MY SAN ANTONIO
Military 
FEDS REVEAL MORE DEADLY GERMS UNLEASHED ON SOLDIERS
By Matt Kelley 
Associated Press 

Web Posted : 11/01/2002 12:00 AM 

WASHINGTON — The military secretly tested sarin nerve agent in a Hawaii forest preserve in 1967, the Pentagon acknowledged Thursday in the latest disclosures about Cold War-era testing of biological and chemical weapons.
Other secret tests in Hawaii in 1966 and the Panama Canal Zone in 1963 released a germ meant as a harmless stand-in for the bacteria that cause anthrax, the Defense Department said. 

A 1966 experiment in an undisclosed "tropical jungle type environment" involved spraying tear gas on unprotected U.S. military volunteers.

The Defense Department released summaries of five chemical and biological weapons tests Thursday. The disclosures were part of an effort to research and make public such tests from the 1960s and 1970s to alert veterans who may have been exposed.

The tests were part of Project 112, a military program in the 1960s and 1970s to test chemical and biological weapons and defenses. Parts of the testing program done on Navy ships were called Project SHAD, or Shipboard Hazard and Defense.

The United States scrapped its biological and chemical weapons programs in the early 1970s.

Some of those involved in the tests say they now suffer health problems linked to their exposure. They are pressing the Veterans Affairs Department to compensate them.

The Pentagon this year acknowledged for the first time that some of the 1960s tests used real chemical and biological weapons, not benign stand-ins.

The Defense Department has identified about 5,000 service members involved in tests at sea and 2,100 more involved in the tests on land, Dr. Jonathan Perlin of the Veterans Affairs Department said this month. He said 53 veterans had filed health claims for their exposure during the tests. 

The agency has sent letters to 1,400 veterans involved in the tests at sea, Perlin said.

The test using sarin in Hawaii was named "Red Oak" and conducted in the Upper Waiakea Forest Reserve on the island of Hawaii in April and May 1967. The testers detonated sarin-filled 155 mm artillery shells to study how the nerve agent dispersed in a tropical jungle.

Even small amounts of sarin can cause a thrashing, choking death.

The health effects of long-term exposure to low levels of sarin haven't been determined, the Pentagon said.

Other tests made public Thursday involved use of Bacillus globigii bacteria, which are related to the Bacillus anthracis germ that causes anthrax. 

Although at the time officials believed BG was harmless, it was later determined it can cause life-threatening infections. 

11/01/2002


ARMED FORCES NEWS
DOD RELEASES MORE SHAD FACTS
November 8, 2002
 

The Department of Defense has released five new fact sheets on chemical and biological warfare tests conducted by the Deseret Test Center in the 1960s in support of Project 112. The fact sheets cover four tests. Two, Yellow Leaf and Red Oak, Phase I, were conducted partially in the Panama Canal Zone and on the island of Hawaii. Big Jack (Phases A and B) was conducted entirely in the Panama Canal Zone. Records indicate the fourth test, Pin Point, was conducted in a tropical jungle environment in an unspecified location. Investigators continue to seek information for this test, which used CS (tear gas). Simulants for chemical and biological warfare agents were used in all the other tests except for Red Oak, Phase I, which used the nerve agent sarin in the Hawaii trials only. Veterans who believe they were involved in the tests and desire medical evaluations should call the VA's Helpline at (800) 749-8387.

VETERANS AFFAIRS SECRETARY FEARS DEPARTMENT 
IS LOSING FOCUS ON THOSE WOUNDED IN WAR

 
 
 


Stephen Barr can be reached by e-mail at barrs@washpost.com.
 
By Stephen Barr
November 11, 2002

Today is a big day for Anthony J. Principi, the secretary of veterans affairs. A "full day," as he puts it.

Principi kicks off Veterans Day 2002 with an early morning White House reception. He escorts President Bush to Arlington National Cemetery, then stops by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He wraps up the day at a reception hosted by the Blinded Veterans Association.

"It's an inspiring day. Arlington is always inspiring, always emotional," Principi says.

He talks while leaning forward in a high-backed chair on the 10th floor of the Veterans Affairs Department headquarters off Lafayette Square. A Dallas Cowboys helmet rests atop a cabinet near his desk, a reminder of his friendship with his U.S. Naval Academy classmate Roger Staubach.

