Department Membership Reports – Trouble viewing
Posted on December 10th, 2013
If you are having reading the membership reports you may need to clear your cache or history files on your internet provider.
For Google Chrome – On the right side of the screen click on the button with three horizontal lines; then click on the history button, on the history page click clear browsing data. When the history finishes clearing close the browser and reopen and it should be corrected.
For Internet Explorer – On the menu tab at the top of the browser screen click on the tools tab, next click on the Delete browsing history, make sure there are check marks in the following blocks – Temporary Internet Files and website files, cookies and website data, history and download history; then at the bottom click the delete button. When the history finishes clearing close the browser and reopen and it should be corrected.
Legion challenges VA claims accuracy
Posted on December 9th, 2013
The American Legion testified at a Dec. 4 hearing on Capitol Hill that examined VA’s track record in processing complex disability claims that deal with conditions such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and military sexual trauma (MST).
Zachary Hearn, deputy director of benefits for the Legion, appeared before the House Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee on disability and memorial affairs; he also submitted written testimony for the record.
The American Legion challenged the accuracy of online statistics from VA’s Monday Morning reports, claiming they were not consistent with the Legion’s review of recently adjudicated claims; of 260 claims examined, 55 percent contained errors. “This statistic is in stark contrast to the approximate 90 percent accuracy rating in claims adjudication indicated by (VA),” the Legion stated.
According to VA data, Hearn noted, the Nashville VARO had a 95.1 percent accuracy rating for the previous three months. Yet when American Legion experts reviewed 22 of the claims, they found seven with errors. “Our review paints a far dimmer picture of Nashville’s accuracy than indicated in the Monday Morning Workload Report,” Hearn said.
Lauren Price, a retired Navy petty officer and representative of Veteran Warriors, told the subcommittee that the Department of Veterans Affairs “is not doing business properly. I could sit here for hours and give you statement(s) of egregious behavior, wrongful denials – in some cases, deliberate malfeasance.” She asked Congress to press forward in its VA oversight and support her organization’s mission, “which is to have a full overhaul of the (VA), completely reorganizing the way they’re doing business, and demanding full and 100 percent accountability and repercussions for their actions.”
Another witness, Bettye McNutt, described how she submitted a benefits claim 23 years ago that VA continues to deny, despite expert medical opinions that her late husband, a Vietnam War veteran, died of cancer “that was, as likely as not” linked to Agent Orange exposure.
Price, when asked to identify the most frequent errors in the VA claims process, said, “Failure to apply the law correctly, complete disregard of medical evidence provided – most specifically, from civilian providers, and … the almost complete and utter disregard for anything that is considered a policy, rule, regulation or law.”
Price noted an April 26, 2010 VA policy change on disability claims related to burn-pit exposure (as in her own case). The application of that policy change by VA regional offices (VAROs), she said, “has, to the best of my knowledge, not been addressed once in the almost 5,000 victims I know personally.”
Ronald Abrams, joint executive director for the National Veterans Legal Services Program, told the subcommittee that VA’s error rate for complex disability claims has increased. “You just simply can’t go too fast when you have complicated claims – special monthly compensation, traumatic brain injury. In fact, the regulation dealing with TBI is so complicated that some people call it the ‘Da Vinci Code.’”
Sometimes, Hearn said, VA doesn’t seem to know when to stop, “and over-complicates a claim.” He referred to a case from the VARO in Reno, Nev., which required two medical examinations to establish service connection to a veteran’s PTSD “when only one was necessary, and it took over two years from the date of the first examination to adjudicate the claim, and then another four months to notify the veteran.”
When complex benefits claims are made even more difficult by VA errors, Abrams said, “The veterans face a nightmare. Not only do they have to get the right evidence before the VA, they have to overcome the unfair denial, which is an obstacle that stands in their path.”
Abrams said the worst type of VA errors are the result of adjudications made too quickly. “Some VAROs incorrectly adjudicate and prematurely deny claims based on inadequate evidence – especially inadequate VA exams. These errors reveal for many veterans that the claims process can be adversarial.”
