August 2010 Archive
 


August, 2010 VA Simplifies Access to Health Care and Benefits for Veterans with PTSD

New Regulations on PTSD Claims: Quick Facts

WASHINGTON – Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Eric K. Shinseki announced a critical step forward in providing an easier process for veterans seeking health care and disability compensation for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), with the publication of a final regulation in the Federal Register. “This nation has a solemn obligation to the men and women who have honorably served this country and suffer from the often devastating emotional wounds of war,” said Shinseki. “This final regulation goes a long way to ensure that veterans receive the benefits and services they need.” By publishing a final regulation today in the Federal Register to simplify the process for a veteran to claim service connection for PTSD, VA reduces the evidence needed if the trauma claimed by a veteran is related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity and is consistent with the places, types and circumstances of the veteran’s service. This science-based regulation relies on evidence that concluded that a veteran’s deployment to a war zone is linked to an increased risk of PTSD. Under the new rule, VA would not require corroboration of a stressor related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity if a VA doctor confirms that the stressful experience recalled by a veteran adequately supports a diagnosis of PTSD and the veteran’s symptoms are related to the claimed stressor. Previously, claims adjudicators were required to corroborate that a non-combat veteran actually experienced a stressor related to hostile military activity. This final rule simplifies the development that is required for these cases. VA expects this rulemaking to decrease the time it takes VA to decide access to care and claims falling under the revised criteria. More than 400,000 veterans currently receiving compensation benefits are service connected for PTSD. Combined with VA’s shorter claims form, VA’s new streamlined, science-based regulation allows for faster and more accurate decisions that also expedite access to medical care and other benefits for Veterans. PTSD is a medically recognized anxiety disorder that can develop from seeing or experiencing an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury to which a person responds with intense fear, helplessness or horror, and is not uncommon among war veterans. Disability compensation is a tax-free benefit paid to a veteran for disabilities that are a result of -- or made worse by -- injuries or diseases associated with active service. For additional information, go to www.va.gov or call VA’s toll free benefits number at 1-800-827-1000.

New Regulations on PTSD Claims: Quick Facts

WASHINGTON – Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Eric K. Shinseki announced a critical step forward in providing an easier process for veterans seeking health care and disability compensation for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), with the publication of a final regulation in the Federal Register. “This nation has a solemn obligation to the men and women who have honorably served this country and suffer from the often devastating emotional wounds of war,” said Shinseki. “This final regulation goes a long way to ensure that veterans receive the benefits By publishing a final regulation today in the Federal Register to simplify the process for a veteran to claim service connection for PTSD, VA reduces the evidence needed if the trauma claimed by a veteran is related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity and is consistent with the places, types and circumstances of the veteran’s service. This science-based regulation relies on evidence that concluded that a veteran’s deployment to a war zone is linked to an increased risk of PTSD. Under the new rule, VA would not require corroboration of a stressor related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity if a VA doctor confirms that the stressful experience recalled by a veteran adequately supports a diagnosis of PTSD and the veteran’s symptoms are related to the claimed stressor. Previously, claims adjudicators were required to corroborate that a non-combat veteran actually experienced a stressor related to hostile

military activity. This final rule simplifies the development that is required for these cases. VA expects this rulemaking to decrease the time it takes VA to decide access to care and claims falling under the revised criteria. More than 400,000 veterans currently receiving compensation benefits are service connected for PTSD. Combined with VA’s shorter claims form, VA’s new streamlined, science-based regulation allows for faster and more accurate decisions that also expedite access to medical care and other benefits for Veterans. PTSD is a medically recognized anxiety disorder that can develop from seeing or experiencing an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury to which a person responds with intense fear, helplessness or horror, and is not uncommon among war veterans. Disability compensation is a tax-free benefit paid to a veteran for disabilities that are a result of -- or made worse by -- injuries or diseases associated with active service. For additional information, go to www.va.gov or call VA’s toll free benefits number at 1-800-827-1000.

• The new rule will simplify and streamline the processing of PTSD claims, reducing the time and frustration traditionally involved when veterans apply for disability compensation for PTSD and access for mental health care.

• Veterans who do not otherwise meet eligibility requirements for enrollment in the VA health care system cannot receive mental health treatment at a VA facility without a disability rating from VA.

• This new rule is for veterans of any era.

• This decision is consistent with recent Institute of Medicine studies of scientific data.

