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Posts tagged ‘aid’

Veterans and Service dogs

Veterans may have returned from fighting in foreign wars, but the war continues inside them.

Vets are now finding an unexpected friendship that is helping them deal with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Service dogs make a huge difference in this healing process.

Veterans have found relief from various PTSD symptoms, including insomnia, chest pains etc. and have been sleeping better because the dogs will intervene if they sense that their owner is in distress.

Denise Wenz is a 51-year-old National Guard veteran and she has been with her dog Echo, a German shepherd, since her 10 years in the military.

“Dogs can smell the chemical changes when veterans start triggering,” Wenz said. “She sometimes knows I’m triggering before I do.”

Wenz has helped other veterans with service dogs and is planning to coach another veteran and his Labrador retriever and train a golden retriever for another veteran this year.

Lucas Solie, a retired staff sergeant veteran speaks of his experience with his service dog.

“When I met her, she kept looking at me, and I stared back at her. When I looked away, she came over, sat between my legs and licked my chin.”

“It’s me learning her as much as it’s her learning me.”

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Pro-bono legal services for low income veterans

Attorney General Mark R. Herring has announced that a pro-bono Veterans Legal Services Clinic for low income veterans will take place in November.

It will take place on November 17th at the Petersburg Freedom Support Center, located at 32 West Washington Street, Petersburg, Virginia 23803.

During the daylong event, volunteer attorneys from Attorney General Herring’s office and the VSB will serve low income veterans by drafting important estate planning documents like wills, powers of attorney and advance medical directives.

Representatives from DVS will also be present to answer questions regarding state and federal benefits that may be available to Virginia veterans including health benefits, disability benefits, financial services, education benefits, burial in a Virginia or United States’ veterans cemetery, and more.

Qualified veterans can sign up on Attorney General Herring’s website, at their local DVS Benefits Services Field Office, or by completing and mailing an application to the Attorney General’s office.

“The legal services these clinics provide are very important, but they can often be too expensive for a veteran who may be retired or on a fixed income,” said Attorney General Herring.

“I have had the tremendous opportunity to visit all five of our clinics across the Commonwealth where we have been able to serve more than 150 veterans and their spouses,” Herring said. “It has been so rewarding to witness the peace of mind we have provided these men and women who have given so much to Virginia and our country. This has been a tremendously fruitful partnership with the Department of Veterans Services and the State Bar, and I look forward to growing the program even more in the months and years ahead.”

Since March, Attorney General Herring, DVS, and VSB have held five pro bono Veterans Legal Services Clinics.

Additional details about the clinic for low income veterans including qualifications and sign up links can be found at

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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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