Additional Information on Vietnam Naval Operations If evidence places a Veteran on one of these vessels at the time of inland waterway operations, the Veteran is eligible for the presumption of herbicide exposure. In the case of a ship with confirmed docking to the shore, the Veteran must also provide a statement that he went ashore to be eligible for the presumption.
Vessels that operated primarily or exclusively on the inland waterways
All vessels of Inshore Fire Support [IFS] Division 93 during their entire Vietnam tour
USS Carronade (IFS 1)
USS Clarion River (LSMR 409) [Landing Ship, Medium, Rocket]
USS Francis River (LSMR 525)
USS White River (LSMR 536)
All vessels with the designation LST [Landing Ship, Tank] during their entire tour
All vessels with the designation LCVP [Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel] during their entire Tour
All vessels with the designation PCF [Patrol Craft, Fast] during their entire tour, Also called Swift Boats
All vessels with the designation PBR [Patrol Boat, River] during their entire tour, Also called River Patrol Boats
All U.S. Coast Guard Cutters with hull designation WPB or WHEC
USS Antelope (PG-86)
USS Asheville (PG-84) patrol gunboat
USS Askari (ARL-30)
Barracks Barge (APL-26)
Barracks Barge (APL-30)
USS Belle Grove (LSD-2)
USS Benewah (APB-35)
USS Bexar (APA-237)
USS Brule (AKL-28)
USS Comstock (LSD-45)
USS Canon PG-90)
USS Colleton (APB-36)
USS Crockett (PG-88)
USS Elkhorn (AOG-7)
USS Gallo (PG-85)
USS Genesee (AOG-8)
USS Indra (ARL-37)
USS Kishwaukee AOG-9
USS Krishna (ARL-38)
USS Marathon (PG-89)
USS Mark (AKL-12) [light cargo ship]
USS Mercer (APB-39)
USS Montrose (APA-212) [attack transport]
USS Noxubee (AOG-56)
USS Nueces (APB-40)
USS Okanogan (APA-210)
USS Patapsco (AOG-1) [gasoline tanker]
USS Ready (PG-87)
USS Satyr (ARL-23) [repair ship]
USS Sphinx (ARL-24)
USS Tombigbee (AOG-11)
USS Tutuila (ARG-4) [repair ship]
USS Tortuga (LSD-261)
Floating Base Platform
(YRBM-17) [repair, berthing, and messing barge]
Vessels that operated temporarily on Vietnam's inland waterways or docked to the shore
USS Basilone (DD-824) [Destroyer] [Operated on Saigon River, May 24-25, 1966]
USS Black (DD-666) [Destroyer] [Operated on Saigon River, July 13-19, 1966]
USS Buck (DD-761) operated on Mekong River Delta and Saigon River during October 1966
USS Bolster (ARS-38) [salvage ship] crew operated on land to extract USS Clark County (LST-601) from beach after grounding at Duc Pho from November 18 to December 1, 1967
USS Boxer (LPH-4) [amphibious assault ship] docked to pier at Cam Rahn Bay on September 9, 1965
USS Card (ACV-11) [escort carrier] mined, sunk, and salvaged in Saigon River Harbor during May 1964
USS Carter Hall (LSD-3) [landing ship dock] operated on Cua Viet River and at Dong Ha during December 1967
USS Canberra (CAG-2) [guided missile cruiser] operated on Saigon River from March 31 through April 1, 1966, on Cua Viet River during December 15, 1966, and on Mekong Delta Ham Luong River during January 15, 1967
USS Cleveland (LPD-7) operated on Cua Viet River and at Dong Ha, as well as Hue River, from November 1967 through 1968 and Saigon River during September 1969
USS Conway (DD-507) [Destroyer] [Operated on Saigon River, early August 1966]
USS Dubuque (LPD-8) docked at Da Nang on March 15, 1970
USS Duluth (LPD-6) [amphibious transport dock] docked to pier at Da Nang during March and October 1971
USS Dyess (DD-880) operated on Saigon River and Rung Sat Special Zone from June 19 - July 1, 1966
USS Epperson (DD-719) docked to Da Nang Pier on October 4, 1970
USS Fiske (DD-842) [Destroyer] [Operated on Mekong River, June 16-21, 1966]
USS Hamner (DD-718) [Destroyer] [Operated on Song Lon Tao and Long Song Tao Rivers, August 15-September 1, 1966]
USS Henrico (APA-45) [amphibious attack transport] operated on Hue River during March 1965 and conducted numerous troop landing through March 1967
USS Ingersoll (DD-652) [Destroyer] [Operated on Saigon River, October 24-25, 1965]
USS Richard E. Kraus (DD-849) [Destroyer] [Operated on coastal inlet north of Da Nang, June 2-5, 1966
USS Mahan (DLG-11) [Guided Missile Frigate] [Operated on Saigon River October 24-28, 1964]
USS Mansfield (DD-728) [Destroyer] [Operated on Saigon River August 8-19, 1967 and December 21-24, 1968]
USS Maury (AGS-16) [mapping survey ship] conducted surveys of Mekong Delta and other coastal areas and rivers beginning November 1965 through 1969
USS Montrose (APA-212) operated on Song Hue River during December 1965, operated on Long Tau River during March 1967, and operated on Cua Viet River and at Dong Ha during May 1967
USS Newell (DER-322) [radar destroyer escort] docked at port of Nha Trang during December 22-24, 1965
USS Niagara Falls (AFS-3) [Combat Stores Ship] [Unloaded supplies on Saigon River April 22-25, 1968]
USS Okanogan (APA-220) [Attack Transport] [Operated on Saigon River July 22-23, 29-30, 1968 and August 5-6, 1968]
USS Orleck (DD-886) operated on Mekong River Delta during July 1969
USS Perkins (DD-877) operated on Saigon River during June 1969
USS Picking (DD-685) operated on Saigon River during November 16, 1965
USS Preston (DD-795) operated on Mekong River Delta, Ganh Rai Bay, and Saigon River during September 28 - 29 and December 27 - 29, 1965
USS Providence (CLG-6) [Cruiser, Light, Guided Missile] [Operated on Saigon River 3 days during January 1964]
USS Southerland (DD-743) operated on Song Nga Bay and Saigon River during July 1966
USS Sproston (DD-577) [destroyer] operated on Mekong Delta and Ganh Rai Bay during January 1966
USS Joseph Strauss (DDG-16) [guided missile destroyer] operated on Mekong River Delta and Ganh Rai Bay during November 7 and December 7, 1968
USS Talladega (APA-208) operated on Saigon River during October 1967
USS John W. Thomason (DD-760) operated on Nga Be River during 1969
USS Warrington (DD-843) operated on Mekong River Delta Rung Sat Special Zone, North of Vung Gahn Rai Bay during March 1967
USS Waddell (DDG-241) operated on Cua Viet River during March 1967
WASHINGTON — Pfc. Paul Evans was rocking and rolling on his M-16 on a long-ago afternoon in Vietnam, spraying fire toward an unseen enemy hidden deep within the jungle. He was a terrified 18-year-old who knew, as other men fell around him, that he was about to die. Then out of nowhere, American tanks thundered out of the jungle, Evans later recalled. Alpha Troop had arrived. The men of Alpha Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry, rushed in to rescue Evans and the rest of his infantry company, which had been pinned down for most of the day after wandering into a cluster of North Vietnamese bunkers. For two hours, Alpha's tanks suppressed fire enough to weaken the enemy. Then, as night fell and the Americans feared being surrounded in the dark, everyone fled through the blackening foliage. Many of the soldiers tucked away their memories for years, only now describing the day's horror. Kenny Euge of Belleville, Ill., drove one of the tanks that barreled through the jungle to Charlie Company's aid, closest to the enemy. He recalled a rocket-propelled grenade flying just over his head, like a flaming basketball. "It was all scary. It was all scary," Euge recalled this week, his voice breaking as he spoke. "Even the drive back was scary. It didn't get un-scary until you got back." However, the Army overlooked the clash that became known as the Anonymous Battle. When one man ended his tour and was asked about any major battles he'd been in, the soldier who was processing the paperwork shook his head. There'd been no battles that day. The veterans — and now everyone else — know differently.
Tuesday morning, President Barack Obama gave about 100 veterans of Alpha Troop the Presidential Unit Citation, the highest award for valor that a military unit can earn. Nearly 40 years after the battle, men with graying mustaches, growing paunches and weakening eyes were honored for that day of hell in March 1970. Old soldiers in dark suits or dress uniforms — some wearing old medals pinned to their chests, some lean and ramrod straight, others leaning on canes — listened in the White House Rose Garden as birds chirped under a bright sky and the commander in chief praised their valor. "Some may wonder: After all these years, why honor this heroism now?" Obama asked in his remarks to the soldiers Tuesday. "The answer is simple. Because we must. Because we have a sacred obligation." Forty years ago, little felt sacred to Alpha Troop. The night before the battle, the tank company had lost several of its members when a mortar round accidentally exploded in of its vehicles. The men were exhausted and scarred after removing charred bodies from the scene of the blast. "That morning, after I got up, there were chunks of flesh on my tank," Euge recalled. "How I rationalized that was, chunks of barbecue. ... At the battle, I rationalized, 'It's just a movie. Pretend you're making a movie.' " A few miles off, they could hear gunfire. They learned that Charlie Company, a group of infantry troops from the 1st Cavalry Division caught along the border with Cambodia, was in trouble. It could be wiped out within hours. Alpha Troop commander John Poindexter volunteered his men to go fetch the grunts. "Let's go," he told them.
