VA Adds New Cancers – Service Connection to Presumptives

On April 26, VA announced the addition of nine rare respiratory cancers to the list of presumed service-connected disabilities due to exposure to fine particulate matter for Veterans who served any amount of time in

  • Afghanistan, Djibouti, Syria or Uzbekistan during the Persian Gulf War, from September 19, 2001, to the present, or
  • The Southwest Asia theater of operations from August 2, 1990, to the present.

VA is taking a new approach to making decisions on presumptives, one that takes all available science into account, with one goal in mind – getting today’s Veterans, and Vets in the decades ahead – the benefits they deserve, as fast as possible.

VA identified, through a focused review of scientific and medical evidence, a biological plausibility between airborne hazards, specifically particulate matter, and carcinogensis of the respiratory tract; the unique circumstances of these rare cancers warrant a presumption of service connection.

Veterans and survivors who had claims previously denied for any of the below respiratory cancers are encouraged to file a supplemental claim for benefits;

  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx;
  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the trachea;
  • Adenocarcinoma of the trachea;
  • Salivary gland-type tumors of the trachea;
  • Adenosquamous carcinoma of the lung;
  • Large cell carcinoma of the lung;
  • Salivary gland-type tumors of the lung;
  • Sarcomatoid carcinoma of the lung and;
  • Typical and atypical carcinoid of the lung.

VA will contact impacted Veterans and survivors to inform them about their eligibility and it will provide information on how to apply.

2022 Burn Pit Benefits From Congress

Senate leaders on May 18, 2022 announced an agreement to pass broad military toxic exposure legislation later in the summer of 2022 setting the path for millions of veterans exposed to burn pit smoke and other battlefield toxins to receive more medical care and disability benefits in coming years.

See https://www.veterans.senate.gov/2022/5/breaking-tester-moran-announce-bipartisan-agreement-on-historic-toxic-exposure-legislation

VA Reporting of Debt

New Threshold for Reporting VA Debts to Consumer Reporting Agencies

AGENCY: Department of Veterans Affairs.

ACTION: Final rule

Click to access 2022-01496.pdf

SUMMARY: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) amended its regulations regarding

the conditions by which VA benefits debts or medical debts are reported to consumer

reporting agencies (CRA). This new VA Regulation is effective March 4, 2022. Please see

above the VA new Regulation.

PTSD Therapy Update

Written Exposure Therapy shows effectiveness in routine care of PTSD. Written Exposure Therapy for PTSD (WET) was designed as a 5-session, trauma-focused treatment that does not require homework between sessions. The treatment involves writing detailed accounts of a traumatic experience and its impact; a preliminary VA study validates its usefulness. See VA’s Discussion:

https://www.ptsd.va.gov/publications/ctu_docs/ctu_v15n6.pdf

VA Electronic Health Records

Veterans and their dependents value their personal privacy in connection with their electronic health records, particularly when these health records are maintained in the VA Healthcare System. The Government Accountability Office recently issued the below Report that contains criticisms of the VA Electronic Health Records Program.

https://www.gao.gov/assets/gao-22-103718.pdf

VA Pension Benefits

Prepared by VA

WHAT VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES SHOULD KNOW WHEN
APPLYING FOR DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS (VA)
PENSION BENEFITS

VA’s pension program provides monthly benefit payments to certain wartime Veterans with financial
need, and their survivors. As Veterans and survivors consider applying for these benefits, VA would
like to share important information about the pension program and organizations offering assistance
with pension applications.

WHAT ARE PENSION BENEFITS?
• Pension is a needs-based benefit paid to a wartime Veteran and his/her survivor(s). A
Veteran may generally be eligible if he/she:
o was discharged from service under other than dishonorable conditions, AND
o served 90 days or more of active military, naval or air service with at least 1 day during
a period of war*, AND
o his/her countable income is below the maximum annual pension rate, AND
o meets the net worth limitations, AND
o is age 65 or older, OR is shown by evidence to have a permanent and total non-service-connected disability, OR is a patient in a nursing home, OR is receiving Social Security
disability benefits.
*Veterans who entered active duty after September 7, 1980, must also have served at least
24 months of active duty service. If the total length of service is less than 24 months, the
Veteran must have completed his/her entire tour of active duty.

