Latest News Impacting Veterans’ Families

Eligibility for VA Benefits and Trusts

Written by KVanderkooi Fri, 07/14/2017

I am writing to address the buzz about the effect of TRUSTS on VA PENSION BENEFITS. Most importantly, nothing substantive has changed. Existence of a trust may or may not cause a potential VA claimant to be ineligible for benefits. It is one of many factors that must be examined when assessing eligibility for VA benefits. This discussion exemplifies the reason(s) to refer potential clients to the Center for Elder Veterans Rights, for a professional legal consultation. Thank you for your referrals!

For those who are interested in the minutia on trusts, continue reading.

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Trump to sign order for new VA accountability office

Written by Nikki Wentling Thurs 04/27/2017
Shared by KVanderkooi Thurs 04/27/2017

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Thursday plans to create a new accountability office and a new task force within the Department of Veterans Affairs, both in an effort to discipline poor-performing VA employees.

Trump will visit VA headquarters Thursday afternoon to sign an executive order titled “Improving Accountability and Whistleblower Protection” to establish the office. He and VA Secretary David Shulkin will also announce a task force focused rooting out fraud, waste and abuse within the agency.

Shulkin told reporters Wednesday evening that the changes would make the VA more aggressive in finding and removing bad workers.

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VETERANS CORNER: New VA rule to be implemented later this year

Written by Charlie Castelluccio Wed 03/15/2017
Shared by KVanderkooi Fri 03/17/2017

TITUSVILLE — During a hearing before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs recently, Secretary of Veterans Affairs David J. Shulkin announced that the Veterans Administration will no longer turn away veterans seeking urgent mental health care simply because they received other-than-honorable discharges.

VA plans to implement the new rule later this year.

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VA Finalizes Disability Benefit Plans for Contaminated Water Exposure at Camp Lejeune

Posted by Leo Shane III of

Shared by KVanderkooi Wed, 03/15/2017

WASHINGTON — Former service members exposed to contaminated water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune over a 35-year period can now apply for veterans disability benefits, under a new federal rule finalized Tuesday.

The move, which comes after a two-month review of the department’s plans, is expected to affect as many as 900,000 veterans and cost more than $2 billion over the next five years.

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Congress Passes Slimmed-Down Veterans Reform Bill

Posted by Leo Shane III of

Shared by KVanderkooi Wed, 12/14/2016

Lawmakers passed a veterans omnibus bill in the waning hours of Congress’ legislative session last week, but without many of the most sweeping and controversial provisions the two chambers had struggled with in recent months.

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Delayed Implementation of Proposed VA Changes to Benefits

Submitted by kvanderkooi Mon, 12/12/2016

The first draft of proposed changes was published in 2015 and CFEVR immediately sent an email/newsletter in 2015 highlighting some of the proposed changes urging everyone to comment during the open comment period.

A reminder was sent early in 2016 of the potential proposed changes and CFEVR sent another newsletter out fall of 2016 warning of individuals pushing families to file before end of year under the current law as a scare tactic and fraudulent. Click for fall newsletter:

These proposed changes are not news and they are not law.

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Happy Holiday from CFEVR 2016

Submitted by kvanderkooi Fri, 12/09/2016

Please join us in celebrating the holiday season.

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How a Diagnosis of Dementia Affects VA Benefits

Submitted by kvanderkooi Wed, 11/09/2016

The VA has issued a re-write in the Manual which finally specifically addresses our veterans and their surviving spouse carrying the devastating diagnosis of dementia. Prior to this re-wording having dementia was not an automatic trigger for eligibility as the law continued to maintain that the individual still required assistance with a minimum of 2 Activities of Daily Living.

In our opinion, this is a long needed correction to the wording and offers more understanding on the behalf of the VA to appreciate not only the individual struggling with dementia but the families who love them.

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Small Pension Increase for 2017

Submitted by kvanderkooi Tues, 11/08/2016

The VA has announced a small increase of .03 percent per month for those currently receiving the non-service connected pension plus aid and attendance benefit.  This new amount will also be the maximum award for those awarded in 2017.

