The PACT Act and your VA benefits

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The PACT Act is a new law that expands VA health care and benefits for Veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances. This law helps us provide generations of Veterans—and their survivors—with the care and benefits they’ve earned and deserve.

This page will help answer your questions about what the PACT Act means for you or your loved ones. You can also call us at 800-698-2411 (TTY: 711).

And you can file a claim for PACT Act-related disability compensation or apply for VA health care now.

 

What’s the PACT Act and how will it affect my VA benefits and care?

The PACT Act is perhaps the largest health care and benefit expansion in VA history.

The full name of the law is The Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act.

The PACT Act will bring these changes:

  • Expands and extends eligibility for VA health care for Veterans with toxic exposures and Veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 eras
  • Adds more than 20 new presumptive conditions for burn pits and other toxic exposures
  • Adds more presumptive-exposure locations for Agent Orange and radiation
  • Requires VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every Veteran enrolled in VA health care
  • Helps us improve research, staff education, and treatment related to toxic exposures

If you’re a Veteran or survivor, you can file claims now to apply for PACT Act-related benefits.

What does it mean to have a presumptive condition for toxic exposure?

To get a VA disability rating, your disability must connect to your military service. For many health conditions, you need to prove that your service caused your condition.

But for some conditions, we automatically assume (or “presume”) that your service caused your condition. We call these “presumptive conditions.”

We consider a condition presumptive when it’s established by law or regulation.

If you have a presumptive condition, you don’t need to prove that your service caused the condition. You only need to meet the service requirements for the presumption.

Read more about the PACT Act on the VA’s website here.

PTSD nearly killed him, now USMC Vet uses it to help fellow warriors

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Cole Lyle with service dog Kaya

After serving in the Marines for six years, including a tour in Afghanistan, Cole Lyle returned home and suffered severe PTSD, social isolation, and difficulty reintegrating into civilian life.

In his own words, “Coming home really was just the lowest point in my life, and I was two pounds of trigger pull away from being one of the statistics – a veteran’s suicide statistic – if it had not been for another Marine that intervened.”

Determined to overcome his struggles, Cole requested a service dog from the VA to provide emotional support. However, after months of waiting, the VA denied his request. Cole then paid over $10,000 out of his own pocket to secure his famous service dog, Kaya, who has become his constant companion and best friend.

Now serving as the Executive Director of Mission Roll Call, Cole is dedicated to advocating on Capitol Hill for the 18 million veterans across the U.S. and to ending veteran suicide through holistic care, community integration, and greater access to quality healthcare.

Visit Mission Roll Call for more information.

Landing a job was no fluke

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Steven Culp headshot

By Camille Cates, DAV

Steven Culp turned 18 only nine days after 9/11. “I felt the call to serve immediately after that event,” said Culp.

He served six years in the Navy as an electronic warfare technician and a cryptologic technician.

After his enlistment, Culp enrolled in college and earned a degree in engineering. But his wartime service had changed him, and after seeking help from the VA, he was enrolled in their Veteran Readiness and Employment program.

That’s when he discovered DAV job fairs.

“At the job fair, there was just about every profession you could think of: engineering; software; technicians for electronics, mechanics or engines; law enforcement. There are opportunities for just about everything there,” said Culp. “With the skills that are built in the military, there is something for every veteran.”

Though he had interviewed with several companies, there was one in particular with whom Culp wanted to connect.

“I was first introduced to Fluke when I was on active duty in the Navy. I used their multimeters for all kinds of tests around the shop, making sure our gear was in spec and working correctly,” he said. “When I saw their logo at the job fair, I went over and spoke with them. Turns out the two gentlemen there recruiting were former Navy. They took a look at my resume and my experience and they said, ‘Can you start on Monday?’”

Culp accepted a position as a service engineer with Fluke Corp., a maker of industrial testing and diagnostic equipment.

“Steven’s story is an excellent example of securing meaningful employment through participation in a DAV job fair,” said DAV National Employment Director Rob Lougee. “Separating service members, veterans and their spouses should take the time to check out our employment resources at jobs.dav.org.”

“They can find everything from our full schedule of in-person and virtual job fairs to resources for entrepreneurs.”

DAV job fairs and employment resources provide veterans and their spouses with the prospect of an exciting career path.

“This opportunity means the world to me,” he said. “It’s truly a second chance. I’m eternally grateful to the VA and DAV for the opportunity I’ve been given.”

Read the article originally posted on dav.org.

