Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

Informational Report- Community Based Outpatient Clinic Cyclical Reports Fiscal Year 2012 (9/20/2011)

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The VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) began a systematic review of Veterans Health Administration (VHA) community based outpatient clinics (CBOCs) in FY 2009. The purpose of this report is to describe the study design of the CBOC reviews for October 2011 through September 2012. The report describes the CBOC inspection process which consists of four components: (1) CBOC site-specific information gathering and review, (2) medical record reviews for determining compliance with VHA and The Joint Commission standards and regulations, (3) on-site inspections, and (4) CBOC contract review.

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Fishing for Freedom

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In Lake Ramona, Ga., volunteers and military supporters commemorated the 10th anniversary of 9/11 by honoring some of the men and women who fought against the terrorist groups behind the tragedy. Almost 100 servicemembers, National Guardsmen and Gold Star family members participated in Fishing for Freedom - an event that honored the veterans of the current wars by taking them out for a day of fishing. The Fifth District of the Legion's Department of Georgia helped coordinate and support the Sept. 10 outing.

"This activity not only touched other lives but touched my life forever. We must do more," said Carlis Baker, event organizer and member of Post 143 in Carrollton, Ga.

Veterans and wounded warriors - some of whom drove as long as five hours to participate - were the guests of the Walters family, owners of Lake Ramona. Members of the family volunteered their time at the event and gave participants fishing equipment. All day, 10 fishing boats shuttled attendees around the lake, and food and drinks were provided.

Legionnaires from Georgia's Fifth District volunteered and participated, along with members of the Sons of The American Legion and Auxiliary. A Georgia National Guard unit assembled fishing poles, and local JROTC cadets coordinated parking and performed a flag ceremony at the onset of the event.

"I was extremely impressed with the event that Carlis and his team put on - so very professional and well executed and for me personally, very moving," J.R. Ince, owner of a tackle manufacturing company in nearby Canton, Ga. "I was in tears a few times. Actually talking with these folks, and seeing the devastating sadness in the eyes and voices of the kids, is so much different than just hearing about the family tragedies on the evening news."

The Walters family and the Fifth District of Georgia plan on hosting another Fishing for Freedom event March 25, 2012, where an additional 25 military families are expected to attend.

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Conference attendees left with an agenda

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The American Legion's fifth annual Children & Youth Conference, held Sept. 16-18 in Indianapolis, focused on the overall well-being of today's youth, especially military children. Between presentations from Child Welfare grant recipients to Legion financial assistance programs, Legion family attendees walked away with ideas on how to better protect and support our nation's children and youth.

In particular, thanks to Sesame Workshop, attendees became aware of ways to assist the more than 12,000 military children grieving the loss of a parent.

Sesame Workshop's program, "Talk, Listen, Connect," is a bilingual multimedia initiative that helps military children through challenging transitions such as deployments, homecomings, changes and grief. During the conference, attendees were educated on "Talk, Listen, Connect: When Families Grieve."

"When Families Grieve" is an outreach kit that helps children reduce anxiety, sadness and/or confusion they may be experiencing with the loss of a parent. The kit comes in two family versions, military and non-military, and contains a parent/caregiver guide, a children's storybook and a DVD that features a Muppet story and live-action family documentaries. To order a free kit, please email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and specify which version is needed. For additional materials on sharing and talking, finding comfort and moving forward, visit

Further presentations were conducted on how to fill out the Legion's Temporary Financial Assistance forms, help military children become involved in extracurricular activities, prevent Internet crimes against children, and educate childhood cancer survivors of long-term effects. Visit in the coming weeks to read more about these presentations.

For those unable to attend the 2011 Children & Youth Conference, PowerPoint presentations can be downloaded by clicking here.  

















DD/2011 00:00XM

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Legion praised for Veterans Court resolution

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In a recent press release, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals' Justice For Vets said it was "honored" that support for the Veterans Treatment Courts was included in one of the 23 passed by The American Legion during its 2011 National Convention in Minneapolis.

Among other things, Resolution No. 109 urges Congress to continue to fund the establishment and expansion of Veterans Treatment Courts, and recommends the various Legion departments and posts provide non-monetary assistance and support to veteran treatment courts by having department service officers serve on the Veteran Treatment Court or having volunteers provide information on VA benefits and services.

"The American Legion is committed to help returning servicemembers in Veterans Treatment Courts to access their VA benefits," said Jacob Gadd, deputy director of the Legion's Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division. "We have more than 2,000 professionally trained service officers across the country, and we look forward to working with Justice For Vets to provide valuable training for our service officers to be active with Veteran Treatment Courts in their communities."

