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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Hidden Wounds Provides Relief for Combat Stress Faster than VA

The mission of Hidden Wounds is to provide peace of mind and comfort for military personnel suffering from combat stress injuries such as PTSD and TBI until the Veteran’s Administration or Veteran’s Affairs agencies can deliver long-term services to their clients through government programs.

Hidden Wounds was formed in response to a tragedy involving its founder, Anna Bigham.  Anna’s brother, Lance Corporal Mills Palmer Bigham, served four years of active duty for the United States Marine Corps.

Lcpl Bigham served two tours of duty in Iraq with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment.  He was released on October 18, 2008, with an honorable discharge and new rank, Combat Veteran.

Immediately, Anna recognized her brother was not the same young man she once knew.  Lcpl Bigham sought treatment for war trauma, depression, and anger through numerous trips to the local VA hospital. He was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), however he was not given the treatment he deserved.  Anna made countless phone calls to check on his status for receiving those services, but each time there was very little to no response.

Anna supported her brother, battled for the right of his treatment, and cared for him during the long and horrific nights. It was too little, and too late. Mills took his own life waiting for those services on October 19, 2009.

Here is a description of the services provided by Hidden Wounds according to their Facebook Page

-Interim Counseling
Our main thrust is to provide counseling to soldiers who are in the enrollment process at the VA, or other agencies, or system of services, but who are waiting for confirmation of availability and treatment needs. These services are available until such time as the client is finally taken into the care of the VA, or alternate agencies.

-Emergency Counseling
Referring agencies too overwhelmed to respond, and families who are suddenly faced with a crisis situation, are invited to call Hidden Wounds. Our goal is to find a counselor in our network that could respond immediately to defuse the situation. From there, Hidden Wounds, works to find a properly equipped place for the veteran to safely stay until the crisis is passed, danger is contained and further treatment can be instituted.

-Family Support
Hidden Wounds provides resource materials and information to help family members of PTSD victims deal with their concerns and knowledgably support their veteran.

-VA Strategies
Hidden Wounds can provide strategic counseling services to support the Veterans Administration in the areas of intake, assignment of benefits, required paperwork, navigating a network of personnel, and other support advice while dealing with the VA

Contact Info:

Email Address:
Mailing Address: Hidden Wounds
7001 St Andrews Road PMB 323
Columbia, S.C. 29212

Description:501c3 non profit organization
General Information

1-888-4HW-HERO or 803-403-8460

Related Article: Veterans Step Forward to Report Retaliation for Whistleblowing and Lack of Support Services read more>>

Related Post: The Million Veteran March on the VA read more>>

VFW Calls 2013 VA Budget Proposal a Good Start


WASHINGTON The national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is appreciative of the fiscal year 2013 budget President Obama proposed Monday, February 13th 2012 for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“The VFW appreciates the proposed increase because it recognizes that the proper care and treatment of wounded, ill and injured veterans are ongoing costs of war,” said Richard L. DeNoyer, who leads the 2 million-member VFW and its Auxiliaries. “We remain concerned, however, that the amount* is not enough for the VA to maintain much less improve all the programs and services on their watch, especially knowing the Defense Department plans to shrink the size of the military, which will directly increase the number of veterans seeking VA care and services.”

The proposed VA budget for FY 2013 is $140.3 billion, of which $76.3 billion is for mandatory benefits such as disability compensation and pension. The remaining $64 billion is in discretionary funding, primarily for the Veterans Health Administration, which represents a 4.5-percent increase over FY 2012 funding, but falls more than $4 billion short of the amount recommended by The Independent Budget, which the VFW co-authors with AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans and Paralyzed Veterans of America.

The VFW national commander said there are budget highlights that continue to elevate the importance of healthcare, mental health programs, women veterans, reducing the VA claims backlog and ending veterans’ homelessness. But he will still ask both House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs to substantially plus-up the miniscule $1.6 million increase in medical and prosthetic research, and return major construction funding to an amount that is forward focused instead of an afterthought.

“A record 240 troops lost one limb or more in Afghanistan last year,” said DeNoyer, a retired Marine and Vietnam combat veteran from Middleton, Mass. “They will require a lifetime of care, and it shouldn’t be in VA medical facilities that average more than 60 years old,” he said.

“A nation that creates veterans has a sacred responsibility to care for them when they return home wounded, ill and injured. The VFW looks forward to working with the Administration and Congress in the coming days and months to ensure that America keeps that promise.”

*The total amount includes mandatory funding for programs such as disability compensation and pension, as well as discretionary funding for VA medical care, to include advanced appropriations. The amount represents a 4.5-percent increase over FY 2012 funding, but falls more than $4 billion short of what is recommended by The Independent Budget, which the VFW co-authors with AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans and Paralyzed Veterans of America. The VA budget request includes:

·         $6.2 billion to expand inpatient, residential and outpatient mental health programs.
·         $3.3 billion for returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans’ programs.
·         $2.1 billion to improve the benefits claims process.
·         $1.3 billion for veterans’ homelessness programs.
·         $403 million for women veteran programs.
·         $258 million for national cemeteries.
VFW has concerns about the low recommendation for major construction and the slight increase for medical and prosthetic research. VFW asked Congress to increase funding so VA can complete numerous projects under way, as well as those being planned.

House Committee on Veterans Affairs to Review 2013 VA Budget Today

Committee to Review 2013 VA Budget

WASHINGTON, D.C.—On Wednesday, February 15, 2012, at 10:30 a.m., in Room 334 of the Cannon House Office Building, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a hearing to review the 2013 VA Budget.

  • WHO:             House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
  • WHAT:          U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for FY2013
  • WHEN:          10:30 a.m., Wednesday, February 15, 2012, Room 334, Cannon House Office Building


Panel 1

  • The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Accompanied by:
  • The Honorable Robert A. Petzel, M.D., Under Secretary for Health, Veterans Health Administration
  • Ms. Allison A. Hickey, Under Secretary for Benefits, Veterans Benefits Administration
  • Mr. Steve L. Muro, Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs, National Cemetery Administration
  • The Honorable Roger W. Baker, Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Mr. W. Todd Grams, Executive In Charge, Office Of Management & Chief Financial Officer, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Panel 2

  • Mr. Carl Blake, National Legislative Director, Paralyzed Veterans of America
  • Mr. Raymond C. Kelley, Director, National Legislative Service, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States
  • Mr. Joseph A. Violante, National Legislative Director, Disabled American Veterans
  • Ms. Diane Zumatto, National Legislative Director, AMVETS
  • Mr. Timothy M. Tetz, Director, National Legislative Commission, The American Legion

*For more news from the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, please visit:

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