Veterans’ Advocate Insider – August & September 2016 Edition



A Message from NOVA President Glenda Herl

The pending issue of appeals modernization continues to be a hot topic of discussion for VA practitioners, but there are not many days left on the legislative calendar for Congress to pass legislation. On July 6, 2016, Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, introduced H.R. 5620, the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016. The bill purports to strengthen protections for whistleblowers and fix the VA’s pervasive lack of accountability for misbehaving employees. Chairman Miller has been a long-time advocate for VA accountability, and he has voiced his displeasure on numerous occasions with how VA has failed to hold employees accountable in several recent scandals.

Additionally, the bill would reform the agency’s disability benefits appeals process – a top priority for VA leaders and many veterans service organizations (VSOs). H.R. 5620 essentially adopts the VA appeals reform provisions contained in H.R. 5083. H.R. 5083 was the subject of a legislative hearing on June 23, 2016 for which NOVA submitted a written statement. Following the hearing, Chairman Miller requested groups who testified or provided written statements to respond to two additional questions. Our reply was submitted to the Chairman on July 1, 2016.

On July 13, 2016, Diane Rauber and I participated in a Senate roundtable discussion with stakeholders to discuss appeals reform legislation. The roundtable was convened by Ranking Member Blumenthal’s committee staff. Attending the roundtable were Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs (SVAC) majority and minority staff members, VA, VSOs, and non-VSO stakeholders. The roundtable focused on the Blumenthal “discussion draft” bill that was considered during the May 24th SVAC hearing (at which NOVA testified). No bill has moved past the committee, although Senator Marco Rubio introduced a companion bill to Rep. Miller’s bill.

On September 1st, in anticipation of the Congress returning from its summer recess, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy released a memo to House Republicans indicating that H.R. 5620 could be ready for floor consideration in September. As noted above, H.R. 5620 ensures VA employees can be fired or demoted for misconduct or poor performance and also changes the disability appeals process in an effort to reduce the unacceptable backlog of appeals.

It’s clear this issue is still in the hopper. NOVA continues to maintain that changes in the proposed legislation are necessary to ensure adequate preservation of veterans’ legal rights. We have voiced concerns regarding the potential effect on judicial review and the need for effective date relief to extend to court cases; how the Board of Veterans’ Appeals’ docket would operate fairly; and how appeals under the old system would be fairly resolved. If you are interested in reading NOVA’s testimony, it is available in the NOVA Document Library.

NOVA filed comments in response to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) records schedule for Department of Defense files related to reports of sexual assault in the military and maintained by the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. Some of these records contain information that might be helpful to a veteran seeking service connection for a condition related to military sexual trauma. NOVA is contending that these records should be retained for a longer period than currently proposed by NARA (which ranges from approximately 11 to 18 years).

NOVA also filed comments on the VA’s new NOD form for pension, DIC, burial, and accrued benefits cases. While the Federal Circuit has upheld the use of standardized forms, NOVA contends a separate form for these claims is unnecessary. VA should use one NOD form for all claims. Furthermore, VA should clarify what will happen when a veteran files the wrong form. All of NOVA’s comments can be found in the Document Library.

NOVA continues its outreach with VA. NOVA leadership met with Leigh Bradley, VA General Counsel, and other OGC staff members on July 20, 2016 to discuss many issues of concern for our members. Of particular note, we discussed electronic access – both the issue of getting remote access and the functionality problems with VBMS. We also stressed the problems our members continue to experience in receiving notice and correspondence from VA regarding our clients. Ms. Bradley promised to follow up with VBA leadership on this issue.

NOVA’s Executive Director and I met recently with the new Vice Chairman and Executive in Charge of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, Carol DiBattiste. Ms. DiBattiste is a former Under Secretary of the Air Force, and most recently has been serving as a senior advisor to Secretary McDonald with a focus on

appeals reform. Ms. DiBattiste discussed plans for the Board and indicated that she would like to have regular meetings with NOVA, as well as other stakeholders.

The NOVA Fall Conference at the Omni Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island is filled with informative topics and presenters and is only weeks away. You can still register for the conference; just visit NOVA’s website at www.vetadvocates.org. Hope to see you there!

In closing, NOVA’s leadership is working hard on your behalf – the Board of Directors has met regularly to plan for NOVA’s current and future existence. We wanted a seat at the table for NOVA to share the collective knowledge and experience of our members in veterans’ law. This year has been a productive one for moving NOVA forward, and we look forward to continuing to serve you in 2017.