Veterans Treatment Courts operate similar to Drug Courts but serve only military veterans suffering from substance abuse and/or mental illness. They promote sobriety, recovery and stability through a coordinated response that involves cooperation and collaboration with the traditional community and criminal justice partners found in Drug Courts, with the addition of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care networks, the Veterans' Benefits Administration, state veterans agencies/departments, volunteer veteran mentors, veterans service organizations and veterans' family support groups. Since the first Veterans Treatment Court launched in January 2008, approximately 80 programs have been created with hundreds more being planned.

"The American Legion has been one of the mainstays of Veterans Treatment Court," said former Tulsa County Veterans Treatment Court Judge Sarah Smith. "Their members have enthusiastically embraced our program since its inception and helped numerous participants file claims, reinstate benefits and navigate the VA. Their encouragement, professionalism, and support have been a tremendous asset to our veterans and our team. All courts should reach out to The American Legion and other veterans service organizations in their community."

"So many veterans benefit by having Service Officers in court navigate and cut the red tape to receive the disability compensation, vocational rehabilitation, education benefits and other services earned through their time in our Armed Forces," said Matt Stiner, Justice For Vets Director of Development and Outreach. "With 14,000 posts worldwide, I have no doubt that all Veterans Treatment Courts have an American Legion Post within reach. We are profoundly proud of their support and look forward to seeing more Veterans Treatment Courts partnering with The American Legion to better serve our veterans."

For questions about Veteran Treatment Courts, please contact the VA&R Division at (202)861-2700 or via email.


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NOTE: For the sake of confidentiality, the name of this story's subject is fictitious. The narrative, however, is true.

On the morning of May 22, 1997, Navy Chief Petty Officer Montford Willson had a meltdown. The Navy lifer, a yeoman, had been nabbed for giving away "basket leave" to a few sailors - an under-the-table method of beating the system, whereby paperwork authorizing leave is allowed to languish unprocessed in a yeoman's "in" basket while personnel are away for a few days.

If sailors return as promised, the paperwork gets tossed; no leave is charged and no one's the wiser. But if they are delayed, the paperwork is processed to cover their absence.

Though, things didn't go according to plan for Willson. An unnamed informant caught on to the ploy and not only reported Willson but also an officer who alledgedly gave Willson permission to fudge the records. While the officer got a slap on the wrist, Willson was demoted to E5 - petty officer second class. He was not happy.

The incident only dug Willson deeper into dire straits. A psychiatric evaluation a few months earlier had found him suffering from a major depressive disorder - and understandably so. His marriage was falling apart. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, went blind in one eye and was having debilitating headaches. And now, he'd been punished severely for "failure to properly maintain his command's leave log." This was rock bottom.

Official Navy records of the May 22 episode relate that, in a morning phone call to his psychiatrist, Willson threatened to "blow up" his unit and "shoot everyone" in his command. He also said that he felt suicidal and had a gun in the trunk of his car.

In certain circumstances, violating the doctor-patient confidentiality rule is warranted. This was one of them. The psychiatrist tipped off the Navy and, seven months later, 36-year-old Willson received an "under other than honorable conditions" discharge (commonly referred to as OTH - other than honorable) - after serving more than 18 years.

An OTH discharge isn't as detrimental as a dishonorable or poor conduct dismissal. But an OTH is far from graduating with honors; it's enough to deny you most VA benefits. This was especially problematic for Monty Willson, a newly minted civilian with MS and depression disorder who needed serious health-care assistance.

About two years after his special court martial, Monty filed an appeal to the Navy to re-evaluate his case. Maybe they would reconsider, Monty thought, and grant him a general discharge. It would be better than the damning OTH.

So Monty wrote to the Naval Discharge Review Board (NDRB) in Washington about having been an honorable sailor until that unfortunate morning when he went ballistic. He pointed to his good service record - one so good, he argued, that he'd been made a chief petty officer. He also told them about his MS, depression, headaches and difficult divorce. Monty thought the Navy might understand the manic morning episode that cost him his Navy career, veterans benefits, dignity and reputation. He explained that he was reformend, becoming a community-minded citizen in his new Midwestern hometown and member of the local Optimist Club.

The NDRB considered Monty's plea for a year, finally replying in the summer of 1999. The answer was in cold military-speak, but translated roughly to: "Sorry for your tough circumstances, but you acted in a manner that required decisive action from the Navy."