VA to pay for all emergency mental health care

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Starting Jan. 17, Veterans in acute suicidal crisis will be able to go to any VA or non-VA health care facility for emergency health care at no cost – including inpatient or crisis residential care for up to 30 days and outpatient care for up to 90 days. Veterans do not need to be enrolled in the VA system to use this benefit.

This expansion of care will help prevent Veteran suicide by guaranteeing no cost, world-class care to Veterans in times of crisis. It will also increase access to acute suicide care for up to 9 million Veterans who are not currently enrolled in VA.

Preventing Veteran suicide is VA’s top clinical priority and a top priority of the Biden-Harris Administration. This effort is a key part of VA’s 10-year National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide and the Biden-Harris administration’s plan for Reducing Military and Veteran Suicide. In September, VA released the 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, which showed that Veteran suicides decreased in 2020 for the second year in a row, and that fewer Veterans died by suicide in 2020 than in any year since 2006.

“Veterans in suicidal crisis can now receive the free, world-class emergency health care they deserve – no matter where they need it, when they need it, or whether they’re enrolled in VA care,” said VA Secretary for Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough. “This expansion of care will save Veterans’ lives, and there’s nothing more important than that.”

VA has submitted an interim final rule to the federal register to establish this authority under section 201 of the Veterans Comprehensive Prevention, Access to Care, and Treatment (COMPACT) Act of 2020. The final policy, which takes effect on Jan. 17, will allow VA to:

-Provide, pay for, or reimburse for treatment of eligible individuals’ emergency suicide care, transportation costs, and follow-up care at a VA or non-VA facility for up to 30 days of inpatient care and 90 days of outpatient care.
-Make appropriate referrals for care following the period of emergency suicide care.
-Determine eligibility for other VA services and benefits.
-Refer eligible individuals for appropriate VA programs and benefits following the period of emergency suicide care.

Eligible individuals, regardless of VA enrollment status, are:

-Veterans who were discharged or released from active duty after more than 24 months of active service under conditions other than dishonorable.
-Former members of the armed forces, including reserve service members, who served more than 100 days under a combat exclusion or in support of a contingency operation either directly or by operating an unmanned aerial vehicle from another location who were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
-Former members of the armed forces who were the victim of a physical assault of a sexual nature, a battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment while serving in the armed forces.

Over the past year, VA has announced or continued several additional efforts to end Veteran suicide, including establishing 988 (then press 1) as a way for Veterans to quickly connect with caring, qualified crisis support 24/7; proposing a new rule that would reduce or eliminate copayments for Veterans at risk of suicide; conducting an ongoing public outreach effort on firearm suicide prevention and lethal means safety; and leveraging a national Veteran suicide prevention awareness campaign, “Don’t Wait. Reach Out.”

If you’re a Veteran in crisis or concerned about one, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive 24/7 confidential support. You don’t have to be enrolled in VA benefits or health care to connect. To reach responders, Dial 988 then Press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or text 838255.

Source: VA.gov

VA plans to waive medical copays for Native American vets

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The sign of the Department of Veteran Affairs is seen in front of the headquarters building in Washington

By Leo Shane III

Veterans Affairs officials soon will waive most copayments related to medical care for American Indian and Alaska Native veterans in an effort to encourage more of them to use VA health services.

Officials detailed the effort in a proposed rule released in the Federal Register on Tuesday. They have not yet released a timeline for exactly when the copayments will be ended, but the final rule is expected to be approved in coming months.

The department has already pledged to reimburse all eligible veterans for any copayments made between Jan. 5, 2022, and the date of that final approval.

“American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans have played a vital role in the defense of the United States as members of the Armed Forces for more than 200 years,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement accompanying the announcement. “This rule makes health care more accessible and allows us to better deliver to these veterans the care and health benefits that they have earned through their courageous service.”

VA estimates about 150,000 American Indian and Alaska Native veterans are living in the country today, and Defense Department officials have estimated that roughly 24,000 active duty service members belong to the same groups.

Veterans Affairs officials said they do not have a reliable estimate on how many of those veterans are currently using department health care services.

Read the complete article on Military Times.

DID YOU KNOW?

