NY Metro Vets- October 2006 Newsletter

October 6, 2006 | Other News, Things to Do

NY Metro Vets- October 2006 Newsletter


This Newsletter Includes the Following Articles:
– 2007 Defense Authorization Bill
– VA Underestimates Care Costs
– VA Homeless Veterans Programs
– VA Chiropractic Care
– VA Appeals Court Update
– VA Claim Denial (Court Case)
– Cold War Victory Medal Killed in US Senate
– DFAS To Begin Notifying Veterans on Retro Disability Pay
– Veterans Receive New ID Cards
– WWII POWs May Be Eligible For Back Pay
– GI Bill Increase
– Veteran Scholarship (Horatio Alger Association)
– St. Albans VA CARES Update
– NY Times Salute Our Heroes Veterans Job Fair & Career Expo
– AMVETS Post To Open in Staten Island
– Veteran Events in NYC
– My Final Thoughts

2007 DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION BILL: A last-minute congressional rush to pass essential defense and veterans’ legislation before lawmakers could leave town to campaign for re-election was successful — although some late-night effort was required.

The 2007 defense authorization bill, covering policy-related matters from pay to construction to weapons, cleared the Senate at 2:41 a.m. Saturday (September 30) after final disagreements were resolved.

The $532.8 billion bill passed by voice vote, as there was few senators left in the chamber. The House approved the bill earlier in the day by a 398-23 vote.

President Bush is expected to sign the bill, but the timing is not yet clear because a backlog of legislation has to make its way from Congress to the White House. Bush signed the separate $447.6 billion defense appropriations bill that funds authorized programs on Friday (September 29), an essential step because the new fiscal year began Sunday.

The dollar totals of the authorization and appropriations bills differ for several reasons, with one big factor being that the appropriations bill does not include money for military construction and health care programs. Those programs are covered by separate legislation that has been tied up in negotiations and has been delayed until Congress returns to work after the Nov. 8 elections.

Also passed by Congress late last week was a bill providing the annual increase in veterans’ disability and survivor’s benefits, although the exact amount will not be known for several weeks.

The bill, S 2562, requires the annual adjustment in veterans’ benefits to match the increase in Social Security and military retired pay, which automatically increase to keep pace with the cost of goods and services.

The Social Security increase, to be announced later this month, could be as high as 3.9 percent. The veterans’ COLA will take effect Dec. 1 and will first appear in January checks for those receiving disability compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation for survivors and veterans’ pensions. [Source: Navy Times, 2 Oct 06]

VA UNDERESTIMATES CARE COSTS: The government used prewar data to estimate the cost of caring for veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, contributing to a $3 billion budget shortfall at the Veterans Affairs Department since 2005, congressional investigators say.

The department used “unrealistic assumptions, errors in estimation and insufficient data” to project its budget, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in their report.
Investigators also said VA failed to estimate correctly the costs for these war veterans partly because the agency could not get accurate information from the Defense Department. In addition, the VA agency failed to tell Congress in a timely way that it was struggling to meet its expenses. The problems led officials to make requests for an extra $3 billion last year, according to the GAO.

Department officials said they agreed with the findings and were working to improve. Secretary Jim Nicholson said in a statement that VA uses “highly reliable actuarial projections of health care demand” but that the agency continues to “refine” it’s modeling.
Democrats who requested the report used it to criticize the Bush administration for what they said was inadequate care of veterans from the two wars. VA will receive about $31.5 billion to provide health care for about 5.4 million patients this year. They also urged Nicholson to provide an accurate plan for how the VA will meet veterans’ needs in the future while the House Democrats began circulating a letter to President Bush asking that he “fully fund” the VA so it will not have to rely on “accounting gimmicks” and “inaccurate health care projections” when developing its budget.

Investigators said the VA knew 2005 would be a tight budget year and attempted to manage the expenses and cut costs. But officials were overly optimistic – and sometimes plain wrong – about how effective the changes could be, the GAO found.

One plan called for VA to reduce the average daily patient workload in its nursing homes. But the proposal would have required the agency to cut staff and discharge or transfer in a short time potentially thousands of veterans with severe, chronic physical or mental disabilities. The plan also would have forced the veterans to dip into Medicaid, private insurance or their own savings to pay for care, the GAO found.