Aid and Attendance (A&A) is an increased monthly pension amount paid to a Veteran or
surviving spouse. You may be eligible for the increased A&A amount if:
o You are eligible for basic pension benefits
AND
o You require the aid of another person in order to perform activities of daily living,
such as bathing, feeding, dressing, toileting, adjusting prosthetic devices, or
protecting yourself from the hazards of your daily environment, OR
o You are bedridden, in that your disability or disabilities require that you remain in
bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment, OR
o You are a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity, OR
o You have corrected visual acuity of 5/200 or less, in both eyes, or concentric contraction
of the visual field to 5 degrees or less.

Housebound is an increased monthly pension amount paid to a Veteran or surviving
spouse who is substantially confined to his or her home because of permanent disability. You
may be eligible if:
o You are eligible for basic pension benefits AND
o You have a single permanent disability evaluated as 100-percent disabling AND, due to
a disability or disabilities, you are permanently and substantially confined to your
immediate premises, OR
o You have a single permanent disability evaluated as 100-percent disabling AND
another disability or disabilities, independently evaluated as 60-percent or more
disabling.
What do I need to know about the organizations that are offering assistance with claims
for pension benefits?

• The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging (Committee) found that some
organizations are misrepresenting themselves while helping Veterans and survivors apply for
VA pension.
o In a June 2012 hearing, the Committee addressed concerns that some organizations are
marketing financial products and services to enable claimants whose assets exceed the
VA pension program’s financial eligibility thresholds to qualify for VA pension benefits.
o The Committee also learned these organizations may charge substantial fees for
products and services that may not always be in claimants’ best long-term interests.
o You can access a video of the hearing on the Committee’s website.
• The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report, Veterans’
Pension Benefits: Improvements Needed to Ensure Only Qualified Veterans and Survivors
Receive Benefits, GAO-12-540. GAO found that:
o There are over 200 organizations that market financial and estate-planning services to
help pension claimants with excess assets meet financial eligibility requirements for
pension benefits.
o These organizations consist primarily of financial planners and attorneys who
offer products such as annuities and trusts.
o Some products and services provided, such as annuities, may not be suitable for elderly
Veterans because they may not have access to all their funds for their care within their
expected lifetime without facing high withdrawal fees.
o These products and services may result in ineligibility for Medicaid for a period of time.
o Some organizations charged fees, ranging from a few hundred dollars for benefits
counseling to $10,000 for establishment of a trust.
Contact us: http://www.va.gov 1-800-827-1000

Who can help me file a claim for VA pension, including pension at the aid and
attendance or housebound rates?

• An individual generally must first be accredited by VA to assist a claimant in the preparation,
presentation, and prosecution of a claim for VA benefits—even without charge. VA accredits
three types of individuals for this purpose:
o Representatives of VA-recognized Veterans service organizations
o Independent claims agents
o Private Attorneys
• A searchable list of accredited representatives, agents, and attorneys is available at the VA
Office of the General Counsel website:
http://www.va.gov/ogc/apps/accreditation/index.asp
• VA accreditation, which is for the sole and limited purpose of preparing, presenting, and
prosecuting claims before VA, is necessary to ensure that claimants for VA benefits have
responsible, qualified representation.
• VA regulations allow a one-time exception to this general rule, which allows VA to authorize a
person to prepare, present, and prosecute one claim without accreditation. The assistance
must be without cost to the claimant, is subject to the laws governing representation, and may
not be used to evade the accreditation requirements.
• Preparation and presentation of a VA claim includes, among other things, gathering the
information necessary to file a claim for benefits, completing claim applications,
submitting claim information to VA, and communicating with VA on behalf of a claimant.
• A VA-accredited attorney or claims agent, who is also a financial planner, may assist a
claimant with a claim for A&A. However, financial planners may not use their VA
accreditation for the purpose of promoting or selling financial products.
• If VA determines that an accredited attorney or agent is using VA accreditation for an
improper purpose, VA may suspend or cancel the individual’s accreditation.

Can an accredited attorney or claims agent, who is also a financial planner, charge a
fee for preparing a claim for A&A?

