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VA.gov site becomes central login for accessing benefits:
Veterans and their families may begin accessing their Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) benefits and services on the new and user-friendly VA.gov website starting May 1, 2021.Users will be able to access information about VA benefits and services through a single site rather than multiple sites.All benefits related features previously located in the "ebenefits" web portal will be avail on VA.gov.​​

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tArmy to Review 1,000s of 'Bad Paper' Discharges in Court SettlementL

As reported April 29 by Patricia Kime for Military Times, a federal court has approved a settlement in a lawsuit that requires the Army to review thousands of other-than-honorable discharges issued in the past decade to soldiers with mental-health conditions or traumatic brain injuries. Judge Charles Haight, with the U.S. District Court of Connecticut, approved the agreement Monday in the class-action suit formerly known as Kennedy v. McCarthy, which charged that the service wrongly discharged troops who engaged in misconduct but whose behavior may have been caused by a psychiatric condition or brain damage

 Vet Benefits Legislation -

Each year over 300 bills are submitted in Congress that are related to various veteran benefits. After many committee meetings, rewrites and compromises only a hand full are approved and sent to the President to sign. Most don’t impact the general veteran population e.g. naming a National Highway stretch after a Medal of Honor recipient or issuing a postage stamp about a famous World War II battle. But some have major impact. The recent Blue Water Navy Veterans Act comes to mind. Passed into law last January, it has generated over 500 million dollars in VA compensation benefits to those Navy vets who served off the coast of Vietnam and the DMZ in Korea (12 miles) during the Nam War, and were exposed to Agent Orange. HR 7105 was recently signed into law as part of the NDAA and is hundreds of pages long. Many are not aware of certain provisions of that legislation. · Veterans will once again be able to submit Disability Benefit Questionnaires from PRIVATE Doctors to support their claims for service-connected compensation. The VA had banned that for a while. · The Vietnam War Era has been extended back to 11/1/55, which means certain peacetime veterans who served from that date up to 1961 may now be able to qualify for Non-Service Connected pension. · Vocational Rehabilitation benefits for disabled vets used to have a 12 year limit of use after the VA rating. For those disabled vets who were discharged after 1/1/13, they will now have no time limit. · Child care for veterans who use the VA hospitals or clinics will now be available. · Widows and widowers who’s spouse died of their service-connected condition, etc. can now remarry at age 55 and still keep their DIC benefits. The age was 57. · Veterans filing claims for Military Sexual Trauma can choose whether they are examined by a male or female doctor. · Homeless programs and vouchers at the VA may be extended to those veterans who received an “Other than Honorable” discharge. · IMPORTANT: this law also added three new presumptive conditions to the list of Agent Orange related problems for those who serviced in Vietnam (boots on the ground), off the coast (within 12 miles) or near the DMZ in Korea during certain dated. They are BLADDER CANCER, HYOPTHROIDSIM AND PARKINSONISM (have symptoms but full blown Parkinson’s disease has not yet been diagnosed. If you know of a Vietnam vet who died of any of these conditions, and there is a surviving spouse, they may qualify for benefits. As with any new law, the VA must first prepare regulations, then guidelines and policy mandates before all these take effect. But if you think you may be affected by any of the above, be sure to reach out to your VA hospital, clinic or the VA benefits department. They can be reached at 1-800-827-1000. [Source: American Legion IL District 9 | 

Sweeping Health and Benefits Changes Could Come Soon for Vets Suffering Toxic Exposure :
As reported April 28 by Leo Shane III for Military Times, lawmakers on Wednesday launched their latest effort to piece together comprehensive legislation on veterans’ toxic exposure illnesses with the goal of providing a clear path forward by the start of the summer. At a hearing on the issue before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said he wanted to mark up the package “before Memorial Day” and promised a “bold” new approach to getting more medical care and benefits to veterans suffering from illnesses connected to burn pits, chemical exposure, and other potential poisoning while on duty. “We must provide healthcare and benefits to all veterans suffering from the effects of toxic exposure, past, present and future,” he said. “It is the cost of war. That is pure and simple.”

VA Caregiver Program: Those Rejected for Financial Aid Could Get New Appeal Chances:
Caregivers of seriously wounded veterans who were previously denied benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs may get a new chance to appeal that decision under a court ruling issued this week. The move has the potential to award tens of thousands of dollars to some families that have struggled to act as full-time caregivers to veterans, but payouts are still likely months or years away, depending on whether VA officials opt to appeal the ruling. The case centers on Jeremy Beaudette, a Marine Corps veteran who left legally blind and and suffering from traumatic brain injury after multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was rated as 100 percent disabled by VA officials because of those wounds. But when his wife, Maya, applied for benefits through VA’s caregiver program — which awards up to $2,300 a month in stipends and additional support services to full-time caregivers of injured veterans — she was rejected. Multiple appeals to department officials were also denied. Lawyers from Public Counsel’s Center for Veterans’ Advancement and Paul Hastings LLP argued the family should have had the opportunity to appeal that ruling outside that system to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, which handles other benefits disputes. But VA officials have long maintained that step is unnecessary, because the program already has several levels of review. They argued that addition of a new appeal will further complicate system, resulting in more confusion and frustration. This week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims disagreed with that stance. A panel of judges on the court ordered those cases be allowed to go before the BVA, and that department officials spend the next 45 days working with the outside attorneys to develop a full list of applicants from the last 10 years who may be owed another chance at appeal. Since the caregiver program was launched in 2010, more than 400,000 applications have been submitted. Currently about 20,000 veterans are enrolled. It’s unclear how many of the remainder may have been rejected and exhausted their internal appeals, but now could benefit from the new court ruling​​

Navy Fleet Size:Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday wants a bigger fleet, but his force level goal falls well short of what some in the Defense Department are aiming for.

There are currently just under 300 ships in the Navy’s manned battle force. The Pentagon’s latest shipbuilding plan, released in December in the final weeks of the Trump administration, called for growing the fleet to 316 ships by 2026, 355 by the early 2030s, and 400 by the early 2040s. “Recently I was asked by a member of Congress what my North Star is with respect to numbers right now,” Gilday said 27 APR during a webinar hosted by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “That's 355. I still think that's a really good target.” A 355-ship fleet had been the service’s stated goal for a number of years, and is the force level that Congress has called for in legislation. However, the Future Naval Force Study conducted last year — which was championed by former Defense Secretary Mark Esper and helped shape the long-term shipbuilding plan — called for a number “far above” that, Gilday acknowledged. But given the budget constraints that are expected in coming years, the Navy must grow the fleet at an “affordable rate,” he said. The Biden administration’s budget outline released 9 APR, called for $715 billion for the Pentagon in 14 fiscal year 2022, he noted. That is about 1.6 percent higher than the amount appropriated by Congress for 2021. The White House has yet to release separate toplines for each military service. A more detailed budget request is expected in May or June. The military’s budget will be “lucky to actually keep pace with inflation,” Gilday said. “What that will make most challenging, I think, is the fact that given the rise in personnel costs, given the rise in operations and maintenance costs, which typically rise at a rate higher than inflation, it will … potentially put a squeeze on the shipbuilding budget,” he said. Gilday said he’s taking a “realist approach” to the Navy’s investment strategy, and won’t sacrifice readiness and capability in order to boost capacity. “We need a fleet that's more ready and more capable and more lethal, more than we need a bigger fleet that's less ready and less capable and less lethal,” he said.