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.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

VA: Disability Claim Appeals Process Broken

The VA acknowledged recently that its claims appeal process is broken and they are working to address the issues involved. Currently, many thousands of veterans are waiting more than 5 years for their claims to be settled. From 2012 to 2015, pending appeals cases increased by 35%, to more than 450,000 today. Of those, more than 80,000 veterans have been waiting longer than 5 years and 5,000 veterans have been waiting for more than 10 years for their cases to be settled.

Steps currently being taken include updating the computer and IT systems used to process claims appeals, streamlining the appeals process by making it possible for veterans to submit additional information without triggering another set of reviews, hiring additional personnel, and digitizing archived inactive claims records to allow for quicker processing times.

A year ago, the VA launched Caseflow Certification, a web-app which verifies whether the required documentation needed for an appeals claim is present and automatically identifies if new information is added, reducing errors and delays caused by manual claims processing.

Earlier this year, the Veterans Benefit Administration began collecting archived claims records from regional repositories east of the Mississippi and digitizing them to be uploaded into the Veterans Benefits Management System. Previously, the VBA only digitized an archived claim records if the veteran or family members submitted new disability or Dependency Indemnity Compensation claims. When these claims were submitted, the records had to be located and retrieved, boxed up and shipped to the office handling the claim. This added several days to the claims process. By digitizing archived inactive claims records and uploading them into one system, this information will be instantly available to claims processors anywhere in the country. The VBA expects to complete this work by the end of 2018.


The VA pledges to continue its efforts to improve the appeals claims process for veterans. Because of the fact that many of its procedures and policies are mandated by Congress, the VA has reached out to both the House and Senate for help in passing legislation that will make it possible for the VA to make significant changes to the process. In recent months, several bills have been introduced in both houses of Congress to address these issues. Hopefully, legislators will recognize the urgency of acting quickly to help our veterans get the benefits they deserve.

Monday, April 10, 2017

More Progress for VA Suicide Prevention Programs

Last month VA Secretary David A. Shulkin announced that the VA has resolved the problems with the Veterans Crisis Line. The opening of the new Veterans Crisis Line center in Atlanta on December 20, 2016 has made it possible for the Veterans Crisis Line to increase its capacity by almost 600 veterans each day, practically doubling its ability to help veterans and their family members in crisis.

Having this second Veterans Crisis Line facility up and running has enabled the VA to not only help more veterans but to do so more efficiently. Before the Atlanta facility opened, the call rollover rate was frequently more than 30%. As of March 21, 2017, the call rollover rate has been reduced to less than 1%. This means that more than 99% of Veterans Crisis Line calls are promptly answered by Veterans Crisis Line responders.

The Veterans Crisis Line is a valuable and effective resource for those who are struggling and is available 24 hours a day. You do not need to be enrolled in VA Health Care to receive help. If you are a veteran in crisis or know someone who is, please call 1-800-273-8255 and then press 1, text 838255, or go to www.VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat to chat online

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).

In addition to the improvements to the Veterans Crisis Line, the REACH VET pilot program started last fall has now been extended and is available VA wide. REACH VET is a program that looks at veterans’ health records to help identify veterans who might be at an increased risk for suicide. If a veteran is identified as being at risk, VA health care providers then reach out to them to evaluate what types of care might be helpful. Early intervention has been shown to help prevent issues from reaching crisis mode, reduce stress for at-risk veterans and their families, and result in better outcomes. Hopefully we’ll see great results now that REACH VET is available VA wide.


Please don’t hesitate to reach out—help IS available.

Monday, March 27, 2017

In Vitro Fertilization Now Offered by the VA

Effective January 19, 2017, the VA has amended the regulation pertaining to fertility treatment to include In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) for eligible disabled veterans and/or their spouses.

The DoD has provided IVF for awhile as part of its assisted reproductive technology (ART) to servicemembers who suffered an injury or illness during active duty which resulted in the loss of their ability to conceive naturally without the help of ART, but IVF has not been provided by the VA until now.

IVF involves removing an egg from a woman, fertilizing it outside of the body and then implanting the resulting embryo into the uterus. It is a common medical procedure for treating infertility that can’t be treated with other methods of ART.