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DVA Proposing to Lengthen List of Presumptive Service Connection to Certain Diseases and Health Conditions

Written by Department of Veteran Affairs/ NPC/ Federal Register

Submitted by kvanderkooi Fri, 09/09/2016

“The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) proposes to amend its adjudication regulations relating to presumptive service connection to add certain diseases associated with contaminants present in the base water supply at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune (Camp Lejeune), North Carolina, from August 1, 1953 to December 31, 1987. The chemical compounds involved have been associated by various scientific organizations with the development of certain diseases. This proposed rule would establish that veterans, former reservists, and former National Guard members, who served at Camp Lejeune for no less than 30 days (consecutive or nonconsecutive) during this period, and who have been diagnosed with any of eight associated diseases, are presumed to have a service-connected disability for purposes of entitlement to VA benefits.”

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New Technologies Aid VA in Identifying 14,000 Beneficiaries Delayed for Fiduciary Appointments- Due to Claims Processing Errors

Written by Department of Veteran Affairs

Submitted by kvanderkooi Mon, 04/11/2016

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today that an information technology system that it deployed in 2014 and enhanced in 2015, the Beneficiary Fiduciary Field System, allowed it to identify claim processing errors affecting approximately 14,000 Veterans and survivors. These Veterans’ and survivors’ claims were initially filed over many years, with some going back as far as 2000. The errors concern cases in which VA had proposed that due to disability or age the beneficiary was unable to manage his or her VA benefits without assistance, but did not complete the action by transferring it within VA for appointment of a fiduciary. These cases represent approximately four percent of such proposals since 2000.

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Toxic Exposures Caused Illness in Gulf War Veterans, new report says

Written by Boston University Medical Center

Submitted by kvanderkooi Fri, 02/12/2016

Twenty-five years after 700,000 U.S. troops fought and won the first Gulf War with remarkably low casualties, research “clearly and consistently” shows that exposure to pesticides and other toxins caused Gulf War Illness, a complex and debilitating disorder that affects as many as 250,000 of those deployed, according to a new report led by a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher.

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Listening to the Voices of Veterans and Their Journey in the Appeals System

Written by VAntage Point

Submitted by kvanderkooi Fri, 02/12/2016

That’s what one Veteran told us about the appeals process for Veterans’ claims. To better understand how Veterans experience the process – how the process fits into the context of their lives – a group of six researchers spoke at length with 92 Veterans whose service spanned the periods from World War II, Korea and Vietnam, to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Today, that report prepared by VA’s Center for Innovation is being released. What it found is consistent with a process that is 80 years old – the length and amount of labor is cumbersome and frustrating.

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VA Proposed Changes in Regulation 2016

Written and Submitted by kvanderkooi on Fri, 02/12/2016

There have been many rumors and misinformation shared since the VA proposed changes to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) about a year ago (A073) as it pertains to Non-Service Connected Pension Benefits.  Unfortunately, I have recently witnessed such events as insurance brokers telling veterans that they need to transfer their wealth in order to qualify for pension by February 1, 2016 because a new look back on asset transfers was taking effect February 1st.  Obviously, that was at best misinformation, and at worst, fraud, since there has yet to be any change of regulation published or formally announced.

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VA chief lays out 2016 priorities, including IT improvements

Written by Aisha Chowdhry

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Tues, 02/02/2016

The head of the Department of Veterans Affairs laid out 12 goals for 2016 and touted IT accomplishments from 2015 in a Capitol Hill appearances. His message, however, was met with skepticism from lawmakers..

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VA Disability Compensation for Gulf War Veterans

Written by Margaret Wadsworth

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Tues, 01/12/2016

The VA has made it easier for Gulf War veterans to qualify for veterans disability compensation.

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Happy Holidays from CFEVR 2015

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Mon, 12/21/2015

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New 2016 VA Pension + Aid and Attendance Rates

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Wed, 12/17/2015

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VA Medical Care for those serving active duty at USMC Base Camp Lejeune, NC during the dates January 1, 1957 through December 31, 1987

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Mon, 12/14/2015

“You may be eligible for VA health benefits if you served on active duty (Veterans) or resided (family members) at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987:

  • Veterans who are determined to be eligible will be able to receive VA health care. In addition, care for qualifying health conditions is provided at no cost to the Veteran (including copayments).
  • Eligible family members receive reimbursement for out-of-pocket medical expenses incurred from the treatment of qualifying health conditions after all other health insurance is applied.”

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No COLA Increase for VA Disability Benefits in 2016

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Wed, 11/03/2015

The 2016 cost of living adjustment (COLA) for federal benefits will be zero for 2016.  This is because the index used to determine  military retirement, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability payments, and social security shows that there has been no overall inflation since last September.  The dramatic decrease in the cost of gasoline has cancelled out all the other price increases, leaving a net negative Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).  This is the third time of no increase since increases were made automatic in 1975.   Federal payments are received by about 80 million US residents each year, including retired and disabled workers and their families, disabled veterans, and federal retirees.

