Archive for September, 2011

More Naval Veterans Eligible For Agent Orange Compensation

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Among those who are drawing veterans disability or are eligible for the benefits due to being exposed to Agent Orange, are certain Naval and Coast Guard veterans. Some Naval veterans, however, are eligible to qualify for disability compensation under 14 different conditions listed on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) presumptive disease list related to Agent Orange exposure.

The VA is now extending that eligibility to more ships that operated in and around Vietnam’s coastline between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975. The list includes those ships that:

  • operated in inland waterways;
  • docked on shore; or
  • sent crewmembers ashore.

According to VA Sec. Eric Shinseki, extending the list of ships eligible for such benefits makes it easier for veterans of the Navy and Coast Guard to get their earned benefits. The VA’s presumption is any veteran that was “in-country” during Vietnam may have been exposed to toxic herbicides, such as Agent Orange. Such veterans who then develop one of the diseases on the VA’s list do not have to show a link between their service and their illness to claim veterans benefits.

The VA has been not only adding more ships to their qualifying list, but has added more presumptive diseases as well in recent history.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, a South Florida disability attorney from LaVan & Neidenberg is ready to help. To learn if you are entitled to certain programs and benefits contact our veterans disability rights firm today 1-888-234-5758.

The Never-Ending Battle Against the VA Disability Backlog

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) continues to attempt to eliminate the VA claims backlog.  Specifically, the VA is using a new computerized automation system to instill some order into the disorganized disability claims process.

The system will not be used until next year because the VA is going to take their time to make sure the entire thing is working exactly as it is supposed to work. It seems they are not taking any chances at doing any more damage to the fractured disability claims processing system.

The current system is based on paper, and is currently hundreds of thousands of cases behind in processing disability claims. It can take years to process claims under the current system, and that is causing problems for those veterans waiting for an answer from the VA. Every passing day no decision is made, injured and disabled veterans are forced to find other sources of income. For many, however, work is impossible due to their injury or disability.

 

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, a South Florida disability attorney from LaVan & Neidenberg is ready to help. To learn if you are entitled to certain programs and benefits contact our veterans disability rights firm today 1-888-234-5758.

Multi-Trillion Dollar Budget Cut May Trouble Disabled Veterans

Friday, September 9th, 2011

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction has been assigned to eliminate over 1 trillion dollars from the U.S. Budget. U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, the Chairman of the House Committee On Veterans Affairs, is fighting to ensure veterans disability benefits.

Budget cuts should never include harming soldiers, veterans, and their families, according to Rep. Miller. He continued by equating cutting funding to veterans programs to harming the country’s national defenses. Despite the nation’s financial status, U.S. troops are engaged in conflicts around the world. It’s more important than ever to keep our focus and priorities in line and continue to make subsidizing veterans and the military one of this country’s chief concerns.

According to Rep. Miller, protecting veterans benefits is just as important as ensuring veterans can exist in the civilian world. That means making sure veterans have jobs, which is what led him to introduce the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) Act of 2011.

Rep. Miller believes the VOW Act, which provides job training among other services, will provide this country with the strongest veteran work force since WW II. Veteran unemployment rates are higher than the national average. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offer so many different services and programs for veterans in need, to cut funding to them would be a grave disservice.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, a South Florida disability attorney from LaVan & Neidenberg is ready to help. To learn if you are entitled to certain programs and benefits contact our veterans disability rights firm today 1-888-234-5758.

VA’s Project Management Accountability System Lacks Accuracy

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Information Technology (IT) department launched their Project Management Accountability System (PMAS) 2 years ago. The VA’s Assistant Secretary of Information and Technology, Roger Baker, asked the VA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to evaluate the system, which seemed to need improvement to help veterans disability issues.

The system was designed to operate as oversight for IT projects. As of now, it covers about 120 projects currently active and in development. The OIG audit acknowledged the improvements made in the VA’s IT department by implementing PMAS, but also highlighted the large amount of work that still needs to be completed.

According to the audit, the VA has yet to develop the proper protocols to guarantee the data that PMAS oversees is being done accurately. Further, those protocols must ensure project timelines and costs are meeting crucial deadlines.

In addition, in order to follow and document the status of the projects within PMAS, the VA developed an IT dashboard; however, it was found to be unreliable.

There are no safeguards used to review the information being put into the system. Therefore, the VA’s IT department can’t rely on PMAS in its current state to give correct information on IT projects. Once fully functional and in-line, PMAS will serve as a great asset. To get there, however, the system needs a much more detailed plan for execution.

 

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, a South Florida disability attorney from LaVan & Neidenberg is ready to help. To learn if you are entitled to certain programs and benefits contact our veterans disability rights firm today 1-888-234-5758.

VA Pension Beneficiaries Erroneously Removed From Medicaid Rolls

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

The Miami Herald has reported on a federal lawsuit that may have serious impact on Veterans Administration pension beneficiaries who’ve been wrongfully denied Medicaid.

The Herald story cites plaintiff Irene Czajkowski, the widow of a veteran, as an example of what has spurred the suit. The woman recently found out her fixed income of $20,000 per year makes her “too rich” to be eligible for Medicaid assistance. 

Czajkowski, a resident in a St. Petersburg, Florida nursing home, recently learned from the Department of Children and Families (DCF) she was going to be removed from Medicare’s Diversion program for long-term care.

