Week of July 30, 2012
judge in Oakland, Calif. has issued a court order requiring the U.S.
Department of Veterans Affairs to hand over more documents about its
Cold War-era drug experiments on thousands of Vietnam veterans. U.S.
Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley said the documents requested
were "squarely relevant" to the claim that the government failed to
adequately notify veterans of the chemicals they were exposed to and
what that exposure might do to their health. A class action lawsuit
filed by the Vietnam Veterans of America and individual soldiers in 2009
claimed that the Army and the CIA used at least 7,800 veterans as human
guinea pigs for testing the effects of up to 400 types of drugs and
chemicals beginning in the 1950s under several project code names
including "Bluebird," "Artichoke" and "MKUltra," and "Project
Week of June 18, 2012
e-mails are being sent to military members, military retirees, and
civilian employees, which appear to be sent by Defense Finance and
Accounting Services (DFAS). Although the email appears to come from DFAS
and displays a .mil email address it is
actually from a non-government email account. The e-mails indicate that
individuals who are receiving disability compensation from the
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) may be able to obtain additional
funds from the IRS. If you do receive a notice from the IRS, respond
immediately. If you believe someone may have used your social security
number (SSN) fraudulently, notify IRS immediately by responding to the
name and number printed on the IRS notice or letter. You will need to
fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039.
March 22, 2012 by Jeffrey Thomas
shouldn’t take a government agency (VA) very long to verify a medical
record that came from another government agency (one of the Armed
Forces). Most, if not all, of the documentation in question in these
medical records has already been checked and rechecked multiple times
prior to it reaching VA for a claim. In some cases, VA has even ran
tests then required the claimant to undergo the same exact tests they
contract out to a civilian agency (VES – Veterans Evaluation Services)
for no apparent reason other than to drag the process out even longer.
The only thing that VA is doing when they drag their feet in the claims
process is costing the TAX PAYERS more money. These claims should be
processed, start to finish, within 90 days. There is no reason to drag
them out for these lengthy periods, it only causes unwanted stress and
hardship on the service member and their families, which none of them
For years now the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has rejected
legitimate claims by Servicemen on the hopes that the claimant wouldn’t
pursue any further action because of the length of time they (VA) take
to make their decision. In most cases, a claim can go unsettled for
12-18 months or longer. Depending on the determination from VA that
12-18 month period gets paid in a lump sum to the claimant. This amount
could range anywhere between a couple thousand dollars ($2,000), to
forty five to fifty thousand dollars ($45,000 – $50,000), to hundreds of
thousands of dollars (these figures are just base amounts and do not
include anything extra). With the number of returning Servicemen this
country is expecting and the percentage which will ETS or retire,
wouldn’t it be in VA’s best interest to settle these claims in a timely
manner rather than dragging them out for months or even years like our
Vietnam Veterans have encountered. Some of our Vietnam veterans are
receiving million dollar checks from the government due to these
If VA is under staffed and cannot handle what is required of them to
process these claims in a respectable amount of time, our Government
Leaders should step in and do what it takes to make sure we are taken
care of. We, as Serviceman, never hesitated in completing our
mission(s) to guarantee the safety and well-being of this country! Why
does it take VA so long to CARE for US after we ETS or Retire? One VET
without a home, medical care, or the benefits they DESERVE is ONE too
Jeffrey L. Thomas served in the U.S. Army and Indiana Army
National Guard. He retired after 22 years of service. He is married and
has six children and proud grandfather of one. Jeffrey has been
waiting on his disability claim for 16 months. He currently lives with a
family member, receiving food stamps, and trying to stay positive.
January 21, 2012
Stars and Stripes|by Leo Shane III
WASHINGTON -- More than 2,200 veterans had their personal
information accidentally posted on the genealogy website Ancestry.com
last year, a move that could potentially expose them to identify theft
Officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs said all of the
veterans affected by the mistake will receive free credit monitoring
services to help mitigate any damage. The information posted online
included veterans’ names and Social Security numbers, but not any health
The department said there is no evidence so far that any of the
personal information has been misused, but the agency is contacting all
of the individuals involved to ensure they are aware of the problem.
VA officials supplied the information to Ancestry.com in March 2011
as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the genealogy
site. The records were supposed to only contain information on deceased
veterans, but also included more than 2,200 living veterans due to a
Department officials found out about the error just last month.
