November 15, 2016

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt Shaft
I hear that VA is sharing information with Social Security in an effort to speed up claims processing.  Have you heard anything about this?

Rob Y
Via the internet

Dear Rob
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) launched a new Health IT initiative that enables VA to share medical records electronically with social security disability processors. This secure process will save time and money resulting in better service for Veterans and dependents who apply for social security disability benefits. The SSA requests nearly 15 million medical records from health care organizations yearly to make medical decisions on about three million disability claims. For decades, SSA obtained medical records through a manual process.  This new national initiative puts in place an automated process to obtain Veterans’ medical records entirely electronically.

“VA’s partnership with Social Security will ultimately improve the quality of life for Veterans and their dependents by enabling Veterans to share their health information within a safe and secure health-related consumer application,” said Dr. David Shulkin, VA’s Under Secretary for Health.

The joint venture is expected to significantly speed up social security disability decisions, utilizing VA’s VLER Health Exchange under the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) Program. The VLER Health Exchange gives VA and participating community providers the ability to retrieve Veterans’ health information from each other for the purpose of treatment. Currently, VLER Health Exchange shares health data with over 79 community health care partners, representing 775 Hospitals, 427 Federally Qualified Health Centers, 142 Nursing Homes, 8441 Pharmacies and over 11,969 Clinics. The SSA now has access for the purpose of processing benefits for Veterans and their dependents.

“This SSA-VA partnership is another example of VA’s leadership in interoperability efforts among federal partners,” said VA Secretary, Robert McDonald. “Increasing federal partnerships to improve operation and resource coordination across agencies is among VA’s 12 Breakthrough Priorities for 2016.”

VA has partnership agreements with Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Treasury (DOT) among many others.

To learn more about VA health care visit: www.va.gov/health.


Blue military style mailbag with BAVF red letters stenciled on it. Below the BAVF is a tag that says SGT. SHAFTShaft Notes
Congressman Gus Bilirakis, Vice-Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, recently hosted a round-table discussion with local Veterans and Veterans’ service organizations in Oldsmar. Bilirakis has passed legislation, the PROMISE Act and the COVER Act, to help fight opioid abuse among Veterans and expand mental health services through the Department of Veterans Affairs. He continues to work to bring accountability and reform to the VA, and increase access to quality, timely care for Veterans.

In case you missed it, the Palm Harbor Beacon covered the event.

United States Congressman Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, is known for being a staunch advocate of veteran’s rights, serving as vice-chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and co-chair of the Military Veterans Caucus while sponsoring numerous pieces of legislation designed to improve the quality of life for veterans and their families.

One way Bilirakis stays up to date on the issues affecting America’s veterans is by holding informal meetings with vets and representatives of veterans organizations in order to receive direct feedback about what veterans are looking for from their elected officials.

Recently, the congressman held a town hall meeting in Oldsmar, and after listening to stories, comments and suggestions from the roughly 3-dozen in attendance, Bilirakis came away from the event with a better understand of where the veterans stand on a number of key issues.

“I think it went well,” Bilirakis said following the meeting, which was held in the Oldsmar City Council Chambers on Tuesday, Oct. 4. “They were very honest and they had some good suggestions. We talked about alternative therapies and also the transition program – it’s very important, we need to fix the transition process and have better communication, no question. But I thought it was very good.”

While the main focus of the meeting was a pair of current pieces of legislation Bilirakis is working to pass – the Promise Act, which focuses on safe, quality pain management treatment at VA facilities, and the Cover Act, which seeks to incorporate complimentary, alternative therapies for veterans battling mental health issues – questions about a variety of veterans issues were raised during the two-hour session, as those in attendance stood up and told stories about how they have been overlooked, put off or neglected while searching for ways to help cope with the aftereffects of their service.

Another issue addressed was the lack of support and proper care for female vets.

After raising the subject during the discussion, former Air Force Capt. Julie Daniels spoke about Bilirakis’ dedication to fighting for all veterans’ rights, including women.

“Personally, I think Gus does a great job,” Daniels, a Desert Storm vet who sits on Bilirakis’ veterans advisory council, said after the meeting. “He is one congressman who has focused his entire career on veterans. I can say that he, more than anyone, takes the time out to listen to us. And I believe that he will take this information and actually do something about it. It’s just in his nature, it’s what he’s done, it’s what he’s going to do, and I believe that’s what his career is about.”

One leader of a local veterans organization had nothing but praise for Bilirakis and his efforts to help all vets.

“There’s a lot of issues out there and a lot of good solutions, and the congressman tells us that all the time,” Richard Weltz, a retired naval officer and commander of the local chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, said. “You see what he’s up against with the federal government and the resistance to this VA stuff, and it’s extremely frustrating for vets and the taxpayers, too. You’re paying for a broke system.”

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