Fourth District Veterans' Update
WORKING TO END VET HOMELESSNESS – As part of its push to end veteran homelessness by 2015, Veterans Affairs (VA) is launching its “Make the Call” initiative in Atlanta on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011. Veterans and their families should never worry about finding themselves on the streets or living without care. It’s part of a $3.4 billion effort to provide health care to homeless veterans and $800 million in housing programs. The VA is encouraging family friends and citizens to “Make the Call” and help prevent and end homelessness among veterans. The number – staffed around the clock – is 877-4AID-VET or 877-424-3838. For more information, click HERE.
-- 2010 Atlanta VAMC Homeless Stand Down. Saturday, October 30 at Atlanta VAMC. See attached “Save the Date” email from point of contact Mary Lou Pittman, Chief, Voluntary Service, 404-728-7728.
-- Agent Orange new presumptive conditions. (Hairy Cell Leukemia and other Chronic B Cell Leukemia, Parkinson’s Disease and Ischemic Heart Disease). US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ordered VA to publish a final implementing regulation by September 1, 2010. Under the Congressional Review Act, VA will have to wait 60 days to begin paying claims – hopefully, by November 1. If the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) completes its review early enough to allow publication of the rule before Sept. 1, payments could begin in October.
Either way, new or reopened claims should be filed as soon as possible to ensure the earliest effective date for awarded benefits. Also, remind survivors of veterans whose cause of death was related to one of the presumptive conditions to file application for VA survivors’ benefits. VA is already developing claims in anticipation of final rule.
-- PTSD Stressor Verification Rule. There has been a good deal of public confusion about this new regulation.
-- The main misunderstanding has been that this rule does not eliminate the requirement to establish a service-connected stressor; rather, it relaxes the evidentiary standards.
-- The other issues relate to whether veterans who received denials on PTSD claims within the last year should file for reconsideration or a notice of disagreement and the need to clarify the difference in filing for reconsideration versus reopening a claim. These are compensation claim technicalities that can have a major impact. I’ve attached a recent response from the VA Regional Office to questions I submitted for clarification.
-- Here’s the major caution I gleaned. In general, if a veteran files for a reconsideration based on additional evidence (or evidence based on the new regulation) within a year of the first denial and has not received a decision by the end of the one year appeal period, s/he cannot file a notice of disagreement (appeal) protecting the effective date as the date of claim if the VA continues the original decision to deny service-connection. New and material evidence would have to be submitted in order for the claim to be reopened.
-- REV Claims. Rapid Evaluation of Veterans’ Claims (REV) is a program being piloted by the Atlanta VA Regional Office that provides an alternative to the traditional claims process for veterans seeking an increase for a service-connected disability, based on worsening of the condition/symptoms. The goal is to provide a decision within 30 days of receipt of claim. I’ve attached documents that explain the program, explain how to file and provide a sample claim. You can find additional information, forms and fact sheets online at www.vba.va.gov/transformation/atlanta/.
A couple of important items:–
-- New National Call Center for Homeless Veterans – 1-877-4AID VET (424-3838). 24 hours a day, seven days a week, homeless veterans will receive timely assistance and coordinated access to VA and community services from expert responders. Family members, workers at community agencies and non-VA providers also may call the hotline find out about the programs and services available to assist homeless veterans.
-- OJT/Apprenticeship Programs – GI Bill Not Only For College – Harry Stumpf, Senior Coordinator, GA State Approving Agency, asked for assistance in getting the word out that many of the GI Bill programs provide supplemental compensation for eligible veterans through On-the-Job Training and Apprenticeship programs. OJT and apprenticeship programs may be approved in a wide variety of occupations. Some are in trades that relate to military occupations, but many are not. Some of the currently approved programs include administration, law enforcement, diesel mechanics, electronics, and plumbing. Most OJT or apprenticeship programs can be submitted for approval consideration. (404) 656-2306 or 2322 or www.sdvs.georgia.gov.
FYI – Veteran Population Resources - https://www.census.gov/hhes/www/laborfor/veterans/veterans.html and https://www1.va.gov/vetdata. Most sources estimate DeKalb County has about 45,000 veterans.