VA Announces That Veterans Can Reschedule VA Healthcare Appointments that Were Cancelled Due to COVID19

VA announced today, that three tools are available to reschedule an appointment:

When actually going to a VA healthcare facility, instead of a virtual appointment, wear a mask that covers mouth and nose, and complete on-site the VA COVID-19 symptom screening questions.

Extension of Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) Application Periods – – Response to the COVID–19 Public Health Emergency

This VA Final Rulemaking, that was effective October 7, 2020, extends by 90 days the deadlines for former members insured under Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) to apply for Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) coverage following separation from service in order to address the inability of former members directly or indirectly affected by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID–19) public health emergency to purchase VGLI. The final rule is in effect for one year from June 11, 2020, the date that the interim final rule was published in the Federal Register. [Until June 11, 2021].

See https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2020-10-07/pdf/2020-19645.pdf

See also https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2020-06-11/pdf/2020-12559.pdf, the Interim Final Rule that was published in the Federal Register on June 11, 2020.

Legislation To Help Veterans With Need for Mental Health Care and Resources Sent to the President

In early October 2020, the U.S. Senate sent a bi-partisan bill, known as the “Whole Veteran Act,” [H.R. 2359], to the President for signature – it is part of a government wide effort to prevent veteran suicides, and make holistic mental healthcare more available to service women and men. See https://www.va.gov/WHOLEHEALTH/index.asp

VA Caregiver Program Expanded – Eligible Vietnam, Korea and WWII Veterans

VA expanded on October 1, 2020 the Program of Comprehensive Assistance For Family Caregivers, which enhances 24/7 care from family and loved ones providers. VA announced in July 2020 that this program will cover veterans who served in the military on or before May 7, 1975. Veterans covered are required to have a single or combined service-connected disability rating of 70% or higher, and meet other general criteria. In part, geographic location with determine the actual provided dollar amounts.

See https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2020-07-31/pdf/2020-15931.pdf

Airborne Hazards Exposures in the Southwest Asia Theater of Military Operations

On September 11, 2020 the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Committee on Respiratory Health Effects of Airborne Hazards Exposures in the Southwest Asia Theater of Military Operations, released the subject Report. In part, the Report said that:

“Southwest Asia theater veterans were exposed to a broad range of potentially hazardous airborne agents. These include such regional environmental exposures as air pollution from dusts; local point and area sources such as traffic, waste management, and local industries; and the aeroallergens and microbial agents present in the theater. Exposures related to military operations are also contributors, such as exhaust from heaters, military vehicles, and aircraft as well as smoke from structural fires, explosions, burning oil wells, or burn pits.” Continuing,

CONCLUSIONS REGARDING THE ASSOCIATION BETWEEN IN-THEATER AIRBORNE HAZARDS AND RESPIRATORY HEALTH OUTCOMES

The health effects of these airborne hazards were likely influenced by factors common to military operations in Southwest Asia. These effect modifiers include temperature extremes, psychosocial stress, sleep deprivation, and noise.

The committee formulated a list of 27 health outcomes for their literature review, delineated in Box S-2 [below]. The list included the conditions explicitly listed in the Statement of Task and those that the committee believed to be “of great concern to veterans.”

Of these outcomes, none met the criteria for sufficient evidence of an association. The evidence for respiratory symptoms—which included chronic persistent cough, shortness of breath (dyspnea), and wheezing—met the criteria for limited or suggestive evidence of an association for both veterans who served in the 1990–1991 Gulf War and those who served in the post-9/11 conflicts. Studies considered in previous National Academies reports were relatively consistent in reporting associations between deployment and more prevalent self-reported respiratory symptoms in theater veterans, and outcomes from more recent studies are largely in line with those findings. Importantly, a recent study that compared symptom reporting before, during, and after deployment found that the self-reported frequency of symptoms was increased both during and after deployment relative to pre-deployment. Many of the studies considered, however, were weakened by bias induced by the self-selection of their participants (which may have led to people being more likely to participate if they had respiratory symptoms than if they did not) and by the lack of control for cigarette smoking, which is known to exacerbate symptoms. These concerns, while serious, were consistent with a classification in the limited or suggestive category. Lastly, the committeepage21image1971788224

BOX S-2
Respiratory Health Outcomes Addressed

Non-Cancer Respiratory Disorders

Upper Airway Disorders

Rhinitis Sinusitis

Non-Infectious Lower Airway

Asthma
Chronic bronchitis
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Interstitial Lung Diseases

Acute eosinophilic pneumonia Hypersensitivity pneumonitis Idiopathic interstitial pneumonia

Infectious Lower Airway

Acute bronchitis Pneumonia

Respiratory Symptoms

Chronic persistent cough Shortness of breath (dyspnea)

Respiratory Cancers

Esophageal cancer Laryngeal cancer

Other Outcomes

Sleep apnea
Vocal cord dysfunction

Constrictive bronchiolitis Emphysema

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis Pulmonary alveolar proteinosis Sarcoidosis

Tuberculosis

Wheeze

Lung cancer
Oral, nasal, and pharyngeal cancers

Changes in pulmonary function
Mortality due to diseases of the respiratory system

concluded that there is limited or suggestive evidence of no association between deployment to the 1990–1991 Gulf War and changes in lung function.

