Intro

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, www.MilitaryDisabilityMadeEasy.com, for all the answers you'll need.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Joint Commission on Care Survey Results Released

On August 4, 2016, the Joint Commission on Care released to VA leadership the results of the Special Focused Surveys of the VA that it conducted from October 2014 to September 2015. These surveys were part of the Joint Commission on Care’s investigation of the VA Healthcare System. The unannounced surveys were conducted at 139 medical facilities and 47 community outpatient clinics in response to reports of improprieties in scheduling appointments and delays in receiving care as well as other quality of care issues. They were designed to measure progress made by the VA in improving access to care for veterans as well as identifying continuing problems that still exist in these areas.

The surveys covered processes related to timely access to care, patient flow, and coordination of care.  They also looked at procedures that could possibly indicate delays in diagnostics and provision of care as well as infection control. In addition, these surveys covered the care environment as well as the culture of leadership in the facility.

The Commission has issued Requirements For Improvement (RFIs) based on the survey results. 64% of the organizations had at least 1 RFI while 36% had no RFIs or no non-compliance findings, meaning those organizations were in compliance with VA policies and Commission standards. The findings show that there have been improvements throughout the VA in the areas of leadership, access to care, culture of safety, and staff competency and credentialing.

The main recommendations from the Joint Commission include:
  1.  Continue to monitor the timely scheduling of both new and follow-up appointments.
  2. Look at the challenges with the Choice Act and develop and implement a plan to address those issues.
  3. Develop a tracking process for out-of-network referrals.
  4. Encourage greater patient involvement in their care.
These survey results are just a small part of the Joint Commission on Care’s work and recommendations. It is encouraging to note that while problems definitely still exist, progress is being made in addressing and correcting those issues.


Check out our blog on the Commission on Care’s completereport on how to remedy the many issues within the VA health system.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Transition Coming for Project ARCH Veterans

The Project ARCH (Access Received Closer to Home) pilot program has been operating in parts of Maine, Kansas, Arizona, Wyoming and Virginia and is aimed at providing access to community providers for those veterans who live far from a VA facility, very much like the Veterans ChoiceProgram.

As of August 7th, Project ARCH will officially end, but the VA announced last week that veterans who receive care under Project ARCH will continue to receive uninterrupted care close to their home through the Veterans Choice Program.

Veterans who have been participating in Project ARCH will be transitioned to community care under the Veterans Choice Program. The VA is working with ARCH providers to have them continue to provide care to these veterans, thus enabling them to have continuity of care with known providers.


The VA is in the process of contacting veterans to help them with this transition. If you have been receiving care through Project ARCH and have not yet been contacted or if you have questions about your care, please contact the Care Coordinator at your VA medical facility for assistance.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

VA Progress Report: Choice Program and Telehealth

The VA recently hit a milestone of over 2 million appointments scheduled through the Veterans Choice Program. Despite getting off to a slow start, the Choice Program has grown significantly. The number of network providers has increased by 85 percent over the last 12 months, making now more than 350,000 providers and facilities in the Choice network. In addition, authorizations for care increased 103 percent from October 2015 through March 2016. While the Choice program still has quite a ways to go to realize its original designs, clear progress has been made.

The VA’s Telehealth Services allow veterans access to healthcare via the phone and internet. Although the initial reaction of many veterans to Telehealth Services was skeptical, more positive feedback is being given as more telehealth hubs come online (including the most recent TelementalHealth hub) and people give them a try. Veterans report being pleasantly surprised by the quality of the technology used, the ability to have their concerns addressed by a physician, and the convenience of not having to travel long distances to receive care.

Telehealth Services offer several benefits, among which are convenient access to care for veterans in remote or rural locations and significant savings for the VA by making it possible for the VA to utilize specialists unavailable in the local area. Over 12,000 veterans have used the VA’s Telehealth Services so far this year. If you live in an area where you do not have convenient access to a VA facility and would like to know more about using Telehealth Services, please visit www.telehealth.va.gov/real-time/.

These are just a couple of the positive changes at the VA. While they are an improvement, the VA recognizes that much more needs to be done and pledges to keep working to improve not only veterans’ access to care, but also the quality of care they receive.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Mustard Gas Claim Denied? Help May Be Coming

The Arla Harrell Act was introduced in the Senate last month and aims to make it easier for veterans who were exposed to mustard gas to receive benefits for conditions related to that exposure. Many of these veterans have had their claims denied for several reasons, often multiple times—over 90% of these claims have been denied since 2005.

These denials are because proving exposure to mustard gas is incredibly difficult since service records are highly unavailable. Most records simply never existed due to the secret nature of the testing, and of those that did exist, many were destroyed in a fire. The Arla Harrell Act calls for speedy reviews of previously denied claims and strives to make it easier for veterans to establish service-connection.

Since the mustard gas testing was de-classified in 1991, the VA has made only 2 attempts by mail to locate those veterans who participated. In June, VA spokesman James Hutton stated that the VA acknowledges that full-body exposure to mustard gas may indeed be linked to disabilities and that “the VA is committed to identifying, locating and fairly compensating all WWII veterans who developed disabilities because they were exposed to mustard gas, whether through DoD testing or on the battlefields abroad.”

He also stated that the VA planned to send letters to veteran participants and their families with instructions on how to get help. Do note, however, that their list of participants is not complete, and so if you do not get a letter but were exposed, you may still qualify.

If you or someone you know was exposed to mustard gas either through testing or on the battlefield, and you have developed one or more conditions you think might be related to that exposure, you can check out the VA’s Presumptive List for Mustard Gas and Lewisite Exposure  on our website. Please note that exposure to mustard gas alone is not enough to apply for VA Disability. You have to have developed a medical condition because of the exposure. You may email questions about mustard gas related benefits to the VA at mustardgas@vba.va.gov.


 [rj1]http://www.militarydisabilitymadeeasy.com/vapresumptivelist.html#mustard

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

24,000 Veterans Previously Denied TBI May Now Be Eligible

On June 1, 2016, VA Secretary Robert McDonald announced that the VA has granted equitable relief to over 24,000 disabled veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) who were previously denied VA disability benefits for their condition.

In 2007, the VA decided that all TBI exams for disability compensation had to be performed by either a psychiatrist, a physiatrist, a neurologist, or a neurosurgeon since these specialists have the most experience diagnosing and treating TBI. In so doing, however, thousands of veterans whose TBI exams were not conducted by one of these specialists had their claims denied or where not fully compensated.

After reviewing all the TBI examinations performed between 2007 and 2015, the VA has determined that the 24,000+ veterans whose exams did not meet requirements should be given the opportunity to have their cases re-evaluated and re-adjudicated in order for them to receive the fair compensation they deserve.

The VA will contact the affected veterans identified by this review directly and offer them a chance for a new exam and to have their claims reprocessed. The VA will review a veteran’s disability claim based on the new exam without the veteran having to file a new claim. If the veteran is due any additional benefits, the VA will set an effective date as early as the date of the veteran’s first TBI claim.

“Providing support for Veterans suffering from a TBI is a priority and a privilege, and we must make certain they receive a just and fair rating for their disabilities,” said Secretary McDonald. “We let these Veterans down. That is why we are taking every step necessary to grant equitable relief to those affected to ensure they receive the full benefits to which they are entitled.”