Veterans’ Advocate Insider – June & July 2014 Edition



President’s Message: A Board Update on Issues Relevant to NOVA Members

After a short break, I am happy to once again be addressing membership on what’s new on a number of issues that were addressed during the Board of Directors meeting held prior to our Pittsburgh Spring Conference in April. These range in scope from NOVA’s mission and purposes to seminar and membership dues to appointments on NOVA committees. I’ll do my best to briefly address each here.

As you may recall, the Mission, Purposes & Processes (MPP) Committee was formed last year to reexamine NOVA’s role now and in the future. As part of that review, the Committee conducted a membership survey to get your feedback. Once the results were in, a membership meeting was held last fall to determine specific actions to pursue and how those actions might be funded. A special thanks is owed to Committee Members Mike Leonard, Rick Little, and Todd Wesche for all their hard work in conducting this review and then presenting a summary of findings and recommendations.

As a result of its work, the MPP Committee prepared two documents: (1) a summary report of its recommendations, which includes the current status of how a particular action is handled by NOVA, what issues are involved, and what action the Board has taken relative to the recommendations; and (2) a final report detailing background, discussion, and recommendations to the Board. Links to both the MPP Action Items and MPP Committee Final Report are provided here.

Central to this issue is whether NOVA should assume a more active role in litigation and whether lobbying activities should be undertaken. Needless to say, these activities require additional resources that NOVA does not possess or anticipate having in the future. When the need arises, we have been successful in obtaining legal counsel for litigation on a pro bono basis and this has been very effective to date. We anticipate this practice to continue.

Hiring a lobbyist is very expensive and represents a significant shift from our current standing with Congress. Over the years since Rich Cohen was executive director, and now continued and even improved through David Hobson, NOVA has served in a ‘consultant role.’ We have been approached countless times to opine and/or provide testimony on various subjects. And unlike most entities that deal with Congress, we do not visit with our hands out. Byproducts of this relationship are that NOVA’s credibility and standing have been enhanced over time allowing NOVA to maintain a pulse on activities in a fashion equal to if not better than what we could realize by having a registered lobbyist in our midst. Accordingly, assuming a ‘lobbyist role’ is not anticipated at this time.

The MPP Committee also recommended that seminar and membership dues be increased nominally. Given that these fees have not been increased in some time and our operational costs and seminar-related expenses continue to rise, the Board voted to add $50 to the annual dues in 2015 and $50 to the seminar fees, beginning with the Orlando Fall Conference. Our research indicates NOVA’s membership dues and seminar fees are competitive with similar organizations. In addition, we will continue to offer scholarships to those facing financial hardship who wish to attend a conference.

Lastly, the Board revisited all NOVA committee appointments in April to reapportion the burdens and refresh each group with new members wherever possible. These appointments were finalized at our Board meeting this month. The new 2014 NOVA Committee List can be found on our website. On behalf of the entire Board, I want to thank those who have so faithfully served on committees in the past and those who have volunteered to take on these new roles.

As always, the Board appreciates your membership and we hope you continue to take full advantage of the many benefits offered through NOVA to strengthen your practice and help so many veterans in need of qualified representation.

Sincerely,

Michael R. Viterna

NOVA Testifies Before House Florida Delegation on C&P Examinations

On June 12, 2014, NOVA Board Member and Secretary Todd Wesche presented testimony during a hearing before the Florida Delegation of the U.S. House of Representatives regarding VA health care.   The meeting was hosted by Representatives Vern Buchanan and Alcee L. Hastings. NOVA’s testimony focused on the current state of Compensation and Pension (C&P) examinations within the VBA system, and recommendations for improvement.

Summary points from the testimony:

  • C&P examinations s are conducted by VHA physicians, taking valuable time away from critical patient treatment.
  • C&P examination reports are often legally inadequate, requiring them to be re-accomplished or supplemented.
  • Correcting examination reports detracts from providing quality health care to veterans and further burdens the VA's health care delivery system.
  • Inadequate reports delay the provision of healthcare for conditions not yet service connected by delaying the correct adjudication of whether a veteran's disabilities are service connected.

