Newsbytes 09-14-18

In this issue:
Agent Orange Bill Stalls 
More Assistance for Homeless Veterans
VA Denying Too Many MST Claims
9/11/01 Remembered

URGENT! Agent Orange Reform Bill Stalls in Senate Committee
Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie has dispatched a letter to members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC) urging the Committee not to pass the “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act” (H.R.299). The bill now is in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee awaiting a vote, after passing the House (382-0) in June. The SVAC held a hearing where FRA testified in support of the bill.

The original proposal would clarify that service members serving off the coast of the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam conflict have a presumption for filing disability claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for ailments associated with exposure to the Agent Orange herbicide.

The bill has been amended to extend the presumption of exposure for veterans who served on or near the Korean DMZ between September 1, 1967 and August 31, 1971. As amended, the legislation will now also extend health care, vocational training & rehabilitation and monetary allowance to a child who was born with spina bifida if at least one of the child’s parents served in Thailand between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975 and the VA determines that at least one of the parents had been exposed to an herbicide agent during that period. The bill also now includes improvements to VA’s home loan program.

FRA believes Congress should recognize these veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and authorize presumptive status for disability claims. Now is the time to contact your Senators through the FRA Action Center to ask them to support this bill, and push for a Senate committee vote.

VA Announces More Assistance for Veteran Homelessness
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it will fund $200 million for the Grant and Per Diem Program (GPD), which supports homeless veterans. The funding is expected to support more than 13,000 beds for veterans in need across the country. Within the provided funding, $2.7 million will be awarded to 12 special need-based grants that support homeless veterans with chronic mental illness, women veterans and veterans taking care of minor dependents. The GPD program was established in 1994 to provide programs and support services to take care of homeless veterans across the country. 

It is estimated that 39,472 veterans were homeless as of January 2016. That is down from about 75,600 veterans reported in 2009 when Obama announced plans to house every veteran in America by the end of 2015. So far, 33 communities and three states have been certified as “effectively” ending veteran homelessness. They have the resources to rapidly house all veterans facing financial distress in their community.

OIG Finds VA Denying Too Many MST Claims
Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently issued a report (17-05248-241) that investigated denied disability claims for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by military sexual trauma (MST). The findings concluded that the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) processed approximately 12,000 claims annually over the past three years for PTSD related to MST. In FY2017, VBA denied about 5,500 of those claims. The OIG review team sampled 169 denied claims and discovered 82 were incorrectly processed, which indicates an overall adjudication error rate of 49 percent. The incorrectly processed denial error projections were mostly found to be due to evidence submitted, the VA not requesting adequate evidence, veterans submitting claims not being contacted by VA’s MST coordinators and insufficient medical opinions.

In March, 2017 the VA started to offer veterans physical and mental health care services for military sexual trauma (MST). Care would be provided without proof of service-connected disability. The VA is providing outreach to veterans, both men and women, who may be experiencing difficulty with MST. 

9/11/01 Remembered
This week marks the seventeenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.  It is one of the most significant events to happen in our life time. The coordinated suicide attack was launched by a terrorist organization with no real military objectives and included our largest city and our nation’s Capital, as targets. The only real goal was to kill as many Americans as possible. Since 9/11 America has launched a “global war on terrorism” that is still ongoing today.  President Trump recently signed into law, authorization legislation for a Global War on Terrorism Memorial to be built in Washington, D.C. Please take the time to remember the ordinary citizens that 17 years ago, rose to the challenge and responded with extraordinary acts of courage. We should also pay tribute to the men and women in uniform who keep us safe, fighting terrorism around the world today.


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