Veterans Memorial Post 347

Post Service Officer - Dennis Storey

I am at the Legion on Mondays from 9-11 for walk-ins but off on all legal Government holidays. I typically just give benefits counselling to consults and advice on VA matters. If you have a VA disability claim to file, I do that at my main office is located at the Villages VA Outpatient and am there on Monday Afternoons, Tuesday and Thursday for Appointments. I can be reached there at (352) 674-5097 for an appointment. I also will meet with both Veteran and Spouse to discuss any benefits concerns you both may have.  If I cannot answer your question, I will either research your issue or refer you to someone who can. My partner, Joe Morales, is at the clinic on Wednesday and Friday and he can help you if I am not available. Below is an important item of interest.

The PACT Act and your VA benefits

The PACT Act is a law that expands VA health care and benefits for Veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances. This law helps us provide generations of Veterans—and their survivors—with the care and benefits they’ve earned and deserve. And starting March 5, 2024, we’re expanding VA health care to millions of Veterans—years earlier than called for by the PACT Act.  If you served in Vietnam or the Middle East you may be eligible for VA Healthcare whether or not you filed a disability claim. To see if you are eligible, bring your DD214 down to the VA Outpatient clinic and see the Eligibility office.

We encourage all eligible Veterans to visit VA.gov/PACT or call 1-800-MYVA411 to learn more about this or you can contact me if you have specific questions, or you can contact your Veterans Service Officer.

Legislation

Protecting Benefits for Disabled Veterans Act of 2023

This bill provides statutory authority for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to assign, for purposes of the disability compensation program, a disability rating of total to a veteran who meets certain parameters and is unable to secure or maintain substantially gainful employment due to a service-connected disability.

Specifically, the VA may make such a disability determination if a veteran has a service-connected disability rated at least 60%, or has two or more service-connected disabilities with one being at least 40% and a combined total of at least 70%. The VA may also make a determination on the disability rating in circumstances where a veteran meeting the specified parameters maintains marginal employment (income is less than the poverty threshold), or if the veteran maintains substantially gainful employment (exceeds the poverty threshold) and the VA determines that the rating is appropriate.

Survivor Benefits Fairness Act

The VA may not consider the age of a veteran or eligibility for retirement benefits when making any determination related

This bill adjusts the effective date of a reduction or discontinuance of compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation, or pension payments by the Department of Veterans Affairs to the last day of the month during which a marriage, remarriage, or death of a payee occurs.

MAY 2024

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I am at the Legion on Mondays from 9-11 for walk-ins but off on all legal Government holidays. I typically just give rom PTSD counselling to consults and advice on VA matters. If you have a VA disability claim to file, I do that at my main office is located at the Villages VA Outpatient and am there on Monday Afternoons, Tuesday and Thursday for Appointments. I can be reached there at (352) 674-5097 for an appointment. I also will meet with both Veteran and Spouse to discuss any benefits concerns you both may have.  If I cannot answer your question, I will either research your issue or refer you to someone who can. My partner, Joe Morales, is at the clinic on Wednesday and Friday and he can help you if I am not available. Below is an important item of interest.

I was interviewed last week by the Villages Daily Sun on this new bill. Veterans Administration recently announced that all Veterans who were exposed to toxins and other hazards while serving in the military – at home or abroad – are now eligible to enroll directly in VA health care. This means that all Veterans who served in the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Global War on Terror, or any other combat zone after 9/11 are eligible to enroll in VA health care without first applying for VA benefits. Additionally, Veterans who never deployed but were exposed to toxins or hazards while training or on active duty in the United States are eligible to enroll.

This expansion of VA health care eliminates the phased-in approach called for by the PACT Act – meaning that millions of Veterans are becoming eligible for VA health care up to eight years earlier than written into law. This is a critical step forward because Veterans who are enrolled in VA health care are proven to have better health outcomes than non-enrolled Veterans, and VA hospitals have dramatically outperformed non-VA hospitals in overall quality ratings and patient satisfaction ratings. Additionally, VA health care is often more affordable than non-VA health care for Veterans. 

I encourage all eligible Veterans to visit VA.gov/PACT or call 1-800-MYVA411 to learn more about this or you can contact me if you have specific questions.

