Sunday, October 25, 2009

Stop-Loss Payments - Apply Now!

Congress passed legislation to compensate servicemembers who were stop-lossed after September 11, 2001. Eligible persons, including survivors of deceased servicemembers who were stop-lossed, have 1 year to apply. It may be wise to apply ASAP, and that means online.

ALERT: The window to apply for payment ends on October 21st, 2010. That may seem like a long time, but wouldn't you feel silly if you put it off, and then forgot?  Can't you use the money you're owed NOW?

If you know someone who was stop-lossed, or is the survivor of someone who was stop-lossed, tell them!


Monday, October 19, 2009

New legal, financial protections stall out (Army Times)

A legislative update in Army Times:

New legal, financial protections stall out

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Oct 13, 2009 12:00:58 EDT

"Improvements in legal and financial protections for troops and their families were removed from the final version of the 2010 defense authorization bill because of questions about which congressional committee is responsible for changes to the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act.
The decision by congressional negotiators leaves in limbo the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act that the Senate had added to the annual defense policy bill and an expansion of the types of contracts that can be canceled or suspended without penalty for service members who are deployed or transferred to a new duty station. That provision, involving cellular phone service, Internet and cable services, and utilities, was part of the House-passed defense bill.
Jurisdiction over the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act rests with the House and Senate veterans’ affairs committees, which objected to having the provision included in HR 2647, the defense authorization act for fiscal 2010. Removal of the provision was one of the many compromises made by congressional negotiators as they prepared a final defense bill, which the House passed Oct. 8. The Senate is expected to vote on the final defense bill this week.
What happens with the military spouse and contract cancellation legislation depends on the veterans’ committees, which are slow to pass compromise legislation.

The Senate passed the military spouse residency bill as separate legislation Aug. 4, and it is now pending in the House.

However, the record of the House and Senate getting identical veterans bills passed and signed into law is slight.

1 veterans bill passed

Nineteen veterans-related bills have passed the House of Representatives this year, but only one has also passed the Senate and been signed into law. That measure provided the same cost-of-living adjustment to veterans and their survivors as is received Dec. 1 by Social Security recipients, which this year is likely be no increase. A second veterans’ bill, providing advance funding for Veterans Affairs Department medical programs beginning in 2011, passed the House last week and is expected to pass the Senate this week.

The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s economic opportunity panel has taken the first step in resurrecting the spouse residency and contract cancellation proposals. The subcommittee met last week to approve HR 1182, its version of the military spouse residency provisions involving homeownership, voting rights, taxation and other residency issues, and HR 2874, which would expand protections from contract termination fees.

Passage of the two bills by the full House Veterans’ Affairs Committee could happen as early as Oct. 28, aides said.

House and Senate aides said they believe the two veterans’ affairs committees will reach a compromise on an omnibus bill that could include the provision stripped from the defense bill, but they were not willing to predict when that might happen.

Spouse residency

The residency bill for spouses includes a provision that would allow spouses accompanying service members on official reassignments to keep their voter registration in a state where they no longer live and let them vote by absentee ballot in federal, state and local elections. Another provision would allow spouses to maintain residency in another state for tax purposes as a result of an official move by a service member.

The contract cancellation bill pending in the House would make changes in termination provisions all ready in law;

Current law allows service members to cut a cell phone contract without having to pay a termination fee if they deploy or make a permanent change-of-station move. The bill would extend this penalty-free cancellation right to family cell phone plans.

Also, HR 2874 would protect service members from having to pay an early termination fee for canceling a residential lease. Such cancellation is allowed under current law, but service members may have to pay termination fees.

Current law allows service members who are deploying or moving to a new assignment to cancel motor vehicle leases with no termination penalties."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Agent Orange Benefits Extended to More Veterans

From the VA press release (October 13, 2009):
VA Extends “Agent Orange” Benefits to More Veterans
Parkinson’s Disease, Two Other Illnesses Recognized

WASHINGTON – Relying on an independent study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki decided to establish a service-connection for Vietnam Veterans with three specific illnesses based on the latest evidence of an association with the herbicides referred to Agent Orange.
The illnesses affected by the recent decision are B cell leukemias, such as hairy cell leukemia; Parkinson’s disease; and ischemic heart disease.

Used in Vietnam to defoliate trees and remove concealment for the enemy, Agent Orange left a legacy of suffering and disability that continues to the present.  Between January 1965 and April 1970, an estimated 2.6 million military personnel who served in Vietnam were potentially exposed to sprayed Agent Orange.
In practical terms, Veterans who served in Vietnam during the war and who have a “presumed” illness don’t have to prove an association between their illnesses and their military service.  This “presumption” simplifies and speeds up the application process for benefits.