The short version of what I’ve just said:  no increase in military retirement, VA disability, or social security in 2016.
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Submitted by kvanderkooi on Tues, 10/20/2015

” We’ve just become aware of a new scam where fraudsters are targeting Social Security Administration direct deposit payments via post cards. While we are not aware of a similar scam targeting VA payments, it’s something our community should be aware of…”

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Senators press VA on Agent Orange benefits

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Tues, 10/20/2015

Senators pressed the Department of Veterans Affairs on Tuesday to expand benefits for Vietnam veterans and conduct more research on the effects of Agent Orange.

“This nation needs to understand with passion and urgency the importance of this issue,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “It affects veterans of every era.

“There may be new toxic substances and chemicals on the battlefield, but the principal is the same that anybody in the vicinity of combat and many who may only be near it can be exposed to this type of insidious and pernicious chemical harm,” he added.

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing Tuesday on veterans exposed to toxic chemicals and the VA’s response.

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Agent Orange- Alphabetized Ships Lists

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Tues, 10/20/2015

Are you trying to find if your ship was affected by Agent Orange? Please click here to find the alphabetized ships affected by Agent Orange provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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VA 2015 Contingency Plan

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Mon, 09/28/2015

VA is committed to supporting Veterans and their families even during limited operations in absence of appropriations, commonly known as a government “shutdown”. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is revising its shutdown plan, in accordance with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A–11, Section 124 (dated July 21, 2010), and OMB memorandum M- 13-22 (dated September 17, 2013). Based on the instructions contained in Circular A-11, the Anti-Deficiency Act, and on guidance offered by VA’s Office of General Counsel, the attached document details VA’s analysis for a potential government shutdown. This contingency document is provided for a short-term shutdown. A long-term event will require further analysis and development.

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Do you want answers to your VA Benefits Questions?

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Tues, 08/25/2015

Thefadfasdf Center for Elder Veterans Rights, PC has been recognized by A Place for Mom as an expert in VA Benefit law.

CFEVR voluntarily restricts its nationwide law practice to issues under Title 38 USC “Pensions, Bonuses, and Veterans Relief”. We are not financial planners nor do we practice elder law. The firm is only going to base our answers to questions which can be found and substantiated by DVA rulings and published law.

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House Passes Two Historic VA Reform Bills

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Thurs, 08/06/2015

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the House passed two pieces of VA reform legislation. The VA Accountability Act of 2015 passed with a vote of 256 – 170. The Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015 passed with a vote of 385 – 34. Chairman Miller released the following statement:

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Report: Vets’ disability claims ended up in shred bins

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Tues, 07/21/2015

A pair of California lawmakers want to know why paperwork required to finalize veterans’ disability claims ended up in a Los Angeles shredding bin.

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Leaked Document: Nearly One-Third Of 847,000 Veterans In Backlog For VA Health Care Already Died

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Tues, 07/21/2015

WASHINGTON — More than 238,000 of the 847,000 veterans with pending applications for health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs have already died, according to an internal VA document provided to The Huffington Post.

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VA Urges Congress to Act and Transfer Funds for Veterans Care

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Mon, 07/20/2015

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today urged Congress to act expeditiously and approve its pending request for fiscal year 2015 budget flexibility. The request, formally transmitted on June 23, seeks the transfer of funds from the Choice Program to continue VA’s efforts to increase Veterans’ access to care and life-saving pharmaceuticals.

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VA’s embattled watchdog to step down

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Mon, 06/15/2015
Written by Lisa Rein

The chief watchdog for the Department of Veterans Affairs announced Tuesday that he is retiring this week after months of criticism that his office failed to aggressively investigate wrong doing in the troubled agency.

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VA moving to extend benefits to some C-123 vets

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Mon, 06/15/2015
Written by Hope Yen, The Associated Press

“WASHINGTON — Reversing a long-held position, the Department of Veterans Affairs now says Air Force reservists who became ill after being exposed to Agent Orange residue while working on planes after the Vietnam War should be eligible for disability benefits.

The VA said it has been working to finalize a rule that could cover more than 2,000 military personnel who flew or worked on Fairchild C-123 aircraft in the U.S. from 1972 to 1982. Many of the Vietnam-era planes, used by the reservists for medical and cargo transport, had sprayed millions of gallons of herbicide during the 1955-1975 military conflict in Southeast Asia.”

