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Newsletter for Veterans and active military

Posted

VA Community Care Update - Nationwide ops shift to TriWest Health Care Alliance:

Veterans Affairs officials announced Oct. 2 that TriWest Health Care Alliance will take over nationwide operations for the department’s main community care programs despite concerns raised last month about overpayments to the company. For the last five years, operations for the department’s primary two outside care programs — Patient Centered Community Care and Veterans Choice Program — had been operated by TriWest and Health Net Federal Services. The new contract extends TriWest’s partnership and names them the sole provider until the two programs are replaced next year with a new overarching community care program mandated in the VA Mission Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law last summer.

VA Aid & Attendance - determining eligibility; means & evidence:

Although VA pension benefits are “means-tested” (i.e. the applicant’s income and assets are considered in determining eligibility), there was previously no specific asset limitation, and applicants were assessed on a case-by-case basis. The new rules provide a countable asset “cap” which matches the Community Spouse Resource Allowance for Medicaid ($123,600 for 2018). An applicant’s annual income is included in calculating their countable assets, as are the assets and income of the applicant’s spouse.

Assets - The VA suggests that its adjudicators use a certain amount of personal judgment on this issue. But the bottom line is: does it realistically appear that the veteran or surviving spouse may outlive their assets? If so, they are likely eligible for aid and attendance. In determining assets:

  • Do not count their residence or vehicle when estimating net worth;
  • Do not count a life insurance policy (because the policy holder must be deceased in order to benefit from it).Do count CDs, annuities, stocks, bonds, savings, checking, IRAs, Keogh, etc.
  • Do count any assets owned by the spouse as well; and
  • As a rule of thumb, assets should not exceed $123,600. That amount drops depending on the age of claimant.

Countable Income

  • Estimate total annual income for the veteran and his spouse (if any). All income must be included. This includes social security, pensions including VA’s, interest income, dividends, income from rental property, etc.;
  • Deduct from income all annual unreimbursed, recurring health care expenses. This includes: Assisted living cost of nursing home, cost of home care service, health insurance premium, Medicare premium or regular unreimbursed prescriptions verifiable through a pharmacy printout; and
  • The difference of the preceding is your countable income.

VA prescription refills - available for on the road vets:

Thanks to OneVA Pharmacy, VA is making prescription refills simpler for traveling Veterans. OneVA Pharmacy is available and implemented at all VA medical centers (VAMC) as of June 2018. By simply registering at a local 24 VAMC that uses OneVA, Veterans can forego the time-consuming and convoluted process formerly required to request a new prescription. “Right now, throughout the entire country, if you have a Veteran living in California and travel to Florida and want to have their prescription, they can do that. They go to the pharmacy and use this product to get the prescription filled,” explained Ms. Angela Chow, an implementation manager with VA’s Office of Information and Technology (OIT).

VA most common disabilities FY 2017 stats:

Just thought you may be interested in the following; I believe that many VSO service officers will attest to the following:

The most prevalent disabilities among new compensation recipients in FY 2017:

1. Tinnitus;

2. Limitation of flexion, knee;

3. Hearing loss;

4. Lumbosacral or cervical strain;

5. Limitation of motion of the arm;

6. Scars, general;

7. Post-traumatic stress disorder;

8. Limitation of motion of the ankle;

9. Migraine; and

10. Paralysis of the sciatic nerve.

VA burial benefits - burial & plot interment allowance:

Many VSO service officers receive questions regarding burial allowances from either veterans or their surviving spouse. Following is, hopefully, an answer to your questions (you may want to keep this in a secure location).

VA burial allowances are flat rate monetary benefits that are generally paid at the maximum amount authorized by law for an eligible Veteran’s burial and funeral costs. A VA regulation change in 2014 simplified the program to pay eligible survivors quickly and efficiently. Eligible surviving spouses of record are paid automatically upon notification of the Veteran’s death, without the need to submit a claim. VA may grant additional benefits, including the plot or interment allowance and transportation allowance, if it receives a claim for these benefits. “Plot” means the final disposition site of the remains, whether it is a grave, mausoleum vault, columbarium niche, or similar place. “Interment” means the burial of casketed remains in the ground or the placement of cremated remains into a columbarium niche.

Who is eligible? If the burial benefit has not been automatically paid to the surviving spouse, VA will pay the first living person to file a claim of those listed below:

• Veteran’s surviving spouse; OR

• The survivor of a legal union* between the deceased veteran and the survivor; OR

• The Veteran’s children, regardless of age; OR

• The Veteran’s parents or surviving parent; OR

• The executor or administrator of the estate of the deceased Veteran.

* Legal union means a formal relationship between the decedent and the survivor that existed on the date of the Veteran’s death, which was recognized under the law of the State in which the couple formalized the relationship and evidenced by the State’s issuance of documentation memorializing the relationship. The Veteran must also have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.

In addition, at least one of the following conditions must be met. The veteran:

• Died as a result of a service-connected disability; OR

• Was receiving VA pension or compensation at the time of death; OR

• Was entitled to receive VA pension or compensation, but decided instead to receive his or her full military retirement or disability pay; OR

• Died while hospitalized by VA, or while receiving care under VA contract at a non-VA facility; OR

• Died while traveling under proper authorization and at VA expense to or from a specified place for the purpose of examination, treatment or care; OR

• Had an original or reopened claim for VA compensation or pension pending at the time of death and would have been entitled to benefits from a date prior to the date of death.

Vet toxic exposure | water update - Veterans Exposed to Toxic PFAS ACT:

Congressman Brendan Boyle, of Philadelphia, joined two of his colleagues in introducing a bill September 28, 2018, that would compensate veterans who became ill by being exposed to perfluorinated compounds, also called PFAS. PFAS is an unregulated chemical that is being discovered in drinking water at an increasing number of military bases throughout the United States. The Bill is referred to as the “Veterans Exposed to Toxic PFAS ACT,” or “VET PFAS Act.” The new legislation would allow for a group of illnesses to be recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and to be service-connected, making veterans eligible for disability compensation and free medical treatment. The legislation would create six new service-connected conditions that are linked to PFOA exposure. The conditions are high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer and pregnancy-induced hypertension.

Section from the special audit of the Oklahoma Department of Veteran Affairs:

Favoritism, bias, and other issues with Central Office Staff - Numerous staff expressed concerns that center funds are being redirected to the central office, causing a cut to the level of veteran care in to increase the staff size and comfort of the central office.” Someone explain how this is taking care of our veterans and better yet, why is it that the commission has not terminated the director?

“72O.S. paragraph 63.3 states that it is the power and duty of the Commission to appoint the director of the Department of Veteran Affairs and provide for the employment of all such other personnel as may be necessary to carry out the provision of that title, and any other duties prescribed by law.” “If the Commission indeed takes this level of responsibility for the director’s performance, it is accountable for the environment currently being created by the director and his staff.”

Two questions:

Why are the VSO’s who have members, that they recommended to the Governor, not taking any action, at least that the public is aware of?

How can the members not be held accountable individually?

By Ronald S. Pandos

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