Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

Agent Orange claim filing deadline Aug. 30

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Vietnam-era veterans who have medical diagnoses for three presumptive conditions related to Agent Orange exposure need to file their disability claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs by Aug. 30 in order to qualify for up to one year of retroactive benefits.

The three diseases recently added to VA's list of presumptive conditions related to Agent Orange exposure or other herbicides during the Vietnam War are ischemic heart disease, hairy cell and other B-cell leukemias, and Parkinson's disease.

"Veterans who suffer from these presumptive conditions can apply for disability benefits at any time," said Verna Jones, director of The American Legion's Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division. "But they need to apply by the Aug. 30 deadline in order to possibly get up to a year's worth of benefits retroactively,"

Widows and widowers whose spouses have died from Agent Orange presumptive conditions may also qualify for retroactive benefits and are encouraged to file for dependent indemnity compensation by Aug. 30.

Veterans can file for disability claims online at VA's Agent Orange Fast Track Claims Processing System.

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VA Opens Small Business Conference in New Orleans

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The National Veterans Small Business Conference and Expo in New Orleans is underway. Hosted by VA for the first time, it is the largest nationwide conference of its kind focused on helping Veteran-owned and service-disabled Veteran-owned businesses succeed in winning federal contracts and expanding their businesses. The conference runs through Thursday.

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Chairman Murray and Senator Durbin Call on VA to Provide Answers about Privacy, Safety and Security of Homeless Female Veterans

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(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin sent a joint letter to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki expressing their concern about the placement of homeless female veterans in unsecure housing in Chicago, which jeopardized their safety.  Chairman Murray and Senator Durbin’s letter asks VA for assurances that homeless female veterans across the country who are being cared for by the Department are housed in appropriate, safe and secure conditions.

The full text of the Senators’ letter is below:

The Honorable Eric Shinseki
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420

Secretary Shinseki:

We are writing to express our strong concerns regarding the privacy, safety, and security of homeless female veterans who participate in the grant and per diem (GPD) program.  As you know, women veterans are more likely than their male counterparts to become homeless, and VA must be prepared to serve the unique needs of this growing population.   

We were recently informed that several homeless female veterans were placed with a provider in Chicago, Illinois, which was only approved to house male veterans.  As you know, sexual trauma and domestic violence are prevalent in the homeless women veteran population.  Furthermore, placing these women into a mixed-gender environment often exacerbates their trauma.  While we understand VA has taken immediate action to remove the women veterans from this facility and to immediately stop per diem payments to this provider, the failure to mitigate the privacy, safety and security risks for these female veterans is simply unacceptable.

Although this appears to be an isolated incident, the problems raised in Chicago do call into question the Department’s ability to exercise effective oversight over its GPD grantees and to provide the type of care that homeless female veterans truly need and deserve.  In order to ensure that a situation like this never occurs again, we request that you provide us with the results of an inventory of active GPD grantees to certify that there are no ongoing inappropriate placements of homeless female veterans at other facilities or housing situations.  Please also provide a description of the measures VA is taking to ensure that homeless female veterans are not housed in inappropriate housing situations in the future, including a description of the grantee inspection process. We expect a detailed briefing to our staffs on these matters as soon as possible. 

Secretary Shinseki, we appreciate your commitment to ensuring the highest quality care for homeless veterans.  We are grateful for the leadership you have displayed in fighting to end veteran homelessness once and for all and look forward to continuing to work with you to achieve this mutual goal.


U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Chairman Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee

U.S. Senator Richard Durbin
Senate Majority Whip

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Governor Quinn Signs Legislation to Protect Illinois Servicemembers from Predatory Lenders - Laws Caps Interest Rates on Predatory Short-Term Loans

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SPRINGFIELD – August 16, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation that will help protect Illinois' men and women in uniform from predatory lenders. The new law caps interest rates on certain types of loans under the Illinois Payday Loan Reform Act (PLRA) for active-duty Illinois servicemembers and their families.

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Legion submits comments on service dogs

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The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is amending its regulations and policies concerning service guide dogs for veterans and many American Legion members have contacted The American Legion Headquarters in Washington, DC. Below is a list of comments posted on Federal Register Volume 76, Number 116: FR Doc No: 2011-14933.

