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Posts tagged ‘VA’

American Veterans Take Complaints To VA Officials 

Frustration and long wait times have been an ongoing issue with American Veterans returning home and seeking aid and benefits from the VA. Vets recently reached out to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs officials for guidance.

Vietnam vet Ronnie Thomas of Rensselaer has more than $25,000 in hospital and doctors bills but “the VA refuses to pay.” He’s been working with a patient advocate since late March to work out thousands of dollars in medical bills, but said that has also been frustrating.

“My credit is ruined,” he said. “No one seems to care.”

Thomas was one of more than 100 veterans and their family members who filled Sycamore Hall at Woodland Park in Portage for a meeting with VA officials, put on by the city’s veterans advisory committee. One of the issues covered was the inability to reach anyone by phone, to voice concerns or issues.

Jim McLain, acting director of the Jesse Brown Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Chicago, apologized to the vets and their families, said the phone system is more than 20 years old and can’t handle the volume of calls it receives. The VA is going to a centralized call center and other improvements to help its clients.

Similar town hall style meetings have been organized in other parts of the country. In the Green Bay area the VA held its first town hall meeting at the Milo C. Huempfner clinic.

About two dozen veterans filled a conference room at the VA’s outpatient clinic in Green Bay to voice their opinions directly to VA leadership from Milwaukee. The Milwaukee VA oversees the Green Bay clinic.

“I felt it was a travesty that they’re not taking care of the veterans coming through this door with an MRI machine. This is simple. It comes down to budget and we need to do something about the budget so they can afford to have it here,” said Randy Matuszak, US Army Veteran who served in Vietnam.

Dr. Dan Zomchek, the new director of the Milwaukee VA Medical Center, fielded questions and comments for more than two hours.

“We are really working diligently to hire more of our physicians to be able to provide more deep services here,” Zomchek said.

While the VA may not be able to solve any problems overnight, veterans here say having an event like this is a step in the right direction.

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VA Failing American Veterans Aid Appeals

White House officials are pushing Congress to amend and improve, if not completely overhaul the appeals process for American veterans aid appeals for benefit claims this year, noting the shrinking legislative window and calling the system a disaster.

“This process is failing veterans,” said Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson. “Nobody can defend the status quo here.”

More than 440,000 veterans have appeals cases pending in the benefits system, a caseload that has risen steadily in recent years as officials have focused on decreasing the number of backlogged first-time claims.

But VA officials have insisted the two aren’t connected, noting the percentage of cases appealed has remained steady. Instead, the problem has been the rising number of total claims from veterans, as more troops deal with issues from the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and even Vietnam and other conflicts.

There are 21.8 million veterans of the U.S. armed forces as of 2014, according the Census Bureau, approximately 10 percent of whom are women. To put that in context there are 319.2 million Americans, according to the bureau, which makes the percentage of veterans almost 7% of the total US population.

That is to say that there is an ever increasing number of veterans with needs. The sheer quantity is overwhelming Veterans Affairs.

Today, the average completion time for appeals cases decided by the Veterans Benefits Administration is three years, the average for cases decided by the Board of Veterans Appeals is five years. Officials have not seen increases in the rate of success among the appeals, but have noted that the process is frustratingly cumbersome for both veterans and staff.

VA leaders have floated a plan to get that process down to under a year and a half for most cases, but they need congressional intervention to rework filing timelines and evidence submission rules. They’re hoping the veterans omnibus looming in the Senate will include those changes, and are making another lobbying push this week for its inclusion.

American veterans aid appeals should be a priority.  If you are 65 or older and need assistance with your Aid & Attendance benefit claim visit http://www.americanveteransaid,com

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Trump on Veterans Programs

His recent speech In Virginia was Donald Trump on veterans programs.  It was the latest in a series of prepared remarks aimed at articulating his policy agenda and convincing still-reticent Republicans that he has the discipline and control to mount a credible general election bid against Hillary Clinton.

Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, was in Virginia Beach, Virginia, not far from the USS Wisconsin in Norfolk, where he first unveiled his plan to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs last October, promising to modernize the system, while minimizing wait times for patients and improving care. “The current state of the Department of Veterans Affairs is absolutely unacceptable,” read the plan that Trump unveiled last fall. “The guiding principle of the Trump plan is ensuring veterans have convenient access to the best quality care.”

Under the plan he unveiled then, eligible veterans would be able to bring their veterans’ identification cards to any private doctor or facility that accepts Medicare and be able to receive immediate treatment. The change, he argued, would help improve wait times and services by adding competition.

“The plan will ensure our veterans get the care they need whenever and wherever they need it,” he said then.

