December 2010 Archives

VA Recognizes World AIDS Day
Medical Facilities Promote HIV Testing and Care
Dec 1

WASHINGTON (Dec. 1, 2010) - On Wednesday, Dec. 1, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) encourages everyone to recognize World AIDS Day.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was first discovered 30 years ago, and some of the first cases of HIV/AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency
syndrome) were diagnosed by VA clinicians. Since then, VA has been a leader in HIV care and has made significant strides in treatment of Veterans infected with the virus.

"The Department of Veterans Affairs is committed to being a leader in this important area of health care and continuing to provide world-class care to Veterans with HIV/AIDS," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.

VA is the largest provider of care in the country to those living with HIV, serving more than 24,000 Veterans with the infection. In July 2010, the White House released the National HIV/AIDS Strategy to strengthen and coordinate a national response to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic, identifying VA as one of the lead federal agencies in the implementation of the plan.

VA is responding by increasing its outreach for HIV testing, ensuring that all Veterans with HIV receive high-quality care, and continuing to reduce any health disparities. VA has recently simplified its HIV testing policy, making HIV testing of all Veterans part of routine care with the goal of having all Veterans tested at least once.

To promote this effort, VA has launched a campaign to educate both providers and Veterans about the benefits of routine HIV testing in all Veterans regardless of age, gender, race, or ethnicity.

HIV in older patients is of particular interest in VA; because more than
66 percent of Veterans in care with HIV are over the age of 50.
Mortality from HIV-related illnesses has been greatly reduced. People with HIV can now expect to live longer, healthier lives if they have access to and are adherent to antiretroviral therapy for their HIV infection.

"Because half of those living with HIV infection in the United States will be 50 years or older by 2015, we must prepare now to care for these individuals, who are likely to experience a greater burden of disease from non-HIV related illnesses," said Dr. Amy Justice, section chief of general internal medicine in the VA Connecticut Healthcare System. VA is a leader in research on HIV and aging through the large-scale Veterans Aging Cohort Study run by Dr. Justice.

VA has all 23 FDA-approved medications available for HIV patients, and VA providers follow federal treatment guidelines. VA monitors HIV care in its health care facilities through its National HIV Clinical Case Registry(CCR). Data from the CCR show that 91 percent of Veterans with HIV who are candidates for antiretroviral therapy are currently on treatment and more than 96 percent of newly HIV positive Veterans were linked to care within 90 days of diagnosis.

Significant progress in HIV diagnosis, treatment, and research has been made at VA. The department has been a leader in HIV care for the nation for decades and will continue to strive to provide excellent care to all Veterans infected with the virus.

For more information on HIV/AIDS care in VA, please visit

Suicide Issues: Hidden Epidemic Among Women With Military Service; Other Research

02 Dec 2010   

New research suggests a hidden epidemic of suicide among younger women with military service. Researchers found a markedly elevated risk for young women veterans, with elevated risks for middle-aged and older women with current or past military service.

Study authors Bentson H. McFarland, M.D., Ph.D.; Mark S. Kaplan, Dr.P.H., and Nathalie Huguet, Ph.D. suggest that clinicians should inquire about military service among women and should recognize that suicide prevention practices pertain to female as well as male veterans.

"This study shows that young women veterans have nearly triple the suicide rate of young women who never served in the military. This finding is very alarming," said Mark S. Kaplan Dr.P.H., co-author of the study and Professor of Community Health at Portland State University. "The elevated rates of suicide among women veterans should be a call-to-action, especially for clinicians and caregivers to be aware of warning signs and helpful prevention resources."

This study was the first general population study of current suicide risk among women with U.S. military service and support was provided by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The study is presented in the December issue of Psychiatric Services, a journal of the American Psychiatric Association along with several other studies addressing the topic of suicide.

Another study, also looking at suicide among military personnel, sought to better understand the clinical care of veterans before suicide. The retrospective study, by Lauren M. Denneson, Ph.D., and colleagues, looked at 112 veterans who completed suicide between 2000 and 2005 in Oregon and who had contact with Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care services in the year prior to the suicide. The researchers examined Veterans Affairs clinicians' assessment of suicide risk during health care visits prior to the completed suicides.