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man looking at smartphone with logo in backgroud for Heroes with hearing loss

Hearing-related issues, particularly tinnitus and hearing loss, are the top service-connected disabilities affecting our nation’s veterans of all ages.Today, more than 2.7 million veterans receive benefits or are in treatment for hearing-related issues, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. Here are some additional compelling statistics:

…than non-veterans

What’s even more worrisome is these issues are inextricably linked to many other conditions, including social isolation, loneliness, depression and cognitive decline. A study published in the International Journal of Otolaryngology found compelling evidence connecting tinnitus with depression and anxiety for veterans: 72% of veterans with tinnitus had a diagnosis of anxiety, 60% had depression and 58% had both conditions.

Available Solutions

The Heroes With Hearing Loss® program, provided by Hamilton® CapTel®, is designed specifically to combat these issues by providing life-changing solutions that can re-establish and even deepen the connections veterans have with family, friends and healthcare professionals. These solutions include captioned telephone for home, work and while on the go.

  • Hamilton CapTel captioned telephones offer unique features ranging from touch-screen navigation, Bluetooth® connectivity, speakerphone and more – making it possible to read what’s being said while on the phone.
  • Hamilton®CapTel® for Business, Interconnected by Tenacity™ is available to veterans who experience hearing loss and have difficulty hearing on the phone while in the workplace. Hamilton CapTel displays captions of what’s being said on the screen of a Cisco® phone, allowing clarity and confidence on every business call.
  • Heroes Mobile CapTel® for iOS is available to veterans right now on the Apple App Store for download. The feature-rich app delivers the same Hamilton CapTel experience customers have enjoyed at home and at work for years – now at your fingertips wherever you go. It seamlessly integrates with device contacts and captions are fast and incredibly accurate.

Learn more about Heroes With Hearing Loss >

About Hamilton CapTel

Hamilton CapTel is provided by Hamilton Relay®, a pioneer of telecommunications relay services (TRS). Since 1991, Hamilton Relay has been dedicated to serving individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind or have difficulty speaking. Hamilton CapTel is dedicated to making phone conversations simple and accessible for individuals with hearing loss.

FEDERAL LAW PROHIBITS ANYONE BUT REGISTERED USERS WITH HEARING LOSS FROM USING INTERNET PROTOCOL (IP) CAPTIONED TELEPHONES WITH THE CAPTIONS TURNED ON. IP Captioned Telephone Service may use a live operator. The operator generates captions of what the other party to the call says. These captions are then sent to your phone. There is a cost for each minute of captions generated, paid from a federally administered fund. To learn more, visit fcc.gov. Hamilton CapTel may be used to make 911 calls but may not function the same as traditional 911 services. For more information about the benefits and limitations of Hamilton CapTel and Emergency 911 calling, visit HamiltonCapTel.com/911. Voice and data plans may be required when using Hamilton CapTel on a smartphone or tablet. Courtesy of Cisco Systems, Inc. Unauthorized use not permitted. Third-party charges may apply: the Hamilton CapTel phone requires telephone service and high-speed Internet access. Wi-Fi capable. Third-party trademarks mentioned are the property of their respective owners. CapTel is a registered trademark of Ultratec, Inc. Copyright ©2022 Hamilton Relay. Hamilton is a registered trademark of Nedelco, Inc. d/b/a/ Hamilton Telecommunications.

The Power of Adaptive Sports

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U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Andrew Hairston in wheelchair smiling with amputed leg and other leg in a cast

By Kellie Speed

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Andrew Hairston never could have imagined he would lose his left leg here in the States after returning home from being deployed. While the accident certainly changed his life, his impressive outlook has him proving nothing is impossible.

“After I got back from deployment, we were moving into a new house when I was loading a mattress onto the truck and it fell off,” he told U.S. Veterans Magazine in a recent phone interview. “Just as I was picking it back up, someone hit me. When I was hit, I thought the vehicle hit my funny bone which was why my leg was numb.

When they got me into the back of the ambulance, they gave me some meds for the pain. I was upset and hangry at the time because I had just ordered Domino’s. When I heard someone say, ‘left leg amputation,’ that’s when it hit me.”

Despite his injury, the U.S. Virgin Islands native has not only found many reasons to be grateful, but also push himself to incredible limits.

“As a Marine, we go from being active and physical specimens and being the best at everything to being reduced to having a caretaker,” Hairston said. “I had to fight to get back to my old self. When I was injured, I had another reason to be glad I joined the Marine Corps. I had a phone call with my Colonel at the time and I was sent to Walter Reed. They have the best adaptive program in the Department of Defense. When I was there, I told them I wanted to go to the Paralympics.”