The American Legion National Headquarters has received numerous calls and correspondence with concerns with VA's proposed rule for 38 Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) Part 17. These comments are submitted in response to "RIN 2099-AN51-Service Dogs."

Below is a list of The American Legion concerns:

• Proposed paragraph (b) would establish clinical requirements to obtain service-dog benefits. To summarize, it would authorize benefits for visual, hearing, or substantial mobility impairment, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury and does not establish criterion for mental health purposes. Furthermore, it states a clinical determination and medical judgment must conclude it is optimal for the veteran to manage such impairment and live independently through the assistance of a trained service dog. It also states a provider's medical judgment can determine if other technological devices or rehabilitative therapy can be used in the place of service dogs.
Comments: Eligibility for a veteran being issued a service dog is loosely defined and relies on clinical judgment and criterion is not provided in this regulation.

• Proposed paragraph (c) would establish criteria for obtaining a service dog recognized under this section for purposes of obtaining benefits. Under paragraphs (c) (1) and (2), VA would recognize service dogs obtained through an organization accredited by Assistance Dogs International (ADI) or the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF).
Comments: On the Assistance Dogs International (ADI) website, it states: "The three types of Assistance Dogs are Guide Dogs for the blind and visually impaired, hearing dogs for the deaf and hard of hearing and service dogs for people with disabilities other than those related to vision or hearing. Although Guide Dogs for the blind have been trained formally for over seventy years, training dogs for physically and/or mentally disabled individuals is a much more recent concept.
The concern is that the original Congressional intent of 38 U.S.C. Section 1714 was that VA provide service dogs for the aid of persons with mental illnesses. Under the proposal rule, VA would contract with ADI, an organization that does not specify the type of psychiatric training service dogs receive.
In addition, there are several companies that provide service dogs or training for service dogs (i.e. Psychiatric Service Dog Society, American Vet Dogs, Puppies Behind Bars "Dog Tags: Service Dogs for Those Who've Served Us") specifically for veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which are not included in the proposed rule.

• In 2009, Congress authorized VA to provide service dogs for the aid of persons with mental illnesses by amending section 1714. Although VA welcomes the possibility that trained dogs may provide valuable services to veterans diagnosed with certain mental illness, at this time VA does not have any scientific data to determine, from a purely clinical standpoint, whether or when service dogs are most appropriately provided to veterans with mental illness, including post traumatic stress disorder. In the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2010, Pub. L. 111-84 (2009), Congress mandated a 3-year study on the effectiveness of dogs for mental health purposes. The results of this study will help VA learn more about the services that trained dogs can provide for veterans. Upon the completion of the study and analysis of its results, VA may revise its regulations in order to provide this service to our veterans.
Comments: We remain concerned that VA is writing regulations on policies concerning issuance of service dogs for psychological health conditions without first completing and publishing the results of the 3-year study on effectiveness of dogs for mental health purposes. This will limit VA's ability to work with several companies that specialize in service dogs for treatment of psychiatric illnesses for the 3-year pilot study and issuance of service dogs or service dog training thereafter.

• Proposed Paragraph (c) Accreditation of guide-dog programs is done by International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF), with whom Assistance Dog International (ADI) has a joint protocol. ADI will only accredit guide-dog programs if they are also involved in training service dogs, and even then ADI accredits only that portion of the training related to service dogs-IGDF accredits the guide-dog portion. IDGF does not accredit any non-guide dog programs.
Comments: Once again, IGDF and ADI do not have training and accreditation standards for psychiatric and mental disorders (specifically, traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder) and how can VA rely on accreditation from only one company that does not specialize in these medical conditions.

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Did you know?

The issuance or replacement of military service medals, awards and decorations must be requested in writing.

Requests should be submitted in writing to the appropriate military service branch division of the NPRC. Standard form (SF 180), available through the VA, is recommended to submit your request. Generally, there is no charge for medal or award replacements. For more information, or for the mailing address of the military branch office to submit your request to, call 1-86-NARA-NARA (1-866-272-6272) or visit the NPRC website at