Unwarranted MedicalReexaminations forDisability Benefits

From the VA IG: Complete Post through this link…

Why the OIG Did This Review

The OIG conducted this review to determine whether Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA)
employees required disabled veterans to submit to unwarranted medical reexaminations.

VBA employees have authority to request reexaminations for veterans “whenever VA
determines there is a need to verify either the continued existence or the current severity of a
disability,” and when there is no exclusion from reexamination. While reexaminations are
important in the appropriate situation to ensure taxpayer dollars are appropriately spent,
unwarranted reexaminations cause undue hardship for veterans. They also generate excessive
work, resulting in significant costs and the diversion of VA personnel from veteran care and

What the Review Found

VBA employees did not consistently follow policy to request reexaminations only when
necessary. The OIG team reviewed a statistical sample of 300 cases with reexaminations from
March through August 2017 (review period) and found that employees requested unwarranted
medical reexaminations in 111 cases. Based on this sample, the review team estimated that
employees requested unwarranted reexaminations in 19,800 of the 53,500 cases during the
review period (37 percent).

VBA employees requested reexaminations for veterans whose cases qualified for exclusion from reexamination for one or more of the following reasons:
· Over 55 years old at the time of the examination, and not otherwise warranted by unusual
circumstances or regulation
· Permanent disability and not likely to improve
· Disability without substantial improvement over five years
· Claims folders contained updated medical evidence sufficient to continue the current
disability evaluation without additional examination
· Overall combined evaluation of multiple disabilities would not change irrespective of the
outcome of reexamining the particular condition.

Upper Peninsula Together with Veterans Initiative Created to Reduce Rural-Veteran Suicides

By Michael Rutledge: Complete Post through this link…

The Together with Veterans (TWV) initiative was first introduced on Rural Insights in August of 2020. This Veterans Administration (VA)-sponsored program was conceived as a veteran-centered program to reduce rural-veteran suicide rates, and Marquette was selected as one of the initial “hubs” to be started as part of the program.

The Upper Peninsula TWV group (UPTWV), as it has been named, is now operational and functioning not just in Marquette, but throughout the Upper Peninsula.

A volunteer steering committee conducted the initial training and coordination which needed to happen before the group could take shape, and there has been some presence of the group at numerous local veteran’s events to spread awareness over the past two years.

Recruiting community partners and other interested volunteers has also been the main focus of the group until late last year when James Yates, Improving Rural Enrollment, Access, and Health in Rural Veterans Project Manager (I-REACH) agreed to become the UPTWV coordinator, and the group is now fully operational.

Savings Accounts for Disabled People Are Opened to More of Them

By Ann Carrns: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Only those who became disabled by age 26 have been eligible for ABLE accounts. But Congress raised the age to 46, so more military veterans and others can qualify as of 2026.

Disabled Americans recently scored a victory when Congress approved an expansion of state-based accounts that let them work and save money without risking the loss of public benefits like Medicaid.

The change means an estimated six million more people, including about one million military veterans, will eventually qualify for the tax-favored accounts, advocates for disabled people say. The accounts, known as ABLE accounts, are named after the 2014 law that created them, the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act.

Forty-six states and Washington, D.C., offer ABLE accounts, which first became available in 2016 and are loosely modeled on 529 college savings accounts. But saving in ABLE accounts has been somewhat slow to catch on, partly because they have been limited to people who became disabled before the age of 26.

Now, the ABLE Age Adjustment Act, included in the omnibus spending bill passed in December, has raised the threshold for the onset of a qualifying disability to age 46. That means people can be eligible if their disability occurred after their mid-20s, in a car accident, say, or from a neurological disease they developed, like multiple sclerosis. It may also help people dealing with the lingering effects of Covid-19, said Thomas Foley, executive director of the National Disability Institute.

The accounts let people with disabilities save and invest for current expenses and future needs, including housing, education, transportation and legal costs, without the funds disqualifying them from need-based federal help like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income. In general, a disabled person can’t have more than $2,000 in savings or other assets to qualify for those programs. But money in an ABLE account doesn’t count toward that total.

“It’s a safe place to save money,” Mr. Foley said.

The age expansion was crucial for the ABLE program overall, supporters say. A 2019 report from the National Association of State Treasurers warned that participation was too low to maintain affordable fees for ABLE accounts and sustain the programs over the long term. The association’s charitable arm, the NAST Foundation, has started several initiatives to promote awareness of the accounts.