Instead, in June 2005, with three months left in the budget year, the administration requested an extra $975 million from Congress to meet its expenses. That included $273 million for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. A month later, the administration asked for an additional $1.977 billion for the 2006 budget year.

In response, Congress required VA to provide quarterly status reports. But the GAO review found the agency has omitted important information from the reports about the cost to treat patients. The agency has since worked to improve its estimates and its coordination with Congress and the administration’s budget office, according to the GAO. [Source: AP, 21 Sep 06]

VA HOMELESS VETERANS PROGRAM: VA officials hope to add more than 2,000 new beds for homeless veterans for its outreach efforts if Congress reauthorizes a transitional housing program later this year. A report released 11 SEP by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) praised the VA for its homeless programs, but noted that the department is about 9,600 beds short of the 45,000 transitional beds it expects it will need next year. According to the VA an estimated 194,000 veterans were homeless in 2005. Pete Doherty, Director of homeless programs for the VA, said the majority of those homeless are middle-aged and served during the Vietnam War. Of the more than 16,000 veterans served through the grant and per diem program last year, about 2,500 reported serving in the Middle East an only a few hundred of those are troops who served in the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The grant and per diem program, which allots funding to non-VA homeless assistance facilities with veterans, provides services such as temporary housing, job training and rehabilitation counseling. The number of beds under the grant program alone had grown from 2,000 six years ago to more than 8,000 this year, with a cost of about $67 million. Congress is scheduled to re-examine the program and decide whether to approve funding for next year. Doherty said if the money is reauthorized, officials plan to make 2,200 more beds available through the program. That should assist nearly 5,000 more veterans in 2007 alone, because veterans typically spend only a few months at the facilities before moving on. GAO researchers said the VA needs to improve communication about the funding available and the limits on how long veterans can spend in transitional housing. That began earlier this year, with the department adding more liaison staff and holding more regional meetings with service providers to explain the grant programs rules and regulations. [Source: Stars and Stripes, 13 Sep 06]

VA CHIROPRACTIC CARE: The VA will begin providing Chiropractic Care at 26 selected Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities beginning this fall to those veterans who are suffering from back pain caused by neuromusculoskeletal conditions. The VA plans to hire or contract chiropractic doctors to provide the care. In consultation with VA primary care providers, chiropractors will offer patient evaluations and chiropractic care for neuromusculoskeletal conditions.

Care will be provided in the following locations: Sacramento & Los Angeles CA, West Haven & Newington CT, Togus ME, Tampa & Miami FL, Augusta GA, Danville IL, Kansas City KS, Iron Mountain MI, Fort Harrison MT, Albuquerque NM, Buffalo & Bronx NY, Jackson MS, Columbus OH Butler PA, Mountain Home TN, San Antonio, Temple, & Dallas TX, Columbia SC, Sioux Falls SD, Seattle WA, and Martinsburg WV.

Those eligible veterans in areas remote to these locations will be able to receive chiropractic care through the VA’s outpatient program after being referred by their primary care provider and receiving authorization by the department. [Source: Military.com, 28 Aug 06]

VA APPEALS COURT UPDATE: Chief Judge William Greene, Jr., of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, has called up two retired federal judges to help the court deal with an unprecedented number of pending appeals. Just two years ago there were about 2,700 cases pending and the court was taking in less than 200 new cases per month. But the court is now taking in over 300 new cases per month and the number of pending cases has grown to over 5,800. The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims is in the judicial branch of government and reviews decisions rendered by VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals, which is in the executive branch of the federal government. Most of the court’s decisions deal with disability compensation. The two judges being recalled are John J. Farly, III, and Donald Ivers. They will serve a minimum of 90 days reviewing cases and rendering decisions. In addition to the two judges who have been called back into action, there are presently seven full time judges on the court. [Source: NAUS Weekly Update 8 Sep 06]