Czajkowski’s story is just one of many. According to a recently filed lawsuit in federal court, removing individuals like Czajkowski from Medicaid is a “violation of a 1987 injunction spurred by the lawsuit Mitson v. Coler.Florida has refused to comply with the permanent injunction put into place, and that is negatively affecting class members.

The lawsuit is not only seeking to have all wrongly removed class members reinstated into Medicaid, but is looking for damages for those who have been denied benefits by the state in the past. Further, the lawsuit seeks to have Czajkowski appointed the representative for the class, and is seeking “an order to show cause why the defendants should not be held in civil contempt.” There are potentially thousands of class members in Florida.

 If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, a South Florida disability attorney from LaVan & Neidenberg is ready to help. To learn if you are entitled to certain programs and benefits contact our veterans disability rights firm today 1-888-234-5758.

Poor Out-Patient Care Affected Soldiers At Walter Reed

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Prior to 2007, The Walter Reed Army Medical Center was synonymous with high-end medical care. After a scandal in 2007 that detailed horrible conditions in which soldiers were forced to recover, the hospital’s image changed. Care will ideally be much improved at the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, which will in turn help veterans disability care.

The complaints were not focusing on the in-patient care soldiers were given while at Walter Reed. But as good as the in-patient care was, the out-patient care was just as poor. For many, out-patient care was simply not provided, and they were left to take care of themselves.

Once soldiers became out-patients, it was up to them to steer themselves through the bureaucratic maze at Walter Reed. Soliders had to ensure they had appointments with doctors or physical therapists, as their needs demanded. At the same time, they have to make sure their paperwork was in order and they were being given the proper medications.

The “influx” of injured soldiers requiring treatment from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan overwhelmed an already struggling system. The “antiquated bureaucracy” coupled with poor management and a general failure to understand the injuries affecting the young veterans seeking treatment culminated in horrible patient care.

There were more soldiers returning to the U.S. needing care than were anticipated. At the same time, there were not enough staff members trained adequately enough to handle those soldiers and the issues from which they suffered. Injures such as traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) caught the entire military health care system off guard.

The Army has implemented Warrior Transition Units (WTUs), which exist at Walter Reed and across the country. Now soldiers are overseen by a team of 3 people, a primary care manager, a nurse case manager, and a squad leader. These 3 handle all the administrative issues such as doctor’s appointments so the soldiers can recover. It is hoped the WTUs will help cut down on the prescription drug abuse so prevalent among recovery soldiers.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, a South Florida disability attorney from LaVan & Neidenberg is ready to help. To learn if you are entitled to certain programs and benefits contact our veterans disability rights firm today 1-888-234-5758.

VA Willing To Pay For Ineffective Drug

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Some veterans undergoing treatment for their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related symptoms, which can be integral parts of veterans disability claims, respond well to prescription drugs whereas others must couple those prescription drugs with counseling to see results. The beginning, baseline treatment at the majority of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers is to use prescription drugs to control PTSD symptoms, such as the anti-psychotic drug risperidone.

Risperidone, however, has been proven to be completely ineffective in treating PTSD symptoms and is “no more effective than a placebo.” This information has only recently been made available, and after the VA spent more than $700 million over the last 10 years purchasing risperidone. Originally developed to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, it has been prescribed “off label” to thousands upon thousands of veterans to help manage their PTSD symptoms.

While the VA knows this they are moving forward with a contract for an unspecified dollar amount to purchase at least 200,000 bottles of risperidone, which means roughly “20 million pills in multiple dosages.” A questionable decision not only in times where everyone is financially strapped, but a time where soldiers and veterans struggle with prescription pill abuse.

There are some serious issues with how risperidone has been marketed by some of the companies who are party to the VA contract to the extent the Justice Department has placed at least one of the companies under investigation. The marketing is directly tied to the drugs “off label” use.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, a South Florida disability attorney from LaVan & Neidenberg is ready to help. To learn if you are entitled to certain programs and benefits contact our veterans disability rights firm today 1-888-234-5758.

VA Building New Spinal Injury Care Facility

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Spinal cord injuries have become more common over the last several years, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has attempted to treat those injuries to the best of their ability. As the guidelines for veterans disability seem to be in constant flux, the VA is building centers dealing with specific injuries, such as the new spinal cord injury center at Milwaukee’s VA hospital.

The facility will cost $27.5 million and was completely financed by the federal government. The new center will replace the previous spinal injury wing currently existing at the hospital and will expand the facility from 18,000 to 68,000 square feet.

The new facility is not going to increase the number of staff personnel or the number of beds. Instead, the space is increasing so as to make movement and treatment more comfortable for those with spinal injuries. Some of the rooms will become doubles because depression is common among newer patients with spinal cord injuries. Those “new” patients with spinal cord injuries are assigned to rooms with other patients.

Tables in both the day room and the dining room are suspended from the ceiling. This means patients with wheelchairs don’t have to worry about bumping into table legs. Therapy rooms include state-of-the-art equipment to help patients with spinal injuries learn to move again.

The facility will also use virtual reality to help spinal injury patients exercise and participate in physical therapy. Additionally, computers boasting eye gaze, touch screen, and voice command-drive operation will be made available to help those patients needing such technology for various reasons.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, a South Florida disability attorney from LaVan & Neidenberg is ready to help. To learn if you are entitled to certain programs and benefits contact our veterans disability rights firm today 1-888-234-5758.