Now holding the title of the first para-cyclist in Virgin Islands history and being the only hand cyclist in the Marine Corps to win at the 2022 Warrior Games was “the greatest feeling in my entire Marine Corps career,” he said. “Hearing guys in other branches saying ‘there’s a guy killing it in cycling’ or ‘watch out for that Marine’ was incredible. When I was injured, my physical and occupational therapists told me that even though I lost a leg, they kept reinforcing that I can still do what I did before; I just needed to figure out how to do it now. I was able to prove to myself that I can still be active and take a walk with my wife (a Marine helicopter pilot) or play with my dogs and being able to compete really helped me with my recovery.”

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Andrew Hairston para-cycling in formation with others

Hairston first competed in a four-mile race in Central Park. “It was the first time that I felt like myself,” he said. “As a Marine, we have to win everything, but I came in third place. That gave me the Paralympics bug. I have done a few marathons now in hand cycling and am getting ready to do three more.”

With two gold medals for cycling, a silver medal in archery and silver and bronze awards for track to his credit, Hairston’s continued determination to succeed has reinforced he is still the same specimen he was when he joined the military — just a little bit different now.

Hairston created a nonprofit called Salvage Life with the goal of inspiring others to lead a healthy and active lifestyle with a focus on veteran and disabled communities in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Knowing that people back home are disabled and not able to get the same support that I had here in the states was the reason I started the nonprofit,” he said. “As I continue in my recovery, I was able to host the first adaptive sports clinic in the Virgin Islands just before Warrior Games. I showed guys how to shoot archery and wanted to show people that you can make things work for someone with a disability. After my injury, I said if I can help just one person, it would be a success. I got to help eight people; that’s the best part of it.”

Tips for Talking to Your Doctor About Migraine

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soldier holding the side of head in pain

Do you experience recurring headaches accompanied by intense pain and symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or sensitivity to light and sound? If so, you may suffer from migraine, a debilitating neurological disease that affects nearly 40 million Americans. While everyone experiences migraine differently, the impact can disrupt everyday life with attacks lasting from four to 72 hours.

Unfortunately, veterans are more likely to experience migraine and headaches than civilians, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs*. If you think you have migraine, it might be time to talk with your local Veteran Affairs doctor.

Here are some tips to help you get the most of out of your visit:

  • Make a list of questions to ask during your appointment
  • Be prepared to share your medical and headache history, including prior concussions, exposure to blasts, etc. that occurred during a military tour
  • Talk about potential migraine triggers, such as stress, weather or lack of sleep
  • Ask about treatment and prevention strategies, including an orally dissolving medication to treat and prevent attacks
  • Learn more about resources to help manage migraine, including National Headache Foundation’s “Operation Brainstorm”

Read more about taking control of migraine attacks

*American Migraine Foundation. Veterans and Migraine. Available at: https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/veterans-and-migraine/. Accessed September 12, 2022.

Sponsored by Pfizer. PP-NNT-USA-0149

Disabled American Veterans (DAV) : Victories for Veterans

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Give a Minute to Support Victories for Veterans. America’s veterans are on their most important tour—the tour of their lives. DAV, a leading nonprofit, is helping more than 1 million veterans in life-changing ways each year.

While serving in Vietnam, a grenade took Michael Naranjo’s eyesight. His fingers became his new way of seeing. Starting with a lump of clay, he learned to create objects of beauty with his hands. Today, he’s a successful sculptor. Each year, DAV helps more than a million veterans like Michael in life-changing ways — helping them to get the benefits they’ve earned.

Support more Victories for Veterans®. GO TO DAV.ORG

Veteran PTSD Recovery with the Invictus Foundation

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Professional psychologist giving advice to military patient. Psychological therapy for war veteran, PTSD

Veteran PTSD Recovery – The Invictus Foundation is [at] the forefront of efforts to help veterans, active-duty service members and their families suffering the terrible effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress (PTSD) and an array of behavioral health issues stemming from their experience in the crucible of war. TBI, PTSD and behavioral health issues afflict hundreds of thousands of people who have selflessly served in defense of our nation,” states Peter Whalen, founder and CEO of the Invictus Foundation.

To address this urgent need, the Invictus Foundation plans to build a series of eight specially-designed regional treatment centers of excellence (COEs) with the naming convention Invictus Foundation Centers of Excellence for TBI & Behavioral Health. These nationwide Veteran PTSD Recovery centers will serve veterans, active-duty military and their families, families of the fallen, public safety personnel and the community. They will receive the most advanced and proven care to address the complex symptoms of TBI, PTSD and an array of other behavioral health issues to return people to their activities of daily living within a new normal brought about by their experience in war and other psychological trauma.

