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Government Affairs, September/October 2021 -   -  

Delegates at the National Convention
Will Determine VVA’s Future

The upcoming National Convention is happening at the most critical point of VVA’s existence. The Convention will either develop the method and means for us to pass on our knowledge to new generations of veterans, or it will serve as the last call for our existence.

At the 2019 National Convention the membership received two briefings. Working Group I gave us the requirements and timetable for shutting down the organization. Working Group II let us know that it was feasible for us to morph into a new organization that blends the current VVA membership with younger veterans. Unfortunately, many members wanted to hold onto our name, while younger veterans were not interested in joining a 100-year-old-model veterans organization.

Meanwhile, the Veterans Benefits Committee was tasked with finding a means of ensuring the smooth transition of our current claimants into a new organization over several years. The committee is well on its way to making that happen. Most members, including chapter and state council presidents, are not aware of the significance of this task. They do not understand that once VVA takes the Power of Attorney for a veteran, we are legally bound to see that claim through till it is completed.  

In many instances, a claim can take five to seven years to complete. If we miss an appeal date, we are liable and can be sued. We cannot just tell a veteran that we will no longer hold your Power of Attorney and you need to find someone else to do that for you. It is up to the veteran to decide whether or not he or she wants to find a new VSO to handle the claim. If the claim is in appeal status, it is the policy for all VSOs not to take the claim. When you take a claim that is in appeal status you are accepting another VSO’s work. It is like changing lawyers just before the jury decides the case.

If you want to know what that looks like, consider the situation the Military Order of the Purple Heart is in after closing its benefits program without warning. It is dealing with unanticipated issues that will cost quite a bit of money. 

VVA chapter and state council presidents need to understand, and explain to the membership, that VVA is a corporation governed by laws—in this case, the laws of the state of New York. As a corporation, we must either obey those laws or pay a monetary price for not doing so.

The key to our survival is to ensure that the membership gets the correct information in order to make intelligent decisions based on facts, not hearsay. In order for this to happen chapter and state council presidents must do their homework, which entails reading the laws and asking questions about whatever they don’t understand.

VVA is going to go away whether we like it or not. The question is: What do we want to see happen before our demise? Will it be a smooth transition or will it be a haphazard fiasco? The choice depends upon our chapter and state council presidents. We hope that they will provide their members with the information that they need to make sound decisions. The ball is in their court, and we are waiting to see what decisions they make. 

We will find out at the National Convention.

Take Action

Please join VVA in supporting S. 657, The Agent Orange in Thailand Act, introduced by Sens. John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and companion bill H.R. 2229, introduced by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), also entitled The Agent Orange in Thailand Act.

This legislation would modify the presumption of service connection for veterans who were exposed to herbicidal agents while serving in the armed forces in Thailand during the Vietnam era, and for other purposes, regardless of where on the base the veteran was located or what military job specialty the veteran performed.

They also would provide VA benefits to Vietnam War veterans who served on bases in Thailand between January 9, 1962, and June 30, 1976, and were exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides, which were widely used to remove foliage that provided cover for enemy forces.

Use this link below and send the prepared letter to your Members of Congress asking them to support S. 657 and H.R. 2269, the Agent Orange in Thailand Act, which would offer health care and compensation to those veterans who served in Thailand in all military locations.

News from the VA

Asthma, Rhinitis, and Sinusitis on Presumptive List for Veterans who served in Southwest Asia

VA has begun processing disability claims for asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis based on presumed particulate matter exposure during military service in Southwest Asia and other areas, if these conditions manifested within ten years of a qualifying period of military service. 

The Southwest Asia Theater of Operations includes Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, and the airspace above these locations.

VA conducted a review of the scientific evidence, which resulted in a recommendation to consider creating new presumptions of service connection for respiratory conditions. The process concluded that particulate matter pollution is associated with chronic asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis for veterans who served in the Southwest Asia theater of operations beginning Aug. 2, 1990, to the present, as well as in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Syria, and Djibouti beginning Sept. 19, 2001.

VA will conduct outreach to affected veterans and survivors to inform them about their eligibility and will provide application instructions. Veterans and survivors who believe they may be eligible for the newly established presumptive conditions are encouraged to apply. They should file a VA Form 21-526EZ if applying for the first time, or a VA Form 20-0995 if they are reapplying. For more information, go to https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/burnpits

To apply for benefits, veterans and survivors can go to www.va.gov or call 800-827-1000. You can see the interim final rule at www.regulations.gov

The Mission Acts, P.L. 115-182, Subtitle C established the expansion of the VA Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC)

Section 161, the expansion of the family caregiver program, Section 162, the implementation of information technology systems to assess and improve the family caregiver program, and Section Modifications to annual evaluation reports on the VA caregiver program have been implemented to accept eligible veterans who have incurred or aggravated a serious injury in the line of duty on or before May 7, 1975, or on or after September 11, 2001,

A caregiver can be a parent, spouse, child, step-family member, extended family member, or an individual who lives with the veteran but is not a family member who provides support to the veteran. The program offers eligible caregivers a monthly stipend, beneficiary travel, mental health counseling, enhanced respite services, health insurance, if applicable, and other benefits.

Veterans must require care assistance with at least one of their activities of daily living or require supervision. They must also be enrolled in the VA’s health care program.

To learn more about the program before applying go to https://www.caregiver.va.gov

Every VA Medical Center has a Caregiver Support Coordinator available to help people enroll in these programs. For help, contact your local Caregiver Support Coordinator using the Caregiver Support Coordinator search tool, or call the VA Caregiver Support Line at 855-260-3274.




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