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Elizabeth Dole to Chair New VA Veterans’ Family, Caregivers & Survivor Advisory Committee

Liz dole

By Debbie Gregory.

VA Secretary David Shulkin continues to demonstrate his commitment to supporting our nation’s veterans and their caregivers through the formation of the Veterans’ Family, Caregiver, and Survivor Federal Advisory Committee. The committee will be chaired by former U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole.

Dole is the founder of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and the Hidden Heroes Campaign, both of which focus on military caregiving.

“Senator Dole is an accomplished and experienced advocate for Veterans’ caregivers,” said Secretary Shulkin. “I am honored that she will Chair this landmark Committee.”

The committee will advise the secretary on matters related to:

Veterans’ families, caregivers, and survivors across all generations, relationships, and Veteran status; the use of VA care and benefits services by veteran’s families, caregivers, and survivors, and possible adjustments to such care and benefits services; veterans’ family, caregiver, and survivor experiences, and VA policies, regulations, and administrative requirements related to the transition of Service members from the Department of Defense to enrollment in VA that impact veterans’ families, caregivers, and survivors; and actors that influence access to, quality of, and accountability for services and benefits for veterans’ families, caregivers, and survivors.

Senator Dole has walked the walk, as she was a caregiver to her husband, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole, a World War II veteran injured in combat.

Committee members were chosen from a diverse group, including family members, caregivers, survivors, veteran-focused organizations, military history and academic communities, the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, the Federal Executive Branch, research experts and service providers; and leaders of key stakeholder associations and organizations.

Former Marine Sherman Gillums, the executive director of Paralyzed Veterans of America, will serve as vice chair.

Committee members, in alphabetical order are: Ms. Mary Buckler, Ms. Bonnie Carroll, Ms. Melissa Comeau, Ms. Harriet Dominique, Ms. Jennifer Dorn, Ms. Ellyn Dunford, Dr. Robert Koffman,  Lt. Gen. (U.S. Army, Ret.) Mike Linnington, Mr. Joe Robinson, Ms. Elaine Rogers, Brig. Gen. (U.S. Army, Ret) Dr. Loree Sutton, Mr. Francisco Urena, Ms. Shirley White, Ms. Lee Woodruff, and Ms. Lolita Zinke.

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.

Advice on Obtaining VA Benefits

abc

By Debbie Gregory.

Most veterans know that if they experience a disabling event while they are serving, they are entitled to VA disability compensation. But the process may be a little more involved than they might first anticipate. Here are some tips to help navigate the process.

The VA will require you to prove you have the condition you are claiming, and that this occurred or was first experienced during service. This can usually be accomplished through a physician’s diagnosis and service records. If the problem wasn’t reported, a buddy or witness statement may suffice.

Channel your inner Sherlock Holmes. Gather as much evidence as you can to support the claim. While the VA will assist you, it’s in your best interest to do the legwork on your own, since no one your case better than you do. Make sure you have a copy of your Official Military Personnel File, and if you don’t, request it from the National Personnel Records Center.

Double check what forms you need to fill out. This is a great time to ask the VA or your Veteran Service Officer for assistance. Their expertise will prevent you from wasting time filling out the wrong forms, and making sure you fill out the ones you need. Stay on top of deadlines and requests for additional information.

If the VA schedules a Compensation and Pension exam for you to meet with a VA examiner, you must show up for the appointment. Failure to do so may cost you your claim.

Don’t underestimate the value of your Veteran Service Officer. Their services are free, and they can help you navigate the system. They can also help you file appeals for denied claims. In addition to State Veteran Affairs Offices, the following organizations also have Veteran Service Officers nationwide:

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.

Will VA Choice be Replaced with CARE Plan?

CARE Program

By Debbie Gregory.

Key senators were bolstered by veterans groups to conditionally endorse a plan from VA Secretary David J. Shulkin to replace the current VA Choice program with the Veterans Coordinated Access and Rewarding Experiences (CARE) Program.

Representatives of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and Paralyzed Veterans of America endorsed Shulkin’s vision to drop Choice and its metrics of wait times and geographic distance, and use clinical need instead to determine whether to refer patients to community care.

Dr. Shulkin’s CARE program would resemble a managed care program, with VA healthcare providers assigned to see their patients, and then deciding whether to treat them inside the VA or refer them to an outside network of private sector care providers under contract to VA.

“When I treat patients,” said Dr. Shulkin, an internist who still sees patients as a VA physician, “I listen to my patients and I understand what their needs are…I think what good doctors and providers do is they recognize it is a joint decision.”

But these same groups adamantly oppose the VA’s plan to fund the new plan by cutting disability compensation, paid through the Individual Unemployability (IU) program,  to more than 200,000 severely disabled veterans, ages 62 and older, who also are eligible for minimum social security benefits.

The Choice program, which allowed veterans to seek private sector healthcare if they reside more than 40 miles from a VA hospital or had to wait longer than 30 days for access to VA care after seeking an appointment, has generally been called a failure.

Ranking Democratic Senator. Jon Tester (MT), called the current Choice plan “a train wreck” that “hasn’t improved access. In fact, it’s made it worse. And in the process, it’s caused a lot of veterans and community [healthcare] providers to lose faith in the VA.”

But the veteran groups have urged Congress and the VA not to fund any of  new program by cutting IU compensation or other benefits.

Shulkin said he heard their “strong concerns” about the IU cuts and would take them “very seriously. Nobody wants to be taking away unnecessary benefits from veterans, and certainly not putting them into poverty,” he said.

But, he added that mandatory VA benefits have climbed by $12 billion in the past two years.

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.

Does New Healthcare Bill Take Away Tax Credits from 7 Million Veterans?

americanhealthcareact

By Debbie Gregory.

Democratic senators have reached across the aisle to urge Republican senators to protect veterans’ access to healthcare in their health care replacement bill, expressing fears that the House-passed proposal could be particularly dangerous for veterans.

“We have known for months that the GOP healthcare bill could strip roughly 7 million veterans of eligibility for healthcare tax credit assistance,” said Rep. Julia Brownley, (D-CA).  “Despite warnings from our veterans service organizations, and pleas from veterans across the country, President Trump and Speaker Ryan have recklessly forged ahead despite the consequences,” stated Brownley. She continued, “While I am deeply concerned about many aspects of this bill, the rush to put politics ahead of people, and the impact it could have on our veterans as a consequence, is simply shameful.”

As the Senate creates its own version of the American Health Care Act, advocates claim the U.S. House of Representatives’ version hurts veterans by barring veterans eligible for care from the Veterans Affairs Department from receiving tax credits to buy insurance on the individual markets, reducing federal support for Medicaid and effectively ending Medicaid expansion.

The Paralyzed Veterans of America publicly opposed the bill. The group is particularly concerned about the end of a 6-percentage-point match enhancement for Community First Choice, which pays for home health aides for people with spinal cord injuries, dementia, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and more.

“If they’re non-service connected, they’re not going to have access to a state veterans’ home,” said Susan Prokop, senior associate advocacy director at Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Many veterans joined a Twitter campaign opposing the bill, using the hashtag #IAmAPreexistingCondition. Many said they were especially concerned about post-traumatic stress disorder being classified as a pre-existing condition, a change that would make their health care more expensive.

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.