"It's a story of resolve," Obama said Tuesday. "For Alpha Troop could have simply evacuated their comrades and left that enemy bunker for another day — to ambush another American unit. But as their captain said, 'That's not what the 11th Cavalry does.' " They steered their tanks through the jungle, mowing down trees at a pace slower than a man can walk. After pushing through two and half miles of jungle, they arrived at the battle. The plan was to pick up Charlie Company's infantry soldiers and leave, but the North Vietnamese kept firing. So Alpha Troop stayed, and fired back. Euge, who'd become a driver because he didn't want to fire a gun, had to pop out of the hatch and change the tank's gun barrel in the middle of the fight, bullets whizzing past him. "Why wasn't I killed, you know?" Euge asked. "You had to crawl up, unscrew a barrel that's white-hot. You're supposed to have an asbestos glove, but in the middle of battle, you don't have a glove. You can barely keep your wits together. So a dry white towel was the best you had." Rockets slammed into trees, Poindexter recalled. Men fell, and others leapt into their positions to grab their weapons. As the underbrush fell under the fire, the Americans could see bunker after bunker after bunker, with the North Vietnamese dug into them. "There were smells of acrid smoke, the discharge of dozens of machine guns, main tank guns, occasionally something worse, something burning or the smell of blood," Poindexter recalled. In the end, two of Alpha Troop's men were killed in the battle. Forty others lay wounded.
Three decades later, Alpha's Capt. Poindexter learned that men for whom he'd recommended medals had never received them. So beginning in 2003, he gathered documents and interviews, wrote a book called "The Anonymous Battle" and agitated at the Pentagon for recognition. "I feel as though these men are receiving the recognition that they are entitled to, and that they felt, like I do, deeply fulfilled to be recognized in such a public and conspicuous way at long last," Poindexter said. The owner of a successful truck-manufacturing business based in Houston, Poindexter offered to pay for any veteran who couldn't afford the trip. They flew into Washington on Monday from all over the country, gathering in the lobby of a suburban Comfort Inn, struggling to recognize one another beneath sagging jowls and crinkled eyes. "You know, this is crazy," Euge said of the commendation. "Thirty-nine years later, someone tells you that you did a good job? It's just odd." Poindexter said he hoped that Tuesday's ceremony could serve as a stand-in for an entire generation of Vietnam veterans, men and women who — if called on — would have done the same thing. "We are their surrogates in this matter," Poindexter said.
For Euge, the ceremony feels personal. He's spoken this week of moments that he hadn't described to anyone in his life. He isn't sure what the recognition, four decades tardy, will mean for him now. "I don't know how to answer that," Euge said. "Maybe, just a little bit of closure. Maybe. I don't know."
12:24 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to the White House. And welcome to a moment nearly 40 years in the making. Last month, I was privileged to present the parents of an American soldier, Sergeant First Class Jared Monti, with our nation's highest decoration for valor -- the Medal of Honor. Today, we celebrate the awarding of our nation's highest honor for a military unit -- the Presidential Unit Citation. The Presidential Unit Citation is awarded for "gallantry, determination, and esprit de corps in accomplishing its mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions." Since its creation during the Second World War, it has only been bestowed about 100 times. Today, another unit assumes its rightful place in these ranks -- Alpha Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry, the legendary Blackhorse Regiment. To mark this occasion we're joined by Congressman -- and Vietnam veteran -- Leonard Boswell; Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Jim "Hoss" Cartwright; John McHugh, our Army Secretary; and Vice Chief of Staff Peter Chiarelli; from Fort Irwin, California, leaders of today's 11th Armored Cavalry -- Colonel Paul Laughlin and Command Sergeant Major Martin Wilcox; and most of all, the men of Alpha Troop -- those behind me and some 100 here today. Now, these men might be a little bit older, a little bit grayer. But make no mistake -- these soldiers define the meaning of bravery and heroism. It was March 1970, deep in the jungles of Vietnam. And through the static and crackle of their radios Alpha Troop heard that another unit was in trouble. Charlie Company, from the 1st Calvary Division, had stumbled upon a massive underground bunker of North Vietnamese troops. A hundred Americans were facing some 400 enemy fighters. Outnumbered and outgunned, Charlie Company was at risk of being overrun. That's when Alpha Troop's captain gave the order: "Saddle up and move out."
As these men will tell you themselves, this isn't the story of a battle that changed the course of a war. It never had a name, like Tet or Hue or Khe Sanh. It never made the papers back home. But like countless battles, known and unknown, it is a proud chapter in the story of the American soldier. It's the story of men who came together, from every corner of America, of different colors and creeds. Some young -- just 18, 19 years old, and just weeks in the jungle; some older -- veterans hardened by the ugliness of war. Noncommissioned officers who held the unit together and the officers assigned to lead them. It's the story of how this team of some 200 men set out to save their fellow Americans. With no roads to speak of, they plowed their tanks and armored vehicles through the thick jungle, smashing a path through bamboo and underbrush, mile after mile, risking ambush and landmines every step of the way, and finally emerging from the jungle to the rescue -- what one member of Charlie Company called "a miracle." It's a story of resolve. For Alpha Troop could have simply evacuated their comrades and left that enemy bunker for another day -- to ambush another American unit. But as their captain said, "That's not what the 11th Cavalry does." And so, ultimately, this is a story of what soldiers do -- not only for their country, but for each other: the troopers who put themselves in the line of fire, using their tanks and vehicles to shield those trapped Americans; the loaders who kept the ammunition coming, and the gunners who never let up; and when one of those gunners went down, the soldier who jumped up to take his place. It's about the men who rushed out to drag their wounded buddies to safety; the medics who raced to save so many; the injured who kept fighting hour after hour. And finally, with dark falling, as the convoy made the daring escape back through the jungle, these soldiers remained vigilant, protecting the wounded who lay at their feet. The fog of war makes a full accounting impossible. But this much we know. Among the many casualties that day, some 20 members of Alpha Troop were wounded. And at least two made the ultimate sacrifice -- their names now among the many etched in that black granite wall not far from here. But because of that service, that sacrifice, Alpha Troop completed its mission. It rescued Charlie Company. It saved those 100 American soldiers, some of who join us today. And those soldiers went on to have families -- children and grandchildren who also owe their lives to Alpha Troop. Now, some may wonder: After all these years, why honor this heroism now? The answer is simple. Because we must. Because we have a sacred obligation. As a nation, we have an obligation to this troop. Their actions that day went largely unnoticed -- for decades -- until their old captain, John Poindexter, realized that their service had been overlooked. He felt that he had a right to wrong. And so he spent years tracking down his troopers and gathering their stories, filing reports, fighting for the Silver Stars and Bronze Stars they deserved and bringing us to this day. Thank you, John.
We have an obligation to all who served in the jungles of Vietnam. Our Vietnam vets answered their country's call and served with honor. But one of the saddest episodes in American history was the fact that these vets were often shunned and neglected, even demonized when they came home. That was a national disgrace. And on days such as this, we resolve to never let it happen again. Many of our Vietnam vets put away their medals, rarely spoke of their service and moved on. They started families and careers. Some rose through the ranks, like the decorated Vietnam veteran that I rely on every day, my National Security Advisor, Jim Jones. Indeed, I'm told that today is the first time in 39 years that many from Alpha Troop have pulled out their medals and joined their old troop. Some of you still carry the shrapnel and the scars of that day. All of you carry the memories. And so I say, it's never too late, we can never say it enough. To you and all those who served in Vietnam, we thank you. We honor your service. And America is forever grateful. Today also reminds us of our obligations to all our veterans, whether they took off the uniform decades ago or days ago -- to make sure that they and their families receive the respect they deserve, and the health care and treatment they need, the benefits they have earned and all the opportunities to live out their dreams. And finally, if that day in the jungle, if that war long ago, teaches us anything, then surely it is this. If we send our men and women in uniform into harm's way, then it must be only when it is absolutely necessary. And when we do, we must back them up with the strategy and the resources and the support they need to get the job done. This includes always showing our troops the respect and dignity they deserve, whether one agrees with the mission or not. For if this troop and our men and women in uniform can come together -- from so many different backgrounds and beliefs -- to serve together, and to succeed together, then so can we. So can America. I cannot imagine a more fitting tribute to these men, who fought in what came to be called The Anonymous Battle. Troopers, you are not anonymous anymore. And with America's overdue recognition also comes responsibility -- our responsibility as citizens and as a nation, to always remain worthy of your service. God bless Alpha Troop and the 11th Armored Cavalry. God bless all those who wear this nation's uniform. And God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.)
12:33 P.M. EDT
The following paper was commissioned by the Ford Foundation Special Initiative on Agent Orange/Dioxin and written by the National Organization on Disability (NOD). The paper benefits extensively from independent research conducted for NOD in 2008 by Mary Carstensen, U.S. Army, Colonel (retired) and from additional research and analysis in 2008 and 2009 by Mary E. Dolan-Hogrefe, Vice President and Senior Advisor, NOD.