VA CLAIM DENIAL: A case decided on July 27, 2006 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit could have negative ramifications for veterans and their dependents. The Court held that “where the veteran files more than one claim with the VA Regional Office at the same time, and that office’s decision acts (favorably or unfavorably) on one of the claims but fails to specifically address the other claim, the second claim is deemed denied, and the appeal period begins to run.” The case was Andrews v. Nicholson, 421 F.3d 1278 (Fed. Cir. 2005) and can be viewed at: www.fedcir.gov/opinions/05-7155.pdf. This means, in contradiction of 38 U.S.C. Sec. 5104 and 38 U.S.C. Sec. 3.103, that:

– VA does not have to provide the claimant with notice of the claim or claims that have been deemed denied or the reasons for the denial; and
– The period in which to submit a notice of disagreement with the claims deemed denied begins to run from the date of the decision on any of the other simultaneously submitted claims; and
– An unrepresented or poorly represented claimant could have the time to appeal the deemed denied claims run out without even knowing that the claims had been denied!

The new ruling also puts in question existing sections of 38 U.S.C. which state:

(a) In the case of a decision by the Secretary under section 511 of this title [38 USCS § 511] affecting the provision of benefits to a claimant, the Secretary shall, on a timely basis, provide to the claimant (and to the claimant’s representative) notice of such decision. The notice shall include an explanation of the procedure for obtaining review of the decision.

(b) In any case where the Secretary denies a benefit sought, the notice required by subsection (a) shall also include (1) a statement of the reasons for the decision, and (2) a summary of the evidence considered by the Secretary.

(c) Statement of policy. Every claimant has the right to written notice of the decision made on his or her claim, the right to a hearing, and the right of representation. Proceedings before VA are ex-parte in nature, and it is the obligation of VA to assist a claimant in developing the facts pertinent to the claim and to render a decision which grants every benefit that can be supported in law while protecting the interests of the Government. The provisions of this section apply to all claims for benefits and relief, and decisions thereon, within the purview of this part 3.

(d) The right to notice – (1) General. Claimants and their representatives are entitled to notice of any decision made by VA affecting the payment of benefits or the granting of relief. Such notice shall clearly set forth the decision made, any applicable effective date, the reason(s) for the decision, the right to a hearing on any issue involved in the claim, the right of representation and the right, as well as the necessary procedures and time limits, to initiate an appeal of the decision.

A legal opinion on whether this applies to both related and unrelated claims was that it did apply. For example, if a veteran files claims for a back disability, tinnitus and a psychiatric disability, all at the same time, and only one of those claims is adjudicated, the others are deemed denied under the holding of this case. If no notice of disagreement is submitted within 1 year, the decision becomes final, and the veteran would have to submit new and material evidence in order to reopen those claims. If any of those claims are eventually granted, the effective date of compensation could only be from the date of the request to reopen those claims, rather than the date of filing for the original claims.

This also generates the problem of how a veteran could submit a claim for CUE (clear and unmistakable error) with specificity, as the law requires, when there has been no reason given for the denials. The VA has not yet released a press release or clarification on how they intend to proceed with present or future multiple claims. Veterans in this situation who receive notice of denial on any of their claims are advised to seek clarification from the VA on how to proceed. However, since the VA has not yet promulgated guidance to their RO’s on how to proceed, those inquiring may have to wait for an answer. [Source: VAWatchdog.Org – VA NEWS FLASH – 08-01-06 #1]

COLD WAR VICTORY MEDAL KILLED IN SENATE: From the NDAA07 Final Conference Report released 29 Sep 07. The House bill contained a provision (sec. 552) that would require the service secretaries to issue a service medal to be known as the Cold War Victory Medal to eligible members and former members of the Armed Forces who performed active duty or inactive duty training between September 2, 1945, and December 26, 1991. The Senate amendment contained no similar provision and thus the measure was killed.

Thank you all for your outstanding support on the Cold War Medal. We had solid support in the House, but opposition in the Senate — where committee staff just will not go against the Pentagon. It looks like we need to plan for next year. An early start iss what is needed, and all ideas welcome. If you are interested in becoming a member of would like more information, please contact Sean Eagan at the information below.