• The new rule will apply to claims:

• received by VA on or after July 12, 2010;

• received before July 12, 2010 but not yet decided by a VA regional office;

• appealed to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals on or after July 12, 2010;

• appealed to the Board before July 12, 2010, but not yet decided by the Board; and

• pending before VA on or after July 12, 2010, because the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims vacated a Board decision and remanded for re-adjudication.

• Not all combat wounds are visible. For decades, VA has led the health-care community in treating and researching the psychological wounds of war, especially PTSD.

• Since the start of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, VA has dramatically expanded the number of its mental health professionals to care for returning veterans, including 1,000 just last year alone.

• VA will continue its world-class research program and its aggressive outreach to returning veterans. The Department is committed to continuing to improve its processes to meet the needs of our newest generation of heroes.

• VA will continue to verify war deployments with the Department of Defense (DoD) to protect our Veterans from the backlash against any attempts at fraud.

• VA is the largest integrated health care system in the nation and consistently ranks at the top, or near the top for quality and safety by various sources to include seven US News & World Reports’ “Top US hospitals,” and HHS’s & Medicare Hospital Comparison metrics.


VA Research Finds Possible Link Between Head Trauma and Chronic Traumatic Encephalomyopathy
August 19, 2010

Research May Lead to Better Treatment for ALS-Like Disease

WASHINGTON -- Researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CSTE) at Boston University School of Medicine have provided the first pathological evidence of a link between repeated head injuries-such as those experienced by athletes in contact sports such as boxing, football, and hockey-and a disease (chronic traumatic Encephalomyopathy) that resembles amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The results will appear in the September issue of the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology.

"This initial research shows great promise for further understanding what people go through after a traumatic brain injury, whether sustained on the battlefield, during a contact sport, or from other injury," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. "Advancing our knowledge in this area is the key to better treatment outcomes."

The brain has long kept scientists baffled, as its elaborate structure makes it uniquely difficult to study. Brain biopsies are too risky as general practice, and diagnostic images often fall short of providing the desired details for full understanding of brain function. So, neurology researchers rely heavily on brain banks, including some housed at the Bedford (Mass.) VA Medical Center, for collecting clues about the biological nature of brain-related medical conditions.

For the new study, Dr. Ann McKee and colleagues at the CSTE examined the brains and spinal cords of 12 athletes donated by family members to the CSTE Brain Bank at the Bedford VA Medical Center.

The researchers found that all 12 athletes showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive neurodegenerative disease caused by repetitive trauma to the brain. The condition can result in large accumulations of tau proteins, killing cells in regions of the brain responsible for mood and emotions.

In addition to CTE, three of the athletes had been afflicted by motor neuron disease, with severe and progressive muscle weakness and deterioration for several years before their death. The brains from patients with CTE and motor neuron disease showed a unique pattern of tau and deposits of another protein, TDP-43, in the spinal cord and brain. The pattern was different from that found in the most common form of ALS.

Previous epidemiological studies have suggested a possible link between repetitive head trauma experienced by athletes and combat veterans and the development of motor neuron diseases such as ALS.

"This is the first pathological evidence that repetitive head trauma might be associated with the development of an ALS-like disease," said McKee. "Although much more work is necessary to completely understand this association, if repetitive head trauma can trigger this kind of neurodegeneration, then by studying the effects of repetitive mild brain trauma, we can learn about the early triggers of ALS and how to slow, reduce and reverse them.

"Future work based on these observations offers a significant opportunity to develop treatments to benefit Veterans and all Americans well into the future," McKee said.

McKee and her colleagues are also studying whether military troops with traumatic brain injury from blasts or other exposures on the battlefield experience the same types of effects.

"We can't treat what we don't understand," says McKee. "The idea with these brain banks is to learn as much as possible about brain diseases, including their origins and any environmental or genetic triggers."

McKee is director of neuropathology at the Bedford (Mass.) VA Medical Center, where this research was conducted. She is also director of the Bedford-based VA brain banks, and CSTE co-director, as well as an associate professor of neuropathology and neurology at Boston University School of Medicine.

ALS affects about 30,000 people in the United States. It is relentlessly progressive and is nearly always fatal. The disease causes degeneration of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that leads to muscle weakness, muscle atrophy, and spontaneous muscle activity. The cause of ALS is unknown and there is no effective treatment.

In 2008, VA established ALS as a presumptive compensable illness for all Veterans with 90 days or more of continuously active service in the military.