The production of this paper was inspired in part by NOD’s participation in the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin, a bilateral citizens’ group of five Vietnamese and five Americans convened by the Ford Foundation (further information is available at www.fordfound.org/programs/signature/agentorange/issue). One goal of the Dialogue Group is to make the U.S. public aware of the continuing environmental and health consequences of dioxin contamination in Vietnam resulting from use of Agent Orange by U.S. forces during the Vietnam War. A second goal is to mobilize resources and build effective public-private partnerships to respond to those consequences without further delay. This paper adds to those efforts by examining where we are in our own country relative to the affects of Agent Orange on our soldiers and their families.
Although these issues date back more than 40 years, they remain critically important for at least two reasons. First, it is still not too late to correct lapses in the nation’s treatment of veterans who were exposed to dioxin during the Vietnam War. Many of them began reporting high rates of illness and disability soon after their wartime service, and yet waited many years (and in some cases are still waiting) for a fair resolution to their concerns. Those concerns now extend to health effects among their children and grandchildren. Many of the effects are still poorly understood and officially unrecognized.
The second reason these issues continue to resonate is that the use of chemicals on the world’s battlefields has only increased in the years since the Vietnam War ended. One lesson of the Agent Orange experience has been that the consequences of using such chemicals are rarely easy to predict, and that the burdens they impose may well be borne for generations, long after the original causes of conflict have been resolved. It is timely for our nation to address war legacies, past and present, and make good on our promise to care for our own.
To view this paper, please click on the following link: http://www.nvva.us/documents/misc/Understanding_the_AO_Impact.pdf
For more information regarding Veteran's personal information theft, please visit http://www.nvva.us/veteransinfo.asp, or either of the websites listed in following article.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has recently learned that an employee, a data analyst, took home electronic data from the VA, which he was not authorized to do. This behavior was in violation of our policies. This data contained identifying information including names, social security numbers, and dates of birth for up to 26.5 million veterans and some spouses, as well as some disability ratings. Importantly, the affected data did not include any of VA's electronic health records nor any financial information. The employee's home was burglarized and this data was stolen. The employee has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.
Appropriate law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the VA Inspector General's office, have launched full-scale investigations into this matter. Authorities believe it is unlikely the perpetrators targeted the items because of any knowledge of the data contents. It is possible that they remain unaware of the information which they posses or of how to make use of it. However, out of an abundance of caution, the VA is taking all possible steps to protect and inform our veterans.
The VA is working with members of Congress, the news media, veterans service organizations, and other government agencies to help ensure that those veterans and their families are aware of the situation and of the steps they may take to protect themselves from misuse of their personal information. The VA will send out individual notification letters to veterans to every extent possible. Veterans can also go to www.firstgov.gov as well as www.va.gov/opa to get more information on this matter. The firstgov web site is being set to handle increased web traffic. Additionally, working with other government agencies, the VA has set up a manned call center that veterans may call to get information about this situation and learn more about consumer identity protections. That toll-free number is 1-800-FED INFO (333-4636). The call center will be open beginning today, and will operate from 8 am to 9 pm (EDT), Monday-Saturday as long as it is needed. The call center will be able to handle up to 20,000 calls per hour (260,000 calls per day).
The Secretary of Veterans Affairs R. James Nicholson has briefed the Attorney General and the Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, co-chairs of the President's Identity Theft Task Force. Task Force members have already taken actions to protect the affected veterans, including working with the credit bureaus to help ensure that veterans receive the free credit report they are entitled to under the law. Additionally, the Task Force will meet today, 22 May 2006, to coordinate the comprehensive Federal response, recommend further ways to protect affected veterans, and increase safeguards to prevent the reoccurrence of such incidents.
The VA's mission to serve and honor our nation's veterans is one we take very seriously and the 235,000 VA employees are deeply saddened by any concern or anxiety this incident may cause our veterans and their families. We appreciate the service our veterans have given their country and we are working diligently to protect them from any harm as a result of this incident.
A message I send to veterans, and it works.
I encourage all veterans, if it’s possible, to get involved in these illegal veterans’ disability compensation alimony award cases in your state. As in the Michigan (and Georgia) case, there are laws on the books in every state, as I have found out, that could possibly turn these abusive, and illegal awards around. Your job would be to find them, via the internet search. You will be surprised by what you may find. State laws that support you, and run contrary to a judges ruling. Keep in mind, using a veterans disability compensation in alimony awards is illegal. Title 38 USC 5301, Chapter 53. Nonassignability and exempt status of benefits.
All you have to do is research the internet. Yes, it may seem like a lot of work, but remember why you are doing it. The United States government is not protecting veterans’ in state courts. We have to do it. You can do it! There may, and there's a good bet, there will always be just that one state law, statute, or legal reference, that you will find, and this is all you need to turn around a contempt order against you, or another veteran, and doing possible jail time. But, once you have found this one law, it's state statute, legal reference, write the judge, then publicize your finding by including his name, and the law, on the internet. Letting other veterans, and the whole world know of these abuses.
With your help, veterans can win these phony, illegal state veterans disability compensation alimony awards by abusive state court judges. It's your turn to fight back!
When it comes to veterans, there is no law of the United States, from federal laws on down, VA law, state law, that protects the disabled veteran, The United States, as reported in the media lately, has abandon the veteran, along with everything else veteran. As a veterans’ advocate, I have found, they are right. State courts, having ruled, awarding as alimony, VA disability compensation, not by the law, but on the personal whim of judges. Although United States law, being quite clear on the subject, an so stated in federal law, and eloquently stated in the Supreme Court ruling in Rose v. Rose (1986). But as veterans have found, federal laws, or Supreme Court rulings do not protect the disabled veteran in divorce court. All these laws, even state statutes are meaningless, when many veterans’ are faced with contempt, and jail time, for their belief in following, and upholding these very same laws, that the veteran supposedly thought he has working for him. Federal law, United States Supreme Court rulings, VA laws, state law. As you will see, these did not work for disabled Vietnam veteran Calvin Murphy.Working on behalf of these veterans’ who find themselves being bullied by state judges, I have searched the internet for state laws that run contrary to the judgment handed down in these Veterans Administration disability compensation alimony awards. What have I found? In state after state, you will find many statutes, using similar language as in federal veterans’ law (38 USC 5301), which exempts municipality or local law plans and pension’s “..shall not be subject to execution or attachment or to any legal process whatsoever and shall be unassignable.” Have your staff pick any outstanding veterans’ divorce case, in any state, involving Veterans Administration disability compensation being awarded as alimony. Searching state statutes, you will come up with what is wrong with the system. I’ll give you one excellent example of exactly what you will find. In Michigan, the unassignable clause is good for everybody in America, and any purpose, except when it comes to honoring the United States veteran for his service. What follows are references to Michigan statutes regarding non-assignability of benefits. This did not help Bear Lake, Michigan, disabled Vietnam veteran Calvin Murphy. He was sent to jail for contempt. Contempt for following the law, the not assignable clause (listed below), and not paying alimony claims from his Veterans Administration, and Social Security disability benefits. Non-assignable, is good for anything, and everybody else, but not Calvin Murphy. MICHIGAN VIETNAM VETERAN ERA BONUS ACT 35.1027 Payment of claim; claim not assignable or subject to garnishment, attachment, or levy of execution; rejection of claim; notice; appeal; certification of record; order allowing or denying claim; return of files and records; reapplication for benefits. MICHIGAN‘S VIETNAM VETERAN ERA BONUS ACT(excerpt) 370 of 1974. 38.1027. “Payment of claims; claim not assignable or subject to garnishment, attachment, or levy of execution; rejection of claim,, notice; appeals; certification of record; order allowing or denying claim; return of files and records; reapplication for benefits.” DEPARTMENT OF MILITARY AND VETERANS AFFAIRSMICHIGAN ARMY AND AIR NATIONAL GUARDHANDBOOK FOR RETIREES(INFORMATION AND BENEFITS UPON RETIREMENT) March 1, 2005CHAPTER 12: UNIFORMED SERVICES FORMER SPOUSES’ PROTECTION ACT12-4. General Information and Facts pertaining to the Acta. Depending on the court order, disposable retired pay is defined as retired pay to which amember is entitled less amounts:· Owed to the United States for previous overpayments of retired pay and for forfeiture required by law resulting from entitlement to retired pay.· Deducted from the retired pay as a result of forfeitures of retired pay ordered by acourt martial or as a result of a waiver of retired pay required by law in order toreceive compensation under Title 5 or Title 38. You will find this same language under 38 USC 5301, which he mentioned to Michigan’s 19th Circuit Court Judge Batzer, just before Calvin Murphy was led away in handcuffs. In compliance with Supreme Court rulings, a Michigan judgment in North v. North (2001) by Judge Donald Miller (Macomb County). Judgment was reversed Nov. 3, 2004. Ruling,.. that it was a blatant violation of veterans benefits Title 38 USC 5301. Judge Switalski refers to wording in Supreme Court ruling Mansel v. Mansel as the convincing basis for the reversal decision in the North v. North divorce case. This did not help Calvin Murphy. As you see nothing mattered to Judge Batzer.
