Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

Drop and Give Me 22!

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About 30 Times journalists joined Jodi Rudoren, deputy international editor, on her final day of the 22 Push-Up Challenge, to raise awareness of veteran suicide.

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The Defense Health Agency makes additional laboratory developed tests available

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FALLS CHURCH, Va. — The Defense Health Agency updated its policies Sept. 21, making 25 additional laboratory developed tests (LDTs) available to TRICARE patients. The tests are offered through the DHA Evaluation of Non-United States Food and Drug Administration Approved Laboratory Developed Tests Demonstration Project. The demo allows DHA to review LDTs that have been examined by the Food and Drug Administration to determine if they meet TRICARE’s requirements for safety and effectiveness. 

Newly approved LDTs include coverage of noninvasive prenatal screening tests, which allow providers to screen expectant mothers for trisomies 13, 18, 21, X and Y in singleton pregnancies with a high risk of fetal aneuploidy. 

With the additions, the demonstration project now covers approximately 100 LDTs including tests for cancer diagnosis, risk and treatment; blood or clotting disorders; genetic diseases or syndromes; and neurological conditions.  Some LDTs are only for a specific or rare condition, and most require prior authorization from TRICARE regional contractors. See the Full List of LDTs covered under the demo

Generally, TRICARE only covers laboratory developed tests that have been reviewed and approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The demonstration allows the Defense Department to perform its own evaluation of a laboratory developed test, establish a list of these tests deemed safe and effective and establish a process to add new tests to that list. 

TRICARE patients must get prior authorization from their regional contractor for an LDT to be covered, except for the tests for preconception and prenatal cystic fibrosis carrier screening. You can learn more about the LDT demonstration project and find contact information for the regional contractors on the TRICARE website. 

The demonstration project is an important step in achieving greater parity between direct and private sector care and ensuring TRICARE patients have access to the full array of proven health services, technologies, and products available in the United States.

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Women face unique challenges when getting a prosthesis

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Like many women, when she’s in her civilian clothes, Army Spc. Cherdale Allen likes to dress up in her high-heeled shoes. 

“My heels are like 4 inches and up,” said Allen with a laugh. “I like to feel beautiful.” 

That has been a little tougher for Allen, an active-duty soldier working in medical supply, than  most other women. She lost part of her left leg below the knee to cancer and is being fitted with a prosthesis at the Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio, Texas. This prosthesis will help her to dress fashionably once again. “I just wanted to be able to wear the heels I used to wear. That was on top of my list,” said Allen. 

It’s not just whether a prosthesis will be able to handle a high heel, said Andrea Ikeda, a research prosthetist with the Extremity Trauma and Amputation Center of Excellence at BAMC and the person who is helping Allen get a prosthesis that will work. Ikeda fitted Allen with three different artificial limbs: one for walking, one for running and one for use when she wants to dress in heels. The next step is to add a flesh-tone cover for the high-heel foot that will also look more natural. 

“For most women, body image and a more natural-looking prosthesis are more important than they are to men,” said Ikeda. “Many women want their prosthetic arm or leg to match their other side in shape, size, skin tone, etc., so it looks more natural and doesn’t stand out.” 

In Allen’s case, the fitting also had to consider not just how it fit her body, but how it fit her movement style. She has a tendency to strike her heel (as opposed to walking and running on her toes) and hyperextend when she walks. Allen has had the new prosthesis for four months now, and she said it’s working well. 

“I’ve got the foot I wanted. So far, so good,” said Allen. 

For upper-extremity amputations, Ikeda said the weight and size of the hand or hook can be more of a factor for smaller women than it is for men. Manufacturers of prosthetic hands recently have released some smaller sizes, which better match a typical woman’s hand. 

“A few months ago I was able to use an extra-small-sized hand, which had just come out on the market, for a woman with what I consider about an average female hand,” said Ikeda. “The size matched very well, and the patient was pleased.” 

Ikeda said the process of fitting a woman with an artificial limb is not really different than the process for a man. Each prosthetic socket, the part of the prosthesis that fits onto the residual limb, is individually custom-made for each limb. But there’s more to the process. “When fitting a woman, we sometimes have to think about other things, such as weight gain during pregnancy, which can affect socket fit.” 

Right now, as combat operations have wound down following the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there hasn’t been an increase in the number of combat amputations for women, or for men, for that matter. But as women fill more combat roles in the future, there is the potential for demand to become more of an issue. Ikeda believes that prosthetists, working with industry, will be able to meet their patients’ needs. 

“As we continue to ask manufacturers of prosthetic feet about more options in adjustable and high-heeled feet, hopefully more choices will come to the market,” she said. 

That’s music to the ears of Allen, who just wants to live normally and look her best. 

“I still want to feel like a woman, feel good about myself and dress up,” said Allen. “I want to continue to live like I used to.”

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VA Streamlining Process for Medical/Surgical Purchases

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The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is taking a major step toward system improvement in the processes used to purchase medical and surgical supplies. VA is significantly enhancing the Medical/Surgical Prime Vendor (MSPV) program by replacing it with the Medical/Surgical Prime Vendor - Next Generation (MSPV-NG) program. MSPV-NG purchasing capability greatly improves VA's supply chain and aligns directly with VA Secretary Robert McDonald's 12 Breakthrough Priorities designed to transform VA into a Veteran-centric organization of excellence.

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Veterans health care omitted in final presidential debate

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The third and final presidential debate between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton was more cordial than the previous ones, but the candidates once again omitted meaningful dialogue about key issues for veterans.

“It’s disappointing that the candidates and moderators did not allocate a single minute of the 270 minutes of total debate time over three nights to address veterans health care,” American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt said. “Our men and women who served their nation with honor should be able to hear directly from the next commander in chief about how he or she will improve VA care. Veterans should understand how the candidates would address VA appeals modernization, improve treatment for PTSD and TBI among troops and veterans, and other important issues.”

The debate was moderated by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, who picked the questions from six topics: Supreme Court nominees, immigration, economy, fitness to be president, foreign hot spots and the national debt.

With the debates concluded, less than three weeks remain before Election Day.

“While we take issue with the omission of key veterans issues from the debates, now is the time for American Legion members to exercise their right to vote and assist wherever possible in carrying out Election Day in their communities,” Schmidt said. “As Chris Wallace said in closing the debate, ‘Now, it’s up to you.’”

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Did you know?

Military Funeral Honors ceremonies must be scheduled in advance.

The law requires that every eligible veteran receive a military funeral honors ceremony, which includes the folding and presentation of the United States flag and the playing of “taps,” upon the family’s request. This Department of Defense program calls for the funeral director to request military funeral honors on behalf of the veteran’s family.