Healing mind. Cropped shot of middle aged military man during therapy session with psychologist. Soldier suffering from depression, psychological trauma. PTSD conceptPatients at the centers will come from a diverse and inclusive subset of the community population they serve. These subsets will be rank-ordered preferentially, starting with veterans and their families, active-duty military and their families, families of the fallen, public safety officers and community members. Patients will receive comprehensive, interdisciplinary and individually tailored evaluations and treatment during Veteran PTSD Recovery.

Each Invictus Center will incorporate a variety of specialties: neurology, neuropsychology, audiology, ophthalmology, speech pathology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, family therapy, plus art and music therapy. They will also have physiatrists, psychiatrists and psychologists and offer orthotics and prosthetics.

The first Invictus Foundation Center of Excellence for TBI and Behavioral Health will be constructed in the Seattle area, with its opening planned for the summer of 2025.

Professional psychologist giving advice to military patient“The philanthrocapitalism fundraising model often referred to as a social funding model, will be utilized for the capital construction campaign. It is a model used by the Bill Gates Foundation and Bill Ackman’s Pershing Foundation, to name but a few. Investors have a choice of investing for purely philanthropic reasons or an adjusted rate of return on investment, given their affinity for the vision and mission of the Invictus Centers for Veteran PTSD Recovery. The philanthrocapitalism model will be harnessed with a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) governance that will allow investors to realize gains through the real estate the Invictus Centers are built upon as well,” states Mr. Whalen.

The Invictus Foundation’s capital construction campaign efforts will be supported and overseen by the Vice-Chairs of the Invictus Foundation Board of Directors, Wayne Ross and Bryan Hoddle. Mr. Ross has an expert knowledge base in developing partnerships in the oil and gas industry. In contrast, Mr. Hoddle has a specialist knowledge base in consulting with military and veterans’ organizations on the treatment of injured soldiers and veterans with Veteran PTSD Recovery. He is often referred to as the Soldier’s Coach. For more information or a prospectus on the Invictus Foundation’s Centers of Excellence for TBI and Behavioral Health, please

email info@invictusfoundation.org.

 

Veteran Suicide & Focusing on Suicide Prevention in the Military

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A marine sits with his hands in his faceon the ground contemplating veteran suicide

Since the beginning of Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III’s tenure, he has been adamant about the importance of mental health in the military and prevention of veteran suicide. Secretary Austin has announced the establishment of a new program aimed at tackling one of the greatest issues surrounding mental health and military personnel: suicide prevention.

Secretary Austin’s newly established program, the Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee (SPRIRC), will address and prevent suicide in the military pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022.

“We have the strongest military in the world because we have the strongest team in the world,” Secretary Austin stated upon establishing the program, “It is imperative that we take care of all our teammates and continue to reinforce that mental health and suicide prevention remain a key priority. One death by suicide is one too many. And suicide rates among our service members are still too high. So, clearly, we have more work to do.”

a military servicemember holds a pistol struggling with veteran suicideThe SPRIRC will be responsible for addressing and preventing suicide in the military, beginning with a comprehensive review of the Department’s efforts to address and prevent suicide. The SPRIRC will review relevant suicide prevention and response activities, immediate actions on addressing sexual assault and recommendations of the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military to ensure SPRIRC recommendations are synchronized with current prevention activities and capabilities. The review will be conducted through visits to numerous military installations, focus groups, individuals and confidential surveys with servicemembers contemplating veteran suicide.

 

The SPRIRC recently started installation visits to prevent veteran suicide. The installations that will be utilized in this study will be:

  • Fort Campbell, Ky.
  • Camp Lejeune, N.C.
  • North Carolina National Guard
  • Naval Air Station North Island, Calif.
  • Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
  • Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
  • Fort Wainwright, Alaska
  • Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska
  • Camp Humphreys, South Korea

By December 20, 2022, the SPRIRC will send an initial report for review in advance of sending a report of findings and recommendations to Congress by February 18, 2023.

“As I have said many times, mental health is health — period,” Secretary Austin additionally stated, “I know that senior leaders throughout the Department share my sense of commitment to this notion and to making sure we do everything possible to heal all wounds, those you can see and those you can’t. We owe it to our people, their families and to honor the memory of those we have lost.”

To view Secretary Austin’s full memorandum on veteran suicide prevention and updates on the SPRIRC, visit the Department of Defense’s website at defense.gov.

Source: Department of Defense

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