Although this next case is not about the subject at hand but illustrates why Calvin Murphy was sent to jail, and suggests a solution is needed to enforce veterans‘ rights, and why federal law must protect veterans against abusive state judges. They rule, as did judge Batzer, not according to law, but their personal bias.
Last June (2005) in a landmark decision, Halbert v. Michigan, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 1999 Michigan law that barred judges from appointing attorneys to help poor people who have pled guilty to appeal their sentences. Despite the Halbert case, Kent County Circuit Court Judge Dennis C. Kolenda has denied appellate counsel to several poor people and stated that he has no obligation or intention of following the Supreme Court’s ruling in the future and characterized the ruling as “incorrect” and “illogical.” In addition, the Michigan Supreme Court has issued a series of orders in order to implement and follow the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Halbert, but Judge Kolenda has also chosen to defy the Michigan Supreme Court."
How can veteran, a disabled veteran Calvin Murphy, win in Michigan? He can't. After being interviewed by a local newspaper, after contacting newspapers and Radio-TV stations across Michigan, absolutely not one item printed, or broadcast. No one cares. After your considering what you have just read, and going through the motion, veterans’, along with Calvin Murphy expect nothing to happen which will change the status quo of veterans’ disability awards. Veterans have become accustomed to being ignored. I just hope I do not have to list your Veterans’ Disability Benefits Commission as to what’s wrong in America.
October 19, 2005
Regarding VA violation of 38 USC 1722a, I received a denial of my claim in order for me to proceed to the BVA. Requested a docket advancement. The Board of Veterans Appeals turned down my request. In other words they don't care if this involves 1.1 million veterans who receive prescriptions for pill splitting. I wrote the BVA, Mr. Hogeboom 8/20/05, briefly, "I want to know why, you substitued 'severe financial hardship' (never suggested)as my claim and why 'interpretation of the law of general application affecting other claims' was not considered." No answer. However, when reading 38 USC 1722a, a short and simple law, people read what they want out of it. But, if you keep it simple, it's understandably simple. Unless you work for the VA. Because of this confusion and mis-understanding, I wrote Senator Durbin, who I keep informed, about this mis-understanding problem. I explained it, in it's basic simple terms, because I wanted to make sure if he is going to defend it, I must be sure he understands it. Writing back, "I have been informed of the nature of your concern and will do my best to assist you.. ..a Senate aide in my Chicago office, assists me in mettters such as these and will contact the Department of Veterans Affairs..to make an inquiry...You will be contacted as soon as a response has been received."
I need your help, and it’s now all up to you. I can’t do no more.With regard to my claim, VA violation of 38 USC 1722a, I had asked, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, in accordance with the Code of Federal Regulations, 38 CFR 20.900 “(c) Advancement on the docket. (1) Grounds for advancement..A case may be advanced on the docket..may be granted only if the case involves interpretation of the law of general application affecting other claims...appellant is seriously ill..severe financial hardship..other sufficient cause..administrative error resulting in significant delay in docketing the case or the advanced age of the appellant…defined as 75 or more years.”In a letter, dated 7/27/05, from the Board of Veterans’ Appeals my request for early adjudication, because, as they suggested, of severe financial hardship, was denied. I made no such claim! My 6/20/05,request for advance, I wrote, “My claim, VA violation of 38 USC 1722a, involves 1.1 million veterans’ co-payment over-charges. It is evident that a clear and unmistakable error’ based on RO ’statement of the case’, i.e., “interpretation of law of general application effecting other claims,” and “sufficient cause shown” has occurred. Subject to Sec. 7107(2) motion for early consideration.Where the BVA got the ‘financial hardship’ from,..I guess, they saw the reference to the problems of 1.1 million veterans over-charges as the ‘financial hardship’. And any question regarding illegal over-charges of 1.1 million veterans carries no weight. Nor does interpretation of law effecting other claims, administrative error, or delay, as to any early settlement of 1722(a). Justice delayed, is justice denied, again. On the back of the VA billing statement, it states, “When a notice of dispute is received..suspend further notices..while we resolve the question.” My property (over-charges held) was seized without explanation or due process rights (5th, 14th Amendment Rights). To reach the Board, and VA to recognize my 1st Amendment Right, to redress grievances, has taken over 3 years. Now more delay. Is this the “administrative error resulting in significant delay” mentioned in 38 CFR 20.900? Apparently not.I, as a Korean War era veteran, when you die, the claim dies with you. However, this is were they have it wrong. Because this claim, filed on behalf of all veterans. It is about every veterans’ right to benefits. This is where you veterans, many returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, take over. It will then be up to you, to fight the VA.
So that the VA understands, interpretation of law of general application affecting other claims” and what this fight is all about, every veteran reading this message who receives pill medication that requires splitting (and those that do not), I want you to write, using a post card, for a copy of, “
How Do I Appeal” from.... Department of Veterans Affairs, Board of Veterans’ Appeals, 811 Vermont Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20420. It’s free, and you do not have to file. We need to show them these “other claims“.. numbers! Something they may understand. It seems the “clear and unmistakable error (CUE)” based on interpretation of a law effecting approx. 1.1 million veterans is not sufficient cause to advance, and settle 1722, i.e., illegal taking of hundreds of thousands of unrecoverable veterans’ much needed dollars. That is what is behind this denial. You know, and I know who.
Will the “interpretation of law of general application affecting other claims” , in veterans medication costs, be upheld? It’s your duty to see that a question, of your veterans’ benefits, before the BVA is answered. Even if your understanding is vague. Request “
How Do I Appeal”. Veterans will be counting on you. I need a count, showing numbers of those willing to request a copy. Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
(Washington, D.C.) – "The flurry of activity this week as Congress scrambled to contain the fallout from the failure to properly fund veterans health care highlights what the veterans service organizations have been saying for years: The method of funding veterans health care needs surgery to regain its health," said Thomas Corey, national president of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). "Beyond the hasty supplemental appropriation Congress saw fit to pass, leaders from both parties now have to fix the system to provide sufficient resources to meet the healthcare needs of more than 100,000 recently returned veterans – and the 5 million other veterans who use the VA's health-care facilities," Corey said. "As we testified before the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees in April, the federal budget cannot and should not be balanced by taking away what veterans have earned by virtue of their service to our nation," Corey said. "If it is the will of the American people to constrict the benefits to which veterans are statutorily eligible, then VVA challenges Congress here and now: Propose, introduce, hold public hearings, and debate the question of whether Americans want to limit access for ‘certain’ veterans who fulfilled their military duty to our country yet are now deemed unworthy of access to VA health care. "We have said this before, and we’ll say it again: The cost of caring for those who served in the military is an integral part of the cost of the national defense …. Caring for veterans is not a Democratic cause. It is not a Republican effort. It is an American issue, one that cuts across political affiliations." Corey concluded: "VVA applauds those in Congress, including Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who serves on that committee, as well as Rep. Lane Evans (D-Ill.) and Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Tx.). Their outrage at the apparent duplicity exhibited by VA officials who repeatedly assured them that the Administration had requested enough funding to care for the VA’s caseload has finally led to action.
"VVA estimates that $31.4 billion is needed in FY06 just to maintain the current level of the VA’s medical operations," Corey concluded. "This is $2.6 billion more than Congress has appropriated. We urge Congress to appropriate these additional funds and take measures to establish a new mechanism that will guarantee sufficient and consistent funding for veterans health care – and ensure that such a ‘budget gap’ does not occur again."
As a member of the Veterans Affairs' Committee, Congresswoman Shelley Berkley (D-NV) is working to honor America's commitment to those who served our nation in the military and to plan for the future needs of our brave men and women in uniform today. Congresswoman Berkley serves as Ranking Member on the Disability and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
The panel has a wide range of jurisdiction over issues important to veterans of all ages. Areas under Berkley's jurisdiction include: compensation paid to veterans, pensions, burial benefits, life insurance, VA claims and veterans' cemeteries in the U.S. and around the globe. Now serving in her fourth term, Berkley represents fast-growing Las Vegas, home to more than 150,000 veterans.
The Congresswoman recently won approval for a new $295 million dollar VA
medical complex for Southern Nevada which will include a state-of-the-art
hospital, outpatient clinic and long-term care facility.Since first being
elected to office in 1998, Congresswoman Berkley has represented southern
Nevada at a time of continued record growth and her work in Congress reflects the dynamic needs of the nation's fastest growing communities.
Berkley is a graduate of the University of Nevada - Las Vegas and holds a law degree from the University of San Diego. She is a former attorney, gaming executive, Nevada State Assembly Member and Nevada University and Community College System Board of Regents member from 1990 until her election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1998.
America promised its veterans who served our nation during time of war that they would not have to live in poverty should they become disabled or when they reach retirement age. Sadly, that promise has not been kept, in large part because many veterans are unaware of the assistance available to them through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
A recent evaluation of the VA's Non-service Connected Pension Program found that only about one in four eligible veterans are estimated to be receiving the pension benefits they are owed. In my home State of Nevada, which boasts a veteran population of more than 240,000, only about 3,000 veterans and survivors now receive non-service connected pension benefits that average about $7,000 per year. Unfortunately, far too many veterans still do not know that this VA pension program exists.
