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, July 18, 2017

LUKE Arm Now Available for Veteran Amputees

On June 30, 2017, VA Secretary David Shulkin revealed the Life Under Kinetic Evolution (LUKE) arm while making a visit to the Manhattan campus of the VA New York Harbor Health Care System. The LUKE arm is the most advanced prosthetic in the world and was demonstrated by 2 Veteran amputees who were the first to receive it.

Originally designed by Dean Kamen of DEKA Research and Development Corporation, the inventor of the Segway, and dubbed the “LUKE” arm in a nod to the ultra-bionic arm given to Luke Skywalker, this amazing prosthetic is the first of its kind. It can perform multiple powered movements simultaneously that make it possible for an amputee to experience “near-natural” control, including the ability to pick up small light objects such as a coin or grape, or even use a hand-held drill.

The result of almost 8 years of collaborative research and development between the VA, DEKA, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the LUKE arm is designed for a wider range of amputation levels than ever before, including below-elbow, above-elbow, and shoulder-level amputations. It has the first powered shoulder available, which allows amputees to reach behind their backs and over their heads, pour a glass of milk, and even pick up a full bag from the floor and lift it to table top.

The LUKE arm can be controlled by a number of sensors. The more traditional electrode sensors and pattern recognition systems are used to translate nerve signals into intended movements. More complex movements are then made possible by using special switches worn on the feet, which send wireless signals to the computer in the arm, giving the wearer the ability to simultaneously move multiple joints.

Of 36 participants in a VA-funded study who were fitted with the LUKE arm, 90% were able to perform tasks such as preparing food, combing their hair, and using keys—tasks most prosthetics aren’t capable of.


The VA provided health care for 90,000 amputees in 2016. Of those, 20,000 had upper-limb amputations. This is a very exciting time in the field of prosthetics, with numerous advances in technology and robotics. These new advances offer many solutions for amputees and the promise of even more options to come.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

White House Veterans’ Complaint Hotline Now Active

On June 1, 2017, President Trump’s promised White House VA Veterans’ Complaint Hotline went live. The hotline is intended to provide veterans with an avenue to report problems with and complaints about the VA. VA Secretary David Shulkin said that the initial soft launch of the hotline will only have live operators to take some of the calls at first, with a pledge to provide continuous 24/7 live coverage by August 15, 2017.

All calls made to the hotline will be confidential. However, depending on the issues involved, some may need to be referred to the appropriate VA department and some information may need to be shared with those departments in order for specific complaints to be addressed.

President Trump proposed the hotline during his campaign as a way for veterans to be able to bring their complaints and issues directly to the White House and not get lost in the VA system. According to VA officials, information from these calls will be used to address issues regarding benefits and receipt of care for veterans and their families.

Please remember that this is NOT a Veterans’ Crisis Line and is not intended to provide suicide prevention assistance. This is to report problems with the VA, such as difficulty receiving benefits or care, directly to the White House. If you or a family member are in crisis and in need of immediate help, please call the Veterans’ Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.


If you have an issue or a complaint to report to the White House, you may call the new hotline at 1-855-948-2311. Again, not all calls will be answered by a live operator at this stage since the program will not be fully staffed 24/7 by live operators until the official launch on August 15, 2017.

Monday, May 22, 2017

VA Creates Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection


On April 27, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order to improve accountability at the VA and protect whistleblowers. This order gives the VA 45 days to create an Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. A Special Assistant will be the Executive Director of the new office and will report directly to the VA Secretary.


On May 12, just 15 days after the signing of the Executive Order, VA Secretary David Shulkin announced the creation of this Office and named Peter O’Rourke as Senior Advisor and Executive Director.

The duties of the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection include helping the Secretary use all available resources to either discipline or fire employees who fail to adequately care for the needs of our veterans. Handling veterans’ complaints on wrongdoing quickly and efficiently will be a primary goal of this Office.

In addition, the Executive Director will work to identify legal roadblocks that make it difficult for the VA to either discipline or fire employees who have endangered the life or health of a veteran. Once these barriers have been identified, the Secretary can seek to change those laws by working with Congress. The Executive Director will work with other VA departments to ensure that reports or complaints of wrongdoing are investigated thoroughly and quickly and that VA-wide corrections are speedily put in place.

This Office will also work with the Secretary to protect whistleblowers from any type of retaliation, thereby creating an environment where problems can be reported without fearing of losing one’s job.

In another positive light, the Director will help to identify any legal barriers that limit the VA’s ability to hire, reward, and/or keep outstanding employee performers so that the Secretary can seek legislative solutions from Congress.

Along similar lines, both houses of Congress have reached bipartisan support for reform bills that would make it possible for the VA to more easily achieve these accountability goals. The bills are still in committee and both Houses are working to come to an agreement on a final version to send to the President. We will continue to monitor this legislation and report on any progress.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

VA: Disability Claim Appeals Process Broken

The VA acknowledged recently that its claims appeal process is broken and they are working to address the issues involved. Currently, many thousands of veterans are waiting more than 5 years for their claims to be settled. From 2012 to 2015, pending appeals cases increased by 35%, to more than 450,000 today. Of those, more than 80,000 veterans have been waiting longer than 5 years and 5,000 veterans have been waiting for more than 10 years for their cases to be settled.

Steps currently being taken include updating the computer and IT systems used to process claims appeals, streamlining the appeals process by making it possible for veterans to submit additional information without triggering another set of reviews, hiring additional personnel, and digitizing archived inactive claims records to allow for quicker processing times.

A year ago, the VA launched Caseflow Certification, a web-app which verifies whether the required documentation needed for an appeals claim is present and automatically identifies if new information is added, reducing errors and delays caused by manual claims processing.

Earlier this year, the Veterans Benefit Administration began collecting archived claims records from regional repositories east of the Mississippi and digitizing them to be uploaded into the Veterans Benefits Management System. Previously, the VBA only digitized an archived claim records if the veteran or family members submitted new disability or Dependency Indemnity Compensation claims. When these claims were submitted, the records had to be located and retrieved, boxed up and shipped to the office handling the claim. This added several days to the claims process. By digitizing archived inactive claims records and uploading them into one system, this information will be instantly available to claims processors anywhere in the country. The VBA expects to complete this work by the end of 2018.


The VA pledges to continue its efforts to improve the appeals claims process for veterans. Because of the fact that many of its procedures and policies are mandated by Congress, the VA has reached out to both the House and Senate for help in passing legislation that will make it possible for the VA to make significant changes to the process. In recent months, several bills have been introduced in both houses of Congress to address these issues. Hopefully, legislators will recognize the urgency of acting quickly to help our veterans get the benefits they deserve.