VA’s Modernization of Claims Process Continues

on Friday, 24 March 2017. Posted in News

More than 300,000 digitalized inactive-claim records removed to improve process service

March 20, 2017
Early this year, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) began extracting hundreds of thousands of inactive-claim records from regional offices east of the Mississippi for digital conversion. Inactive-claim records are claim files that have been settled and have remained inactive for a number of years. The initiative will help reduce processing time for thousands of new claims associated with inactive records.

Memories at The Wall: Remembering Vietnam Veterans

on Tuesday, 30 May 2017.

vietnam-memorial-mementos-baseball-glove-620.jpg

The granite wall, and the names etched in it, elicit a wide range of responses. Some stand in silence; others pray, or offer a final salute. Many visitors to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., feel compelled to leave offerings of love or gratitude or remembrance ... a pair of boots, photographs, letters, even a last cigarette.

Each evening National Park Service rangers collect the items and send them to a massive warehouse in Maryland filled to the rafters with objects left since 1982.

Ranger Janet Folkerts catalogs the items and keeps them in pristine condition. She doesn't know the total number of objects left.

"We have a guess of 400,000. We never will fully know until we have everything cataloged, which we don't have yet," she told CBS News correspondent Chip Reid.

VA extends deadline for seeking Gulf War illness benefits to 2021

on Friday, 21 October 2016.

In February 1991, an armored vehicle passes through a breached sand berm separating Saudi   Arabia from Iraq, paving the way for advancing allied troops during the Gulf War. WAYNE J. BEGASSE/STARS AND STRIPES

WASHINGTON – For the next five years, veterans will have an easier time seeking benefits for illnesses linked to service in the Gulf War because of an extension issued Monday by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Since 1994, the VA has automatically presumed a connection from Gulf War service, which included a toxic environment of oil fires and chemical weapons, to an increased risk for several illnesses. The connection enables veterans to receive a disability rating and benefits more quickly.

But the presumed connection and the ability to seek benefits was set to expire at the end of this year, after being extended four times previously. Effective Monday, the VA extended it a fifth time, to Dec. 31, 2021.

The Veterans Employment Program of Lake County, Illinois

on Wednesday, 25 November 2015.

CathChar

The Veterans Employment Program of Lake County (VEP) was created by Catholic Charities with two goals in mind:

  1. Help our local unemployed U.S. Military Veterans (and military spouses) find employment.
  2. Help our business community find qualified people to fill their employment needs.

Healing Our Warriors

on Tuesday, 13 December 2016.

Veterans Anthony Anderson (L) and Tom Voss decided to walk 2,700 miles from Wisconsin to California to try to sort out some of the issues they faced—including PTSD and moral injury—after being in combat situations in Iraq. (Almost Sunrise)

Veterans Anthony Anderson (L) and Tom Voss decided to walk 2,700 miles from Wisconsin to California to try to sort out some of the issues they faced—including PTSD and moral injury—after being in combat situations in Iraq. (Almost Sunrise)

Tom Voss’s unit fired a warning shot, but the truck kept speeding towards them. So they shot to kill. It was Iraq more than 10 years ago, and that’s what they were trained to do.

“I ran up to the passenger’s side and smashed the window open. The guy had two sucking chest wounds,” said Voss, who was a sniper on an 11-month deployment in Iraq in 2004–2005.

Voss said his platoon sergeant slowly walked up while they were frantically trying to save the man’s life and said, “Are we done here?”

On another day, they were alerted to a body on the roadside. “This man was tortured: He had his nose cut off, all his fingers were cut off, his toes were cut off while he was still alive,” Voss said. “He was involved with helping us. That’s what he was killed for.”

Bill to Extend Veterans Choice Program Approved

on Sunday, 23 April 2017.

A presidential order extended the Veterans Choice Act on Wednesday to set the stage for a push in Congress to expand the program and allow more access to private care for veterans.

