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.

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 http://www.prosthetics.va.gov/ServiceAndGuideDogs.asp.


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 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). 
- The Suicide Prevention Month website is  VeteransCrisisLine.net/BeThere.
- 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 veteranscrisisline.net/spreadtheword.

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.

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.