Best regards,

Glenda Herl

Get Ready for NOVA’s Fall 2016 Conference: What You Need to Know

Now just a few weeks away – you still have time to register for NOVA’s Fall Conference on September 22-24, 2016 at the Omni Hotel in Providence! To access the 2016 Fall Conference Brochure and Registration Forms, click HERE. To register using our online form now, click HERE.

All conference attendees are invited to attend a luncheon with the conference presenters on Friday, September 23rd at 11:30 a.m. NOVA will provide nine tables with nine seats available for attendees, where you can discuss issues with your colleagues and ask questions regarding the speaker’s topic. Our speakers will lead a dialogue or Q&A session allowing everyone at the table to interact.

The cost of the luncheon is $48 per person. Special registration is required. Please check the appropriate box on the registration form and include the luncheon fee with your conference payment. The multi-registration discount does not apply to the luncheon. To register for the luncheon using our online forms, click HERE. To register for the luncheon using our hard copy forms, click HERE.

Finally, we want to make sure you have all the information you need to get ready for the big event. Please take a few minutes to review these conference tips:

Download Conference Materials: Attendees are strongly encouraged to download all conference materials to their laptop computers or print them PRIOR to arriving at the conference.

Bring Extra Laptop Batteries: While NOVA will make every effort to supply a limited number of cords, unforeseen circumstances with meeting room set-ups often complicate these plans. So please download your conference materials before leaving home. You may also want to bring extra laptop batteries with you, given that an alternate power source may not be available in the meeting rooms.

Confirm Your Hotel Reservations: The NOVA room block at the Omni Hotel is now full. Those with reservations at the Omni may wish to contact the hotel to confirm their length of stay. If you still need a hotel room for the conference, please make these arrangements immediately. Contact Meghan Dunham at the NOVA office for a list of nearby hotels.

Review the Conference Schedule: If you haven’t taken a look lately, please browse the NOVA Fall 2016 Conference Brochure for the most up-to-date program news. To view the latest brochure, click HERE.

Cast Your Vote: In accordance with the By-laws, NOVA will hold an election for three seats on its Board of Directors during its Annual Meeting, scheduled to take place on Saturday, September 24th at 7:45 a.m. at the Omni Providence Hotel. The following candidates, having met the requirements of the By-laws, will appear on the ballot: Virginia (Amy) Girard-Brady, Bob Goss (Incumbent), Glenda S. Herl (Incumbent), Michael J. Koberlein. For questions about the election, please contact NOVA Secretary Todd M. Wesche at twesche@disabilitylawclaims.com.

Attend Our Social Hour: NOVA will host a reception and social hour for conference attendees at Circe Restaurant (50 Weybosset Street) on Friday, September 23rd at 5:30 p.m. This event is sponsored by Chisholm, Chisholm & Kilpatrick. Please stop by to reconnect with your colleagues and meet new people.

Participate in “Dine-Around”: NOVA has organized a Providence Dine-Around for new and established NOVA members to get to know one another. Here’s how it works! NOVA staff has made reservations at several area restaurants in various price ranges and cuisines. Participants can sign up in advance for a specific restaurant and meet in the hotel lobby to walk or ride over together. Members are responsible for their own food and beverage costs.

See the Sights: Don't miss the WaterFire event by the River on Saturday, September 24th. This will be a full WaterFire installation that lights up 80 braziers from Waterplace Park to Memorial/South Main Street Park. Lighting occurs after sunset (6:26 pm) and the event continues until half past midnight.

This fall, we have a terrific group of experts and special guests in attendance, representing the full spectrum of veterans’ issues. We look forward to lively, engaging conversation and respectful, spirited debate.

Register for NOVA’s Fall Webinar: “Getting the Most Out of DRO & BVA Hearings”

NOVA will hold its Fall Webinar – Letting Your Veteran Be Heard: Getting the Most Out of DRO and BVA Hearings – on November 9, 2016 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Sean Kendall and Timothy Franklin, NOVA members and experienced veterans’ attorneys, will present the session, with NOVA Board Member Matthew Hill serving as moderator. To register now, click HERE.

