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.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

More Help Coming to Reduce Veteran Suicides

On March 8th, the VA announced new changes aimed at improving suicide prevention among veterans in addition to the earlier changes that we reported at the beginning of this month. All of these changes are the result of the VA’s February Summit on veteran suicides.

Commenting on the Summit, VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. David Shulkin said, “We know that every day, approximately 22 Veterans take their lives, and that is too many. We take this issue seriously. While no one knows the subject of Veteran suicide better than VA, we also realize that caring for our Veterans is a shared responsibility. We all have an obligation to help Veterans suffering from the invisible wounds of military service that lead them to think suicide is their only option. We must and will do more, and this Summit, coupled with recent announcements about improvements to enhance and accelerate progress at the Veterans Crisis Line, shows that our work and commitment must continue.”  

The changes announced March 8 include establishing new standards of care to provide individualized mental health care based on veterans’ symptoms and needs; a new study called “Coming Home from Afghanistan and Iraq” that will examine the effects of combat and deployment on veterans’ well-being, mental health and suicide risk; and increased availability throughout the VA of naloxone rescue kits to prevent deaths from opioid overdoses.

The VA will also improve veterans’ access to mental health care with the creation of 3 regional tele-mental health hubs.


For more information on VA mental health care and suicide prevention programs, visit www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

VA Launches New Telephone Services for Healthcare and Choice Program

On March 16, the VA announced another change to its healthcare enrollment regulations that aims to streamline the enrollment process. Effective immediately, veterans with combat experience will be able to complete their enrollment applications by telephone instead of submitting signed paper copies. While this service is only available to combat vets right now, it will be broadened to include all veterans beginning July 5, 2016. There will now be three ways to enroll in VA healthcare—submit a paper application, enroll online, or apply by phone.

The VA is making a concerted effort to complete the enrollment applications for all combat veterans as part of its VeteransEnrollment Rework Project and hopes to complete its review of pending enrollment applications for all veterans by the end of this summer.

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson stated, “This improvement to our Veterans’ experience is one we can implement now, and it’s the right thing to do for Veterans. Enrolling all 31,000 Combat Veterans with pending applications is the top priority in our effort to fix our enrollment system. Our analysis of our current application process convinced me we could enroll Veterans more quickly using this method, particularly Combat Veterans and those who are transitioning from active duty to Veteran status.”

For more information, please call the Health Eligibility Center Enrollment and Eligibility Division at 1-855-488-8440.


Additionally, the VA has recently set up a Community Care Call Center to help veterans in the Choice Program with billing problems. Call Center staff will work to resolve improper billing issues, aid community providers with delayed payments, and work with those providers to delete or reverse bad credit reporting on veterans due to delayed payments. The VA encourages veterans to continue to work with their primary care team to get the care they need in spite of these issues while they work to correct the problems and improve provider payment times. If you are experiencing any of these problems, please call 1-877-881-7618 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

VA Healthcare Enrollment Extended for Vets with Incomplete Applications

Last week, the VA announced that the healthcare enrollment application period for nearly 545,000 living veterans who have incomplete applications has been extended for one year. This change comes as a result of a recently conducted analysis of all pending applications in the VA enrollment system. The VA will review each of these incomplete applications to determine whether any of them should have been enrolled in VA healthcare.

Required by law to notify veterans of incomplete applications, the VA will be contacting these veterans to see if they still want to enroll in VA healthcare and, if so, request the information needed to complete the application. Veterans will have one year from the date of notification to submit the missing information. If this information is not received by the VA in that time, the file will be closed. However, veterans may reapply at any time.

If you have an incomplete application, it is always a good idea to submit it. The VA covers all medical treatment and costs for all service-connected conditions, and letting this pending application expire could cause you to lose some benefits. While you can apply for VA healthcare at any time, the benefits from that healthcare are applicable only from the date the application began. So filing a brand new application will cause you to lose the benefits from the time you started the first one. You’ll still get the same benefits, but their effective date will be later.


And although the VA healthcare system has had many problems in the past (and still does), the VA has been working hard to improve it. Last summer, the VA launched “Welcome to VA” (W2VA). W2VA was set up to make the enrollment process easier. Veterans enrolled since July 1, 2015, have received personalized handbooks and introductory letters by mail as well personal phone calls offering assistance with health care questions as well as assistance with initial appointments at the VA facility of the veteran’s choice.

Monday, March 7, 2016

New Changes Make it Easier to Transition Medical Care from DoD to VA

The DoD and VA recently announced a new Interagency Coordination of Complex Effort. This is a program designed to help make it easier for service members with disabilities that require complex medical care to transition from DoD healthcare to VA healthcare upon leaving the military. For people requiring continuous or regular treatments from multiple providers, this process can be overly complicated with the risk of things falling through the cracks.

In order to simplify the process, the DoD and VA have created the role of Lead Coordinator (LC). LCs will have the tools and procedures to simplify and improve lines of communication between the DoD and VA healthcare systems. Upon transition, one person from the service member’s care management team will be designated the LC and will serve as the go-to person for the service member and their families. The LC will help the service member transition all aspects of their medical care and will offer assistance and guidance in understanding which VA services and benefits they are entitled to. While the LC will not orchestrate the transition themselves, they will assist and guide the service member and their families throughout the process to ensure that nothing is missed or forgotten.

This system has been developed to focus on providing a smooth handoff between the healthcare systems, with a holistic approach to continuity of care and support as the main emphasis. The first phase of LC training ended in November 2015 with a total of 1500 DoD and 1200 VA staff ready to serve as LCs.


If you or someone you know is transitioning out of the military and has severe injuries or illnesses requiring complex care, contact your local DoD or VA provider and ask for a Lead Coordinator to be assigned to assist you in receiving the care you need and deserve.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Veterans Crisis Line—Can They Really Help?

You may have seen the recent reports that some calls to the VA’s Veterans Crisis Line are being put on hold, going to voicemail, or simply never being connected to a responder. According to a report from the VA’s Inspector General’s Office, approximately 1 in 6 calls in 2014 were redirected to backup centers, and even voicemail, when the crisis line got overloaded. But does this mean that the Crisis Line is useless? Absolutely not.

It is completely inexcusable for even a single call to be mishandled, but do not allow these reports to discourage you from seeking the help you need and deserve. While some calls are being mishandled, the majority are not. Five out of six are connected immediately to a responder that can offer the necessary assistance. Since 2009, the Veterans Crisis Line has saved the lives of over 53,000 veterans.

According to Sloan Gibson, the VA’s Deputy Secretary, the VA is taking the Inspector General’s report very seriously and has been working hard over the past year to implement its recommendations to bring the crisis hotline up to date. He states, “Getting this right is a top priority. We need to be able to help Veterans when they are most vulnerable, when they are in crisis.”

In a blog published by the VA last week, Gibson noted that in the last year, the Veterans Crisis Line has increased staff training with comprehensive multi-week training programs; invested in new technology, including key phone system and equipment upgrades; expanded the work area to add 45 more responder work stations; implemented staggered work shifts to provide increased coverage during peak call times; and is hiring 68 additional responders. By implementing these and other changes, the VA hopes to ensure that by the end of 2016, every crisis line caller will have their call answered promptly by an experienced responder.


While the VA works to fix these important issues, please do not write off the Veterans Crisis Line. Help IS available. If you are a veteran in crisis or know someone who is, please call 1-800-273-8255, text 838255, or go to www.VeteransCrisisLine.net.  Your life is worth saving.