Abrams’ experience includes participation in more than 40 Regional Office Action Reviews conducted by The American Legion, “who should be commended for doing that work.” Such reviews showed him that VA’s error rate “has been consistently at least 30 percent in the various (regional offices). Sometimes it’s higher. It’s unrealistic to assume that the VA will ever get its real (accuracy) rate to 98 percent.”
VA has a “gold mine” of data to help improve the accuracy of its workers, the Legion testified, in the Veterans Benefits Management System, decisions of the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, the Appeals Management Center and the Board of Veterans Appeals. Yet, “this gold mine remains untapped. The American Legion would like to see VA develop a system to analyze the vast trove of error information, track it, and use it to develop training to improve results.”
Putting the claims accuracy issue into proper perspective, Hearn told the subcommittee that the difference between VA’s stated goal of 98 percent accuracy “and even 97 percent is over 10,000 veterans who may not get the benefits they earned…. That is why The American Legion is constantly raising the importance of accuracy. Because for all those veterans who wind up on the wrong end of those errors – VA’s accuracy rate may as well be zero.”
Hearn said that VA needs to adopt strategies articulated by National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger during his Oct. 3 congressional testimony: fix a work-credit system “that currently places more emphasis on actions completed than actions done right,” and aggregate common errors “to develop a training plan – these are steps we want to see taken.”
According to a February 2013 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, about 384,000 servicemembers have been diagnosed with TBI or PTSD from 2000 to 20012. The Associated
Press reported last May that, in 2012, more than 85,000 veterans sought treatment for injuries or diseases caused by MST.
Six Legion alumni on Hall of Fame ballot
Posted on December 6th, 2013
Six of the 22 candidates on the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot are former American Legion Baseball players. Election results for the 2014 induction into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., will be announced at 2 p.m. (EST) on Jan. 8 on www.mlb.com.
The six former Legion Baseball players are:
Roger Clemens. A 1988 Legion Baseball Gradute of the Year recipient, Clemens played baseball for the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and the Houston Astros.
Jeff Kent. Kent spent 17 years of his MLB career as a second baseman for four reputable teams – the New York Mets, San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He also served as a sports commentator from 2009-2011 for The American Legion Baseball World Series.
Greg Maddux. A 1994 Legion Baseball Graduate of the Year recipient, Maddux is a former pitcher for the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves.
Don Mattingly. A 1987 Legion Baseball Graduate of the Year recipient, Mattingly is currently the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He spent his 14-year playing career with the New York Yankees.
Fred McGriff. McGriff made his MLB debut in 1986 with the Toronto Blue Jays and went on to play for the San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Alan Trammell. A 1989 Legion Baseball Graduate of the Year recipient, Trammell played his 19-year playing career for the Detroit Tigers.
Cuts to Armed Forces Network, Stars & Stripes should be ‘off the table’ says American Legion National Commander
Posted on December 4th, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS (Dec. 4, 2013)—The head of the nation’s largest veterans service organization warned that “morale is becoming a casualty of sequestration” thanks to the latest budget talk emanating from Washington.
“Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, our troops overseas were greeted with the news from Stars & Stripes that the historic newspaper might be on the chopping block by Pentagon budget cutters,” said American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger. “Moreover, the Armed Forces Network, which provides American-style programming including sporting events, is also facing cuts. This comes at a time when military commissaries across the country may close, weapons systems are eliminated, brigades are cut and training missions cancelled. The American Legion has been warning against sequestration for years now. We are starting to see the real effects of cutting an additional $500 billion from one of the few parts of the federal budget that is mandated by the Constitution. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel just said the cuts are too steep, too deep and too abrupt. He also referred to sequestration as an irresponsible way to govern. I agree.”