Recommendations:

(1) Hiring additional medical personnel specifically trained in the legal requirements of an adequate C&P exam report. This would permit treating doctors to treat patients, while providing VBA with adequate examination reports.
(2) Providing veterans with the 'benefit of the doubt' in questions of service connection or entitlement to additional benefits when VA fails to provide a legally adequate C&P exam report. This would provide benefits to veterans when VA fails to do its job properly in obtaining legally adequate C&P examination reports.
(3) Strengthening the law to provide additional presumptions of certain conditions being related to military service. This would reduce the number of C&P examinations required, freeing up VHA doctors to provide treatment to patients rather than writing reports.
(4) Encouraging VA to use and rely upon legally adequate private medical opinions, including forms designed to elicit medical nexus determinations, in reaching compensation decisions rather than unnecessarily burdening the VHA with request for confirmatory medical opinions or evidence.
The Board wishes to thank Todd for his time and effort in preparing this testimony on the behalf of NOVA. Other panelists included Joleen Clark, Network Director, VA Sunshine Health Care Network (VISN 8); Robert McGuire, President, Korean War Veterans Association, Department of Florida; and Jason Smith, Director of the Veterans Service Office, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Department of Florida.

To access the full testimony, click HERE.

President Viterna Participates in ABA-Sponsored Panel on Vets Legal Needs

On June 5, 2014, President Mike Viterna took part in a panel sponsored by the American Bar Association (ABA) to discuss the current state of meeting the legal needs of veterans and service members and the value of developing a Legal System National Exchange. Panelists represented stakeholders from across the board serving veterans and service members at the Federal, state, and local levels.

The panel of experts offered their observations of the current patchwork approach to responding to the legal needs of veterans and service members. While much progress has been made to get veterans help through a variety of local efforts, from pro bono programs to extensive Veterans Courts, we still struggle to effectively connect veterans to support and to meet the needs at scale.

As we are well aware, our Nation’s veterans continue to face significant challenges in reintegrating to civilian life following more than 13 years of active combat. The most recent CHALENG survey demonstrated that 4 of the top 10 unmet needs of all homeless veterans are legal needs. We also know that most of the issues faced by service members and veterans have at least partial solutions in the legal system. Results of aWashington Post - Kaiser Foundation Survey, (April 2014), illustrate the challenges:

Of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans …

69%        feel the average American doesn’t understand their experience

62%        think about their service at least once a week

55%        feel disconnected from civilian life

51%        personally know a service member or veteran who has attempted or committed suicide

45%        experienced problems with a spouse or partner

43%        say their physical health is worse than before serving

41%        experience outbursts of anger

40%        of service members, veterans or their families have taken on an extra job or extra hours

34%        have increased credit card debt

31%        say the mental or emotional health is worse now than before serving

23%        have had trouble paying rent or a mortgage

20%        know a service member or veteran who has become homeless

16%        have had trouble paying medical bills

15%        have had trouble getting medical care

The Panel plans to look at the landscape of local solutions that are emerging for veterans and service members in the legal system and determine how a National Exchange could add value in supporting, leveraging, or aligning these efforts. The exchange could play several potential roles:

  • Linking Improving Veteran Outcomes to Best Practices
  • Supporting Local Advocacy for Veterans Support
  • Providing Technical Assistance and Tools for Local Integration of Efforts
  • Developing models for improving the legal system workflow – connecting and delivering legal    services to this population
  • Providing a National Hotline or Triage System

The Panel will further explore what roles are most necessary for helping to advance a more comprehensive and integrated legal system response, and how these potential roles would best be connected to state and local legal system leaders.

In addition to NOVA and ABA, the Panel included representatives from the Community Foundation of Northern Virginia ; Council on Foundations; Federal Bar Association; Office of Family Policy/Children and Youth, Department of Defense; Office of the General Counsel, Department of Veterans Affairs; Equal Justice Works; Clinic for Legal Assistance to Servicemembers, George Mason University; Judge Advocates Association; Justice for Vets; Legal Services Corporation; Military Spouse JD Network ; The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation; National Veterans Legal Services Program; The Public Counsel ; Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee; and Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program.

Examining VA Discrimination against Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma

Battle for Benefits: VA Discrimination Against Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma, a report prepared by the Veterans Legal Services Clinic (VLSC), examines the process of obtaining VA disability benefits for the enduring mental health effects of military sexual trauma (MST). We want to thank NOVA Board Member Bob Goss for bringing this report to our attention.

