- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dear Sgt Shaft

I just ran across an article on the Internet (www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/jun/09/agent-orange-compensation-wont-offset-retirement-p) in which someone wrote that he was receiving 100 percent disability for prostate cancer because of Agent Orange. My father was in Vietnam and is receiving just 40 percent for prostate cancer from Agent Orange. How does he go about getting this increased?

Thank you for your time,

Julia H

Dear Julia

Every veteran is evaluated on an individual basis when it comes to the severity level of his or her disability.

If a veteran is asking the Department of Veterans Affairs to re-evaluate a claim because the disability has worsened since the condition was initially evaluated, he or she should submit a claim for an increase. Veterans should use VA Form 21-4138, Statement in Support of Claim, or write a letter specifying that the disability that has worsened and submit any current medical evidence that supports the claim for an increased disability evaluation. The veteran should include his or her VA claim number or Social Security number on all correspondence and mail the completed form or letter and any additional evidence to the appropriate VA regional office.

You can find VA Form 21-4138 at www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-4138-ARE.pdf.

You can find the address for the VA regional office at www.va.gov.

Shaft notes

c Cheers to Rep. Bob Filner, California Democrat and chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, for his recent introduction of H.R. 3365 to allow veterans to use their earned Medicare benefits to receive health care and services from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Under current law, VA has the authority to bill enrolled veterans and their private health care insurers for the treatment of veterans’ non-service-connected conditions.

Current law, however, prohibits the billing of Medicare, barring elderly veterans from using their earned Medicare benefits at VA health care facilities. H.R. 3365, the Medicare Reimbursement Act of 2009, would require VA to develop a program that would allow VA to bill Medicare for services rendered to veterans enrolled in Medicare Part A or B.

“There are veterans who have earned VA health care benefits with their service to our country,” Mr. Filner stated. “They have also earned Medicare benefits by contributing to the Medicare program during their working years.

“Because VA cannot bill Medicare, elderly veterans are unable to use their Medicare benefits, even if they may prefer to receive care at a VA facility among their fellow veterans. So for those veterans, they basically forgo the hard-earned dollars that they contributed toward Medicare benefits during their working years. H.R. 3365 is an important bill that would allow elderly veterans to access both VA health care and their Medicare benefits.”

c Congratulations to the VA Medical Center, Washington, D.C., (DCVAMC) for being among the 100 “most wired” hospitals in the nation, according to Hospital & Health Networks magazine, the flagship journal published by the American Hospital Association.

The medical center was chosen by an independent panel selected by the magazine’s editors, who evaluated roughly 20.8 percent of U.S. hospitals. The publication’s annual Most Wired Survey selects 100 most-wired hospitals and health systems. It focuses on how hospitals use information technologies for quality, customer service, public health and safety, business processes and work-force issues.

“Hospitals clearly recognize that in spite of smaller budgets, they still need to invest in IT and position themselves for the future,” says Sunny Sanyal, president of McKesson Provider Technologies, which helped administer the survey.

DCVAMC uses VA’s award-winning Electronic Health Records System. The facility leads the VA system through continuous innovation of the system to enhance health care quality and delivery. This is the fifth time the D.C. center has been recognized as a most-wired hospital.

“DCVAMC is committed to exploring technology enhancements that will keep us a leader in patient safety and quality care,” said medical center Director Fernando O. Rivera. “For example, the Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center was one of the first hospitals in the nation to develop the technology which transmits EKGs to cardiologists’ BlackBerrys - and the first in the VA system to implement it. Getting the information to the doctor’s hands, in most cases in under three minutes, saves lives and ultimately saves money,” Mr. Rivera said.

Through the use of VA’s Bar Code Medication Administration system, the medical center has achieved 99.997 percent prescription accuracy. Nurses scan patients’ wristbands and the bar code on the medication, verifying the doctor’s orders, medicine, dosage, route and time as well as any allergies or drug interactions. An immediate alert is issued if there is a discrepancy.

“Our world-class health information technology system is a comprehensive medical record, including all images,” said Chief of Staff Dr. Ross D. Fletcher. “It is secure and yet can be accessed anywhere in the world.” The images include X-rays, video scans and EKGs.

The Electronic Health Record System is also the basis for VA’s leadership in remote health care monitoring, used by DCVAMC to keep track of thousands of veterans with pacemakers and to provide Telehealth care so that patients can receive “house calls” from their doctors, nurses and case managers. Monitoring vital signs and other markers of health from veterans’ homes saves trips to the doctor and hospital admissions.

The records system’s companion tool for patients, My HealtheVet, helps veterans manage their own health care - from watching their weight to scheduling appointments and ordering medication. It helps patients take charge of their health and maintain good health habits. Dr. Fletcher says, “It’s a phenomenal tool that improves patient safety and hospital efficiency.”

For additional information about Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center’s leadership in health technology, visit www.washingtondc.va.gov or contact the Public Affairs Office at 202/745-4037.

c Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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