Posts Tagged ‘Department of Veterans Affairs’

VA Moving to Streamline Identification of Rural Areas Where Veterans Reside

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is making changes to the system it uses to identify rural areas underserved by VA facilities. The new system, known as the Rural-Urban Commuting Areas (RUCA) system, uses data from multiple government departments to determine veterans’ needs in target areas.

The Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services developed the RUCA system. The system has been praised for its social science basis and adaptability for special programs such as veteran’s health care and services.

As the RUCA system is implemented, the VA will be able to better analyze the population and resources in areas classified as “rural.” Once an area is identified, the VA will then have a better idea of veterans’ geographic access level to health care in their area. The VA hopes to use this data in order to better allocate resources to serve rural veterans, either through development of new facilities or better use of remote services such as mobile health vans and the Telehealth systems.

According to statistics from the VA, there are about 3.2 million veterans enrolled in the VA system classified as living in a rural area, representing about 36 percent of the veteran population.

All veterans deserve equal access to disability benefits if a service-connected injury or illness causes a disabling condition. The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. help veterans in rural, urban, and suburban areas apply for and obtain the VA disability benefits to which they are entitled. To learn more about VA benefits, contact us today by calling 1-888-234-5758 or use or online contact form.

VA Expands Community Care Program with Primary Care Access

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

In light of the long wait times for appointments at VA hospitals and clinics, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has added primary care to its list of eligible services from non-VA medical facilities. The Patient-Centered Community Care (PC3) program awards contracts to medical groups in order to provide care to veterans who live near VA health care facilities that have a backlog of pending appointments.

The current PC3 program allows veterans to access inpatient and outpatient specialty care, limited emergency care, mental health care, and limited newborn care for female Veterans who have recently given birth. “With the addition of primary care services, VA Medical Centers can now use PC3 to provide additional types of care in order to reduce wait times,” says Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald.

By adding primary care services to the list of health care contracted to non-VA health care providers, veterans are expected to wait less and obtain appointments closer to their homes. Reduced commuting standards in the contracts ensure that veterans who have limited ability to travel are able to schedule appointments at local care centers in areas where VA facilities are too far away.

When you have a service-connected disability, it is important to have medical records that reflect the time of the discovery of the injury and ongoing treatment to verify the disabling condition. The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. is dedicated to helping disabled veterans file and appeal veterans’ disability claims. Contact our veteran’s disability rights firm today 1-888-234-5758.

Veterans Benefits Administration Processes One Millionth Claim

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has reason to celebrate this month as its Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) marks its one millionth processed claim. Officials say that within the next five months they are on track to process another 1.3 million claims. If they meet that goal, the total number of claims processed by the end of fiscal year 2014 will be 200,000 greater than the number of claims processed in fiscal year 2013.

Over the past three years, the VBA has been undergoing an extreme transformation in order to expedite the claims process while simultaneously reducing the margin of error in claim decisions. The long-term goal for the VBA is to process all veterans’ disability claims within 125 days at a 98 percent accuracy level by 2015. The VBA is currently processing new claims within 128 days at a 91 percent accuracy rate.

Since the initiative to improve veterans disability claims began in 2011, the VBA has processed over one million claims each year. Officials at the VA are encouraged that they have hit the one million mark in early July, and are optimistic that they will surpass the two million mark this year. The increase in efficiency and accuracy is thanks to several actions implemented by the VBA including:

  • automated online dependency claims;
  • contracted assistance for entering data from paper-based dependency claims;
  • up-front income verification for pension applications for instant eligibility decisions;
  • automatic payment of one-time burial allowances;
  • automation of drill pay adjustments;
  • employees at the National Call Centers now processing dependency claims; and
  • hiring 200 temporary employees.

Even with the VA improving claim processing, there is still room for errors that can slow down or disrupt the benefit award process. The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. is here to help disabled veterans address unfair claim decisions and correct their files as necessary to ensure they receive the benefits to which they are entitled. To find out more about our veterans’ disability services, contact our firm today 1-888-234-5758.

Rural Area Transportation Expanded for VA Health Centers

Monday, July 14th, 2014

More than 11,000 veterans living in highly rural areas will benefit from transportation grants recently awarded to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Eight grants totaling $815,051.50 will help the VA partner with and support state Veterans Service Agencies (SVSAs) and Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) who will provide transportation services to local veterans.

Seven organizations across the United States will benefit from the grants, including SVSAs and VSOs in the following areas:

  • Virginia;
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota;
  • California;
  • Nevada;
  • Texas; and
  • Washington (state).

The grants are part of the VA’s strategic plan to increase access to VA health care and services for veterans living in highly rural areas. Thousands of veterans live a considerable distance from their nearest VA health center, and each organization will be provided up to $50,000 to develop transportation systems for their local veterans at no cost to the veteran or their family.

