Archive for the ‘VA News’ Category
Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013
Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) are the latest asset to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as it continues to focus on elimination of the veterans’ disability claim backlog. The VA recently announced that it has developed a partnership with the Disabled American Veterans and The American Legion – two prominent national VSOs that have been providing services to disabled veterans for many years.
The main focus of this partnership is to promote the submission of Fully Developed Claims (FDCs) when disabled veterans apply for veterans disability benefits. A FDC is a claim that:
- is submitted with all available supporting evidence;
- includes any private medical records;
- has notice of federal treatment records; and
- is certified that there is no further evidence to submit.
Claims identified as “fully developed” are not added to the regular queue for processing; they are expedited for a quicker decision. The more FDCs that are submitted, the fewer veterans’ disability claims there will be added to the already backlogged queue of cases awaiting decisions.
Veterans Service Organizations often have local representatives helping veterans in the community determine if they are eligible to file a claim for disability benefits. By working closely with these organizations and improving the pre-development of new disability claims, the VA hopes that more fully developed claims will be submitted and it will be able to further decrease the backlog.
VSOs may provide assistance to veterans filing first-time claims for disability benefits, but their claims representatives often do not have the resources necessary to appeal a denied claim or unfavorable disability rating. A veterans disability attorney is the legal advocate for disabled veterans facing these situations.
The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. has a dedicated team of veterans’ disability attorneys to help develop and support your claim through the initial application all the way to appeals. Contact us today – 1-888-234-5758.
Monday, May 20th, 2013
With a veterans’ disability claim backlog in the 800,000s, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been searching for more ways to expedite the processing of these claims. Recently, VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki announced that mandatory overtime will be implemented at the 56 regional claims offices across the nation.
The additional hours worked in the mandatory overtime period will be dedicated to continuing the emphasis placed on high-priority claims. These are claims made by:
- homeless veterans;
- veterans with financial hardships;
- former Prisoners of War;
- veterans suffering from terminal illnesses; and
- Medal of Honor recipients.
Veterans who file fully developed claims will also be prioritized, as decisions on their disability claims can usually be reached much faster than those that require additional evidence and documentation.
The additional hours made available to work on claims thanks to the mandatory overtime joins with several recent efforts to further decrease the veterans’ disability claims backlog. Last month, the implementation of provisional decisions began to allow eligible veterans to collect compensation benefits before their claim has an official decision. This process was implemented to help those who have been waiting for more than one year for a decision on their disability benefits claim.
Veterans who file a complete disability claim may be able to take advantage of the expedited decision process under the Fully Developed Claims designation. The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. have a dedicated team of veterans’ disability professionals to help develop and support your claim through the initial application all the way to appeals. Contact our veteran’s disability rights firm today – 1-888-234-5758.
Thursday, May 9th, 2013
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been the center of many debates regarding how effective the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been on providing health care to disabled veterans. This condition can cause anxiety, depression, insomnia and emotional instability that makes life difficult in regards to working and socializing.
Therapy for PTSD has been improving over the years, but one of the biggest obstacles for many veterans suffering from this disorder has been obtaining mental health care. Therapy sessions are conducted by trained mental health professionals which requires visits to VA hospitals and clinics. Some veterans are unable to make these visits due to travel complications, leaving them without the benefit of therapy for their condition.
Recently, a study by the San Diego VA offices has found that the latest therapy choice for PTSD care – telehealth conferences – may be as effective as in-person sessions. Telehealth is where conferences between veterans and therapists or counselors are conducted via video feed, eliminating the need for travel.
The study included 207 veterans in the San Diego area who participated in a 12-week PTSD therapy course. During treatment, researchers evaluated the veterans’ preferences toward telehealth conferences compared to face-to-face therapy. They found that most veterans did not mind the video conferences, and some even preferred it over in-office meetings. While veterans in the in-person therapy group had greater improvement after the 12-session period, there wasn’t any difference between the groups in six-month follow-ups.
Telehealth services are available through many VA hospitals and clinics, especially in rural areas where there are no convenient VA health care facilities. Video conferencing is also helping with other veterans’ disabilities such as managing treatment plans for conditions such as diabetes or cancer.
Veterans who are enrolled in the VA disabled veterans benefits system may have earlier access to the latest medical technology and services. When a veteran works within the VA health care system they are entitled to health care for disabling conditions acquired due to their military service. The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. is here to help disabled veterans obtain the health care and benefits they deserve after serving our country. Learn about your right to benefits as a disabled veteran – call today to speak with a disability claims representative – 1-888-234-5758.
Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
The success of many veterans jobs initiatives have led to the recent announcement from first lady Michelle Obama that goals for veteran employment have been met threefold.
Since several veterans benefits programs related to veteran employment and training had been launched in August 2011, Mrs. Obama reported that there had been more than 290,000 veterans and military spouses who have been hired or trained thanks to these programs – three times more than originally projected.
