The American Legion Washington DC Office
Friday June 28th, 2013
- On Monday, June 24, staff met with Brian Hawkins, Director and Ross Fletcher, Chief of Staff of the DC VA Medical Center to discuss the Compensation and Pension (C&P) RSVP Scheduling Program at DC VA Medical Center. By regulation, the Veterans Benefits Administration requires veterans that submit a claim for an injury/illness to conduct a C&P exam to determine the severity of injury/illness and appropriate percentage of service connection. The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) sends a C&P exam request to the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to schedule and complete the C&P exam. Instead of mailing the veteran a letter with their date for the C&P exam within 30 days, the DC VA Medical Center and other pilot VA sites sending a RSVP letter to request a veteran schedule an appointment within 10 days. The RSVP program has allowed the veteran to have more flexibility and options for scheduling as well as helped the DC VA Medical Center to coordinate the multiple doctors that are necessary if the exam has several conditions the veteran is claiming. However, approximately five to ten percent of veterans are not scheduling within the 10 day period of the RSVP program, and if VHA is unable to reach the veteran in 10 days, they send the failure to report notice back to VBA which affects the veterans' claim decision. A future meeting will be set up with VBA to determine if the request for exam can be re-sent to VHA if a veteran does not schedule an appointment during the first 10-day period.
- On Friday, June 21, the Ft. Wayne System Worth Saving story and report was posted on The American Legion's Veterans Health Care Center page. Here is a link to the report: http://www.legion.org/veteranshealthcare/216278/legion-carefully-examine-icu-situation-fort-wayne.
- On June 18th, staff attended a Panel Discussion and Q&A on Facing the Invisible Wounds of War, presented by Volunteers of America at the National Press Club 529 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20045. The Panel was moderated by the anchor of Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace, with special guests: Congressman Phil Roe, and Congressman Tim Walz. The panel featured: Kelly Caffarelli, President of The Home Depot Foundation, Koby Langley, Senior Advisor for the Corporation for National and Community Service, Former U.S. Senator, Richard Luger, and Dr. Jonathan Sherin, Executive Vice President, Military Communities & Chief Medical Officer for Volunteers of America. The panel engaged discussion on the mental health challenges faced by many of America's returning veterans, including PTSD, military sexual trauma, addiction and other barriers to building strong civilian lives.
- On June 22, 2013, Warren Goldstein, Senior National Field Service Representative conducted Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) training at the Department of Tennessee Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. The training was on "VA Enrollment and Priority Groups." There were 25 Legionnaires to include Department Services Officers in attendance.
- On June 28, 2013, Roscoe Butler will be meeting with Dr. Ellen Fox, Chief Ethics in Health Care Officer and Dr. Sherrie Hans, Deputy Chief, National Center of Ethics in Health Care to discuss their to discuss their 2012 and 2013 office goals and priorities, status of the program's progress toward achieving these goals and the program office's resources (budget, staffing and equipment).
- VA Processes Nearly All Disability Claims Pending Over 2 Years, Moves to Complete Those Older Than 1 Year
The Department of Veterans Affairs announced that as a result of the initiative launched in April to expedite disability compensation claims decisions for Veterans who have a waited a year or longer, more than 65,000-claims – or 97 percent of all claims over two years old in the inventory – have been eliminated from the backlog. Veterans Benefits Administration has stated that 95 percent of these have been completed and only 5 percent have been issue a provisional rating. With the speed of processing the 65,000 claims we will monitor the accuracy of the ratings. How many of these completed claims will end up in the appeals process only time will tell. Even the VA conceded to Senator Titus that some of these claims will end up in the appeals process. During our upcoming ROAR visits we might not be able to review the actual claims as they will be in VBMS but we need to request from VACO the report that reflects the ratio of the two year completed claims that are being appealed.
- OIG Inspection of VA Regional Office Houston Texas
The OIG evaluated the Houston VARO to see how well it accomplishes its mission. OIG found the VARO staff did not accurately process 37 (62 percent) of 60 disability claims reviewed. OIG sampled claims for certain types of medical disabilities that they considered to be at higher risk of processing errors, so these results do not represent the overall accuracy of disability claims processing at this VARO. Specific to the claims OIG reviewed, 22 of 30 temporary 100 percent disability evaluations were inaccurate. Generally, these errors occurred because VARO management did not ensure staff took appropriate action to reduce benefits when required, and staff did not follow up on requests for hearings where veterans could present additional evidence to show that temporary 100 percent evaluations were still warranted. Also, staff misinterpreted VBA policy and inaccurately processed 15 of 30 traumatic brain injury claims. Further, VARO managers did not ensure staff accurately completed Systematic Analyses of Operations or addressed Gulf War veterans' entitlement to mental health treatment.