.APRIL 2024

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I am at the Legion on Mondays from 9-11 for walk-ins but off on all legal Government holidays. My office is located at the Villages VA Outpatient and am there on Monday Afternoons, Tuesday and Thursday for Appointments. I can be reached there at (352) 674-5097. I also will meet with both Veteran and Spouse to discuss any benefits concerns you both may have.  If I cannot answer your question, I will either research your issue or refer you to someone who can. My partner, Joe Morales, is at the clinic on Wednesday and Friday.

The New DAV Van is in full operation. The DAV offers free rides from the VA Outpatient Clinic to the Gainesville VA Hospital. It operates 5 days a week (Monday-Friday).  The Van leaves the clinic in time to make the first appointment of the rider and leaves Gainesville after the last appointment of the day.  This may require some passengers to wait a while so be prepared to do so. To schedule a ride to the VA Hospital, please call the Van dispatcher at (352) 674-5099, leave your name, phone contact number, date and time of your appointment. The dispatcher will call you back (usually a day or two before your scheduled appointment) telling you what time to be at the VA Clinic to meet the Van.  The Van will return after the last Veteran’s scheduled appointment on that day.

Legislation:

A few Legislative initiatives currently in the works.  There are more and can be reviewed at americanlegion.org

H.R. 5890, the Review Every Veterans Claim Act

This bill would limit the VA’s authority to deny a veteran’s claim solely based on the veteran’s failure to appear for a medical examination associated with the claim.

Currently, the law states that “the Secretary shall treat an examination or opinion as being necessary to make a decision on a claim for purposes….” This requirement usually results in the Veterans Benefits Administration denying a veteran’s claim if they did not attend the requested examination, even if the rest of the evidence of record contains service medical records, private medical records and lay statements from the veteran.

H.R. 5890 would add a new paragraph to the law, which states the Secretary may not deny such claim on the sole basis that the veteran failed to appear for the requested medical examination.

This bill is supported by American Legion, VFW and the DAV.

H.R. 6362, the Protecting Benefits for Disabled Veterans Act

When a veteran’s disability is rated less than a total 100% evaluation, but he or she is unable to obtain or maintain substantial gainful employment, VA regulations allow the veteran to apply for Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU). It is based on the severity of the individual veteran’s unique disability picture and its impact on the veteran’s ability to obtain and maintain substantial gainful employment. Generally, the veteran must have a single disability rated at 60% or a combined evaluation of 70% to be eligible for TDIU. 

In recent years, reducing or limiting TDIU has been the focus of many Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports as a deficit reduction measure. In December 2018, it was suggested to terminate and cutoff TDIU benefits at the age of 65, and in reports in December 2020 and December 2022, CBO recommended to restrict TDIU once a veteran reaches the age of 67.

H.R. 6362, the Protecting Benefits for Disabled Veterans Act, would provide additional protections for TDIU and prohibit the VA from considering the age of the veteran or their eligibility to any retirement benefit, including Social Security, in making such determinations.

Senate bill 1515, the Retired Pay Restoration Act

This legislation would allow certain qualified retirees, that would not be covered under the Major Richard Star Act, entitlement to military retired pay and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation, beginning on January 1, 2024. This bill would also end the existing concurrent receipt phase-in period. 

All Veterans Organizations support Senate Bill. 1515, as it would end the unfair policy of requiring certain qualified military retirees to forfeit some of their retired pay in order to receive equal amounts of disability compensation from the VA.

MARCH 2024

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I am at the Legion on Mondays from 9-11 for walk-ins but off on all legal Government holidays. I typically just give rom PTSD counselling to consults and advice on VA matters. If you have a VA disability claim to file, I do that at my main office is located at the Villages VA Outpatient and am there on Monday Afternoons, Tuesday and Thursday for Appointments. I can be reached there at (352) 674-5097 for an appointment. I also will meet with both Veteran and Spouse to discuss any benefits concerns you both may have.  If I cannot answer your question, I will either research your issue or refer you to someone who can. My partner, Joe Morales, is at the clinic on Wednesday and Friday and he can help you if I am not available.