Veterans jobs initiatives have focused on encouraging businesses to emphasize the hiring of veterans and offered incentives to do so in both local and national capacities. Other veterans benefits programs exist to help provide new training for veterans to put their military skills to use in the civilian job market.
The Joining Forces initiative is one of the main veterans benefits programs that helps encourage the creation of more veterans jobs and helps military family members find educational and employment opportunities. The program has pledges from many businesses claiming they will contribute to the hiring or training of an additional 435,000 veterans and military spouses within the next five years.
There are Resources Available for Disabled Veterans
A unique part of some veterans employment programs is the focus on disabled veterans. In many cases, a veteran who suffered injury in combat or developed a disability due to military service is no longer able to work in previous lines of employment. Through veterans benefits programs such as the GI Bill, these disabled veterans are often able to learn new skills or re-train to work with the limitations of their disabling condition.
While many disabled veterans are still able to work despite their conditions, there are thousands more whose injuries or illnesses render them unable to perform the work they previously did before or during military service. The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. is a disability law firm in South Florida dedicated to helping servicemembers obtain the veterans benefits they deserve. Contact us today to speak with a disability claims representative – 1-888-234-5758.
Friday, April 26th, 2013
Disabled female veterans are becoming a larger percentage of the veteran population. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), there were approximately 2.2 million women veterans, some of whom require medical care through the VA system for service-connected disabilities.
A new hotline, 1-855-VA-WOMEN (1-855-829-6636) has opened to provide important information about veterans’ benefits, health care, and other resources and services. The hotline links female veterans, their families, and caregivers to valuable resources following their military service.
While disabled female veterans benefit greatly from this service from the Department of Veterans Affairs, it is open to all female veterans regardless of disability status. The operators can connect callers to various VA branches to assist with issues such as:
- health care appointments;
- education resources;
- veterans’ burial services; and
- benefit application status.
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers many services for disabled veterans that specifically target the needs of female veterans. In 2010 the VA opened an outbound call center specifically designed to contact disabled female veterans to encourage them to enroll in the VA health care system.
With nearly 15 percent of active duty military and 18 percent of National Guard and Reserve military forces made up of female soldiers, the number of female veterans is expected to climb in the next few years. VA health care totals showed 160,000 female veterans utilized its services in 2000 and climbed to more than 354,000 in 2012. VA health care services for female veterans may cover general care, women-specific services, and disability care.
The qualifications to apply for veterans disability benefits are no different between male and female veterans. When veterans believe they are suffering from disabling conditions related to military service, they are entitled to seek disability benefits through the VA.
The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. can help disabled female veterans file for veterans disability benefits. Call us at 1-888-234-5758 or fill out our contact form to get in touch with us today.
Wednesday, April 24th, 2013
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that disabled veterans waiting over one year for a decision on their veterans disability claim will have their cases expedited. A new initiative has started to help expedite the claims that have been sitting in the backlog for over a year – a situation that should never have occurred, according to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.
“Too many Veterans wait too long for a decision, and this has never been acceptable,” said Shinseki. His department is implementing a new policy where VA veterans disability benefits claims raters will now make provisional decisions to determine if a year-old claim requires more evidence or if it is complete enough for a decision to be issued.
If any additional evidence such as a medical examination is required, the VA will expedite the order and place the disabled veteran on a priority list for a VA examination. Approved benefit compensation will be retroactive to the date the initial veterans disability claim was filed, especially in cases where an increase is warranted due to additional evidence of the severity of the disability.
Further, homeless veterans’ disability claims will be prioritized along with disabled veterans with limited resources and income. Other special categories of disabled veterans include those who received the Medal of Honor, are terminally ill, are former Prisoners of War, and those filing Fully Developed Claims.
Veterans falling into the category of Wounded Warriors – those who are separating from the military due to medical reasons – will still be handled with special priority with the Department of Defense. These veterans’ disability benefits claims are typically handled within 61 days of discharge.
It takes an average of 286 days to complete a veterans disability claim and many sit for several more months before they are processed and come to a decision. This leaves thousands of veterans awaiting decisions on their veterans disability benefits.
The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. is ready to help through its team of dedicated veterans disability attorneys. To go over eligibility for disability benefits and for help filing a claim or appealing a claim decision, contact us at 1-888-234-5758.
Wednesday, April 10th, 2013
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects many disabled veterans who seek health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities. But despite VA guidelines that advise against using benzodiazepines like Xanax or Valium, some VA doctors continue to prescribe them to treat PTSD, according to Stars and Stripes.
According to Dr. Nancy Bernardy, one of the VA’s clinical psychologists at the National Center for PTSD, nearly one-third of disabled veterans being treated for PTSD are given these sedatives. Typically used to treat disabling conditions such as seizures, insomnia and anxiety, these drugs were considered a better alternative to previously prescribed barbiturates which had a higher risk of abuse and overdose.
But they may interfere with the preferred method of treatment, prolonged exposure therapy. Therefore, the VA’s guidelines caution against use in veterans with PTSD, especially because many of these patients may also have substance abuse problems.
