Schmitt & Coletta, P.C.

Veteran Attorneys Fighting For Veterans and Their Families

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GI Bill Backlog

Posted on October 8, 2018 at 3:28 PM Comments comments (230)
As of Friday, September 28, 2018, there were over 226,000 veterans and their family members awaiting payments and decisions on their GI Bill claims. This represents a 56.5% increase in pending workload as compared to this time last year.

Investigation Into the VA Reveals a Culture of Retaliation Against Whistleblowers

Posted on June 21, 2018 at 2:11 PM Comments comments (341)
VA employees in one Southeast district say a toxic culture of retaliation has undermined veterans' care and worker morale. There is growing skepticism among whistleblowers the VA can police itself

VA watchdog accuses leadership of withholding access to employee complaints

Posted on June 21, 2018 at 1:58 PM Comments comments (214)
Veterans Affairs’ independent watchdog office is accusing department leaders of improperly withholding records dealing with employee complaints, saying the action could be covering up potential criminal misbehavior.
Veterans Affairs leaders have responded by accusing the inspector general of overstepping its authority and improperly issuing reports that “recklessly cast the VA and its employees in an unfavorable light.”
Lawmakers pulled into the fight this week call the conflict concerning.
“The total lack of cooperation from the VA is alarming and a disservice to American veterans and taxpayers,” said Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
“I’m demanding the VA immediately comply with the IG’s request for access to information. The VA leadership that prides itself on transparency is not above the law or exempt from independent oversight.”

Medicaid Expansion Helped Vets

Posted on April 30, 2017 at 9:43 PM Comments comments (46)
The number of uninsured veterans in the U.S. declined by nearly 40% from 2013 to 2015, but that number could drop even more if more states opt to expand Medicaid, according to a
.

The Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that the number of uninsured veterans ages 19-64 dropped from 980,000 in 2013 to 552,000 in 2015, according to a study published Wednesday.

The majority of the coverage gains occurred in states that decided to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The uninsured rates among veterans averaged 4.8% in expansion states compared to 7.1% in non-expansion states in 2015.

The study estimated that an additional 110,000 veterans could gain coverage if states that opted not to expand Medicaid reversed course.

NEW RULE

Posted on April 30, 2017 at 9:29 PM Comments comments (44)
New Rule:

You may now request another hearing before the Board of Veteran Appeals when you case is remanded! Cook v. Shulkin

The old case said there was but one administrative review by the Secretary which meant upon a remand either to the BVA or the Regional Office, you did not get another hearing to testify or submit evidence at a hearing.

Under Cook, there is no limit the number of BVA hearings a Veteran may have after a remand.

Cases go up and down from the Board to the Court, Remanded back to the Board and sometimes remanded back to the Regional Office.  On each remand the Veteran is entitled to another hearing.

However, if you really don't need another hearing don't ask for it.  Another hearing adds another 12 to 18 months onto the claim before a decision.

VA Aid & Attendence Proposed Rule Chanes are Devastating

Posted on March 22, 2015 at 3:07 PM Comments comments (39)
On January 23, 2015, the Federal Register released Document No. 2015-00297. This document has caused quite a
stir in the elder care industry, and has climbed to the top of the “hot-button issues” list. If you’re not yet familiar with
the document, you’re likely wondering what could possibly cause such widespread interest. It’s an unexpected rule
proposal by the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) regarding net worth determinations, asset transfers, and
income exclusions for Veterans pension benefit eligibility.
You need to know what they are doing and how to take action to STOP them from simply passing these regulations without legislation or vote!  

 Below is a summary of the main changes.
VA proposes a three year look-back period for transfers of assets for less than fair market value. Veterans and their spouses, who are determined to have transferred assets in contravention of the rule, would be subject to apenalty period up to 10 years.
VA proposes to calculate the penalty period by dividing the total amount transferred for less than fair market value (FMV) by the monthly maximum pension a beneficiary could receive. For example, the penalty period would be calculated as follows: Married Veteran transfers $50,000 for less than FMV – penalty period is 23 months ($50,000 / $2,120 = 23.58) Surviving spouse transfers $50,000 for less than FMV – penalty period is 43 months ($50,000 / $1,149 = 43.51).  This is completely unfair to the surviving spouses, who become subject to a penalty nearly twice as long as for married veterans.
 VA proposes to limit the allowable deduction for in-home health care to the average hourly private pay rate for home health aides as published by the MetLife Mature Market Institute, which was $21 an hour in 2012. More than 50% of home care recipients already pay more than that.  
The VA also intends to completely
exclude the costs of independent living facilities as medical
expenses, unless the facility provides 24/7 custodial care
supervision or assistance with two activities of daily living (or
directly contracts with a third party, professional care provider
to do so).
This will eliminate anyone who is housebound