Approaching Veterans Day, he looks across the vast VA bureaucracy and sees marked improvement in how the agency processes benefits and pension claims and provides health care. But he also sees a VA stretched thin and worries about the agency's primary mission: serving those injured in war, especially the severely disabled.

Principi's concerns grow out of what he calls "a test" conducted this summer. He told Gordon H. Mansfield, an assistant VA secretary, to "put on your oldest jeans and oldest T-shirt and wheel yourself into outpatient clinics."

Mansfield, who has been paralyzed since being shot during the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War, rolled his wheelchair into eight VA clinics in two states. Six clinics told him "that they were oversubscribed and that he basically could not get in," Principi said.

"One clinic told him to drive to the nearest VA medical center, which was 60 to 90 miles away. At another clinic, a clerk mentioned to him that he was no different than any other veteran, because every veteran was created equal.

"I got quite upset when he reported back to me what had happened. I said, 'We're losing our focus.' I would like to take care of as many veterans as possible, but our first responsibility is 'to care for him who shall have borne the battle' -- the words on the building downstairs, Lincoln's words. That's why we were created, for the guy who took the shot."

Principi punctuates the last few words by curling his fist and delivering a mock blow to his stomach.

Mansfield's experience underscored what many know -- that numerous VA clinics are jammed. Nationwide, Principi estimates, 285,000 veterans are on waiting lists to see VA doctors.

Perhaps most troublesome to Principi, the department faces an increasing demand from veterans allowed into the VA system in 1996. That year, Congress and the Clinton administration expanded VA care to any of the nation's 25 million veterans, including those who do not have service-related ailments.

That group of veterans -- most are not disabled and many are not poor -- has grown from 3 percent of the VA workload in 1996 to 33 percent today, and Principi estimates that they will make up more than 40 percent of the workload by the end of the decade.

The reason for the heavier workload: prescription drugs. Most pay only $7 for a 30-day supply from the VA.

"Many of them are older. They need pharmaceutical coverage. And we've told them they can come to the VA and get those prescriptions filled, and they have done so. It has put a great burden on the VA to meet that demand at the same time ensuring the service-disabled and those that need specialized services get the care," Principi says.

The VA, the nation's largest health care system, has used its leverage to hold the line on drug costs. Still, the growing demand means the VA will spend more than $3 billion this year on pharmacy services.

After Mansfield's tour of clinics, Principi told his staff to set up a "priority schedule" at clinics so veterans who are 50 percent or more disabled can receive prompt attention. The decision has been well received in Florida, New England and in the West, he says.

"Not managing our growth is a prescription for failure," Principi says. "We should not let that happen."

Stephen Barr's e-mail address is barrs@washpost.com.

 

© 2001 The Washington Post Company

DAV

CONCURRENT RECEIPT UPDATE

November 14, 2002
 


The persistence and determination of our members and others in the fight for concurrent receipt have resulted in the likelihood that combat wounded veterans will soon see additional benefits. Other veterans whose injuries or illnesses are directly linked to certain hazardous military activities may also soon receive additional benefits. 

Concurrent receipt was not enacted, and the fight to attain full justice for disabled military retirees is not over; however, using dollar signs as marks of progress, it is clear that our fight has not been ineffective. The new plan will compensate disabled military retirees at an estimated total amount of $4 billion to $9 billion over ten years. Still, it is disappointing that despite such an overwhelming number of cosponsors, a more comprehensive plan was not enacted. 

According to Committee leaders, a more comprehensive plan would have killed the FY03 Defense Bill, which contains provisions that are vital to the war on terror. Senator John Warner (R-VA) acknowledged that the final agreement was “a thin slice” of the concurrent receipt benefit that will eventually become law. He compared the current agreement to a “beachhead in law” from which future expansion and progress can be made. 

Certainly, the Disabled American Veterans will make every effort to ensure that this first step is expanded to include all those who have incurred service-connected injuries in their military careers. 

The new benefit establishes special compensation for certain disabled retirees with 20 years or more active duty, or a combination of active duty and reserve time. The special compensation will equal the amount of retirement pay that is normally withheld for VA compensation for combat-related or other hazardous duties disabilities. The new benefit will be administered by the Department of Defense and will not involve the Department of Veterans' Affairs. 

