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Newsletter for Veterans and active military


Burn Pit Toxic exposure update - Petraeus states: ” It’s Time To Get Serious”:

Retired Army Gen. David Petraeus urged Congress in an interview with Fox News on 3 SEP to make good on its “sacred obligation” to support the growing number of veterans sickened by exposure to burn pits at U.S military bases abroad. “By and large, our country does an extraordinary amount for our veterans and for those who are serving in uniform, and for their families,” he said.

Claims arising from burn pit exposure claims are usually handled slowly and inconsistently by VA medical centers. Veterans’ advocates have for years urged the VA to define illnesses arising from burn pit exposure as presumptiveservice connected disabilities tied to the circumstances of a deployment. While the Pentagon and VA maintain that there is empirical evidence of correlation or causality between burn pit exposure and deadly respiratory illness among U.S. service members, a February ruling by an administrative court judge established an important precedent by detailing the connection between exposure and lung disease in a federal contractor

VA Medical Marijuana update - Senate bill to remove vet access barriers:

A bill introduced in the Senate on 4 SEP would remove some of the barriers making it difficult for veterans to access medical cannabis programs in their states. The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, introduced by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), would allow veterans to use, possess or transport cannabis as permitted by state law without fear of federal prosecution, and would allow doctors in the Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) system to recommend medical cannabis to their patients. It also calls on the VA to commence a study into the effects of cannabis on pain in veterans within two years of passage, and allocates $15 million for that purpose.

GI Bill transferability update - Purple Heart recipient’s exemption:

Purple Heart recipients on active duty will soon be exempt from a new policy barring troops from transferring their post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits to their dependents if they cannot commit to an additional four years of service. The policy update, announced in July, immediately excluded those who could not extend their service by four years, including wounded troops in the medical retirement process, from the ability to transfer. A change that takes effect in July 2019 will also block those with 16 years of service from making the switch.

A few TRICARE questions:

The new dental and vision plans - who, what, where, and when?

• Retirees and their family members are eligible to enroll in one of the FEDVIP dental and/or vision plans. Members of the retired reserve, non-active Medal of Honor recipients, and survivors also are eligible to enroll in FEDVIP. For the first time, most active duty family members will be eligible for vision coverage through FEDVIP. If eligible, they may enroll in a plan for self-only, self-plus-one, or self and family coverage. To be eligible for vision coverage, the individual must be enrolled in a TRICARE health plan; this includes TRICARE for Life (TFL).

• The current TRICARE Retiree Dental Plan (TRDP) will end Dec. 31, 2018. TRDP members currently using Delta Dental may enroll during the 2018 federal benefits open season (Nov. 12 to Dec. 10) in their choice of FEDVIP dental plans. TRDP enrollees must take action to enroll in a FEDVIP plan to receive dental benefits starting Jan. 1, 2019. When TRDP ends, there will be no automatic enrollment in FEDVIP.

• For the latest information, recommend visiting

With all of the changes to the TRICARE program, will TFL be affected?

No. Generally, none of the changes to the TRICARE program will affect those beneficiaries enrolled in TRICARE for Life. Most changes have occurred in the TRICARE Prime and TRICARE Select health plans. However, as described above, the current TRICARE dental plan for all retirees is changing.

VA re-examinations and reductions of veterans disability benefits:

Many veterans currently receiving disability benefits often ask service officers about the possibility of getting their disability benefits reduced. The following tries to answer some of those questions:

What Is a VA Re-examination?

A re-examination can be a medical examination or, if the VA feels it is necessary to evaluate the severity of your disability, a period of hospital observation. The VA is legally entitled to require an exam or hospitalization, so it is critical that you comply with a re-examination request in order to preserve your benefits.

Scheduled Re-examinations

After you are awarded disability compensation benefits, the VA will evaluate whether your disability is such that you ought to be scheduled for a future re-examination to determine if your benefits need to be adjusted. Types of disabilities subject to re-examination are those that can be expected to improve over time. If the VA determines that your disability requires a future re-examination, typically the first re-examination will be scheduled two to five years from the date of the decision to grant you benefits.

Evidence of Change in Condition

The VA can also order a re-examination at any time if there is new, material medical evidence that your disability has gotten better, at least temporarily. For example, if you have cancer and it goes into remission, the VA will call you in for a re-examination for the purpose of reducing your benefits.

If the VA temporarily decreases your benefits, you can request an increase of your condition worsens again. Going back to the example above, if your cancer comes back, you can request an adjusted disability rating to increase your benefits.

To request an increased rating after your disability, worsens all you need to do is write a letter to the VA regional office stating you believe an increase is needed and providing medical evidence to support an increase. A word of caution, however. Sometimes when you request an increase, you will actually end up getting a decrease in benefits. If that happens, you can appeal this decrease in the same way that you can appeal a denial of VA benefits

When Not to Expect a Re-examination

In certain cases, the VA will not ask you to come for a re-examination, and if they do, it may be an error on their part. If you are part of one of the groups listed below and you get a letter asking you to show up for the re-examination, call the phone number on the letter you receive to explain why you think you should not have to go.

VA normally does not schedule re-examinations for veterans:

  • over age 55;
  • with static disabilities, such as loss of a limb;
  • with a disability resulting from disease that is of a permanent nature;
  • who have been assigned the minimum rating for their disability; and

  • who have a combined disability rating, and the individual ratings that were combined are so high that even if one or two of these ratings were reduced, the combined disability rating would remain the same.

If you are not subject to reexamination, your disability rating cannot be reduced.

Oklahoma State Veteran Benefits:

There are times when veterans get confused about the state benefits in Oklahoma because they heard about various benefits from a source that may be confused. Following are the benefits provided to veterans in Oklahoma:

Oklahoma Veterans Homes

Oklahoma has seven state veterans homes in Ardmore, Claremore, Clinton, Lawton, Norman, Sulpher, and Talina. The homes are open to honorably discharged Oklahoma veterans in need of nursing care. There is a fee for care, some spouses may be eligible for admission.

Property Tax Exemption

Total property tax exemption for 100 percent Disabled Veterans.

Income Tax

Active duty pay is tax-free.

The greater of 75 percent of retirement pay or $10,000 is tax exempt.

Sales Tax Exemption

Veterans rated 100 percent permanently and totally disabled by the VA are exempt from state sales tax.

Oklahoma Veterans Preference for State Jobs

Veterans or their unremarried surviving spouses get five points added to their employment test. Disabled war veterans get ten points, and disabled war veterans with at least a 30 percent disability are automatically placed at the top of the selection list.

Disabled Veterans Hunting & Fishing Licenses

Oklahoma resident veterans with a VA disability of at least 60 percent can get free hunting & fishing licenses.

Those with a VA disability of less than 60 percent can get a lifetime hunting & fishing license for $200.

Active Duty Hunting & Fishing Licenses

Active duty military personnel and their dependents, can buy hunting & fishing licenses at the resident rate.

Free Admission To State Owned Or Operated Parks & Museums

Honorably discharged Oklahoma resident veterans get free admission to all state owned or operated parks and museums.

By Ronald S. Pandos


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