A portion of the Executive Summary is reprinted here:

This report presents the first opportunity for veterans, policy-makers, and the public to examine in detail the experiences of MST survivors as they seek compensation from VA. It is based on data provided by VA in settlement of two Freedom of Information Act lawsuits. The lawsuits were brought by the Service Women’s Action Network, ACLU Women’s Rights Project, and the ACLU of Connecticut, with the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School serving as lead counsel. As a result of these settlements, VA handed over never-before-released data on mental health disability benefit claims filed by veterans suffering from the aftermath of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment.

These data offer a close look at the enduring health consequences and bureaucratic battles that survivors of in-service sexual trauma face as they transition back to civilian life. Notably, the data reveal that VA has granted disability claims for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) caused by in-service sexual trauma at significantly lower rates than it has granted claims for PTSD arising from other causes. Moreover, the data also reveal dramatic variation among VA regional offices (VAROs) in the treatment of MST-related mental health claims and disparate treatment by gender.

Key Findings

  • VA granted disability benefit claims for PTSD related to MST at a significantly lower rate than claims for PTSD unrelated to MST every year from 2008 to 2012. The grant rate for MST-related PTSD claims has lagged behind the grant rate for other PTSD claims by between 16.5 and 29.6 percentage points every year.
  • For claims for disability benefits based on either of two other mental health conditions—major depressive disorder and anxiety disorder not otherwise specified—there is minimal disparity between the rates at which VA granted MST-related claims and claims unrelated to MST.
  • Because female veterans’ PTSD claims are more often based on MST-related PTSD than male veterans’ PTSD claims, female veterans overall are disparately impacted by the lower grant rates for MST-related PTSD. For every year between 2008 and 2011, a gap of nearly 10 percentage points separated the overall grant rate for PTSD claims brought by women and those brought by men.
  • Among those who file MST-related PTSD claims, male veterans face particularly low grant rates when compared to female veterans who file MST-related PTSD claims.
  • Treatment of MST-related PTSD claims varies widely from one VARO to another. The VAROs that discriminated most egregiously in 2012 include those in St. Paul, MN; Detroit, MI; and St. Louis, MO.

This report examines VA statistical records, highlighting these and other findings of immediate use to policy-makers and veterans’ advocates, and recommending policy and legislative reforms.

Key recommendations include:

  • Reforming VA regulations on disability claims based on PTSD related to in-service assault;
  • Improving training and oversight of VA offices with poor records in granting MST claims; and
  • Enhancing VA transparency and record keeping related to MST-based disability claims.

To access the VLSC Report, click HERE.

NOTE: You may also be interested in the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s latest report, “Military Sexual Trauma: Improvements Made, but VA Can Do More to Track and Improve the Consistency of Disability Claim Decisions” (GAO-14-477: Published and publicly released on June 9, 2014).

To access the Highlights and Full GAO Report, click HERE.

Get Involved: Submit Your Name to Serve on NOVA’s Board of Directors

NOVA will elect new Board members at the Fall Annual Meeting in Orlando, FL on September 20, 2014. In preparation for the election, the Nominations Committee has sent a special notice to membership outlining the applicable guidelines, procedures, and deadlines for candidacy. We’ve repeated that notice here for your convenience.

To All Sustaining Members:

In accordance with the NOVA By-laws, the nominations committee is soliciting candidates to serve on NOVA's Board of Directors. To be eligible to serve on the Board, one must be (1) a Sustaining Member in good standing for the three years preceding his or her nomination and (2) either admitted to practice before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims or accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs, or both. Nominations are accepted beginning July 1, 2014 until August 21, 2014.

Any qualified Sustaining Member interested in running for the Board at the Fall Annual Meeting must submit his or her name and a short statement supporting the candidacy to any member of the nominations committee no later than July 21, 2014.

The nominations committee will then select three candidates to appear on the ballot. The names of those selected will be announced before the end of July. Any candidate who is not selected by the committee may still appear on the ballot by submitting a nomination petition signed by at least 10 sustaining members in good standing. All such petitions must be received by the committee no later than August 21, 2014.

Any sustaining member in good standing who will not be attending the annual meeting may request an absentee ballot from any member of the nominations committee. Such request must be received no later than August 31, 2014. The completed absentee ballots must then be received by NOVA's Secretary no later than September 10, 2014.