“Ancestry.com has worked with us and immediately removed all the
information that we had supplied them,” Jerry Davis, department chief
information security officer, said in a statement. “VA places the
highest priority upon safeguarding the personal information of our
veterans. When lapses occur, we will immediately take prompt remedial
action, such as notification.”
Officials said they are still investigating why the information was mistakenly included in the records released to Ancestry.com.
Military.com reported last year that servicemembers killed in action
are easy, frequent targets for identity theft because the Social
Security Administration is required by FOIA to release their personal
information, including full names and social security numbers, to an
online database used by sites such as Ancestry.com. That information can
then be used to file fraudulent tax returns.
Read more about that Military.com story here.
Individuals who believe they may have been affected by this incident
have been encouraged to contact the VA. Those whose information was
exposed will be eligible for a free credit report for one year.
Those veterans can access the free services by calling 1-877-322-8228 or by visiting http://www.annualcreditreport.com.
Military.com contributed to this report.
This article is provided courtesy of Stars and Stripes,
which got its start as a newspaper for Union troops during the Civil
War, and has been published continuously since 1942 in Europe and 1945
in the Pacific. Stripes reporters have been in the field with
American soldiers, sailors and airmen in World War II, Korea, the Cold
War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Bosnia and Kosovo, and are now on assignment
in the Middle East.
Stars and Stripes has one of the widest distribution ranges of any newspaper in the world. Between the Pacific and European editions, Stars and Stripes services over 50 countries where there are bases, posts, service members, ships, or embassies.
Stars and Stripes Website
August 11, 2011
The Commercial Appeal|by Lawrence Buser
Two former government employees have pleaded guilty in
federal court in Memphis to conspiring to embezzle nearly $900,000 from
veterans beneficiary accounts under their supervision.
75, and Robert Tabbutt, 67, admitted diverting funds from 10 different
accounts and using the money to pay personal expenses and to gamble at
Perry had fiduciary duties over the accounts and Tabbutt is a former field examiner for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
a veteran cannot handle his or her affairs, the VA usually will appoint
a family member or, if necessary, ask the court to appoint one.
Federal prosecutor Justin Bailey said that between July 1999
and October 2008, the two men schemed to steal money from the
beneficiary accounts of disabled veterans by writing checks to
themselves from the accounts or withdrawing cash from the accounts.
pleaded guilty to embezzling $896,239.43 on Tuesday before U.S. Dist.
Court Judge S. Thomas Anderson. They will be sentenced Nov. 17.
prosecution has brought to justice these two men, who were illegally
and shamefully taking benefits paid to disabled veterans for their own
selfish gain," U.S. Atty. Ed Stanton of Memphis said in a news release.
will continue to work with the Department of Veterans' Affairs and
other law enforcement partners to prosecute those who would abuse their
positions of trust in order to prey on vulnerable members of our
community, especially veterans."
May 21, 2011 • Ben Krause
In a recent audit
of the VA Disability Compensation System at 16 Regional Offices,
the VA Office of the Inspector General estimates that the rating
staff incorrectly processed 23 percent of the 45,000 claims inspected.
IG investigated offices throughout the US and focused mainly on the
handling of the following five types of claims: 1) extra-schedular 100 percent disability evaluations (TDIU), 2) PTSD, 3) TBI, 4) Herbicide Exposure, and 5) Haas (Haas v Nicholson:
“blue water” claims from Vietnam Agent Orange exposure). The
processes evaluated ranged from mail handling to actual disability
Of the 16 Regional Offices, Baltimore, MD
and Anchorage, AK scored the lowest in compliance with VA
standards. Both failed to meet 14 of the 15 process requirements.
Extended management vacancies were cited as one of the linking
factors between all poorly performing Regional Offices. Because of
the vacancies, these offices lacked continuity and proper
oversight. As a result, procedures were not developed or
implemented to correct previously identified problems.
The Haas vs. Nicholson claims
had the highest rate of error. In January, the VA released a report
claiming the TDIU errors would have resulted in an overpayment of
over $1.1 billion by 2016. While this may be true, the VA made no
effort to project the amount of dollars not paid to incorrectly denied
veterans who would otherwise have qualified. It’s quite
possible that this amount might be much higher in the other
Meanwhile, at 83 percent of the Regional Offices,
Haas claims had a higher instance of the VA failing to follow VA
policy (5 of 6 surveyed failed the standard). Haas claims involve
veterans who were likely exposed to Agent Orange but never set foot in
Vietnam. Prior to the 2006 Haas v Nicholson decision,
mainly veterans who set foot on Vietnamese soil or road on craft up
rivers in Vietnam were entitled to the presumption of exposure.