This interim ruling makes IVF available to veterans with service-connected disabilities that render them unable to conceive without the help of ART. This treatment will also be available to spouses of eligible veterans.

Veterans can make appointments with their local VA treatment facility immediately to determine eligibility, undergo consultation and medical evaluation, and begin the treatment process. Funding for these additional ART services is authorized through September 30, 2018.

For more information, please visit https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/01/19/2017-00280/fertility-counseling-and-treatment-for-certain-veterans-and-spouses.

Monday, March 13, 2017

VA Secretary Proposing to Provide Urgent Mental Health Care for Veterans with Other Than Honorable Discharges

In a historic move, VA Secretary David Shulkin testified before the House Veterans Affairs Committee on March 7, 2017, that he intends to open up urgent mental health care to former service members with Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharges who are in crisis. This is the first time that an initiative which is focused on providing mental health assistance to OTH service members has been put into place by a VA Secretary.

VA officials emphasize that veterans’ mental health issues are a significant concern.

“The President and I have made it clear that suicide prevention is one of our top priorities," Shulkin said. “We know the rate of death by suicide among Veterans who do not use VA care is increasing at a greater rate than Veterans who use VA care. This is a national emergency that requires bold action. We must and we will do all that we can to help former service members who may be at risk. When we say even one Veteran suicide is one too many, we mean it…. Our goal is simple: to save lives,” Shulkin continued. “Veterans who are in crisis should receive help immediately. Far too many Veterans have fallen victim to suicide, roughly 20 every day. Far too many families are left behind asking themselves what more could have been done. The time for action is now.”

Of those 20, roughly 14 are not enrolled in VA healthcare. Many of those are combat veterans who received their OTH discharges because of misconduct related to a traumatic brain injury or PTSD, making them ineligible for VA healthcare.

Secretary Shulkin will be meeting with DoD officials, Congress, and Veterans Service Organizations to figure out the best ways to get help to former service members with OTH discharges. As part of the proposed plan, OTH service members will be able to receive treatment at a Vet Center, a VA Emergency Room, or by calling the Veterans Crisis Line.

As part of their ongoing efforts to treat veterans in mental health crisis, the VA has made significant changes to the Veterans Crisis Line, adding new counselors, opening new facilities, and improving response time. The Veterans Crisis Line is a valuable, effective resource for those who are struggling.

In addition, the VA has implemented programs such as #BeThere and REACH VET (seeour article from September 6, 2016 for more information) to help people reach out and help identify veterans who may be in crisis. 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 VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.

- 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). 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Telehealth to Improve HIV Care for Rural Vets

Since October 2012, Dr. Michael Ohl of the Iowa City VA Health Care System has been conducting a study to see if Telehealth services could provide better treatment for rural veterans with human immunodeficiencyvirus (HIV). As a result of that study, Dr. Ohl is now creating a program called Telehealth Collaborative Care, which uses videoconferencing to connect VA specialists with rural veterans who have HIV.

HIV is a chronic condition that attacks the body’s immune system. Lack of care due to reduced access to quality treatment can have serious consequences, including the development of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), which can be life-threatening. There are 26,000 veterans receiving care for HIV from the VA, 18% of whom live in rural areas and do not have access to the high-quality care provided at HIV specialty clinics.

“Veterans should have easy access to HIV testing and state-of-the-art HIV care regardless of where they live,” said Ohl, an infectious disease specialist. “We know that compared to their urban counterparts, rural Veterans with HIV enter care with more advanced illness, are less likely to receive the latest advances in HIV treatment, and have lower survival rates. We want to change that.”

Telehealth Collaborative Care allows rural veterans to participate in videoconferences at nearby VA community-based outpatient clinics (CBOCs) to receive ongoing care from an HIV specialist at a large VA medical center. Other professionals, such as psychologists, HIV pharmacists, or nurse-care managers can also participate in these videoconferences, allowing the veteran’s on-site primary care doctor to coordinate with the specialty clinic to co-manage the veteran’s care. This process takes a huge travel burden off the veteran.


The Telehealth Collaborative Care program currently includes about 800 veterans who live in rural areas near Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. Each of these cities has a VA hospital with an HIV specialty clinic. If this program is successful, it may then be expanded to other areas.