NOVS Blog

House Passes Three Veterans-related Bills

clock May 22, 2013 08:41 by author Caleb Cage

From the Governor's Office in Washington, DC:

H.R. 1412, which passed 416-0, would reduce the amount that veterans receive for on-the-job training or apprenticeship programs from 85 percent to 75 percent of the wage the job actually pays. The legislation is a response to concerns that setting the wage rate to 85 percent was preventing potential employers from participating in on-the-job training programs. The bill also authorizes all federal agencies to participate in on-the-job training programs.

An amended H.R. 1344, which passed 413-0, would update the 2005 Wounded Warriors Screening Program and direct the Transportation Security Administration to further develop and implement expedited screening procedures for wounded and disabled service members, veterans and their families.

H.R. 570, passed by voice vote, would provide for annual cost-of-living adjustments to be made automatically by law each year in the rates of disability compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for survivors of certain service-connected disabled veterans.

For more information on these bills, click here.



Three Veteran Bills Pass out of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee

clock May 21, 2013 11:39 by author Caleb Cage

The following three bills passed out of the committee this morning.

AB304: Makes an appropriation to the Eighth Judicial District Court for a Veterans Court Coordinator

This is Assemblyman Elliot Anderson's bill, one that he has been working tirelessly on all session.  Today's passage gives it a clear way ahead.

AB58: Revises various provisions relating to veterans

This is our agency bill, and though amended greatly, it still carries forward several of the key provisions that we asked for. 

AB242: Authorizes the placement of a designation of veteran status on certain documents issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles

This bill was amended to match Senator Brower and Assemblyman Kirner's senate bill, and will help us meet the legislative goals developed through the Legislative Symposium last year.



VA Addressing Nevada Backlog

clock May 21, 2013 08:52 by author Caleb Cage

The discussion of the national backlog, and how it impacts Nevada's veterans, has received a lot of coverage over the last few months. The topic has received congressional attention, as well as a great deal of focus from the national Veteran Service Organizations. I even wrote about our efforts to collaborate with our federal partners here.

This morning, the VA has announced a new initiative to address these issues side-by-side with service organizations and partners like us. The press release below lays out their efforts, including an announcement of a joint visit to the regional office in Reno. See full details below.

VA and Veterans Service Organizations Announce Claims Initiative to Reduce Claims Backlog, Joint Effort Aimed at Promoting Use of Fully Developed Claims

WASHINGTON – Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), and The American Legion announced a new partnership to help reduce the compensation claims backlog for Veterans. The effort—the Fully Developed Claims (FDC) Community of Practice—is a key part of VA’s overall transformation plan to end the backlog in 2015 and process claims within 125 days at 98% accuracy. VA can process FDCs in half the time it takes for a traditionally filed claim.

“VA prides itself on our ongoing partnership with organizations that represent Veterans throughout the claims process,” said Undersecretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey. “A Fully Developed Claim is the most effective way to ensure a Veteran’s claim never reaches the backlog—and is the basis for this new initiative between VA and what we expect will be an ever-increasing number of Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) and others who represent Veterans at various points of the claims process. ”

“This new initiative takes a common-sense approach to working smarter to better serve our injured and ill Veterans,” said DAV Washington Headquarters Executive Director Barry Jesinoski “DAV is pleased to be working with the VA to help improve the disability compensation system.”

“We have been working with VA since last December on its fully developed claims process,” said James E. Koutz, national commander of The American Legion. “Teams of our experts have already gone to VA regional offices in Denver, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and other cities to help identify best practices for FDCs, and to further train our own service officers.” Koutz said the Legion’s next visit in support of the FDC program is planned for June at the VA regional office in Reno, Nev.

Claims are considered to be “fully developed” when Veterans submit all available supporting evidence, like private treatment records and notice of federal treatment records, to VA at the time they first file a formal claim and certify they have no more evidence to submit. This is the information that VA needs to make a determination on a disability claim. The FDC program supports the sharing of best practices across Veterans Service Organizations, who help thousands of Veterans each year with their compensation claims, to identify up front all evidence necessary to support a Veteran’s claim. Veterans then certify that they have no additional evidence to submit, and VA can process the claim in half the time it takes for a traditionally filed claim.