‘Widow’s Tax’ on Survivors Will Be Completely Gone as of Feb. 1 Benefit Checks

By Amanda Miller: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Feb. 1 benefits checks won’t have the so-called “widow’s tax” reducing income for the surviving spouses of military retirees who participate in two programs.

Until 2020, survivors couldn’t receive the full amount of two survivor benefits at the same time. Under the rule known as the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) “offset,” the government reduced payments that were part of that program by the amount of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) that beneficiaries received from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

DIC is generally for the families of veterans who died in the line of duty or as the result of a service-connected injury or illness. With the Defense Department’s SBP, by contrast, veterans elect whether to pay premiums that will guarantee their spouses or other beneficiaries a percentage of their retirement pay after they die. That choice is typically made upon retirement.

The monthly DIC payment for a veteran who died on or after Jan. 1, 1993, is $1,562.74 for 2023. Without the change in law, the government would have reduced SBP beneficiaries’ payments by that much.

The decision to eliminate the “widow’s tax” was a “huge win” and “the right thing to do,” Mark Belinsky, director of currently serving/retired affairs for the Military Officers Association of America and an Army retiree, said in a phone interview. The SBP is a “very good plan,” he added.

It took decades: Now there’s a photo for each name on Vietnam wall

By Anna Mulrine Grobe: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Volunteers have now tracked down at least one photo for every one of the more than 58,000 U.S. military service members who died in the Vietnam War – for an online Wall of Faces project that took more than two decades to complete.

The goal was to help a new generation of Americans grapple with sacrifice and inspire them to reflect, perhaps, on “why we have a wall” with names inscribed on it, say organizers from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF), the nonprofit that spearheaded the digital project as well as the national monument on which all these names are engraved.

More than half of the visitors to the memorial in Washington, D.C., today weren’t alive when it was commissioned in 1982, they add.

Apple Silently Launched A New Sleep Feature With NightWare That Can Actually Stop Nightmares

By Jano le Roux: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Why is nobody talking about this?

Apple just launched a magical new feature.

  • It can detect nightmares.
  • It can prevent nightmares.

It’s called NightWare.

And absolutely nobody in the tech community is talking about it. This is one of the most incredible innovations we’ve seen.

It actually helps solve a serious problem that has pestered humanity for millennia, unlike a new way to unlock your phone.

So how exactly does Apple actually stop nightmares?

Although the underlying data is not fully clear yet, Apple says it works like this:

With the help of the Apple Watch and an iPhone, the digital therapeutic system NightWare can stop nightmares brought on by PTSD.

NightWare detects nightmares using data from the heart rate sensor, accelerometer, and gyroscope on the Apple Watch.

Once a nightmare is detected, the device interrupts the nightmare with haptic feedback, sending out soft pulses that gradually get stronger until the user is awakened from the nightmare but not from sleep.

Can anyone with an Apple Watch use it?

Not yet. It is the first and only digital therapy created particularly to treat nightmares that have been approved by the FDA, and it is only available via prescription.

So no, this is not available for just anyone — yet.

It is for people with severe PTSD.

Military veteran caregivers are like ‘the best friend to the vet’

By Christina Hall: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Angelena Taylor began caring for her 72-year-old father, Benjamin, at the beginning of 2016 after the Vietnam veteran had a stroke.

The stroke stripped Benjamin Taylor of use of the right side of his body. As with many veterans, he also has additional health issues, including depression and invisible wounds. The lifelong Detroiter served in the Marine Corps, followed by 27 years as a Detroit police officer. Angelena said her mom died when she was in high school.

Angelena Taylor’s role as her father’s full-time caregiver — a role for so many loved ones of military veterans in Michigan and the United States — is vitally important.

“It’s a really important relationship, father-daughter,” her father said. “I think it makes it more personal, and I don’t know if just anybody could be a caregiver ’cause it’s a lot of work … The care that I require is not one or two hours out of a day. It’s every day, all day, except for when she’s asleep.”

They Said the Rise in Military Suicide Is a Mystery. Traumatic Brain Injury May Be an Answer.

By Patricia Kime and Rebecca Kheel: For Complete Post, Click Here…

He had endured many tough days with a fog descending on his brain — fumbling for words, forgetting the reason he left his house, hellish nightmares.

