Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committe Clears Putting Veterans Funding First Act

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The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee cleared several  bills that will improve access to healthcare and shield veterans from any budget or shutdown uncertainly that may occur in the future.  The senate version of The Putting Veterans Funding First Act (S. 932) was cleared and sent for consideration on November 19th.  The bill will fund all VA programs a year in advance.

Currently, only VA medical care accounts are provided an advance appropriation.  The House cleared a similar bill (H.R. 913) in August which calls for advance funding beginning with the 2016 budget.  The House version currently has a 74% chance of being enacted. The Senate’s version currently has 40% chance of being enacted.

The Putting Veterans Funding First Act of 2013 – Authorizes the provision of advance appropriations for the following discretionary (under current law, medical care) accounts of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA):

Other bills cleared by the Senate include:

S. 1604 Veterans Health Care Eligibility Expansion and Enhancement Act of 2013

  • Expands the period of eligibility to enroll in VA healthcare for Post 9/11 combat veterans to include Guard and Reserves from 5 to 10 years. It also simplifies VA method in determining eligibility based on income thus allowing more veterans to enroll in VA.

S. 1593 Servicemember Housing Protection Act of 2013

  • Extends protections for service members with regards to sales contracts, mortgage penalties and provides further improvements under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act or SCRA. All of the bills now move to the Senate floor for debate.

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Smile Veterans…VA Extends Optional Dental Coverage

Health Benefits    VA Dental Insurance Program  VADIP




VA has partnered with Delta Dental and MetLife to allow eligible Veterans, plus family members receiving care under the Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA), to purchase affordable dental insurance.  Applications are now being accepted, and coverage for this new dental insurance will begin Jan. 1, 2014.

Coverage will be available to veterans and eligible family members throughout the United States and its territories.

More than 8 million Veterans who are currently enrolled in VA health care can now choose to purchase one of the offered dental plans. This three-year pilot program is designed for Veterans with no dental coverage, or those eligible for VA dental care who would like to purchase additional coverage.

Participation will not affect entitlement to VA dental services and treatment. Historically VA’s free dental services have gone to Veterans with dental problems connected to a medical condition that’s officially certified as “service connected.”  Free dental services will continue for those Veterans.

Also eligible for the new benefits are nearly 400,000 spouses and dependent children who are reimbursed for most medical expenses under VA’s CHAMPVA program.  Generally, CHAMPVA participants are spouses, survivors or dependent children of Veterans officially rated as “permanently and totally” disabled by a service-connected condition.

There are no eligibility limitations based on service-connected disability rating or enrollment priority assignment.

Dental services under the new program vary by plan and include diagnostic, preventive, surgical, emergency and endodontic/restorative treatment. Enrollment in the VA Dental Insurance Plan (VADIP) is voluntary.  Participants are responsible for all premiums, which range from $8.65 to $52.90 per month for individual plans.  Copayments and other charges may apply.

People interested in participating may complete an application online through either


VA Hospitals Receive Most Wired Award For Blue Button and Telehealth IT Advances

2013 Most WiredFor the first time ever, every single VA Hospital across the U.S. made Hospitals & Health Network’s Most Wired List. According to an August 12th 2013 VA News Report, the list recognizes the effectiveness with which hospitals explore and implement new and innovative health information technology.

Credited for the across the board awards are the widespread implementation and use of the VA Telehealth and Blue Button programs.  Both were highlighted at the National Press Club’s Connected Health Showcase on July 30th by VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Robert A. Petzel and the Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Senator Bernie Sanders.

“This recognition and this year’s 10th anniversary of the introduction of VA’s Personal Health Record, My HealtheVet, indicate we’ve made great strides in accomplishing our goals,” Dr. Petzel, said in a statement. “And we’re eager to build on this progress.”

In 2013, the VA Blue Button expanded significantly with the June Release of version 12.5 which provided enhancements of Self-Reported data and additional data from the VA Electronic Health Record.  Other improvements included:

  • More timely access to information (reduced ‘hold periods’ for several VA data classes from 7 calendar days to 3 calendar days). These changes were also made to the VA CCD in the My HealtheVet 12.5.1 Release on July 2, 2013
  • Expansion of the types of self-reported information that all registered users can include in their VA Blue Button: My Goals (Current Goals/Completed Goals)
  • Improved performance for the Blue Button data refresh process
  • Enhanced data refresh status message with link to a user friendly description to enhance understanding
  • Enhanced user interface which includes information about business rules for VA data classes
  • Improved user message when no records match selection criteria
  • Minor formatting improvements for Blue Button output
    (See the release notes and sample files posted on their Resources page)

“This year’s Most Wired organizations exemplify progress through innovation,” Rich Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association, said in a statement. “The hospital field can learn from these outstanding organizations ways that IT can help to improve efficiency.”

VA Seeks Veterans Comments for Burn Pit Registry Assessment Questionnaire

Burn PitSEC. 201 of the Dignified Burial and Veterans Benefits Improvement Act required the VA to establish a burn-pit registry by January of 2014.

To better ascertain and monitor the health effects of the exposure of members of the Armed Forces to toxic airborne chemicals and fumes caused by open burn pits, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), have announced an opportunity for public comment on the proposed collection of certain information by the agency.

Federal Register

Under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) of 1995, Federal agencies are required to publish notice in the Federal Register concerning each proposed collection of information, including each proposed new collection, and allow 60 days for public comment in response to the notice.

Now is your chance to get in on the discussion and be heard….

Submit a Comment

The comment period for the  Open Burn Pit Registry Airborne Hazard Self-Assessment Questionnaire ends 08/05/13

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