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, 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!


Monday, November 10, 2014

Veterans’ Choice Cards Being Issued in Phases

We reported last week that the VA was not going to make its November 5th deadline for issuing the new Veterans’ Choice Cards. While they didn’t quite meet the deadline, they did come close. VA Secretary McDonald announced on November 5th that the VA has contracted with 2 private health care companies to oversee the Veterans’ Choice Program and that the VA will start sending the Choice Cards out to the first group of eligible veterans. He also emphasized 2 important things to remember:

1.     The Choice Cards are a TEMPORARY benefit (this program is due to be phased out in 3 years or when the $10 billion in allocated funds run out, whichever comes first).
2.     The Choice Cards do NOT replace your VA/military ID cards that you currently use to receive health care. Make sure you keep your ID card.

The VA will issue the cards in 3 phases. The first Choice Cards are now being sent to those veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility, along with a letter explaining eligibility. Veterans currently waiting more than 30 days for an appointment will be the next group to receive the cards and letters. The final group of cards and letters will be sent between December 2014 and January 2015 and will include veterans enrolled in the VA Healthcare System who may be eligible to use the Choice program in the future.

For a refresher course in how the Veterans’ Choice Cards work and what the benefits are, please go to our article from August 11. If you have questions about whether you are eligible for the Choice Program, visit www.va.gov/opa/choiceact.  

Monday, November 3, 2014

VA Unlikely to Meet Veterans' Choice Cards Deadline

Back in August, we wrote about the new Veterans’ Choice Cards that are supposed to be issued starting November 5th. The Veterans’ Choice Cards are going to enable veterans who live more than 30 miles from a VA or related facility, or who cannot obtain an appointment within the designated waiting period, to receive care from either another government provider or a civilian provider. Unfortunately, it appears that the VA is not going to be able to meet this deadline.

As of this date, the VA is still working to get the very complex program set up. In order to implement the program, the VA must either purchase or construct the knowledge and staff to run it, write the regulations to cover it, and figure out how to keep track of providers and the care given, including making sure that medical records get returned to the VA to ensure continuity of care. 

A 90-day deadline to accomplish all this does seem unrealistic. After all, this is a huge bureaucracy we’re talking about, and they are more used to moving at a snail’s pace rather than Mach 1. We’ll stay on top of this and let you know as soon as we hear about a new release date.