The DAV Van operates Monday-Friday. The DAV offers free rides from the VA Outpatient Clinic to the Gainesville VA Hospital. Thanks to the generous donations of Post 347, Post 347 Auxiliary and the Legion Riders, we were able to purchase a brand-new Ford Transit Van. It was delivered a couple of months ago and is in operation. To schedule a ride to the VA Hospital, please call the Van dispatcher at (352) 674-5099, leave your name, phone contact number, date and time of your appointment. The dispatcher will call you back (usually a day or two before your scheduled appointment) telling you what time to be at the VA Clinic to meet the Van.  The Van will return after the last Veteran’s scheduled appointment on that day.

We are getting more and more Veterans needing financial assistance for one reason or another.  There is a couple of resources listed below:

Project Vet Relief is an American Legion the provides emergency assistance to Veterans in need.  Their phone number is: (407) 295-2631 and their office is located on Lee Road in Orlando.  I do have some applications for assistance.

Another very good resource is the Ocala Vet Center.  They provide a variety of programs from PTSD Counselling to financial assistance. Their main location is:

3300 Southwest 34th Avenue

Suite 140

Ocala, FL 34474

Phone number: (352) 237-1947

If you have specific questions, you can always contact me.

Legislation:

There has not been much legislation so far.  Congress did agree on another continuing resolution funding the Federal Government through March. Not surE what they are going to do after that.

A couple of issues of interest

H.R. 6362: Protecting Benefits for Disabled Veterans Act

When a veteran’s disability is rated less than a total 100% evaluation, but he or she is unable to obtain or maintain substantial gainful employment, VA regulations allow the veteran to apply for Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU). It is based on the severity of the individual veteran’s unique disability picture and its impact on the veteran’s ability to obtain and maintain substantial gainful employment. Generally, the veteran must have a single disability rated at 60% or a combined evaluation of 70% to be eligible for TDIU. 

In recent years, reducing or limiting TDIU has been the focus of many Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports as a deficit reduction measure. In December 2018, it was suggested to terminate and cutoff TDIU benefits at the age of 65, and in reports in December 2020 and December 2022, CBO recommended to restrict TDIU once a veteran reaches the age of 67.

H.R. 6362, the Protecting Benefits for Disabled Veterans Act, would provide additional protections for TDIU and prohibit the VA from considering the age of the veteran or their eligibility to any retirement benefit, including Social Security, in making such determinations.

The American Legion strongly supports H.R. 6362, as it would ensure the availability of TDIU for all veterans regardless of age or receipt of any other earned federal benefits.

H.R. 1083- S. 414: Caring for Survivors Act

Caring for Survivors Act (S. 414/H.R. 1083), bipartisan legislation that would ease the eligibility criteria for Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and increase the monthly benefit amount to match benefits provided by other federal survivor programs. Specifically, the measure would:

Expand eligibility for DIC by replacing the 10-year rule with a graduated scale of benefits that begins at five years for initial eligibility at 50% and gradually reaches the full benefit at 10 years after determination of disability. For example, if a veteran is rated as totally disabled for five years and dies of a nonservice-connected cause, a survivor would be entitled to 50% of the DIC benefit.

Increase the amount of DIC to 55% of the rate of monthly compensation received by a totally disabled veteran.

FEBRUARY 2024

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I hope everyone had a great Christmas and Happy New Year from your Post Service Officer!  I look forward to serving you as your Veterans Service Officer for another year.  We are back from our amazing transatlantic vacation and I want to thank everyone for their indulgence while I was out. I am back at the Legion on Mondays from 9-11 for walk-ins but off on all legal Government holidays. My office is located at the Villages VA Outpatient and am there on Monday Afternoons, Tuesday and Thursday for Appointments. I can be reached there at (352) 674-5097. I also will meet with both Veteran and Spouse to discuss any benefits concerns you both may have.  If I cannot answer your question, I will either research your issue or refer you to someone who can. My partner, Joe Morales, is at the clinic on Wednesday and Friday and he can help you if I am not available.