Attorneys Kendall and Franklin have represented veterans at Decision Review Officer (DRO) and Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) hearings in almost every state, including Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico. Both presenters feel in-person hearings are an under-utilized tool in VA compensation practices and hope to encourage more practitioners to consider personal hearings for their veterans. During this two-hour session, the presenters will provide a brief overview of traditional versus DRO review of appeals. They will discuss how and when to request hearings, and the legal and practical differences between representing veterans in front of a DRO and a Veteran’s Law Judge. They will also cover client preparation, case preparation, and the use of different strategies depending upon the level of review and case complexity. Finally, you will hear examples of “what not to do” and be able to ask questions.

Sean Kendall holds a J.D. from The George Washington University National Law Center and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Colorado. He is a past member of the Board of Directors of NOVA and the Board of Governors of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) Bar Association, as well as a former member of the CAVC Rules Committee. Sean began his veterans' law career in 1990 working as a law clerk for the National Veterans' Legal Services Project. He is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of Colorado, the CAVC, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, and the U.S. District Court, Colorado.

Timothy R. Franklin earned his J.D. at the University of Denver Sturm School of Law and a B.A. in Political Science, with a minor in Economics, from the University of Colorado at Denver. He is VA accredited and admitted to the CAVC. Tim represents veterans in all aspects of VA compensation and discharge upgrades at Sean Kendall’s law office. He is also a professor at the Sturm School of Law, where he teaches veterans’ law and helps oversee the D.U. Veterans Advocacy Project, which provides pro bono representation to low income veterans seeking discharge upgrades, VA compensation/pension, and general legal guidance.

Congratulations to Our 2016 NOVA Fall Conference Scholarship Recipients

The NOVA Board of Directors is pleased to announce the 2016 Fall Conference recipients of the William G. Smith Scholarship. Two advocates, Renee Reasoner and Claire White, were selected to receive this prestigious award to advance their legal skills on behalf of our nation’s veterans. Please take a moment to read about this fall’s scholarship recipients!

Renee Reasoner is a student at The George Washington University Law School. An Iraq War veteran, she was motivated to attend law school to address the frustrations she and those close to her encountered while struggling to obtain benefits. Renee interned for Judge Margaret Bartley at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims for two semesters and served as the David Isbell intern with the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program. She intends to pursue veterans’ law after her anticipated 2017 graduation.

Claire White is an Equal Justice Works Americorps Fellow at Swords to Plowshares, serving low income and homeless veterans in the San Francisco Bay Area as an attorney. She is a post-9/11 service-connected disabled veteran, and attended UC Davis School of Law to advocate for veterans and fix the problems that she and peers experience at VA. While in law school, Claire started a veterans’ law clinic and served more than 80 homeless veterans during her time there. She hopes to use her NOVA training to better herself and her practice and to further aid veterans in the Bay Area.

Congratulations to Renee and Claire on their fine achievements. We look forward to meeting them at the NOVA Fall Conference!

To learn more about the NOVA 2016 Fall Conference, please visit our website by clicking HERE.

Show Your Support! Visit Our Fall Conference Exhibitors in Providence!

NOVA is pleased to welcome a great lineup of exhibitors to our 2016 Fall Conference at the Omni Hotel in Providence. We appreciate the support of these companies and hope you will take some time to visit their exhibits. If you can’t make it to Providence, you can always visit their “virtual displays” to see what you missed!

* Clifford Vocational Services – Founded in 1997, Clifford Vocational Services specializes in vocational opinions and testimony in VA cases, social security disability hearings, personal injury cases, and Worker’s Compensation cases. Services include: Vocational Evaluation to document reduction or complete loss of earning capacity and provide the basis for an Economic Analysis; Future Medical Needs Analysis to outline costs to life expectancy in present day value for surgeries, joint replacements, physician visits, medications, or hospitalizations; Economic Analysis to calculate costs when injury results in loss of earning capacity and or future medical needs, including inflation, fringe benefits, and other economic considerations to life expectance; and Expert Witness Services for deposition, disability hearings, and trials. Visit Clifford Vocational Services on the web at: http://cliffordvocationalservices.com/

* Crisp and Associates Military Law – Founded in 2007, Crisp and Associates Military Law serves the legal needs of Active Duty, Reserve, Guard, Retired, and Separated service members. Their team of attorneys, drawn from various military and law enforcement backgrounds, handles all types of military-specific matters, both inside and outside the continental United States. Services range from courts-martial and administrative proceedings to discharge upgrades, records correction, and security clearance issues. With offices in both Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia, Crisp and Associates Military Law is strategically positioned to offer the best possible legal services to their clients.

