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Newsletter for Veterans and active military

Posted

Let us remember:

This can be one of the most difficult times of the year for veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and/or Traumatic Brain Injury. You may want to be aware of the fact that these veterans will show a high sign of awareness, anxiety, depression and many order symptons of these illnesses.

Oklahoma Department of Veteran Affairs:

With the special audit of the Oklahoma Department of Veteran Affairs being completed and available to the public, I am still trying to figure out why the people have not heard anything that has been done by either our elected state representatives or our veteran organizations that have representatives on the Oklahoma Veterans Commission. The audit specifically stated that the members of the commission did not know their responsibilities and that employees at the various veteran homes were afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs. I would like for our elected representatives to let the people know what is being done to resolve the situations mentioned in the audit.

Court advances lawsuit from PTSD-affected Army veterans with ‘bad paper’ discharges:

A federal court in Connecticut has certified a nationwide class-action lawsuit seeking relief for more than 50,000 Iraq and Afghanistan Army veterans who were labeled with less-than-honorable discharges after developing post- traumatic stress disorders, mental health problems or traumatic brain injuries as a result of their service.

Those “bad paper” discharges deny veterans the ability to get military service benefits including education funding, disability benefits and mental health treatment, and can negatively impact their ability to secure work once in the private sector.

“This decision means that thousands of service members who have been denied the support of VA resources because of an unfair discharge status may have another chance at relief,” said Steve Kennedy, one of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs. Kennedy served in Iraq and is a founder of the Connecticut chapter of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Comparing PTSD among returning war veterans:

Military personnel experiencing combat in Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering wounds that are much greater in number and variety than those endured by veterans of earlier wars. This circumstance is due, in part, to advances in medical science and technology. Soldiers, sailors and marines who suffered such severe wounds in earlier wars simply died because they were beyond the reach of then contemporary medicine or technology. In addition, in earlier wars, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome was not even given a name, let alone recognized as a valid form of war-related casualty. Now, PTSD is thoroughly documented and a whole array of treatments are available to veterans of the Iraqi and Afghan Wars. Friedman (2006) summarized PTSD symptoms as being typified by numbing, evasion, hypervigilance, and re-experiencing of disturbing incidents via flashbacks. Veterans and other non-combatant participants in war who have outlived traumatic experiences typically suffer from PTSD.

Veterans who served in Vietnam, the Gulf war, Iraq, and Afghanistan can relate to experiences that most will never believe or imagine and that is one reason combat veterans today stay together as a group.

When Vietnam veterans returned home, they were shunned by the public, spit on, denied service in some public establishments and they made a vow that “never again will one generation of veterans be treated as those in the past”.

Considering the existing political environment on the home front in the United States, the circumstances faced by the Iraqi and Afghan War veterans on their return is more conducive to healing and recovery as compared to that of the Vietnam War veterans (Hafemeister & Stockey, 2010). More Afghan War and Iraqi War veterans are afflicted with physical injuries and complex challenges than were the Vietnam War veterans.

Make sure a Nexus letter supports your VA claim:

A Nexus letter is a document that a doctor or other medical professional prepares for a veteran, and it explains that the veteran’s current medical condition is related to their military service. A veteran is not required to submit a Nexus letter in connection with their disability claim, but the nexus letter can sometimes make the difference between an award and a denial. Also, there is not a specific requirement of when a Nexus letter can be submitted. A veteran can submit a Nexus letter with their initial application for benefits, during development of their claim, or after an adverse C&P Exam. However, it’s good practice to submit a Nexus letter earlier rather than later. The Nexus letter becomes especially important in cases where a veteran has not submitted any medical evidence in support of their claim, and then a C&P examiner concludes that there is no connection between the veteran’s disability and military service.

The following five items can make for a stronger letter from the physician:Keep the letter brief, but still complete. Do so by focusing on facts and conclusions.

Use a doctor who is board certified in the area of health that is at issue.

Make sure the doctor has access to your relevant medical records and service. Have the doctor state in the letter that they had access to, and were able to review these records. You should have a copy of your medical records.

The doctor’s opinion does not have to be absolute. Remember to inform the doctor that they just need to point out whether “it is as least as likely as not” that the current condition was caused by an even during service.

While not required, using a doctor that has recently examined the veteran can add weight to the nexus letter.

VA announces moratorium on discharges and decreases from comprehensive caregiver program:

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it will temporarily suspend discharges and decreases in level of support from its Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers because of continued concerns expressed by Veterans, caregivers and advocates about inconsistent application of eligibility requirements by VA medical centers. “It is essential that we get this right,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “This affects one of our most vulnerable Veteran populations and we need to make sure we have consistency on how we process and evaluate benefit applications across VA.”

The suspension does not impact the current application process. VA medical centers are continuing to accept and approve applications to the family caregivers program based on current eligibility criteria along with processing appeals and monitoring eligible Veterans’ well-being at least every 90 days, unless otherwise clinically indicated. Termination of benefits exempted from the suspension include those made at the request of the Veteran or caregiver, by the local Caregiver Support Program for cause or noncompliance or due to death, permanent institutionalization or long- term hospitalization of a Veteran or caregiver.

In addition to initiating an internal review, VA will continue to solicit feedback from external stakeholders. VA is reviewing policy changes as well as pursuing long-term legislative and regulatory changes. The VA Caregiver Support Program has aided more than 38,000 family caregivers since 2011. Participating families receive an average monthly stipend ranging from $660 to $2,600, based on the level of assistance required by the Veteran and the geographic location of the Veteran and caregiver.

Lawmakers worry new VA private care program could be a ‘Train Wreck’:

Lawmakers from both parties cautioned the Veterans Affairs Department to tread carefully in enacting a law President Trump signed last year to give more veterans access to private sector health care, suggesting the current trajectory could sabotage the entire program.

VA is actively seeking to address potential pitfalls through its negotiations with potential contractors that will make up the “community care network,” Secretary Robert Wilkie told a joint, bicameral congressional committee on Wednesday. Criticisms came from an array of sources, most of whom voted to approve the MISSION Act last year.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and a cosponsor of the MISSION Act, said he has “grown increasingly concerned” about the law since it sailed through Congress last year. He accused VA of going down a “different road” than it was just six months ago with regard to its implementation. He suggested VA is now considering a complete outsourcing of certain procedures and appointments, as well as giving veterans carte blanche to pursue private care outside of VA based on “arbitrary” wait times or distance from a VA facility. One of the main tenets of the new law was to move away from such metrics for determining eligibility for outside care, Tester said.

VA Choice program:

If your primary physician issues an order for yu to see a specialist and that appointment is more than 30 days distant you can request to use the Choice program. This program allows you to be seen by an outside physician and the cost to be borne by the VA.

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