The committee found that there was inadequate or insufficient information to evaluate the association between service in the Southwest Asia theater and all of the remaining respiratory health outcomes it examined. While there are a variety of reasons for this that vary by the outcome under consideration, one prominent cause was the lack of good exposure characterization. Many studies used deployment to the theater as their only metric of exposure, and this undoubtedly led to people with widely different exposure experiences being grouped together for analysis purposes. Such grouping would be expected to diminish the possibility of observing an effect if one existed if there were large numbers of those with relatively low exposure compared with those with relatively high exposure.

Agency Information Collection Activity: Authorization For VA To Disclose Personal Information to a Third Party

On May 7, 2019 the Department of Veterans Affairs published in the Federal Register, notice of the opportunity for public comment on the proposed collection of certain information by the agency [Under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) of 1995].

The VA Form 21–0845 is used to release information in its custody or control in the following circumstances: Where the individual identifies the particular information and

consents to its use; for the purpose for which it was collected or a consistent purpose (i.e., a purpose which the individual might have reasonably expected).  In part, with respect to the following collection of information, VBA invites comments on: (1) Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of VBA’s functions, including whether the information will have practical utility.

Written comments and recommendations on the proposed collection of information should be received on or before July 8, 2019.

See https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2019-05-07/pdf/2019-09248.pdf

 

 

VA Proposed Rule – Active Service Pay

On April 19, 2019 the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) proposed to amend its adjudication regulations, to permit VA to suspend disability compensation payments upon receipt of notice from the Department of Defense (DoD) that the veteran has received, is receiving, or will begin to receive active service pay. This proposed change would reduce the financial impact on veterans associated with receipt of VA disability compensation and active service pay by allowing VA to make necessary adjustments as close in time to the receipt of active service pay as possible.

This proposed change would only apply to compensation payments, not pension. In order to reduce hardships for veterans and improve processing of benefits, VA proposes to amend the current procedural requirements related to the 60-day notice period and take immediate action to suspend compensation payments upon notice of receipt of active service pay from DoD when the veteran has received prior notice that the law prevents concurrent receipt of certain VA benefits and active service pay or VA has received a statement from the veteran indicating knowledge that concurrent receipt of VA benefits and active service pay is prohibited.

Comments must be received on or before June 18, 2019.

Federal Register /Vol. 84, No. 76 / Friday, April 19, 2019

 

Agency Information Collection Activity Under OMB Review: Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits

Today, April 10, 2019, VA published a Notice in the Federal Register in compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) of 1995; this notice announces that the Veterans Benefits Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, will submit the collection of information abstracted below to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review and comment.

The VA collection of information concerns VA Form 21–526EZ, which is used to collect the information needed to process a fully developed claim for disability compensation and/or related compensation benefits.

A Federal Register Notice with a 60-day comment period soliciting comments on this collection of information was published at 83 FR 224 on November 20, 2018, pages 58690 and 58691. Affected Public: Individuals or Households. Estimated Annual Burden: 498,667 hours. Estimated Average Burden per Respondent: 22 minutes. Frequency of Response: One time. Estimated Number of Respondents 1,360,000

Click to access 2019-07106.pdf

VA Increases Rates For Disability Compensation

Effective December 1, 2018, as required by the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2018, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), adjusted certain benefit rates, that affect the compensation program.

VA is required to increase these benefit rates by the same percentage as increases in the benefit amounts payable under title II of the Social Security Act. The Social Security Administration has announced that there will be a 2.8 percent cost-of-living increase in Social Security benefits for 2019. Therefore, applying the same percentage, the rates for VA’s compensation program, that became effective on December 1, 2018, are found at:

 

New Access to VA Hospital and Outpatient Care for Medal of Honor Veterans

Today, VA published in the Federal Register, a new final rule that increased access to VA Hospital and Outpatient Care for Medal of Honor Veterans.  VA stated,

“The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is amending its medical regulations governing eligibility for VA health care and copayment requirements to conform to recent statutory changes. VA is changing its enrollment criteria to move Medal of Honor recipients from priority category three to priority category one, and exempting recipients of the Medal of Honor from copayments for inpatient care, outpatient care, medications, and extended care services.

DATES: This final rule is effective on March 5, 2019.”