Visit Crisp and Associates Military Law on the web at: http://mymilitarylawyers.com/

* eGeneration Marketing – Since 2009, eGenerationMarketing has specialized in helping legal advocates grow and better manage their practice. Their highly customizable and easy-to-use Client Management Software, eLuminate, is the perfect timesaving tool for representatives who want to increase the efficiency of their office. eLuminate reduces the time spent on paperwork by auto filling standard legal forms and custom documents and sending them for electronic signature. This secure, web-based software makes managing potential clients, current cases, tasks, and documents easier than ever and allows you to take your practice on the go. For more information, contact Alyssa Meyer at 857-366-7630 or eluminate@egenerationinc.net.

Visit eGeneration Marketing on the web at: http://www.egenerationmarketing.com/

* GAR Disability Advocates – A specialized advocacy firm located in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, GAR Disability Advocates is devoted to helping individuals obtain Social Security Disability and Veterans Disability Benefits. GAR believes in an honest, straightforward approach. From your initial contact with GAR through the approval of your award, the GAR team will guide you through every step of the benefits process. GAR has dedicated case managers and accredited disability representatives assigned to each case, available as needed to keep you informed and aware of the latest developments. Their nationwide network of experienced representatives works with the public and veterans to ensure that every case receives the attention it deserves. Visit GAR Disability Advocates on the web at: https://disabilityhc.com/about-us/

* Prevail Case Management Systems – Did you know that Prevail case management software is designed for VA cases and includes VA Forms, the VA Claims process with deadlines, and a specialized VA layout? Prevail helps attorneys, non-attorney advocates, and support staff to handle more cases in less time. With Prevail, you can increase your firm’s level of efficiency by automating the things you already do on a regular basis. Prevail’s tools work together to enable you to better leverage your time, and to keep a watchful eye on everyday tasks as well as critical deadlines. Prevail software is backed by a team of in-house training and support experts who keep their clients’ success a top priority.

Visit Prevail on the web at: http://www.prevail.net/

* Vargas Vocational Consulting – Founded in 2000, Vargas Vocational Consulting provides expert witness, assessment, and consulting services. With highly qualified Rehabilitation Counselors, Social Workers, and Life Care Planners, they offer comprehensive services to evaluate vocational and medical needs and losses. Vargas Vocational Consulting also provides expert testimony as well as expert consultation. Their Veterans Affairs Disability Assessment encompasses a thorough vocational assessment for veterans who have multiple service-connected disabling conditions. This assessment includes past work analysis, the effect of the conditions, labor market, and occupational information. Visit Vargas Vocational Consulting on the web at: http://www.vargasvocationalconsulting.com/

Please stop by the exhibitor area at the NOVA 2016 Fall Conference to learn more.

On the Hill: Veterans’ Compensation COLA Act of 2016 Becomes Law

On July 22, 2016, President Obama signed the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Act of 2016 (H.R. 5588). The bill enables disabled veterans to receive an increase in their benefits equivalent to that provided under Title II of the Social Security Act. Introduced by Congressman Ralph Abraham, M.D., R-Alto, the law goes into effect on December 1, 2016. For details on H.R. 5588, click HERE.

The new law directs VA to increase the rates of veterans’ disability compensation, additional compensation for dependents, the clothing allowance for certain disabled veterans, and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children. The precise amount of the adjustment will not be known until the end of the calendar year.

“I’m proud to have led the bipartisan effort in Congress to provide for our American heroes. This COLA adjustment will help bring increased financial security to our veterans and their families. Our veterans served our country, and now we have to make sure they receive the benefits they deserve for their sacrifice,” Dr. Abraham said.

Veterans’ issues have been among Dr. Abraham’s top legislative priorities since he was elected to Congress in 2014. As a freshman, he chaired the VA Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, and he also serves on the Subcommittee on Health.

Dr. Abraham has also passed legislation in the House – H.R. 677, the American Heroes COLA Act – that will make veterans’ COLA adjustments automatic each year. The Senate has yet to act on the legislation.