Retirees with combat-related disabilities will be eligible for the new special compensation. The amount will be the same as compensation paid for the combat wound. Also included are retirees with disability ratings of 60% or higher for other illnesses or injuries attributable to combat situations, combat-oriented training, hazardous duty, or instrumentalities of war. Disabilities that were incurred in the preceding four categories qualify for the new plan: 

· If the disabling condition was incurred as a result of armed conflict (not resulting in a purple heart) 
· If the disabling condition was incurred while performing hazardous service--examples are parachute duty, demolition duty, etc. 
· If the disabling condition was incurred under conditions simulating war--examples are injuries resulting from war games, practice alerts, grenade and live fire training, hand-to-hand combat training, etc. 
· If the disabling condition was caused by an instrumentality of war--examples include if a person steps on a mine, accidents involving military combat vehicles, injury or sickness caused by fumes or gas from military ordnance, etc. There must be a direct causal relationship between the instrumentality of war and the disability. 
· All the criteria are based on existing DOD regulations. 

Unlike the current version of special compensation that pays a flat rate, the new plan will not be limited to a specific dollar amount, nor is there a requirement that the disability must have occurred within a specific number of years after retirement. Eligible retirees must choose either the new or the old plan, to acquire the maximum benefit. 

The effective date for the new program will be six months from the date of enactment, which likely be this month, so the effective date should be in May 2003. There will be no phase-in period; full payments will be authorized on the effective date. 

The Disabled American Veterans neither opposes nor endorses this plan. We do not endorse it because it is not concurrent receipt, and it falls far short of the justice we seek on behalf of all disabled military retirees. We do not oppose it because it does benefit a number of our members. 

Though we are deeply disappointed that nearly ninety percent of our lawmakers have reneged on their stated support of full concurrent receipt, we are encouraged to know that the pressure of our 1.3 million members to do the right thing is being felt in Washington. Please help us keep the pressure on the upcoming 108th Congress, to stand by their word and enact concurrent receipt. 

 

ARMED FORCES NEWS
PDTS PROTECTS PRESCRIPTION PATIENTS
November 15,2002
 

Throughout the military health care system, the Pharmacy Data Transaction Service links patient information among more than 500 pharmacies at military treatment facilities worldwide, the National Mail Order Program, and more than 40,000 civilian retail pharmacies that are part of the Tricare managed care network nationwide. Regardless of location, when using the PDTS, if a beneficiary has a prescription filled at a military medical facility, then at a network retail pharmacy, and later through the NMOP, providers and pharmacists at authorized Tricare sites worldwide will have access to the same historical patient prescription information. Thus PDTS allows pharmacists to identify duplicate or contraindicated therapies where a patient may need extra counseling to ensure there are no adverse reactions. PDTS also can alert health care providers to possible cases of prescription abuse.

ARMED FORCES NEWS
CONCURRENT RECEIPT DEADLOCK EASES 
November 15, 2002

Purple Heart recipients would qualify for disability payments awarded by the Department of Veterans Affairs without forfeiting a dollar-for-dollar amount from their military retired pay under a compromise reached by lawmakers this week. According to the agreement, retirees who were awarded the Purple Heart for a combat injury would qualify if the disability was related to the injury. Certain other disabled veterans also might qualify, but not in the numbers originally proposed in separate House and Senate provisions. After final details were worked out by House-Senate negotiators, the deal was approved by voice vote on the House floor. If the measure is approved by the Senate it could end an impasse with the Bush administration, which had threatened a presidential veto of the original proposals. 
 

NEW BENEFIT FOR SOME VETERANS
November 15, 2002

 
 
 


Stephen Barr can be reached by e-mail at barrs@washpost.com.
 
By Stephen Barr
Friday, November 15, 2002

Disabled military retirees who have been awarded the Purple Heart and some others with combat-related ailments will be entitled to special compensation under legislation approved this week by Congress.

The new benefit is an important step toward ending a dispute over a 105-year-old law that requires military retirees to give up a dollar of their Defense Department retirement pay for each dollar they collect in disability benefits paid by the Veterans Affairs Department.

Under the legislation, the amount of special compensation would equal the amount of retirement pay forfeited because of veterans disability compensation, allowing "concurrent receipt" of the benefits.

The measure falls short of what veterans groups wanted: full retirement and disability payments not just for some military retirees but for all veterans with service-related disabilities and 20 years of service. That goal seemed within reach until midsummer, when the White House lodged a strong veto threat against House and Senate bills favored by veterans groups.

The White House objected to concurrent receipt because of the precedent involved -- allowing federal beneficiaries to receive more than one type of benefit for the same period of service -- and the multibillion-dollar cost of an extra benefit payment.

