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, April 28, 2014

The Reducing Barriers to Veterans’ Benefits Act

On January 23, 2013, the Reducing Barriers to Veterans’ Benefits Act was introduced to the House (where it still is today) that would amend title 38 of the United States Code. If it passes into law, it will establish a presumption of service-connection for certain disabled American Veterans with tinnitus or hearing loss.

Tinnitus is the most common service-connected disability, affecting almost 841,000 and increasing more than 500% from 1999 to 2011. Hearing loss accounts for the second greatest service-connected disability, affecting almost 702,000 veterans.

Presently, all conditions must be proven to have been caused by military service in order for them to be eligible for VA disability. Satisfactory proof includes medical records showing evidence of the condition occurring or existing while the veteran was in the military, or documents recording that the veteran was exposed to circumstances (like explosions) that caused the conditions later on.

If this bill is passed into law, this proof will no longer be needed for veterans who qualify, even if their tinnitus or hearing loss does not develop until long after they have separated from the military.

Veterans who qualify include those who have served in combat during a period of hostility and/or veterans with a military occupational specialty that are likely to have been exposed to a sufficiently high level of ear trauma that typically is known to result in permanent hearing loss, tinnitus, or both.

Ultimately, this act will make it much easier for veterans who develop hearing problems after leaving the military to claim the VA disability benefits they deserve.

Monday, April 21, 2014

23 Disabled American Veterans Die From Cancer because of Delayed VA Treatments

Since 2000, the VA  has ordered more than 250 million health care consultations for disabled American veterans. Recently, the VA began reviewing their consultation request process. The review found 76 consultations, mostly in 2010, that had not been properly processed, thus causing a serious delay in test results and treatments. While 76 out of 250 million is very low, only 0.00003%, 23 of these cases resulted in death, not an ignoble number.

The majority of the 23 deaths were gastrointestinal cancer patients. All 76 cases were spread out over 27 VA hospitals, with resulting deaths at 13 of those facilities. Out of these facilities, the one with the worst record was the Williams Jennings Bryan Dorn Veterans Hospital in Columbia, SC. The hospital had 20 confirmed cases of delays as well as six deaths.

The VA claims that the delays were caused by their overwhelmed computer systems. As part of their review, they are dedicated to finding ways to improve their systems to ensure that no additional veterans are harmed.

In October 2013, a report was issued by the VA Office of Inspector General. John Daigh, the VA's Assistant Inspector General for health care, said he thought that these delays occurred because the VA failed to “focus on its core mission to deliver quality health care.”

A hearing was held on April 9th, 2014 by the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to address this issue. In addition to the 23 deaths reported by the VA, the Committee also “reviewed at least eighteen preventable deaths that occurred because of mismanagement, improper infection control practices, and a host of other maladies plaguing the VA health care system nationwide.”

Jeff Miller, the Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, hotly called for the VA to hold themselves properly accountable for these incidences. “We all recognize that no medical system is infallible, no matter how high the quality standards might be. But . . . it concerns me that VA’s briefing Monday and testimony today include very few details about what, if any, specific actions have been taken to ensure accountability for the 23 veterans who lost their lives and the many more who were harmed because they didn’t get the care they needed in a timely manner.”

Monday, April 14, 2014

Ending VA Claims Disability Backlog and Accountability Act

Since 2009, the backlog of claims for VA Disability has more than tripled, and the average amount of time it takes the VA to process a VA Disability Claim has jumped from 161 days to 260 days. 

On January 25, 2013, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs published a strategic plan to eliminate the backlog by May 25, 2015 – Memorial Day. The Secretary stated, “We have a fix for this. We’re open for business. And we will end the backlog in 2015.”

Claims pending more than 125 days are considered “backlogged”. Approximately 590,000 claims were backlogged as of August 2012. In 2014 the number of backlogged claims dropped to 309,000, evidence that the Secretary’s plan seems to be working.  Reports have come from Congress, however, stating that the Secretary’s plan “does not adequately articulate how the Department will meet its goals, and . . . does not meet the established criteria of the Government Accountability Office for sound planning.” This fuels that already serious doubt on whether the VA will actually be able to fully meet its goals.

The VA’s backlog is a result of a number of factors. One of the factors is the delay in obtaining service records. It can take up to a year for the VA to receive some of the essential records it requests from the DoD and Social Security.  Additionally, almost half of the claims processing staff have been in their current roles less than 2 years and still require the supervision and review of the more experienced claims processing staff who are thus diverted from their responsibilities.

In May 2013, a bill entitled “Ending VA Claims Disability Backlog and Accountability Act” was introduced in Congress to help regulate the VA’s efforts to fix the backlog. The bill is meant to ensure that Veterans Affairs will deliver on their commitment to eliminate the backlog in 2015, guaranteeing that all new claims will be processed within 125 days at 98% accuracy. Homeless veterans will also continue to receive top priority in disability claims processing.

Once made into law, this bill would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to submit regular reports to Congress, further detailing the steps they are taking and their progress to date. This report must include specific procedures used to assess the implementation of the plan and a detailed time line for implementing each objective. Additionally, it would require that all DoD, National Guard, and Social Security records be transferred to the VA within 30 or 60 days of their request. Finally, this bill would require the VA to establish a 3-year training program for newly hired claim processors.

Many of the changes proposed in this bill were also addressed in the Superheroes Fighting the Backlog Act.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Chiropractic Care Available to All Veterans Act

Here’s a bit of fun news for all disabled American veterans (and, really, for all veterans).

A bill is currently being considered by Congress that would allow the VA to offer chiropractic care to all veterans. This would include periodic chiropractic exams for treatment of existing conditions as well as chiropractic care to prevent the worsening of an existing condition or the development of a new condition. 

There has always been a bit of a stigma in modern medicine regarding chiropractic care, but more recently, chiropractic has been gaining an ever-increasing acceptance in the medical world. The possibility of the VA offering it is evidence of this increasing popularity.

There are many Military Disability conditions that can be successfully treated with chiropractic care, so having easy access to it as a part of their VA disability benefits could really help numerous disabled American veterans.

If this bill is successfully passed into law, then the VA will be required to offer chiropractic care in at least 75 of its medical centers by December 31, 2014, and all of its centers by December 31, 2016. So, while it might take a bit to get chiropractic care at your local VA medical center, it should be available to everyone by 2017.