The Secretary’s decision brings to 15 the number of presumed illnesses recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  

“We must do better reviews of illnesses that may be connected to service, and we will,” Shinseki added. “Veterans who endure health problems deserve timely decisions based on solid evidence.”
Other illnesses previously recognized under VA’s “presumption” rule as being caused by exposure to herbicides during the Vietnam War are:

·         Chloracne
·         Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
·         Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2)
·         Hodgkin’s Disease
·         Multiple Myeloma
·         Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
·         Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
·         Prostate Cancer
·         Respiratory Cancers, and 

Additional information about Agent Orange and VA’s services and programs for Veterans exposed to the chemical are available at

More has to be done, such as recognizing our Blue Water Agent Orange Survivors, but at least this is progress.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

VA Education Benefit Advance Payments

Emergency Payments for Veterans Awaiting VA Educational Benefits
"Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki has authorized advance payments up to $3,000 for Veterans who have applied for VA educational benefits and who have not yet received their monthly education payments.

If you are a Veteran who has applied for one of VA’s education programs and have not yet received your monthly benefit payment for the Fall 2009 term, you can submit a request for an advance payment on this website.

Advance payments will be issued by the U. S. Treasury within 3 workdays (Monday through Friday) following submission of this request. Payments will be in the form of a check sent through the U.S. mail. You should therefore anticipate an additional 3 days (excluding Sundays) for the U.S. Postal Service to deliver your check.

You can also visit one of VA’s 57 regional offices across the country to immediately receive an advance payment. You will need to bring a photo ID and your course schedule when you visit the regional office. A list of VA’s regional offices is available at

The advance payments will be reconciled with future education payments owed to you."

It would be better to have no problems, but the VA deserves credit for dealing with this one instead of sweeping it under the rug. It's gonna take a while to fix the mess.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Free Mental Health Help for Iraq & Afghanistan veterans & families

Give an Hour is a nonprofit currently dedicated to meeting the mental health needs of the troops and families affected by the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, including counseling individuals, couples and families, and children and adolescents for anxiety, depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, sexual health and intimacy concerns, and loss and grieving.

Members of our warrior community interested in help should check here

For more general information, see its Brochure, Video, and Mission Statement:

"... Our organization is currently focusing on the psychological needs of military personnel and their families because of the significant human cost of the current conflicts. Over 1.9 million troops have been deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Persian Gulf since September 11, 2001. Nearly 550,000 of these troops have been deployed more than once. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, as of September 2, 2009, a total of 5,148 American troops have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, 35,205 U.S. troops have been injured during these conflicts.

In addition to the physical injuries sustained, countless servicemen and servicewomen have experienced psychological symptoms directly related to their deployment. According to a RAND report released in April 2008, over 18 percent of troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan--nearly 300,000 troops--have symptoms of post-traumatic stress or major depression. At the same time, about 19 percent of service members reported that they experienced a possible traumatic brain injury. And let us not forget: millions of Americans belong to the families of these servicemen and servicewomen. Spouses, children, parents, siblings, and unmarried partners of military personnel are all being adversely affected by the stress and strain of the current military campaign.

Our military leaders are well aware of the human cost of this campaign. Indeed, they are attempting to address the psychological needs of the troops through a variety of programs within the military culture. Unfortunately, the tremendous number of people affected makes it impossible for the military to respond adequately to the mental health needs in its greater community. For example, according to the RAND study, only 43 percent of troops reported ever being evaluated by a physician for their head injuries. Moreover, returning combat veterans suffering from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are not routinely seeking the mental health treatment they need. RAND also reports that only 53 percent of service members with PTSD or depression sought help over the past year.

A major barrier preventing military personnel from seeking appropriate treatment is the perception of stigma associated with treatment. Many fear that seeking mental health services will jeopardize their career or standing. Others are reluctant to expose their vulnerabilities to providers who are often military personnel themselves, given the military culture’s emphasis on strength, confidence, and bravery. Servicemen and servicewomen might be more inclined to seek help if they know that the services provided are completely independent of the military. By providing services that are separate from the military establishment, we offer an essential option for men and women who might otherwise fail to seek or receive appropriate services.

We are also offering services to parents, siblings, and unmarried partners who are not entitled to receive mental health benefits through the military. Although these individuals may have access to mental health services through other means, they are less likely to seek the help they need and deserve if that help is difficult to find or costly. Our goal is to provide easy access to skilled professionals for all of the people affected by the current war. The participating mental health professionals offer a wide range of services including individual, marital, and family therapy; substance abuse counseling; treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder; and counseling for individuals with traumatic brain injuries. Whether it is a young military wife who is anxious because her four-year-old has had nightmares since her husband’s deployment or a father who is struggling to cope with his son's loss of a leg as a result of an explosion in Iraq, both will receive the assistance they need to move through their experience. The healthier the support system for the returning troops, the lower the risk of severe or prolonged dysfunction within these military families..."

Thanks to NCHV for the link!