The DAV Van operates Monday-Friday. The DAV offers free rides from the VA Outpatient Clinic to the Gainesville VA Hospital. Thanks to the generous donations of Post 347, Post 347 Auxiliary and the Legion Riders, we were able to purchase a brand-new Ford Transit Van. It was delivered a couple of months ago and is in operation. To schedule a ride to the VA Hospital, please call the Van dispatcher at (352) 674-5099, leave your name, phone contact number, date and time of your appointment. The dispatcher will call you back (usually a day or two before your scheduled appointment) telling you what time to be at the VA Clinic to meet the Van.  The Van will return after the last Veteran’s scheduled appointment on that day.

Legislation:

It has been a quiet couple of months as far as Veterans legislation goes so there is not much to report.  Hopefully in January they will agree on a budget.  There is one item that I have been asked about by some Veterans and that is the Plus Act. Below is what I have been able to find on that subject and it is not good for our Veterans if passed.  The American Legion, DAV and VFW all oppose this legislation.

The PLUS Act is a legislative proposal that has garnered attention and sparked debate. It aims to streamline the process of securing benefits for disabled veterans in the United States. However, it has faced opposition from organizations like the American Legion. Here are the key points about the PLUS Act:

  1. Purpose: The PLUS Act seeks to expedite the accreditation process for third-party representatives assisting veterans with their claims for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits.
  2. Accreditation Bypass: Under the PLUS Act, third-party representatives would automatically receive accreditation after 90 days, regardless of whether the VA has completed its verification process. This bypasses the current accreditation system.
  3. Concerns: The American Legion opposes the PLUS Act because it could potentially leave veterans vulnerable. There are unaccredited third parties that present themselves as legitimate claims service companies to veterans. The PLUS Act aims to legalize these companies without ensuring proper oversight.
  4. Veteran Protection: The American Legion advocates for the Governing Unaccredited Representatives Defrauding (GUARD) VA Benefits Act, which would reinstate criminal penalties for unaccredited claim representatives who charge unauthorized fees while assisting veterans with filing VA disability compensation claims.

In summary, the PLUS Act’s intention to expedite the process is met with concerns about unregulated representation and potential harm to veterans. The American Legion prioritizes protecting veterans’ rights and ensuring accountability in the claims process.

January 2024

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I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. We are back from our amazing transatlantic vacation and I want to thank everyone for their indulgence while I was out. I am back at the Legion on Mondays from 9-11 for walk-ins but off on all legal Government holidays. My office is located at the Villages VA Outpatient and am there on Monday Afternoons, Tuesday and Thursday for Appointments. I can be reached there at (352) 674-5097. I also will meet with both Veteran and Spouse to discuss any benefits concerns you both may have.  If I cannot answer your question, I will either research your issue or refer you to someone who can. My partner, Joe Morales, is at the clinic on Wednesday and Friday.

The DAV Van operates Monday-Friday. The DAV offers free rides from the VA Outpatient Clinic to the Gainesville VA Hospital. To schedule a ride to the VA Hospital, please call the Van dispatcher at (352) 674-5099. Leave your name, phone contact number, date and time of your appointment. The dispatcher will call you back (usually a day or two before your scheduled appointment) telling you what time to be at the VA Clinic to meet the Van.  The Van will return after the last Veteran’s scheduled appointment on that day.

It has been a fairly quiet month so I would like to take this time to highlight a few of legislative priorities of the American Legion for the 118th Congress.  I do not have room to list all of them but here are a couple of important ones.

Mental Health & Suicide Prevention

The leading issue facing the veteran community is suicide. The suicide rate amongst veterans is nearly double that of their civilian counterparts with more than 6,000 veterans losing their lives to suicide annually. It is imperative that we simultaneously destigmatize asking for mental health assistance while increasing access to a variety of services along the mental health continuum. The American Legion encourages Congress to enhance access to alternative therapies, robustly fund VA’s suicide prevention outreach budget, and continue to invest in mental health research.

VA Healthcare Modernization

The future of VA healthcare is as a hybrid system consisting of VHA-provided inpatient and outpatient care, telehealth, and community care. Ensuring VA is equipped to meet the unique needs of an increasingly diverse veteran population requires that VA fully leverage all healthcare modalities and ensure a seamless transition between them. Modernizing electronic health records, veteran centric access standards, and a transparent online scheduling system for both VHA-provided care and community care is essential to ensuring our veterans receive the care they deserve. The means by which VA delivers care may change, but one thing will not: VA should continue to deliver the best care anywhere to our nation’s veterans.

