Archive for September, 2009

Underground education center to be built at Vietnam Memorial site

Friday, September 25th, 2009

An $85 million underground education center is planned for a location near the site of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington DC.

The fund for the center recently got a boost from the Heisley Family Foundation of Chicago. The Foundation has pledged to contribute $2.5 million towards the construction of the center. Almost $25 million has already been raised for the project.

According to its website, the Education Center at the Wall will included features such as:

  • Displays related to the history of the Memorial
  • A timeline of the Vietnam War
  • A Wall of Faces showing pictures of the service members who died in the war

The design concept for the Center includes a two-story underground facility that will maintain the open appearance of the National Mall and complement the other memorials in the area.

Homeless female veterans on the rise

Friday, September 25th, 2009

According to a CNN report today, the VA estimates the rate of homeless female veterans is rising as many women return home from a combat environment to a country struggling during the economic downturn.

Approximately 10% of all homeless veterans are women, and approximately 740 homeless female veterans served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Homeless advocates attribute the problem, in part, to issues such as PTSD and military sexual trauma.

Although efforts have been made by the VA to attempt to address the problem of homelessness among veterans, funding is not available to adequately assist all 131,000 veterans without housing.

The Secretary of the VA, Eric Shinseki, has vowed to end homelessness within five years.

Inappropriate relationships, executive bonuses at VA questioned by Congress

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

In a hearing that took place yesterday, congressional representatives who sit on the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs criticized a bonus system at the VA that awarded $4.3 million to executives last year. Representative Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) questioned the sensitivity of performance bonuses that at times exceeded $60,000.

VA Deputy Secretary W. Scott Gould acknowledged that sensitivity is needed when making awards in the future, but that VA employees need the motivation of the awards. Gould also commented on internal issues such as nepotism and inappropriate relationships between VA employees.

An assistant inspector general for the VA testified that he’s confident the VA is taking actions to rectify internal problems discussed at the hearing.

Audit of VA Regional Office Processing Report Released

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General released a report titled, “Audit of VA Regional Office Rating Claims Processing Exceeding 365 Days” yesterday.

In the audit, the OIG found that as of August 2008, there were 11,099 claims that were pending a rating decision. The OIG identified  “inefficient VARO workload management” and/or “claims processing activities performed by entities outside VARO control” as the reasons for the delayed processing of 11,063 claims. The report states that, on average, claims were pending 448 days.

To improve rating claims processing times, the OIG recommends that the Veterans Service Centers correct the following 10 deficiencies:

  • Inadequate identification of stalled claims
  • Partial or untimely evidence requests
  • Untimely follow-up on evidence requests
  • Delaying actions on newer claims to process older claims
  • Untimely processing of brokered claims
  • Delayed processing by original VAROs of jurisdiction
  • Untimely supervision of inexperienced veterans service representatives
  • Discontinuing claims processing to process higher priority claims
  • Delaying processing until suspense dates
  • Misplacing claims folders

The report also detailed one veteran’s experience with a delayed claim – the veteran waited 27 months for his benefit payment to arrive.

If you need assistance with your veterans disability claim, contact LaVan and Neidenberg. We can help you get the compensation your are entitled to as a result of your honorable service.

GI Bill payment delays wreaking havoc for veterans

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Veterans who were hoping to take advantage of new GI Bill benefits are finding themselves in financial turmoil as they wait for the government to issue checks for their tuition and living expenses.

According to today’s New York Times, 277,000 veterans and their dependants applied for assistance and only 33,000 tuition payments and benefits checks made directly to applicants have been processed. The VA reports that it takes 35 days to process a claim however, some veterans could wait longer than eight weeks to receive payment.

Veterans and their eligible relatives may have to take out private loans to cover expenses that they expected to pay with money from the VA. Critics are questioning the department’s failure to communicate details of the program and an inability to efficiently process the tide of claims that came with the announcement of revisions to the GI Bill.