Dellinger pointed out that benefit cuts start a vicious cycle which leads to manpower shortages and higher casualties in combat. “Every time America has cut its forces, we later regretted it. The American Legion is urging our 2.4 million members to contact their congressional delegations and let them know that the madness called ‘sequestration’ must end. The same message needs to be relayed to the president.”
Veterans to Receive 1.5 Percent Cost-of-Living Increase New Rates for Compensation and Pension Benefits in 2014
Posted on December 4th, 2013
WASHINGTON – Veterans, their families and survivors receiving disability compensation and pension benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs will receive a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase in their monthly payments beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
“We’re pleased there will be another cost-of-living increase for Veterans, their families and their survivors,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “The increase expresses in a tangible way our Nation’s gratitude for the sacrifices made by our service-disabled and wartime Veterans.”
For the first time, payments will not be rounded down to the nearest dollar. Until this year, that was required by law. Veterans and survivors will see additional cents included in their monthly compensation benefit payment.
For Veterans without dependents, the new compensation rates will range from $130.94 monthly for a disability rated at 10 percent to $2,858.24 monthly for 100 percent. The full rates are available on the Internet at www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/rates-index.asp.
The COLA increase also applies to disability and death pension recipients, survivors receiving dependency and indemnity compensation, disabled Veterans receiving automobile and clothing allowances, and other benefits.
Under federal law, cost-of-living adjustments for VA’s compensation and pension must match those for Social Security benefits. The last adjustment was in January 2013 when the Social Security benefits rate increased 1.7 percent.
In fiscal year 2013, VA provided over $59 billion in compensation benefits to nearly 4 million Veterans and survivors, and over $5 billion in pension benefits to more than 515,000 Veterans and survivors.
For Veterans and separating Servicemembers who plan to file an electronic disability claim, VA urges them to use the joint DoD/VA online portal, eBenefits. Registered eBenefits users with a premium account can file a claim online, track the status, and access a variety of other benefits, including pension, education, health care, home loan eligibility, and vocational rehabilitation and employment programs.
For more information about VA benefits, visit www.benefits.va.gov, or call 1-800-827-1000.
Remember those in harm’s way this season
Posted on December 3rd, 2013
As we enter the Christmas season and contemplate a new year, the headlines of 2013 can’t be far enough behind us. Heated debates on gun control, amnesty and health care. Chemical weapons and the possibility of a U.S. strike in Syria. The debt ceiling. The government shutdown.
Where were America’s men and women in uniform as this political tug of war dragged on? On the front lines, of course – where they’ve been since 2001, doing the fighting and dying for freedoms we talk a lot about but still manage to take for granted. Sixty thousand U.S. troops are in Afghanistan, and though that number may shrink to half by February, the war isn’t over. The enemy hasn’t quit. Those with boots on the ground know that the next day, the next hour, could bring a suicide bomb, IED blast or Taliban ambush.
The media may trumpet our gradual withdrawal of forces, but I’m thinking about those who are headed overseas or are there now. Early this month, 140 members of the “Wolfpack” – the 114th Transportation Company, Minnesota National Guard – return to Afghanistan for the first time since 2009. Since October, soldiers of the Army Reserve’s 760th Engineering Company out of Virginia have been closing forward operating bases and sending equipment back to the United States. Meanwhile, 45 members of New Hampshire’s 238th Medevac Company are on their third deployment in eight years.
And those are the units. Just about every day I hear of an individual receiving orders to Afghanistan or another foreign outpost – a newly married Air Force photographer, an Army JAG officer facing a year away from her husband and three children, and so many others. It’s their job, sure, but it’s a job with risks that aren’t fully realized until they’re thousands of miles from home wearing helmets and body armor.
This season, let’s reach out to these warriors in ways only The American Legion can. Few other Americans know the loneliness of spending a holiday in a combat zone, far from family and friends, but we do. There’s nothing like a message or a care package from a veteran who can relate: “Ten years ago, I was in Iraq, wishing like hell I was back home. I’m praying for your safety today. Thank you for serving.”