He has also introduced or cosponsored the following legislation pertaining to veterans: H.R. 2214, the Disabled Veterans’ Access to Medical Exams Improvement Act; H.R. 5620, the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act; H.R. 5149 to assist with reimbursement for emergency ambulance services used by veterans; and H.R. 352, the Veterans Access to Hearing Health Act.

Dr. Abraham is a veteran of the U.S. Army Reserves and National Guard. He currently volunteers as a pilot for the Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Air Force’s Green Flag division.

Did You Know? PIV Badge Enforcement is Underway Across VA

On August 12, 2016, NOVA received e-mail notification from VA that PIV badge enforcement is underway across the agency. For a list of PIV Badge Offices, click HERE. For the enforcement schedule, click HERE. NOVA will continue to provide additional information as it becomes available to us.

We have reprinted the e-mail message from VA on PIV enforcement below:

PIV enforcement is underway across VA! We are demonstrating our firm commitment to caring for our Veterans and protecting their information. PIV enforcement also moves us closer to a single sign on (SSO) environment for clinical care. What does this mean to you? If you already have a PIV badge, it means that you will now use only your PIV to access the network, and in the future, any applications for which you had to previously remember multiple usernames and passwords.

The Office of Information and Technology (OI&T) is standing by with a quick reaction team to assist with any issues accessing the network or applications. If you are having trouble with your PIV after you become PIV-enforced, please call the National Service Desk at 855-NSD-HELP (855-673-4357), select Option 5, then Option 2, or e-mail questions to NSD PIV Enforcement at NSD.PIVEnforcement@va.gov. Our team is dedicated to resolving your PIV issues and getting you back online quickly to resume the critical work you do every day to improve the Veteran experience.

Many of you are already PIV enforced, so thank you for joining us in protecting our nation’s Veterans and VA data! We ask that you share this message with a co-worker or a friend who may be in the upcoming schedule for PIV enforcement.

VA Proposes Revised Rating Schedule for Skin Conditions; Comments Due by Oct. 11

On August 12, 2016, VA proposed an amended rating schedule for skin conditions. 81 FR 53353. These changes are part of VA’s larger, ongoing effort to revise the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities. Comments are due on or before October 11, 2016. A few highlights are provided here:

1. VA proposes to overrule the CAVC’s finding in Johnson v. McDonald, 27 Vet.App. 497 (2016) that the use of topical corticosteroid is systemic therapy under diagnostic code (DC) 7806. VA will clarify

systemic therapy is administered through any route other than skin; topical is treatment through the skin. Topical treatment could have systemic effect if administered on a large enough scale.

2. VA recognizes an assortment of new therapies, such as phototherapy, retinoids, biologics, photo chemotherapy, and PUVA (e.g., ultraviolet therapy).

3. VA proposes a “General Rating Formula” for nine conditions based on the similarities of superficial disease components and methods of treatment. Percentage evaluations under the General Rating Formula “mirror” percentage evaluations currently assigned for these DCs.

4. VA will continue allowing certain conditions to be evaluated under disfigurement or scars DCs depending on predominant disability.

5. Substantive changes have been proposed to (a) DCs 7801, 7802, and 7805/scars; (b) DCs 7809/DC 7821; (c) DC 7813/dermatophytosis (adding conditions); (d) DC 7815/bullous disorders and DC 7816/psoriasis (allows for rating of complications separately under appropriate DCs); (e) DC 7817/erythroderma (considers impact of treatment failure); (f) DC 7822; (g) DC 7825/chronic urticaria; (h) DC 7826/vasculitis; (i) DC 7827/erythema multiform; (j) DC 7828/acne; and (k) DC 7828/acne and DC 7829/chloracne.

VA Issues Final Rule on Health Care for Camp Lejeune Veterans

On July 18, 2016, VA issued a final rule addressing health care for Camp Lejeune veterans, primarily addressing the right to retroactive reimbursement for copayments. A separate rule will be issued for veterans’ family members. You can view the Federal Register notice HERE.

1. Vets who served at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between January 1, 1957 and December 31, 1987 are not subject to copayments for hospital care and medical services provided for a covered condition on or after August 6, 2012. Vets can request retroactive reimbursement if he or she “requested Camp Lejeune veteran status” no later than September 24, 2016.

2. Vets who served at at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1956 are not subject to copayments for hospital care and medical services provided for a covered condition on or after December 16, 2014. Vets can request retroactive reimbursement if he or she “requested Camp Lejeune veteran status” no later than July 18, 2018.

