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In This Issue February 27, 2012 Latest News

Special Notice: If you are a veteran in emotional crisis and need help RIGHT NOW, call this toll-free number 1-800-273-8255, available 24/7, and tell them you are a veteran. All calls are confidential.

VA Caregiver Hotline

Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day

Statement by John Rowan, VVA National President
On "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day"

March 29 has been designated as "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day" by a resolution of Congress, thanks, in no small measure, to the efforts of Senator Richard Burr, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, and Representative Linda Sanchez in the House.  However belated the recognition of the service and sacrifice of those of us who served in Southeast Asia during the years of what was then America's longest war, it is appreciated.

For far too long, citizens of all political persuasions blamed those who served for the failures of those led, those officials whose military as well as political policies failed. Returning veterans were not welcomed by a grateful nation; instead, many were ignored at best, scorned at worst. The psychological issues faced by many Vietnam vets can be traced not simply to what they experienced in Vietnam but to their experience on their return home.

Perhaps America has grown up. Today, Americans embrace those who have volunteered for military service and have placed themselves in harm's way – whether they agree or disagree with the mission in Iraq or Afghanistan. These newly minted veterans and those who continue to serve, despite deployment after deployment, are offered a variety of opportunities and events across the nation by Americans who want to say in some way, Welcome Home, and Thank You for Your Service.

Americans are belatedly embracing Vietnam veterans as well, having come to the realization that those who served fought as well as their fathers and uncles did in World War II and in Korea. As we approach 50 years since the beginning of that ill-fated venture, events are being planned nationally as well as locally to honor those who served, and to remember those who were lost to the war. "Better late than never" may be a cliché, but it is never too late to say Thank You for Your Service, and Welcome Home.

[ Visit the Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day Page & Event Listings Here ]

VVA in the News: The New York Times

Branding a Soldier With 'Personality Disorder'

Capt. Susan Carlson was not a typical recruit when she volunteered for the Army in 2006 at the age of 50. But the Army desperately needed behavioral health professionals like her, so it signed her up.

Though she was, by her own account, "not a strong soldier," she received excellent job reviews at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where she counseled prisoners. But last year, Captain Carlson, a social worker, was deployed to Afghanistan with the Colorado National Guard and everything fell apart.

After a soldier complained that she had made sexually suggestive remarks, she was suspended from her counseling duties and sent to an Army psychiatrist for evaluation. His findings were shattering: She had, he said in a report, a personality disorder, a diagnosis that the military has used to discharge thousands of troops. She was sent home.

She disputed the diagnosis, but it was not until months later that she found what seemed powerful ammunition buried in her medical file, portions of which she provided to The New York Times. "Her command specifically asks for a diagnosis of a personality disorder," a document signed by the psychiatrist said.

Veterans' advocates say Captain Carlson stumbled upon evidence of something they had long suspected but had struggled to prove: that military commanders pressure clinicians to issue unwarranted psychiatric diagnoses to get rid of troops.

[ read complete article ]

VVA Press Release

VVA to VA: Make Agent Orange Aircraft Crews
Eligible for Care and Disability Compensation

(Washington, D.C.)—"Vietnam Veterans of America holds true that crews who flew the C-123K aircraft contaminated with Agent Orange should be acknowledged by your department to have been exposed to this herbicide, and that those crew members who are afflicted with any of the maladies the VA considers presumptive to service connection ought to be eligible for health care and, when warranted, disability compensation," wrote John Rowan, National President of VVA, to General Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Citing the strong language from Dr. Thomas Sinks, Deputy Director of the CDC's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, in acknowledging the contamination and the crews' exposure, Rowan noted, "This directly challenges the VA's contention that, although the aircraft 'may' have been contaminated by dioxin, there was little likelihood of any harmful exposure."

[ read complete press release here ]

Veteran Benefits

The First Question to Ask in a C&P Examination

By Lauren Kologe

When a veteran files a claim for disability compensation or pension benefits, the Veterans Administration (VA) is often required to provide a medical exam to confirm the veteran’s eligibility for benefits and to determine the appropriate disability rating.  This is known as a C&P exam (Compensation & Pension).  The first question the veteran should ask the doctor is, “have you had a chance to review my claim file?”  If the answer is no, the veteran should ask the doctor to first review the claim file. The veteran should only proceed with the exam after the doctor has reviewed all the information the veteran has submitted and VA has received regarding the claim (the claim file or c-file).

The same is true when the veteran asks his or her own doctor to provide an opinion on the claim.  The doctor must review the veteran’s entire claims file, state that he or she has read it, and comment on the veteran’s military and medical history contained in the file so that it is apparent the doctor has actually reviewed the records.

If you, the veteran, had an examination that was short, cursory, or one in which the doctor asked questions that he or she should have known from reviewing your records, you will want to obtain a copy of the C&P exam from VA.  You are entitled to one free copy under the Privacy Act.  If the doctor did not state that he or she read your claim file, and misstated or left out relevant facts contained in the claim file, you will want to point that out to VA, and you will want to ask for a new examination.  VA is required by the “duty to assist the veteran” to provide examinations that fully consider the veteran’s medical and military history.

[ read complete article ]

Board of Veterans’ Appeals Report

How Did The BVA Do In 2011?

Do you have a claim at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, or are waiting for a hearing with a Veterans Law Judge?  The Secretary of the Veterans Administration briefs Congress on how it is doing every year.  This report includes the average decision time, the number of hearings the Board performed, and the statistics on what percentage of cases were granted, remanded or denied by the Board.  To see how the Board did in 2011, and its plans for the future, please visit:  http://www.bva.va.gov/docs/Chairmans_Annual_Rpts/BVA2011AR.pdf

As you can see on page 27, Veterans and their dependents who were represented by a Veterans Service Organization or Attorney fared better than unrepresented Veterans.  It is free to have a Veterans Service Organization represent you.  To find a Vietnam Veterans of America service officer near you, please see: https://benefitsforum.org/Rep.aspx

Understanding Your VA Health Benefits

VA Launches Personalized Health Benefits Handbook

WASHINGTON (Feb. 22, 2012) – Veterans enrolled in the health care system of the Department of Veterans Affairs have begun to receive personalized booklets that explain their health care benefits and contain other useful information.

"VA is committed to providing our Nation's Veterans with consistent, clear information about the services available to them," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.
The new booklet, called a Health Benefits Handbook, will provide a personalized listing of health benefits based on each Veteran's specific eligibility. The handbook will also have contact information for their local VA medical facilities, appointment scheduling information, guidelines for communicating with their clinical team and, as applicable, information about copays.

Distribution of the handbooks began this month, with all 8.5 million Veterans enrolled in VA's health care system scheduled to receive their handbooks by 2013. Veterans will receive updates to their handbook to reflect changes to their benefits or eligibility.

VA operates 152 medical centers and more than 800 community-based outpatient clinics. Last year, inpatient facilities treated more than 690,000 patients, while outpatient clinics registered more than 79 million visits.
For more information about the Health Benefits Handbook, visit www.va.gov/healthbenefits/vhbh or call VA's toll-free number at 1-877-222-VETS (8387).


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