In the year before their suicide, about half of the veterans had mental health contacts and about two-thirds had primary care contacts. Most were seen for routine medical care; common diagnoses included mood disorders and cardiovascular disease. Of the 18 veterans who had been assessed for suicidal ideation at their last visit, 13 denied such thoughts.

Research presented in another article looked at a specific aspect of suicide prevention - engagement in treatment. Previous studies have shown that up to half of suicide attempters refuse recommended treatment, and some 60 percent drop out of treatment after one session. A review of 13 empirical studies by Dana Lizardi, Ph.D., and Barbara Stanley, Ph.D., found that when suicide attempters are discharged from the emergency room or the hospital, postdischarge follow-up by phone, by letter, or in person must be immediate, substantial, and multifaceted to be even minimally effective in preventing future attempts.

Researchers in Austria looked at whether the availability of mental health professionals had an effect on suicide rates. The study authors, led by Nestor D. Kapusta, M.D., found that socioeconomic conditions, which determined the distribution of mental health professionals in the population, were stronger predictors of suicide rates than access to care per se. The authors recommended working to reduce financial barriers as well as geographic barriers to care.

American Psychiatric Association

Military Retirees Resist Push to Cut Health Costs
DECEMBER 3, 2010


ZUMA Press

Defense Secretary Gates, shown before the Senate Thursday, wants to overhaul the military health-care system.

Greg Bishop joined the Army 21 years ago with this promise from recruiters: Serve for two decades and you'll get health care for life. Now, Mr. Bishop, who retired from active duty in September, is worried the government may be "moving the goal posts."

At issue are possible changes to the military health-care system, known as Tricare. As part of a raft of debt-reduction measures, President Barack Obama's bipartisan deficit commission recommended a review of Tricare, part of an effort to reduce top-to-bottom federal spending. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates also wants to overhaul the military health system.

The Republicans' ascendancy after the midterm elections and the size of annual budget deficits have focused minds in Washington on U.S. fiscal woes. In that climate, the deficit panel's report could lead to a grand bargain next year between the White House and Congress.

Before that happens, a retinue of powerful backers will fiercely defend targeted programs and tax benefits. Realtors and the construction industry are rallying to protect tax deductions on mortgage interest. Liberal activist groups and AARP want to beat back Social Security changes.

Veterans groups and military retirees are among those mobilizing to fight back, in anticipation that the Pentagon will recommend higher Tricare premiums in the president's 2012 budget plan.

As part of the social contract between the nation and the all-volunteer military, Tricare is one of the most emotionally charged targets for spending cuts, particularly in a time of war.

"The heavy lifting [for this nation] is being done by the military," said Norbert Ryan, a retired Navy admiral who is president of the Military Officers Association of America. "They should be the last ones to give. Don't ignore the service and sacrifice that has earned them that benefit. Don't confuse it with Social Security. Don't confuse it with Medicare and Medicaid."

Tricare includes plans that cover uniformed service members, retirees and their dependents, in the U.S. and overseas. Coverage for active-duty troops is largely free. The Department of Veterans Affairs, which provides care for wounded veterans no longer on active duty, or who have service-related disabilities, has a separate budget.

The deficit panel report issued Wednesday was short on specifics, but a series of draft recommendations called for raising Tricare fees for retirees, a move that would save the Pentagon about $6 billion in 2015. They noted that around 57% of the people who use Tricare are retirees and their dependents, not active-duty service members.

The cost for a military retiree to enroll his family in Tricare Prime, which is similar to a health maintenance organization, is $460 a year, a rate that hasn't changed since 1995. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average annual premium currently paid by private-sector workers is around $4,000 a year.

Mr. Bishop, a partner in Musa Entertainment Consulting Inc., a veteran-owned business in Los Angeles that helps entertainment companies secure Pentagon cooperation, said access to Tricare "was a major factor in my decision to go off on my own" in a small business. Without that, "it would have been a tougher decision."

In the past decade, the military's health-care budget has more than doubled, ballooning from $24 billion a year to more than $50 billion. Mr. Gates has complained health-care costs are "eating the department alive."

In 2008, medical care ate 6% of the Department of Defense's funding, according to the Congressional Budget Office. By 2026, these costs are expected to more than double to 13% of spending.

Tricare took a shot across the bow in August, when retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro decried "GM-style fringe benefits" in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. Mr. Punaro singled out health-care costs for retired personnel as the primary culprit.