The VA has been working on expanding rural access to VA health services for several years, starting with the telehealth systems. Veterans are able to communicate with VA doctors and specialists using mobile video conference units that travel across the country. These transportation grants are the next step in connecting rural area veterans with direct health care and inpatient visitation services that they cannot get in their local area.

The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. is here to help all disabled veterans regardless of where they reside. Our claims representatives and veterans’ disability attorneys can represent your disability benefits case in the appeals process so you don’t have to waste time and effort traveling to hearings. To find out more about our veterans’ disability services, contact our veteran’s disability firm today 1-888-234-5758.

Veterans Disability Claims Backlog Reduced By 44 Percent Since 2013

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki was proud to announce that his department had effectively reduced the claims backlog by 44 percent since March 2013. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which handles veterans’ disability claim processing, had been under a backlog of more than 600,000 claims last year.

Thanks to new processing initiatives, mandatory overtime, and encouraging Fully Developed Claims (FDC), the VA has reduced its queue of claims to be process down to 344,000, a reduction of 267,000 claims in a single year. During this period, accuracy of claim processing also improved, reducing the average wait time for a claim decision by 119 days.

The claim backlog is created when veterans have to wait more than 125 days for a decision on their disability benefits claim. The backlog was created in large part from the need to reevaluate 150,000 previously decided cases from Vietnam-era veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange. In addition to these reevaluated cases, ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and certain leukemias were added to the list of diseases associated with Agent Orange, adding a new batch of Vietnam veterans to apply for service-connected disability.

In 2010 the VA established a goal of eliminating the backlog and reaching a 98 percent accuracy rate by 2015. This would mean that all new claims would have a decision within 125 days of submission and there would be little need for reevaluation or appeal of decisions due to errors. The current processing methods have improved in the last few years with a new sorting procedure helping separate Fully Developed Claims (FDC) from claims that need additional documentation and information to be processed.

As the VA prioritizes the FDCs and claims from veterans in need such as homeless or terminally ill veterans, claim processors are able to issue decisions on claims faster than before. This is partially thanks to the new paperless systems that have replaced traditional paper filing, reducing waste and making file transmission almost instantaneous. The VA has also increased the amount of staff processing claims and implemented mandatory overtime with priority given to the oldest claims in the queue.

The best way to help prevent your claim from falling into the backlog is to have it fully developed the first time you submit your files. The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. is here to help disabled veterans fully develop their claims and appeal an unfavorable decision should their claim be denied or under-funded. Contact us today for more information about how we can help 1-888-234-5758.

VA Issues New Grants and Initiatives to Assist Homeless and Disabled Veterans

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has recently announced several new grant programs and a memorial benefit initiative which will impact the lives of thousands of veterans.

On July 10 it was announced that transportation initiatives would be improved in several rural areas thanks to a new grant program to support state Veterans Service Agencies and Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs). Eligible groups may apply for grants up to $50,000 to be used to improve transportation resources for veterans living in highly rural areas.

Shortly after this announcement, the VA released details of a new housing grant program that would allocate $300 million in grants to private, non-profit organizations that provide services to low-income veteran families facing homelessness. The grants were awarded to 319 community agencies across the nation and are expected to assist approximately 120,000 veterans.

An additional initiative has come to fruition for veterans living in Puerto Rico. The VA recently acquired 247.4 acres of land in Morovis, PR to establish a new cemetery for burial of servicemembers and their spouses and eligible dependent children. The existing Puerto Rico National Cemetery will cease new casketed interments in 2022 and could not be expanded due to surrounding residential and commercial development.

All military personnel who are harmed or killed in active duty, as well as all veterans with an honorable discharge, are typically eligible for all general military benefits. It is important to follow up with the VA to determine all of the benefits you are entitled to such as health care, housing assistance, and burial rights.

Servicemembers who are injured in combat, or veterans who develop health conditions connected to their time in service, are often eligible to collect veterans disability benefits. If you are a disabled veteran seeking benefits from the VA, the veterans disability attorneys at The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. are here to help; contact us today 1-888-234-5758.

New Hotline for Female Veterans Helps Access to Resources

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Disabled female veterans are becoming a larger percentage of the veteran population. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), there were approximately 2.2 million women veterans, some of whom require medical care through the VA system for service-connected disabilities.

A new hotline, 1-855-VA-WOMEN (1-855-829-6636) has opened to provide important information about veterans’ benefits, health care, and other resources and services. The hotline links female veterans, their families, and caregivers to valuable resources following their military service.

While disabled female veterans benefit greatly from this service from the Department of Veterans Affairs, it is open to all female veterans regardless of disability status. The operators can connect callers to various VA branches to assist with issues such as:

  • health care appointments;
  • education resources;
  • veterans’ burial services; and
  • benefit application status.

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers many services for disabled veterans that specifically target the needs of female veterans. In 2010 the VA opened an outbound call center specifically designed to contact disabled female veterans to encourage them to enroll in the VA health care system.

