Disability rating reform troubling

Most of a two-hour hearing last week of the House veteran affairs’ subcommittee focused on VA’s mammoth effort to apply current medical science and revise the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities, or VASRD, by 2016. Disability evaluation boards have used the VASRD since the end of World War II to compensate veterans for average impairment […]

Our people: Man of action

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Liliana Castillo: Freedom New Mexico Clovis resident Larry Holland enjoys outdoor activities. Clovis resident Larry Holland has never let being jolted by more than 14,000 volts stop him do anything. The electrical accident took Holland’s arms, two ribs, an ear and left extensive damage to his face and heels. Nearly 50 years later, he’s lost […]

‘Quality of life’ benefit falls short

By Tom Philpott: Military Update Disabled veterans were thrilled in 2007 when the Veterans Disability Benefits Commission asked Congress to enact an immediate “quality of life” increase to disability payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The special increase, said VDBC commissioners, should be across the board, benefiting all veterans with service-connected health conditions, and […]

New Agent Orange claims deadline near

By Tom Philpott: Military Update The Department of Veterans Affairs likely will begin in October to pay thousands of disability claims to Vietnam veterans with ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and B-cell leukemia — illnesses newly associated with exposure to defoliants, including Agent Orange, used in that war. A 60-day countdown to the day that […]

VA acts to expand disability claims

By Tom Philpott: CNJ columnist About 86,000 Vietnam War veterans, their surviving spouses or estates will be eligible for retroactive disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs — an average of 11.4 years for veterans and 9.6 years for survivors — under a draft VA rule to expand by three the number of diseases […]

DoD disability board understaffed

By Tom Philpott: Military Update A special board established by Congress to review and raise any low-ball disability ratings the services awarded to injured or ailing members since 9-11 needs four times as many physicians as it has now to ensure timely action on a rising number of applications, says the board’s top officer. Michael […]

PTSD disability ratings increased

By Tom Philpott: CNJ columnist More than 4300 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans who were diagnosed in service as suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but got low military disability ratings, have won an agreement with the Department of Defense to upgrade those ratings retroactively to 50 percent. The higher rating will represent an important win […]

Daughter will get support needed

By Anita Tedaldi: FNM columnist This week ‘an official evaluator’ informed me that my daughter Eva could have a learning disability related to her auditory processes and possibly including language. She then added that perhaps Eva doesn’t have a learning disability. Maybe she’s too young and we need more tests to figure out what’s going […]

Disabled severance pay adjusted

By Tom Philpott A few hard-nosed choices by the Bush administration in implementing laws to help disabled service members are being rolled back under congressional pressure and a new team of Pentagon policymakers. One regulation change soon to take effect will allow more disability severance pay recipients to keep those lump sum payments without worry […]

Quicker compensation on its way

By Tom Philpott: CNJ columnist Disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs would reach veterans sooner, and with special swiftness for severely wounded veterans and their families, under legislation to upgrade the VA disability rating process unanimously passed by the House on July 30. The Veterans Disability Benefits Claims Modernization Act (HR 5892) is […]

Retro pay reaches 31,000, averages $1,500

By Tom Philpott: Military Update Two months into a year-long review of pay records and disability compensation histories for 140,000 military retirees have produced a total of $45 million in back pay to 31,000 disabled retirees, say officials in charge. The lump-sum payments average about $1,500. Ten retirees have received more than $25,000 each, a […]

Lump sum payment may be welcome change

By Tom Philpott: Military Update The Veterans’ Disability Benefits Commission has examined and rejected a proposal that the VA begin offering veterans with lower-rated disabilities a lump-sum payment instead of lifetime monthly compensation. The 13-member commission reached its decision unanimously last week at a public meeting in Washington, D.C. It did so after being briefed […]

Air Force vet helps others with disabilities

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John Prater, left, spent 26 years in the Air Force. (Freedom Newspapers: Claude Vigil) By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer Instead of settling into retirement and putting up his feet after 26 years in the Air Force, John Prater headed to the college classroom. However, somewhere along the way he began to suffer the effects […]

Back payments doled out to retirees

By Tom Philpott: Military Update A small group of disabled military retirees this month will be the first of 133,000 to receive lump-sum back payments, which are tied to start-up challenges for two “concurrent receipt” programs enacted since 2003. That’s according to officials with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). The trickle of back […]

Retirees hoping for back pay

By Tom Philpott: Military Update Retired Army Staff Sgt. Daniel F. Purinton, 71, has argued for almost two years that the Department of Veterans Affairs owes him an additional $8,044. Purinton said the underpayment occurred as Department of Defense and VA officials implemented a complex series of laws, starting in 2003, to end for many […]

Disabled veterans program mismanaged

By Tom Philpott: Military Update The Department of Veterans Affairs mismanages its program for rating disabled veterans as “unemployable,” according to a new report by congressional auditors. Because of weak oversight of Individual Unemployability (IU) benefits, some veterans get more compensation than warranted, and the VA is ineffective in moving seriously disabled veterans toward productive […]

Genetics won’t touch disability benefits

By Tom Philpott The Veterans’ Disability Benefits Commission unanimously has voted that a veteran’s genetic makeup, which might show predisposition to certain illnesses before entering service, is not a reasonable topic for the commission to study in its review of “service connection” and disability payments. During an Oct. 14 public hearing in Washington, D.C., the […]

Veterans’ disability pay questioned

Tom Philpott Both his grandfather and great-uncle served in World War II, said Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., but only his great-uncle entered a Nazi death camp as the war came to a close. “According to the story my grandmother told,” said the senator in a phone interview, “when he got home, he went up to […]

Compensation reviews cause more stress

By Tom Philpott: Military Update Ronald Nesler of Las Cruces, a Vietnam veteran rated 100-percent disabled by post-traumatic stress disorder, learned this month that his case, as decided in 1997 by the Department of Veterans Affairs, lacked documents to support the finding of service-connected PTSD. The VA regional office in Albuquerque advised Nesler in an […]

Flaws discovered in disability benefits

By Tom Philpott: Military Update A commission conducting the first major review of veterans’ disability benefits in 50 years was warned at its inaugural meeting that perhaps too many veterans have been deemed “unemployable,” which raises their compensation to the level of 100-percent disabled veterans. Renee L. Szybala, director for operations of VA’s Compensation and […]