’ complaints on wrongdoing quickly and efficiently will be a primary goal of this Office.

In addition, the Executive Director will work to identify legal roadblocks that make it difficult for the VA to either discipline or fire employees who have endangered the life or health of a veteran. Once these barriers have been identified, the Secretary can seek to change those laws by working with Congress. The Executive Director will work with other VA departments to ensure that reports or complaints of wrongdoing are investigated thoroughly and quickly and that VA-wide corrections are speedily put in place.

This Office will also work with the Secretary to protect whistleblowers from any type of retaliation, thereby creating an environment where problems can be reported without fearing of losing one’s job.

In another positive light, the Director will help to identify any legal barriers that limit the VA’s ability to hire, reward, and/or keep outstanding employee performers so that the Secretary can seek legislative solutions from Congress.

Along similar lines, both houses of Congress have reached bipartisan support for reform bills that would make it possible for the VA to more easily achieve these accountability goals. The bills are still in committee and both Houses are working to come to an agreement on a final version to send to the President. We will continue to monitor this legislation and report on any progress.