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House Considers Trimming Years off VA Appeal Process

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By Debbie Gregory.

Of the hundreds of thousands veterans who file disability claims each year, approximately 10% of them will appeal the decision made on their claim, either because they disagree with the decision, don’t understand it, or are simply exercising their right to do so.

A large percentage of appeals are filed by veterans who are already receiving VA disability compensation, but are seeking either a higher level of compensation or payment from an earlier effective date.

This has caused veterans who are in the appeal process waiting an average of five years for their decision.

VA officials have repeatedly said that without changes in the law governing how often veterans can restart the appeals process, they can only make small improvements.

There are nearly half a million pending appeals cases. In an effort to fix this clearly broken process, members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee have debated draft legislation to overhaul the process.

“VA’s current appeals system is slow, cumbersome and just doesn’t serve veterans well,” said Phil Roe, (R-TN). “We have to do better … Congress has to make some changes to give VA the tools it needs to ensure that veterans receive a fair and timely decision on their appeals.”

New options on how veterans could have their cases appealed include waiving the chance to submit new evidence or official hearings in favor of quicker resolutions, or retaining those rights, but facing stricter timelines for submissions and responses. The Open Record, which allows veterans to add evidence at any time in the process to provide extra clarity or strength to their case, seems like a great idea, but if the veteran does submit new evidence, the claims review process starts all over again.

But the Vietnam Veterans of America released a statement calling the proposed legislation problematic, saying it “ignores the need for legal precedent in the VA claims process, limits due process protections, and compromises the non-adversarial, pro-veteran claims system at the convenience of VA.”

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.

Generals Oppose Bill That Provides Mentally Ill Veterans Easy Gun Access

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By Debbie Gregory.

A coalition of retired admirals and generals are protesting “irresponsible and dangerous” legislation they say that would put mentally ill veterans in harm’s way by providing them easy access to firearms.

The United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 1181, the Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act, sponsored by Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. The bill now moves to the U.S. Senate.

The Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act would prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs from reporting veterans’ records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System after they’ve been deemed incapable of managing their financial affairs because of a disabling mental disorder.

In a letter, members of the Veterans Coalition for Common Sense wrote:

The bill you are debating comes at a time when an average of 20 veterans commit suicide each day, two-thirds of whom do so by using a firearm. We know that non-deployed veterans are at a 61 percent higher risk of suicide compared to the American civilian population, and deployed veterans are at a 41 percent higher risk. When vulnerable veterans have access to firearms, they can do harm not only to themselves but also to family members and loved ones. The impact of these tragedies is felt in communities across our nation.”

The coalition is a national initiative launched by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona and her husband Mark Kelly, a Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut. The letter is signed by fourteen veterans representing all branches of the military.

The National Rifle Association, which is backing the bill, says it protects veterans from having their rights “arbitrarily revoked by a government bureaucrat.”

But the actual language of the bill remains vague, without defining what constitutes mentally incapacitated or mentally incompetent. The bill “prohibits, in any case arising out of the administration of laws and benefits by the Department of Veterans Affairs, any person who is mentally incapacitated, deemed mentally incompetent, or experiencing an extended loss of consciousness from being considered adjudicated as a mental defective for purposes of the right to receive or transport firearms without the order or finding of a judicial authority of competent jurisdiction that such person is a danger to himself or herself or others.”

What do you think?   Is opposing this common sense or taking away rights?

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.