Current recipients surveyed by the VA in 2004 reported that they had been eligible for many years before actually applying for benefits. As increasing numbers of World <http://www.military.com/History/History_Period?mlegend=0&period=WWIIEU&service=> War II and Korean War <http://www.military.com/Content/MoreContent1/?file=index> veterans reach the point when medical expenses take a large amount of their income, we must do more to inform these American heroes of their eligibility for a VA pension.
The cash assistance provided by this program can help veterans with modest
incomes pay for rescription drugs, nursing home or in home care, and other
out of pocket medical expenses. In order to qualify for the VA non-service
connected pension program, veterans are required to have served during a
specific "period of war," such as World War II, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam <http://www.military.com/Resources/HistorySubmittedFileView?file=history_vietnamwar.htm> , the Gulf
<http://www.military.com/Resources/HistorySubmittedFileView?file=history_gulfwar.htm> War, Iraq
<http://images.military.com/Content/MoreContent1/?file=Iraq_Digest> and Afghanistan.
The location of the service, stateside or overseas, does not matter as long as the veteran was discharged under honorable conditions and generally served for at least 90 days. Veterans may receive a non-service-connected pension based on reaching age 65. Veterans who are under age 65 qualify if they are permanently and totally disabled. For disabled veterans, the disability does not have to have any relationship to the veteran's military service. Eligibility for the program is based upon need.
A veteran is generally eligible if he or she has less than $80,000 in net assets. The home and one motor vehicle are not counted in determining assets. The annual income of the veteran and dependent family member must be below certain limits. For 2005, the maximum benefit for a single veteran is $846 per month. If the veteran has a spouse or other dependent, the maximum amount is $1,109 per month.
In determining eligibility and the amount of the benefit paid, the VA will subtract any income, such as Social Security or retirement benefits, the veteran and his dependents receive from the maximum amount. Additional amounts are payable to a disabled veteran of any age who is housebound or in need of "aid and attendance." For example, a single veteran who is considered housebound is eligible for up to $1,034 per month.
A single veteran who is paying privately for nursing home care may receive up to $1,412 per month. A single veteran who is blind or needs the aid of another person for daily activities and who receives care at home, can also receive up to $1,412 per month. If this veteran has a spouse, the amount is $1,674 per month.
Single veterans whose nursing home care is being paid by Medicaid have their benefit reduced to $90.00 per month, but the $90.00 must be given to the veteran and may not be used for the cost of medical or nursing home care. In determining income, the VA will count all of the income received by the veteran and his or her dependents.
VA will subtract from a veteran's income, out of pocket medical expenses above a minimal amount ($508 per year for a single veteran and $665 per year for a veteran with a spouse or other dependent) paid by the veteran or dependents. Even if the veteran is depleting savings to pay medical expenses, the expenses are still deducted from income to increase the pension benefit.
For example, under VA rules, a single veteran who is housebound because of
disabilities, who has $1,400 per month in gross income, and who is paying
$562 per month for medical expenses, would be eligible for $157 per month in
VA pension benefits. Medical expenses include Part B Medicare premiums,
Medi-gap insurance, prescription drugs, nursing home care or other medical care and dental care.
Only expenses actually paid by the veteran or dependent may be deducted. Wartime veterans who believe that they qualify for a pension can contact the Department of Veterans Affairs (1-800-827-1000) for an application and further information. A simple letter requesting the pension benefits (including a request for housebound or aid and attendance if applicable) can serve as an "informal claim" for a pension, allowing benefits to be paid from that date forward, if the claim is approved.
Applications can also be completed online <http://vabenefits.vba.va.gov/vonapp/main.asp> or can be printed out and mailed directly to the VA. Laws passed by Congress cannot achieve their desired result unless those who are intended to benefit from them are made aware of their existence. The VA pension program for non-service connected veterans provides valuable assistance to veterans with limited income and those who are depleting their savings to pay for medical care.
Without information concerning the existence of this program, too many of
our wartime veterans will continue to live in poverty. <http://www.military.com/pics/FD_Envelope.gif>
C 2005 Hon. Shelley Berkley. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com
Isn’t it interesting how the article mentions, seniors are able to cut their prescription costs by splitting their pill medication. Everybody, recognizing the value in this. The nations second largest health insurer-UnitedHealthCare, Regence Group, seniors. Everybody benefits. Even the U.s. department of Veterans Affairs,.. who saved $46.5 million.
Tim Heady CEO of Pharmaceutical Solutions mentions, “For every patient that chooses to reduce their cost by 50%, it would reduce ours…” But, while the VA mentions 1.1 million patients having split pill prescriptions, the VA had not mentioned that, veterans who split pills, the cost is increased by 50%,.. in violation of law, 38 USC 1722a.
If a veterans prescription calls for one(1), 80Mg pill each 30-day period, the veterans’ co-pay cost is $7. However, if this same exact 30 pill prescription supply is used for splitting, it would be 15, 40Mg pills each 30-day period. A 2 month supply. Co-pay increases to $14. Doubles in cost for the same exact $7.00, 30-day supply. An excess of the cost exists. Paragraph 2. “The Secretary may not require a veteran to pay an amount in excess of the cost to the Secretary for medication as described in paragraph 1.”
In earlier figuring, I estimated 150,00 split pill prescriptions. Was I wrong! The VA claims 1.1 million. Now, of this $46.5 million in savings by the VA, how much of these split pill charges were taken illegally from the veteran in violation of 38 USC 1722a. Let’s use the conservative figure, 1 million, times $3.50 in over-charges. $3 million, 500 thousand dollars (3,500,00), in excess of the cost.
My claim, violation of 38 USC 1722a, appeal has been forwarded to the Veterans’ Board of Appeals in the early May.
INTERESTING UPDATE; VA violation of 38 USC 1722aPAPER TRAIL.I think you will now understand how the VA works with what I discovered, regarding 38 USC 1722a, paragraph 2, the basis of my dispute with the VA.
In preparation to my filing a claim to proceed to the Board of Veterans Appeals, VA Hines, “..the office responsible for the issues you raised.” responded with their ‘Statement of the Case’. along with a denial as to my claim, In their response to my claim, they included a Summary of Evidence, which had listed evidence concerning my claim with regard to Hines VA. Some 9 items. Well, I did not think it was complete. I added 16 items which I interspersed by date, in this listing of the evidence and/or contacts I had. What caught my eye..
8/28/04 Letter to Patient Billing Department. Re: Requesting information as to a denial of claim.
9/2/04 Veterans letter was referred to Regional Council to review.
9/3/04 Telephone call from Tom Grego. Re: responding to a letter. Mentioning, computer billing program does not recognize paragraph 2.
The letter/s I sent (underlined),8/28/04, I was requesting a denial to my claim so I could proceed to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. What I did not know, until I got their Summary of Evidence, is they referred this letter (9/2) to their legal departments, Regional Council. The Regional Council rather than having the guts to call me up and hand me this lie, they had the Hines VA veterans advocate call me. The Regional Council was behind this ruse of deception, misleading and false information.
You see what he told me(9/3). During this same conversation, I asked him to put in writing what he had told me. He hesitated. So I helped him along and told him to give this to his legal department. He said he would. I never heard from them until Secretary Nicholson got involved. And now you have, the rest of the story.
William H. Heino
UPDATE: 4/9/05 Re: VA VIOLATION of 38 USC 1722a
FROM: VA Hines Medical Center Director
DECISION: “Mr. Heino’s co-pay for medication should not be decreased to less than $7.”
REASON FOR DECISION: “The denial to decease medication copay is based on 38 CFR 17.110
a veteran is obligated to pay a copayment for each 30-day or less supply of medication
provided by the VA on an outpatient basis.”
You know what the dispute is. This is as expected. My Next step is VA form 9.
Appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA). VA Hines did not respond to any question.
Out of 14 single spaced pages that’s the result, nothing.
I asked them to explain “excess of the cost”. Why is paragraph 2 specifically worded,
“..may not be required to pay..”?, and other questions.
There are several reasons for this denial. VA Hines could not find my claim valid.
If they did, this would add more to the serious VA short-comings of recently exposed
scandals of disability payments, as reported in Chicago Sun-Times headline stories,
by Chicago VA administrators, and others. It is therefore clear that the purpose of
this denial is to obscure and cover-up the many serious missteps, Constitutional
errors and violations of law in the handling of my claim. If they found my claim valid,
they would have to explain why I had been denied these many rights and why it took a
letter to Secretary Nicholson before VA Hines would act. Sooner or later they will have
to answer to the Secretary.
The second reason. This claim involves the entire national policy for the VA medication
prescription billing network. A decision which this local VA facility is unable to make
or unwilling to make a recommendation, leaving it for the Board of Veterans Appeals to make.
My VA form 9 is complete, but I will go over it and give it a couple of days and send it off.
I have 60 days to reply if needed. I will keep you updated
William H. Heino Sr.
UPDATE; Of importance to all veterans….
This message located and referenced on an internet search “VA violation of 38 USC 1722a”
For those of you not aware of the dispute,…. I have been involved, since March 2002, in a dispute with the VA over their billing procedures, which is in violation of 38 USC 1722a, specifically paragraph 2.
