Posts Tagged ‘Eric Shinseki’

VA Testing Paperless Disability Claims Processing System

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

The absurd backlog of disability claims facing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is no secret and as such, the VA is constantly searching for a solution. The newest suggested solution is that the VA go completely paperless. The problem plaguing the VA is just how to go about eliminating the overwhelming amount of paperwork in order to go 100% electronic.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has given the VA until 2012 to solve this problem. 2012 is when the electronic claims processing system is set to make its debut. VA estimates place the amount of backlogged disability claims at approximately 2.6 million by 2015 if the system is not corrected.

The current wait time on the processing of a veteran’s disability claim is around 5 months. Disability claims from Iraq and Afghanistan require approximately 6 to 12 hours per claim. At the same time, the VA is plagued with complaints about both lost paperwork and flat out inaccuracy.

The severe limitations of the current system requires paperwork being shipped all over the country if more than one person needs to review a veteran’s disability claim. Under an electronic system,  the veteran’s claim could be viewed by several people in several locations at once, should the need arise.

Last October Secretary Shinseki allowed veterans suffering from service-related illnesses due to exposure to Agent Orange to receive compensation. This means the VA could face potentially 200,000 new disability claims. Beyond that, Secretary Shinseki is also forcing the VA to take second looks at previously rejected claims from Gulf War Veterans.

The new electronic system will cut claims processing times by approximately 70%. Once the VA figures out how to make the transition, everything else will hopefully fall into place and the VA’s massive backlog will begin to be chipped away.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.

Ohio Reforming Disability Claims Processing

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

In 2005, Ohio’s disabled veterans received less money on average than veterans in any other state. In a move that should help some Ohio veterans, recent reform measures have moved Ohio’s ranking to third from last. A 12% increase over the last two years brings the average amount of money an Ohio disabled veteran receives up to $9,047.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki recently visited Ohio and heard the long standing complaints from veterans that the VA does not give disability claims in Ohio the same treatment as the rest of the country. Secretary Shinseki answered these complaints by reiterating one of his main focus areas: fixing VA’s disability-claims process.

Ohio disability claims are processed through local county offices and then passed through the regional Cleveland office. Every VA office has the same standards and ratings yet Ohio claims have consistently fallen below the national average.

A 2005 study blamed the discrepancies on veteran population, i.e., older veterans with more severe disabilities most likely will be granted more money. Conversely, the study found regional offices applied VA standards inconsistently.

The VA has initiated standardized national training of people who review and make decisions on disability claims as opposed to regional office training under standards possibly twisted by learned bad habits.

2008 was a productive year for policy changes that help disabled Ohio veterans. First, a 2008 Ohio law now requires:

  • Audits of the regional offices; and
  • Performance evaluations of personnel charged with deciding disability ratings.

Second, the Ohio Department of Veterans Services placed a state employee at the Cleveland regional office. This employee’s purpose is to help people preparing disability claims at the local level prepare and file them effectively.

There are concerns that claims processing has slowed down and the focus being placed on the younger disabled veterans detracts from the older veterans’ claims. While Ohio disabled veterans are getting more money than they were in the past, only time will tell if Ohio will continue to improve their treatment of their disabled veterans.

Learn more about Ohio’s disabled veterans and their disability payments.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.

San Antonio Veterans Benefiting from VA Contracts

Monday, March 1st, 2010

In keeping with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s new overall vision for the VA, veterans have earned the absolute best treatment and health care the U.S. can possibly provide. One way Mr. Shinseki plans on fulfilling this vision is by providing veterans with the best possible access to that health care.

To make this happen, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is both building new and improving existing facilities. Recently, the VA awarded $41.5 million in contracts to be used:

  • To create a state of the art “polytrauma center” focusing on treating and caring for veterans considered to be the most severely injured; and
  • To improve existing facilities at the Audie L. Murphy VA Medical Center in San Antonio.

“Polytrauma” is the type of health care used for veterans suffering from more than one critical and life-threatening condition. The majority of “polytrauama” patients are veterans of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that were injured by explosives and roadside bombs.

The first of the two contracts, valued at $37.2 million, went to a Birmingham, Alabama construction company to construct a three story, 84,000 square foot “polytrauma” center in San Antonio to include:

  • Physical medicine;
  • Rehabilitation services; and
  • Prosthetic service and research.

A San Antonio construction firm received a contract directing them to improve the current facilities at the Audie L. Murphy VA Medical Center. The contract details out the plans made to update and improve ward 4-A to include:

  • Electrical Work;
  • Utilities;
  • Fire alarm and protection systems;
  • Telephone and data systems; and
  • Asbestos abatement.

The veteran population in Texas numbers approximately 1.7 million. There are 11 VA medical centers, 40+ outpatient clinics, 14 veteran centers and six national cemeteries spread across the state. Last year, the VA spent more than $7.8 billion on the state’s veterans.

Learn more about the VA’s contracts to improve health care.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.

VA Call Center Back Up To Full Speed

Monday, March 1st, 2010

For the last two months the phones at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Education Call Center have remained unanswered on Thursdays and Fridays. Those days are over and the call center is now open again five days a week.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki credits the call center employees for being able to bring the call center back up to five days of operation. According to Secretary Shinseki, because of the employee’s efforts, 30,000 student veterans were given their checks which allowed them to buy books and pay their rent and, most importantly, stay in school.