With nearly 15 percent of active duty military and 18 percent of National Guard and Reserve military forces made up of female soldiers, the number of female veterans is expected to climb in the next few years. VA health care totals showed 160,000 female veterans utilized its services in 2000 and climbed to more than 354,000 in 2012. VA health care services for female veterans may cover general care, women-specific services, and disability care.

The qualifications to apply for veterans disability benefits are no different between male and female veterans. When veterans believe they are suffering from disabling conditions related to military service, they are entitled to seek disability benefits through the VA.

The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. can help disabled female veterans file for veterans disability benefits. Call us at 1-888-234-5758 or fill out our contact form to get in touch with us today.

New Veterans Disability Claims May Be Eligible for Fast-Track Processing

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

In late 2011 the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) began a 15-month trial of a pilot program designed to expedite fully developed veterans disability claims. The pilot program, known as the Acceptable Clinical Evidence (ACE) program, is the VA’s latest initiative to reduce the disability claim backlog.

The ACE program combines the resources of the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefits Administration to promote instant sharing of records. The two administrations work together to evaluate a claim for completeness in regards to medical records.

The ACE Process

During the ACE process, a Veterans Affairs medical provider uses the disabled veteran’s existing medical records to complete a disability questionnaire. If necessary, a telephone interview with the disabled veteran is conducted to fill in any missing medical information. If the medical provider can gather enough evidence through medical records and interviews, the disabled veteran may be eligible to forgo the in-person medical evaluation, saving time, travel, and stress.

Officials from the VA are confident that the ACE program will help, “expedite the determination of disability ratings in turn eliminating the wait time to schedule and conduct an exam from the claims process.” The pilot test at one regional VA office found that 38 percent of all incoming claims were eligible for evaluation through the ACE program.

Medical evidence and military records are the two most important parts of a veteran’s disability claim application. Errors or omissions in these forms of documentation can lead to delays or unfair denials of veterans’ disability benefit claims.

If a disabled veteran or family member of a wounded warrior needs assistance navigating the veterans’ disability claims process, the Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. can help. Contact our veteran’s disability rights firm today 1-888-234-5758.

VA and Defense Department at Odds on Integrated Health Records

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Defense Department (DoD) are slated to merge their health record systems by 2017, but negotiations are hitting road blocks.

The most recent developments in the struggle for medical record integration came late February when DoD officials rejected adopting the VA’s VISTA health record system, according to Stars and Stripes. The VA has been using VISTA for years, but some argue that the system may be outdated and not as adaptable as other systems under consideration.

One thing that both departments do seem to agree on is that veterans and doctors should be able to share the same medical records no matter what system is employed. The goal is still to create a single health record system to improve communication between the departments’ health facilities.

Urgency for this measure comes from the backlog of veterans’ disability claims that have suffered from delays in communication of medical records. When the VA has to pull medical records from the DoD, it creates extra steps in the approval process that can add unnecessary time to the completion of a claim.

Officials have promised that by the end of 2013 one of the major steps to the seamless health record system will be completed. At year’s end the basic sharing of health records and a common method of displaying records will be developed and implemented. A major decision on which computer system to approve will come by the end of March.

Medical records are one of the most important parts of a veterans disability claim and incomplete records may result in unnecessary claim delays. The veterans’ disability claim team at The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. is ready to help disabled veterans  apply for benefits and help through the process. Contact our disability rights firm today 1-888-234-5758.

VA Launches New Phase of Innovation Initiative to Benefit Veterans

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently launched a new phase of its VA Innovation Initiative (VAi2). The new program, the VA Center for Innovation (VACI), will continue to build upon the success of VAi2 by reaffirming the VA’s commitment to innovators in the veterans’ services field.

The program integrates companies and organizations from government and private sectors to develop new technologies, procedures, and solutions focused on improving benefits to veterans.

VAi2, which has been in operation since 2010, built a 120-project portfolio containing initiatives for improving the accessibility and quality of services and care available to veterans. The VA Center for Innovation seeks to continue building this portfolio, starting with 13 new awards to partners across the U.S.

The VACI’s recent awards focus on the Blue Button medical record program, teleaudiology, prosthetic socket redesign for amputees, and automation of the sterilization process for reusable medical instruments. Research in these areas is of specific interest to disabled veterans who may suffer from hearing disabilities or lost limbs.

As more innovations in medical care and electronic record keeping are made, disabled veterans are entitled to benefit from these improvements. By applying for veterans’ disability benefits, a claimant may secure monetary benefits for disabling conditions, and veterans may benefit from enhanced care and opportunities to participate in medical trials through VA hospitals and clinics.

The Law Offices of LaVan & Neidenberg, P.A. can help you develop a claim for veterans’ disability benefits. If you have questions about veterans’ disability benefits, request a FREE copy of our eBook, Don’t Panic: Win Your VA Disability Claim. When you’re ready, contact us today at 888-234-5758 to discuss your case with one of our claims representatives.