Go a step further by purchasing an American Legion gift membership for a deployed soldier, sailor, airman or Marine. Nothing says “you belong with us” like covering the first-year dues of a young veteran who doesn’t have much disposable income. For $25, you can do it online at www.legion.org/giftmembership.
Don’t know anyone stationed overseas? Ask a fellow Legionnaire. Military service tends to run in the family; someone in your post may have a relative “over there.” Has your post adopted a National Guard or reserve unit? Plenty do; contact the Legion’s Internal Affairs Division at (317) 630-1321 to find out how to connect with local servicemembers and their families.
We spend a lot of time trying to meet the needs of returning veterans, but thousands are still in harm’s way. This month, as you gather with your loved ones, more than a few U.S. troops will be preparing to engage the enemy. Send ’em some love.
Legion backs move to fix GI Bill problem
Posted on December 3rd, 2013
A bill crafted with the help of The American Legion would, if enacted, correct a “bureaucratic nightmare” that has caused some servicemembers’ children to be billed for thousands of dollars in educational benefits for which they were originally approved. The Legion-backed corrective legislation, “GI Education Benefits Fairness Act”, was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Nov. 22 by Rep. Bill Foster, a Democrat, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. A letter of support for the bill has been signed by American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger.
In a conference call to members of the press on Nov. 26, Foster explained his legislation. “The Post 9/11 GI Bill provides education benefits to servicemembers who serve on active duty after Sept. 10, 2001,” he said. “Many of our active troops can transfer their benefits. Under current law, the Department of Defense includes wards and foster children in the definition of ‘eligible child’ who can receive their parents’ GI Bill education benefits. However, the Veterans Administration does not.
“This has led to a bureaucratic nightmare for members of the … services and their families. One hundred wards and foster children were initially approved by DoD for education benefits and money was paid out to their schools. Then, in mid semester, the VA revoked their benefits, and the students and their families were notified that they would have to pay back all the money.”
In his letter of support to Foster, Dellinger said, “According to The American Legion’s Resolution No. 27 …The American Legion seeks and supports any legislative or administrative proposal that improves GI Bill education benefits so servicemembers, veterans and their families can maximize its usage, This bill would do this ….”
Foster said the legislation was inspired by the case of one of his constituents, Army Sgt. 1st Class Angela Dees. Several years ago, Dees transferred her Post-9/11 GI Bill educational benefits to her legal ward, Christopher, so that he could attend the University of Illinois in Chicago. The benefits transfer was approved originally but later rescinded, leaving Dees and her ward with a bill exceeding $10,000.
“I had straight As,” Christopher said. “I graduated third in my class and I had no other funding available. I didn’t think that I would need it. So for that to be taken away after I was already in school is heartbreaking. I think this legislation is very important – not only to me, but to hundreds of other kids that have been or will be affected.”
The bill’s sponsors solicited the support and aid of The American Legion as the proposed law was being written.
National Commander rips proposal to close Commissaries
Posted on November 27th, 2013
‘Enough is Enough,’ American Legion National Commander rips latest proposal to close stateside commissaries
INDIANAPOLIS (Nov. 27, 2013)—The head of the nation’s largest veterans service organization slammed a Department of Defense proposal to shut down all military-run grocery stores in the United States as just “another plan to punish veterans” for Washington’s inability to balance the budget.
“As we count our blessings on Thanksgiving, shouldn’t we remember that it is our veterans and our military that have kept us safe and free?” asked American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger. “And shouldn’t that gratitude extend everyday and not just on holidays? Many military retirees are on fixed incomes and rely on these commissaries. They devoted a life of service to this nation. Their health insurance premiums are going up and the Pentagon openly considers cuts to pay and benefits for those still serving in harm’s way. Is it too much to ask that other areas of the federal government be cut and that the men and women who have already sacrificed so much for this country be allowed to keep the benefits that they have earned? They have already paid an enormous price to be eligible for these benefits, far more than what it is costing the treasury. Enough is enough. Veterans benefits are a cost of war and a free society.”
