Morning Muster: 1/23/2015 Veterans appeals backlogged, VA must streamline MST cases, push for homeless vet help

Maj. Joshua Boudreaux, Thunderbird 2, and Maj. Jason Curtis, Thunderbird 5, are greeted by their children after performing their first Delta Formation sortie, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 13. (U.S. Air Force /Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)

Maj. Joshua Boudreaux, Thunderbird 2, and Maj. Jason Curtis, Thunderbird 5, are greeted by their children after performing their first Delta Formation sortie, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 13. (U.S. Air Force /Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)

New rule establishes net worth; VA ignores appeals claims to address initial backlog; new bill would address appeals problems; funding for suicide bill undetermined; pilot proposed to address vet homelessness; post office may be renamed for MOH recipient McGinnis; VA must streamline MST process, editorial board says; Shinseki elected to bank board; lawmaker calls for ‘Candyland’ hearing; survey shows VA’s approval ranking down; new bill would allow VA pensions to be cut; ‘I shot bin Laden’ SEAL sees charity interest skyrocket; Silver Star recipient first N.C. vet court graduate; trial of Chris Kyle will emphasize mental health

There’s a new rule out on the Federal Register that creates a “clear net worth limit” for use while determining a new claimant’s net worth for pension claims. Primary residences will not be considered assets, including lots not larger than two acres, and the rule provides a penalty period for those who try to get rid of assets to qualify for pension. It also places a limit on the amount VA deducts for in-home attendants. A cost analysis should be up at VA within 48 hours.

As Veterans Affairs works to process a backlog of initial claims, appeals claims are being ignored, reports Stars and Stripes’ Heath Druzin. (Morning Muster may have mentioned this in the past…) Laura Eskenazi, vice chair of the VA Board of Veterans’ Appeals, told lawmakers Thursday that VA needs “stakeholder support and legislative reform.” As the backlog has decreased, appeals cases have increased by about 20,000 in the past year. If you need someone to comment, that’s all Bergmann & Moore does: veterans appeals cases.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nevada, reintroduced a bill that would create a Congressional task force to figure out how VA can get past the appeals problem, reports Stephens Media’s Steve Tetreault. Titus said there are more than 300,000 appeals pending, and the average wait time is about three-and-a-half years.

Congress has been pushing hard on the Clay Hunt veterans suicide bill, but it appears there  will not be funding for it, and it’s not clear yet how VA will shift $22 million to pay for it, reports McClatchy’s Lindsay Wise.

Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both Democrats of California, have introduced legislation for a pilot program that would provide household items for homeless vets transitioning into housing, reports the Sierra Sun Times.

The Knox, Pennsylvania, Post Office may soon be named for Medal of Honor recipient Army Spc. Ross McGinnis, who died throwing himself against a grenade to save four friends. McGinnis’s family told Morning Muster McGinnis’s grandfather worked as one of two mail carriers at the Knox Post Office for 30 years. The request comes from Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pennsylvania, and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsyvania.

The editorial board of the San Antonio Express-News wrote that VA must streamline the process for women to receive treatment and benefits for military sexual trauma, adding that the military must also come to terms with an “epidemic” in its ranks. Bergmann & Moore has handled many of these cases, working to get benefits for men and women who may not have reported the attack when it happened.

Former VA secretary and Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki has been elected to the board of the First Hawaiian Bank, reports Pacific Daily News‘ Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, has requested a Senate hearing about a VA hospital dubbed “Candyland” because it prescribed so many opiates, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s John Fauber.

A Pew Research Center survey shows VA’s approval ranking sank from 68 percent in October 2013 to 52 percent now, reports the Wall Street Journal’s Ben Kesling.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Florida, introduced legislation Thursday that would allow VA officials’ pensions and bonuses cut, reports Federal TimesAndy Medici.

As controversy swirled around former Navy Seal Robert O’Neill’s boasts that he shot Osama bin Laden, claims in Esquire magazine that he was ineligible for benefits and protests that he violated a nondisclosure agreement, the Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe  reports growth at Your Grateful Nation, the charity O’Neill formed to help Special Operations troops acclimate to civilian life, “skyrocketed.”

North Carolina’s first veterans court graduate is Silver Star recipient Tommy Rieman. After crashing his car into a tree and facing being charged with DUI, he was able to work beyond the possibility of a criminal record, reports WUNC’s Carol Jackson.

The trial of Eddie Ray Routh, the veteran who admitted to killing sniper Chris Kyle almost two years ago, should begin next month and may showcase PTSD, reports the Washington Post’s Abby Phillip.

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. The firm’s partners are former VA attorneys who are very familiar with the VA system. Bergmann & Moore handles all kinds of cases, but has a concentration in claims involving PTSD, military sexual trauma, Gulf War illness and complex medical issues, such as brain cancer or degenerative issues, veterans exposed to Agent Orange often face. For more information, to submit news or to sign up for an email version of this blog, contact Kelly Kennedy at kkennedy@vetlawyers.com.

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