On Wednesday, the Senate passed VFW-supported S. 785, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019, which would support VA as it continues to make improvements to veterans’ mental health care. The bill covers a strategic plan for veterans transitioning from active duty, pilot programs integrating alternative therapies, establishing a VA and DOD clinical provider treatment toolkit, improving care and services for women veterans, and expanding the mental health medical workforce. Project ATLAS could benefit from this bill as there is an opportunity to expand telehealth capabilities, suicide prevention, and mental health programs to veterans in rural and highly rural areas.
Expansion of Caregiver Program Planned for Fall
VA released its final rule on revising its regulations for VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC). According to the document, the expansion is set to begin Oct. 1, 2020. Under this rule, PCAFC will be expanded in two phases. The first phase is for caregivers of veterans injured on military duty before May 7, 1975. Veterans injured in service between 1975 and 2001 will have to wait two more years. With this final regulation, PCAFC will be open to veterans with a service-connected disability rating of 70% or higher.
Legislation Introduced to Include DBQs on VA Website
On Wednesday, Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) introduced VFW-supported S. 4412, to improve the ability of veterans to access and submit disability benefit questionnaire forms. This important legislation would require VA to publish Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs) on a public website. DBQs were introduced in 2010 to streamline the collection of medical evidence in support of disability benefits claims. Until recently, both VA and private medical physicians were permitted to use DBQs. As stated by VFW National Legislative Service Deputy Director Matthew Doyle, “For more than a decade, VA physicians and private medical providers used DBQs to supplement evidence in support of disability claims. This April, VA removed public-facing DBQs from its website, thereby preventing private medical providers and veterans from accessing these forms.”
Legislation Introduced to Help Veterans Request VA File
On Wednesday, Reps. T.J. Cox (D-CA) and Chip Roy (R-TX) introduced VFW-supported H.R. 7926, to allow for the electronic request of certain records. This legislation would require VA to permit veterans to request copies of their entire disability claims file online. These files contain comprehensive information regarding the evidence a veteran submitted in support of a claim, information VA obtained from third parties, and a record of requests for higher-level review and supplemental claims.
Marine Corps Reserve Pfc. Frank L. Athon, Jr., 29, was a member of Company A, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio. Athon died on the third day of battle, Nov. 22, 1943. Interment services are pending.
Marine Corps Sgt. George R. Reeser, 25, of Washington, Illinois, was a member of Company A, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio. Reeser died on the third day of battle, Nov. 22, 1943. Reeser will be buried Sept. 26, 2020, in Deer Creek, Illinois.
Till next week, praying for all.
– Charles Castelluccio