• No. An accredited attorney or claims agent may generally charge claimants a fee only after an
agency of original jurisdiction (e.g., a VA regional office) has issued a decision on a claim, a
notice of disagreement has been filed, and the attorney or agent has filed a power of attorney
and a fee agreement with VA.
• An exception applies when an accredited attorney or claims agent receives a fee or salary
from a disinterested third party. A third party is considered disinterested only if the entity
or individual would not benefit financially from the successful outcome of the claim.
Contact us: http://www.va.gov 1-800-827-1000
• We note that some individuals charge a pre-filing “consultation” fee to inform a Veteran or
survivor about VA benefits that may be available to them. In certain states, a license to
practice law may be required to provide and charge a fee for such “consultations,” which may
be considered giving legal advice.
• Such “consultation” fees are unlawful if they are charged after a Veteran or survivor becomes a
VA claimant by expressing to the attorney or agent an intent to file a claim for VA benefits.
• A “consultation” fee may not be tied to the outcome of a claim filed with VA if the attorney or
agent provides any claims assistance–that is, an attorney or agent cannot agree to refund the
fee if, after the attorney or agent assists with a VA claim, VA ultimately denies the claim. Such
a fee would amount to an unlawful contingency fee or advance payment for assistance with an
application for VA benefits.
• VA-recognized Veterans service organizations, including their accredited representatives, are
not permitted to receive fees for their services in connection with a VA claim in any instance.
• If VA determines that an accredited attorney or agent is improperly charging a fee for
preparing, presenting, or prosecuting a claim prior to the filing of a notice of disagreement,
VA may suspend or cancel the individual’s accreditation.
Is it permissible to offer a guarantee that a claimant will be awarded A&A or that the
processing of a claim will be expedited?
• No. Such promises are patently misleading because VA is ultimately the adjudicator of claims
for VA benefits.
• If VA determines that an accredited attorney or agent has misled or deceived a claimant
regarding benefits or other rights under programs administered by VA, VA may suspend or
cancel the individual’s accreditation.
For More Information, Call Toll-Free 1-800-827-1000.”

2021 – 2022 VA Compensation Rates

Effective December 1, 2021, the following increased compensation rates apply to all VA Compensation Benefits. With no dependents, the following rates apply:

Rating:

10 …………………………………….. $152.64
20 …………………………………….. 301.74
30 …………………………………….. 467.39
40 …………………………………….. 673.28
50 …………………………………….. 958.44
60 …………………………………….. 1,214.03
70 …………………………………….. 1,529.95
80 …………………………………….. 1,778.43
90 …………………………………….. 1,998.52
100 …………………………………… 3,332.06

The new rates for the addition of dependents are found at:

New Presumptive VA Benefits

You may be eligible for newly enacted service-connected benefits.  

Over the course of the last six months, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has begun processing service-connected disability claims for six new presumptive conditions related to environmental exposures during military service. We request your help in making more Veterans aware of these newly added presumptive conditions to help them file a claim and obtain any earned benefits. 

In May 2021, VA started implementing provisions of the William M. Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (NDAA), adding bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinsonism to the list of medical conditions presumptively associated with exposure to Agent Orange. A few months later VA added asthma, rhinitis and sinusitis (to include rhinosinusitis) on a presumptive basis based on particulate matter exposures during military service in Southwest Asia and certain other areas.  

Any Veteran who was previously denied service-connection for any of these six conditions but had symptoms manifest within 10 years of military service would need to file a supplemental claim. Be sure to use VA Form 20-0995, Decision Review Request: Supplemental Claim when filing. The claim form should include the name of the condition and specify that the condition is being claimed due to in-service exposure to environmental hazards.  

I am committed to assisting Veterans who may have been exposed to Herbicide Agents.

Caregiver Support Program Extended Through 2022

The Department of Veterans Affairs Caregiver Support Program eligibility is exteded through Sept. 30, 2022, for veterans who are legacy participants, legacy applicants, and their family caregivers, participating in the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.

This extension helps veterans who were participating in PCAFC before Oct.1, 2020, those who applied for PCAFC before Oct.1, 2020, and those who were accepted into the program after Oct.1, 2020.

“During this one-year period, approximately 19,500 legacy participants, legacy applicants, and their family caregivers will be reassessed,” said VA Caregiver Support Program Executive Director Dr. Colleen M. Richardson.

VA , because of this extension, will have an additional year to conduct required reassessments of the group. This VA program offers enhanced clinical support for family caregivers of eligible Veterans who incurred or aggravated a serious injury in the line of duty and meet other eligibility criteria.