Dellinger also pointed out that many military retirees have chosen to live in communities based on their proximity to commissaries and military exchanges. Delegates at The American Legion national convention in 2012 unanimously passed a resolution opposing any efforts “to dismantle or downsize the Defense Commissary Agency.”
VA Marks the 10-Year Anniversary of My HealtheVet – Online Access Available to Support Veterans Health Care
Posted on November 26th, 2013
WASHINGTON (Nov. 26, 2013) — In recognition of the 10th anniversary of its award-winning Personal Health Record, My HealtheVet (www.myhealth.va.gov), the Department of Veterans Affairs is urging all Veterans and Servicemembers to join the millions already accessing VA health care information and services online. VA is marking this milestone by spreading the word about the benefits of My HealtheVet Personal Health Record, such as VA prescription refill, VA notes, VA Blue Button and secure messaging with VA health care providers.
“VA is a pioneer and a leader of health information technology that improves patient-provider relationships, embraces wellness and improves health outcomes for the brave men and women who have served our Nation,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “VA invites all Veterans and Servicemembers to get online to become more active partners in their health care.”
Throughout November, My HealtheVet Coordinators at all 151 VA medical centers organized community events, host enrollment and education health fairs, lead training sessions and work with VA Voluntary Service to showcase how My HealtheVet contributes to more informed and more engaged Veteran patients. VA continues to build its My HealtheVet online health record, adding new online tools and features, and My HealtheVet Coordinators are geared up to accept new My HealtheVet enrollees throughout November.
“VA is dedicated to providing Veterans with the best experience possible, both at VA facilities and online,” said Under Secretary for Health, Dr. Robert A. Petzel. “We are proud to celebrate a decade of online access for Veterans and look forward to a future of even more access to meet their evolving needs.”
My HealtheVet is VA’s award-winning website that offers Veterans secure access to portions of information in their VA health care records anywhere and anytime. Its web-based tools give users greater control over their care and wellness, helping them become active partners in their health care.
In addition to allowing Veterans access to their records, My HealtheVet lets them save, print and share their health information using the VA Blue Button, refill VA prescriptions online and track their health activities. Veterans who upgrade their accounts, free of charge, can use secure messaging to communicate electronically with their VA health care teams between visits. They can also view VA appointments, get VA Wellness Reminders, access VA lab results and more.
“We urge Veterans and Servicemembers to go online during November and throughout the year,” said Theresa Hancock, director of the My HealtheVet program. “My HealtheVet offers a flexible and convenient way for Veterans to become engaged in their health care and well-being.”
My HealtheVet is celebrating 10 years of online access. All Veterans and Servicemembers are encouraged to enroll or upgrade today at www.myhealth.va.gov.
Statement from Secretary Shinseki on the Disabilities Treaty
Posted on November 25th, 2013
WASHINGTON (Nov. 21, 2013) — Ratification of the Disabilities Treaty is important to our Nation’s 5.5 million disabled Veterans.
Ratification of the Disabilities Treaty is not about changing America. It’s about helping the rest of the world raise their accessibility standards to the gold standard the United States has set through our ADA. Ratification will help reinforce America’s global leadership role and reputation, putting us in the strongest position to advance disability rights worldwide.
By joining the treaty, we will be helping the 5.5 million Veterans with disabilities and the 50 million Americans with disabilities study and work with dignity and pursue greater opportunity abroad with the same access they enjoy at home.
I served for roughly 10 years in Europe as a disabled Soldier following my tours in Vietnam. During that time, I had to learn to walk and run again. I had to convince the Army that I could continue to serve, and learn to adjust to a new reality. I recall the absence of aids for the disabled in many places where I served—ramps, lifts, automatic door openers, among other devices that are commonly available in this country.
Our disabled Veterans and service members have put their trust in our country. Now, it’s time for our country to put its trust in them. It’s time to ratify the Disabilities Treaty.
I urge the Senate to approve the Treaty this year.