Title 38 USC Sec. 1722A. “Paragraph (a)(1) subject to paragraph (2), the Secretary shall require a veteran to pay the United States $7.00 for each 30 day supply of medicine…if the amount supplied is less than a 30 day supply the amount of the charge may not be reduced.” Paragraph 2. “The Secretary may not require a veteran to pay an amount in excess of the cost to the Secretary for medication as described in paragraph 1.”
Veterans who receive VA medication requiring pill splitting, you are being over-charged. Look up and read 38 USC 1722a, if your interested. Paragraph 2 will tell you, veterans’ do not have to pay, “an excess of the cost” for medication. However, for over three years I had deducted these excess over-charges from my VA payments, all the while continuously and vigorously protesting this penalty. After my participation on GCN radio’s, “The Veterans Hour” the Treasury Department advised they would “off-set” this alleged indebtedness. I coughed up. The VA seized these over-charges, my property, without explanation or due process, in violation of the 5th and 14th Amendments.
Briefly the violation. Paragraph 2 will tell you, veterans are not required to pay “an excess of the cost” for medication. Example; two(2) exact prescription supplies. The first 30-day supply, 30 pills, $7.00 co-pay. The second 30-day supply. 30 pills, $14.00 co-pay, (2 month, split pill supply). There is something wrong with this picture! An “excess of the cost” does exist.
Take this same example, and to put it in another way. 1 pill each day for 30-days @ $7.00 co-pay. The cost per pill, .23 cents. Because a veteran may be required by prescription to split that exact same pill, the cost now increases by 50% to .46 cents.
I advised Hines VA hospital I am going to file an appeal with the Veterans Board of Appeals and as required, a denial of my claim is needed from them. With laws, factors, and regulations in making their determination. Also, the veterans advocate, advised me that the VA billing system does not recognize paragraph 2. In other words, the VA knowingly cheats, defrauds, ignores, and violates the law by taking your money illegally. Their silence, should dispel any doubts you may have regarding this dispute. In violation of the 1st Amendment (my right to petition the government to redress grievances), they have not answered or explained. I find I am at a point where I have, as well as all veteran’s, lost all Constitutional rights, as I had just described.
To summarize, if it is agreed that two(2) 30-day whole pill supplies, of 30 pills, are exactly alike and both can be obtained at a cost of $7, we must then agree, when a prescription that calls for splitting, the cost of the supplies did not change. What then has caused a $7, 30-pill supply to increase in co-pay cost to $14? Splitting 30 pills will now cover a 2 month supply. 15 pills, (@ $3.50) each 30-day period. This, then being a veterans 30-day supply, it cannot be considered less than a 30-day supply. Which would then require a co-pay of $7. With no mention of quantity, the amount of the 30-day supplies involved, neither the Code of Federal Regulations, or the United States Code itself, gives reference, to greater co-pay costs beyond what has been established for like 30-day, $7 co-pay supplies. The cost has, indeed increased for a 30-day supply in prescriptions that call for pill splitting. The amount, or the quantity, for these 30-day supplies has become, in the absence of a clear express intent, and no apparent justification, the reason for an increase “in excess of the cost” in violation of 38 USC 1722a
UPDATE 2/16./05. After writing Secretary of Veterans Affairs Mr. Jim Nicholson, the VA Hines legal department, regional counsel, Mr. Earl Parsons finally decided to reply. After reading his reply, I wrote, “Consider this as my Notice of Disagreement (NOD) with your assessment of my dispute with the VA violation of 38 USC 1722a“. I enclosed my 13 page, single space argument. I am to receive from them a response from a Decision Review Officer (DRO), a “statement of the case“ (SOC), along with VA form 9.
UPDATE 3/2/05. From Dept. Of Veterans Affairs, Hines Hospital: “Your disagreement of the legal opinion of our Regional Council was noted. Your request for an appeal before the board of Veteran’s Appeals will be honored.” …..
It took three years of contacting everybody, and I mean everybody ,either ignoring you, or passing it off to someone else. But it took a letter to incoming Secretary Nicholson to get this far. You see, nobody in the VA could explain simple math, “excess of the cost”. I now had the opportunity to explain it in my Notice of Disagreement (NOD). And I am prepared to explain further if necessary. Welcome home veterans.
William H. Heino Sr.
Frankfort, Illinois 60423
WASHINGTON - The waiting can go on for years. Bureaucratic mistakes are far too common, by the government's admission. And when veterans finally do win claims for disability compensation, the amount of money they get may vary by the mere happenstance of where they live.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is falling short of its own standards for serving disabled veterans, according to an investigation by the Inquirer Washington Bureau.
The VA admits its processes are slow and prone to errors. The number of veterans who have taken steps to appeal an unfavorable decision on disability benefits has grown from 60,000 in 2000 to 109,000 last year. Patterns suggest that many will ultimately win their claims, but some veterans and their families wonder if the agency is just stalling.
"I think they think, 'Maybe he'll die and we won't have to pay anything out,' " said Carolyn Cabral of Lakewood, N.J., whose husband, Eugene, an Army draftee in the late 1950s, died in January while waiting for his appeal to be decided.
The VA repeatedly has failed to meet internal and external recommendations to eliminate redundant steps in the application and appeals process. An exhaustive review by the Veterans' Claims Adjudication Commission, completed in 1996, declared the claims and appeals process "cumbersome and outmoded" and in need of an overhaul.
"I think things are basically the same," Michael Walcoff, who oversees the agency's 57 regional offices, said of the appeals process. "I wouldn't say that we have changed the system in any major way."
While the VA concedes shortcomings, Anthony J. Principi, who was secretary of veterans affairs until January, said in an interview late last year that things had gotten better since President Bush was elected.
"This agency was under water in 2001," he said. "My people have made tremendous progress... . We are doing everything in our power with the resources that we have to ensure that veterans are treated fairly and equitably."
The Inquirer Washington Bureau investigation was based on interviews with veterans and their families from around the country and on a review of internal VA documents and computerized databases that had never been released to the public. Many of the records were made available only after the bureau sued the agency in federal court.
Among the findings:
Some groups that provide VA-accredited experts to help veterans with their cases have no set training requirements, and the service officers are rarely tested to ensure competence. The veterans service officers work for nonprofit organizations such as the American Legion, as well as states and counties, but their quality is uneven, and that often means the difference between a successful claim and a botched one.
The average wait to get an initial decision in a case is 165 days, well above the agency's goals of the last decade, which have ranged from 60 to 125 days. For veterans who choose to appeal their cases, the average wait is nearly three years, and many veterans wait 10 years for a final ruling. In the last decade, several thousand veterans died before their cases were resolved, according to a Washington Bureau analysis of VA data.
Errors are made in 13 percent of claims, a VA quality-control database shows. This is more than three times the agency's hoped-for rate of 4 percent. That translates to 103,000 errors a year, many that result in either overpayment or underpayment of benefits. Error rates vary by region. At the Philadelphia office, which serves eastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey, the rate is 13 percent, on par with the national average. The error rate in Wilmington is a far higher 23 percent.
The regional offices also produce inconsistent results when it comes to determining a veteran's degree of disability and amount of compensation. The average monthly sum received by veterans through the Philadelphia office is $682, while the average in Albuquerque, N.M., is $1,008. In Pittsburgh, it is $626; in Wilmington, $616; in Newark, N.J., $591.
"How a veteran seeking benefits gets treated should not be an accident of geography," said George Basher, the director of the New York State Division of Veterans' Affairs, one of 50 state agencies that help veterans. "Unfortunately, the current system makes that a virtual certainty."
The VA is a mammoth agency that serves 25 million veterans with a far-flung health-care system and a separate disability and pension operation. The agency spends more than $60 billion a year, more than $20 billion of it on disability compensation to 2.5 million veterans.
VA Secretary R. James Nicholson is scheduled to appear before a congressional subcommittee today for a hearing on the VA's budget. The House and Senate veterans committees will hold hearings this week to listen to the annual legislative presentations from national veterans groups.
The agency makes disability payments for injuries as obvious as an amputated leg and as complex as post-traumatic stress disorder. The injuries include combat wounds and peacetime injuries, since military personnel are serving their country whether they are in a humvee in Iraq or in boot camp.
Neither department officials nor department critics can wholly account for the regional differences in error rates and payments.
But one factor may be the wildly varying quality of help that veterans receive in compiling the evidence of their disability from military and medical records, and then properly navigating the VA's thicket of rules and deadlines.
The VA is charged by Congress with making it as easy as possible for veterans to pursue their claims. But James Davison, Pennsylvania's deputy director of veterans affairs, said that "what the VA has done for years is try to push their obligations off onto the states... . The states have chipped in where the feds have essentially fallen short."
Despite years of study, VA officials said, many of the agency's problems remain because of the nature of an ever-changing bureaucracy. Responding to changes in the law and court decisions has made it harder for the VA to accomplish what it set out to, agency officials said. "The system has become more complex," Principi said in the interview.
In addition, attempts to streamline the process could have the effect of cutting off veterans' appeals rights, and therefore have met with resistance from veterans groups.
Counties, as well as states, provide help to veterans in filing claims. The lion's share of help comes from veterans accredited by the VA to help other veterans.
About 40 veterans service organizations, such as the Disabled American Veterans, are authorized to help prepare VA claims.
