"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation."
President George Washington
Veterans can now enroll in VA’s Million Veteran Program online
Veterans can now join the Million Veteran Program online (MVP) as part of the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) effort to improve the lives of Veterans through health care research and innovation.
More than 775,000 Veteran partners have already joined MVP, a national, voluntary, research initiative that helps VA study how genes affect the health of Veterans.
“MVP has already resulted in a number of important scientific publications that increase our knowledge of conditions that affect Veterans’ health, and we expect this resource to continue to prove its value over the coming years,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “VA is excited to announce the launch of MVP Online, which will make it even easier for Veterans nationwide to take part in this landmark research effort.”
Veterans currently enrolled in VA care can use their existing VA credentials to securely log in to MVP Online to view their personalized dashboard and learn more about the program. To partner with MVP, Veterans can use the online portal to complete the consent process, allow access to health records (for research purposes only), answer surveys about their health and lifestyle and schedule an MVP visit at a participating VA site to provide a blood sample. VA is currently piloting ways to make the MVP sample collection more convenient for Veterans who do not live near a participating VA site.
New veteran suicide numbers raise concerns among experts hoping for positive news:
Researchers this year changed a key metric in how they track veterans suicides in an effort to better explain the scope of the problem, but mental health advocates say it still doesn’t tell the full story.
In the last four years, the official government estimate on the number of veterans who die by suicide has gone from 22 a day to 17 a day in the latest Veterans Affairs report. But the rate of suicides among veterans didn’t decrease over that span. Instead, the way the figures are sorted and presented did.
Instead, outside experts note that by many markers the problem has grown even worse. The total number of suicides among veterans has increased four of the last five years on record. From 2007 to 2017, the rate of suicide among veterans jumped almost 50 percent.
Veterans are 1.5 times more likely to die by suicide than Americans who never served in the military. For female veterans, the risk factor is 2.2 times more likely.
DOD pain rating:
The Defense Department has a new tool to help military health care providers tackle one of the most complex challenges facing patients: pain. The DoD has launched a new pain rating scale that bears the familiar 0-10 numbers, smiley and frowny faces and green, amber and red stoplight colors meant to signal a patient's acute or chronic pain. But the new Defense and Veterans Pain Rating Scale now includes more detailed descriptions The designed to prompt patients to consider how the pain is affecting their daily functions, including activities, sleep and mood.
While launched with the best of intentions, the new emphasis on pain management has been blamed for the surge in opioid prescriptions and subsequent epidemic that has killed thousands of Americans [Source: Military.com | Patricia Kime | September 20, 2019 ++]
Veterans Affairs officials acknowledged to lawmakers that the department’s debt collection practices remain “too clunky and too confusing” to ensure families aren’t left in financial jeopardy. And they promised additional reforms within the next year. “We are too often fragmented, uncoordinated and highly variable in our processes,” said Jon Rychalski, chief financial officer for the Department of Veterans Affairs, told members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Thursday. “ Frankly, we have a way to go before we can declare success.” Last fiscal year, VA overpayments to veterans totaled roughly $1.6 billion, on par with mistakes in previous years. The cases include mistakes in disability payouts after beneficiary information is updated, payments that conflict with other federal benefits like drill pay, changes in college enrollment that lower GI Bill eligibility, and simple math errors by department employees. Officials from Veterans Education Success said one in four recipients of GI Bill benefits face some time of overpayment-related debt. The department sent out more than 600,000 debt collection notices to veterans and their families in fiscal 2018 in an effort to recover the money. Members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee said too often they hear from veterans who face significant financial hardship as a result of those actions, even when they incur the debt through no fault of their own. VA has a lot of work ahead to reduce the number of overpayments sent to veterans,” said Rep. Chris Pappas (D-NH). “Receiving these notices of balance due can prove particularly burdensome to veterans living on fixed incomes.”
