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, December 15, 2014

ATTN: Reservists and National Guard Members – You are Now Eligible for VA MST Care

The VA announced on December 1 that eligibility for mental health care for Military Sexual Trauma (MST) has been extended to Reservists and National Guard members who take part in inactive duty training. This means that the VA now has the authority to offer these individuals mental health care to treat conditions that resulted from MST which took place during that time.

VA care for MST-related conditions is provided free of charge. Veterans do not need to be enrolled in the VA health care system or have a service-connected disability.  They also do not need to have reported MST incidences to the DoD. No official records or documentation are required at all to receive MST care.  All you need is to have a VA mental health provider determine if your condition is MST-related. Just contact your local VA and make an appointment.


All VA facilities have an MST coordinator and all VA medical centers and community-based Vet Centers offer outpatient MST counseling.  The VA offers more information about its MST services online at www.mentalhealth.va.gov/msthome.asp.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Changing the VA: Be Proactive

As we reported last August, the VA has directed all local units to hold town hall meetings. Initially, this was to be completed by the end of September.  However, the VA announced in October that the town hall meetings were to continue on a quarterly basis.  These meetings are intended not only to provide information to veterans and their families but also to get feedback from them regarding their concerns, problems they are having obtaining care, ideas for solutions, etc. 

The VA is in the process of a major overhaul and they can use your input to help them make changes that are worth making—ones that will really be of use to our disabled veterans. However, reports are coming in that these town hall meetings are not being well attended in some areas.  In some instances, there have been more people from the VA than participants!

For those of you out there who have complaints with the VA system, we urge you to go to these meetings and let them know.  Be concise, be organized, write down your concerns and share them with the VA representatives.  If you don’t let them know, they can’t do anything to change the system and the problems will likely continue. It’s kind of like voting—if you don’t vote, you can’t complain about the government you end up with.  Same thing applies here—if you don’t participate and speak up, the system won’t change.

So contact your local VA facility and find out when the next town hall meeting is scheduled.

Make your voice heard. Be a force for change.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Hyperbaric Treatment for TBI: Does it Work?

A new report issued this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine has shown that hyperbaric treatments for TBI are not as effective as previously thought. Hyperbaric treatment has become increasingly popular for veterans suffering from persistent concussive symptoms, including balance problems, fatigue, headaches, anxiety, forgetfulness, and irritability.


The veterans who participated in the study were divided into three groups. The group who spent 40 sessions in the hyperbaric chamber breathing pure pressurized oxygen experienced no more improvement than the control group who did 40 sessions in a low-pressure chamber breathing normal air. However, both of these groups did show significant improvement over a third group that had only traditional care. 

Researchers said that the improvements noted were more likely from a placebo effect and from the interaction with the staff.  Two experts not involved in the actual study commented that the veterans experienced a healing environment and that while the hyperbaric treatment itself did not produce any improvement, the “ritual of intervention” did. A fourth study is underway.

VA Update:


The VA announced November 24 that it has fired the Director of the Phoenix VA Health Care System, Sharon Helam.  The Phoenix VA facility was the location where the wait-time scandal erupted last Spring. Helam is the fifth senior executive fired by the VA in the last few weeks.

Monday, November 24, 2014

New Veteran Suicide Prevention Act in Congress

A bipartisan bill currently before the House is focused on increasing efforts to prevent suicide among our veterans. According to a study done by the VA, an average of 22 veterans commit suicide every day.

The bill endeavors to increase suicide prevention efforts and provide increased access to mental health care and counseling, including additional reviews of discharges for individuals diagnosed with PTSD or TBI to ensure that they have access to the care they need.

Additionally, the bill would authorize the VA to offer a student loan repayment program for psychiatrists and mental health care providers to increase the VA’s level of staffing which would increase the availability of care.

The bill is named for Clay Hunt, a young man who joined the Marines in 2005. After multiple deployments and a Purple Heart, he left the military in 2009 and became a veterans’ advocate. Although he suffered from severe PTSD, he was only given a 30% rating by the VA. Receiving the mental health care and counseling he needed was difficult and took months to schedule. He appealed his rating, but the VA lost his paperwork.  After going through the hassle of submitting it all again, he took his own life in 2011. Just weeks after his death, the VA approved the appeal and awarded him a 100% rating.

Unfortunately, this warrior’s story is not unique. It is our hope that between legislation and the changes the VA is rolling out, the system will change for the better and that our veterans who are struggling to cope with PTSD will be able to quickly receive the care they desperately need and richly deserve so that tragedies like Clay Hunt’s can be prevented.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Secretary McDonald Announces VA Overhaul – Let Your Voice Be Heard!

VA Secretary McDonald recently announced the largest reorganization in VA history. To be known as MyVA, the new VA system will be designed to make it easier for veterans to access all of the VA departments and their deserved benefits.

One key feature of the reorganization will be a VA-wide customer service system, led by a Chief Customer Service Officer who will report directly to the Secretary. As part of this system, there will be general customer service representatives who will be able to help veterans with any VA service. Community veteran advisory councils will also be established to work with communities and public entities to coordinate the delivery of care and services to our veterans.

Also as part of the reorganization, the regional divisions of the VA will be consolidated so that all VA services—health care, benefits, mortgages, cemetery and funeral concerns, etc.—will be under one roof. In addition, Secretary McDonald plans to have just one website with one user name and password where veterans can access all VA services, making it easier for veterans to get the help they need. Hopefully they’ll design it after our website where simplicity and clarity are the most important elements.

The VA is now preparing to hire the Chief Customer Service Officer, and while Secretary McDonald hopes to have the reorganization completed in a year, he cautions that this is a long-term process. There is no roll-out date for MyVA at this time.

LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD

The proposed overhaul may very well be able to fix many of the serious issues that the VA now faces, like the backlog, but it is really far too early to tell.  While it sounds great and has definite potential, there aren’t enough specifics available at this time to really know how this will ultimately affect the problems you are currently facing.

Now is the time, however, to let the VA know what you all need. We will be preparing a proposition to pass along to Secretary McDonald with recommendations for their new system. Let us know now what issues you need resolved, including suggestions on how to improve the system to make your lives easier, and we’ll make sure to include them in our proposition. Whether it’s information, scheduling, organization, transportation, etc., we want to know. Let’s make change happen!