Your Nominations Committee:

Todd Wesche, Chair            (twesche@disabilitylawclaims.com)
Bob Goss                                 (bob@gosslaw.com)
Carol Scott                              (carols@vetsprobono.org)
All absentee ballot requests and nominations sent by U.S. mail should be addressed to:
Todd M. Wesche, Esq.

P.O. Box 350038
Fort Lauderdale, FL  33335

NOVA Opens Registration for 2014 Fall Conference in Orlando, FL

Registration for NOVA’s Fall Conference on September 18-20, 2014 at the Disney Coronado Springs Hotel in Orlando is now open. Please consider booking your room as soon as possible. We anticipate that many members may wish to extend their stay on either end of the conference.

About the Conference

Over the past several months, the Seminar Committee has been hard at work assembling an exciting program of presenters and topics. The committee is chaired by Ralph Bratch, who is joined by Ken Carpenter, Robert Chisholm, Glenda Herl, Matt Hill, and Bob Goss. Clearly, it takes a lot of effort to pull together a successful conference and these NOVA members are commended for their volunteerism on behalf of NOVA members.

NOVA staff has just completed a draft of the Fall Conference Brochure to enable members and other participants to register for the event.   Our preliminary lineup of Featured Speakers includes a Judge from the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (pending confirmation); Professor Michael Allen of Stetson University College of Law; Thomas Murphy, VA Director of Compensation and Pension Services; and Founding NOVA Member Kenneth Carpenter of Carpenter, Chartered.

To access the Orlando Fall Conference Brochure and registration forms, click HERE.

About the Hotel

Disney Coronado Springs is a Southwestern-themed hotel located in the Animal Kingdom area. Its brightly colored Casitas, rustic Ranchos, and beachfront Cabanas encircle the 22-acre Lago Dorado or “Lake of Gold.” Hotel amenities include an aquatic area built around a 50-foot replica of a Mayan pyramid; a health club with fitness equipment and spa services; and a salon located next door. The Maya Grill is a full-service restaurant, while quick & casual service can be found at the Café Rix, Pepper Market, and Siestas Cantina. Complimentary self parking is available at the Resort.

Complimentary transportation and luggage delivery to and from Orlando International Airport is available via Disney’s Magical Express. Please allow ample time to reach your destination as the bus will make several stops. You canmake a reservation for Disney’s Magical Express when you call to make your hotel reservation or book online. Otherwise, please call (407) 939-1936. Information about Disney’s Magical Express—including luggage tags—will be mailed to you several weeks prior to arrival.

The Special Group Room Rate of $149 plus tax, per room, per night will apply to stays from September 17-21, 2014. There is a $15 charge/per room/per night for each additional adult (beyond the standard 2 adults/per room.) Room reservations must be made by 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, August 18, 2014 for these rates to be honored.

To book your room for the 2014 Fall Conference, click HERE.


William G. Smith Scholarships

The deadline to submit a request for scholarship consideration to attend the Fall Conference in Orlando is August 1,2014.

The William G. Smith Scholarship was created by the NOVA Board of Directors in 2000 in memory of one of NOVA’s esteemed founding members.   William G. Smith, Esq. was also one of the first veterans’ law practitioners and a tireless supporter of veterans and their rights. Over his lengthy career as a veterans advocate, he provided true leadership and support to countless practitioners in veterans’ law.

Scholarships cover the cost of registration only and are available to individuals who would not otherwise be able to attend the seminar due to financial hardship. Attorneys, non-attorney practitioners, law students, and accredited veteran’s service representatives may apply.

To be considered for a scholarship, please submit a letter of interest, including a description of your involvement in veterans’ benefits law, along with a current resume to Casey Guillory, Conference & Membership Coordinator, at cguillory@vetadvocates.org.

The granting of these scholarships as well as the number of recipients shall be at the sole discretion of the NOVA Board of Directors. If you have questions, please contact NOVA Staff at (202) 587-5708.

Visit the NOVA website to learn more: https://vetadvocates.org/fall-conference-2014/

Several New VA Documents Available on the NOVA Website

Over the past two months, VA has released several new guidance documents, which staff has posted on the NOVA website for your reference. These include two FAST Letters (FLs), a Training Letter (TL), and the May Veterans Service Center Manager (VSCM) Bulletin and Addendum.

