Magnifying glass over text.

VA: Legislation, an extension, and a survey

By Bob Gutsche, VietNow National VA Chairman

Because all of us believe and understand in the fabric of the common bond of why we call ourselves American is to care for the men and women who wear the uniform; and when they take off the uniform, we care for them when they are veterans. – Steve Buyer, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

An extension, maybe

At the present time the Veterans Administration (VA) is exploring the possibility of expanding the time limit veterans have to claim disability for benefits associated with disabilities caused by Gulf War Syndrome. An extension of time from December 31, 2016, until December 31, 2021, for filing is being explored.

Symptoms of maladies associated with Gulf War Syndrome may occur as long as twenty-five years after exposure. This was concluded by a study by the National Academy of Science, which stated that, “At present, there is insufficient basis to identify the point, if any, at which the increased risk of chronic multi-symptom illness may abate.”

We only need to look back at the long-term effects of exposure to Agent Orange, which have occurred many years after exposure. The VA is right on in seeking an extension.

Positive legislation

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a few veteran-specific pieces of legislation that may be of interest:

  • H.R. 5329 No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act. This was introduced due to the poor performance of the Veterans Crisis Hotline, where many calls went unanswered or where a voice mail was taken and never responded to due to mismanagement and/or lazy employees. I have noticed that now, whenever I call the VA medical center, there is a prompt to press the number 7 to immediately put a veteran in crisis in touch with the call center.
  • H.R. 5162 the Vet Connect Act of 2016. This would require the VA to share medical-record information with community providers who are caring for or treating a shared patient.
  • H.R. 3216 the VET Act. This was introduced due to the actions (or lack of) by a VA emergency room that refused treatment to a veteran with a broken foot, and told the veteran to call 911. The act will strengthen the VA’s obligation to provide emergency care for veterans, and prohibit the VA from transferring a medically unstable veteran unless the veteran requests to be transferred or it is clinically necessary.

Yet another study of Vietnam veterans

The VA has embarked on a study – the Vietnam Era Health Retrospective Observational Study (VE-HEROeS) to evaluate the health and well-being of Vietnam-era veterans – hoping to help the VA better understand the long-term health consequences of military service during the Vietnam era.

Researchers have scientifically selected a random sample of individuals for participation, and are not able to accept volunteers. If you receive an invitation, please participate. You will be making a difference in the long term health care for yourself and for other veterans.

Included in the study questionnaire will be questions relevant to general health, including neurological conditions, cancer, hypertension, mental health, aging memory and reasoning, lifestyle, and military-service experiences, including combat or exposure to chemicals.

The survey will also include people with no military experience.

The researchers will be taking a close look at neurological conditions, as well as Hepatitis C infection.

They will also describe the health conditions of Blue Water sailors. Exploration into the health conditions of descendants will also be followed.

Go to publichealth.va.gov/epidemiology/studies /heroes for more information.

In remembrance of service

December 17th is Wreaths Across America Day. This is the day each year that the people from Wreaths Across America, from Columbus Falls, Maine, pay tribute to our departed veterans by supplying wreaths for each headstone at Arlington National Cemetery as well as numerous other military cemeteries across America.

This is an organization that deserves our support.

Closing thoughts

As I complete this article, I reflect on the point that Veterans Day has come and gone, but the month-long Veterans Day sales still linger on.

I also remember that there are many months of the year devoted to groups of people of various ethnicities, various beliefs, various behaviors, and even diseases, but we manage to have only one specific day for veterans.

As veterans and families of veterans we should look at each day as Veterans Day, and show the pride we have at having stepped forward to possibly pay the ultimate price for living in the greatest country on the planet.

Veterans, you are the Greatest Generation.

 

Bob Gutsche, VietNow National VA ChairmanAfter over 20 years in the U.S. Navy, VietNow National VA Chairman, Bob Gutsche worked as a counselor in the VA system for many years.