A Vet Follows up with Shaft on His Benefits Appeal

Dear Sgt. Shaft,

I want to thank you for helping me with me on my appeal, which I won back on 25 February, of this year. I am just letting you know that VA has not settled my claim yet on my retro back pay. On the first of April they did give me a partial payment, and also I went out with my shoulder, had to have surgery on it, on 7 February 14, which was service connected, they are still working that, and also so I applied for insurance, since I have 40% on my back now, with a total of 70%. Remember I was told back in 1998, that I could no longer jump, which at that times I had over 100 ABN jumps. So to make a long story short, I have been out of work since March, waiting on my retro money, and hoping they would settle my claim, within 6 months or so, but here in NC, they are so slow in Winston Salem. Has this put a hardship on my family, yes, but I am not the only one on this train. Why does it take so long for the VA to settle a retro claim? Thanks a lot for the help you given me so far.

Randall B Via the internet

Dear Randall,

By now you should have heard from the Department of Veterans Affairs that they have processed the adjustment of your award and released the retroactive payment to which you are entitled. The other issues that you raised are being reviewed for further adjudication.

Shaft Notes

• The following is a few words from the staff Director of the House Veterans Affairs Committee regarding the recently passed VA medical reform legislation:

“Of course VA will have to manage the choice program, i.e., they’ll have to issue choice cards, they will have to ensure providers are Medicare certified, they’ll have to ensure prompt payment, etc. However, the fundamental distinction between the choice program and regular VA fee care is who makes the decision to permit non-VA care. Under regular VA fee care, VA decides (under authority provided in law) when and under what circumstances a veteran is sent for non-VA care. Under the choice program, the veteran decides. The veteran’s decision is made when there is no VA appointment availability within 30 days or if the vet resides greater than 40 miles from a VA facility. The bill language is clear on this point in section 101(c) (1): ‘In the case of an eligible veteran…, the Secretary shall, at the election of the eligible veteran….’ be placed either on a wait list for VA care OR authorize that the veteran be furnished private care. Yes, that care may be delivered under contracts (e.g., a network of providers) and must be coordinated to ensure care continuity, but the choice is the veteran’s. That is the key distinction with regular fee care where it is VA’s choice. And, as we’ve learned, VA in many locations often chooses not to exercise the fee care option at all, choosing instead to keep vets on waiting lists.”

• Speaking to a crowd of medical students, residents and faculty at Duke University’s School of Medicine, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald today launched a recruiting initiative aimed at bringing the best and brightest health professionals to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) which will ultimately expand access to care for Veterans.

“At VA, we have the most inspiring mission and the greatest clients of any healthcare system in the world. That’s exactly the message I’m going to share as I speak with health care professionals and students about the value of serving at VA,” said Secretary McDonald. “We have taken action to get Veterans off of wait lists and into clinics in the short-term, but in the long-term, in order to provide timely access to care; we need to build capacity by hiring more clinicians. We need the best doctors and nurses serving Veterans, and that is why I will be out recruiting, leveraging the existing relationships and affiliations VA has with many academic institutions, and talking directly to medical professionals about joining us to fulfill our exceptional mission of caring for those who ‘shall have borne the battle.’”

VA is taking multiple steps to expand capacity at our facilities, to provide Veterans the timely care they have earned and deserve. In addition to Secretary McDonald’s direct messages to clinicians and clinicians-in-training, these steps include:

  • Collaborating on a new nursing academic partnership (VA Nursing Academic Partnerships or VANAP) focused on psychiatric and mental health care to build stronger, mutually beneficial relationships between nursing schools and VA facilities.
  • Partnering with the Department of Defense Health Affairs, Army, Navy, and Air Force to improve recruitment of recently or soon to be discharged health care professionals. VHA is already taking advantage of known separations of military health care workers.
  • Expanding of a pilot program to bring combat medics and corpsmen in to VA facilities as clinicians.
  • Improving the credentialing process for VA and DoD health care providers which will involve sharing credentials to speed up the process.
  • Expanding of the loan repayment program, as included in the recently passed Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act.
  • Considering options to revise pay tables to offer more competitive salaries for VA providers, in comparison to their academic and private practice colleagues.

These actions build on existing recruitment tools, including partnerships between local facilities and academic institutions, loan repayment programs, and scholarship programs.

“In order to recruit and retain the highest quality medical professionals, VA needs to be competitive with other healthcare systems, and ultimately that is how we provide the best care to our Veteran patients,” said Interim Under Secretary for Health Carolyn M. Clancy.

To learn more about how to work in VA health care and serve our Nation’s Veterans, please visit: www.vacareers.va.gov.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or email sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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