ARMED FORCES NEWS
VA SHIFTS FUNDS TO PAY FOR HEALTH CARE
January 5, 2007

Secretary of Veterans Affairs R. James Nicholson notified Congress Dec. 19 that he was transferring $250 million from construction and maintenance in order to pay for medical care costs for veterans. His letter suggested that, if Congress doesn’t provide more money, Nicholson might have to shift additional funds. In the short term, the initial shift will be reflected in delays in facilitymaintenance, but if VA funding remains flat-lined beyond mid-February, the department might have to place a freeze on hiring. This would prevent scheduled hiring of additional claims workers to reduce the buildup of pending claims. The administration had requested a $2.8 billion increase for health care in 2007, to be used for mental health and long-term care programs as well as medical care for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. 

 

ARMED FORCES NEWS
VA ADVISES ON AID AND ATTENDANCE BENEFIT
January 12, 2007

The Department of Veterans Affairs is notifying wartime veterans and surviving spouses of deceased wartime veterans about an under-used, special monthly pension benefit called Aid and Attendance. The Aid and Attendance pension may be available to veterans and surviving spouses who have in-home care or who live in nursing-homes or assisted-living facilities. Many elderly veterans and surviving spouses whose incomes are above the congressionally mandated legal limit for a VA pension may still be eligible for Aid and Attendance if they have large medical expenses, which can include nursing home expenses, for which they do not receive reimbursement. To qualify, claimants must be incapable of self support and in need of regular personal assistance. For more information, call 1-800-827-1000, or visit www.va.gov or any local veterans service organization. Applications may be submitted on-line at www.vabenefits.vba.va.gov/vonapp/main.asp.

ARMED FORCES NEWS
STUDIES LINK PTSD, HEART ATTACKS

January 12, 2007

A long-term study by Harvard and Boston University researchers of 1,946 male veterans of World War II and Korea shows that veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder incur a greater chance of heart attacks when they age. The study commenced with questionnaires administered in 1986 and 1990, then researchers followed the subjects from 10 to 15 years. During the interval, veterans with a higher amount of PTSD symptoms recorded a higher incidence of heart attacks. For example, each level of symptoms reported in the 1990 questionnaire resulted in a subsequent rise of 18 percent risk of chest pain or heart attack. The project adds to earlier studies that link PTSD with auto-immune diseases such as psoriasis and arthritis. 

ARMED FORCES NEWS
VA CONTINUES COVERAGE FOR GULF WAR SYNDROME

January 12, 2007

The Department of Veterans Affairs issued an interim rule in the Federal Register in December that continues a presumption that veterans of the Persian Gulf War with disabilities from undiagnosed illnesses incurred during their service are eligible for disability and other VA benefits. The new presumptive ruling about the Gulf War syndrome is expected to be final 60 days from the December filing, and will continue the coverage until Dec. 31, 2011. Expanded research extends to veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom within the Southwest Asia theater of operations. Comments on the interim ruling will be accepted until Feb. 16, when the final rule will be issued. 

ARMED FORCES NEWS
VA HEALTH CARE TOPS PRIVATE SECTOR AGAIN
January 26, 2007

For the seventh straight year, the Department of Veterans Affairs has received significantly higher marks than the private health care industry on a leading independent survey of customer satisfaction. The annual results from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) also showed that overall satisfaction of patients for both inpatient and outpatient services increased last year at VA medical facilities. The survey showed that the VA scored 84 percent in customer satisfaction for inpatient services, up one point from the 2005 rating and two points from last year’s mark. VA significantlyoutscored the private sector in both categories, by 10 points for inpatient care, and eight points for outpatient care. Inpatient and outpatient scores on the 100-point scale also were significantly higher than the average of 71 percent for inpatient and 73 percent for outpatient services for other federal health care systems. 

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