American Veteran News 04.16.16

VETERAN WINS MEDICAL CLAIM AGAINST THE VA — COURTHOUSE NEWS SERVICE — The Department of Veterans Affairs must cover $48,000 in emergency medical bills at a non-VA hospital accrued by a veteran who qualifies for Medicare, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims ruled.

Richard Staab served in the Air Force as a radio operator from 1952 to 1956.

He suffered a heart attack and one or more strokes in 2010 and was hospitalized at a non-VA hospital, where he subsequently underwent open heart surgery. He was discharged six months later.

The VA refused to pay his medical bills, saying he was ineligible because he was covered by Medicare — though Staab sought reimbursement for medical expenses not covered by Medicare: $48,000 in laboratory and other hospital services.

Staab said he could not have obtained pre-approval from the VA because the strokes left him unable to think clearly or communicate, and his family was unaware of the need to contact the VA.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims reversed the Board of Veterans Appeals ruling on April 8.

VA BOOSTS HEALTH SERVICES FOR WOMEN VETS — ORLANDO SENTINEL — Almost every day, Lisa Martel gets a call from a female veteran who has recently moved to Central Florida and is looking for health care.

“We’re just growing by leaps and bounds,” said Martel, Women Veteran Program Manager at Orlando VA Medical Center.

Women are the fastest-growing group within the veteran population, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. They make up about 10 percent of the total veteran population in Florida and around the nation, and their number is expected to grow to more than 16 percent by 2043.

This growth not only means an increasing need for services that are specific to women, but also a shift in the culture of an environment that’s been historically dominated by male patients.

VA MANAGER: SCOUTMASTERS HAVE BETTER SHOT AT LANDING MOST JOBS THAN VETS — NEWSMAX — A hiring manager working at the Department of Veterans Affairs said in a sworn deposition scoutmasters have a better chance than veterans at getting jobs there that pay well.

The Daily Caller uncovered the remark in a July 2014 court filing.

“Not really,” a VA density chief said in response to whether veterans are given first dibs at certain jobs at the department.

“And thank God, because I am a veteran, and I prefer for selections to be made on preparation than — I’ve always heard here that in Title 38 positions, that is not taken into — that’s not the main title taken into consideration, or the main attribute taken into consideration. Like I told you … OK, I was, I’m a veteran and … they never took that into consideration.”

When asked what factors are considered for hiring decisions, the official said, “Well, probably the awards, recognitions that the person has had. In this interview, I know that there was a section that we used, given to me by the chief of staff, that it was taken into consideration if this person was involved in outside activities, like, you know, being a scout master.”

SENATE COMMITTEE RENEWS MEDICAL MARIJUANA PROVISION IN VA BILL — MILCOM — Senate lawmakers on Thursday once again signaled to the Veterans Affairs Department they want VA doctors able to talk to patients about use of medical marijuana.

By a 20-10 bipartisan vote, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to the military construction and veterans legislation allowing agency doctors to make recommendations to vets on the use of medical marijuana — something they can’t do now even in states where cannabis prescriptions are legal.

“We should be doing everything we can to make life easier for our veterans,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, said in a statement. “Prohibiting VA doctors from talking to their patients about medical marijuana just doesn’t make sense. The VA shouldn’t be taking legal treatment options off the table for veterans.”

Medical marijuana is being prescribed in some states for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, even though its effectiveness remains questionable.

VIRAL FACEBOOK POST DRAWS IOWANS TO KOREAN WAR VET’S FUNERAL — TASK & PURPOSE — A viral Facebook request is rallying strangers to the funeral of an Iowa veteran who had no family of his own.

On Wednesday afternoon, funeral home director Marty Mitchell made a Facebook plea for Iowans to honor the life of Korean War Navy veteran, Charles Lanam.

“I‘m sitting in my office right now and contemplating the rest of the week- and really struggling with one thing that I would like to open up and share with all of you- and no, not a joke, something real,” Mitchell wrote in the Facebook post, which, at the time of this article, had been shared nearly 1,700 times.

“On Monday, we are going to bury a man who served our country honorably, and probably before many of us were born. He has no family – absolutely no family, so our staff and the chaplain from IVH will gather on a quiet hillside at IVH and put this man to rest.”

Lanam, who was homeless for years, passed away on April 11 at the Iowa Veterans Home at age 81.

LEGISLATION INTRODUCED TO PAY VETERANS $20K FOR LOSS OF SEXUAL ORGANS — FEDSMITH — Congressman Jeff Miller (R-FL), who is also the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, has introduced legislation that would compensate veterans who have suffered a traumatic injury to their reproductive organs and who cannot have children as a result.

H.R. 4892 would pay affected veterans $20,000 in two separate payments of $10,000 for their injuries which could be used at their discretion, including for adoption fees or other personal expenses.