Faced with a veto threat, Warner, the next chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) met with Bush administration officials to find a compromise.

Warner said the compromise represented "a beachhead" that will give Congress a chance next year "to get together the body of facts so there is a greater understanding of the complexity of this issue."

The new benefit will begin six months after Bush signs the fiscal 2003 defense authorization act, which includes the retiree compromise.

The special compensation would go to military retirees with 20 years of service who were awarded the Purple Heart because of combat injuries and to retirees who are rated at least 60 percent disabled because of armed conflict, hazardous duty, training exercises or mishaps involving military equipment. Conditions caused by Agent Orange, Gulf War syndrome and post-traumatic stress also will be covered.

About 35,000 miliary retirees should qualify for the special compensation, veterans advocates said.


ST. LOUIS TODAY
GULF WAR VET FIGHTS VA OVER 
WHETHER PILL CAUSED HIS DISEASE

November 17, 2002

© 2002, St. Louis Today
By Greg Freeman
Document Dated: Nov-17-2002


Dave Haner says he's gotten over the bitterness. But he can't forget what's happened to him since he served in the Gulf War.

In 1991, Haner was a Navy corpsman, a medic with the Marines. When the Gulf War began, he started in Saudi Arabia, went to Kuwait and finished up in Kuwait City. During that time Haner, like so many other Americans sent there at that time, was given an experimental chemical - pyridostigmine bromide. The chemical, given in pill form, was administered to prevent death in the event of exposure to certain types of nerve gas.

Haner thought nothing of it at the time. He was a career serviceman, ultimately spending 20 years in the armed services before finishing his career in New Orleans.

At the end of 1995, Haner began experiencing pain. Government doctors took a while to diagnose it but finally determined that he had a blood blister on his liver, which was finally removed in 1997.

"The pain was gone and I was grateful for that," Haner said. "But in the meantime, I started having other problems."

Haner began having problems with his memory. Things that were once easy for him to remember now were difficult.

In addition, he noticed that his muscle tone was degenerating. Veterans Affairs doctors were stumped. Time went by and Haner got weaker.

He gave up on the VA docs. "They were too slow and they weren't well organized," he said. Private doctors diagnosed the muscle problem as myasthenia gravis, muscle weakness that results from an autoimmune attack against the nerves and muscles.

By this time, Haner and his family had moved to the St. Louis area because his son was attending Washington University. Haner worked at several different companies before finally having to go on disability.

He filed a disability claim with the VA. Again, the process was slow. Finally, he was turned down, because the federal government has not determined with certainty that pyridostigmine bromide was the cause of his problems.

The Pentagon estimates that 90,000 troops who served in the Gulf War complain of such illnesses as muscle and joint problems, fatigue, headaches and skin rashes. Officials have not ruled out the chemical as a possible contributor to some of the illnesses. But they haven't ruled it in either.

Other studies suggest strong connections between pyridostigmine bromide and some of the illnesses veterans are now experiencing. Private physicians have suggested the same. But until the government officially determines a connection, Haner and veterans like him will be left out in the cold.

For Haner, it's not for lack of trying. He's looked everywhere for help. He's contacted the offices of Sens. Christopher "Kit" Bond and Jean Carnahan. Both have contacted the VA on his behalf, but have only received responses that the government is looking into it. Rep. Todd Akin's office has received similar responses.

Now on the verge of bankruptcy, Haner is doing all he can just to try to stay afloat.

"Every month is a struggle trying to figure out how to pay the bills," he said. "That's all I can worry about right now."

With the United States poised to go back to Iraq, shameful doesn't seem like too strong a word to use for how some Gulf War veterans have been treated. It doesn't send the most positive message from our country to the men and women who may have to go and fight in the next war.

Haner and others who have served our country with honor deserve our thanks. But they surely deserve to be taken care of as well.


As posted by Grant Szabo 
Editor/Founder, Gulf War Veteran Resource Pages

http://www.gulfweb.org/doc_show.cfm?ID=772

GULF WAR VETERAN RESOURCE PAGES
GETTING HELP THROUGH VFW 
AND AMERICAN LEGION

November 21, 2002

By Grant Szabo
Document Dated: Nov-21-2002

More than 1 million Gulf War veterans have filed VA claims. Your illnesses are valid, and you shouldn't give up or give in. Fighting the VA takes awhile; with the right assistance, you can get help; therefore you should keep fighting and not let anyone give you any BS.

