November 25, 2014

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt. Shaft
I have a veteran here in Texas who is being paid at the 100% rate because his service connected disabilities prevent him from working. His actual rating for multiple conditions totals 90%.  He would like to go back to work part-time but is afraid that he will lose his benefits.  Is there any way that he can go back to work in the civilian world?  If so, what are the parameters that he must stay within so that he does not lose benefits?  Any assistance that you could offer would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.
Mike J
Via the internet

Dear Mike
You would want to ensure whatever employment your veteran seeks does not cross a line of what is considered a “substantially gainful occupation.” This is the standard used by the VA. VA Manual, M21-1, para. 50.55b(8) defines “substantially gainful employment” for purposes of individual unemployability as employment “which is ordinarily followed by the nondisabled to earn their livelihood with earnings common to the particular occupation in the community where the veteran resides.”

Shaft Notes
The Sarge urges those Marines and their families who were station at Camp LeJeune From January 1, 1957, through December 31, 1987 to go to the following web site, to get the information needed to apply for healthcare and/or reimbursement for treatment of certain conditions linked to the water contamination at Camp LeJeune. https://www.clfamilymembers.fsc.va.gov/

Representative Gus Bilirakis, Vice-Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, recently testified before the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health about his bill, the Creating Options for Veterans’ Expedited Recovery (COVER) Act. Bilirakis’ bipartisan legislation will establish a commission to examine VA’s current therapy model and the potential benefits in incorporating complementary alternative therapies.

“While it is vital that Veterans receive the care they need, it is equally important to recognize that one size does not fit all when discussing treatments for Veterans. The invisible wounds they sustain serving our country are just as serious as physical ones. While many Veterans may thrive under traditional plans and medical care, some may not be as responsive. We need to provide Veterans with choices and easy access to alternative forms of therapies that work best for them,” said Bilirakis.

“The COVER Act will ascertain the viability of alternative treatments, providing a pathway forward that will eventually allow Veterans to have a range of options for mental health .treatments such as outdoor sports therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, accelerated resolution therapy, and service dog therapy.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that it began mailing Veterans Choice Cards on November 17 to Veterans currently waiting more than 30-days from their preferred date or the date that is medically determined by their physician for an appointment at a VA facility.

“VA continues to focus on implementation of this new temporary benefit so that Veterans receive the timely quality care they need in a way that reduces confusion and inefficiencies,” said Secretary Robert A. McDonald, who penned an open letter to Veterans announcing the implementation of the Choice Card program.

The Choice Program is a new, temporary benefit that allows some Veterans to receive health care in their communities rather than waiting for a VA appointment or traveling to a VA facility. The first round of cards along with a letter explaining the program was issued on November 5 to Veterans who are eligible based on their place of residence. VA is now engaging in the next phase of its rollout –eligibility explanation letters are being sent to Veterans waiting more than 30 days from their preferred date to be seen or considered medically necessary by their physician.

To improve service delivery, VA has prioritized efforts to accelerate Veterans off of wait lists and into clinics through the Accelerated Care Initiative begun over the summer. Through this initiative, VA medical centers have increased access to care inside and outside of VA, added more clinic hours and work days, deployed mobile medical units and shared their best practices from VA’s high-performing facilities throughout the organization.

Significant improvements have resulted nationally:

  • Scheduling more than 1.2 million more appointments in the past four months than in the same period last year. In total, VA medical centers have scheduled over 19 million Veteran appointments from June to October 1, 2014;
  • Reducing the national new patient Primary Care wait time by 18 percent;
  • Completing 98 percent of appointments within 30 days of the Veterans’ preferred date, or the date determined to be medically necessary by a physician;
  • Authorizing 1.1 million non-VA care authorizations, a 47-percent increase over the same period last year; and
  • Increasing the amount of time providers could deliver care to Veterans by increasing the amount of clinic hours in primary and specialty care and through adding weekend and evening clinics at our medical centers.

VA is America’s largest integrated health care system with over 1,700 sites of care, serving approximately 9 million Veterans enrolled in health care services.  The Choice Program is part of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA), enacted nearly three months ago, to enable VA to meet the demand for Veterans’ health care in the short-term.

For more information about the Choice Program, call 1-866- 606-8198 or visit http://www.va.gov/opa/choiceact/.

The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity will hold a hearing on Wednesday, November 19, 2014, at 10:00 AM in room 334 of the Cannon House Office Building to examine the role state approving agencies play in veterans education.

Congress created State Approving Agencies (SAAs) as part of the original World War II-Era GI Bill of Rights. The agencies work with the Department of Veterans Affairs to approve and provide oversight of schools and training programs eligible to receive GI Bill benefit payments. SAAs conduct on-site supervisory and compliance visits to GI-Bill approved institutions and those seeking approval, providing technical assistance to help them meet program requirements.

 

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