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, August 24, 2015

VA Announces New Regulation for Service Animals in VA Facilities

The VA announced today that it has revised its regulation governing the presence of service animals at VA facilities. Back in January we posted that the VA was seeking public input regarding service animals at VA sites. The VA weighed your input and looked at federal laws pertaining to service animals and came up with this revised regulation.

The new regulation states that only dogs who have been specifically trained to perform special tasks or services for a disabled individual will be considered service animals. No other animals will be allowed in VA facilities, with the express exception of law enforcement animals or animals used in animal-assisted therapy. Service animals will be subject to the same rules that govern public access to VA properties. In some facilities, they may not be allowed in certain patient care areas (like ORs, ICUs, etc.) in order to maintain patient safety and infection control standards.


Over the next 30 days, the VA will train its employees and educate the public about this new rule to ensure that it is uniformly enforced across the country.

Monday, August 17, 2015

VA Establishes Nation’s First “Brain Bank”

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental disorder and a major health concern for veterans. In 2013 alone, 533,720 veterans with a diagnosis of PTSD were treated at VA medical facilities, and this figure has continued to increase over the past two years.

In order to further understand and better treat this prevalent condition, the VA National Center for PTSD has established the nation’s first brain tissue repository (or ‘brain bank’) to research the causes, progression, and treatment of PTSD in veterans.

Veterans who volunteer to participate in the brain bank agree to donate their brain and other body tissues after they die. This donated tissue, in addition to the veteran’s health history, will be used to further understand PTSD. Researchers hope to find potential indicators of who might be more likely to suffer from PTSD as well as how the brain responds to the illness and its various treatments. They also hope that this information will lead to new, more effective treatments.

The brain bank is seeking veterans both with and without PTSD to volunteer for participation in order to create a study group and a control group to compare the effects of stress, trauma, and PTSD on brain tissue. In addition to donating their tissues after they die, participants will have their health monitored throughout their life. Since this research will be an ongoing, long-term program, you yourself may not directly benefit from participating, however, your willingness to volunteer may help reduce the impact that PTSD has on our veterans in the future.


If you are interested in participating in the brain bank, call 1-800-762-6609 or go to www.research.va.gov/programs/tissue_banking/PTSDdefault.cfm.

Monday, August 10, 2015

VA May Expand List of Conditions Caused by Contaminated Water at Camp Lejeune

The VA is currently considering adding new conditions to the list that qualify for healthcare from the VA because of exposure to the contaminated water at USMC Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The VA currently provides only healthcare for these conditions, not disability compensation. Veterans who served at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 currently qualify to have the VA provide healthcare for the following conditions:

            Esophageal cancer                            Lung cancer
            Breast cancer                                     Bladder cancer
            Kidney cancer                                   Leukemia
            Multiple myeloma                             Myelodysplastic syndromes
            Renal toxicity                                     Hepatic steatosis
            Female infertility                               Miscarriage
            Scleroderma                                      Neurobehavioral effects
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

The VA also reimburses eligible family members who lived on base during that time period for healthcare costs related to their exposure to the contaminated water.

The VA will be working closely with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to review the new conditions that are being considered for the list. Among the diseases that are being reviewed are acute myelogenous leukemia and angiosarcoma of the liver, both of which are known to be related to long-term exposure to those chemicals that were found in the water supply.

The VA and the ATSDR will be meeting on the 19th to start discussions. As soon as they publish their determinations, we will let you know.


Veterans who believe that they have health problems that are not currently considered connected to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune may file a claim online at www.ebenefits.va.gov or call 1-800-827-1000 for help.

Monday, August 3, 2015

VA Hoping to Avoid Facility Closures

The VA is facing a nearly $3 billion dollar budget shortfall for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, largely due to an extraordinary increase in the number of veterans seeking care from the VA. From June 1, 2014, to May 31, 2015, the VA completed more than 56.2 million appointments, an increase of 2.6 million more appointments than the year before. The VA also authorized more than 3 million veterans to receive care from non-VA providers, a 41% increase over the year before.

In addition, new (and very expensive) medications to cure Hepatitis C were approved by the FDA after the VA’s 2015 budget had been approved. The VA has had to divert more than $697 million from other departments and activities to pay for the Hepatitis C treatment, and VA officials expect the cost of these treatments to reach approximately $1.1 billion by the end of September.

On June 23, 2015, the VA asked Congress to authorize it to be able to use up to $3 billion dollars from the Veterans Choice Fund for Veterans’ Care in the Community programs, with no more than $500 million of that money to be used for the new medicines to treat Hepatitis C. In letters to Congress, the VA has stressed the importance of having this budget flexibility authorized by the end of July. Because the funds that have been diverted from other departments were for things like medical equipment, clinic personnel salaries, and other operating expenses, if the VA cannot use this money to restore these funds, they face having to shut down VA hospital operations during August 2015. In addition, all pending authorizations for Care in the Community programs would be deferred until October 1, 2015.


As of today, Congress has still not authorized the VA's request, already missing the initial deadline.  Hopefully, Congress will act quickly enough to avoid these serious cutbacks in VA care. We’ll keep you informed.