The proposal sounded similar to the Veterans Choice program, a centerpiece of the 2014 VA overhaul, which provides veterans access to federally-paid medical care from local, non-VA doctors — but only if they’ve waited at least 30 days for a VA appointment or live at least 40 miles away from a VA medical center.

A congressional commission report released last week recommended replacing the program with a new, nationwide community care network that would be open to all veterans, regardless of how long they have waited for care or where they live.

Trump had broken with some Republicans who’d called for privatizing the VA in the wake of the 2014 scandal over long wait times for veterans seeking medical care and falsified records by VA employees to cover up the delays.

“Some candidates want to get rid of it, but our veterans need the VA to be there for them and their families,” Trump said at the time.

The VA still has “profound deficiencies” in delivering health care to veterans, according to the Commission on Care report. It concluded the VA delivers high-quality health care, but that it is inconsistent from one site to the next and that problems with access and long wait times remain.

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VA Called To Showcase American Veterans Artwork


After it was revealed the VA spent some $20 million on lavish art at facilities around the country, a watchdog group is calling on the Veterans Affairs Administration to showcase and support American Veterans Artwork. A report was released on spending at the VA — showing the administration purchased millions in luxury art at the height of the veterans  healthcare scandal during which thousands of veterans died while waiting to see doctors.

The $19.7 million tab included a $700,000 sculpture to adorn a California facility for blind veterans. The VA also spent $21,000 for a 27-foot fake Christmas tree; $32,000 for 62 “local image” pictures for the San Francisco VA; and $115,600 for “art consultants” for the Palo Alto facility.

The watchdog group, as well as several U.S. lawmakers, are now calling on the VA to feature the work of their own. “American veterans should benefit from art displays, not vendors who sell the VA pricey art,” said Adam Andrzejewski, founder and CEO at

“Veterans have their own art museum. Why is the VA spending millions on lavish art when American veterans are already producing great art?”asked Andrzejewski.

A social media campaign was started on Twitter with the hashtag #vetsart4va. Veterans can upload their art with this hashtag to showcase their work to the VA.

Such art can be found by members of the group, Veteran Artists Program, or VAP, a New York City-based nonprofit that takes artists who are also veterans and propels their works and careers into the mainstream creative arts community.  VAP covers the performing arts and fine arts — showcasing many talented painters, sculptors and photographers whose work portrays the struggles and triumphs of America’s brave.

Shawn Ganther, an Air Force Veteran who served with U.S. security forces in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, said, “I want Americans to see soldiers as the heroes who fight and die in the name of freedom — and to stop and reflect on the privileges they sometimes take for granted.”

Veteran Artists Program has previously displayed artwork by veterans at the Pentagon and U.S. Senate office buildings. BR McDonald, founder and president of VAP, said his organization is currently working with at least 10 VA hospitals around the country to feature work by veteran artists.

McDonald said spending such money on veteran artists gives them a “voice to tell their story” and helps them transition into civilian life. We hsoudl be ebbcouraging the support and use of American Veterans Artwork.

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American Veterans Complaints About Response Time

VA backlogs and wait times are a consistent  cause for American Veterans complaints. Vets in need of care  cite long waits at the VA.  Currently there are more than 70,000 veteran disability claims that are backlogged in Veterans Affairs processing centers, seven months after department officials missed their public goal of getting the number down to zero.

VA Acting Under Secretary for Benefits Thomas Murphy said that figure includes a substantial number of claims left open longer than four months intentionally to ensure veterans are receiving all of the payouts they deserve. But he acknowledged his agency needs to drive that number down further.

“This is still a continuous improvement process for us,” he said. “We are not satisfied with the number now, and we won’t be satisfied until we are much closer to zero.”

It’s no wonder then that this is on the list of American Veterans complaints.  Roughly one in five benefits claims submitted to the Veterans Benefits Administration ends up taking longer than four months to process, the department’s long-held promise for processing the cases. That does not include appeals cases, which follow a different process and often take years to resolve.

That ratio and the total number of backlogged cases have remained steady since last fall, when department officials announced they would not reach the goal of zeroing out the backlog by the end of 2015.

The goal of eliminating the backlog was announced by President Obama and VA leaders in 2009, part of an ambitious push for service improvements. As recently 2013, the backlog total was over 600,000 cases, causing an outcry from veterans and lawmakers frustrated with waits in some instances topping a year.

New electronic records systems and mandatory overtime for claims processors drew down the backlog by almost 90 percent over two years, but pulling it down even further has proven difficult for officials despite their added efforts.

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