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, July 28, 2014

Military Sexual Trauma Update


We have new information about what Congress has been doing to address the issues connected with Military Sexual Trauma (MST) since our last article.

There are 2 bills currently being considered by Congress that deal with  MST and Domestic Abuse. The first bill, passed by the House on May 28, 2014, will provide veterans and reservists with treatment and counseling for sexual trauma that occurred during inactive duty training. This bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs June 2, 2014.

The second bill will authorize the VA to provide active duty military with treatment and counseling for MST, including members of the National Guard and Reserves, without being referred by a DoD physician. If this bill passes, it will be a pretty big deal since the VA has never provided care before for active duty military, just veterans.

Although we’ve been unable to find any official reason for proposing such a monumental change, there are some definite benefits we can see. For one, the majority of MST and Domestic Abuse cases go unreported because of social stigmas. If victims were able to go to a facility to receive treatment where they were completely unknown, with no fear of word spreading, a great many would probably be more likely to do so.

In addition to this change, the bill will require the VA to submit a report to Congress that would compare the availability of MST treatment options for males vs. females, and would also include information on the transition from the DoD to the VA in providing treatment for Military Sexual Trauma and Domestic Abuse. The goal of the report is to find ways to make this transition from active duty to veteran status easier.

Finally, this bill will also require the VA to develop a process to screen veterans for domestic abuse. This information would then be used to determine how common domestic abuse is in the military and to improve care.


We’ll keep an eye on these bills and let you know if and when they become law. In the meantime, don't forget that some conditions which are caused by or connected to MST qualify for a Military Disability Rating. Check out our recent blog on rating MST for military disability

Monday, July 21, 2014

Now Hear This: Two Bills Address Military Disability for Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

Tinnitus is the most common condition eligible for VA Disability. The number of Disabled American Veterans with tinnitus has risen steadily each year since 2006, with a matching increase in the number of claims. Costs for the VA are rising, too, with $1.5 billion paid in VA Disability Benefits for tinnitus in 2012 alone. That figure is expected to soar to a whopping $3 billion in 2017!

There are 2 bills in Congress right now that deal with disability for tinnitus and hearing loss, one in the House and one in the Senate.

The bill in the House would require the VA’s Auditory Centers of Excellence to work with the DoD’s Hearing Center of Excellence to research the prevention and treatment of tinnitus.

This research would focus on the effectiveness of different tinnitus treatments, the underlying causes of tinnitus, and the physical connections between tinnitus and hearing loss. Also of concern to Congress is a growing body of research from other sources that shows a direct link between tinnitus and PTSD and TBI.

Back in 2006, a report from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, titled “Noise and Military Service: Implications for Hearing Loss and Tinnitus”, gave recommendations to the VA for properly treating auditory conditions. The bill that is currently in the Senate would hold the VA accountable for putting into practice the recommendations made in this report.

If the bill passes into law, the Secretary of the VA would be required to submit reports to Congress on how well the VA is doing providing care, treatment, and benefits to veterans with hearing loss, tinnitus or other auditory system injuries or conditions based on the recommendations from the report.

The VA’s reports are to include details on the veterans that are denied hearing loss-related benefits because their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) is NOT included on the Duty MOS Noise Exposure Listing.

In addition, this bill would require the VA to critically examine and explain their criteria for rating hearing loss and tinnitus to ensure that the ratings and compensation properly reflect the reduced earning capacity of veterans with auditory disabilities.


Both of these bills are still being processed by Congress, but we will continue to watch their progress and let you know when (or if) they pass. Hopefully they will, and soon.

Monday, July 14, 2014

American Legion Stepping up to Help Veterans during VA Healthcare Crisis


The American Legion is stepping up to help the many veterans who are struggling to get treatment, help, or benefits from the VA by setting up temporary Veterans Crisis Command Centers in cities around the country.

These Crisis Centers are staffed with American Legion national staff members as well as local members, VA staff, and local volunteers from other organizations. Veterans can receive assistance in enrolling in the VA system, scheduling appointments, filing claims, and accessing their VA Disability Benefits. The VA is working closely with the American Legion, providing these Crisis Centers with trained VA specialists, including nurses and counselors.

The Crisis Centers are set up at local American Legion posts, usually for a period of 4 days. The first day, they hold a town hall meeting where veterans can ask questions and get information. The remainder of the time, veterans receive one-on-one attention from counselors who determine how best to meet their needs, channeling them to staffers who can help them. 

So far, the American Legion has conducted these Veterans Crisis Command Centers in Phoenix, El Paso and Fayetteville, NC, providing much needed assistance to over 1800 veterans or family members. In El Paso, 74 veterans were told that they qualified for over $460,000 in benefits they’d never received!

Verna Jones, Director of the American Legion’s Veterans’ Affairs and Rehabilitation Division, said of the El Paso experience, “The VA did an outstanding job. Their employees were genuinely happy to be there and they took a lot of time to make sure veterans were getting the help they needed.”

The next two Veterans’ Crisis Command Centers will open Monday, July 14 (today!) in Ft. Collins, CO, and St. Louis, MO, and run through July 18 in both locations. 

Future locations will include Clarksburg, W VA; Harlingen, TX; and White City, OR. 

To check on dates and locations, go to the American Legion website at http://www.legion.org, or contact your local American Legion post. 

Thanks to the American Legion for providing outstanding service to our veterans! 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Official Bill of Rights for Veterans who use Prosthetic or Orthotic Devices

We’ve all heard the horror stories of wounded warriors returning home and receiving less than adequate and/or delayed care. Some of the disabled American veterans who need the fastest and highest quality of care are ones, like amputees, who require the use of prosthetic or orthotic devices because of an injury attained while serving our country.

If you require the use of a prosthetic or orthotic device, do you know what your rights are as far as a timetable for receiving care and what type(s) of care you are entitled to? Do you know what type(s) of Orthotic and Prosthetic (O&P) care you should be receiving?

You definitely have rights, but may not know it. 

To fix this lack of education, a bill has been introduced in the House that would make sure that all veterans are aware of their exact rights for receiving orthotic and prosthetic care. This bill, currently before the House Subcommittee on Health Affairs, would officially form the “Injured and Amputee Bill of Rights”, and require the VA to post it in a prominent place in all VA facilities.

All of the rights included in this Bill of Rights are already given to all veterans who use orthotic or prosthetic devices, so the rights themselves are nothing new. Unfortunately, however, all too many veterans do not properly receive everything they are entitled to. The hope for this bill is that greater education about these rights will ensure that all veterans who qualify will receive them.

The Bill of Rights is as follows:
  1. Access to the best orthotic and prosthetic care available to meet your specific needs. This means the most appropriate technology and/or best-qualified providers.
  2. The right to have your health care seamlessly transitioned from the DoD to the VA when leaving the military.
  3. The ability to choose your orthotic or prosthetic care provider, whether at a VA or private facility.
  4. The option to receive “consistent and portable” care at any VA facility across the country.
  5. Access to timely orthotic and prosthetic care, including fast authorizations.
  6. The right to a second opinion about your treatment.
  7. The right to have a spare orthotic or prosthetic device.
  8. The right “to be treated with respect and dignity and have an optimal quality of life.”
  9. The right to receive help with an honorable transition to civilian life.  This means access to housing assistance, vocational rehabilitation, and jobs programs.

As we said, the bill that will officially form this Bill of Rights is still in Congress. However, if you require the use of orthotic or prosthetic devices, you already have these rights. You don’t need to wait for this bill to pass to stand up for yourself and make sure that you get the care you are entitled to.