The VA was facing a backlog of claims dating from Mid-December to mid-February. In response to the consequences of this backlog, i.e., student veterans unable to remain in school, the VA closed the call center and reassigned all the call center employees to processing the pending Post-9/11 GI Bill claims. By doing this, the employees drastically reduced the overdue education claims.

Last August, the VA was processing about 2,000 Post-9/11 GI Bill claims a day. As of two weeks ago, they were processing approximately 7,000 a day. All Post-9/11 GI Bill participants that submitted enrollments by 18Jan10 have received payment. Because the processing of the education claims are squared away, the VA will no longer make advance payments to students awaiting money from their Post-9/11 GI Bill.

This is just one more completed goal in Secretary Shinseki’s vision to make sure all veterans are given everything they are entitled to receive. At this point, all education claims are being paid in a timely fashion and student veterans are in classes.

Learn more about the VA call center processing their back log of education claims and re-opening their phone lines full time.

VA Re-examining Gulf War Claims

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki has a bold new vision for the VA. For many years Gulf War veterans have complained about the “Gulf War illness” and that the government has done nothing to help them. There have been thousands of disability claims filed and denied.

But that was all before Eric Shinseki. Now, the VA is going to re-examine disability claims of potentially thousands of Gulf War veterans who claim they are disabled due to their service related Gulf War illness.

According to Shinseki, this change is not only going to affect how VA clinic staff currently work with Gulf War vets, but how the VA will care for future veterans with service-related illnesses. Shinseki also stated he plans on establishing a standard that prevents veterans from waiting for decades to have their service-related illnesses acknowledged and treated.

Gulf War illness has afflicted approximately 175,00 – 210,000 Gulf War veterans. While the source of the illness has been sternly disputed, some symptoms of the illness are:

  • Rashes;
  • Joint and muscle pain;
  • Sleep issues; and
  • Gastrointestinal problems.

A 1994 law allows veterans to collect payment from the VA for chronic disabilities the VA could not diagnose. Under this category, 3,400 Gulf War veterans have received benefits to date.

Approximately 300,000 Gulf War veterans submitted claims to the VA. About 14% of these claims were denied and of the claims that were granted, none of them were granted in full. The VA will review how the regulations were written and if there were issues preventing claims from being granted, the VA will give veterans an opportunity to have the VA reconsider denied claims.

Learn more about the VA re-opening Gulf War files.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.

VA National Summit Ending Homelessness

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

The Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs opened the VA National Summit Ending Homelessness among Veterans with a speech detailing a comprehensive plan which includes prevention, rehabilitation, and assistance. 

Eric Shinseki and the Obama administration are committed to ending this epidemic among vets and will use resources from the government, business and private sectors to meet veterans housing needs.

Shinseki’s plan includes:

  • Discharge planning for incarcerated veterans
  • Supportive services for low-income veterans
  • A national referral center to link veterans to local service providers
  • Plan for expanded efforts for education, jobs, health care and housing

Acknowledging the consequences of injuries sustained during military service will be an important consideration by the VA in ending homelessness in America. Indeed, the Secretary noted that $2.7 billion will be spent on medical services for veterans as part of his plan to end homelessness.

Certain housing benefits are available to disabled veterans which may be based on your disability rating. If you are a disabled veteran who is fighting the VA to receive disability compensation, contact the veterans disability rights law firm of LaVan & Neidenberg.

Secretary Shinseki designates “Veterans Day Sites”

Monday, October 19th, 2009

In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the “Veterans Day National Committee.” The Committee’s purpose is to promote the observance of Veterans Day across the country. As Chairman of the Veterans Day National Committee, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, has designated 41 events as “regional Veterans Day observances.”

“Veterans Day is a national Thank You to the men and women who have served all of us in uniform,” Secretary Shinseki said. “These regional observances enable the federal government to bring resources closer to more Veterans.”

Do you live close to one of these events? If so, you can join with family and friends to attend a parade and honor the men and women who have served this great country.

Albany, Douglas County and Portland, Ore.
Atlanta and Dawson County, Ga.
Auburn, Port Angeles, Vancouver and West Richland, Wash.
Austin, Bonham, Dallas and Houston, Texas
Birmingham, Mobile, Ala.
Brevard Community College-Coco Campus, Fla.
Brunswick, Md.
Columbus, Ohio
Detroit, Mich.
Emporia, Leavenworth and Valley Center, Kan.
Gatlinburg and Nashville, Tenn.
Gulfport, Miss.
Loveland, Colo.
Madisonville-Hopkins County, Ky.
Milwaukee, Wis.  
New Castle, Del.
New Orleans, Shreveport-Bossier City
New York, N.Y.
Ozark-Dale County, Ala.
Palm Springs, Calif.
Phoenix, Ariz.
Ponca City, Okla.
Sherborn, Mass.
Shreveport and Slidell-Tammany Parrish, La.
St. Louis, Mo.
Virginia Beach, Va.

Apply online for GI Bill emergency checks

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

Last weekend, Eric Shinseki, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, announced that the VA would issue emergency checks to veterans who are awaiting overdue GI Bill payments. The Secretary stated that veterans would have to travel to one of 57 veterans affairs regional offices (VARO) to obtain the emergency checks, and that a limited number of veterans representatives would visit campuses with large student-veteran populations.

The Secretary announced today that veterans will now have the option to go online to apply for emergency funds. Student-veterans will be eligible for up to $3000 to assist with tuition and living expenses.

The option of applying online alleviates the inconvenience of traveling to a VARO.

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.