You can get free help -- by contacting the VFW at 800-VFW-1899, or their web site: http://www.vfw.org. You may also try the American Legion at http://www.legion.org.

Post a message or call and someone from VFW or Legion will call back within 24 hours to help you with your VA medical and disability benefits.


As posted by Grant Szabo 
Editor/Founder, Gulf War Veteran Resource Pages

http://www.gulfweb.org/doc_show.cfm?ID=773

ARMED FORCES NEWS
CLASS ACTION SUIT TAKES A BIG HIT
November 22, 2002
 


CLASS ACTION SUIT TAKES A BIG HIT
On Nov. 18, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., ruled against a class action lawsuit on behalf of certain military retirees by a count of nine to four. The suit, filed in 1996 by retired Air Force Medal-of-Honor recipient, Col. Bud Day, alleges that the government reneged on a lifetime contract when a 1956 law was passed that changed "hospital space shall be made available" to "may be made available." The suit seeks to restore free health care for military retirees 65 and older who were on active duty before the law was passed, and their dependents. It also requests reimbursement of money that has been withheld from Social Security pay to finance Medicare Part B, as well as relief from future Medicare deductions. Day has stated previously that, if turned down by the appeals court, he will seek a hearing from the U.S. Supreme Court.

CLASS ACTION COURT EXPRESSES SYMPATHY
In the majority opinion rejecting the class action lawsuit, the court wrote: "We cannot readily imagine more sympathetic plaintiffs than the retired officers of the World War II and Korean War era involved in this case. They served their country for at least 20 years with the understanding that when they retired they and their dependents would receive full free health care for life . . . Federal judges have a duty to uphold theConstitution and the laws, even if that means making unpleasant or unpopular decisions. Congress, on the other hand, has the power to make law, not simply to interpret and apply it . . . Perhaps Congress will consider using its legal power to address the moral claims raised bySchism and Reinlie on their own behalf, and indirectly for other affected retirees." The dissenting opinion began with the Kipling poem: 

"You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all;
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face;
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' Chuck him out, the brute!
But it's Saviour of his country when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees."
 

ARMED FORCES NEWS
CONCURRENT RECEIPT: WHO WINS?
November 22, 2002
 


CONCURRENT RECEIPT: PART WIN, PART LOSS
The fiscal 2003 defense authorization act, which the President is expected to sign, contains compromise provisions for partial concurrent receipt. Some veterans and veterans organizations have expressed bitterness and dismay atthe slash from earlier plans. For example, American Legion commander, Ronald F. Conley, stated: On the campaign trail a short two years ago, you made repeated promises to give veterans their earned benefits. Well, Mr. President, your record is being written." He concluded: "The American Legion will not rest until all retired disabled military veterans are given the compensation they rightfully earned by honorable service to their country. For more than a century, military retirees who have been awarded disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs have been forced to forfeit $1 of retired pay for every $1 of VA disability pay received. Sen. John Warner, R-Va., who will chair the Senate Armed Services Committee in the new Congress,said partial concurrent receipt is at least "a beachhead." (For details, see following item.)

CONCURRENT RECEIPT: WHO WINS?
Under the partial concurrent receipt included in the fiscal 2003 defense authorization act, the Department of Defense (not the Department of Veterans Affairs) is to start implementing the provisions six months after the President signs the act, which projects an effective date of May of 2003. Details: 

Payments: "special compensation" for certain disabled retirees (described below) who have at least 20 years of active duty or a combination of active duty time and Reserve points equaling 20 years. Size of the payment will be the full amount of retired pay forfeited due to VA compensation received. 

Eligibility: (1) any qualifying retiree with a VA disability rating of 10 percent or higher associated with a Purple Heart award, based on the disability rating awarded for the combat wound; or (2) any qualifying retiree with a disability rating of 60 percent or higher for other illnesses or injuries attributable to combat situations, combat-oriented training, hazardous duty, or instrumentalities of war. 

Numbers Involved: Estimates range from 10,000 to 33,000 eligible retirees, with cost estimates ranging from $200 million to $1 billion annually, depending on how DoD interprets combat-related eligibility. 
 

MY SAN ANTONIO
Military 
VETS ANGRY AT GOVERNMENT OVER 
HEALTH CARE BENEFITS

November 24, 2002

By Angela K. Brown 
Associated Press 

Web Posted : 11/24/2002 12:00 AM 

WACO — Veterans groups say they're fighting mad about problems in getting benefits they earned, and they want President Bush to know.
They've erected a billboard that uses a quote from one of Bush's campaign speeches in 2000. It reads, "'Promises made will be promises kept' — U.S. government denies military retirees earned healthcare, disabled military retirees retirement pay."