PACT Act: Implementation & Oversight

The passage of the SFC Heath Robinson PACT Act in the 117th Congress ensured millions of toxic exposed veterans will now have the access to healthcare and compensation they rightfully deserve. VA estimates that there will be approximately 6 to 7 million new disability claims filed as a result of eligibility expansion under the PACT Act and anticipates the claims backlog will increase to 450,000 by October of 2023. The efforts put forth by the VBA workforce to reduce claims backlogs in the past have been admirable but substantial backlogs of hundreds of thousands of claims for sustained periods of time is not acceptable. It is imperative that VA fully leverage the resources made available in the PACT Act to assist in the continued modernization of VBA information technology systems as well as the hiring of additional employees to ensure veterans claims are adjudicated in a timely manner. The American Legion urges congress to provide the necessary oversight and funding to ensure VA has the resources they need to properly implement this legislation.

DECEMBER 2023

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I will be out from 9 October until 11 November for vacation, Service Officer Training and doctor appointments.  My partner at the VA Clinic, Joe Morales will be available to answer any questions or give you an appointment down at our office.  You can reach him at (352) 674-5097.

I am at the Legion on Mondays from 9-11 for walk-ins but off on all legal Government holidays. My office is located at the Villages VA Outpatient and am there on Monday Afternoons, Tuesday and Thursday for Appointments. I can be reached there at (352) 674-5097. I also will meet with both Veteran and Spouse to discuss any benefits concerns you both may have.  If I cannot answer your question, I will either research your issue or refer you to someone who can. My partner, Joe Morales, is at the clinic on Wednesday and Friday.

The DAV Van operates Monday-Friday. The DAV offers free rides from the VA Outpatient Clinic to the Gainesville VA Hospital. To schedule a ride to the VA Hospital, please call the Van dispatcher at (352) 674-5099. Leave your name, phone contact number, date and time of your appointment. The dispatcher will call you back (usually a day or two before your scheduled appointment) telling you what time to be at the VA Clinic to meet the Van.  The Van will return after the last Veteran’s scheduled appointment on that day.

PACT Act Legislation

Although the deadline has passed for filing Intent-To-File’s in order to get the one-year back pay for Hypertension, you can still file pact-act claims for the 2 presumtives for Agent Orange and the Burn-Pit presumptives.  Stop by the Legion on Monday Mornings and we can chat. We can discuss your specific issues.

Legislative

It has been a quiet month legislatively as Congress is busy trying to elect a speaker. A couple of items of interest that I founD.

H.R. 236 would require the VA to designate one week per year as “Battle Buddy Check Week

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has made the prevention of suicide among veterans one of its highest priorities and developed data models to continually monitor, improve and tailor suicide prevention strategies and initiatives for veterans. Recently, VA simplified the Veterans Crisis Line number of 988, launched the S.A.V.E. Suicide prevention training video, and began offering emergency care and treatment at VA and non-VA facilities for veterans in acute suicidal crisis.

H.R. 236 would require the VA to designate one week per year as “Battle Buddy Check Week” for the purposes of organizing outreach events and educating veterans on how to conduct mental health wellness checks.

DAV strongly supports H.R. 236, legislation consistent with DAV Resolution No. 059, which calls for mental health program improvements and outreach to transitioning service members to reduce veteran suicides.

This bill would permit retired members of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected disability rated 40% and below to receive concurrent payment of both retired pay and veterans’ disability compensation. The bill would also make permanent the eligibility for concurrent receipt for Chapter 61 disability retirees who retired with less than 20 years of service.

H.R. 333, as it would end the unfair policy of requiring certain military retirees to forfeit some of their retired pay in order to receive equal amounts of disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs or, in the case of Chapter 61 retirees, having them choose between the two benefits.

NOVEMBER 2023

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I will be out from 9 October until 11 November for vacation, Service Officer Training and doctor appointments.  My partner at the VA Clinic, Joe Morales will be available.  You can reach him at (352) 674-5097.