The speech rippled through the retired military world. In an interview, Mr. Punaro joked that he was "probably burned in effigy five or six times."

The Defense Department has previously attempted moderate increases in premiums and co-pays, but has been met with a furious response from Congress and veterans groups.

The Pentagon couldn't be reached for comment Thursday on its current plans for Tricare.

That coalition of Congress veterans groups may be on less solid ground now. The arrival in Congress of lawmakers with a mandate to rein in spending has some veterans' advocates nervous, especially after key pro-military members of Congress lost their seats in November.

"A lot of people who understood our issues, who are our biggest champions…are gone," said Steve Strobridge, the director of government relations for the Military Officers Association of America.

For Mr. Bishop, Tricare isn't simply an employee benefit, but something earned in return for service. "I understand the fiscal situation our country is in," he said. "I understand that everyone needs to do their share." But, he added: "I feel that veterans have already given something."


H.R. 5953

To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to display in each facility of the Department of Veterans Affairs a Women Veterans Bill of Rights



Rep. Filner, Bob


November 30, 2010
111th Congress, 2nd Session




H.R. 5953 is expected to be considered on the floor of the House on Tuesday, November 30, 2010, under a motion to suspend the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage.  H.R. 5953 was introduced on July 29, 2010 by Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) and referred to the Committee on Veterans Affairs.



H.R. 5953 incorporates language from H.R. 5428, which was introduced on May 27, 2010 by Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) and referred to the Committee on Veterans Affairs.

The legislation would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to ensure that the Women Veterans Bill of Rights is displayed prominently in each VA facility and distributed widely to women veterans.  The bill would enumerate women veterans health care “rights” such as the right to the following:

(1) Coordinated, comprehensive, primary women's health care at every VA medical facility;

(2) Be treated with dignity and respect;

(3) Innovative care delivery;

(4) Treatment by clinicians with specific training and experience in women's health issues;

(5) Enhanced capabilities of medical providers to meet unique needs; and

(6) Gender equity in access to and the provision of clinical health care services;

The bill would also require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish and display prominently an Injured and Amputee Veterans Bill of Rights to include such “rights” as the following:

(1) Access the highest quality prosthetic and orthotic care;

(2) Continuity of care in the transition from the Department of Defense health program to the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system; and

(3) Select the practitioner that best meets their prosthetic and orthotic needs, including a private practitioner with specialized expertise;


Some members may be concerned that, according to testimony from the VA, this legislation would confer special rights upon a limited group of veterans, leading to inconsistent and inequitable patient care provided to veterans as a group.  Additionally, some members may be concerned that the “right” to seek private medical treatment could mislead veterans to believe they are entitled to receive services from a non-VA practitioner, which could preclude VA quality assurance and result in personal financial liability for the veteran if the VA is not authorized to incur the expense of that treatment.


The bill would also require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct employee education regarding the Women Veterans Bill of Rights and the Injured and Amputee Veterans Bill of Rights, in addition to requiring the Secretary to conduct outreach to relevant groups of veterans.



There is no CBO cost estimate for this legislation.

TRICARE, Medicare Cuts Delayed Again
December 10, 2010



Congress acted again to delay plans to cut reimbursement rates paid to health-care providers under TRICARE and Medicare by 23 percent. Both the House and Senate approved H.R. 5712 shortly after Thanksgiving, which sets the implementation date of the change at Jan. 1, 2011. The cuts had been slated to take effect Dec. 3. The Fleet Reserve Association reports that two key lawmakers – Sens.

Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa – are working on a plan to extend the delay for a full year. Baucus chairs the Senate Finance Committee; Baucus is the committee’s ranking minority member.

VisualDx Selected by the Department of Veterans Affairs for National Deployment
Dec 11, 2010


Rochester, NY, December 11, 2010 --( Logical Images announced today that their diagnostic decision support system, VisualDx, has been selected by the Department of Veterans Affairs as a new clinician resource to be deployed nationally throughout the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) medical centers and clinics, which treat more than 5.5 million veterans on an annual basis.

VisualDx is the only diagnostic decision support system to combine the power of a comprehensive library of over 19,000 medical images with specialist-developed clinical information. The system aids primary care providers in the identification, diagnosis, and management of over 1,000 visually identifiable diseases, drug reactions, and infections.