Sean P. Eagan
New York State Director
Cold War Veterans Association
(716) 708-6416
www.coldwarveterans.com [Source: Sean P. Eagan]

DFAS TO BEGIN NOTIFYING VETERANS ON RETRO DISABILITY PAY: More than 100,000 veterans who expect to receive retroactive disability pay as early as this fall will soon be notified if they are entitled to receive the pay. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), which recently announced that thousands of veterans could receive payments, has released more information to help veterans determine if they are due back pay or not.

The issue stems from a long-running issue that perplexed defense accountants and policy-makers alike as they attempted to reconcile just what veterans were entitled to what pay. Some veterans who received Combat-Related Special Compensation, CRSC, or Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay, CRDP, and were underpaid because of changes in federal law may begin to see retroactive payments right away.

Others may not see the payments for up to a year and individual amounts will vary based on differences in disability amount, and length of retroactive period. Retirees entitled to additional money from the agency will receive notification by mail of the money due them, as well as a schedule of payment.

Retirees do not need to do anything to claim the pay. Recipients will be notified by mail if additional funds are due them. DFAS has assembled a Frequently Asked Questions page on its Web site. It can be found at:

www.dod.mil/dfas/retiredpay/frequentlyaskedquestions/retroactivepaymentofcrscandorcrdpfaqs.html. [Source: Navy Times, 26 Sept 06]

VETERANS RECEIVE NEW ID CARDS: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced that VA health care facilities are beginning an aggressive campaign to insure that enrolled veterans with old versions of its ID cards are issued the new Veterans Identification Card (VIC). VA decided to initiate the mass replacement to reduce veteran vulnerability to identity theft and to demonstrate VA’s commitment to securing the confidential personal information of all enrolled veterans. For more information about the new VIC card, contact your Medical Center’s Eligibility & Enrollment Office or visit the VA’s Eligibility Website at: www.va.gov/healtheligibility. [Source: Military.com, 25 Sep 06]

WWII POWs MAY BE ELIGIBLE FOR BACK PAY: A number of Sailors and Marines who were held as prisoners of war during World War II (WW II) are authorized to receive promotion back pay under the provisions of the fiscal year 2001 (FY-01) Floyd D. Spence Defense Authorization Act. The act provides for those who were selected for promotion but not available to accept the promotion because of their internment. The authorization enacted in FY-01 will expire January 10, 2007.

Only Navy and Marine Corps POWs held between December 7, 1941 and December 31, 1946, are eligible. If the service member is deceased, the surviving spouse is entitled to the back pay. The amount of the back pay will be determined using the amount the member would have been paid calculated using WW II pay rates and not adjusted for inflation. The Department of the Navy will determine eligibility for back pay by researching each individual’s request. This will include obtaining and reviewing the member’s archived personnel and pay records. Navy personnel should send application to:

Navy Personnel Command
Attn: World War II POW Back Pay (N152)
5720 Integrity Drive
Millington, TN 38055-6200
Marine applications should be sent to:
Headquarters, U.S.M.C.
2 Navy Annex. RFL-F7
Washington, DC 20380-1775

Additional information regarding the program and application procedures may be obtained by calling (866) 827-5672 ext 3858. USMC point of contact can be reached at (866) 472-7139. To download the application, go to: www.npc.navy.mil/referencelibrary/publications/shiftcolors. [Source: US Navy, 24 Sep 06]

GI BILL INCREASE: The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced that effective 1 OCT 06 the GI Bill will be worth $38,700, a total increase of nearly $1,500 over last year’s rate. This total is based on the new monthly full-time student payment rate of $1,075 multiplied by the 36-month limit. If you are GI Bill eligible you get the increase no matter when you became eligible or begin using it. Your actual benefits may be much higher if you signed up for the Army, Navy or Marine Corps College Funds or elected to participate in the GI Bill Buy-Up program. Other GI Bill programs will also see an increase.