The NDRB, however, was not entirely chilly in its decision that the "discharge was proper." There was hinting of a possible reversal in the ruling's closing paragraphs. In rather complicated terms, it asked him to refile his appeal when he obtained "evidence of continuing educational pursuits (transcripts, diplomas, degrees, vocational-technical certificates), a verifiable employment record (Letter of Recommendation from an employer), documentation of community service (letter from the activity/community group), certification of non-involving with civil authorities (police records check) and proof of not using drugs (detoxification certificate, AA meeting attendance or letter documenting participation in the program) in order for consideration for clemency based on post-service conduct."

Then, at the very end of the decision was a flash of hope: "The applicant is encouraged to continue with his pursuits and is reminded that he is eligible for a personal appearance hearing, provided the application is received within 15 years from the date of discharge."

Encouraged, Monty carried on. Over the subsequent decade, he earned two college degrees and became a Bible school minister and Cub Scout leader. He obtained three management training certificates, including one from the Small Business Administration, and started his own enterprise.

Monty became heavily involved in MS Society volunteer work, writing and speaking in support of others with multiple sclerosis. He published articles and a book and, as a Freemason, achieved the exalted rank of Master Mason. He remarried, too.

By the end of 2009, Monty had amassed evidence of his achievements plus character reference letters, including one from his local police chief, and was ready to, once again, face the NDRB. On Feb. 1, 2010, after learning that The American Legion helps with such appeals, Monty called David J. Michael, Jr., the Legion's military review boards representative in Washington. Michael, a retired Navy master chief petty officer, was intrigued and touched by Monty's story.

Over the next few months, Michael reviewed Monty's service records and began gathering evidence to support a discharge-upgrade plea, making suggestions for the submission of additional documentation. In the spring, Dave submitted the package to the NDRB and got word in July that its members were willing to see Monty in a personal appearance hearing later in the year. The documentation assembly continued until Sept. 29, when Monty - with Michael at his side - sat before five members of the NDRB.

In a letter dated Oct. 19, 2010, the board informed Monty that his OTH discharge, the dishonor that had disgraced him and withheld his veterans benefits for more than a decade, had been upgraded to honorable. Michael emailed his congratulations.

Monty Willson is an individual who, under a tremendous amount of strain, acted out dramatically and alarmingly. He acknowledges his wrongdoing and expresses remorse for it. In a personal statement that accompanied all the official and unofficial records of his post-service good deeds and good conduct, Monty said: "I fully understand that my discharge due to my misconduct was proper and fair. I have had a little over 12 years to reflect back on my misconduct.

"Not a day goes by that I've wished I would have done things differently and not done some things that I did. I mean, I was a CPO for God's sake, and I should have known better to begin with. One does not obtain the rank of CPO by chance.

"I cannot change my past, but I can change my present and future. Am I sorry for what I've said and done that led up to my misconduct and subsequent discharge? Yes I am."

In the end, Monty's actions spoke louder than his words. His charity to his friends, neighbors, family and community conveyed a valuable truth. Through a sympathetic ear at the Navy, and a little help from a true friend at The American Legion, the true character of former Chief Petty Officer Montford Willson has been not just recognized, but certified.

It was a familiar position for The American Legion. The organization has long advocated for processes that allow servicemembers to clear their names, playing a key role in convincing Congress to create discharge review boards in 1944 and panels to correct military records in 1946. Since then, the Legion's Military Review Boards Unit has provided counsel, guidance and representation to veterans seeking to upgrade their discharges or correct their service records; in 2010, the unit logged 42 discharge upgrades and 85 service-record corrections.

Not long ago, Dave Michael contacted Monty to see how he was doing. "So nice to hear from you," came the reply. "Please know that my wife and I are doing well. Since my discharge was upgraded, my lord, it is so wonderful. I live five miles from the VA Hospital and they are servicing all of my medical needs and medicine with minimal out-of-pocket co-pays. They mail me my medicine. It is so awesome.

"I have applied for ‘service related disability' (as you suggested). The American Legion rep at the VA Hospital has been a great help, too. He complimented me on my attention to detail when I took him my paperwork. He told me that in all his years that he has been working, helping people file their disability claims, mine was the best prepared he has ever seen."

Monty went on to tell Dave of the publication of his second book and his plans, should he ever become "rich and famous through my writing" to create a statue in tribute to young mothers awaiting their sailor husbands' return home.

Despite it all, Monty Willson's still a Navy man at heart.



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