The Inquirer Washington Bureau found that the network of VA-accredited service officers is a patchwork of well-meaning helpers whose training and expertise vary. Yet the agency prohibits veterans from hiring their own attorneys until after their claims have been denied and they are generally years into the appeals process.
Two-thirds of the veterans who submit claims use service officers, and picking the right one can determine whether they get the full payment they are due, a fraction of it, or nothing.
The VA, through its national accreditation program, is supposed to ensure that all service officers are "responsible" and "qualified." But the VA program simply approves names submitted by veterans groups. About 11,000 service officers are currently on the VA's roster; about 80 percent are accredited through nonprofit groups.
VA regulatory files, obtained after the Inquirer Washington Bureau lawsuit was filed, reveal that the agency has done little in decades to determine the adequacy of the training provided by veterans groups or to check the quality of the claims prepared by their officers. Only rarely does the VA suspend or revoke a service officer's accreditation. When it does happen, it is generally the result of criminal charges rather than incompetence.
"What we do is take it on the word of the service organization that the individual has had sufficient training," said Martin Sendek of the VA's general counsel's office.
At one end of the training spectrum is Disabled American Veterans, which has full-time paid national service officers and a 16-month training and testing program that is so regimented that it qualifies for 10 hours of college credit.
Groups such as American Ex-Prisoners of War and Catholic War Veterans rely largely on part-time volunteers who are not required to complete any courses or pass any tests.
"We don't get paid, so we're not going to be that strict with these people," said Doris Jenks, the national training director for American Ex-Prisoners of War.
Rich Hudzinski, a retired Army major now active in the Lehigh Valley Military Affairs Council, has found from his own analysis of VA data that payments to veterans with similar disabilities are not only inconsistent from state to state but can vary from county to county within a state.
That suggests to him that a veteran's chances of getting a good result may depend as much on the service officer who helps file the paperwork as on what happens in the VA office.
Hudzinski blames the state for not doing a better job of helping veterans win their claims. The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs has four people on staff whose job is to help disabled veterans file their claims. New Jersey has 22 state employees for that purpose.
The Lehigh Valley veterans' group suggested in a November appearance before legislative committees in Harrisburg that the Pennsylvania department should be broken in two - with one part managing the state's National Guard contingent and the other concentrating solely on veterans' needs.
"What it really comes down to is the number of well-qualified people out there [to help disabled veterans get their benefits] and a unified system that the state has control over," Hudzinski said.
Each of Pennsylvania's 67 counties and New Jersey's 21 counties also has a staff member whose job includes helping veterans with their paperwork.
"The VA isn't that bad," said John Dorrity of Ocean County, who heads the National Association of Veterans Service Officers. He said it was the service officers who varied at all levels, from nonprofit to state to county.
"It's the service officers - what they feed into [the VA]," he said.
The VA says it is unaware of any systemic problems.
Retired Vice Adm. Daniel Cooper, the VA's undersecretary for benefits, said the department fixes any mistakes that service officers might make.
Agency general counsel Tim McClain noted that veterans had extensive appeal rights.
"There are a lot of checks and balances in the system," he said.
Veterans, often not knowing where to turn for help, can end up frustrated.
Gordon Frey, 76, of Bethlehem, Pa., fought for more than 10 years to increase the 60 percent disability rating he received after serving in the occupation of Japan after World War II.
While on guard duty, his appendix had burst. He was found almost dead. That led to five operations and a lifetime of, as he puts it, "not being able to control my bowels."
Later married and a father, he tried his best to work as a door-to-door salesman of cookware. He said he would regularly miss two weeks of work a month. When he did work, he would often have to ask to use the homeowners' bathroom.
"I'm a proud person," Frey said last week. "That was hard."
In the early 1990s, he realized he might be able to claim a 100 percent disability. He was denied.
He continued to work but never earned more than the poverty rate. That meant, under VA regulations, that he technically was not employable.
It took more than a decade - until 2003 - for the VA to agree that he warranted a total disability rating. He got $40,000 for two years of back compensation, plus a regular check that now amounts to almost $2,300 a month.
George Wilson, his veterans' group representative, believes Frey was shorted by the many thousands of dollars more he would have received if the VA had not taken a decade to act in his favor.
With the average disability payment now about $8,000 a year, back-benefit awards can be substantial because an award is calculated as though the VA made the right decision when the claim was first filed. Some veterans with severe disabilities get $100,000 or more.
Wilson, a World War II veteran who works with the National Veterans Organization of America, said the VA was getting worse in handling claims.
"I see no improvement," he said. "All I see are the letters that come [to veterans] saying, 'We are working on your claim....' I see letters like that every week. It could use some streamlining."
If a veteran dies with his or her case under appeal, the case dies, too.
In the last decade, more than 13,700 veterans died while their cases were in some stage of the appeals process, according to an Inquirer Washington Bureau analysis of VA appeals records database. (While precise estimates are not available, the VA said experience suggested a few thousand of them would not have actively pursued their appeals.)
Eugene Cabral, who died Jan. 25, had been pursuing a claim for an increase in his disability rating for a little more than three years.
A soldier in Korea from 1958 to 1960, he badly injured his back while changing a heavy truck tire. Over the years, he had worked as a civilian truck driver. But by the 1990s, his wife said, he could not even stand up straight. The doctors told him it all went back to his days in the service.
Carolyn Cabral, now alone, says that without the extra income her husband had hoped for from the VA, she isn't sure whether she can continue in her home or whether she will have to move in with her son in Pennsylvania.
"But don't write that this is about money for me," she instructed a reporter. "This would have been money for my husband... but he isn't around."
Contact staff writer Tom Infield at 610-313-8205 or email@example.com.
Where Veterans Can Find HelpMilitary veterans are eligible for a wide range of benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, including health care, disability compensation, burial and survivor benefits, education and home loans.
For more information, contact:
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 1-800-827-1000, or go to www.va.gov.
Your state or county department of veterans services. For a list of state offices, go to www.va.gov/partners/stateoffice/index.htm. For a list of county offices, contact the National Association of County Veterans Service Officers at www.nacvso.org/.
A nonprofit veterans service organization. To find one, go to www1.va.gov/vso/.
Veterans applying for VA benefits can get help from various sources, including counselors who are VA employees, veterans service officers who may work for a national veterans charity or a state or county veterans affairs department. It is a violation of VA rules for service officers to request payments, donations or membership in return for help.
Some lawyers may provide help, but VA rules generally prohibit them from receiving payment unless the claim has reached the Board of Veterans' Appeals and has been denied.
Experts suggest veterans shop around before signing a power of attorney with a service officer.
To find a service officer, contact your state or county veterans affairs department or one of the national veterans charities.
"The Veterans Self-Help Guide on VA Claims" is a useful resource and is available from the National Veterans Legal Services Program and can be ordered online for $7.50 at
SOURCE: Inquirer Washington Bureau
Funds will be used to increase employment and job retention rates for homeless vets
ST. PAUL, MN Senator Norm Coleman announced today that the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) will receive $500,000 in federal grants from the United States Department of Labor to improve quality of life, enhance employment opportunities, and increase job retention rates for homeless veterans.
R20;I am thrilled to announce that the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans will receive $500,000 for such worthwhile programs, Senator Coleman said. These veterans risked their lives to serve our great nation, and we must do everything within our power to improve their quality of life, as this program will do.
R20;We are tickled to get this grant,R21; Jimmie L. Coulthard, President and CEO of MACV said.We are a non-profit whose mission is to provide/coordinate preventive, transitional, and permanent housing and support services for veterans who are experiencing homelessness, or are in danger of becoming homeless, and are motivated toward positive change. This truly is a federal, state, and local partnership. We really depend on each other for success.
MACV will use the funds for its Veterans Employed Through Legal Advocacy Work (VETLAW) program. MACV will use the funding for centers in the Twin Cities, Duluth, and Mankato, and will work to develop coordinated legal systems among the three. The project will enhance the current quality of life of homeless veterans, giving them a more solid foundation on which to build a firm recovery. This project will use unique approaches to increase employment and job retention rates.
The grant is administered by the Department of Labor through its Employment and Training Administration (ETA) program.
Anne M. Schmidt
Deputy Communications Director
Senator Norm Coleman
# (202) 224-4707
# (202) 441-6129 (cell)
WASHINGTON - Responding to the needs of service members who were prisoners of war during Operation Iraqi Freedom, President Bush has proposed legislation to Congress that would improve benefits for former POWs.
"What we're proposing is to eliminate the current requirement in federal law that a former POW must be detained for at least 30 days in order to qualify for full POW benefits," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi.Â
For its disability compensation program, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) currently presumes that certain medical conditions in former POWs who were held at least 30 days are related to their captivity.Â Using this presumption, a veteran may obtain financial benefits without providing evidence directly linking a medical problem to captivity.
"That may have made sense years ago for some conditions linked to nutritional deficiencies, but even a few days enduring terror at the hands of enemy captors may lead to other conditions," Principi said.
The VA proposal also would improve dental care eligibility and exempt former POWs from current copayments for medications for non-service connected conditions.Â Currently, some ex-POWs may be charged $7 for drugs that treat conditions unrelated to their service.