needing to live in a safe environment due to physical or
cognitive limitations.


 Previously, a Veteran’s personal residence and a reasonable lot area would be excluded for purposes of calculating net worth. In its proposed rule, VA proposes to limit the land exemption to only TWO acres. This rule improperly punishes rural veterans and farmers.
This proposed legislation is a dishonor to our honorable veterans who made great sacrifices to protect our country.
 YOU CAN HELP!
The public has until March 24, 2015 to make comments to these proposed regulations.  Please take the time to comment on these unfair and potentially illegal changes.
Click through to this link to review the proposed rules and to submit comments at http://www.regulations.gov and search for: RIN 2900-AO73

We don’t know when the rules will be changed, so you  must act fast.

The Problem with the VA Medical Centers

Posted on May 20, 2014 at 2:03 PM Comments comments (21)
The tragedy at Phoenix Medical Center is partly the result of the executive bonus system  This bonus system encourages conduct like secret waiting lists. By hiding the true wait-list, the Medical Center Director was able to qualify for a $9000 yearly bonus.

This is not isolated to Phoenix. It is pervasive around the country. There has been Congressional testimony about how mangers manipulate data to qualify for bonuses. This bonus system is used throughout the Federal Government.  Perhaps it is time for Congress to eliminates bonuses  entirely!

Phoenix VA Health Center

Posted on April 27, 2014 at 1:46 PM Comments comments (12)
 Another VA Outrage

The Phoenix VA Health Center has been accused of having a "secret" waiting list of veterans needing health care. Allegedly 1400 vets were on the list and 40 of them died before they could receive treatment!

Why the secret list? It created an illusion that vets were timely receiving needed treatment.

Who would benefit from this illusion? Why the Medical Center Director whose base salary is $196,000 received a $9000.00 performance bonus for meeting targets.

This not the first time executive bonuses have been incriminated in a VA scandal. In my humble opinion, this is criminal!





Being Sexually Assualted by Friendlies treated Differntly than Raped by Enemy

Posted on December 4, 2013 at 5:49 PM Comments comments (7)
If you are in a combat zone and later suffer from PTSD your statements do not need be verified under VA regulations. But if your are raped in a combat zone by a fellow soldier, you have a higher burden of proof. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit so held in a recent case Hall v. Shenseki.  According to the Court the term" hostile" refers to enemy activity an apparently not the hostile activities of one who wears the same uniform of one!
 
Perhaps Congress should address this issues as well as the procedures to investigate and prosecute sexual assaults in the military.

Vets forced into years of Appeals

Posted on November 20, 2013 at 1:21 PM Comments comments (11)
The VA is working to reduce the backlogs of initial claims but does speed sacrafice accuracy and fairness to the veterans?   More vets are filing appeals with the Board of Veteran Appeals and the appeals back log is climbing.
 
There are 264,000 cases on appeal. 13,000 appeals have been filed since mid-July 2013. According to a retired Lieutenant Colnel who was a an Army Jag officer and now a veteran advocate, " A VA employee makes a decision and the entire system just attempts to defend that position as opposed to going back in and seeing what's wrong with it."
 
A veteran who files an appeal will be n the syatem four or more years based on current wait times published by the VA.  There are many reasons for the long wait times, but one of them may be the culture of the VA itself.  The VA only hires from within and although a Veteran Service officer or other Veteran advocates are qualified to do the job of Rating Specialist they cannot even apply for the position.  Thus new Rating Specialist are trained by old Rating Specialists continuing the prevailing culture.
 
The Board of Veteran Appeals also hires from within the VA and so the cycle continues!