VA Free Programs Supporting Military Sexual Trauma Victims

VA’s National Theme in April 2014 is:

“You are not alone: VA supports survivors of military sexual trauma.”

You Are Not AloneVA health provider screenings found that about one in four women and one in 100 men seen in VA facilities report having experienced MST– sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that occurred during military service. MST can affect Veterans’ physical and mental health for many years.

To assist recovery, treatment for MST-related physical and mental health conditions is available at every VHA facility, free to Veterans, regardless of service-connection status.

In other words, any U.S. Veteran may receive this free MST-related care, even if they are not eligible for other VA care. Every Veterans Health Administration facility has an MST Coordinator who serves as a point person for Veterans and staff.

Veteran caregivers have the power to encourage Veterans to seek help simply by responding sensitively, remaining knowledgeable about VA’s MST-related services, and ensuring confidentiality.

To learn more about MST and VA MST Treatment Services, visit the: 

Military Sexual Trauma  Mental Health

VA to Cover Remaining 2014 Semester for VRAP Students

Veterans Retraining Assistance Program  VRAPThe VA announced this week that they have taken steps to extend payments for participants in the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP). 

Currently enrolled participants will now receive payments to cover them from April 1, 2014 through the conclusion of their current enrollment semester/term or through June 30, 2014, whichever is earlier.

VRAP was passed as a part of the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act of 2011 and was specifically designed to cover veterans who were not eligible to receive GI Bill educational benefits.  Originally, coverage was set to end on 3/31/14.  The program has helped 76,000 veterans to date.

For more detailed information on the VRAP program extended assistance, please visit: whitehouse.gov 

Covering Veterans Retraining Assistance Program Participants through June The White House

VA Announces 2014 Roll Out of New, More Secure Veteran Health Identification Cards

vhicVA has announced the roll out of newly designed, more secure Veteran Health Identification Cards (VHIC) in 2014.

Similar to a typical health insurance card, the new VHIC will display the veteran’s member ID, a new unique identifier, and a plan ID, reflecting the veteran’s enrollment in VA healthcare.

The new card replaces the Veteran Identification Card (VIC), which was introduced in 2004. The new “phased” rollout began on February 21st, 2014.  For now, the card will only be issued to newly enrolled and other veterans who have not yet been issued a VIC.

In April 2014, VA will begin a three-month effort to automatically issue the new & more secure VHIC to more than 4 million current VIC cardholders. VA recommends Veterans safeguard their VIC as they would a credit card, and cut up or shred the card once it is replaced.

The new VHIC is personalized to display the emblem of the Veteran’s branch of service. It also provides features that make it easier to use, such as the addition of “VA” in Braille to help visually impaired Veterans, and the printing of VA phone numbers and emergency care instructions on the cards.

“VA is committed to providing high quality health care while ensuring the personal security of Veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “These new identification cards are an important step forward in protecting our nation’s heroes from identity theft and other personal crimes.”

Important!!  Veterans who are already enrolled should ensure the address on file is correct to assure they receive their new card in a timely manner. To update or to confirm your current address on file with the VA, please call 1-877-222-VETS (8387).  If the post office cannot deliver your VHIC, the card will be returned to the VA.

Enrolled veterans can get more information about the new VHIC by speaking with their VA medical facility enrollment coordinator, visiting the website www.va.gov/healthbenefits/vhic, or by calling 1-877-222-VETS (8387).

Veterans not enrolled in the VA healthcare system can apply for enrollment at any time by visiting

VA Launches GI Bill Comparison Tool and GI Bill Complaint System for Student Veterans

GI Bill Comparison Tool

student veteranThe U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has launched two new systems in 2014, each designed to help Student Veterans get the maximum potential out of their Post 911 GI Bill.

The first system, the GI Bill Comparison Tool, is designed to help students find a career field and then compare approved institutions that offer degrees or courses in that field.

This easy to use “start-to-finish” tool helps new student veterans complete the initial application for Post 911 GI Bill benefits, and then guides them step by step through the decision making process.

Prospective student veterans will also find several handy downloadable help guides, like:

The GI Bill Comparison Tool also links to other VA help sites, such as the eBenefits Jobs portal, to help new or returning student veterans find employment in their chosen college area.

The second system is the long awaited VA GI Bill Feedback System.  Student veterans who have a complaint about their educational institution can use the GI Bill Feedback System to report specific issues.  Student veterans may submit a complaint if their school or employer is failing to follow the Principles of Excellence. The VA will review the following types of complaints:

  • Recruiting and Marketing Practices
  • Accreditation
  • Quality of Education
  • Grade Policy…see all

Reporting these types of issues helps the VA get a better idea of problematic schools and employers, which may not be the best for veterans.

New student veterans looking to find schools that participate in the Principles of Excellence program can use the VA’s school locator tool.  The school locator tool is the best method for finding an educational institution that is currently approved for VA education benefits..

student_veterans_unite

 

Social Security New Compassionate Allowances Conditions Now Include Prostate Cancer

conditionsSocial Security has added 25 new Compassionate Allowances conditions, to include Prostate Cancer and several other cancers, bringing the total number of severe disability conditions to 225.

The Compassionate Allowances program expedites disability decisions for Americans with serious disabilities to ensure that they receive their benefit decisions within days instead of months or years. The new conditions also include disorders that affect the digestive, neurological, immune, and multiple body systems.