Veterans with Disabilities to Learn Life-Changing Skills at Summer Sports Clinic in San Diego
August 25, 2010

Adaptive Sports Help Rehabilitate Injured Veterans

WASHINGTON - The National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic is an event like no other, uniquely designed to teach recently-injured Veterans how to surf, kayak, sail, cycle and enjoy other sports. The 3rd National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic, sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), will be held September 19 - 25 in San Diego.

"I have seen this clinic up close and have witnessed its life-changing effects on the Veterans who participate," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "Helping these Veterans rediscover their capabilities is why this Clinic was started."

Events at this important rehabilitation clinic include adaptive kayaking, sailing, track and field, cycling and surfing, using venues throughout the San Diego area, including the U.S. Olympic Training Center. At the week-long event, participants will have also built strong bonds and life-long relationships with fellow Veterans.

Participation is open to military Veterans who are eligible for VA medical care and have orthopedic amputations, traumatic brain injuries, burn injuries, psychological trauma, certain neurological conditions, visual impairment, spinal cord injuries or other injuries incurred during the past six years.

VA is an unmatched health care leader in rehabilitation, with an impassioned commitment to serve the nation's heroes past and present.

The Clinic is one of VA's six national rehabilitation events held each year, with sponsorship support for the Summer Clinic provided by original founding sponsors, Help Hospitalized Veterans and the Veterans Canteen Service, as well as national sponsors Health Net, Booz Allen Hamilton and Challenged America.

The VA San Diego Health care System is the host of this year's Clinic, and has hosted the event since its inception in 2008.

For more information about the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic, visit www.summersportsclinic.va.gov <http://www.summersportsclinic.va.gov/> , or contact Jose Llamas, VA Summer Sports Clinic public affairs coordinator, at (202) 461-7549.

VA is a recognized leader in rehabilitative and recreational therapies, and operates more than 1,400 sites of care, including 153 medical centers. (www.va.gov)


VA/NIH Award $6 Million for Substance Abuse Research
August 26, 2010


Studies to Fill Knowledge Gaps about OIF/OEF Service Members

WASHINGTON - The Department of Veterans Affairs is partnering with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to award $6 million in grants for research examining the link between substance abuse and military deployments and combat-related trauma.

"VA has a commitment to meet the full range of our Veterans' physical and mental health care needs, and that includes addressing substance abuse," said Dr. Joel Kupersmith, VA's chief research and development officer. "This coordinated research effort is one more way we are turning that commitment into action."

NIH agencies taking part in the initiative are the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the National Cancer Institute.

Several studies will look at treatment seeking patterns -- why and when Veterans ask for help, and why many don't. Scientists will also explore treatment strategies, including cognitive behavioral therapy and Web-based approaches, as well as the most effective therapies for soldiers who have other disorders, such as depression and substance abuse.

Researchers will also determine if early intervention can improve outcomes. Other projects will focus on how Veterans readjust to their work and families after returning from war.

Institutions receiving the grants include Brandeis University; Dartmouth College; the Medical University of South Carolina; the National Development and Research Institutes in New York City; the University of California, San Francisco; the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; the University of Missouri in Columbia; and the VA medical centers in West Haven, Conn.; Philadelphia; Little Rock, Ark.; and Seattle.

"These research projects will give us important information about the ways that combat stress and substance abuse affect returning military personnel and their families," said NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow.

"This knowledge will be used to improve our prevention and treatment approaches, which we hope will reduce the burden of combat-related trauma. Working cooperatively with VA and other partners will help in finding solutions for this shared concern."


VA Simplifies Access to PTSD Care, Benefits
August 28

Recent VA News Releases

VA Simplifies Access to Health Care and Benefits for Veterans with PTSD WASHINGTON (July 12, 2010) - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K.

Shinseki announced a critical step forward in providing an easier process for Veterans seeking health care and disability compensation for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), with the publication of a final regulation in the Federal Register.

"This nation has a solemn obligation to the men and women who have honorably served this country and suffer from the often devastating emotional wounds of war," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K.

Shinseki. "This final regulation goes a long way to ensure that Veterans receive the benefits and services they need."

By publishing a final regulation in the Federal Register to simplify the process for a Veteran to claim service connection for PTSD, VA reduces the evidence needed if the trauma claimed by a Veteran is related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity and is consistent with the places, types, and circumstances of the Veteran's service.

This science-based regulation relies on evidence that concluded that a Veteran's deployment to a war zone is linked to an increased risk of PTSD.

