Unqualified Doctors: After a local news station in Minnesota found that 300 brain-injured veterans in their area had been given medical evaluations by unqualified doctors, members of Congress asked the VA to look into the matter. After conducting an investigation, the VA has concluded that over 25,000 veterans had their compensation examinations performed by doctors who, by the agency’s own standards, were not qualified. As a result, the VA is now in the process of contacting these veterans to ask them to return for new examinations to address the severity of their Traumatic Brain Injuries. Moreover, VA Secretary Bob McDonald is taking the extraordinarily rare step of granting equitable relief for veterans who were wrongly denied benefits based on examinations by unqualified doctors. This means that some veterans could be received years of back-pay if it is discovered that the unqualified doctors indicated that their disability was less severe than it truly was.
Appeals Reform: Both houses of Congress have proposed legislation which would alter many things at the VA. But fixing the broken appeals process is not among the proposals, despite the repeated requests of VA leadership. In a speech in Washington yesterday, VA Secretary Bob McDonald called the need for appeals reform an urgent matter, and claimed that if Congress does not act soon, the delays built in to the appeals process could persist for years to come. We wholeheartedly agree with Secretary McDonald that reform is needed to speed-up the appeals process, but we disagree with him on how to achieve that goal. McDonald has proposed, among other things, a ban on veterans submitting additional evidence in support of their claims once an appeal has been initiated. In our view, the elimination of unnecessary procedures and realignment of staff would achieve similar results without decimating the rights of veterans to support their claims for benefits.
- Babies for Veterans: Veterans groups are unanimously supporting legislation which would permit the VA to offer In Vitro Fertilization treatment for veterans who suffered injuries to their reproductive systems during their military service. Currently, the VA is not permitted to offer such treatments due to legislation aimed at limiting abortion.
- No More Choices: Several of the most prominent veterans groups, including VFW and Legion, are speaking-out against the many proposals that would expand the Veterans Choice program to allow any veteran to see private doctors at any time.
- White House Chimes-in: In a blog post on the White House’s website, a veteran describes his frustration with the VA appeals process and thanks the President for his work on streamlining appeals. Somewhat ironically, the veterans describes seeking-out and submitting additional evidence in support of his appeal… something which Obama administration officials which to prevent veterans from doing.
Did you see an interesting story about veterans or the VA in the news today? Let us know by sending us an email (links@brokenVA.com) or by visiting the contact page. We’ll try to include your link in our next edition of Headlines.