Wounded warrior finds new calling as service dog trainer

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Training dogs to assist the disabled has offered one Missouri veteran a new leash on life. Phillip Sturgeon, 35, a veteran who served as an Army medic in Iraq, was suffering from extensive injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder after a rocket-propelled grenade attack. According to the Southeast Missourian, Sturgeon felt like he has to learn “how to live life over again” when he returned home from the battlefield.

A non-profit organization based in St. Louis provided Sturgeon hope for recovery. Mission Continues helps empower wounded and disabled veterans to serve in their communities and suggested Sturgeon learn to train service dogs. The group provided Sturgeon with a fellowship to work as a puppy trainer with Support Dogs Inc.

Phillip Sturgeon is now training a puppy which will eventually be placed with someone in need of a service dog. The dog has garnered a spot in the limelight and will be featured in an upcoming segment on NBC with Tom Brokaw. Meanwhile, Sturgeon has plans to one day open his own local training school to provide dogs to those in need

American Chopper sponsors surgery for wounded vet

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

A reality TV show and two non-profit veterans organizations joined together this week to provide a wounded veteran with facial plastic surgery.

Tim Juliano, of North Tonawanda, New York, was serving in a 914th Air Force Reserve unit when a rocket exploded within 10 feet of his position. Juliano suffered substantial injuries to his face, resulting in disfigurement and scarring. Through a volunteer coalition of plastic surgeons who are associated with Iraq Star, Juliano was connected with a plastic surgeon from Manhattan.

Dr. Charles K. Herman volunteered his expertise and reconstructed Juliano’s face during a 3-hour operation that took place in a donated facility in Pennsylvania. Juliano will be flown home to New York by a pilot volunteering his service through Angel Flight NE.

Tim Juliano’s surgical experience with Iraq Star was documented by a popular TLC reality show, American Chopper. The show follows a motorcycle business owned by Paul Teutul Sr. based in Orange County, California. Teutal is donating a $40,000 motorcycle that will be auctioned off next month, with proceeds going to Iraq Star.

Veterans Nursing Home to be built in Kinston, NC

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

The Department of Veterans Affairs has issued a conditional approval for a nursing home to be built in Kinston, North Carolina. Kinston, a small town in eastern North Carolina, was selected for the site of the new home for its proximity to a large number of veterans.

A grant of $12 million will be made once the VA approves the design of the home. The N.C. Department of Insurance and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services will also need to approve the design before the bidding process can start on the construction project. According to the Jacksonville Daily News, it will take at least 5 months to break dirt at the site.

When completed, the facility will employ approximately 150 people, and offer long-term residential care for 100 veterans. Each veteran will have a single room and bathroom in the home.

Congressman reprimands VA and DoD for “turf issues”

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

The leader of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs criticized the VA and DoD for failing to cooperate and offer continuity of care for our nation’s veterans yesterday. Representative Bob Filner (D-CA) spoke on veterans issues at an event hosted by United Press International. The forum was titled, “Wounded Warriors: Where Are They Now?”

Filner said that the DoD and VA don’t have a shared medical records system and as a result, there is a failure to coordinate care when a military member transitions from active service to discharge. Filner said about the problematic records coordination, “They’ve talked about it for years and still haven’t figured it out.”

Family members and veterans also spoke out and voiced concern about a post-Walter Reed Scandal-system that fails to address individual veterans’ care while overcompensating on oversight and quality.

A deadline of September 30, 2009, was set last year for the DoD and VA to achieve an automated system to share health records.

Spotlight on a Veterans Organization – IAVA

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) is the nation’s first and largest nonprofit organization for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Founded in 2004 by Paul Rieckhoff (an Army Lieutenant and former investment banker) the IAVA boasts more than 125,000 members nationwide.

The self-described mission of the IAVA is “to improve the lives of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families.” To further this mission, the IAVA:

  • Educates the public about veterans’ issues
  • Fosters a community for troops, veterans and their families
  • Advocates on behalf of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans

If you are a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom, you are eligible to become a member of IAVA. Supporters not meeting these criteria, can also become members of the organization. There is no charge to join the IAVA.