VA Withdrawal of Staab Appeal Could Affect 370,000 Cases

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By Debbie Gregory.

VA Secretary David Shulkin said he was dropping VA’s appeal of the Staab case decided last year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

The case, filed by Richard W. Staab, appealed a December 6, 2013, Board of Veterans’ Appeals decision that denied Staab reimbursement of medical expenses incurred for emergency medical services provided at non-VA medical facilities.

Shulkin said Staab had been wrongly decided. In Staab’s case, the court agreed with lawyers for the 83-year Air Force veteran who was forced to pay $48,000 in healthcare costs following open-heart surgery in December 2010.

For a number of years, the VA has maintained that, by law, it can only reimburse VA-enrolled veterans for outside emergency care if they have no alternative health insurance. That includes Medicare, TRICARE, employer-provided health insurance or contracted health plans of any kind.

Unfortunately for veterans with other health insurance, they are often stuck paying hefty out-of-pocket costs that their plans won’t cover, while veterans with no other insurance see the VA routinely pick up their entire emergency care tab.

Pulling the appeal means VA intends to begin covering private sector emergency care for any VA-enrolled veteran, even if they have alternative health insurance that pays part of their emergency care costs.

As many as 370,000 veterans with pending claims could benefit from the decision to appeal.

The VA has completed draft regulations to implement the new emergency care benefit. The benefit must clear the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and be published in the Federal Register for comment before VA can begin reimbursements. could take nine months or more.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Most Disabled Veterans Don’t Have Access to Full VA Caregiver Support

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By Debbie Gregory.

Family caregivers sacrifice so much of themselves in order to give their loved ones the highest quality of life possible. Yet most people are unaware of who these caregivers are and the role they play and the unique obstacles they face, especially those who are caring for a disabled veteran.

Veterans who were injured after Sept. 11, 2001 and require at-home care have access to for the full package of caregiver supports through the VA. However, this is not true for veterans who were severely injured prior to 2001.

Veteran service organizations such as Disabled American Veterans (DAV) are working with the VA and Congress to change this policy, in the hopes of expanding VA caregiver benefits, such as training and education, financial stipends, health insurance and respite care to all veterans, regardless of when they served.

Of the 5.5 million caregivers who provide support to current and former service members, roughly 80%, (4.4 million) are caring for veterans from military service prior to 2001. The majority of caregivers are spouses who receive very little in the way of benefits or support.

Expanding the VA’s caregiver support program is not just the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do, as family caregivers not only enhance the quality of life for those they care for, but also save the government significantly in long-term health care costs.

And with some 57% of veteran caregivers over the age of 55, they are more likely to experience health concerns of their own, which could result in increased strain on both the veteran and the caregiver.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.