Covered conditions include: (1) esophageal cancer; (2) lung cancer; (3) breast cancer; (4) bladder cancer; (5) kidney cancer; (6) leukemia; (7) multiple myeloma; (8) myelodysplastic syndromes; (9) renal toxicity; (10) hepatic steatosis; (11) female infertility; (12) miscarriage; (13) scleroderma; (14) neurobehavioral effects; and (15) Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

DAMA Holds Hearing on Inadequate Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Exams

On July 13, 2016, the House Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held a hearing entitled, “TBI Claims: VA’s Failure to Provide Adequate Examinations.” David McLenachen, Deputy Under Secretary for Disability Assistance, provided the bulk of the VA’s testimony. You can read his full written statement HERE.

As previously posted on NOVA’s Forum on Outreach, Regulatory, and Legislative Information, VA mailed letters to affected veterans in the beginning of July. According to the testimony, the “equitable relief” provided was described as follows:

This equitable relief further enables VA to take action on any new examinations without requiring Veterans to submit new claims, and allows VA to award an effective date as early as the date of the Veteran’s original TBI claim and provide any retroactive benefits due. VBA has contacted all affected Veterans via letter to notify them of the opportunity to receive new examinations and have their claims reprocessed. These Veterans can initiate reprocessing of their claims by either calling a dedicated phone number or otherwise contacting VA.

Some of the members asked questions as to whether one letter was sufficient outreach to affected veterans, and the witnesses stated there might be some additional contact that would be considered in light of response to the initial letters. Concern was expressed as to why the exams could not just be unilaterally scheduled by VA. Since an examination could result in a reduced rating, VA stated it should be the veteran’s choice to decide whether they want to be reexamined.

VA Proposes Rule to Recognize Tribal Organizations for Claims Assistance

On July 20, 2016, VA issued a proposed rule that would allow the Secretary to recognize tribal organizations for claims assistance to veterans. “The proposed rule would allow a tribal organization that is established and funded by one or more tribal governments to be recognized for the purpose of providing assistance on VA benefit claims. In addition, the proposed rule would allow an employee of a tribal government to become accredited through a recognized State organization in a similar manner as a County Veterans’ Service Officer (CVSO) may become accredited through a recognized State organization. The intended effect of this proposed rule is to improve access of Native American veterans to VA-recognized organizations and VA-accredited individuals who may assist them on their benefit claims.” 81 FR 47087, 47088. Comments are due on or before September 19, 2016.

VA’s Latest Analysis of Veteran Suicide Finds 20 Vets/Day Take Own Life in 2014

On August 3, 2016, VA released its findings from the nation’s most comprehensive analysis of veteran suicide rates in the United States, based on a nationwide review of 55 million veteran records from 1979 through 2014. The effort extends VA’s knowledge from the previous report issued in 2012, which examined three million veteran records from 20 states were available. The current analysis indicates that in 2014, an average of 20 Veterans a day died from suicide. You can read the report HERE.

To read a related article on Reuters, click HERE.

Key findings of the analysis include:

* 65% of all Veterans who died from suicide in 2014 were 50 years of age or older.

* Veterans accounted for 18% of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults. This is a decrease from 22% in 2010.

* Since 2001, U.S. adult civilian suicides increased 23%, while Veteran suicides increased 32% in the same time period. After controlling for age and gender, this makes the risk of suicide 21% greater for Veterans.

* Since 2001, the rate of suicide among US Veterans who use VA services increased by 8.8%, while the rate of suicide among Veterans who do not use VA services increased by 38.6%.

* In the same time period, the rate of suicide among male Veterans who use VA services increased 11%, while the rate of suicide increased 35% among male Veterans who do not use VA services.

* In the same time period, the rate of suicide among female Veterans who use VA services increased 4.6%, while the rate of suicide increased 98% among female Veterans who do not use VA services.

VA posted a Suicide Prevention Fact Sheet at the following link: http://www.va.gov/opa/publications/factsheets/Suicide_Prevention_FactSheet_New_VA_Stats_070616_1400.pdf

VA has implemented suicide prevention initiatives, including a toll-free Veterans Crisis Line, placement of Suicide Prevention Coordinators at all VA Medical Centers and large outpatient facilities, and improvements in case management and tracking. Immediate help is available at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net or by calling the Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (press 1) or texting 838255.