F L 14-05 provides guidance for “Finalizing and File Review: Provisional Ratings on Two and One Year Old Claims.” FL 14-03 covers Final Rule: RIN 2900-AO31, “Eligibility of Disabled Veterans and Members of the Armed Forces With Severe Burn Injuries for Financial Assistance in the Purchase of an Automobile or Other Conveyance and Adaptive Equipment.”

TL 14-01 outlines the three requirements per 38 C.F.R. §3.159(c)(4)(i) that must be met before a Veteran warrants a VA examination/opinion, and offers ‘helpful reminders’ regarding VA examinations.

The May VSCM Bulletin covers these topics:

-          Reduction of Initial Evaluations Under Diagnostic Code (DC) 7528 in Original Claims

-          Use of the RVSR Effective Date Tool

-          Guidance on Proper Use of Fully Developed Claim (FDC) Exclusion Special Issues

-          Complete Requirements for Claims Establishment

-          Contractor Support for Live Dependency Compensation Claims

-          Dependency Claim Development

-          Determining the Effective Date of FDCs Under Fast Letter (FL) 13-17

-          Drill Pay Repayment Plan

-          Guidance on Same-Sex Marriage Claims Processed in RBPS

-          Removal of Stepchildren

-          Development Language When Portable Media Must Be Returned

-          Response to Question Regarding Radiation Claims

-          Challenge Session 2014-4

-          Challenge Session 2014-6

-          Specialized Adjudication Review Course (SPARC)

-          Supervisory Technical Analysis of Data (STAND) 101

-          Skills Certification Events

-          Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Training and Performance Support Systems (TPSS) Mandated Training

-          May 2014 Rating Quality Call

-          Changes in Regulatory or Legislative Procedures – Benefit Entitlement (BE) Errors Cited by Quality Assurance (QA) Staff

-          Common Finding – Homeless Claims

-          Best Practice – Monthly RO and Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Collaborative Meetings

-          Internal Controls Systematic Analysis of Operations (SAO) Update

-          Procedures For Folder Transfer

The Addendum provides further explanation on “Determining the Effective Date of Fully Developed Claims (FDCs) Under Fast Letter (FL) 13-17” and “Reduction of Initial Evaluations Under Diagnostic Code (DC) 7528 in Original Claims.”

To view the May VSCM Bulletin, click HERE. To view the Addendum, click HERE.
To view FL 14-05, click HERE.
To view FL 14-03, click HERE.
To view TL 14-01, click HERE.

VARO Directory Undergoes Annual Update

NOVA’s Directory of VA Regional Offices or VAROs has undergone an update, and we’ve made some significant changes, too. The latest edition features a new page dedicated to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) services. Everything you need to know about the VA’s FOIA requirements can be found here, including important links to:

  • The VA FOIA Homepage
  • VHA FOIA Officers
  • VBA FOIA Officers, and
  • VA Central Office FOIA Contacts

We have also updated the VARO (Albuquerque to Winston-Salem)list itself. Arranged in alphabetical order by city, this reference guide includes mailing addresses, telephone and fax numbers, and points-of-contact. This year, we added the Attorney Fee Coordinator (AFC) to each RO listing in response to members’ requests. So, you will now have access to these contacts all in one place:

  • Attorney Fee Coordinator
  • Veterans Service Center Manager
  • Director
  • Travel Board Coordinator

At the end of the Directory, we have included several consolidated contact lists for easy, scroll-through reference. These include:

  • Attorney Fee Coordinators (AFCs) Directory by VARO
  • VBA FOIA Officers as of September 2013
  • VHA FOIA Directory dated March 18, 2014

Additionally, we provide links to these lists directly from VA sources should you wish to consult more current, online information (if available) before the 2015 update of our directory.

To download the NOVA VARO Directory, July 2014 Ed. on our website via the Document Library, click HERE.

VA Launches Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry

VA has just announced the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry is now operational. All veterans who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Djibouti, and the Gulf War are encouraged to participate in the registry. Veterans do not need to be enrolled in VA’s health care system to do so, because the registry is an epidemiological research tool and the receipt of a registry examination(s) and tests does not constitute the receipt of care.

Prior to completing the questionnaire, veterans must sign up for a Department of Defense Self-Service Logon (DS-Logon), which can be found at https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/appj/dsaccess.