Signed in an Oval Office ceremony, the bill continues the Choice program, which was to expire on Aug. 7, and allows for the expenditure of the remaining $950 million in the program.

The Choice Card program allowed Vets facing lengthy wait times at Veterans Administration facilities or living more than 40 miles from the nearest VA to seek care in the private sector. Those already in the program will not need to re-apply under the bill signed by Trump, VA officials said.

(Republished) Remarkable Impact of Yoga Breathing for Trauma

on Thursday, 01 June 2017. Posted in News

"Military guys doing yoga and meditation?"

Emma Seppala 

I've been asked in disbelief. It's true that when they first arrived to participate in my study (a yoga-based breathing program offered by a small non-profit organization), the young, tattoo-covered, hard-drinking, motorcycle-driving all-American Midwestern men didn't look like your typical yoga devotees. But their words after the study said it all: "Thank you for giving me my life back" and "I feel like I've been dead since I returned from Iraq and I feel like I'm alive again." Our surprisingly positive findings revealed the power that lies in breath for providing relief from even the most deep-seated forms of anxiety.

As many of us know, there is an unspoken epidemic that is taking 22 lives a day in the U.S.

Who is impacted? Those who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in protection of others: Veterans.

How? Suicide.

Why? War trauma.

Average age? 25.

Bankruptcy Becomes an Option for Some Borrowers Burdened by Student Loans

on Thursday, 29 December 2016.

Argument that focuses on legal definition of student loan is at crux of efforts to discharge debt

Some who owe on student loans are arguing in bankruptcy court that their debt wasn’t made for an ‘educational benefit.’ Above, the entrance to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York in lower Manhattan, N.Y.

By SARAH CHANEY

Borrowers are beginning to win battles to erase some student loans in bankruptcy court, overcoming stiff obstacles that have generally blocked that path except in extreme cases of financial hardship.

Since March, several bankruptcy courts have allowed borrowers to cancel private student loans with a new legal argument that relies on vague wording about the legal definition of a student loan.

Bankruptcy law says that, without proving extreme hardship, a borrower can’t discharge a loan made for an “educational benefit.” This language has opened a window to cancel loans for students who argue their loans falls outside this category of debt. Such reasoning has been applied to loans obtained to attend schools without accreditation or to study for a bar exam.

The argument applies only to a slice of the private student-loan market, which makes up less than 10% of the more than $1.3 trillion in outstanding student debt. The federal government dominates the student-loan market and isn’t as vulnerable in bankruptcy proceedings.

Pentagon Holds Up GI Bill Benefits for Reservists

on Sunday, 27 November 2016.

gi-bill-benefits-26nov16-600x400

Stars and Stripes | Nov 26, 2016 | by Alex Horton

SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras -- Nearly 300 Marines came home from their seven-month deployment to Central America this week. They have a few things in tow -- wood carvings from local artisans and the grit of experience responding to Hurricane Matthew, among the world's worst recent natural disasters.

But the reservists returned without something that most were counting on: seven months of GI Bill benefits.

A relatively new and obscure deployment code, a measure the Pentagon created in 2014 to scale back spending on benefits, is the reason. By law, reservists involuntarily mobilized under Title 10, section 12304b, do not receive credit for the GI Bill while they are activated.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is paid out by the amount of active-duty time racked up. Reservists say deployments are in high demand in part because education benefits will grow much faster than relying on drill time.

Horsefeathers Equine Therapy Empowers LCVFSF Veterans and Family members

on Friday, 17 June 2016.

Horse trainer Buck Brannaman, who helped inspire the lead character in the Nicholas Evans novel "The Horse Whisperer," speaks from experience about the healing power a horse can offer its human companion.

"Horses,'' he says, ''are incredibly forgiving. They fill in places we're not capable of filling ourselves. They've given people a new hope, a new lease on life."

That proposition — that horses can be healers — stands at the operational core of Horsefeathers, a therapeutic riding program located at 1181 Riverwoods Road in Lake Forest since 2008.