Brief Notices

Carol DiBattiste Takes Over BVA Helm Replacing Laura Eskenazi

Carol DiBattiste assumed the role of Executive in Charge and Vice Chairman of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in early August. A former Under Secretary of the Air Force, she most recently served as a senior advisor to Secretary McDonald with a focus on appeals reform. Ms. DiBattiste replaces Laura Eskenazi, who was appointed as Executive in Charge in 2013. The Chairman’s position has been vacant since 2010.

You can read more about Ms. DiBattiste HERE.

Thank You for Participating in NOVA’s Survey on Electronic Access

NOVA staff would like to thank everyone who provided a response to our recent survey about electronic access. We received some useful information that is helpful to us in our outreach efforts. We are sharing your concerns with VA on an ongoing basis.

Please visit the Outreach, Regulatory, and Legislative Information Forum on NOVA’s website for practical information provided via the survey, including contact information for VA ISOs or other VA employees.

VA Launches National Marketing Campaign on C&P Exams

On July 25, 2016, VA began a national marketing campaign to veterans about the compensation and pension (C&P) examination process. The campaign, slated to last for approximately 11 months, is intended to educate veterans about the process and prepare them for their exams. VA plans to conduct this campaign through direct email, public service announcements, videos, digital marketing, and community/partnership engagement.

Veterans and their families are being directed to the VA’s C&P exam webpage HERE. This effort is designed to further one of Secretary McDonald’s 12 “Breakthrough Priorities” for 2016, which includes improving the C&P experience for veterans.

Harvard Law Clinic Files Petition for Rulemaking on Bad Paper Discharges

The Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School issued a report regarding the effect of bad paper discharges on veterans’ access to VA services. The clinic also filed a Petition for Rulemaking on behalf of Swords to Plowshares and NVLSP, with Latham and Watkins LLP, to address these issues. You can read more about the report and the petition HERE.

VA ReCAVC Issues Misc. Order 06-16 in re: Rules of Practice and Procedure

Pursuant to the authority of 38 U.S.C. §§ 7263(b) and 7264(a) and consistent with 28 U.S.C. § 2071(b), the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (the Court) has revised Rules 1, 25, 32, and 45 and related E-Rules 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 10, 11, and 13 of its Rules of Practice and Procedure. The revisions, inter alia, provide for broader use of email for submission of documents by self-represented appellants, permit self-represented appellants to submit briefs by facsimile, and remove the option for self-represented filers to use the CM/ECF filing system.

Miscellaneous Order 06-16 in re: Rules of Practice and Procedure can be viewed on the Court's website HERE.

Friendly Reminder: NOVA Training is Required Every 24 Months

NOVA members must attend at least one training conference (spring or fall) every 24 months, as stipulated in our By-laws. This requirement ensures that NOVA advocates meet the highest standards in the field of veterans’ law. If you have any concerns regarding your status, please contact Meghan at (202) 587-5708 or mdunham@vetadvocates.org.

Purchase NOVA’s Webinar on Improving Cash-Flow Today!

In May, NOVA Board Member Chris Attig delivered an outstanding webinar entitled, “Build for Success: Three Tools to Improve Cash-Flow in Your VA Practice.” The 90-minute session explored how to add a viable Veterans’ Law practice area to a small or solo law firm. You can purchase this webinar now, just by clicking HERE.

Learn the three keys to building a financially viable Veterans Law practice: (1) plan ahead for good case selection; (2) write play-sheets to streamline workflows in an administrative law practice; and (3) build relationships vital to your success.

NOVA members receive a discounted price on all webinars, conference videos, and other training materials available in the NOVA Store. To browse the NOVA Store, click HERE.

Check Out What’s New in NOVA’s Document Library

NOVA staff has posted several new documents on our website for easy reference. Visit the NOVA Document Library today to find these and other valuable resources:

7-22-16 NOVA Comments on NOD Form for Pension, DIC, Accrual, Burial Benefits: https://vetadvocates.org/download/07-22-16-nova-comments-on-nod-form-for-pension-dic-accrual-burial-benefits/

7-20-16 NOVA Comments on DoD MST Records NARA: https://vetadvocates.org/download/07-20-16-nova-comments-on-dod-mst-records-nara/

 

 

 

 

 

Past Newsletters

To read other editions of our Veterans' Advocate Insider, please click HERE.