OIG recommended the VARO Director implement a plan to ensure staff complies with VBA policy to reduce temporary 100 percent disability evaluations, and follow up on hearing requests associated with proposed reductions in benefits. The Director should also ensure staff reviews the 689 temporary 100 percent disability evaluations remaining from our inspection universe and take action to manage these evaluations appropriately. Further, the Director should implement a plan to ensure effective training and accurate second signature reviews of traumatic brain injury claims. The Director should also provide refresher training and ensure the Systematic Analyses of Operations checklist is amended to address all elements required by current VBA policy. The VARO Director concurred with OIG recommendations.
With reading the report we will look at a Regional Office Action Review visit and ensure the VARO is following up and through with VBA policy and procedures.
- Staff met with Sen. Boxer and Sen. Gillibrand's office to discuss Military Sexual Assault bill. Discussed existing bills and possible language that TAL could support, and the possibility of Gillibrand's staff coming to convention to brief the Nat Security and VA&R Commissions.
- Staff met with the Heritage Foundation to discuss the Treaty on Persons with Disabilities. Heritage was interested in our position based on prior TAL support. We discussed that TAL does not have a resolution to support, and where there is very little Veteran implication, doubtful that TAL would be interested in getting involved further.
- Staff met with VA Undersecretary together with VA&R to discuss proposed legislation that would mandate VA reporting requirements regarding infectious diseases. There are two proposed bills regarding reporting procedures, and TAL needed to get specific information from VA before making a decision on which bill to support.
- Staff presented legislative report during the annual Citizens Flag Alliance meeting. Discussed the House resolutions that have been introduced, and what the status is of these resolutions are, and the Senate resolution that was introduced last week. We further discussed strategies for moving the resolutions forward.
- TAL participated as a witness in a hearing to address pending legislation before the HVAC Economic Opportunity subcommittee.
- HR 331, To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to permit the centralized reporting of veteran enrollment by certain groups, districts, and consortiums of educational institutions.
- HR 821 - To amend the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to provide surviving spouses with certain protections relating to mortgages and mortgage foreclosures, and for other purposes.
- HR 1357 - To amend the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 to improve the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program by providing assistance under such program for certain training programs that are considered less than full-time.
- HR 1796 – TROOP TALENT ACT 2013 To ensure that the education and training provided members of the Armed Forces and veterans better assists members and veterans in obtaining civilian certifications and licenses, and for other purposes.
- HR 1842 MILITARY FAMILIES HOME PROTESTION ACT, To amend the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to improve the protections for servicemembers, surviving spouses, and disabled veterans against mortgage foreclosures, and for other purposes.
- HR 2011 VETERANS ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION IMPROVEMENT ACT 2013 To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for a two-year extension of the Veterans' Advisory Committee on Education.
- HR 2150 HOMELESS VETERANS REINTERGRATION ACT 2013 To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for a five-year extension to the homeless veterans reintegration programs.
- HR 2210 MARINE GUNNERY SERGEANT JOHN DAVID FRY SCHOLARSHIP IMPROVEMENTS ACT OF 2013 To amend title 38, United States Code, to expand the eligibility of children of certain deceased veterans to educational assistance under the Post-9/11 Educational Assistance Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
- HR 2327 To amend title 38, United States Code, to establish in the Department of Veterans Affairs a Veterans Economic Opportunity Administration, and for other purposes
- DRAFT BILL To amend title 38, United States Code, to codify and improve the election requirements for the receipt of educational assistance under the Post 9/11 Educational Assistance program of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
- Staff participated in a congressional Watchdog Caucus - Steps Congress Can Take to Reduce the VA Backlog. A Bipartisan Congressional Watchdog Caucus Briefing held in the Cannon House Office Building
- Staff provided testimony for the record on the CBO scoring issue regarding VA leased CBOCs
- Staff participated in an off-side Heritage Foundation presentation featuring Senator Kelly Ayott titled Project for the Common Defense: Keeping America Strong for the Next Generation
- Staff met with the American Federation of Government Workers to discuss the topic of "Official Time" at VA facilities with regard to VA employees using VA paid hours to act as Union officials.
- Staff met with Senator Manchin (WV) staff regarding claims backlog bill
- Staff prepared testimony with VAR for testimony before Disability and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee of the House on pending legislation (Legislative staff prepped testimony) VA&R Director will be witness.
- H.R. 1288: WORLD WAR II MERCHANT MARINER SERVICE ACT, To direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to accept additional documentation when considering the application for veterans status of an individual who performed service as a coastwise merchant seaman during World War II, and for other purposes.