“We are proud that our product supports the care of the men and women who bravely serve in our armed forces,” said Richard Cohan, CEO of Logical Images, Inc. “By implementing health IT resources like VisualDx, the VHA continues to be a leader in our nation’s movement to improve quality and care throughout our health system.”

Via the Web and mobile devices, VHA clinicians now have immediate point-of-care access to this diagnostic and educational resource covering both common conditions they may see on a daily basis, and rare diseases they may not. Clinicians will be able to enter observations, symptoms, medical histories, international travel locations, and other key findings about their patient to return a pictorial list of diagnostic possibilities they can then compare with their patient’s presentation to more accurately identify the diagnosis. VisualDx empowers the primary care clinician to manage a greater level of care for their patients with dermatologic conditions – providing more timely treatments, better patient understanding, and more appropriate referrals to dermatologists.

VisualDx has been nationally deployed throughout the VHA with the assistance of the Veterans Affairs Library Network (VALNET).

About Logical Images
Based in Rochester, NY, Logical Images develops visual health care tools to elevate diagnostic accuracy, enhance medical education, and heighten patient knowledge. Logical Images is a company of digital imaging experts, leaders in computer-based design and knowledge management, skilled image archivists, and practicing physicians. The company’s products include VisualDx, a visual clinical decision support system for diagnostic accuracy, and Skinsight, the Web’s leading consumer skin health and wellness resource. Logical Images has developed the most comprehensive digital medical image library including over 70,000 images representing all ages and skin types. This extensive collection is the foundation for all of the company’s Web and mobile applications – designed to speed disease recognition for faster, more accurate decision making and patient understanding.

Troops booted for pre-existing mental issues

 By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Dec 12, 2010 12:57:38 EST


From 2003 to 2008, more people were separated from the military within their first year of service for “pre-existing” psychiatric conditions than for any other reason, according to a military report.

Those discharges do not qualify a service member for medical benefits or medical retirement pay after leaving.

Twenty-two percent of soldiers who were given “existed prior to service,” or EPTS, discharges had psychiatric conditions, while 42 percent of Marine Corps EPTS discharges fell under that category. The figures for the Navy and Air Force were 24 percent and less than 1 percent, respectively.

Whether the Marine Corps is not screening its new recruits for mental health issues as well as the other services, or whether other factors are at work, is not clear.

According to the 2010 Accession Medical Standards Analysis & Research Activity Report, the Army approved 1,231 waivers for anxiety, dissociative and somatoform disorders from 2004 until 2009, and another 522 for depressive disorder.

The Marines gave out 766 waivers during the same period for neurotic, mood, somatoform, dissociative or fictitious disorder, and 230 for “disturbance of emotions specific to childhood and adolescence.”

But discharges for pre-existing mental health conditions far exceed recruitment waivers for those conditions. Psychiatric discharges are the top diagnosis for pre-existing discharges for Marines and soldiers. From 2004 to 2009, 4,359 soldiers and 3,636 Marines were discharged during their first year of service for pre-existing psychiatric conditions.

Many, if not most, of those service members probably did not see combat because they were discharged while still in training.

The second-most common disability discharge for soldiers from 2004 to 2009 was for “affective and nonpsychotic mental disorders.” In 2009, 2,798 soldiers left the Army on such discharges. The Marine Corps discharged 528 people for those disorders. The Air Force and the Navy’s rates are far lower.

The Marines “have more guys in combat, so they have more cases of PTSD than the Navy,” said retired Army Lt. Col. Mike Parker, a veterans advocate who helps troops get correct disability retirement discharge ratings. “There aren’t too many sailors doing combat deployments — just the docs and SEALs. The Marine Corps is all combat.”

Parker said that while most of the discharges for pre-existing conditions are among service members who have been in uniform only a short time, some are still being diagnosed with pre-existing psychiatric conditions after they’ve been in for several years and have served in combat — even more worrisome to veterans advocates who say that combat experience may play a role in their mental health issues.

“I’m working with several Marines in that situation right now,” Parker said.

Two years ago, Congress refined the rules for discharging people for “personality disorder” as a pre-existing condition after it became clear that many of troops really had PTSD or symptoms of that disorder that was caused by their combat experience. Discharges for personality disorder have subsequently declined, but Parker noted that discharges for other mental conditions have jumped since pre-existing personality disorder “became verboten” as a diagnosis for troops with combat experience.