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Second lawsuit challenges change in VA claims process

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Mon, 06/15/2015
From Stars and Stripes

“WASHINGTON — Two more national veterans groups have filed suit to stop a new Department of Veterans Affairs disability claims process, the second such suit filed since March.

The lawsuit, filed by Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars in the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, claims that a VA policy doing away with a decades-old informal claim process will unfairly impact older and disabled veterans.”

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 Isakson, Blumenthal Introduce Legislation to Increase Veterans’ Benefits

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Wed, 06/05/2015
From United States Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

Bill would boost veterans’ disability compensation to adjust for rising costs of living

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, introduced bipartisan legislation to increase veterans’ disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).”

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Memorial Day Remembrance
Submitted by kvanderkooi on Mon, 5/25/2015

Today we honor the brave men and woman of the Armed Forces
who made the ultimate sacrifice, their own life,
to defend the principles on which our great nation stands.

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Latest Reminder of Systemic Breakdown

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Wed, 4/29/2015
From Heather Druzin, Stars and Stripes

According to a report by the Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General, the Philadelphia VA Office “simultaneously underserved and overcompensated veterans, keeping them waiting for months to get answers to their benefits questions, paying out millions in duplicate benefits and housing some employees in a vermin-infested warehouse.”

-Click here for Original Article-

The embattled agency has been under intense scrutiny since April 2014 when similar issues surfaced in Phoenix. Claims which led to a nationwide investigation into the VA’s daily operations and uncovered a breakdown of the entire system. Offices across the nation were implicated as being grossly understaffed, negligent in properly handling claims and even falsifying records.
“There is an immediate need to improve the operation and management of this VA (Regional Office) and take actions to ensure a more effective work environment,” the 78-page report reads.

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House Committee Leader Calls for Head of VA Benefits to Resign

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Tues, 4/21/2015
From Aaron Glantz Veterans Reporter

WASHINGTON – Concerned about broken promises of assistance for the nation’s veterans, Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, called today for the head of the agency’s benefits administration to resign.

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VA Eliminates Net Worth as Health Care Eligibility Factor
Submitted by kvanderkooi on Mon, 4/20/2015
Office of Public Affairs Press Release- USDVA

Elimination of Net Worth Makes More Veterans Eligible for Health Care Washington

The Department of Veterans Affairs is updating the way it determines eligibility for VA health care, a change that will result in more Veterans having access to the health care benefits they’ve earned and deserve.

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VA Waiting Times Drag On

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Mon, 4/20/2015
Written by The Durango Herald

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – A year after Americans recoiled at new revelations that sick veterans were getting sicker while languishing on waiting lists – and months after the Department of Veterans Affairs instituted major reforms – government data show that the number of patients facing long waits at VA facilities has not dropped at all…”

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Boxes of ignored mail, rodent infestations in Philadelphia latest black eye for VA

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Fri, 4/17/2015
Written by Heath Druzin

unnamed“A Philadelphia VA office simultaneously underserved and overcompensated veterans, keeping them waiting for months to get answers to their benefits questions, paying out millions in duplicative benefits and housing some employees in a vermin-infested warehouse, according to a report released Wednesday by the Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General….”

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 MA Attorney Makes Strong Statement

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Fri, 4/3/2015
Written by Attorney at Law and Notary Public, Arlene L. Lieberman

…”When I first filed my mother’s claim in September 2013, I never dreamed that after filing a supplement, having a local VSO submit several times and opening two Congressional Inquiries, that the VA would close her case. I am a former law clerk to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, former general counsel to a college, and have over 30 years of legal experience. I had thought I could save my mother money by handling this matter myself. Next, I thought it would go through when I got a local VSO involved and I certainly thought two Congressional Inquiries would…”

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The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 Highlights

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Mon, 3/23/2015

From the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs

To improve access to and quality of care for veterans, the law:

  • Requires VA to offer an authorization to receive non-VA care to any veteran who is enrolled in the VA health care system as of August 1, 2014, or who is a newly discharged combat veteran if such veteran is unable to secure an appointment at a VA medical facility within 30 days (or a future published goal established by VA) or resides more than 40 miles from the nearest VA medical facility, with certain exceptions.
    • Requires VA to provide a Veterans Choice Card to eligible veterans to facilitate care provided by non-VA providers.
    • Provides $10 billion for the newly-established “Veterans Choice Fund” to cover the costs of this increased access to non-VA care. Choice program authority would end when funds are exhausted or three years after enactment, whichever occurs first.
  • Requires an independent assessment of VA medical care and establish a Congressional Commission on Care to evaluate access to care throughout the VA health care system.
  • Extends the ARCH (Access Received Closer to Home) pilot program for two years.
  • Extends for three years a pilot program to provide rehabilitation, quality of life, and community integration services to veterans with complex-mild to severe traumatic brain injury.
  • Improves the delivery of care to veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma as well as care for Native Hawaiian and Native American veterans.
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Northern California VA office lost 14,000 veterans claims

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Fri, 02/20/2015

Reported In Stars and Stripes / Associated Press 2.19.15

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Oakland office of Veterans Affairs improperly filed and then lost about 14,000 unprocessed veterans benefit claims, some dating back to the 1990s, a federal government investigation found.

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Submitted by kvanderkooi on Fri, 01/23/2015

The VA has submitted proposed changes to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) concerning Pension Benefits.  The CFR expands upon the terms of the US Code and constitutes administrative law. Below are some of the proposed changes.

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Veteran Suicide Prevention Bill Passes House

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Tue, 01/14/2015

We lose a Veteran 22 times a day to suicide according to VA statistics. The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act was passed in the house where it has languished since last summer.

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Hire More Heroes Act (H.R.22) Passed – Veteran Hiring Opportunity

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Fri, 01/09/2015

114th CONGRESS – 1st Session – H. R. 22 – AN ACT 

To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to exempt employees with health coverage under TRICARE or the Veterans Administration from being taken into account for purposes of determining the employers to which the employer mandate applies under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

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Vietnam Vets Dishonorable Discharges Reviewed due to PTSD

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Sun, 12/28/2014

McHugh’s Nov. 3 directive was to the Army Review Boards Agency, which handles the administrative review of personnel actions and mirrors the September 3, 2014 directive of former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. That memorandum to secretaries of each of the military departments said review boards “will fully and carefully consider each petition based on PTSD brought by each veteran.”

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New 2015 VA Pension Plus Aid and Attendance Rates

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Mon, 12/04/2014

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Breaking News

Robert A. McDonald confirmed as new Secretary of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Mon, 08/04/2014 – 12:43

In a gracious press release to VA employees, newly confirmed Secretary McDonald stated: “We have strong institutional values—Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence. We will all need to depend on and live by our values as we rise to meet the challenges ahead. Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson—my West Point classmate, a trusted friend, and a great leader—had it right in his recent statement to Congress: ‘We can turn these challenges into the greatest opportunity for improvement in the history of the Department.'”

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Same Sex Marriage and VA Benefits

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Tue, 06/24/2014 – 12:50

Last week the Office of General Counsel of the Department of Veterans Affairs (OGC) issued Precedent Opinions 3-2014 and 4-2014 addressing qualification for VA benefits for spouses of veterans who are of the same sex. On September 4, 2013, President Obama directed the Executive Branch to cease enforcement of the definitions of “spouse” and “surviving spouse” in Title 38 of the United States Code to the extent that it uses language requiring a spouse to be of the opposite sex.

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Pension Poachers Prevention Act Passed by WA State

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Wed, 06/18/2014 – 12:48

On June 12, 2014 the State of Washington passed State Bill 6208 the Pension Poachers Prevention Act.

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Calling for Shinseki to Step Down

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Mon, 05/12/2014 – 16:09

As a point of clarification, I wanted to let our clients and readers know that the current news stories exposing VA cover ups and hidden wait lists concern the Medical Services side of the Department of Veterans Affairs. These news stories do not address concerns on the Disability Benefit side of the VA. Although long processing times for VA Benefits has long been an area of concern, that is not the reason that some are calling for Secretary Shinseki’s resignation.

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Government Shutdown Update

Submitted by kvanderkooi on Fri, 10/04/2013 – 13:25

Turns out the information on the informational bulletin provided by the VA to inform the public on how the VA will be affected by the shutdown was a little misleading. I took it to say that pension and compensation claims processing would be fully funded through “late October.” Today I was advised that if the shutdown continues past Monday October 7th, “non-essential” personnel will be furloughed (sent home), essential personnel will work without pay (for now). I did some research and it looks like the Veterans Benefit Administration as a whole will be down personnel by about 1/3.

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