The information gathered through the registry will be used to enhance understanding of any identified long-term adverse health effects of exposure to burn pits and other airborne hazards during deployment. Ultimately, this should lead to better health care for affected veterans who have lung and other health conditions possibly related to such exposure.

Creation of the registry was mandated by the “Dignified Burial and Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2012” (S. 3202), which President Obama signed into law on January 10, 2013. Included in the package is a bill requiring VA to establish a registry for veterans who may have been exposed to toxic chemicals and fumes from open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Open Burn Pits Registry Act (S. 1798) was introduced by Sens. Tom Udall, Bob Corker and 6 co-sponsors on November 3, 2011.

To access the Registry, click HERE.          

Brief Notices

NOVA’s 2014 Summer Webinar Slated for July 23rd

NOVA will hold its next Webinar on July 23 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EDT on the topic of “How to Add a Veterans Law Practice to Your Existing Firm.” Presented by NOVA Member and Veterans Law Attorney Chris Attig, this webinar will help you make an informed decision about expanding into VA Law.

In addition to the basics of a VA benefits claim, the webinar will cover topics such as the top five reasons to represent veterans, Veterans Law as a viable business concept, finding the right clients and cases for your firm, and the challenges and opportunities of representing veterans.

The Attig Law Firm has been representing veterans at all levels of the VA claims process since 2007. Since joining NOVA in 2010, Chris has become a regular presenter at NOVA conferences. He has also instructed others through his popular Veterans Law Blog and his series of Veterans Law eBooks.

Please join us on July 23 to learn more about whether a VA law practice is right for you.

To register now, click HERE.

 

Parks v. Shinseki on SCOTUSblog ‘s ‘Petitions to Watch’

On May 19, 2014, SCOTUSblog—the Supreme Court of the United States blog—listed Parks v. Shinseki in its “Petitions to Watch” edition, which highlights those cases deemed by contributing attorneys as having a reasonable chance of being granted.

“Petitions to Watch” includes and discloses all cases in which Goldstein & Russell, P.C., whose attorneys contribute to the blog in various capacities, represents either a party or an amicus in the case, with the exception of the rare cases in which Goldstein & Russell represents the respondent(s) but does not appear on the briefs in the case.

NOVA’s Amicus and Litigation Committee submitted an amicus brief in the case of Parks v. Shinseki earlier this year. At issue is whether the Federal Circuit erred in requiring issue exhaustion during nonadversarial proceedings before the Department of Veterans Affairs Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

To visit SCOTUSblog, click HERE.

 

Paul Sullivan Accepts Communications Role at Calif. VA

Paul Sullivan, former NOVA executive director, has been appointed deputy secretary of communications at the California Department of Veterans Affairs. Sullivan has been managing director of public affairs and veterans outreach at Bergmann and Moore LLC since 2012.

Prior to that, he served as executive director at NOVA from 2011 to 2012, executive director at Veterans for Common Sense from 2006 to 2011, and lead program analyst at the Veterans Benefits Administration from 2000 to 2006.

Sullivan was executive director at the National Gulf War Resource Center from 1997 to 2000, armored reconnaissance specialist in the Georgia Army National Guard from 1991 to 1993, and armored reconnaissance specialist in the U.S. Army from 1989 to 1991. He served in the 1st Armored Division of the U.S. Army during the Gulf War in 1991.

 

In Memoriam: Steve Robinson, Veterans’ Advocate

Steve Robinson, a former Army Ranger and veterans' advocate who pushed for benefits for veterans dealing with the aftermath of combat, died this month at the age of 51. Robinson first made headlines for his work with soldiers at Fort Carson, Colo. who had been discharged from the military without health benefits for having "personality disorders," rather than post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

As director of Veterans for America at the time, Robinson testified before Congress about the need for proper diagnosis of PTSD, prompting a GAO investigation. During the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal in 2007, he testified again about solutions to end the long wait times and bureaucratic tangles faced by injured Iraq and Afghanistan veterans seeking health care benefits.

A Persian Gulf War vet, Robinson became the executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center and devoted his time convincing doctors, veterans' service organizations, and Congress that Gulf War illness was a physical ailment, as well as researching its causes.

To read more, click HERE.