The sign is about 20 miles from Crawford, the 700-resident town that has no billboards and is near the president's 1,600-acre ranch.

"I regret that I ever voted for him," said Jack Hollinsworth, 66, a Navy veteran from Duncan, Okla., who drove to Waco for a rally attended by two dozen people Saturday. "He promised he would help us, and he's letting us down."

Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit denied claims by World War II and Korean War veterans who said the government reneged on a promise of free lifetime health care if they stayed in the service for 20 years.

The government conceded that recruiters made the promises, but the Defense Department argued there was no valid contract because the assurances were not backed by law.

The veterans have been on winning and losing sides of the case. A federal judge in Jacksonville, Fla., ruled against them in 1998. In February, a three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled in their favor.

The veterans, some of whom say Bush orchestrated the timing of the recent court decision after the election, plan to seek a Supreme Court hearing.

"The appeals court has told Congress they can break their promises any time they want to," Hollinsworth said. "They're saying: 'You military retirees, you forgotten souls, you don't count. You're just like a worn-out combat boot. Don't bother us no more."'

The billboard was paid for by the Military Retirees Grass Roots Group, formed in 1997 to address health care concerns of the nation's 27 million veterans, including 2 million who retired after 20 years of service. The group has erected similar billboards in other states the past few years.

Members from the Veterans Voting Bloc, a nonpartisan group that keeps its 2,000 members apprised of candidates' stances on military issues, also attended the rally.

Hollinsworth said he lost all retirement benefits when he was declared 100 percent disabled because every dollar paid for disability is deducted from a veterans retirement fund. He has severe hearing loss from jet noise, arthritis and emphysema.

Others say the government's health care plan for veterans older than 65 is more confusing and frustrating than Medicare, and many military retirees can't find doctors in their areas willing to accept the plan.

THE WASHINGTON POST
BUDGET IMPASSE MAY EXACERBATE VA CLAIM BACKLOG
November 26, 2002

© 2002, The Washington Post
Document Dated: Nov-26-2002

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A39252-2002Nov25.html

Progress the Department of Veterans Affairs has made in slashing a huge backlog of benefit requests could be threatened if Congress fails to approve a federal budget by February, VA Secretary Anthony J. Principi said.

Principi said he increased the agency's compensation and pension work force over the past year by 1,200 people and they helped cut the backlog of claims from 600,000 in March.

He had planned to hire 150 additional employees, including some registered nurses whose medical training would help them navigate the complex disability claim system.

"If we don't get a budget by January, February, I'm going to start cutting back" on new hires, Principi said in a recent interview.

When the 2002 fiscal year concluded in September, VA had reduced the backlog on claims of all types to 470,205. Disability claims fell from a March high of 422,935 to 348,702.


As posted by Grant Szabo 
Editor/Founder, Gulf War Veteran Resource Pages

http://www.gulfweb.org/doc_show.cfm?ID=774

DISABLED AMERICAN VETERAN'S ISSUE PAPER
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
November 27, 2002

FROM: Joseph A. Violante, National Legislative Director

SUBJ: LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

DATE: November 27, 2002

SUMMARY OF VETERANS' LEGISLATION
Enacted Into Law During the 107th Congress, 2nd Session
H.R. 3253, Department of Veterans Affairs Emergency Preparedness Act of 2002
Public Law 107-287, Signed by President Bush on November 7, 2002
Establishes four medical emergency preparedness centers:
-To develop methods of defense against the effects of chemical, biological, and radiological weapons posing threats to the public health and safety. 
-To provide education, training, and advice to health care professionals, including health care professionals outside the Veterans Health Administration. 
-In the event of a disaster or emergency, to provide laboratory, epidemiological, medical, or other assistance to federal, state, and local health care agencies responding to the disaster or emergency. 
-
H.R. 4015, Jobs for Veterans Act
Public Law 107-288, Signed by President Bush on November 7, 2002
-Gives priority of service for veterans in Department of Labor job training programs. Priority of service is also extended to the spouse of any veteran:
 -who died of a service-connected disability 
-serving on active duty in the Armed Forces 
-missing in action 
-forcibly detained or interned in line of duty by a foreign government 
-who has a total disability resulting from a service-connected disability 
-who died while a total disability evaluation was in existence 
This bill also requires Federal contractors to take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment qualified covered veterans. This requirement applies to any subcontract in the amount of $100,000 or more entered into by a prime contractor. Veterans included in this provision are:

Disabled veterans 
-Veterans who served on active duty in the Armed Forces during a war or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign -badge has been authorized 
-Veterans who, while serving on active duty in the Armed Forces, participated in a United States military operation for which an -Armed Forces service medal was awarded 
-Recently separated veterans 
-The term qualified, with respect to an employment position, means having the ability to perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation for an individual with a disability.

