May 17, 2016

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt. Shaft
I found your e-mail on and thought I’d reach out to you and see if you could help me out or steer me in the right direction. Okay, here I go, I started a compensation claim on January 2014. I had multiple claims which I now know didn’t help my situation. As of today’s date my claim is in the reviewing of evidence with a projected completion date of March 2017. Prior to that it was in the preparation for decision phase for a month ( March 2016) before that it was in the pending decision approval phase where it stood for 4 months ( December 2015 – March 2016 ) . None of my information has changed and I have tried to find out why my claim keeps getting put backwards by dialing and talking on the 1-800 # but all I get is the same old standard reply but about the backlog. I’ve tried my Vet Rep and reached out to the local congressman but was told by both that there is not much they can do to help. I live in Colorado and would appreciate any help you could give me. Thank You.

Jay Enriquez
Via the internet

Dear Jay
The Secretary of veterans Affairs has received your inquiry and has forwarded it to the appropriate VA leadership for review and direct feedback to you.

Shaft Notes
The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee recently held a hearing to address the issue of Veteran suicide.

Congressman Biliriakis’s is to be commended for introduction of a bill last year which is aimed at helping Veterans receive alternative forms of therapy to better address their invisible wounds. This legislation establishes a commission to examine the VA’s current therapy model and will provide Veterans with more choices. As the Congressman so aptly stated, “Recent reports have shown an average of 22 Veterans commit suicide every day. This is heartbreaking. Our Veterans are our heroes, and should return home to ample support and access to resources to help them cope with their physical and mental wounds. Today’s hearing provided us with more information to better serve those who have served our nation…We must do all we can to help our Veterans struggling with these invisible wounds. Our Veterans should receive care on a case-by-case basis, this isn’t a one size fits all solution. My COVER Act helps to provide our heroes with a variety of options such as service dog therapy, outdoor sports therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, accelerated resolution therapy, and more. We can find what works for each and every hero. We cannot lose any more of our heroes to suicide, and I will continue my work to address the issue and support all those who serve.”

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 4063, the Jason Simcakoski Promoting Responsible Opioid Management and Incorporating Scientific Expertise (PROMISE) Act.

The bill would improve Department of Veterans Affairs opioid safety measures by directing all department hospitals to designate pain management teams, ensuring employees that prescribe opioid drugs receive proper training in pain management and safe opioid prescribing practices, and standardizing safe opioid utilization and tracking practices across the system.  The bill also increases accountability by requiring the directors of each VA hospital to certify employees have received the proper training in prescribing opioids. Finally, recognizing the need to ensure safe transition between the Department of Defense and VA, the bill requires an update of joint VA/DoD clinical practice guidelines.

The PROMISE Act is named in honor of Marine Corps veteran Jason Simcakoski, who died of mixed drug toxicity while he was an inpatient at the Tomah, Wis., VA Medical Center. A VA investigation found that hospital staff improperly prescribed his medications.

H.R. 4063 now awaits consideration by the Senate. Following House passage of the bill, Chairman Miller released the below statement.

“A bag of pills is simply not a solution to a veteran’s health care needs. That’s why we must act to reduce VA’s reliance on prescription painkillers and ensure that in instances they are prescribed, VA is doing so safely. Veterans and families shouldn’t have to suffer like Jason Simcakoski and his loved ones have, and if the PROMISE Act becomes law, it will help ensure they won’t.”

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald today welcomed the appointment of Rosemary Freitas Williams as Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Public Affairs.

In this post, Williams will oversee public affairs, media relations, consumer affairs, community outreach and engagement including Veteran homelessness and six national rehabilitative sports events. She also represents VA on the executive committee of the National Alliance for Suicide Prevention, on behalf of Veterans, their families and survivors. She will play a critical role in guiding VA’s public engagement to implement Secretary McDonald’s vision to transform VA into a Veteran-centric, high-performing and responsive organization.

“Rosemary is a proven communications leader,” said McDonald. “Her dedication to the military community – servicemembers, Veterans, their families and survivors, is vital in meeting VA’s mission of serving the great men and women who have proudly worn this nation’s uniform. This is especially important with more than two hundred thousand servicemembers transitioning every year over the next five years.”

Prior to coming to VA, Williams served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy since July 2013. In that position, she was responsible for policy, advocacy and oversight of all community support to service members, their families and survivors, child care and youth programs, family violence prevention and intervention, casualty and mortuary affairs, MWR programs, commissaries and exchanges, military spouse career advancement, and state liaison office.







Comments are closed.