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.

Monday, October 17, 2016

October is National Audiology Awareness Month

Audiological conditions, especially hearing loss and tinnitus, are the most common service-connected conditions in veterans due to exposure to loud noises (planes, artillery, etc.) or as sides effects to medication. More than 30 million veterans suffer from some form of hearing loss.

Because of the high incidence of hearing loss among veterans, the VA is a leader in audiological research. Ongoing research is looking at the connection between PTSD and traumatic brain injury and hearing loss. Other studies are looking at causes and prevention, such as biomarkers that may warn of developing hearing loss, as well as a wide range of treatment options.

As we reported earlier, by the end of 2016, veterans needing routine audiology appointments will be able to schedule them directly at all VA facilities without a referral from their primary care manager. The VA hopes that this will make it easier and faster for veterans to receive needed care from an audiologist. To find out if this option is now available where you live, simply contact your local VA facility. If it’s not currently available, they should be able to tell you when it will be.

If you would like more information about the VA’s audiology services, please visit For information about the audiology research the VA is conducting, visit

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Coming Soon: Direct Scheduling for Outpatient Optometry and Audiology Appointments

The VA announced last month that veterans who receive care at VA medical centers will now be able to schedule routine appointments at local optometry and audiology clinics without a referral from their Primary Care Manager (PCM).

Until now, veterans who needed routine eye or ear care would have to make an appointment with their PCM, get a referral for a consult visit, and then wait for clinic personnel to contact them to schedule the consult appointment. This process often resulted in a wait of several weeks before the veteran actually got to see an optometrist or audiologist.

The Audiology and Optometry Direct Scheduling Initiative, which started as a pilot program in 2015 at 3 VA sites, is now being expanded to all VA medical centers. The Initiative is expected to be fully implemented at all VA medical centers by the end of 2016. It should not only drastically reduce veterans’ wait times for routine ear and eye appointments, but it is anticipated that it will also free up primary care physicians’ schedules, making it easier and quicker for veterans to get appointments with their PCM.

Monday, September 12, 2016

New Veterinary Benefits for Service Dogs of Veterans with Mental Disorders

On August 18, 2016, the VA announced their newest pilot program. The Service Dogs Benefit Pilot will provide veterinary benefits for service dogs approved for disabled veterans with mental disorders with a chronic impairment that limits their mobility.

The VA already provides veterinary benefits for guide dogs belonging to veterans with impaired hearing, vision, or mobility. This pilot program will extend these benefits to veterans with mental disorders for whom a service dog has been determined to provide the best way for that veteran to live independently.

Service dogs are specially trained to perform tasks or services for a specific person who has a disability which makes it impossible for them to do the task or work on their own so they can live independently. This specialized training is what makes service dogs different from comfort animals or pets. In order to qualify for the veterinary benefits, a service dog must have been trained according to VA regulations by a group or organization accredited by Assistance Dogs International.

Medical care provided under the veterinary service benefits include annual wellness visits, immunizations, dental care, screenings, urgent or emergency care, prescriptions, and other treatments that help the dog provide service to the veteran. For more information on the VA’s service dog program, please go to

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

September is Suicide Prevention Month

September is Suicide Prevention Month and the VA is kicking off its new campaign, #BeThere, by asking family, friends, co-workers, employers—basically the entire community—to #BeThere for our veterans and service members with simple caring acts to help reduce the risk of suicide.

Dr. Caitlin Thompson, Director of VA Office of Suicide Prevention, said, “You don’t have to be a trained professional to support someone who may be going through a difficult time. We want to let people know that things they do every day, like calling an old friend or checking in with a neighbor, are strong preventive factors for suicide because they help people feel less alone. That’s what this campaign is about—encouraging people to be there for each other.”

The VA hopes that the #BeThere campaign will help make people aware of the many resources available through the VA for veterans and service members at risk for suicide or who are struggling with mental health issues.

In addition, the VA is launching a new program this month called REACH VET, which will help identify vulnerable veterans under VA care and get them the help they need before they reach crisis mode.

All of the resources listed below are available to ANY veteran or service member. You do NOT need to be registered or enrolled with the VA to use these services.

- The Veterans Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day. You may call 1-800-273-8255 and then press 1, you can text 838255, or chat online at
- The Veterans Center Combat Call Centers are also available 24/7 to combat veterans or service members serving in a combat area. These call centers are staffed by other combat veterans. Call 1-877-WAR-VETS (927-8387). 
- The Suicide Prevention Month website is
- A Suicide Prevention Month Tool Kit that can be used to help spread the word in your community about veteran suicide prevention is available at

If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health issues or thinking about suicide, we urge you to talk to someone you know or contact any of the crisis lines listed above. Most communities also have local crisis lines that you can use. Help is available—just ask.

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.