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Posts tagged ‘benefits’

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 ag.virginia.gov

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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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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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Homeless Veterans Numbers Down by Half

The good news is that the number of homeless veterans in America is down significantly since 2010. According to HUD and the VA the number is 47% overall and some states are even better than that.  Minnesota reports homelessness is down 57% for veterans there.

HUD’s annual Point-in-Time (PIT) estimate of America’s homeless population, communities across the country reported that there were fewer than 40,000 homeless veterans on a given night in January 2016. This change is the result of the partnership among HUD, VA,  USICH, and other federal, state and local partners sparked by the 2010 launch of Opening Doors, the first-ever strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness.

American Veterans Aid

This kind of American Veterans aid goes a long way towards addressing the problems our soldiers encounter when they come home. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) says the nation’s homeless veterans are mostly males (four percent are females). The vast majority is single, most come from poor, disadvantaged communities, 45 percent suffer from mental illness, and half have substance abuse problems.  So there is much more to deal with than just being homeless.

President Obama hailed this statistic in a speech in Atlanta yesterday.  “We have just about cut veterans homelessness in half. We’ve helped bring tens of thousands of veterans off the streets, but we’re not slowing down,” he said. “We will not stop until every veteran who fought for America has a home in America.”

Michelle Obama plans to hold an event this fall to celebrate this  progress and establish additional milestones in the fight to end veteran homelessness.  The president expressed his commitment to helping and serving the country’s veterans.  “Every single veteran matters,” he said.

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