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.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Army to Provide Care for Biological/Chemical Test Subjects

The Army announced last month that, as a result of a class action lawsuit filed by the Vietnam Veterans of America, it will begin providing medical care to veterans who have a condition resulting from their participation in chemical and biological testing programs conducted by the Army between 1942 and 1975. Most of these programs took place at Edgewood Arsenal near Aberdeen, MD or at Ft. Detrick, MD.

According to the court ruling, the Army, NOT the VA, is to provide medical care for these veterans. The medical care, including medications, will be provided on a space-available basis at the veteran’s nearest military medical facility with the capability and the capacity to treat these conditions. Care will be provided for a specific period of time as stated in the authorization letter and will be supplemental to any care the veteran is entitled to receive through the VA.

The Army is required to notify by mail those veterans that they can identify who may be eligible for treatment. The first notification letters were sent out November 1, 2017. A veteran does not have to wait to receive a letter in order to apply, however.

To be eligible, veterans must have:

            -A DD214 or War Department discharge (or the equivalent)
            -volunteered as a medical research subject in a US Army testing program
            for biological or chemical substances between 1942 and 1975, including
            medications or vaccines received as part of the US Army investigational
            drug review
            -a diagnosed condition that may be connected to their participation in
            these programs

Veterans who believe they are eligible must apply through the Army, using MEDCOM Form 840. Along with the form, veterans must submit all medical evidence regarding the condition, their VA rating determination letter, and any documents that support their involvement in the testing programs.

Because the records of many participants were destroyed and others classified, it may be difficult for some veterans to prove their participation in these programs. Documents, like orders showing that the veteran was stationed at participating locations at the time, statements from physicians stating that the condition is “more likely than not” connected to research participation, etc., will be considered and could strengthen the veteran’s case.  Ultimately, the eligibility decision rests with the Army Medical Command.

The court order requires the Army to set up a Benefits Application Panel that will look at all the evidence available to determine whether or not the diagnosed condition is related to research participation. At this time, a list of eligible conditions/injuries has not been published, so the Panel will review all cases that may qualify.


If you feel that you may be eligible to receive care, please go to www.armymedicine.mil or call 1-800-984-8523.   

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Highest Raise in Disabled Veterans’ Compensation Rates in Years


In 2018, disabled veterans and military retirees will see the largest Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) raise in 8 years reflected in their paychecks. While still not large, the 2% increase is a big jump from the 0.3% last year or the 0% in 2015.

The COLA is adjusted annually with the rate of inflation to help government beneficiaries, including retirees and disabled veterans, keep up with the rising cost of living. It is calculated using the Consumer Price Index, which compares the costs of products this year to th
e cost last year.

Check out our site to see the 2018 VA Disability Rates and compare them to the current VA Disability Rates.


While Congress is still debating the amount of the pay raise for active duty troops, this COLA does not require Congressional action. It will go into effect in December regardless of Congress’ decision about the active duty raise.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Changes to the Comprehensive Caregiver Program after 3-month Review

Back in April, 2017, the VA temporarily suspended the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers in order to conduct a 3-month long review of the program. This review was prompted by complaints that ranged from inconsistent rules and standards across VA facilities to the discharge of hundreds of veterans and their caregivers without explanation, leading to congressional inquiries. After completing the review, the VA issued a new directive and has resumed full operation of the program as of July 28, 2017. This means that full implementation of the program will take place at all VA facilities.

Under the new directive, the VA requires additional staff training to ensure that all personnel working with veterans and their caregivers are current on all of the requirements, regulations, and types of assistance available. In order to help educate veterans and their caregivers, the VA is standardizing the outreach materials used as well as the communication between facilities and veterans. The VA has updated its caregiver website, www.caregiver.va.gov, and it now includes links to home- and community-based services and resources available to veterans and caregivers.

VA Secretary David Shulkin stated that, while the program has been reinstated, the VA plans to continue to refine and improve the program, acting on the information gathered during the review. For example, right now eligibility for the program is still being determined by a veteran’s primary care team, a process which can result in a veteran being eligible at one VA facility but denied assistance in a different area. The new standardized rules and regulations will ensure that they are uniformly applied at all VA facilities.

Veterans and their caregivers are assigned to one of two caregiver support programs based on their needs. The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers provides training and education, a monthly stipend, mental health care and respite care, among other things, for approved family caregivers for severely injured veterans whose injury occurred or was aggravated in the line of duty on or before 9/11, 2001. The Program of General Caregiver Support Services provides training and support for caregivers of qualified disabled veterans of all eras.

One significant improvement that Secretary Shulkin would like to see implemented is to extend eligibility for the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to severely injured veterans of other eras, not just post-9/11. This would require congressional approval, so it might be a while before we see this become reality.


The VA has also set up a new Caregiver Support Line which is staffed by licensed social workers and provides information about the caregiver programs, counseling, referrals to local caregiver programs, and more. To reach the Caregiver Support Line, please call 1-855-260-3274.

Monday, September 4, 2017

VA Appeals Process About to Get Better

It is commonly acknowledged that the VA disability claims appeals process is broken. As we reported in April, the VA asked Congress to speedily pass legislation to help. As a result, the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 was signed into law on August 23, 2017.

Currently, all appeals go directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. This new law, however, will greatly improve the claims appeals process by routing veterans’ appeals into one of three “lanes.” Appeals in the first lane, the Local Higher Level Review, would be assigned an adjudicator who would review the same evidence that was presented in the original claim. The New Evidence lane would allow the veteran to present new evidence for review and be granted a hearing. Appeals in the Board lane would be immediately transferred to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

A key provision of the law requires the VA to provide veterans with a clearer, better explanation of the VA’s reasons for their decisions. This will make it easier for veterans to decide whether or not to appeal the decision and help them determine which lane would be best.

Implementation of the new “lane” appeals process could take a year or more. The law requires the VA to submit to Congress by late November of this year an in-depth plan on how to implement the new system as well as determine which veterans who currently have appeals pending will be permitted to move from the old system to the new one. The decision to move their appeal to the new system will rest with the veteran.


Veterans groups and other supporters of the new law were pleased that veterans will now have more options for appealing their benefits claims decisions. It is estimated that more than 470,000 veterans are currently waiting on decisions on their claims appeals, with nearly 150,000 of those already before either the Board for Veterans Appeals or the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Depending on how long it takes to implement the new law, those cases already before either the Board or the Court may be too far along in the appeals process to be able to transfer to the new system. While this new law is not a complete fix of the problems, most agree it’s a step in the right direction.