For example the GI Bill for Selected Reserve will be worth $309 a month, the Reserve Education Assistance Program (REAP) will be up to a maximum of $806 a month and the GI Bill Apprenticeship and On The Job Training program will pay as much as $913 a month. The Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) was created to help veterans of active duty military service pay for their education and training. However, it is good for only 10 years after the date of your last discharge from active duty service. Only about 50% of veterans use their GI Bill, which can be used to pay for many different programs including:

– College, Business Technical or Vocational Courses
– Distance Learning including Correspondence Courses
– Licensing and Certification Tests
– Apprenticeship/Job Training (Veterans and Reserve Only)
– Flight Training
[Source: Military.com 16 Sep 06]

VETERAN SCHOLARSHIP: The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans announced that in 2007 it will award $5,000 military scholarships to U.S. veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. October 30, 2006 is the deadline for all scholarship applications. Last year the association gave out over 1,100 such scholarships. Recipients are chosen based on their perseverance in overcoming adversity. Additional consideration is given to financial need, academic record, and commitment to pursue a college education and desire to contribute to society. Additional information can be obtained at: www.horatioalger.org. [Source: Military.com, 11 Sept 06]

ST. ALBANS VA CARES UPDATE: While the situation concerning the Manhattan and Brooklyn VA Medical Centers has been resolved, there are several VA facilities in NY that have not yet been resolved. The Saint Albans CARES Local Advisory Panel third-round public hearing is scheduled for Thursday, October 19, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Pratt Auditorium on the Saint Albans campus. There is a thought that a focus of this hearing will include recommendations on how parts of the campus not dedicated to V.A. facilities would/could be utilized and or rented. On a personal note, this is what I was saying about Mayor Bloomberg wanting to build a school on the unused land. Also, FYI, while Secretary Nicholson’s decisions on the 18 CARES studies nationally were supposed to be fully announced by the end of September, here we are in October and there is no official word on the Canandaigua and the Montrose/Castle Point studies, both in the state of New York. Montrose in northern Westchester County near Peekskill has been the most-endangered V.A. facility in the state based on the results of the second-round LAP hearings. Once again, special thanks go to Jerry Alperstein for his dedication, commitment and the passing of the word along. As always, I will keep you up to date as things develop.

NY TIMES SALUTE OUR HEROES VETERANS JOB FAIR & CAREER EXPO™: Presented by The New York Times Job Market in partnership with leading veteran’s organizations and government agencies, Salute Our Heroes™ job fair and career expo will once again provide former servicemen and women and spouses of active-duty military personnel with unprecedented job opportunities and informative career seminars.

More than 200 local and national employers will have exhibits to recruit veterans and showcase employment opportunities. This event will take place on November 6th, 2006 from 11 AM – 4 PM at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Pre-registration, a resume and proof of military service is required for admission. Make sure to attend this event with copies of your resume. Pre-register today at:
http://www.nytimes.com/marketing/jobmarket/jobfair/saluteourheroes/ [Source: NY Times]

AMVETS POST TO OPEN IN STATEN ISLAND: From Robert Tamburri: I am pleased to announce that I am starting a new AMVETS Memorial Post. The name of the post will be the John R. Tamburri Jr. Memorial Post in honor of my brother (see bottom of page). To be eligible for membership in AMVETS, you must have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves. Additionally, unless still serving, your discharge must have been under honorable conditions. For more information, please visit: http://vetcenter.4t.com/whats_new_1.html or contact Robert Tamburri at: VetScoop@aol.com. [Source: Robert Tamburri]

VETERAN EVENTS IN NYC: The following is a list of events that are taking place during the month of October. This list is not all inclusive and other events may be taking place throughout the city. Please pass on to others.

October 6, 2006 – New York Military Affairs presents “Friday Evening Talk – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in World War II Veterans” with Professor Mark D. Van Ells. Professor Van Ells is author of: To Hear Only Thunder Again: America’s World War II Veterans Come Home (Lexington Books, 2001). He is also a history professor at Queensborough Community College (CUNY). This event will take place at the CUNY Graduate Center, 5th Avenue at 34th Street from 6 – 9 PM. All are invited to attend.

