- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 9, 2009

Dear Sgt. Shaft: I was told that in Rio Grande City, Texas, the disability payments were cut by $45. Please let me know if that is true.

Thank you.

Blanca T

Rio Grande Valley, Texas

Dear Blanca:

Disability compensation is payable to veterans who have service-connected disabilities ranging from 10 percent to 100 percent disabling. The amount of compensation payable is based upon the veteran's combined disability percentage and is uniform across the country.

If a veteran has service-connected disabilities at 30 percent disabling or more, the veteran is entitled to an additional amount of compensation for eligible dependents (spouse, children under age 18, children under age 23 attending an approved school, and dependent parents). The additional amount payable is based upon the disability percent and the number and type of dependents. These amounts payable are also uniform across the country and are not dependent upon where a veteran resides.

Each December, veterans receive a cost of living adjustment (COLA) in their disability compensation. The most recent COLA of 5.8 percent was effective Dec. 1.

Shaft notes

Kudos to Rep. Bob Filner, California Democrat and chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee for his letter urging VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki to improve the VA Medical Facility in Washington.

Mr. Filner stated: “I have learned of an internal proposal to further upgrade their services and to make this medical facility the showcase of the VA health care system to which others look for inspiration, which the one located in the nation's capital should be. To that end, I am writing in support of a major project proposal that will address critical portions of the Washington, D.C. CARES study and will bridge the gaps in CARES for mental health care, primary care, specialty care, medical and surgical services.”

As part of this project, there will be construction of a new two-story expansion to the northeast corner of the B Wing of Building 1, as well as a new two-story expansion to the west of the E Wing of Building I. The first floor at the B Wing would primarily accommodate mental health. The E Wing expansion will include the emergency room.

The second floor at both the E Wings will allow for the expansion of surgery. It will consolidate all surgery-related services to the second floor, improving access for both patients and staff. The two existing 36 and 42 bed in-patient wards on the third and fourth floor will also be relocated to the second floor as part of the project for contiguous patient care.

Mr. Filner also announced that the House of Representatives considered three bills that would improve benefits and services to veterans provided by the VA. The House unanimously passed all three bills.

c H.R. 1377, as amended: To expand veteran eligibility for reimbursement by the secretary of the VA for emergency treatment furnished in a nondepartmental facility, and for other purposes. (Introduced by Mr. Filner).

This bill would expand veteran eligibility to require the VA to pay for emergency treatment for a non-service-connected condition if a third-party is not responsible for paying for the full cost of care. The bill clarifies that the VA only pay the difference between the amounts paid by the third-party and the VA allowable amount, and is not responsible for co-payments the veteran owes to the third party.

Mr. Filner offered the following statement: “Under current law, veterans are not reimbursed for medical costs when they receive emergency care from non-VA medical facilities if they have insurance that pays either full or a portion of the emergency care. This creates an inequity that penalizes veterans with third-party insurance and burdens veterans with paying the remaining amount not covered by insurance. H.R. 1377 is a common sense bill that clarifies the reimbursement responsibilities of the VA, so veterans can focus on their recovery, instead of being overburdened with financial concerns.”

c H.R. 1171, as amended: Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 (Introduced by Rep. John Boozman, Arkansas Republican).

This bill would reauthorize the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program for fiscal years 2010 through 2014. The bill was amended to authorize an additional $10 million to provide dedicated services for homeless female veterans and homeless veterans with children. Grants would be made available to provide job training, counseling, placement services and child care services to expedite the reintegration of veterans into the labor force.

c H.R. 1513: Veterans´ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2009 (Introduced by Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, Arizona Democrat).

This bill would direct the secretary of the VA to increase the rates of basic compensation for disabled veterans and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation to their survivors and dependents, along with other benefits, in order to keep pace with the rising cost of living. The adjustment would become effective Dec. 1, 2009, and would be equal to that provided on an annual basis to Social Security recipients.

The bills will next be considered by the U.S. Senate.

Sanford M. Garfunkel, FACHE, network director for the VA Capitol Health Care Network with the VA, Linthicum Heights, Md., has been elected to serve on the Board of Governors of the American College of Healthcare Executives, an international professional society of more than 30,000 health care executives.

Mr. Garfunkel recently took office at the council of regents meeting during ACHE´s 52nd Congress on Healthcare Leadership in Chicago. He will serve a three-year term representing ACHE affiliates on ACHE's Board of Governors, the authority that oversees ACHE operations and member services.

c Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5466 or e-mail [email protected]

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