According to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center report, adjustment disorder diagnoses rose from 35,774 in 2006 to 51,545 in 2009. Over the same period, anxiety disorder diagnoses rose from 14,140 to 23,609 and PTSD diagnoses rose from 8,416 to 14,193.

Personality disorder diagnoses decreased from 7,459 to 5,020.

Four senators wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates in October asking him to address a “new loophole” that allows the military to discharge service members for “adjustment disorder” or a similar condition when they actually have PTSD.

Service members discharged specifically for PTSD are entitled to an automatic disability rating of 50 percent, which comes with health care and other benefits. Adjustment disorder discharges do not bring the same benefits.

“While it is a good thing that the Pentagon has moved away from unfairly discharging combat troops by erroneously claiming a service member had a personality disorder rather than addressing the harmful effects of combat stress, we need to ensure a new method is not being used to deny combat veterans the care and benefits they deserve,” the senators wrote. “Unfortunately, the recent drop in discharges for personality discharges has been accompanied by a disturbing rise in discharges ‘for the convenience of the government’ for ‘other physical or mental discharges not amounting to disability.’ ”

The letter was signed by Sens. Kip Bond, R-Mo.; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; and Sam Brownback, R-Kan.

They cited Pentagon data showing discharges for “other physical or mental discharges” have more than doubled, from 1,453 in 2006 to 3,844 in 2009.

“We fear the rise in this category of discharges could reflect a failure to identify and treat troops for whom a deployment-related disability board would be more appropriate,” the senators wrote. They asked for the number of soldiers discharged for personality disorders and “other designated physical or mental conditions.”

Retired Air Force Col. Mike Hayden, deputy director of government relations for the Military Officers Association of America, said MOAA believes all service members should receive a presumptive disability of 30 percent if they have served in the war zone — and there should be no argument that the problem was pre-existing.

That would mean lifetime medical benefits, which, in the case of those with mental health issues intense enough to qualify for discharge, can mean the difference between relationship problems, homelessness, unemployability and a strong, stable, happy life. Hayden cited a June 2008 memo from Gates stating, “Is there a reason we could not change the disability rating presumption for wounded warriors to a minimum of 30 percent service-connected disability?”

“We are of a similar belief that if a troop is healthy enough to send into harm’s way, then they are vested with the department and EPTS should no longer be an issue,” Hayden said.

The Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center has recognized mental health as an issue and has launched a series of studies.

“This report very likely underestimates the true incidence and prevalence of the disorders of incidence,” the report states. “Studies that employed anonymous questionnaires have measured the relatively high frequency with which service members have expressed their reluctance to seek assessment and care for possible mental health disorders. Those barriers include shortages of mental health professionals in some areas, and the social and military stigmas associated with seeking or receiving mental health care.”

The report noted that more male service members spend time in the hospital for mental health issues than for any other reason. Mental health issues were the number two reason female service members were hospitalized, second only to pregnancy-related conditions.

VA program empowers veterans with home health care options
Dec 16, 2010

14, 2010

BERNARDS — Township resident Evelyn Marrinan
did not know much about
health care so when her
husband John became debilitated with diabetes, she
found herself lost in a labyrinth of options and not
sure of what to do.

Then the
Veterans Administration's Veterans
Directed Home and Community-Based Services
Program came to the rescue.

"I am so grateful," Marrinan said Wednesday
morning at the VA New Jersey Health Care System
during a presentation celebrating the program's
. "They were unbelievable."

What Marrinan liked best about the program was the
"empowerment" that the program gave her and her
husband, who died in April, to determine the proper
care for him.

"We could find what was best for him," she said.

The program, developed in 2008 and scheduled to
be implemented nationwide in 2011, was designed
to give veterans more input into their long-term
care so they could avoid institutionalization.

In the program, explained Daniel J. Schoeps,
national director of the VA's Purchased Long Term
Care Group, the needs of veterans are assessed and
a care plan is developed. The veterans then are
given a flexible budget and they choose, with the
help of a counselor, how to implement the plan,
including hiring and firing home health aides and
how to manage their
finances, Schoeps said.

The program had to overcome questions that it
varied from other VA programs, Schoeps said.

"It's so different for the VA to place so much
and decision making with veterans," he said.

"We've been aware for some time that veterans
wanted more options," Schoeps said. "They wanted
more control over the decision making."