H.R. 4085, Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2002
Public Law 107-247, Signed by President Bush on October 23, 2002
Increases the dollar amounts in effect for the payment of disability compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation by 1.4%.

S. 2237, Veterans' Benefits Improvements Act of 2002
-Pending President Bush’s signature (expected soon)
-Directs the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to consider non-service-related hearing loss in assessing the level of disability of veterans who also suffer from service-connected hearing loss. 
-Authorizes special monthly compensation for the loss of 25% or more of breast tissue for women veterans who have service-connected mastectomies or who have received radiation treatment of breast tissue. 
Increases the amount of special monthly compensation for Medal of Honor recipients from $600 to $1000. 
-Allows surviving spouses, remarrying after age 55, to retain CHAMPVA benefits. 
-Authorizes placement of a memorial in Arlington National Cemetery honoring World War II veterans who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. 
-Requires VA to contract with outside scientific experts to study veterans' exposure to acoustic trauma (loud noises that cause hearing loss or tinnitus) during military service from World War II to the present. VA also must examine the number of claims presented by veterans seeking service connection or health care for hearing loss and tinnitus. 
-Authorizes a two-year pilot program for VA to provide hybrid adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs). Like other adjustable rate mortgages, hybrid ARMs provide a lower fixed interest rate for the first 3 to 10 years of the loan, with annual interest rate adjustments thereafter. 
-Permits disabled veterans who are eligible for specially adapted housing grants to continue their Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance coverage beyond age 70. Adaptive housing grants allow disabled veterans to alter their homes in order to better accommodate their disabilities. This provision allows older, disabled veterans to maintain insurance on these homes. 
-Opens decisions of the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) to possible review by Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit for questions of law. 
-Modifies standard for reversal of erroneous findings of the Board of Veterans' Appeals by CAVC. 
-Grants CAVC authority to award EAJA fees to non-attorney practitioners. 
H.R. 4546, Bob Stump National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003
Pending President Bush’s signature (expected soon)
-Establishes a new special compensation for certain disabled retirees with 20 years or more active duty, or a combination of active duty and reserve time. The special compensation will equal the amount of retirement pay that is normally withheld for VA compensation for combat-related or other hazardous duty disabilities. The new benefit will be administered by the Department of Defense and will not involve the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Military retirees with combat-related disabilities will be eligible for the new special compensation. The amount will be the same as compensation paid for the combat wound for recipients of the Purple Heart Medal. Also included are retirees with disability ratings of 60% or higher for other illnesses or injuries attributable to combat situations, combat-oriented training, hazardous duty, or instrumentalities of war. Disabilities that were incurred in the preceding four categories qualify for the new plan:
-If the disabling condition was incurred as a result of armed conflict (not resulting in a Purple Heart Medal). 
-If the disabling condition was incurred while performing hazardous service—examples are parachute duty, demolition duty, etc. 
-If the disabling condition was incurred under conditions simulating war—examples are injuries resulting from war games, practice alerts, grenade and live fire training, hand-to-hand combat training, etc. 
-If the disabling condition was caused by an instrumentality of war—examples include if a person steps on a mine, accidents involving military combat vehicles, injury or sickness caused by fumes or gas from military ordnance, etc. There must be a direct causal relationship between the instrumentality of war and the disability. 
-All the criteria are based on existing DOD regulations. 
-Unlike the current version of special pay that provides a flat rate, the new plan will not be limited to a specific dollar amount, nor is there a requirement that the disability must have occurred within a specific number of years after retirement. Eligible retirees must choose either the new or the old plan, to acquire the maximum benefit.

The effective date for the new program will be six months from the date of enactment, which most likely will be this month, so the effective date should be in May 2003. There will be no phase-in period; full payments will be authorized on the effective date.

JOSEPH A. VIOLANTE
National Legislative Director 

 


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