VSOs have long played an integral role in submitting Veterans claims - often with representatives working within VA regional offices. VA has consulted with them throughout the development and implementation of VA’s plan to end the backlog in 2015 to ensure best practices and their unique insights were incorporated. The American Legion and DAV are the first to step forward to work with VA on the FDC program, and that program has led to a much more efficient process. Meaningful progress will be felt by increasing numbers of Veterans as more VSOs participate with VA in the FDC program. This initiative is just the latest example of the collaboration between VA and VSOs. In July, VA held a workshop to obtain the views of VSO representatives and to provide them with information on the effort to eliminate the claims backlog. The main focus of the workshop was VA’s emphasis on the shared goal of better serving Veterans and positive impact of filing Fully Developed Claims. These workshops will be replicated in VBA regional offices across the country.

“VA will continue to work with our VSO partners to provide the world-class health care and benefits that Veterans have earned through their service,” said Undersecretary Hickey.

This is the latest effort in support of the Secretary’s plan to reduce the backlog. Last month, VA announced an initiative to expedite compensation claims decisions for Veterans who have waited one year or longer. On April 19, VA began prioritizing claims decisions for Veterans who have been waiting the longest, by providing provisional decisions that allow eligible Veterans to begin collecting compensation benefits quickly. With a provisional decision, a Veteran has a year to submit additional information to support a claim before the decision becomes final.

On May 15, VA announced that it is mandating overtime for claims processors in its 56 regional benefits offices through the end of fiscal year 2013 to help eliminate the backlog, with continued emphasis on high-priority claims for homeless Veterans and those claiming financial hardship, the terminally ill, former Prisoners of War, Medal of Honor recipients, and Veterans filing Fully Developed Claims. As of May 17, the paperless claims processing system known as the Veterans Benefits Management System, or VBMS, has been deployed to 46 out of 56 regional office locations, and about 18% of VA’s current claim inventory is in an electronic format. Claims for Wounded Warriors separating from the military for medical reasons will continue to be handled separately and on a priority basis with the Department of Defense through the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES). On average, Wounded Warriors separating through IDES currently receive VA compensation benefits in 2 months following their separation from service.

Veterans can learn more about disability benefits on the joint Department of Defense-VA web portal eBenefits at http://www.ebenefits.va.gov and find information about filing Fully Developed Claims here: http://www.benefits.va.gov/transformation/fastclaims/. Servicemembers returning from active duty in combat theatres are eligible for five years of VA medical care – regardless of the status of any disability claim submitted. Medical care is not withheld while disability claims are under review. For more information on enrolling in VA health benefits, please visit http://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/.



Veterans News from Around the State

clock April 23, 2013 17:24 by author Caleb Cage

More headlines and news from around the start regarding veterans issues in Nevada. 

After a series of queries and a letter from five of six members of our federal delegation, the federal VA is taking immediate steps to clear backlog of claims.

A longtime Las Vegas housing advocate is pursuing transitional residences for homeless veterans in the area.

After a local sewage flood, the Reno Veterans Guest House worked last week to restore lodging to vets and their families.

Last week, we welcomed the Always Lost exhibit to the Nevada Legislature.

The Nevada Air Guard launch a new exercise.

My column in the Nevada Appeal: Nevada veterans tax exemptions are now online.



Veterans Court for Clark County

clock April 22, 2013 10:03 by author Caleb Cage

In the Senate Judiciary chambers this morning listening to Assemblyman Anderson talk about Assembly Bill 84, which would help build the Veterans Court program in the Las Vegas area.  The bill received a fair hearing, and lots of support from members of the audience.  It looks like it has a good chance going forward.

Veterans Courts have become the national standard in many respects in diversion courts for service members who have returned to civilian society.  They allow wrap-around services for those who may have committed crimes, and who may have access to unique resources through the VA and other services that might assist in their rehabilitation, and sometime, reintegration.  These courts have had higher success rates, and often cost the local government less in terms of resources. 

Assemblyman Anderson sits on the Veterans Services Commission as well, and Veterans Court, especially in Clark County, has been an interest of his for sometime.  We have been working with the Veterans Court in Washoe County since it was established several years ago, and have been encouraged by the various efforts going on in Clark County.  If Assemblyman Anderson's bill is passed, we will certainly do our best to assist there as well.



About the Author

Kat Miller is the Director for the Nevada Department of Veterans Services.

Colonel (U.S. Army, Retired) Katherine Miller was raised in Reno and served 34 years in the United States Army.  Starting as an enlisted soldier, she culminated her military service with assignments as a military police brigade commander serving in the United States and in Afghanistan; and as the Commander of the Department of Defense’s largest correctional organization.

After retiring she taught college at the University of Maryland and the University of Nevada, Reno. She served as the Deputy Director for the Nevada Department of Veterans Services prior to accepting appointment as the Director.

Her education includes a Master’s of Science Degree from the U.S. Army War College and a Master’s of Public Administration from Roosevelt University in Chicago

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