 

Senate Passes Bill on Vets' Access to Care

On June 11, 2014, the Senate approved the Sanders-McCain bill, S. 2450, "The Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014" in a 93-3 vote. The White House has indicated that President Obama supports the legislation.
To read the Bill, click HERE.

To read the Summary, click HERE.

 

VA Releases Results of Nationwide Access Audit

On June 9, 2014, VA released the results from its Nationwide Access Audit, including facility level patient access data, medical center quality and efficiency data, and mental health provider survey data, for all Veterans health facilities. The audit reveals the extent of systemic problems at VA and underscores the need for immediate corrective actions.

To access the Audit, click HERE.

 

2014 New Practitioner Training Videos Available for Purchase

You can now purchase NOVA’s latest collection of training videos from the New Practitioner Session held on April 24, 2014. NOVA training videos make it easy for you to brush up on VA Law from the comfort of your own home or office. You can purchase these videos, as well as webinars and other training videos, directly from our website. Click HERE to make your purchase now!

Or, just log into the NOVA website using your username and password, and go to the “Events and Training” tab at the top of the website to choose Seminars, Webinars, or New Practitioner Training. Again, make sure you are logged in – as that will automatically calculate the discounted member rate. If you are not logged in, you will be charged the nonmember rate.

NOVA Welcomes New and Returning Members!

NOVA would like to welcome the following members to the NOVA community. We look forward to meeting you and working with you to help better serve our nations’ veterans:

Thomas Bandzul - Veterans and Military Families for Progress,Burke, VA

Jonathan Bridgers - Bridgers Law Firm, P.A., Greenville, NC

Jon Brown - Research, Representation and Referral LLC,Edina, MN

Jonathan Bruce - Law Office of Jonathan Bruce,Florence, KY

Paul Bunn - Veterans Outreach Ministries,Bradford, AR

Winifred Cannon - Cannon Law Group, PLLC, Dallas, TX

Cassandra Champion - Texas Civil Rights Project,Odessa, TX

John Chilson -Comerford & Britt, LLP,Winston-Salem, NC

Catherine Coats -Law Offices of Coats & Todd,Richardson, TX

Janet Cox - Cox and Reynolds, LLC,Birmingham, AL

John Dorrity -Ocean County Veterans Service Bureau,Toms River, NJ

Robert  Foley -Attorney at Law, Islamorada, FL

Peter Fromuth -Attorney at Law,Bethesda, MD

Matthew Gindele -Singley & Gindele Attorneys at Law LLC,Voorhees, NJ

Vince Handler -Attig Law Firm, PLLC, Dallas, TX

Timothy Hiller -Law Offices of Kenneth Hiller, PLLC,Amherst, NY

Maxwell Kinman –Alexander, Webb, & Kinman, LLC, Mason, OH

Gary Kramer -Gary Kramer Law, LLC,Colorado Springs, CO

Doug Kugal -Kugal Disability Law Group,Wantagh, NY

Tod Leaven -Grimes Teich Anderson, LLP,Asheville, NC

Ian Lloyd -Law Firm of Hoskins, Turco, Lloyd & Lloyd, Fort Pierce, FL

Charles McCorvey -Mobile Veterans Pavilion, Mobile, AL

William Pitsenberger - William Pitsenberger Law, Topeka, KS

Lisha Prater -Lisha A. Prater, LLC, Springfield, MO

Wendy Readous -Readous and Associates,Detroit, MI

Bryan Rhoads - Veteran Benefits Consultant,Winchester, OH

Robert  Rivers -Law offices of Robert Calvin Rivers,Jacksonville, FL

Jon Shelburne -Law Offices of Jon W. Shelburne,San Diego, CA

George Singley -Singley & Gindele Attorneys at Law LLC,Voorhees, NJ

Loreain Tolle -Ocean County Veterans Service Bureau,Toms River, NJ

Lisa Tumminelli -The Silverman Firm,Schenectady, NY

Amy Vazquez - Attig Law Firm,PLLC,Dallas, TX

Karen Vicks -Law Office of Karen Y. Vicks, LLC, Dover, DE

Hillary Wandler -Attorney at Law,Missoula, MT

Lucy Williams - Kazmierczak & Kazmierczak, LLC, Oakland, NJ

Michele Zimbler - Daytona Beach, FL

 

Past Newsletters

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