Washington County Veterans Services

Quarterly Update: 4th Quarter 2022

The purpose of this update is to inform Washington County Veterans Organizations, Veteran Advocates, and individuals, as to changes occurring with Veterans benefits and services at the Federal, State, and Local level.  The goal is to produce and send out this update quarterly to maintain situational awareness.  If you have “word to pass”, please send it to me so I can include it.

NEWEST INFO IS COLOR CODED FOR EASE OF ACCESS

Hot Topics HOT HOT HOT  BENEFIT SPOTLIGHT: THE PACT ACT 2022!

The PACT Act is the largest expansion of benefits for wartime Veterans of the Persian Gulf War and Vietnam War Era’s since the Agent Orange Legislation of the 1990’s and early 2000’s. The Persian Gulf War era is 1990 to present and the Vietnam Era is 1964-1975.

There is a lot to this law, but I want to draw your attention to a couple of key points:

1. This is legislation and not litigation.  That means that there will be no large retroactive awards for claims made before the law was passed.  For instance, if you claimed hypertension in 2004 and it was denied, claiming it again now which you should do, will not result in back payments for 18 years.  The effective date for all awards under the PACT act is 8-10-2022 the date it was signed into law.

2. Like Agent Orange claims, you must have an illness or injury that falls under the provisions of the law or is secondary to an injury or illness related to the law.  There is no ability to file for “Burn pit exposure” just like you cannot file for “Agent Orange exposure”.  What is claimed here are the resulting illnesses from exposure, not the exposure itself. 

3. If a veteran filed a claim for illnesses due to exposure to Agent Orange while in service in Thailand and was denied, or you are the surviving spouse of a Veteran who meets that criteria, we must file a supplemental claim to reopen.  Do not wait for the VA to contact you, THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN. Link to the PACT ACT: https://www.va.gov/resources/the-pact-act-and-your-va-benefits/

 

 

ATTENTION –ATTENTION-ATTENTION!

VA HEALTHCARE SPECIAL ENROLLMENT UNDER THE PACT ACT!

IF YOU ARE A PERSIAN GULF WAR VET, Especially an OIF or OEF Vet, you have the ability to sign up for VA Healthcare right now without having to prove financial eligibility.  This is a HUGE deal and even if you do not feel as though you need medical care from the VA right now, this is something you really should do!  This does not affect private medical care insurance. 

Make sure to have a Gulf War Registry Exam, it’s your right, and may save your life!  Just call VA Medical Center Milwaukee at 414-384-2000.

 

  • Washington County Veterans Services Survey

Each year we have put together a survey in an effort to gauge our performance.  This year, our wonderful Information Technology team put together a web-based program to make this survey super easy and the data an effective tool.  Please take the survey and share the link, so that we can get as much data as possible and make our services even better!

Survey Link: https://vetsurvey.washcowisco.gov/Survey.php

**Survey is also linked on the Washington County Veterans Services Webpage:

 

  • SERVICE CLUBS and Military Volunteer Organizations

    • Legislative change and advocacy are the direct result of efforts by service clubs like the VFW, American Legion, VVA, AmVets, MOPH and others.  Without organizations like these, pushing our legislators to act, none of the great benefits and services that Veterans use would exist.  Wanna help?  Become a member, donate your time, talent, or treasure to these great groups.

       

  • Department of Justice: Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGE FROM LAST UPDATE)

    • RECA claims are sun setting in 2022

    • Do you know a Veteran or former DOD employee who witnessed a nuclear test, cleaned equipment, or was in the downwind catchment zones?  If so, please have them reach out so we can see if a RECA claim with the DOJ, NOT VA is the right vehicle for financial settlement.

    • Web link to RECA Claim Guidance https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43956.pdf

       

  • FEDERAL BENEFITS

Veterans Education Benefits (NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGES FROM LAST UPDATE)

 

 

Veterans Healthcare Benefits (NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGES FROM LAST UPDATE)

EMERGENCY CARE REPORTING

    • A new online Emergency Care Reporting (ECR) portal to support the Centralized Authorized Emergency Care 72-hour notification process launched by the Office of Community Care (OCC). 

    • The Emergency Care Reporting portal is designed to be accessed by community providers, VA medical center (VAMC) staff, Veterans, and Veteran representatives to provide patient-related information in a convenient and secure way. Case-specific details are necessary for proper care coordination and eligibility determinations.

      • Portal users will be encouraged to access the portal when reporting a Veteran who is self-presenting to a community facility for an emergency episode of care. The option to provide notifications via email is slated to be phased out by December 21, 2020.

      • Notification can still be provided to the National Call Center: 844-724-7842

        or via the portal

Community Care (VA Healthcare paid care, in the community) (NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGE FROM LAST UPDATE)

      • Community care, which is the actionable benefit program of the VA Mission Act of 2018, can be an option if a Veteran is using VA Healthcare.  It is VA paid healthcare in the community, as opposed to at the VA Medical Center.  Request information and a referral to this program either from your VA doctor, or by calling the VA directly at 414-384-2000.  This program is for Veterans needing medical care that have a barrier to travel to the VA in Milwaukee or Madison.