October 17, 2006 – Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is having a fundraiser entitled “Broadway to Baghdad.” This event is a live USO style show with special event performances, patriotic pageantry and an awards ceremony at HBO’s New York Studio Theater. At the conclusion, attendees will be escorted to the new Broadway musical “The Time’s, They Are A-Changin’,” based on Bob Dylan’s music and co-produced by the award winning choreographer Twyla Tharp (“Movin Out”). This event is to raise funds for the VVA’s Service Officer Program. If you would like more information, please contact Pat Gualtieri at (212) 693-1476 or e-mail him at: PatUWVC@aol.com.

October 19, 2006 – The NYPD U.S. Navy Association Remembrance Day Ceremony will take place on Thursday, October 19, 2006 at 11 AM at One Police Plaza’s Auditorium. We will celebrate the 231st Birthday of the U.S. Navy and also pay tribute to our Veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. We encourage you to bring along your family and friends.

October 21, 2006 – The 101st Cavalry Veteran’s Association cordially invites you to the 101st Cavalry Ball honoring select Cavalrymen for over 35 years of dedicated service. This event will take place at 7:30 PM at the Hilton Garden Inn, 1100 South Avenue, Staten Island, NY 10314. The cost is $75.00 per person and checks should be made payable to: American Legion Post 296, 321 Manor Rd, Staten Island, NY 10314. Funds will not be accepted at the door. Please RSVP by no later than October 14, 2006. If you have any questions or would like more information, please call: Joseph Del Duca (732) 721-6373, Mark Qualben (917) 710-1117 or Amy Maniscalco (917) 533-3399.

October 22, 2006 – Staten Island Borough President James P. Molinaro is hosting the 17th annual Semper Fi Run at 9:30 AM. This run will start at Father Capodanno Boulevard and Jefferson Avenue in Staten Island. This year’s five mile race and NEW three mile health walk is dedicated to the men and women fighting in Operation Iraqi Freedom. For more information and to download an application got to: www.statenislandusa.com. If you have any other questions, please call Joanne Nuzzo at (718) 816-2133.

October 29, 2006 – Michael Pahios Memorial Gathering: Mike Pahios, a Vietnam Marine veteran, long time member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War and founding member and first president of Veterans For Peace NYC Chapter 034, passed away in his sleep on August 8, 2006 from an undiagnosed congenital heart defect.
Mike worked for NBC for many years in their video department and had retired less than a year ago. He was active with the Borden Avenue Veterans Residence Community Action Patrol and historian for the Marine Corps Raiders Association.

A Memorial gathering will be held at O’Lunney’s Times Square Pub, 145 West 45th Street-2nd Floor (between Broadway & 6th Ave) in Manhattan so that many of his friends and associates can come to share memories of him, raise a glass and bid him goodbye.

October 29, 2006 – Bronx Chapter Post 253, American Legion Riders Association is hosting its 4th annual “Support Our Troops” Motorcycle Run. Registration is from 9 AM to 10:45 AM and the kickstands come up at 11 AM at the Veterans Memorial Park in Throggs Neck, Bronx. The ride passes Ground Zero, Wreath placing ceremony at Battery Park (In honor of Veterans Day) and a Wreath placing at the Vietnam Plaza Memorial at 55 Water Street. Red Rock West Saloon, 457 West 17th Street in Manhattan, sponsors an after run party. The Association is asking for a $20 donation for each rider and a $10 dollar donation for each passenger. For more information, please call Joe at (718) 822-4242 or e-mail him at: legionriders@msn.com.

October 30, 2006 – The City Council’s Veterans Committee is having a hearing at 250 Broadway, 16th Floor at 1 PM. The meeting agenda is not set at this time.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: First of all let me apologize for getting this newsletter out a little late. As you can see above, there was a lot of information that needed to be put into the newsletter. Also, between being under the weather and my 40th birthday, that also set me back a couple of days. And thank you to all who sent me birthday and good wishes – I am truly touched. Now, during this time of year, a lot of things are beginning to happen in the Veterans Community leading up to Veterans Day next month.
So, if you have an event that you would like posted in the November newsletter, please get it to me ASAP. My e-mail address (as always) is: bjoe7@hotmail.com. As always, please pass this newsletter on to others and let me know what you think. I look forward to reading your e-mails. Take care and until next month….

Joseph A. Bello, NYC Veterans Advocate