But this was different.

Army Spc. Daniel Williams had barricaded himself inside a bathroom of his home with a loaded .45. Less than a year after seeing combat in Iraq. Williams, who had been trained by the service to detect and destroy weapons of mass destruction, sat in the cramped space, his broad shoulders slumped forward in defeat.

Fury had given way to despair. The anger over the loss of a friend to a roadside bomb, frustration at the growing blanks in his memory, and rage at an Army that couldn’t get him a psych appointment for six months all collapsed into a burning desire to just make the pain stop.

As Williams’ wife pounded on the door, visions of his future faded from view. The physical pain from his injuries — a torn shoulder, busted back and relentless migraines — was omnipresent, but the mental fallout from the blast was what moved Williams to put the pistol in his mouth and pull the trigger.


No bang, just his wife’s continued begging and the door splintering open as police officers busted through and grabbed the gun.

They thrust the burly, 6-foot-3-inch soldier into the tub and handcuffed him. After the chaos subsided, one of the officers took the weapon from the house. When he attempted to clear the gun of ammunition, it went off.

“The same round that refused to kill me went off perfectly for him,” Williams testified before Congress nearly a decade later.

It would be three more years before Williams, initially diagnosed with an adjustment disorder that later was determined to be post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, began to understand the extent of his injuries from the improvised explosive device that slammed him into the hood of a Humvee and killed his friend while deployed in Iraq.

How to File a Mesothelioma VA Claim

From Lanier Law Firm: For Complete Post, Click Here…

For most of the 20th century, the U.S. Armed Forces used aircraft, ships, construction, and other equipment that contained asbestos. Because of this exposure, military veterans make up approximately 30% of all mesothelioma cases in the United States. Mesothelioma is cancer that develops from asbestos exposure. Individuals must apply through the Department of Veteran Affairs to receive VA benefits for mesothelioma.

The honorable men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces face the highest risk of developing mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illnesses. Although veterans make up eight percent of the U.S. population, they account for approximately 30 percent of mesothelioma cases.

Military personnel have historically faced significant daily exposure to asbestos, which was heavily used in aircraft, ships, vehicles and armaments for most of the 20th century.

Navy personnel experienced the highest exposure levels due to the use of asbestos to line ships. However, personnel in all branches of the military who worked in shipyards or served as aircraft or vehicle mechanics experienced prolonged high-level exposure.

Veterans who served in the Gulf War, Vietnam or other conflicts were often in close proximity to buildings that had been bombed or otherwise destroyed, many of which contained substantial quantities of asbestos. The brave men and women serving overseas today are still vulnerable to asbestos exposure.

Morning blue light treatment improves sleep complaints, symptom severity, and retention of fear extinction memory in post-traumatic stress disorder

By John R. Vanuk, et al.: For Complete Post, Click Here…

ngd-I am trying it, and I am definately more awake in the first half of the day…

Disrupted sleep is a major feature in numerous clinical disorders and is related to decrements in affective memory processing. The prevalence of sleep disruption in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is suggested to be a key feature that exacerbates the impaired ability to recall extinction memories during experimental fear conditioning.

We hypothesized that an intervention employing blue-wavelength light therapy (BLT) to regulate sleep and stabilize circadian rhythms in patients with PTSD (i.e., via regulated morning exposure) would be associated with PTSD symptom improvement, decreased sleep-related complaints, as well as improved consolidation and retention of extinction memories relative to a fear conditioning/extinction paradigm.

Eighty-two individuals with PTSD underwent a well-validated fear conditioning/extinction protocol with subsequent assignment to receive morning BLUE (BLT) or placebo AMBER (ALT) light therapy daily for 30-min over 6-weeks. Participants returned after the intervention for post-treatment extinction recall, comprised of exposure to the previously conditioned stimuli, with the difference in skin conductance response between the “extinguished” and the “never-extinguished” stimuli at follow-up. Participants also viewed previously conditioned stimuli in a novel context during a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan.

BLUE light therapy was associated with improvements relative to correlated decreases between PTSD symptoms and sleep-related complaints. Participants receiving BLT also sustained retention of the extinction memory, while those in the placebo amber light treatment group showed impairment, characterized by the restoration of the extinguished fear response after 6-weeks.