      • More information related to the VA in Milwaukee can be found here: https://www.milwaukee.va.gov/

      • More information related to the VA in Madison can be found here: https://www.madison.va.gov/

         

    • Veterans Compensation Benefits (NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGE FROM LAST UPDATE)

       

VA Compensation

If you were injured or sickened during your service period, you may be eligible for VA compensation also known as VA Disability Compensation, or service connection. 

 

VA Compensation is a form of work place injury settlement or workers compensation, it is the formal vehicle, for injury compensation, since you cannot sue the Federal Government for in service illness or injury.  For any claim of disability to be successful, it must satisfy the VA nexus requirement, and be formally diagnosed by a medical professional. 

 

The VA nexus requirement is three parts.  Did the injury occur during active duty service?  Did the injury or illness continue in some way since service?  Is the injury or illness still a problem today?  If the answer to these questions is yes, then you likely have a claim for service connected disability compensation from the US Department of Veterans Services.

 

 

INVIDUAL UN-EMPLOYABILITY (NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGE FROM LAST UPDATE)

      • What happens if I cannot work due to my service connected conditions? If you have found yourself unable to work due to your service-connected disabilities there is a benefit that you may be eligible for.  Individual Un-employability is a benefit available to Veterans who are severely disabled and unable to work based on their service related disabilities only.  The Veteran must be at least 70% with a combined service connected disabled, or 60% service connected disabled based on one rating at 60%.  If this is you, contact the Veterans Service office and lets discuss how this benefit can assist you.

         

        CONTRACT EXAMS

      • All claims are being examined through VA Contract Organizations.  The organization that will call you is one of three VES, LHI (Optum), or QTC.  They will ask you to attend an exam offsite from the VA.  These are legitimate organizations and NOT scams.

         

      • Claims appear to be taking a minimum of 6 months most going for 9 months.  There is a large backlog, please be patient.

      • Claims and Pension Processing (Based solely on experience, not published)

        • New claim adjudication period 140-180 days if fully developed requiring little additional evidence.

        • Appeal process, Legacy – 2-3 years, New process 1-2 Years

        • Supplemental Claim Process 2-5 months, depending on evidence.

        • Atomic claims 1-2 years

      • Agent Orange Newsletter is now online:  (NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGE FROM LAST UPDATE)

        Please find it here: https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/publications/agent-orange/agent-orange-2021/index.asp

        The VA is now sending out Nehmer letters (Nehmer was the plaintiff in the original Agent Orange lawsuits).  These letters direct Veterans with claims submitted for Parkinsonism, Hypothyroidism, or Bladder Cancer to respond whether or not they have more evidence, or if the VA should decide their case on the evidence they have.  If you have received this letter, call me and let’s make sure we submit it correctly.

         

         

        (From previous, update)

      • Vietnam Veterans can now file claims, or refile denied claims for bladder cancer if the served on the ground in Vietnam, or within 12 nautical miles of the coast of Vietnam.  Presumptive means you do not need to prove exposure, if you have the illness; it is presumed you got it from Vietnam.

         

        If that is you, or someone you know, call the Washington County Veterans Service office for an appointment.  If you have filed before and received a denial, we may be able to file on your behalf without you having to come in. 

         

        Do not forget about widows!  If you know of a widow of a Vietnam Vet who was diagnosed with bladder cancer, Parkinsonism, or Hypothyroidism please encourage them to contact us and review if they are eligible for benefits.

         

      • Examinations for Compensation and Pension (C&P) is primarily through contract examiners at this point, very few exams are occurring at the VA.  The contract examiners are LHI, VES, or QTC.  These companies are paid by the VA to perform examinations.  We have not had many complaints about this change, and the VA still pays mileage for exams.

      • Veterans receiving disability or pension will see a 1.3% cost of living increase.  New and historical rates can be found here: https://www.va.gov/disability/compensation-rates/veteran-rates/

      • Veterans Burial Benefits (NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGE FROM LAST UPDATE)

        Burial programs had been postponed at most Federal cemeteries due to the pandemic.  They have started doing burial ceremonies again with restrictions. If you have been waiting to inter a Veteran at a Federal Cemetery please review all of the information here: https://www.cem.va.gov/

 

  • STATE OF WISCONSIN BENEFITS (NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGE FROM LAST UPDATE)

    • State Veterans Education Benefits

      • GRANT FOR EDUCATION: The Wisconsin Veterans Student Assistance Grant, is the State of Wisconsin’s new program where Veterans and eligible dependents of Veterans, that have a 30% or more service connected disability, can receive a grant of up to $2000.00 per semester to attend a private college within the State of Wisconsin.  More information can be found here: https://dva.wi.gov/Pages/educationEmployment/WIVSAG.aspx

         

    • State Burial benefits

    • State of Wisconsin Veterans Homeless Outreach

      • Homeless outreach has been difficult over the last year, keep in mind that there are individuals specifically employed to assist homeless Veterans.  The WDVA VORP Program works in partnership with local CVSO offices and other agencies.  Our representative is Mark Provencher, USMC Retired.  More information can be found here: https://dva.wi.gov/Pages/benefitsClaims/Homelessness.aspx