The current presumptions in law recognize that military medical records do not cover periods of captivity, which make it difficult for a veteran to provide evidence of the conditions endured.Â VA pays tax-free disability compensation ranging from $104 to $2,193 monthly, depending on the degree of disability, with additional sums for dependents.
In transmitting the draft bill to the speaker of the House and the president of the Senate, Principi said, "Studies have shown that the physical hardships and psychological stress endured by POWs have life-long effects on health and on social and vocational adjustment."
Because benefits have changed over the years, VA took steps earlier this year to ensure that all former POWs are aware of benefits to which they are entitled.Â VA's outreach included mailing benefits information to more than 10,000 former POWs currently receiving compensation as well, as another 4,700 known ex-POWs not on its rolls.
Although results are now being collected to measure the effect of the outreach campaign, early indications are that VA is receiving hundreds of claims from POWs for new benefits or for higher disability ratings.
Because 93 per cent of U.S. former POWs served in World War II, a group with an average age of 82, the overall number of surviving ex-POWs fell by nearly 2,800 last year.Â VA is taking special efforts to process the claims of older veterans quickly.
In addition, VA maintains a Web site with detailed information on its benefits for former prisoners of war at http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/Benefits/POW/.
WASHINGTON – Some veterans waiting to see Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) physicians for the first time may be eligible to receive medications from VA mail-out pharmacies that were prescribed by private doctors, under a new policy announced today."This policy should ease the minds of veterans with pharmaceutical needs who have been waiting too long for their first appointment," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi. "This decision will help these veterans while preserving our ability to serve others."
To be eligible for the new benefit, veterans must meet all of the following conditions:
Have enrolled in VA health care by July 25, 2003, and Requested their first primary care appointment with VA by July 25, 2003, and Must be waiting more than 30 days for their first appointment with a primary care physician on Sept. 22, 2003. The first prescriptions will be filled under the new program on September 22. Eligible veterans will be unable to get prescriptions filled before that date. The period between announcement of the program (July 25) and filling the first prescriptions (Sept. 22) is necessary to allow VA to identify and contact eligible veterans and to put new systems and procedures in place to deliver this benefit. Principi stressed the policy is a short-term measure to assist veterans who were enrolled and waiting for the appointment by July 25, when details about the new benefit were published in the Federal Register. It will not apply to veterans who are put on the waiting list after July 25. VA estimates that 200,000 veterans will be eligible for the benefit Prescription 2/2/2/2
"Traditionally, an examination and a prescription – both by a VA physician -- have been required before VA would provide pharmacy benefits to veterans," Principi said. "By improving the process of giving veterans the medication they're seeking, we can enhance their health care treatment and reduce the waiting lists for everyone." Veterans covered by the new rule will receive information by mail from their nearest VA medical facility about filling prescriptions by mail from non-VA doctors, including information for the doctors themselves."Representatives John Mica and Rob Simmons played an important role in launching this new benefit due to their keen interest in improving prescription coverage for veterans," Principi said. Mica is a Republican from Florida and Simmons is a Republican from Connecticut.
People wishing to receive e-mail from VA with the latest news releases and updated fact sheets can subscribe at the following Internet address:
Q: What is this transitional pharmacy benefit?
A: The transitional pharmacy benefit will allow VA to fill eligible veterans' prescriptions that are written by their private non-VA doctors until the veterans have their first VA appointment.
Q: Who is eligible for this short-term pharmacy benefit?
A: To be eligible for the new benefit, veterans must meet all of the following conditions:
1. Have enrolled in VA health care before July 25, 2003, and
2. Requested their first primary care appointment with VA before July 25, 2003, and
3. Must be waiting more than 30 days for their first appointment with a primary care physician on Sept. 22, 2003.
Q: How many veterans would be affected?
A: VA estimates that about 200,000 veterans would be eligible for the new pharmacy benefit.
Q: Why is this number different from VA's figures for the waiting list?
A: As of mid-July, the waiting list consists of about 132,000 veterans waiting over six months for care. This includes 110,000 waiting for their first primary care appointment and 22,000 waiting for their first specialty care appointment. The 200,000 figure of veterans eligible for the new pharmacy benefits includes the 110,000 waiting greater than 6 months and approximately 90,000 waiting between 30 days and 6 months.
Q: Does this benefit apply to all veterans on waiting lists for appointments?
A: No. This benefit will not apply to those veterans who have seen a VA primary care provider and are waiting for appointments with specialists, nor to those waiting for follow-up appointments.
Q:Why won't this benefit apply to other veterans on waiting lists for any appointments?
A: The intent of this benefit is to relieve new VA patients of the financial burden of paying for prescriptions until a VA physician can see them.
Q: How will the eligible veterans get their prescriptions filled?
A: VA will mail them instructions to:
1. Fill out a Patient Information form;
2. Take the form to their private doctor to complete, attach a prescription for each medication (and reason for it), then mail it all to their local VA Medical Center using a provided envelope.
Q: When will veterans be notified of their eligibility for this new program?
A: VA anticipates sending letters to eligible veterans around Sept. 6.
Q: When will this benefit begin?
A: Eligible veterans will be able to receive prescription medicine beginning Sept. 22.
Q: If veterans are eligible as of July 25, why won't the program begin sooner than Sept. 22?
A: VA will be identifying veterans eligible for this new benefit and putting new systems and procedures in place to deliver this benefit.
Q: Will eligible veterans pay copayments?
A: Regular prescription copayments will apply. Each facility will determine if a drug is prescribed for a service-connected condition, and if so, no prescription copay will apply.
A: Some veterans in priority groups 2 through 8 must pay the copayment of $7 for each 30-day supply of medication whenever they obtain it from VA on an outpatient basis for treatment of a nonservice-connected disability.
A: Veterans not required to pay the copayment are:
1. Veterans with a service-connection rating of 50 percent or more;
2. Veterans receiving medication for a service-connected condition;
3. Veterans with VA nonservice-connected pensions;
4. Veterans with income below $9,690 (if single), $12,692 (if married), plus $1,653 for each additional dependent;
5. Veterans receiving care for special eligibility conditions such as Agent Orange, Ionizing Radiation, Environment Exposure, Military Sexual Trauma, Combat veterans within two years of discharge, etc.
A:The total amount of copayments payable in a calendar year is capped at $840 for priority groups 2 through 6. There is currently no cap for priority groups 7 or 8.
Q: Where will the veterans get these prescriptions filled?
A:Medications will be furnished to eligible veterans by mail after
their non-VA prescriptions are evaluated at their local VA medical center.
Q: What if a veteran gives VA an electronic prescription?
A: Electronic prescriptions cannot be accepted. Initial prescriptions must be mailed to the medical center providing care to the eligible veteran.
Q:What would happen if a veteran has to reschedule the initial appointment?
A: If VA reschedules a veteran's initial appointment for primary care, or if the veteran reschedules the appointment for good cause, VA may furnish the eligible veteran with an amount of medication that is sufficient to meet treatment needs until the rescheduled appointment.
Q: How is VA tracking the appointments of new veterans who are waiting more than 30 days for their first primary care appointments?
A:VA is using both the information recorded in its electronic waiting list and scheduling packages to track such appointments.
Q: Will veterans who are eligible for VA's transitional pharmacy benefit still be eligible for the full health care benefit package?
A: Yes. A primary purpose of VA's health care system is to provide integrated health care for veterans, and not simply furnish prescription medications. This temporary pharmacy benefit will be offered until a VA physician sees the patient. Once the VA physician sees the veteran, the patient is eligible for the full health care package.
Q: Will all medications be available?
A: VA's existing formulary medications will be provided under this benefit, excluding controlled substances, over-the-counter medications (except insulin and syringes), and supplies. Acute medications, intravenous medications or medications that must be administered by a medical professional will not be provided. Non-formulary drugs will be available only if deemed medically necessary by VA and after communication with the non-VA provider.
Q:How will taking prescriptions written by non-VA physicians to VA differ from taking them to the corner drug store?
A: Veterans' copayments to VA are significantly lower than most health care plans can offer. There is a significant financial benefit for the veteran to fill medications through the VA health care system.
Q:How long will a prescription refill from a non-VA doctor last?
A: A veteran will get an amount of medication adequate to meet his or her needs up to one year, the legal limit, while waiting for the first primary care appointment. The decision on medication needed, including quantity, will adhere to VA guidelines and the VA formulary.
Q: What is the estimated cost to VA for this benefit?
A: The cost of the program has been estimated at $49 million by the Office of Management and Budge (OMB).
Q: How long will this benefit be available?
A: The transitional pharmacy benefit will continue until the eligible veterans have been seen by appropriate VA providers and VA is prescribing required medications for the veterans.
Q: How much time will it take before the eligible veterans receive their medication prescribed by non-VA doctors?
A:The medications will be mailed to the veterans generally in a week or two after VA has the completed information from the veteran.
Q: How will the eligible veterans' private-sector doctors know what medications are on the VA formulary?
A:The non-VA doctors will receive a letter of instruction from VA. The VA formulary can be found at this Web site: http//www.va.gov/elig.
Q:Who should an eligible veteran call for answers to more questions about the transitional pharmacy benefit?
A: Eligible veterans should call the national toll-free number on VA health benefits: 1-877-222-8387.