How does this good news help veterans? The Compassionate Allowances program identifies claims where the applicant’s disease or condition clearly meets Social Security’s statutory standard for disability even in some cases where they might be denied service-connected disability by the VA

By incorporating cutting-edge technology, the agency can easily identify potential Compassionate Allowances and quickly make decisions. To date, almost 200,000 people with severe disabilities have been approved through this fast-track disability process.

List of New Compassionate Allowances Conditions:

  1. Angiosarcoma
  2. Atypical Teratoid/Rhabdoid Tumor
  3. Chronic Idiopathic Intestinal Pseudo Obstruction
  4. Coffin- Lowry Syndrome
  5. Esthesioneuroblastoma
  6. Giant Axonal Neuropathy
  7. Hoyeaal-Hreidarsson Syndrome
  8. Intracranial Hemangiopericytoma
  9. Joubert Syndrome
  10. Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis
  11. Liposarcoma- metastatic or recurrent
  12. Malignant Ectomesenchymoma
  13. Malignant Renal Rhabdoid Tumor
  14. Marshall-Smith Syndrome
  15. Oligodendroglioma Brain Tumor- Grade III
  16. Pallister-Killian Syndrome
  17. Progressive Bulbar Palsy
  18. Prostate Cancer – Hormone Refractory Disease – or with visceral metastases
  19. Revesz Syndrome
  20. Seckel Syndrome
  21. Sjogren-Larsson Syndrome
  22. Small Cell Cancer of the Thymus
  23. Soft Tissue Sarcoma- with distant metastases or recurrent
  24. X-Linked Lymphoproliferative Disease
  25. X-Linked Myotubular Myopathy

For more information on the program, including a list of All Compassionate Allowances conditions, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.

There is no special application or form that is unique to the CAL initiative. Individuals with a CAL condition apply for benefits using the standard SSA process for filing claims for SSDI, SSI, or both SSDI and SSI benefits. SSA will expedite the applications of those with a CAL condition. Applications for disability may be filed online, in the local field office, or by calling their toll-free number 1-800-772-1213.

To learn how to apply for disability benefits please click How You Apply.

VA Expands Benefits for Traumatic Brain Injury: Adds Five Illnesses Related to Service-Connected TBI

Traumatic-Brain-InjuryWASHINGTON – Some Veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI) who are diagnosed with any of five other ailments will have an easier path to receive additional disability pay under new regulations developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The new ruling, which takes effect January 16th, 2014 impacts some Veterans living with TBI who also have: Parkinson’s disease and/or certain types of:

  • dementia
  • depression
  • unprovoked seizures or
  • certain diseases of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands.

“We decide Veterans’ disability claims based on the best science available,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “As scientific knowledge advances, VA will expand its programs to ensure Veterans receive the care and benefits they’ve earned and deserve.”

This regulation stems from a report of the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine (IOM) regarding the association between TBI and the five diagnosable illnesses.  The IOM report, Gulf War and Health, Volume 7:  Long-Term Consequences of Traumatic Brain Injury, found “sufficient evidence” to link moderate or severe levels of TBI with the five ailments.

The new regulations, (Read the final ruling on Regulations.gov), say that if certain Veterans with service-connected TBI also have one of the five illnesses, then the second illness will also be considered as service connected for the calculation of VA disability compensation.

Eligibility for expanded benefits will depend upon the severity of the TBI and the time between the injury causing the TBI and the onset of the second illness.  However, Veterans can still file a claim to establish direct service-connection for these ailments even if they do not meet the time and severity standards in the new regulation.

Information about VA and DoD programs for brain injury and related research is available at: www.dvbic.org.

Information about VA’s Gulf War Exposures programs for Gulf War I Veterans (August 2, 1990 – March 3, 1991), includes Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield is available at: www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/gulfwar/hazardous_exposures.asp.

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Traumatic-Brain-Injury-Common-for-Soldiers

Budget Deal that Penalizes Military Retirees Heads to Senate

retirementUpdate: February 15, 2014

Military Times: Vets Upset COLA Reduction Remains for New Troops

Veterans welcomed the repeal of the reduction of the cost-of-living-adjustment for retirees starting in 2016, but veterans’ advocate groups are disappointed the reduction will still apply to new troops.

The bill now awaiting President Obama’s signature grandfathers current retirees and troops as of Dec. 31, 2013, from COLA cuts that were created as a deficit reduction measure. However, troops entering service after that date will see smaller COLAs when they begin retiring in 2034.

Original Article:

By a vote of 332-94, the House passed a two-year budget deal Thursday, December 12th. The deal funds the government and temporarily ends the sequester, but comes at a huge financial cost to working-age military retirees under the age of 62.

If the same deal is also approved by the Senate Monday, December 16th and signed into law by the president, the provision will automatically subtract a full percentage point from annual COLA increases.

forget

For an E-7 retiring today at age 40, the cumulative loss of retirement income could exceed $80,000 by age 62.

“We know the federal government needs to curb its spending, balance its budget, and put an end to the sequester, but penalizing military retirees is not the solution,” said VFW National Commander Bill Thien.

“The troops view the attacks on pay and allowances, retirement and healthcare systems as a breach of faith, and a complete lack of support, understanding and appreciation for what it is they do daily for the rest of America.”