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.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

NEWS UPDATE: First VA Director Fired

We reported on 10/13/14 that the VA was going to be firing 4 senior executives.  The VA officially announced on the 24th that James Talton, Director of the Central Alabama VA Healthcare System, has been formally removed from federal service.  Dr. Robin Jackson has been named Acting Director while the search for a new director is underway.  A big step toward fixing the problem? It’s a start.

Assisted Living Pilot Program for Veterans with TBI

As part of the Veterans’ Access, Choice and AccountabilityAct of 2014, the VA extended their Assisted Living program for veterans with TBI or other traumatic injuries (AL-TBI) until October 6, 2017.

AL-TBI places eligible veterans in private assisted living facilities specifically designed to help them with mobility, memory and speech. 

To be eligible, a veteran must have TBI and/or polytrauma (injuries to multiple body parts or systems) and must meet the following criteria:

- must have mental, emotional, or physical disabilities caused by trauma
- must be stable enough to be moved and treated
- their conditions must have the potential to improve from the program’s services

The program is designed to pull together a variety of medical experts and treatment options in order to provide the best possible rehabilitation for the veteran at the right place and time. Additional, specialized care is provided at the facility closest to a veteran’s home that has the expertise needed to meet his medical, surgical, mental health or rehabilitation needs.


If you think you may qualify for the AL-TBI program, contact your local VA office and ask to speak with the Polytrauma/TBI Point of Contact.  More information can be found at polytrauma.va.gov.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Veterans with PTSD May be Eligible for a Discharge Upgrade

PTSD was first recognized as a disabling service-connected condition and given a VASRD code in 1980, 5 years after the Vietnam War ended. As a result, as many as 80,000 veterans, many of them Vietnam vets, had undiagnosed PTSD that caused conduct that kept them from receiving an honorable discharge.  

These veterans can now submit petitions to the Military Boards for Correction of Military/Naval Records to have their discharges upgraded, which MAY make it possible for these veterans to receive medical benefits.

In response to these petitions, the Secretary of Defense has instructed the Boards to “fully and carefully consider every petition based on PTSD brought by each veteran.”

Unfortunately, because so many of these veterans served before PTSD was recognized, there often isn’t sufficient documentation in their medical or personnel records to establish a diagnosis of PTSD. Because of this, the Boards are instructed to give “liberal consideration” to those cases where:

  1. service records or any other document from the time of service establish the existence of one or more symptoms of PTSD or PTSD-related conditions,
  2. a diagnosis of PTSD or a PTSD-related disorder is given by a civilian provider based on evidence in a veteran’s record that show that the veteran had PTSD  symptoms during his time of service,
  3.  any other evidence that shows that PTSD or a PTSD-related disorder existed at the time of service and may have contributed to the misconduct that led to the other than honorable discharge.
Basically, this means that, even though a veteran wasn’t officially diagnosed with PTSD or a related disorder at the time of his discharge, if one or more symptoms of what we now know as PTSD or a PTSD-related disorder were documented in either his medical record or his service record, that condition will be considered as having existed at the time of his discharge.

When reviewing the circumstances surrounding the non-honorable discharge, the Boards will then be required to take into consideration how the PTSD could have contributed to the situation. If the Boards feel that there is enough evidence to determine that PTSD played a significant role in the circumstances, they can then upgrade the status of the discharge to a more appropriate level.

Each branch of the military has its own Board for Correction of Military Records. We list each on our site with full instructions on how to apply. See our discussion of the DoD's Level 2 of Appeals. On the application form, make sure to state that you are applying for a discharge upgrade based on undiagnosed PTSD.




Monday, October 13, 2014

The VA Fires Senior Executives

Last week, the VA announced that they are firing 4 senior executives: the Deputy Chief Procurement Director in Washington, DC, and 3 directors of VA Healthcare facilities. These are the first dismissals announced after Congress passed a VA reform bill this summer that gave the Secretary of the VA the authority to fire senior executives more easily and quickly. 

The firings come after an intense investigation by the VA Inspector General that revealed quite a few wrongdoings, including extensive delays and wait times that contributed to veterans’ deaths, “neglect of duty,” appointment data manipulation, misconduct, and mishandling of VA contracts at VA facilities. 

The Inspector General’s report states that Susan Taylor, Deputy Chief Procurement Officer for the VA in Washington, DC, used her position and VA resources to benefit a contract firm that worked against the policies of the VA.  The report also stated that she interfered with the IG investigation.

Terry Wolfe, Director of the Pittsburgh VA Healthcare System, is being fired for “misconduct unbecoming a senior executive.” He has been on paid leave since June after the VA discovered that the 2011-12 outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease that led to 6 deaths was caused by problems with the water treatment at the Pittsburgh facilities.

James Talton, Director of the Central Alabama VA Healthcare System, is being fired for neglect of duty. Reports show that patient records were falsified, veterans experienced long wait times for appointments, hundreds of x-rays went unread, and even that an employee helped a patient buy illegal drugs.

John Goldman, Director of the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin, GA, is being fired for duplicating appointment lists to cover up long wait times. Interestingly, he announced his retirement 4 days before the VA announced that they were firing him.

According to the VA reform bill passed this summer, the fired individuals will have 7 days to file an appeal to the Merit System Protection Board, after which the Board will have 21 days to announce their final ruling on the appeals.

Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, expressed concern that by announcing the firings ahead of time, the VA “appears to be giving failing executives an opportunity to quit, retire, or find new jobs without consequence.”


News Flash:  The VA also announced this week that they are going to continue holding quarterly town hall meetings at local VA facilities. Veterans and their families are encouraged to attend and provide feedback on a wide variety of issues.  Check with your local VA facility for dates and times.

Monday, October 6, 2014

VA Announces New Standardized Disability Claims

The VA announced on September 24, 2014, that it will be updating its VA Disability Claim form to a new standardized form that will go into effect in late March 2015.

This may come as a surprise, as the VA already uses standard forms, like VA Form 21-526EZ. I guess, though, that these forms aren’t “officially” standard. After this announcement, it was a surprise to us to find out that currently, veterans can literally use a plain piece of paper with their handwritten info to apply for benefits. It’s hard for me to imagine that anyone actually applies this way, but if they do, then it’s probably good that they are fixing this.

I can’t imagine that the new forms will be much different than the forms they already have, but hopefully this change will speed up claims processing and reduce backlogs.

The VA will also be introducing a new “Intent to File a Claim” process. This process will give a veteran one year to submit the evidence and documentation required for their claim, while keeping their effective date of claim in place. This will be very helpful for getting VA Disability Back Pay.

Again, these new regulations will go into effect in late March 2015. We will stay on top of this and let you know when everything goes live.