VA reexamination notice:
Did you know it’s possible for the VA to reduce your VA disability rating? When you are awarded a VA Service Connected Disability rating, the VA retains the right to reexamine you to determine if your disability is still present and warrants the original rating. In short, it is possible for the VA to increase, reduce, or terminate, disability benefits based on a reexamination. But don’t let this scare you: not every veteran’s disability rating is scheduled for a reexamination, and not every rating will change. For example, some service-connected disability ratings are considered protected, and will not be changed. Veterans with a P&T Rating (Permanent and Total) will usually not be scheduled for a reexamination. The same thing goes for injuries that are considered permanent or static. These include injuries that will never change, such as a missing limb. However, some medical conditions are not considered permanent and may be subject to reexamination. And if your VA disability rating is reviewed, keep in mind reviews work both ways: they can increase or decrease your rating, depending on supporting evidence and documentation. Reexaminations are usually scheduled within two to five years after the initial examinations, or they can take place any time there is material evidence in your change of condition. The VA needs to establish substantial evidence of a change in condition before any change can occur to your serviceconnected disability rating. This puts the onus of the work on them. You will receive a Reexamination Letter detailing what will take place, and when. It’s essential that you attend this appointment, or work to reschedule it for a better time. If you don’t attend the appointment or provide supporting evidence for your case, the VA can reduce or terminate your benefits. Reestablishing your rating could take some time, or may be impossible, barring a legitimate reason for missing the appointment. The Notice should include contact information where you can reschedule your appointment if necessary. The VA may send a Notice of Reexamination at pre-scheduled interval or when they have material evidence there has been a change in your medical condition. This could be evidence that your situation has improved or disappeared.
Emergency medical bill claims:
Following a federal court ruling 9 SEP that determined the Department of Veterans Affairs erroneously denied reimbursement to thousands of veterans who received medical care at non-VA emergency rooms, the top Democrats on the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees have urged the department to notify veterans of their rights and accelerate reimbursements to those wrongly billed. House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), the Senate VA committee's ranking member, said 13 SEP that they "demand answers from VA ... to explain how many veterans are affected." They want to know how the VA will comply with the court decision, which ordered it to reimburse veterans with other health insurance who incurred additional bills that weren't paid by their primary insurer.
The ruling in Wolfe v. Wilkie found that the VA, for the second time, violated a law requiring the department to approve veterans' claims for emergency room expenses not covered by private insurance, other than co-payments. "We applaud the federal court's decision this week. By siding with our veterans, we are finally getting justice for those who were saddled with an unfair financial burden after receiving emergency health care," the lawmakers said in a prepared statement. "We demand answers from VA as soon as possible to explain how many veterans are affected, how VA intends to comply with the court's order, and what additional resources -- if any -- Congress will need to provide for the department." According to NVLSP, the decision could cost the VA between $1.8 billion and $6.5 billion in reimbursements for claims filed from 2016 through 2025.
The VA covers emergency medical services for veterans if their condition is service-related or caused by a servicelinked condition and medical services are unavailable at a VA facility. For non-service-connected conditions, the VA also can pay for emergency care under certain conditions. But the department claimed it cannot provide coverage for co-payments, co-insurance or deductibles. Two of the three judges on the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims ruled that the VA's interpretation of the law is incorrect. "VA was ... informing veterans that they were not entitled to reimbursement for non-VA emergency medical care if they had any insurance covering the service at issue," the judges wrote. "In other words, the agency was telling veterans that the law was exactly opposite to what a federal court had held the law to be."
VA Telehealth program:
Two recent studies indicate a plan by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to use distributed tablet devices to provide telehealth benefits to patients is working. A JAMIA Open study published in August concluded the initiative successfully reached veterans in rural areas and patients with mental health conditions, while a separate study published by Psychiatric Services found the VA’s efforts also led to improved clinical efficiency. The most common home telehealth devices the VA uses are ones that make it possible to connect a veteran patient to a VA hospital using messaging devices that collect information about symptoms and vital signs from the veteran’s own home. Geographic and travel barriers are potentially the greatest obstacle to VA access, with a VHA Office of Rural Health report noting of the approximate 9 million enrolled veterans receiving VA healthcare, nearly a third live in rural, highly rural or insular island areas. “Telehealth technology remains a vital platform to provide high-quality healthcare to all veterans, regardless of challenges they may face in accessing care,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement. “VA’s tablet program is a model that other networked healthcare systems across the country can mirror, and demonstrates the potential of telehealth capabilities in the years to come.” The news comes as the VA is undergoing a massive push toward digitalization. In June, the Department of Defense and the VA announced the creation of a special office to help centralize decision making as the VA makes its multibillion-dollar electronic health records upgrade. Among the recent efforts is a mobile application called Launchpad, which helps streamline access for both vets and their caregivers, and coordinates various VA apps in one place, as well as enables easier sharing of EHR data and access to telehealth