- H.R. 1494: BLUE WATER NAVY SHIP ACCOUNTABILITY ACT To direct the Secretary of Defense to review the operation of certain ships during the Vietnam Era, and for other purposes.
- H.R. 1623: VA CLAIMS EFFICIENCY THROUGH INFORMATION ACT OF 2013 H.R. 1623: To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to make publicly available certain information about pending and completed claims for compensation under the laws administered by the Secretary, and for other purposes.
- H.R. 1809 To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide notice of average times for processing claims and percentage of claims approved, and for other purposes.
- H.R. 2086: THE PAY AS YOU RATE ACT To direct the Secretary to make interim payments of disability compensation benefits for certain claims for such compensation prior to the adjudication of such claims, and for other purposes.
- H.R. 2138: ENDING VA CLAIMS DISABILITY BACKLOG AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to resolve the backlog of disability claims of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.
- H.R. 2189: To establish a commission or task force to evaluate the backlog of disability claims of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
- H.R. 2341: THE VETERANS PENSION PROTECTION ACT To amend title 38, United States Code, to require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to consider the resources of individuals applying for pension that were recently disposed of by the individuals for less than fair market value when determining the eligibility of such individuals for such pension, and for other purposes.
- H.R. 2423: DISABLED VETERANS' ACCESS TO MEDICAL EXAMS IMPROVEMENT ACT To improve the authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to enter into contracts with private physicians to conduct medical disability examinations.
- Staff attended House Armed Services Committee hearing titled Past, Present and Future Irregular Warfare Challenges: Private Sector Perspectives
- Staff met with Congressman Cumming's office regarding co-sponsorship for Congressman Fitzpatrick's bill that would allow veteran owned small businesses compete with other disadvantaged small businesses in Department of Transportation's grants to the states for infrastructure improvements.
- Staff met with Senator Blumenthal's office regarding a companion bill for Congressman Fitzpatrick's bill that would allow veteran owned small businesses compete with other disadvantaged small businesses in Department of Transportation's grants to the states for infrastructure improvements.
- Staff met with the Chamber of Commerce to discuss the extent to which the Chamber would participate in our National Convention, in terms of providing speakers, panels, co-hosting the Hiring Event and Employment Workshops. The parties also discussed the possibility of creating a rewards program for Legion Posts and Local Chambers of Commerce that have worked extremely well over the last few years to try and work together to reduce the veteran's unemployment rate.
- This week planning continued with our partners on hiring events we have in New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Virginia and of course our Transitions and Benefits Fair that will be held in Houston Texas in conjunction with the National convention.
- Staff participated in a phone conference with James Madison University in Virginia that has recently attended the V3 conference in Virginia which outlined the State's dedication of resources to ensure that veterans progress through Virginia's institutions of higher education and obtain their degrees as smoothly as possible and the development of a handover employment resources on their way out. JMU has done most of the work in starting the program, the program is handed off and currently being piloted at Old Dominion University. The University seeks more assistance from the local veteran community and government entities to ensure that their steering committee is on the right track.
- Staff met with the Small Business Administration and Syracuse University to discuss the progression of the 2-day For HEROES Entrepreneurial Course that will be piloted at our National Convention. Discussion continued regarding legal matters, logistics, data collection and capabilities.
- June 28, 2013. The House Veteran Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs will conduct a hearing on the following bills:
- H.R. 1288
- H.R. 1494
- H.R. 1623
- H.R. 1809
- H.R. 2086
- H.R. 2138
- H.R. 2189
- H.R. 2341
- H.R. 2382
- H.R. 2423
10:00 A.M.; 334 Cannon
- July 9, 2013. The House Veterans Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Health intends to hold a legislative hearing on health related bills. 10:00 A.M.; 334 Cannon
Tentative Bill List:
- Draft Bill XXX-- "Veterans Choice-Long Term Care" Certified Adult Foster Home (Miller(FL)
- H.R. 1612-- To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to convey a parcel of land in Tuskegee, Alabama, to Tuskegee University, and for other purposes (Rogers (AL)
- H.R. 2065-- Safe Housing for Homeless Veterans Act (McKinley (WV)
- H.R. 1143-- Tinnitus Research and Treatment Act of 2013 (Michaud (ME)
- H.R. 1702-- Veterans Transportation Service Act (Barber (AZ)
- July 10, 2013. The House Committee on Veterans' Affairs will hold a joint hearing with the House Committee on Armed Services entitled, "DOD and VA Collaboration to assist Service Members Returning to Civilian Life." 10:00 A.M.; 2118 Rayburn
Daniel S. Wheeler
The American Legion
War-time veterans and military members dedicated to a strong
national security; compassionate care for veterans and their families;
community service; and the wholesome development of our nation's youth.