I am at the Legion on Mondays from 9-11 for walk-ins but off on all legal Government holidays. My office is located at the Villages VA Outpatient and am there on Monday Afternoons, Tuesday and Thursday for Appointments. I can be reached there at (352) 674-5097. I also will meet with both Veteran and Spouse to discuss any benefits concerns you both may have.  If I cannot answer your question, I will either research your issue or refer you to someone who can. My partner, Joe Morales, is at the clinic on Wednesday and Friday.

The DAV Van operates Monday-Friday. The DAV offers free rides from the VA Outpatient Clinic to the Gainesville VA Hospital. To schedule a ride to the VA Hospital, please call the Van dispatcher at (352) 674-5099. Leave your name, phone contact number, date and time of your appointment. The dispatcher will call you back (usually a day or two before your scheduled appointment) telling you what time to be at the VA Clinic to meet the Van.  The Van will return after the last Veteran’s scheduled appointment on that day.

PACT Act Legislation

Although the deadline has passed for filing Intent-To-File’s in order to get the one-year back pay for Hypertension, you can still file pact-act claims for the 2 presumtives for Agent Orange and the Burn-Pit presumptives.  Stop by the Legion on Monday Mornings and we can chat. We can discuss your specific issues.

Legislative

September is traditionally a slow month for Congressional Legislation as most committee’s are in recess. There is only one item that would may be of interest to some of you. About the only thing they are concentrating on is the budget.  There is probably going to a continuing resolution so stay tuned!

Restore Veterans’ Compensation Act of 2023 (H.R. 3489)

The Restore Veterans’ Compensation Act of 2023 (H.R. 3489) would afford justice for ill and injured veterans by eliminating the unfair practice of VA recouping separation payments, which are based on their military service, and differ from Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation.

VA disability compensation can often be the difference between making ends meet and homelessness for many of our nation’s disabled veterans, which is why the practice of withholding a veteran’s VA disability compensation due to a non-related military separation benefit must end. 

This legislation is in accordance with DAV Resolution No. 092, which calls for eliminating the unfair practice of the VA recouping separation payments from military service and allowing veterans to receive their VA disability compensation payments.

Veterans Exposed to Toxic (VET) PFAS Act. Companion bills, H.R. 4249/ S. 2294

DAV supports the Veterans Exposed to Toxic (VET) PFAS Act. These companion bills, H.R. 4249/ S. 2294, would provide presumptive service connection for veterans exposed to perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at military installations.

PFAS are man-made chemicals, that do not break down in the environment and are present in fire-fighting foams (or aqueous film forming foam; AFFF) used by both civilian and military firefighters.

In the 1970s, the Department of Defense (DoD) began using AFFF to fight fuel fires. The release of these chemicals into the environment during training and emergency responses is a major source of PFAS contamination of ground water on military bases. Per DoD, it is estimated that over 700 U.S. military installations have PFAS contaminated water supplies.

Even given the overwhelming amount of water contamination, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does not currently recognize any diseases related to PFAS exposure. The VET PFAS Act would add high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, and pregnancy-induced hypertension as presumptive diseases to PFAS exposure. In 2022, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine released a report that confirms these positive associations.

Additionally, this bill would allow health care for veterans and family members who were exposed to PFAS on military installations and develop the same recognized diseases.

H.R 4886, the Aviator Cancer Examination Study (ACES) Act

H.R 4886, the Aviator Cancer Examination Study (ACES) Act. The bill would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to study the incidence of cancer among individuals who served on military air crews.

Military aircrew personnel may experience occupational exposure to galactic cosmic radiation, ultraviolet radiation and non-ionizing intra-cockpit radiation, leading some to speculate about an increased risk of malignancy. In 2020, a retrospective study of Air Force air crews found there were over 900 incidents of cancer. However, the study had its limitations and found no difference in the cancer rates between pilots and other military officers.

The ACES Act would require the VA to enter into an agreement with the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine to study the incidence and mortality among individuals who served in the regular or reserve components of the Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps as air crew members of a fixed-wing aircraft.

DAV strongly supports H.R. 4886 in accordance with DAV Resolution No. 087, which calls for studies and presumptive service connection for diseases related to the numerous hazardous exposures facing our active military members. This legislation will assist in determining if those who served on air crews are more likely to develop cancer.