         

    • More information related to State of Wisconsin Veterans Benefits can be found here: https://dva.wi.gov/Pages/benefitsClaims/BenefitsandClaims.aspx

 

  • WASHINGTON COUNTY: LOCAL BENEFITS AND INITIATIVES (NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGE FROM LAST UPDATE)

     

    • WASHINGTON COUNTY VETERANS SERVICE OFFICE, PLEASE NOTE:

      If you are sick, please cancel your appointment and change it to a phone appointment or wait to come to our office until you no longer have symptoms for more than two days.  We have had a recent breakthrough case of COVID in our office that dramatically slowed down our operations.  Please help us to help you, we all stay healthy, we all stay in the game of serving Veterans.

       

    • Washington County Veterans Services Cemetery GEO-Cache Project

What is it:  The Washington County Veteran Geo-cache Project is an effort in partnership with the Washington County Veterans Service Office, Washington County Parks Department, and the Scouts BSA to gather data at over 7000 Veteran gravesites throughout Washington County.  The collected data will be used to create a public portal, where people will be able to locate Veteran burial sites throughout Washington County by name and service period.

    • Why are we doing this?  To honor Veterans.  The goal of this project is to inform the public of the sacrifice of Veterans, to offer a way for people to seek out and honor Veterans, and for researchers and family to find Veterans who have passed in Washington County.  This project will also assist in the placement of flags and wreaths for the Washington County Memorial Day Flag program.

       

      This is an image of the patch we made for the Scouts that participate in this awesome effort!  More info will be shared as this project meets benchmarks.

       

       

       

       

       

  • Remembering our Washington County Civil War Veterans

     

    The Remembering our Civil War Veterans monument project continues!  We have placed 13 monuments, with 50 or so to go.  If you or your Post is interested in participating by either raising money or joining the Committee, please let me know.  This project will continue until all of our Civil War Soldiers are recognized, verified, and honored.

     

NOTEWORTHY

VA added 3 presumptive conditions related to particulate matter exposure Desert Storm/OIF/OEF Era

The new presumptive conditions are asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis. To be eligible for benefits, you must have gotten one of these conditions within 10 years of your separation from active service.

This will expand benefits for Veterans who served in:

Afghanistan, Djibouti, Syria, and Uzbekistan during the Persian Gulf War, from September 19, 2001, to the present, or The Southwest Asia Theater of operations from August 2, 1990, to the present.  If you have a pending claim for one or more of these conditions, you do not need to do anything.

https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/burnpits/index.asp

 

      • Blue Water Navy Veterans: Vietnam War Era

        • Vets and surviving spouses of Vets who served within 12 nautical miles of the coast of Vietnam, and have one of the presumptive illnesses of Agent Orange exposure, can file claims for benefits related to those illnesses.  If this may be you, call and schedule an appointment with the Washington County Veterans Service Office: 262-335-4457

      • VA Healthcare

        • VA Healthcare is care, not insurance.  You can have VA Healthcare and continue to carry private medical insurance, or Medicare and your supplement with no issue.  If you haven’t reviewed your eligibility, click here: https://www.va.gov/health-care/eligibility/  and review or apply.  Call Washington County Veterans Services if you need assistance.

           

      • Washington County Veterans: Homeless or Near Homeless

        • If you are a Washington County Veteran and are facing homelessness or near homelessness, please call us.  We may or may not be able to help in your specific situation, but we certainly can get you to the right organization.  Waiting until you are in absolute crisis, or on the street, is not necessary, or a good idea. 

           

      • Washington County Employers

        • Have you ever wanted to hire a Vet?  Do you need employees with the soft skills to show up, work hard, and treat your customers with respect? Do you need tested leadership? Are you tired of turnover and a lack of commitment in your employees?  If this sounds familiar, contact the Washington County Veterans Service Office with your job opening.  We may or may not have a Vet that is looking, but we do have contacts at the Department of Workforce Development, and the VA Vocational Rehabilitation Program.  In these partnerships, we will help you to find the right Vet for your workforce or connect to those who can!

           

Frequently Used Contact Information

 

VA Medical Center Milwaukee

COVID-19 info: publichealth.va.gov

Get online care: telehealth.va.gov

Address: 5000 W National Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53295

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Hours

Milwaukee VA Medical Center (Zablocki)

Open 24 hours

Phone: (414) 384-2000

VA Medical Center Madison

COVID-19 info: publichealth.va.gov

Get online care: telehealth.va.gov

Address: 2500 Overlook Terrace, Madison, WI 53705

Phone: (608) 256-1901

 

KURT RUSCH

Veterans Service Officer/

Reserve Emergency Management Coordinator

E:  [email protected]

O: (262) 335-4457

F: (262) 365-5001

Herbert J. Tennies Government Center

432 E. Washington St.

West Bend, WI 53095-7986

 

Federal VA Phone Numbers By Subject: https://error.vba.va.gov/