Prescription records of 357,000 veterans documented with PTSD from 2009 show that 37 percent were taking benzodiazepines for their disabling condition, according to a study with which Bernardy was involved. Many of these disabled veterans were Vietnam-era veterans who had been prescribed the sedatives years before the current VA guidelines were created.
If you are a disabled veteran suffering from the symptoms of PTSD such as anxiety, insomnia, irritability, mood swings, panic attacks, and other social disorders, you can seek evaluation by a mental health professional at a VA clinic or hospital. If you are diagnosed with PTSD, you may qualify for veterans disability benefits.
PTSD is one of several disabling conditions that may qualify for veterans disability benefits. If you have been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for disability benefits from the VA, contact the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. to learn about your options – 1-888-234-5758.
Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
In late 2011 the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) began a 15-month trial of a pilot program designed to expedite fully developed veterans disability claims. The pilot program, known as the Acceptable Clinical Evidence (ACE) program, is the VA’s latest initiative to reduce the disability claim backlog.
The ACE program combines the resources of the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefits Administration to promote instant sharing of records. The two administrations work together to evaluate a claim for completeness in regards to medical records.
The ACE Process
During the ACE process, a Veterans Affairs medical provider uses the disabled veteran’s existing medical records to complete a disability questionnaire. If necessary, a telephone interview with the disabled veteran is conducted to fill in any missing medical information. If the medical provider can gather enough evidence through medical records and interviews, the disabled veteran may be eligible to forgo the in-person medical evaluation, saving time, travel, and stress.
Officials from the VA are confident that the ACE program will help, “expedite the determination of disability ratings in turn eliminating the wait time to schedule and conduct an exam from the claims process.” The pilot test at one regional VA office found that 38 percent of all incoming claims were eligible for evaluation through the ACE program.
Medical evidence and military records are the two most important parts of a veteran’s disability claim application. Errors or omissions in these forms of documentation can lead to delays or unfair denials of veterans’ disability benefit claims.
If a disabled veteran or family member of a wounded warrior needs assistance navigating the veterans’ disability claims process, the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. can help. Contact our veteran’s disability rights firm today – 1-888-234-5758.
Thursday, March 7th, 2013
At the end of February 2013, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) had over 600,000 veterans’ disability claims sitting in their regional offices waiting to be processed. While this is a significant drop from the 800,000 mark at the end of 2012, there is still a long way to go to reduce this number to a more manageable level.
Currently, the average benefits claim for veterans’ disability takes about 270 days to process. This is a far cry from the goal of processing all claims in 125 days or less and eliminating the backlog by 2015. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki claims that nearly 200 days of the current average processing time is due to waiting on documentation from the IRS, defense department, and outside doctors, according to Stars and Stripes.
The VA has taken steps in recent months to help improve inter-department communication with the IRS and defense department to obtain these records more quickly. In the meantime, it is still a lengthy process for the VA claims processing teams to evaluate a claim for completeness, request the necessary records for processing, and re-evaluate the new evidence once it is obtained.
What can veterans do to speed up the process?
One of the things that disabled veterans can do that may help expedite their claims is to ensure they are filing a completely documented application for veterans’ disability benefits. The more records a disabled veteran is able to provide with their application, the better chance they have of getting their case processed with the new expedited claim processing system.
The new system segments claims into categories determined by their level of completeness and complexity. Claims that are well-documented and have all the necessary paperwork may be expedited through the approval process. One way to ensure your claim is handled properly is to work with a veterans’ disability attorney and case manager.
The veterans’ disability claim team at The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. is ready to help disabled veterans obtain the right documentation for their case. For assistance with collecting medical records, military service documentation, and financial approvals, contact our veteran’s disability firm – 1-888-234-5758.
Wednesday, March 6th, 2013
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Defense Department (DoD) are slated to merge their health record systems by 2017, but negotiations are hitting road blocks.
The most recent developments in the struggle for medical record integration came late February when DoD officials rejected adopting the VA’s VISTA health record system, according to Stars and Stripes. The VA has been using VISTA for years, but some argue that the system may be outdated and not as adaptable as other systems under consideration.
One thing that both departments do seem to agree on is that veterans and doctors should be able to share the same medical records no matter what system is employed. The goal is still to create a single health record system to improve communication between the departments’ health facilities.
Urgency for this measure comes from the backlog of veterans’ disability claims that have suffered from delays in communication of medical records. When the VA has to pull medical records from the DoD, it creates extra steps in the approval process that can add unnecessary time to the completion of a claim.
Officials have promised that by the end of 2013 one of the major steps to the seamless health record system will be completed. At year’s end the basic sharing of health records and a common method of displaying records will be developed and implemented. A major decision on which computer system to approve will come by the end of March.
Medical records are one of the most important parts of a veterans disability claim and incomplete records may result in unnecessary claim delays. The veterans’ disability claim team at The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. is ready to help disabled veterans apply for benefits and help through the process. Contact our disability rights firm today – 1-888-234-5758.