Schmitt & Coletta, P.C. - Veteran Attorneys Fighting For Veterans and Their Families
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GI Bill Backlog
Investigation Into the VA Reveals a Culture of Retaliation Against Whistleblowers
VA watchdog accuses leadership of withholding access to employee complaints
Appeals Court Tosses Veterans' Lawsuits Over Burn Pits
Incresed Compensation for Back Injuries

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GI Bill Backlog

As of Friday, September 28, 2018, there were over 226,000 veterans and their family members awaiting payments and decisions on their GI Bill claims. This represents a 56.5% increase in pending workload as compared to this time last year.

Investigation Into the VA Reveals a Culture of Retaliation Against Whistleblowers

VA employees in one Southeast district say a toxic culture of retaliation has undermined veterans' care and worker morale. There is growing skepticism among whistleblowers the VA can police itself

VA watchdog accuses leadership of withholding access to employee complaints

Veterans Affairs’independent watchdog officeis accusing department leaders of improperly withholding records dealing with employee complaints, saying the action could be covering up potential criminal misbehavior.
Veterans Affairs leaders have responded by accusing the inspector general of overstepping its authority andimproperly issuing reportsthat “recklessly cast the VA and its employees in an unfavorable light.”
Lawmakers pulled into the fight this week call the conflict concerning.
“The total lack of cooperation from the VA is alarming and a disservice to American veterans and taxpayers,” said

Medicaid Expansion Helped Vets

The number of uninsured veterans in the U.S. declined by nearly 40% from 2013 to 2015, but that number could drop even more if more states opt to expand Medicaid, according to a
.

The Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that the number of uninsured veterans ages 19-64 dropped from 980,000 in 2013 to 552,000 in 2015, according to a study published Wednesday.

The majority of the coverage gains occurred in states that decided to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

NEW RULE

New Rule:

You may now request another hearing before the Board of Veteran Appeals when you case is remanded!Cook v. Shulkin

The old case said there was but one administrative review by the Secretary which meant upon a remand either to the BVA or the Regional Office, you did not get another hearing to testify or submit evidenceat a hearing.

Under Cook, there is no limit the number of BVA hearings a Veteran may have after a remand.

Cases go up and down from the Board to the Court, Remanded back to the Board and sometimes remanded back to the Regional Office.

VA Aid & Attendence Proposed Rule Chanes are Devastating

On January 23, 2015, the Federal Register released Document No. 2015-00297. This document has caused quite a
stir in the elder care industry, and has climbed to the top of the “hot-button issues” list. If you’re not yet familiar with
the document, you’re likely wondering what could possibly cause such widespread interest. It’s an unexpected rule
proposal by the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) regarding net worth determinations, asset transfers, and
income exclusions for Veterans pension benefit eligibility.

The Problem with the VA Medical Centers

The tragedy at Phoenix Medical Center is partly the result of the executive bonus system  This bonus system encourages conduct like secret waiting lists. By hiding the true wait-list, the Medical Center Director was able to qualify for a $9000 yearly bonus.

This is not isolated to Phoenix. It is pervasive around the country. There has been Congressional testimony about how mangers manipulate data to qualify for bonuses. This bonus system is used throughout the Federal Government.  Perhaps it is time for Congress to eliminates bonuses  entirely!

Phoenix VA Health Center

 Another VA Outrage

The Phoenix VA Health Center has been accused of having a "secret" waiting list of veterans needing health care. Allegedly 1400 vets were on the list and 40 of them died before they could receive treatment!

Why the secret list? It created an illusion that vets were timely receiving needed treatment.

Who would benefit from this illusion? Why the Medical Center Director whose base salary is $196,000 received a $9000.00 performance bonus for meeting targets.

This not the first time executive bonuses have been incriminated in a VA scandal.

Being Sexually Assualted by Friendlies treated Differntly than Raped by Enemy

If you are in a combat zone and later suffer from PTSD your statements do not need be verified under VA regulations. But if your are raped in a combat zone by a fellow soldier, you have a higher burden of proof. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit so held in a recent case Hall v. Shenseki.  According to the Court the term" hostile" refers to enemy activity an apparently not the hostile activities of one who wears the same uniform of one!
 
Perhaps Congress should address this issues as well as the procedures to investigate and prosecute sexual assaults in the military.

Vets forced into years of Appeals

The VA is working to reduce the backlogs of initial claims but does speed sacrafice accuracy and fairness to the veterans?   More vets are filing appeals with the Board of Veteran Appeals and the appeals back log is climbing.
 
There are 264,000 cases on appeal. 13,000 appeals have been filed since mid-July 2013. According to a retired Lieutenant Colnel who was a an Army Jag officer and now a veteran advocate, " A VA employee makes a decision and the entire system just attempts to defend that position as opposed to going back in and seeing what's wrong with it.
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