H.R. 4424, the Vietnam Veterans Liver Fluke Cancer Study Act

H.R. 4424, the Vietnam Veterans Liver Fluke Cancer Study Act, legislation directing the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct an epidemiological study on the prevalence of cholangiocarcinoma in veterans of the Vietnam era. Bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma) is a cancer of the biliary duct system, which includes the gallbladder, bile ducts, and certain cells inside the liver.

One risk factor for bile duct cancer is past infection with tiny parasitic worms called liver flukes, which are found in the fresh waters of Southeast Asia. Veterans who ate raw or undercooked freshwater fish during their service in Southeast Asia, such as Vietnam veterans, might have been infected. Currently, there are no available studies to show that bile duct cancer occurs more often in Vietnam veterans than in other groups. 

The Vietnam Veterans Liver Fluke Cancer Study Act can help determine if environmental exposures faced by Vietnam veterans can be linked to bile duct cancer. DAV supports this legislation in accordance with DAV Resolution No. 087.

OCTOBER 2023

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As most of you know, I am typically at the Legion on Mondays from 9-11 for walk-in consultations.  I am off major holidays but am available by phone for any pressing needs.  The Legion front office knows how to get in touch with me should there be that need.  My main office is at the Villages VA Outpatient Clinic and I am there on Monday Afternoons, Tuesday and Thursday for Appointments. I can be reached there at (352) 674-5097. I also will meet with both Veteran and Spouse to discuss any benefits concerns you both may have.  If I cannot answer your question, I will refer you to someone who can. My partner, Joe Morales, is at the clinic on Wednesday and Friday and can also assist you with just about any Veteran related issues.

The DAV Van operates Monday-Friday. The DAV offers free rides from the VA Outpatient Clinic to the Gainesville VA Hospital. To schedule a ride to the VA Hospital, please call the Van dispatcher at (352) 674-5099. Leave your name, phone contact number, date and time of your appointment. The dispatcher will call you back (usually a day or two before your scheduled appointment) telling you what time to be at the VA Clinic to meet the Van.  The Van will return after the last Veteran’s scheduled appointment on that day.

Summer is usually a bit of a “lull” as many are on vacation so there isn’t too much to report in July and August, however there are a couple of legislative items in the works See below.

Submit Your Intent to File a Claim

The Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 (PACT Act) is the biggest expansion of Veteran health care and benefits in generations. VA encourages all eligible Veterans and survivors to file a claim — or submit their intent to file a claim — for PACT Act-related benefits now. If you notify VA of your intent to file before Aug. 10, 2023, you may be able to get retroactive payments to Aug. 10, 2022, when the PACT Act became law. Learn how to let VA know of your intent to file. If you need further assistance, see your Post Service Officer.

Major Richard Star Act

The Major Richard Star Act (S. 344) is bipartisan legislation that would authorize concurrent receipt of Department of Defense (DoD) retired pay and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation for those injured in a combat zone and medically retired under Chapter 61 of title 10, United States Code.

In April of this year, we asked for your support on this stand-alone bill, now, we need you to contact your Senators to vote for adoption of Amendment 142—provisions from the Major Richard Star Act so it can be included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

This benefit would eliminate this unjust offset of disability compensation for combat-injured military retirees.

S. 1635/H.R. 3718 calls for updated training for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) claims processors who review veterans claims for service-connection for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

S. 1635/H.R. 3718 calls for updated training for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) claims processors who review veterans claims for service-connection for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The annually required training would include instruction on stressor development and verification, and be standardized across VA regional offices. The legislation would also require VA to establish a formal process to review claims decisions annually to determine if updates to the training program are warranted. 

DAV supports S. 1635 and H.R. 3718, in accordance with DAV Resolution No. 095, which calls for improved training for VA employees deciding veterans claims for service-connection for PTSD.

Servicemembers and Veterans Empowerment and Support Act of 2023

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reports that one in three women and one in 50 men indicate they were sexually assaulted during military service. Military Sexual Trauma (MST) survivors are able to file disability claims for conditions related to the trauma, but the process has been fraught with problems and such claims are often denied based on improper development. 

