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, March 30, 2015

New Standardized VA Disability Claim Forms Now Required

Last October, we reported that the VA announced that it was going to require all VA Disability Claims and VA appeals to be submitted via standardized forms beginning March 2015. On March 25, the VA announced that the use of these standardized claim and appeal forms is now required. The VA is hoping to streamline the claims and appeals process by using only these forms, which guide veterans to list clearly what symptoms and/or conditions they are seeking benefits for and to ensure that all the necessary information needed by the VA to properly process the claims is provided.

In reality, this requirement makes very few actual changes since the standardized forms have already been in use for years but were simply not the only accepted way to submit a claim until now.

There are a couple of notable differences to point out, however.

First, service members applying for VA Disability before they are discharged from the military do not have to use separate forms any longer. Everyone applying for VA Disability, either before or after discharge, now uses the same form.

Second, the VA has launched a new “Intent to File” process. Veterans who are unable to get all the supporting evidence they need to submit along with their claim in time to meet the 1-year deadline (for eligibility back to the discharge date) for VA Disability Back Pay can now submit an Intent to File form to notify the VA that they intend to file a claim. As long as this Intent to File form is submitted within the 1-year mark, the veteran will still be eligible for disability benefits dating all the way back to his discharge date.

We provide complete instructions and all forms needed to apply for VA Disability, along with examples on how to fill them out, on our VA Disability Claim page. Similarly, all details and forms for appealing the VA’s Rating Decision can be found in the VA Appeals section of our Is Your Rating Wrong? page.

While the changes in the forms are relatively minor, the VA hopes that the use of standardized forms will make it easier for applications to be processed more quickly and efficiently and, hopefully, reduce the amount of time it takes for veterans to receive their benefits. Again, we remind you: submitting proper DOCUMENTATION and complete information along with your claim is key to getting your claims processed in a timely manner.

And, of course, the easiest, fastest way to submit a VA Disability Claim is online through the VA’s eBenefits portal, www.ebenefits.va.gov.


Monday, March 23, 2015

VA Announces the 2015 Golden Age Games

The VA announced last week that it is now accepting applications for Patriots on the Plains, the 2015 National Golden Age Games to held in Omaha, Nebraska August 8-12.  Veterans who are enrolled in VA healthcare and are age 55 or older are eligible to compete.

The VA is expecting nearly 800 athletes to participate in the multi-event recreational and sports competition. Air rifle, cycling, track and field, swimming, golf, bowling, badminton, dominoes, shuffleboard, horseshoes, nine ball and table tennis are among the events at this year’s games. Special divisions for wheelchair athletes and/or the visually impaired will be available in many of the events.


Applications will be accepted through May 14, 2015.  For more information or to register for the games, go to www.veteransgoldenagegames.va.gov. Be sure to click on the link http://www.va.gov/opa/speceven/gag/docs/GENERAL_INFORMATION_2015_NVGAG.pdf above the online registration box for important information about lodging, meals, transportation etc. Good luck and happy competing!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Possible Changes Coming to the VA’s Agent Orange Policy?

A fleet of C-123s was used to deliver Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. After the war, some of those C-123s were used by the AF Reserves from 1972-1982 for training and other missions. Many of the reservists who worked on those planes during that time have since developed conditions commonly caused by Agent Orange exposure. However, the VA Presumptive List currently only provides service-connection for conditions caused by Agent Orange exposure to veterans who served in Vietnam or Korea. Because the reservists who flew in these C-123s did not serve in Vietnam or Korea, the VA has denied their claims.

Because of the outcry in response to those claims being denied, the VA asked the  Institute of Medicine (IOM) early last year to evaluate whether those C-123s could have retained enough Agent Orange residue to pose health risks to the reservists who worked on those planes.

On January 9, 2015, the IOM published a report of their findings and submitted it to the VA.

The IOM committee examined documents and information from many sources, including the VA, the DoD, and the C-123 Veterans’ Association. Unfortunately, the lack of available and pertinent information, demonstrating some rather poor recording-keeping on the part of the military, made it impossible for the committee to come to any definitive conclusions. Despite their best efforts, the committee was not able to establish how many C-123s delivered Agent Orange in Vietnam, how many of those planes were used by the AF Reserves, and how many reservists worked on those contaminated planes.

Early on, the military thought that, since any Agent Orange residue on those planes had dried and hardened, it was not a health risk. Because of this, the first testing of the planes did not happen until 1979 and then only a very small sampling was done. At that time, methods to determine toxin levels were not very effective. Another sampling was done in the 1990s, but the results of those tests were inconsistent with each other, again leaving the IOM committee with very little to go on.

With very little valuable evidence from the critical time period, the committee decided that the best data they could find on contamination in those planes came from a testing that occurred in 2009. Although a great deal of time had passed since the planes had been contaminated, the modern technology used to test the contamination level was much more accurate than any of the earlier tests.

Based solely on these test results from 2009, the committee states that it is confident that the AF reservists were definitely exposed to significant levels of dioxin through multiple avenues (skin contact, inhalation, or ingestion) while working on the C-123s and thus are at an increased risk of developing related conditions.

After the report was published, the VA assembled a group of subject matter experts to review the report. Even thought the committee wasn’t able to state the extent of contamination, we are hoping that the report provides enough evidence to convince the VA to add the Reservists who worked on those planes to their VA Presumptive List, and thus provide them with the VADisability Benefits they deserve.


We will keep you posted on the VA’s response as soon as it is available.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The VA Announces the 2015 Summer Sports Clinic

The VA announced last Friday that it is now accepting applications for the 2015 National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic. Disabled Veterans from around the nation are expected to attend this annual event, which will be held September 13-18 in San Diego, CA.

The Summer Sports Clinic is open to any veteran who has sustained an injury within the past 6 years. This can include anything from amputations to spinal cord conditions to traumatic brain injury (TBI).

As recreational therapy and adaptive sports have become an ever-increasing component of a successful rehabilitation program, the VA has developed numerous opportunities, like the Summer Sports Clinic and the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, for disabled veterans to experience a wider-range of therapies and rehabilitation styles. This year’s Clinic will offer an introduction to a wide variety of adventure sports and recreational activities, including track and field events, cycling (hand and tandem), kayaking, surfing and sailing. The goal is to help the participants discover new skills and activities that can add greater value to their rehabilitation.


The application deadline for the Clinic is May 1, 2015. For more information and access to an application, visit www.summersportsclinic.va.gov.