Under the wording of the bill, a veteran would be covered if s/he suffers the anatomical loss of one or more creative organs or the permanent or static loss of use of one or more creative organs. A covered veteran would have to submit to the Secretary a separate, specific application for each payment of special compensation.

LAWMAKERS JOIN VETS TO CRITICIZE PROPOSAL TO CURB POST-9/11 GI BILL — MILCOM — Several Democrat lawmakers joined with veterans outside the U.S. Capitol on Thursday to oppose a House bill that will reduce a benefit included in the Post-9/11 GI Bill, calling the education benefit a sacred promise that should not be reneged on just because some now say it is too costly.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a veteran who lost both legs when the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter she was piloting was shot down over Iraq, said no one would accept a soldier changing his mind on the battlefield, saying “you know what? Now that the bullets are flying the costs are a little bit high. I’m not gonna go.’

“So how dare we decide, years later after we’ve made this promise [in the GI Bill] — after people enlisted or stayed in the military simply because of this benefit — that it’s too expensive, it costs us too much?” she said.

VETS GROUP BLASTS OBAMA FOR ‘NEUTRALITY’ ON PROPOSED GI BILL CUTS — MILCOM — The head of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is criticizing President Barack Obama for his unwillingness to oppose planned cuts to the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Paul Rieckhoff, founder and chief executive officer of the organization, known as IAVA, on Thursday called on all lawmakers and the president to say where they stood on House legislation that will cut in half the housing allowance for students attending college on a parent’s GI Bill.

The move could mean a loss of anywhere from a few hundred dollars to upwards of $2,000 a month, depending on where the child attends school.

“This is extremely disappointing to hear from our commander in chief,” Rieckhoff told on Friday. “You cannot be neutral on a moving train. We need him to stand strong. He stood with us when we passed the GI Bill in 2008. We need him to stand with us now in defending it.

“This is a no-brainer for the President,” he added.

VA SEEKS BETTER INTEGRATION WITH PRIVATE-SECTOR MEDICAL PROVIDERS — FEDERAL NEWS RADIO — The leading health care official at the Veterans Affairs Department says the agency needs better integration with private-sector medical providers in order to “re-engineer” the way veterans access treatment.

Dr. David Shulkin, the undersecretary for health at VA, told the Federal Drive with Tom Temin that the VA has taken an all-hands-on-deck approach to the “crisis of access” that came to light in April 2014. Ensuring quality of care, he said, doesn’t make a difference to veterans if they can’t schedule an appointment.

“The way that I look at the health system is that you can’t separate out the administrative functions and the clinical functions,” he said. “That when you look at it from a veteran’s perspective, it’s actually both that make a difference. So if you can’t schedule an appointment in an efficient way, you don’t ever get to benefit from the health care services that the health system has.”

The problem of long wait times for veterans to see doctors at VA medical centers had been building over time until it hit a crisis point, Shulkin said, and became a simple matter of demand outpacing supply.

DOCUMENT SHREDDING AT VA FACILITIES A ‘SYSTEMIC ISSUE’ — WASHINGTON FREE BEACON — Document shredding is a systemic problem at regional offices of the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to a watchdog report.

The VA inspector general found that staffers at a majority of regional offices that investigators visited last year improperly sent documents related to veterans’ claims to the shredder, a practice that the watchdog said is a “systemic issue” fueled by VA policy.

The report issued Thursday said that investigators conducted “unannounced inspections” at 10 regional offices after it was discovered last February that staffers at the VA’s Los Angeles office sent mail related to veterans’ claims to the shredder.

At six of the 10 regional offices, staffers improperly sent documents to the shredder without first putting the information in veterans’ claims folders. Sixty-nine of the 155 claims-related documents, or 45 percent, reviewed by investigators were incorrectly sent to the shredder. Two of the documents affected veterans’ benefits, and nine had the potential to do so. While the rest did not affect benefits, they were still required to be included in veterans’ claims folders before being destroyed.

DOGS, NOT DRUGS FOR STRUGGLING VETS — POLIZETTE — A Florida congressman running for the Senate thinks he has a better and, ultimately, cheaper way to help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder — man’s best friend.

Rep. Ron DeSantis, a Republican representing a coastal district in and around Daytona Beach, has sponsored the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act. The PAWS Act would direct the Department of Veterans Affairs to carry out a pilot program to provide service dogs to some veterans struggling with the psychological toll of war.

“These dogs are specifically trained to recognize the symptoms of a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress,” he said on “The Laura Ingraham Show” on Friday. “We’re obviously convinced that it will save lives.”

According to the congressman’s office, 29 percent of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans suffer from PTSD. In 2010, Congress authorized the Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct a study on the costs and benefits of providing service dogs to vets. But after six years and $12 million to $14 million, only 40 veterans have received dogs.


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