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.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Changes to the Comprehensive Caregiver Program after 3-month Review

Back in April, 2017, the VA temporarily suspended the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers in order to conduct a 3-month long review of the program. This review was prompted by complaints that ranged from inconsistent rules and standards across VA facilities to the discharge of hundreds of veterans and their caregivers without explanation, leading to congressional inquiries. After completing the review, the VA issued a new directive and has resumed full operation of the program as of July 28, 2017. This means that full implementation of the program will take place at all VA facilities.

Under the new directive, the VA requires additional staff training to ensure that all personnel working with veterans and their caregivers are current on all of the requirements, regulations, and types of assistance available. In order to help educate veterans and their caregivers, the VA is standardizing the outreach materials used as well as the communication between facilities and veterans. The VA has updated its caregiver website, www.caregiver.va.gov, and it now includes links to home- and community-based services and resources available to veterans and caregivers.

VA Secretary David Shulkin stated that, while the program has been reinstated, the VA plans to continue to refine and improve the program, acting on the information gathered during the review. For example, right now eligibility for the program is still being determined by a veteran’s primary care team, a process which can result in a veteran being eligible at one VA facility but denied assistance in a different area. The new standardized rules and regulations will ensure that they are uniformly applied at all VA facilities.

Veterans and their caregivers are assigned to one of two caregiver support programs based on their needs. The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers provides training and education, a monthly stipend, mental health care and respite care, among other things, for approved family caregivers for severely injured veterans whose injury occurred or was aggravated in the line of duty on or before 9/11, 2001. The Program of General Caregiver Support Services provides training and support for caregivers of qualified disabled veterans of all eras.

One significant improvement that Secretary Shulkin would like to see implemented is to extend eligibility for the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to severely injured veterans of other eras, not just post-9/11. This would require congressional approval, so it might be a while before we see this become reality.


The VA has also set up a new Caregiver Support Line which is staffed by licensed social workers and provides information about the caregiver programs, counseling, referrals to local caregiver programs, and more. To reach the Caregiver Support Line, please call 1-855-260-3274.

Monday, September 4, 2017

VA Appeals Process About to Get Better

It is commonly acknowledged that the VA disability claims appeals process is broken. As we reported in April, the VA asked Congress to speedily pass legislation to help. As a result, the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 was signed into law on August 23, 2017.

Currently, all appeals go directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. This new law, however, will greatly improve the claims appeals process by routing veterans’ appeals into one of three “lanes.” Appeals in the first lane, the Local Higher Level Review, would be assigned an adjudicator who would review the same evidence that was presented in the original claim. The New Evidence lane would allow the veteran to present new evidence for review and be granted a hearing. Appeals in the Board lane would be immediately transferred to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

A key provision of the law requires the VA to provide veterans with a clearer, better explanation of the VA’s reasons for their decisions. This will make it easier for veterans to decide whether or not to appeal the decision and help them determine which lane would be best.

Implementation of the new “lane” appeals process could take a year or more. The law requires the VA to submit to Congress by late November of this year an in-depth plan on how to implement the new system as well as determine which veterans who currently have appeals pending will be permitted to move from the old system to the new one. The decision to move their appeal to the new system will rest with the veteran.


Veterans groups and other supporters of the new law were pleased that veterans will now have more options for appealing their benefits claims decisions. It is estimated that more than 470,000 veterans are currently waiting on decisions on their claims appeals, with nearly 150,000 of those already before either the Board for Veterans Appeals or the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Depending on how long it takes to implement the new law, those cases already before either the Board or the Court may be too far along in the appeals process to be able to transfer to the new system. While this new law is not a complete fix of the problems, most agree it’s a step in the right direction.