Under the new rule, VA would not require corroboration of a stressor related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity if a VA doctor confirms that the stressful experience recalled by a Veteran adequately supports a diagnosis of PTSD and the Veteran's symptoms are related to the claimed stressor.

Previously, claims adjudicators were required to corroborate that a non-combat Veteran actually experienced a stressor related to hostile military activity. This final rule simplifies the development that is required for these cases.

VA expects this rulemaking to decrease the time it takes VA to decide access to care and claims falling under the revised criteria. More than 400,000 Veterans currently receiving compensation benefits are service connected for PTSD. Combined with VA's shorter claims form, VA's new streamlined, science-based regulation allows for faster and more accurate decisions that also expedite access to medical care and other benefits for Veterans.

PTSD is a medically recognized anxiety disorder that can develop from seeing or experiencing an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury to which a person responds with intense fear, helplessness or horror, and is not uncommon among war Veterans.

Disability compensation is a tax-free benefit paid to a Veteran for disabilities that are a result of -- or made worse by -- injuries or diseases associated with active service.

For additional information, go to www.va.gov <http://www.va.gov/> or call VA's toll free benefits number at 1-800-827-1000.


DAV Applauds Clarification of Affordable Care Act
August 29

WASHINGTON-The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is pleased that President Barack Obama's administration has vowed that veterans and servicemembers would continue to receive prosthetic devices from the Department of Veterans Affairs or TRICARE at no cost.

The White House announcement last week dispelled unfounded rumors that disabled veterans and servicemembers would face a new tax on prosthetic limbs and other vital medical services under the Affordable Care Act. While the health care law does impose a new tax on big medical device manufactures, the tax will not be passed on to veterans and servicemembers.

"The President's statement should help put to rest unfounded rumors that have been spread among our nation's disabled veterans and servicemembers,"

said DAV National Commander Roberto "Bobby" Barrera. "Our veterans and servicemembers were suddenly struck by these rumors, and many feared that our government was abandoning them to pay for their own disability."

Prices and reimbursements for medical devices will continue to be negotiated between manufacturers and insurance companies, retail establishments and, in the case of the federal government, for veterans and servicemembers. The full cost of prosthetic devices for veterans will continue to be borne by the government.

"The DAV is committed to ensuring the highest quality health care for disabled veterans and that service-connected disabilities remain the responsibility of the federal government," said Commander Barrera. "The disabilities veterans and servicemembers have suffered as a result of their military service will affect them the rest of their lives. They have earned their government health care and benefits through sacrificing for our nation."


VA Secretary Addresses Traumatic Brain Injury Conference
August 30 2010

WASHINGTON (August 30, 2010) - Recognizing the longstanding, integrated collaboration shared by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense, VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki gave the keynote address Monday at the fourth annual Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Military Training Conference here.

"We--DoD and VA--simply cannot afford to be less than aggressive in our effort to identify, treat and rehabilitate TBI victims," Shinseki told the approximately 1,000 military, VA and civilian health care workers at the conference sponsored by the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC).

The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center was established by Congress in 1992. DoD and VA together offer clinical care, research and education on traumatic brain injury. DVBIC is the operational component of the Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

In praise of the collaborative DVBIC model, Secretary Shinseki said it should be replicated for all military personnel transitioning to VA care, and not just for TBI or burn care.

"When it comes to DoD's patients, there is a network of information and hands-on human care," the Secretary said, "that helps a wounded warrior transition from one system to the other-- from the battlefield to our polytrauma centers."

There are DVBIC researchers assigned at each of the four VA Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers (Tampa, Richmond, Minneapolis and Palo Alto) where they gather information regarding care of patients with TBI, analyze and translate this information into recommendations to improve care, and educate providers in implementing those improvements clinically.

DVBIC and VA have shared, and continue to collaborate, on many significant initiatives. Recent examples include developing and

implementing:

* Joint DoD/VA clinical practice guidelines for TBI;

* Materials and information for families and caregivers of

Veterans with TBI;

* Integrated education and training curriculum, and joint

training on TBI of VA and DoD heath care providers;

* A Congressionally-mandated 5-year pilot program to assess the

effectiveness of providing assisted living services to Veterans with TBI;

* The TBI Screening tool used for all Veterans who served in

Iraq or Afghanistan and are receiving care within VA; and

* A specialized Emerging Consciousness Care program at the four

polytrauma centers to serve those Veterans with severe TBI who are also slow to recover consciousness.

 

 

 

TO HCVC HOME PAGE

TO ARCHIVES