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Morning Muster: 11/21/2014

Soldiers from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, evacuate a simulated casualty during Decisive Action Rotation 15-02 at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., last week. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michelle U. Blesam

Soldiers from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, evacuate a simulated casualty during Decisive Action Rotation 15-02 at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., last week. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michelle U. Blesam

VA allows vets to seek private care earlier; vets can take service dogs in all VA facilities; first VA firing under new law upheld; Fillipino WWII vets hope for benefits; VA posts burn-pit tips; high PTSD therapy completion rates found for telehealth

The Department of Veterans Affairs published a rule in the Federal Register this morning that enables veterans who haven’t been able to get a spot at the health clinic within 30 days to be eligible for a pilot program Nov. 17, rather than Dec. 4. The program allows veterans to seek private care sooner because VA implemented the system faster than expected.

A second rule published today in the Federal Register allows veterans to take their service dogs into all VA facilities. While service dogs can go into all other federal facilities, VA, in the past, said the dogs were authorized “at the discretion of a VA facility head or designee.” As of today, VA will have the same rules as those applied at other federal facilities.

The Montgomery Advertiser’s Kala Kachmar reports VA has upheld the first firing officials performed under a new law designed to hold the top 1 percent accountable for delays and bad care at VA. James Talton, the former director of the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System, appealed the the decision to fire him, but the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board denied his appeal.

NBC’s Emil Guillermo reports that, even after Congress approved $15,000 each to U.S. citizens and $9,000 for Filipino citizens, 4,500 Fillipino veterans of WWII who fought for the States are still fighting for U.S. veterans’ benefits. The veterans testified before the House Veterans Affairs Committee Thursday. The Philippines was a U.S. commonwealth in 1941, Guillermo reports, and 100,000 peopled served under U.S. Army command. But President Truman signed legislation that then stripped them of their veterans’ rights and benefits. Congress approved the Equity Compensation law in 2009, but the claims have been denied because “authenticating the documents…has been a nightmare.” The vets’ records were lost when Japan occupied the Philippines during the war.

Veterans Affairs‘  Paul Cimenera posted a blog about what veterans should know about the burn pits they encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the height of the problem, the military burned as much as 240 tons of trash a day in an open pit at Balad Air Base in Iraq, while other bases burned similar amounts of Styrofoam, unexploded ordnance, computer parts and medical waste. Many veterans will likely disagree with Cimenera’s statement that “most of the irritation is temporary and resolves once the exposure is gone,” including the dozens of veterans who have been diagnosed with constrictive bronchiolitis, as well as the hundreds and possibly thousands diagnosed with asthma and other breathing issues. However, the post gives details about how to sign up for the burn pit registry, and acknowledges that fine particulate matter may have also been a problem in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Stars & Stripes Martin Kuz reports that vets who live far from VA facilities may have better success dealing with post-traumatic stress issues by using telehealth for counseling. A new study published in JAMA Psychiatry and funded by VA shows people are more likely to follow through on counseling if they have the option to do it remotely. Participants in the study either sought treatment at a VA facility or through interactive video and phone calls. Those receiving help over the phone, rather than in-person, were eight times as likely to complete cognitive processing therapy and saw improvements in their PTSD.

Bergmann & Moore, LLC, is a national law firm dedicated to serving the needs of veterans in compensation claims before and against the Department of Veterans Affairs. For more information, or to sign up for an email version of this blog, contact Kelly Kennedy at kkennedy@vetlawyers.com. 

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