Vallarta Living | Veteran Affairs | March 2008
|V.A. Compensation System Under Review|
David Lord - PVNN
The "Veteran's Disability Benefits Commission" was established by the President of the United States to look at how the US was providing, or not providing, for the Veterans who had served America by being a part of the military.
|The Commission was established by Public Law 108-136, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2004.|
The last review was made by the "Bradley Commission" fifty-seven years earlier (in 1951) to review the benefits Veterans of Korea and World War Two. This new "VDBC" or "Commission" was closely watched over by Veteran's Organizations, as it was thought to be adversarial in nature toward those Veterans that were being compensated for Service Connected Disabilities.
The Commission was established by Public Law 108-136, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2004. Between May 2005 and October 2007, the Commission conducted an in-depth analysis of the benefits and services available to veterans, service members, their survivors, and their families to compensate and provide assistance for the effects of disabilities and deaths attributable to military service.
The Department of Veterans Affairs expended $40.5 billion on the wide array of these benefits and services in fiscal year 2006. The Commission addressed the appropriateness and purpose of benefits, benefit levels and payment rates, and the processes and procedures used to determine eligibility based on past studies on these subjects, the legislative history of the benefit programs, and related issues that have been debated repeatedly over many decades.
After many hours of study and review, it is my personnel belief that we have been served in a mostly positive manner by the Commission. However, there are areas that concern me. Time will tell if these areas are real, but I think they are going to impact thousands of veterans negatively.
The two areas of concern for veterans and dependents who are living "South of the Border" will be first to be reviewed after the elections are over. The first of which is service connection for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is caused by some traumatic event while in the Military and has been documented by medical professionals as a result of military service.
The second area is a benefit, known as "Individual Un-employability" which comes when a Veteran has had a certain level of compensation awarded, (either 60% for a single disability, or a combination of disabilities which amount to 70% disabled, one of those disabilities must be rated at least 40%.) This then allows the Veteran to seek a higher compensation rate as if they were totally disabled, which pays the 100% rate, basically doubling the amount of money the 60% rate gives.
The Commission's first Priority of Recommendations stated that "The V.A. should immediately begin to update the current Rating Schedule, beginning with the evaluation and rating of post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental disorders and of traumatic brain injury."
Most compensation for physical body wounds has been updated over the last few years according to groups such as the American Legion. Not the rating schedule for P.T.S.D. or Traumatic Brain Injury; the rating schedule in place currently uses one set of criteria for all mental disorders found in the D.S.M. 4 manual.
There are unique aspects of P.T.S.D. that are not being properly evaluated by the current system, and we should develop rating criteria specifically for P.T.S.D. In addition, we have inadequate staffing, under funding for training, a lengthy process of claims adjudication controlled by bureaucrats within guarded walls.
These V.A. employees have end-product incentives as their bonus and get advanced promotions based on number of claims completed, which prevents proper claims development. The end product guideline originally intended to improve processing time, works against the veterans and rewards the employees.
Eligibility for Unemployability will be the most contested change veterans will face in the near future. The Commission has suggested that the V.A. should implement a periodic and comprehensive evaluation of Individual Unemployability-eligible veterans and authorize a gradual reduction in compensation for recipients who are eligible to return to substantially gainful employment or are age 65 and would be due to retire rather than abruptly terminating disability payments.
It is also a very real proposal to base the award on the age of the veteran. Meaning two veterans with the same disability may be treated differently; the older veteran nearing the end of work life may be denied the benefit, while the younger veteran is awarded the benefit.
I see other serious questions on this issue, which will have to wait for an upcoming article. I suggest that all veterans take advantage of the counseling to document treatment, it is paid for by the Veterans Administration under the Foreign Medical Program. If you have a disability based on PTSD, you can connect with me at david.lord(at)yahoo.com for the referral and the insurance coverage information.
David Lord served in Vietnam as combat Marine for 1st Battalion 26th Marines, during which time he was severely wounded. He received the Purple Heart and the Presidential Unit Citation for his actions during the war in Vietnam. In Mexico, David now represents all veterans south of the U.S. border all the way to Panama, before the V.A. and the Board of Veterans Appeals. David Lord provides service to veterans at no fee. Veterans are welcome to drop in and discuss claims/benefits to which they are entitled by law at his office located at Bayside Properties, 160 Francisca Rodriguez, call him on his cell: 044 (322) 205-1323, or email him at david.lord(at)yahoo.com.
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