Congress Sends A Flag Day Fix for A Broken VA Health Care System

Flag-Day 2014Just in time for Flag Day, Congress overwhelming passed two veterans’ bills this week in an effort to fix the crisis in care and timely access to treatment at VA health care facilities.

On Tuesday, the House passed  H.R. 4810, the “Veteran Access to Care Act of 2014,” by a vote of 426-0.

On Wednesday, the Senate passed S. 2450, the “Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014,” by a vote of 93-3.

Both bills now move to a conference committee to iron out their differences. Both bills would allow VA to enter into contracts with non-VA facilities to provide hospital care and medical services for veterans who have waited too long for an appointment or live more than 40 miles away from a VA facility. They also require an independent assessment of VHA which is responsible for running VA medical facilities.

Where the bills differ is in how best to address holding VA employees accountable and giving VA authority to expedite the hiring of new medical care staff.

Vietnam Veterans of America Speaks Out On the Resignation of Erik K. Shinseki

downloadThe Vietnam Veterans of America have weighed-in on the recent resignation of Erik K. Shinseki as the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs; and expressed how they think Obama should handle the disgusting truth about the scandal surrounding our VA system.

Here is their official press release to the public:

VVA Press Release

May 30, 2014 (Washington, D.C.)—“Eric K. Shinseki has tendered his resignation as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Sloan D. Gibson, Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs, will serve as Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs,” said VVA National President John Rowan. “However, this change in leadership does not fix the terrible situation at VA medical centers. The need for dramatic action is still pressing and apparent.”

Said Rowan, “VVA urges the President to mobilize Reserve and National Guard units, as well as FEMA medical services, to supplement the uniformed units, to serve, for the next 30 to 90 days, as screening/triage units for all veterans currently on waiting lists at all VA Medical facilities. All veterans found to have urgent medical conditions are to be seen by a qualified VA clinician within three days of their screening. If the VA facility is unable to see the veteran within three days, the VA staff must arrange–and pay for–immediate care outside of the VA. Veterans not found in need of urgent care, who cannot be seen by the VA within 21 days, shall be assisted by VA staff to access an outside clinician under the VA fee-for-services program.”

For a more complete list of vitally needed actions that can – and must – be taken by the President and Acting Secretary Gibson, see www.vva.org/VA_Phoenix.html  

In a noon briefing, the President announced Shinseki’s resignation. The President noted that Shinseki has acknowledged that the misconduct at the Phoenix VA is not limited to a few facilities but is rampant across the system, and he has accepted full responsibility for the conduct of those facilities. Further, reported the President, Shinseki acknowledged his continuation in office would serve as a distraction, interfering with his top priority of delivering care to our veterans who have served our nation.

Earlier today, while addressing the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, Shinseki announced actions he had taken after reviewing the Interim IG Report regarding the Phoenix VA Health Care System.

He reported that he had fired those responsible at the Phoenix VA and at other VA facilities; that no VHA senior executive will receive performance bonuses in 2014; that wait times will be deleted as measures of success; and that outreach to the veterans on the “secret” waiting lists is underway. 

Further, Shinseki called on Congress to fill the vacant positions at the VA. Said Rowan, “While we approve of these measures, there is much more that needs to be done.”

In his tenure as seventh Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Shinseki’s achievements on behalf of veterans include enrolling an additional 2 million veterans in the VA system; expanding benefits of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange; improving access and care for Mental Health by ordering the hiring of 1,600 mental health staff; improving care for Women veterans; reducing homelessness; and helping millions access education benefits. “We thank him for his efforts, and wish him well in his future endeavors,” said Rowan.

Vietnam Veterans of America (www.vva.org) is the nation’s only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families. VVA’s founding principle is “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.” 

 

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

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.