Now, the VA is still attempting to catch up to the claims backlog that
was caused by the VA appeal of that 2006 decision. In 2009, the
decision for Haas was upheld and the VA has since struggled to
maintain continuity between offices in how the backlogged claims
are processed. The report stated some of these claims were incorrectly
denied after the initial Haas decision was upheld.
receiving denials or low-ball ratings within the past year for any
disability ratings may want to consider immediately looking over
their decision and request a copy of their VA claim file. If the time passed since the decision is close to the 12-month appeal deadline, contact your Veteran Service Officer
to discuss the possibility of appealing it, if warranted. There
are both “for pay” and Pro Bono VSO’s. I suggest talking to the Pro
Bono people first. Try to find one you trust who will handle your
claim in a professional manner.
Veterans already denied at
the Board of Appeals review may want to consider speaking with a
Veterans Law Attorney in their area, since VSO’s cannot represent
veterans before the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Two
resources worth looking at are the National Organization of
Veterans Advocates (NOVA) and National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLS).
There are many other attorneys out there as well. A simple Google
search could render quality results as well. Just be sure the lawyer
by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Of course, confident
veterans can always opt to represent themselves Pro Se before the
court, as well.
Read more: VA Audit - 23% incorrectly denied claims www.MilitaryAdvantage.Military.com
By Rick Maze - Staff writer Posted : Monday May 23, 2011 16:30:07 EDT
VA health care workers and benefits processors are receiving new
training in how to handle disability evaluations for veterans claiming
traumatic brain injuries after an internal investigation found a high
percentage of errors on those types of claims.
A May 18 report by
the VA Inspector General says a spot review of disability claims found
an 8 percent error rate in claims related to post-traumatic stress
disorder and a 19 percent error rate in claims related to traumatic
Half of the PTSD claims and slightly more than half of the TBI claims affected benefits, according to the report.
the IG found a 23 percent error rate in the cases it reviewed, stemming
mainly from the fact that 82 percent of claims involved temporary 100
percent disability ratings for veterans who needed surgery or a specific
treatment for their service-connected disability. The majority of these
errors were technical and did not affect benefits, the report said.
PTSD-related claims, a review of 16,000 files processed between April
2009 and July 2010 found that the VA employees processing claims lacked
enough experience and training to be accurate.
The single biggest
mistake was failing to verify a specific event or events in service that
resulted in the stress, something that became easier in July 2010 when
VA rules were amended so a veteran’s statement by itself is considered
sufficient evidence. However, one-quarter of the errors resulted from
assigning incorrect effective dates to claims, and about 20 percent of
the errors involved incorrect mental health evaluations.
VA officials said they believe the problems with PTSD cases are resolved but will continue to monitor accuracy.
TBI, investigators looked at 4,100 claims completed from April 2009
through July 2010 and found 800 were processed incorrectly. Like the
problems with PTSD claims, the chief problem was inexperience and
undertrained staff, the report said.
Eighty-four percent of the
errors were the result of problems with medical examinations being
either inadequate or incorrect in identifying the symptoms of TBI and
whether there were residual disabilities that coexisted with other
In response to the report, VA benefits and
health care officials said they are working to ensure that compensation
and pension examiners are trained in the proper procedures and will
require regional offices that process benefits to provide a second
reviewer for many TBI-related claims. A rater will be allowed to work
without a reviewer only if they have achieved a 90 percent accuracy rate
on 10 consecutive TBI cases, VA officials said in their formal response
to the report.
Training for medical personal in proper exam
procedures should be completed by June 30, but the new process for
second reviews of TBI cases will not take effect until Sept. 30.
According to a recent Military Times article, a May 18
report by the VA Inspector General says a spot review of disability
claims found an 8 percent error rate in claims related to post-traumatic
stress disorder and a 19 percent error rate in claims related to
traumatic brain injury. Half of the PTSD claims and slightly more than
half of the TBI claims affected benefits, according to the report.
