Programs Affecting Veterans and Progress this Year

There are currently more than 25 million veterans who served our country during wartime and may be eligible for some form of veteran’s benefits. Many of these veterans and their caregivers, who need assistance, don’t realize that they may be eligible for certain benefits that will help them. In this article, we will look at some of the benefits that were designed to help veterans, and progress that was made in 2017:

Expansion of the Post-9/11 Caregiver Program
Status: In Progress

Military caregivers are family members, friends, or acquaintances who assist veterans with a range of activities including bathing and eating, making medical appointments, travel, managing finances, and caring for children. A report from the Rand Corporation said that post-9/11 caregivers provide an estimated $3 billion per year in support and miss an average of 3.5 days of work per month.

Since 2010, a monthly stipend, training, paid breaks, and other benefits were extended to family and friends who care for injured veterans who served during the post-9/11 era. Thousands of caregivers of veteran’s who served prior to 9/11 and needed assistance were not eligible for financial support.
Earlier this month, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee approved the expansion of the post-9/11 caregiver program as part of a new plan to revamp the VA’s health-care system, which also is pushing for better access for veterans who want to see doctors in the private sector. The proposed $3.4 billion in federal funding over the next five years would extend caregivers’ benefits to family and friends performing full-time care for veterans of all eras. If approved by the full Senate and signed into law by the President, the new benefits would first provide help to caregivers of veterans injured before May 1975 and then expand to include those who were hurt from May 1975 to September 2001. That means caregivers of pre-9/11 veterans would get the latest training, paid time off to take a break, and a stipend to make up for all of her years of lost income.

While the program has bipartisan support, there is some concern a sweeping proposal to cut taxes could put the program on hold again. We will keep you up-to-date on the progress of this program.

The Veterans Choice Program (VCP) Extension and Improvement Act
Status: Signed into Law

In August 2014, President Obama signed into law the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act (VACAA). Included in that legislation was the Veterans Choice Program. In April, President Trump signed the Veterans Choice Program Extension and Improvement Act, so military veterans can continue receiving health care in the civilian sector when care is not easily accessible from a Veterans Affairs Department provider.

This bill extends and improves the Veterans Choice Program, so that more veterans can see the doctor of their choice and don’t have to wait and travel long distances for VA care.

Veteran’s Telehealth Expanded
Status: In Progress

The “VA Connect” app is being expanded to allow patients to conduct telehealth visits from their home computers and mobile devices, and from private medical offices. This expansion will allow VA providers in major metropolitan areas to help veterans in rural areas, or where there are fewer options for doctors and specialists. Additionally, telehealth visits assist home-bound veterans in receiving more frequent and consistent care, and provide more rapid medical intervention for the purposes of mental health treatment and suicide prevention.

A New Electronic Health Record System Was Introduced
Status: In Progress

The VA has announced a new Electronic Health Record system that will modernize VA medical records, allowing greater access to and security for sensitive health information utilized by patients and providers.

The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act
Status: Signed into Law

In August, President Trump signed The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act, which aims to streamline the appeals process for disability benefit claims.

Here is what the new law does:

• modernizes current claims and appeals processes;
• includes three options for veterans dissatisfied with VA’s decision on their claims to seek review;
• requires improved notification of VA decisions;
• streamlines the claims and appeals process to provide veterans with the earliest possible resolution of their claims;
• provides safeguards to ensure that veterans receive the earliest effective date possible for your claim.

Expansion of educational benefits for veterans and their dependents
Status: Signed into Law

Also in August, President Trump signed an expansion of educational benefits for veterans and their dependents, boosting aid by $3 billion over the next 10 years, and extending assistance to certain individuals who did not previously qualify. The Forever GI Act removed a 15-year time limit on the use of GI benefits. The measure also increased financial assistance for thousands serving in the National Guard and Reserve, building on a 2008 law that guaranteed veterans a full-ride scholarship to any in-state public university, or a similar cash amount to attend private colleges.

Uncertainty About the Future of Health Insurance
Status: In Progress

As the year draws to a close, veterans, individuals with disabilities, and seniors who are not yet Medicare-eligible, continue to depend on coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and/or expanded Medicaid programs. 11 million veterans who are not able to receive healthcare through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health system receive healthcare through the ACA. Although the ACA has problems, loss of ACA coverage will result in greater strain on Medicaid programs and a lack of preventive care for millions of Americans. It remains to be seen what will happen in this situation.

Veteran’s Aid and Attendance

The Veteran’s Aid and Attendance pension continues to provide financial aid to veterans who have served on active duty during war-time, even if only one day was served during their time of duty, to help offset the cost of long-term care. Specifically, veterans who need assistance with activities such as bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, may be eligible. Veterans who are bed-ridden, or have limited eyesight may also be eligible, as well as veterans who are patients in a nursing homes and/or assisted living facilities for either physical or mental conditions. Learn more about the Veteran’s Aid and Attendance pension here.

Applying for Veteran’s Benefits

Applying for veteran’s benefits, such as Veteran’s Aid and Attendance, can be confusing and arduous. Here at the Farr Law Firm, we work with veterans and their spouses to evaluate whether they qualify for the Veterans Aid and Attendance Benefit and/or Medicaid, and we deal with all the paperwork. As an Accredited Attorney with the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, I understand both the Veterans Aid and Attendance Benefit and the Medicaid program and the interaction between both benefit programs — and this interaction between the programs is of crucial importance because most veterans who start off needing Aid and Attendance will eventually need Medicaid, so all asset protection planning that is done to make a veteran eligible for Aid and Attendance must take future Medicaid benefits into account. Please call us at any time to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation:

Fairfax Veteran’s Planning: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Veteran’s Planning: 540-479-1435
Rockville Veteran’s Planning: 301-519-8041
DC Veteran’s Planning: 202-587-2797

P.S. Another benefit of being a veteran is a 10% discount off all services at the Farr Law Firm. We hope to see your family soon!

 

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