One of the keys to the program's success is that the
veterans and their caregivers are given expert
advice, not only in health care but in
matters as well.

Another key is the partnerships in the program
between the VA and local agencies, such as the
Somerset County Office on Aging. The agencies
provide resources and support that compliment the
services of the VA, Schoeps said.

"It's all about connecting," said Kenneth Mizrach,
director of the VA New Jersey Health Care System.
"It's a program were all community services come
together. It's a very special program."

Poonam Alaigh, commissioner of the New Jersey
Department of Health and Senior Services, said the
program is "an example of how we can
health care." She said the program provides
alternatives to traditional long-term care by "getting
partners together to make sure veterans get the
proper care."

New Jersey was selected to spearhead the program
because of its tradition of home-based services for
veterans, Schoeps said.

Michael Deak: 908-243-6611;

VA's Standard Rates for Non-VA Care
Dec 17, 2010

Recent VA News Releases

To view and download VA news release, please visit the following Internet address:

VA Announces Use of Standard Payment Rates for Some Non-VA Care

WASHINGTON (Dec. 16, 2010) - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today it will begin using Medicare's standard payment rates for certain medical procedures performed by non-VA providers on Feb. 16, 2011.

"This regulation will have no impact on the Veterans we care for," said VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Robert A. Petzel. "VA will now have the ability to better plan budgets and place more money into access to health care for the Veterans that VA is honored to serve."

The new adjustment was made in federal regulations and will affect the following treatments VA provides to Veterans through contracted care:
ambulatory surgical center care, anesthesia, clinical laboratory, hospital outpatient perspective payment systems, and end stage renal disease (ESRD).

Veterans who are eligible for care will continue to receive the uninterrupted care they need and have earned. Non-VA doctors and facilities will still get paid for services they provide to eligible Veterans but at rates set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Prospective Payment Systems (PPS) and Fee Schedules.
Existing contracts will not be affected and the rule allows for new contracts using the new rates.

Savings of approximately $1.8 billion over five years will allow VA to continue to invest in such innovative programs as a wearable artificial kidney, home dialysis and expanding access through stand-alone clinics.

"Adopting CMS pricing methodology for these schedules and services will allow VA medical centers to use their resources more efficiently to meet Veterans' needs," said Gary Baker, VA's health administration chief business officer. "The adoption of Medicare rates will help ensure consistent, predictable medical costs, while also helping to control costs and expenditures."

The pricing methodology changes are a result of a rule change to 38 CFR 17.56, the federal regulation that governs VA when paying medical claims for Veterans treated in community facilities. The proposed rule was published on Feb. 18, 2010 and was opened for public comment April 19, 2010. The congressional review period for the final rule begins Dec. 17 and lasts 60 days.

VA is providing written notifications to Veterans and non-VA providers.
As additional information becomes available, it will be posted to the VA's "Non-VA Purchased Care" Web site,


VA Processing Claims for New Agent Orange Presumptives
Dec 18, 2010

VA Processes First Claims for New Agent Orange Presumptives New Program Speeds Approval for Vietnam Veterans

WASHINGTON (Dec. 17, 2010) - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has decided more than 28,000 claims in the first six weeks of processing disability compensation applications from Vietnam Veterans with diseases related to exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange.

"With new technology and ongoing improvements, we are quickly removing roadblocks to processing benefits," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "We are also conducting significant outreach to Vietnam Veterans to encourage them to submit their completed application for this long-awaited benefit."

VA published a final regulation on Aug. 31 that makes Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam and who have been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, ischemic heart disease, or a B-cell (or hairy-cell) leukemia eligible for health care and disability compensation benefits.
With the expiration of the required 60-day congressional review on Oct.
30, VA is now able to process these claims.

Vietnam Veterans covered under the new policy are encouraged to file their claims through a new VA Web portal at <> . Vietnam Veterans are the first users of this convenient automated claims processing system.

If treated for these diseases outside of VA's health system, it is important for Veterans to gather medical evidence from their non-VA physicians. VA has made it easy for physicians to supply the clinical findings needed to approve the claim through the new Web portal. These medical forms are also available at

The portal guides Veterans through Web-based menus to capture information and medical evidence required for faster claims decisions.
While the new system currently is limited to these three disabilities, usage will expand soon to include claims for other conditions.

VA has begun collecting data that recaps its progress in processing claims for new Agent Orange benefits at