Overall, the IG found a 23 percent error rate in the cases it reviewed,
stemming mainly from the fact that 82 percent of claims involved
temporary 100 percent disability ratings for veterans who needed surgery
or a specific treatment for their service-connected disability. The
majority of these errors were technical and did not affect benefits, the
A review of 16,000 PTSD claims files processed between April 2009 and
July 2010 revealed that the single biggest mistake was failing to
verify a specific event or events in service that resulted in the
stress, something that became easier in July 2010 when VA rules were
amended so a veteran’s statement by itself is considered sufficient
evidence. However, one-quarter of the errors resulted from assigning
incorrect effective dates to claims, and about 20 percent of the errors
involved incorrect mental health evaluations. For TBI, investigators
looked at 4,100 claims completed from April 2009 through July 2010 and
found 800 were processed incorrectly. Eighty-four percent of the errors
were the result of problems with medical examinations being either
inadequate or incorrect in identifying the symptoms of TBI and whether
there were residual disabilities that coexisted with other mental
conditions. The errors were found to be largely the result of lack of
sufficient experience and training. In response to the report, VA
benefits and health care officials said they are working to ensure that
compensation and pension examiners are trained in the proper procedures
and will require regional offices that process benefits to provide a
second reviewer for many TBI-related claims.
For more information, please see: www.militarytimes.com/news/2011/05/military-VA-PTSD-brain-injury-claims-errors-052311w/.
10:58 PM, May 4, 2011 Courtesy of KSDK By Leisa Zigman, I-Team Reporter
St. Louis, MO (KSDK) - Some veterans in the St.
Louis region are still having surgery and dental procedures canceled or
postponed two months after the all clear was given at the St. Louis VA
Officials suspended all procedures on February 2, 2011 after an
employee found a surgical tray pitted with corrosion. Multiple
investigations took place and more than 200 surgeries scheduled at the
facility were instead performed at other St. Louis hospitals at tax
The center reopened March 10, more than a month after closure. VA
experts, along with private vendors and independent consultants,
examined the sterilization processing department and determined it was
safe to start surgeries again. But veterans are still having surgeries
and dental procedures postponed.
The hold up, according to VA officials, has to do with the decision
to replace or restore 63,000 dental and surgical instruments.
"We have a patient safety culture here. We wanted to make sure when
the instruments come out that we felt comfortable using them on
patients," said Dr. Michael Crittenden, Chief of Surgery.
He explained the enormity and complexity of the restoration process
takes time. But veterans tell the I-Team, all of that time is taking a
toll on services they've earned.
The surgery center is operating only at 70 percent while the dental
clinic hasn't done any restorative work like fillings or crowns in four
months. Routine dental cleanings are taking place at 60 percent of what
it was prior to the February closure.
One patient, who feared speaking on camera, said she had three
appointments canceled since February and worries about losing some of
"It just makes my blood boil that any veteran would be put in that
situation but also, these are lingering problems from what has happened
months and months and months ago," said Congressman Russ Carnahan, who
spearheaded a campaign for investigations and congressional hearings.
National Dental Labs contacted by the I-Team, say restoring dental
instruments should take three days. So why after eight weeks are
surgeries and dental procedures still being canceled?
Aesculap, a German company, is restoring the VA's instruments at its
Hazelwood facility. A company vice president told the I-Team, "We have
been working with St. Louis VA since mid-February...we don't control
what we receive and when...but it's typically a three day turn around."
VA officials insist it is not a procurement or bureaucratic red tape
problem. Dr. Crittenden said turnaround is taking longer than three days
but he is very pleased with the quality of work Aesculap has provided.
He said if a patient has a dental emergency, the VA will pay for an
outside dentist. Dr. Crittenden said they've paid for outside services
more than 100 times since the February closure.
Officials at the VA hope to be back to 100 percent capacity at both the
surgical and dental centers sometime in the next two weeks.
The sterilization concern was the second in less than a year at the
Cochran center. In 2010, faulty sterilization at the center's dental
clinic raised concerns that 1,812 veterans were potentially exposed to
hepatitis and HIV. Most of those veterans have been tested and no cases
of HIV or hepatitis have been connected to the dental clinic.
A Congressional hearing titled "Sacred Obligation: Restoring Veteran
Trust and Patient Safety," is now taking place in Washington, D.C.