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Burn Pit Toxic exposure - H.R.5671:
Congressional members from both sides of the aisle came together on Capitol Hill on 12 DEC to urge lawmakers to fast-track a benefits package that would provide assistance to veterans who became ill after their exposure to burn pits. Reps. Brian Mast (R-FL) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) joined advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) at the Capitol Triangle, where they made the case for pushing forward help for the tens of thousands of veterans who have become gravely ill due to contact with the crude method of waste disposal used during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
VA Virtual Care - remote care offerings to dramatically expand:
In coming months, when veterans are trying to decide whether to go to a Veterans Affairs hospital or a private doctor for their check-ups, they may opt for a trip to Walmart instead. Department officials on Dec. 6 announced a series of new telehealth partnerships designed to dramatically expand their current remote care offerings, to include online exam rooms in Walmarts, American Legion posts and Veterans of Foreign War hangouts centered in rural areas across the country. At the same time, officials from T-Mobile announced they’ll make use of VA’s video health apps free of charge for mobile customers around the country, potentially eliminating a cost barrier to veterans who want to access the department’s telemedicine offerings.
The partnership with Walmart will be a pilot program to put telemedicine stations specifically for veteran customers at stores in rural areas (exact locations have yet to be announced.) Patients will be able to check in to a private room and video conference with VA medical specials across the country, covering both basic checkups and specialty appointments like dermatology consults or mental health care support. “Ninety percent of Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart,” Deborah Scher said. “Ninety percent of veterans don’t live within 10 miles of a VA medical center.” The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars sites will be similar. Philips Healthcare has agreed to supply its telemedicine technology to at least 10 sites that are in similarly remote areas. The first one has already been set up Eureka, Montana, in a VFW post 100 miles from the closest VA hospital. “We can get this set up within a couple of days,” said Joe Robinson, senior vice president for Philips’ North America Health Systems.
VA dental care:
All Veterans are not eligible for dental services per Title 38 United States Code (U.S.C.) §§1710(c), 1712 and Title 38 Code of Federal Regulation (C.F.R.) 17.160 – 17.166. Eligibility includes, Prisoners of War, Veterans rated 100 percent service-connected disability, or Veterans who received dental injuries due combat or service trauma. To see the full list of eligibility factors, take a look at Dental Benefits for Veterans. The good news is if you are not eligible, Veterans enrolled in VA health care can purchase dental insurance at a reduced cost through the VA Dental Insurance Program (VADIP).
VA vocational rehabilitation - Tele-Counseling now available:
On Nov. 30, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program (VR&E) announced the ability for Veterans nationwide to meet with more than 1,000 Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors (VRC) via “Tele-counseling,” or virtual communication. Tele-counseling, which is accessible on any device with a webcam and microphone, increases VA’s responsiveness to Veterans’ needs, reduces travel costs and time for both Veterans and VRCs, and improves Veterans’ access to necessary VR&E services. “We strive to provide Veterans with access to personalized, interactive face-to-face care and services regardless of where they live,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “VR&E’s Tele-counseling service is another example of how VA continually modernizes in support of Veterans’ needs.” Tele-counseling allows Veterans to meet with VRCs virtually through VA Video Connect without having to download specialized software or obtain unique user names and passwords. Access to a scheduled counseling session is obtained through a unique link sent directly to the Veteran and is valid for that counseling session only. Veterans participating in most VR&E rehabilitation plans of service may use Tele-counseling and are encouraged to speak with their VRCs about it. Participation is voluntary and not required. VR&E’s updated Tele-counseling application was developed through a partnership with Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) VA Telehealth Services. VR&E recently tested the ability to use Tele-counseling during initial evaluation appointments at six regional benefits offices. This test was conducted to identify how using Tele-counseling can reduce time Veterans wait for an appointment. Best practices were identified and incorporated into the rollout of the updated Tele-counseling application.
Rolling Thunder - Memorial Day 2019 to be final Washington event:
Rolling Thunder’s annual Run for the Wall from California to Washington, D.C. is coming to an end. Group organizers said this year’s planned motorcycle ride in May, expected to draw more than 1 million riders and spectators to the National Mall, will be the last time the large-scale demonstration is held, citing cost concerns. The event has become a fixture of Memorial Day commemorations in Washington, D.C. for more than 30 years, drawing attention to military members still missing in action. But the noisy, attention-getting demonstration also has become a victim of its own success. Also, the Pentagon has stated that Rolling Thunder and the motorcycle riders participating in the event can no longer use the Pentagon parking lot as a staging area for the parade through Washington, D.C.
Wreaths Across America:
Perhaps you have seen tractor trailers being led by various motorcycle groups headed towards a cemetery and wondered what in the world is going on. Wreaths across America is a program that is committed to placing a wreath on every grave of a military man or woman and several trucking companies are donating at least of their trucks to transport the wreaths and volunteers from the community are placing them on the gravesites. A total 1.8 million wreaths will be laid at gravesites this year.
New review finds ‘sufficient’ evidence linking hypertension to Agent Orange exposure:
Researchers with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found for the first time that enough evidence exists to link hypertension to Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War.
The finding, announced Thursday, Dec. 13, bolsters the case for veterans with hypertension to be granted easier access to Department of Veterans Affairs benefits, advocates argued. Before last week’s announcement, researchers had determined there was only “limited” or “suggestive” evidence hypertension could be caused by chemical herbicides used in Vietnam.
In addition to hypertension, researchers determined there’s sufficient evidence linking Agent Orange to monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, or MGUS, a condition in which an abnormal protein is in the blood that progress to other disorders, including some forms of blood cancer. A link between the condition and Vietnam War service hadn’t been considered previously.
Risks tied to dementia in female military veterans:
Female military veterans who had traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or depression were more likely to develop dementia than female veterans without these conditions, researchers reported. Having a TBI increased dementia risk in female veterans by 50 percent, while PTSD increased it by almost 80 percent, and depression increased it by almost 70 percent, according to Kristine Yaffe, MD, of the University of California San Francisco, and colleagues.
These risk factors are important to understand as more women take on combat roles, she added: nearly one in three veterans deployed for Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom are estimated to have one of these conditions.
It’s become increasingly apparent that military veterans are at higher risk than the general population for TBI, PTSD, and depression, observed Andrea Schneider, MD, PhD, and Geoffrey Ling, MD, PhD, both of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, in an accompanying editorial. “More women are joining the military, and there is increasing evidence of sex differences in dementia risk in the general population.”
New Basic Allowance for Housing(BAH) rates for 2019 rise 2.5 percent:
The Pentagon on Friday released the new 2019 Basic Allowance for Housing rates that will take effect in January, which show that service members on average will see a 2.5 percent uptick in housing allowance.
The new BAH rates are intended to cover 95 percent of estimated housing costs, so individual service members will have to cover about 5 percent with out-of-pocket cash. That will likely range between $66 and $149 monthly depending on rank and dependency status.