Numerous reports from the VA Office of the Inspector General and the United States Government Accountability Office document the Veterans Benefits Administration’s struggle to adhere to its own policies and correct long-standing problems in administering claims for MST survivors. Even after its most recent reform attempting to consolidate claims adjudication for PTSD due to MST at five regional offices, there continues to be little difference in the timeliness or quality of its decisions on MST-related claims. In addition, it has been reported that 40% of claimants who requested a particular gender of an examiner were not honored.   

AUGUST 2023

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First of all, I would like to congratulate the incoming Cadre of Post 347 Officers! I have been asked to stay on as your Post Service Officer; thank you for that, and I look forward to serving you for another year. I am at the Legion on Mondays from 9-11 for walk-ins and at the Villages VA Outpatient, located at Mulberry Plaza on Route 42, on Monday afternoons, Tuesdays and Thursdays  for Appointments. I can be reached there at (352) 674-5097. I also will meet with both Veteran and Spouse to discuss any benefits concerns you both may have.  If I cannot answer your question, I will refer you to someone who can. My partner, Joe Morales, is at the clinic on Wednesday and Friday.

The DAV Van operates Monday-Friday. The DAV offers free rides from the VA Outpatient Clinic to the Gainesville VA Hospital. To schedule a ride to the VA Hospital, please call the Van dispatcher at (352) 674-5099. Leave your name, phone contact number, date and time of your appointment. The dispatcher will call you back (usually a day or two before your scheduled appointment) telling you what time to be at the VA Clinic to meet the Van.  The Van will return after the last Veteran’s scheduled appointment on that day.

Legislative

S. 1360 to ensure documentation of PFAS exposure while on active duty

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are man-made chemicals that do not break down in the environment and can be found in fire-fighting foam. In the 1970s, the Department of Defense (DOD) began using these foams to fight fuel fires.

The release of these chemicals into the environment during training and emergency responses is a major source of PFAS contamination of ground water on military bases. According to DOD data, more than 700 U.S. military sites are known or likely to have discharged PFAS. PFAS exposure has been related to several diseases including increased risk for kidney cancer, breast cancer, testicular cancer and liver cancer.

The VA does not concede PFAS exposure to those who served at any location, nor have related any diseases to the exposure. This requires veterans seeking VA disability claims for illnesses or diseases related to those exposures to prove their individual PFAS exposure and the relationship to the illness.

1360 would require DOD to provide periodic health assessments of those service members exposed, known to or suspected to be exposed. Additionally, the legislation would require DOD and VA to enter into an agreement to share the exposure and health assessments.

H.R. 41, the VA Same-Day Scheduling Act

Recently, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed VA’s scheduling process and identified specific challenges that the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has in ensuring that medical care appointments are scheduled in a timely manner. According to GAO, the Department’s current policy for scheduling specialty care appointments at VHA facilities mandates they be scheduled within 3 business days from the date a provider enters a referral into the veteran’s electronic health record.

H.R. 41, the VA Same-Day Scheduling Act, would require the VA Secretary to ensure when a veteran contacts the Department by telephone to schedule an appointment for care or services at any VA facility, the scheduling for the appointment occurs during that telephone call (regardless of the prospective date of the appointment being scheduled).

The Justice for ALS Veterans Act

The Justice for ALS Veterans Act would provide the survivors of veterans who die of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) the DIC (Dependency and Indemnity Compensation) “kicker” amount without meeting the required eight-year total disability rating time period.

Current law allows an additional DIC monthly payment of $331.84 to survivors in the case of a veteran, who at the time of death was in receipt of or was entitled to receive compensation for a service-connected disability that was rated totally disabling for a continuous period of at least eight years immediately preceding death. This extra compensation installment is commonly referred to as the DIC “kicker.”

ALS is an aggressive disease that leaves many veterans totally incapacitated and reliant on family members and caregivers. VA already recognizes ALS as a presumptive service-connected disease and, due to its progressive nature, automatically rates any diagnosed veteran at 100% once service-connected. Individuals diagnosed with ALS only have an average lifespan of between two to five years meaning that, sadly, many veterans are unable to meet the existing eight-year total disability requirement to become eligible for the additional “kicker” compensation benefit.

JULY 2023