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Keeping aircraft in the fight

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Keeping Aircraft in the Air

 

U.S. Army aviation faces a diverse threat environment, spanning broad categories of threats from ballistic munitions and guided missiles to directed energy and cyber weapons. It also spans generations of technology, ranging from constantly evolving sophisticated systems to widely proliferated legacy equipment. The modern threat environment presents both a technical challenge and a moving target to Army aviation. Historically, the science and technology (S&T) community has played an important role in developing advanced technologies to outpace the evolution of the threat. In an increasingly challenging threat environment, S&T is now even more critical.

The Army Tried To Bury A Critical Report On All Its Failings In The Iraq War

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Army Logo 001

 

An unclassified 1,300-page “unvarnished history” of the Iraq War is at the center of a heated debate among Army leaders and historians over who gets credit for what, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The infighting has reportedly stalled the publication of the study, which was commissioned in 2013 by then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno and remains unpublished. Sources told the Journal that Odierno urged a team of researchers consisting of some of the Army’s “brightest officers” to work expeditiously so that the history could publish while the lessons of the war “were most relevant.”

But it seems not everyone is convinced the general’s motives were pure.

  • A chief concern of those who took issue with the first draft of the history — which was completed in 2016 — is how the authors chose to portray Odierno.
  • According to the Journal, the study “hails President George W. Bush ‘surge’ of reinforcements and the switch to a counterinsurgency strategy overseen by Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. Odierno.”
  • Odierno also apparently circumvented the standard process for “publishing the Army’s official conflicts,” after the Army’s Center of Military said the history would take five to 10 years.
  • Time seemed to be of the essence. “Some of the officials foresaw trouble if the study wasn’t published before Gen. Odierno retired, which he did in August 2015,” the Journal writes.
  • Furthermore, the study team was originally helmed by Army Col. Joel Rayburn, who served as an advisor to Petraeus in Iraq, according to the Journal.
  • The tangled web of loyalties reportedly prompted one Army historian to draft a memo proposing major revisions to the study and raise the question of whether it was intended to “validate the surge” and thus, as the Journal puts it, “burnish Gen. Odierno’s and Gen. Petraeus’s legacy.”
  • The 2007 surge coincided with a dramatic decline in the sectarian violence that had surged across Iraq the previous year, leading many to conclude that the extra troops and the counterinsurgency strategy Petraeus employed had succeeded in winning a seemingly un-winnable war. That narrative lost some of its luster in the ensuing years as the results proved temporary.
  • But the history commissioned by Odierno has plenty of champions while Rayburn “defended the study’s portrayal of the ‘surge’ as a success,” according to the Journal.
  • Meanwhile, retired Gen. Dan Allyn, who served as Army vice chief of staff when the history was completed in 2016, told the Journal that the brass sought to distance itself from the study in part because “senior leaders who were in position when these things happened, and they were concerned on how they were portrayed.”
  • Among the many mistakes identified in the study, according to the Journal, are a chronic shortage of boots on the ground, heavily lopsided contributions by the various coalition partners, the consolidating of troops on large forward operating bases from 2004 to the troop surge, and the failure to prevent Iran and Syria from bolstering their favored militant groups in Iraq.
  • Despite all the drama, however, the Army finally came around. Last week, the current Army chief of staff, Gen. Mark Milley, told the Journal that he had discarded plans to tweak the study and said it will be released in its original form — and with his stamp of approval — hopefully by Christmas.

Source

Army Veteran returns to annual TEE tournament in Iowa

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TEE tournament

 

Army Veteran Joni Mulvania (above, left) got a birdie on the first hole. No, really. Her tee shot hit a bird in mid-flight.

“The bird was not injured but my game never recovered.” That good-natured approach and her considerable athletic ability earned Mulvania one of the top awards at last year’s TEE tournament. She will be back this week. All birds are duly notified.

The TEE tournament is an annual golf rehabilitation program for Veterans who are legally blind, amputees, those who use wheelchairs and Veterans with other disabilities. It’s underway this week in Iowa City, Iowa.

The award Mulvania received was the 2017 Wayne Earle-Hampton Hill Award given to the Veteran who best exemplifies the spirit of the games. And there are numerous other awards in her golf bag. Her teams were the champions in 2008, 2009 and 2015.

The event provides legally blind Veterans and those with other disabilities an opportunity to participate in a therapeutic golfing event as well as other sports activities. The games enable Veterans to develop new skills and strengthen their self-esteem.

Mulvania, a retired Army Veteran who served three tours in South Korea lives in Rock Island, Illinois, “With my min pins Bonnie and Scooby Doo.” She has been diagnosed with PTSD, Military Sexual Trauma, seizure disorder and chronic pain, but never misses the TEE tournament because she enjoys encouraging other Veterans and building her endurance and strength through swimming, biking and golf.

“I love sports. My favorites are swimming, golf, and riding my trike. I also co-sponsor a women’s softball team. I enjoy cooking and barbecuing with friends and family. I also enjoy attending Veterans’ events and spending time with my best friend, my mother.”

TEE is an acronym for Training, Exposure and Experience. Participation is open to Veterans with visual impairments, amputations, traumatic brain injuries, psychological trauma, certain neurological conditions, spinal cord injuries and other life changing disabilities.

The TEE Tournament uses a therapeutic format to promote health, wellness, rehabilitation, fellowship and camaraderie among its participants. This is the 25th year of the tournament.

Mulvania encourages Veterans to contact their local VA. “There are a lot of amazing opportunities out there.”

Source

Anna Mae Hays, nurse who became U.S. military’s first female general, dies at 97

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Anna Mae Hays

 

Anna Mae Hays, an Army nurse who served in a mud-caked jungle hospital in World War II, guided the Army Nurse Corps through the bloodiest years of the Vietnam War and became the first female general in American military history, died Jan. 7 at a retirement home in Washington. She was 97.

VA accelerates pending Veterans benefits appeals for victims of Super Typhoon Yutu

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Appeals Court

 

Today the U.S. Department of Veterans (VA) announced that it is prioritizing Veterans benefits appeals, effective Nov. 1, for victims in the Northern Mariana Islands who have been impacted by Super Typhoon Yutu.

VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals has determined that the significant effects of Super Typhoon Yutu were sufficient cause for the Board to advance the appeals for the Northern Mariana Islands municipalities determined to be disaster areas by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“During this season of intense weather systems, VA is continually assessing how we can best support our Veterans as they recover from natural disasters,” VA Secretary Wilkie said. “Just as it did with hurricanes Florence and Michael, VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals is prioritizing the benefits appeals claims process because it is the right thing to do.”

By regulation, the Board may advance appeals on docket (AOD) by a motion of the chairman if sufficient cause is shown. All Veterans and other appellants with an appeal currently pending before the Board whose addresses of record are in one of the affected municipalities will have their appeal automatically advanced on the Board’s docket.

No action from Veterans or appellants are needed if their addresses are current. The AOD for this storm is expected to last until April 30, 2019, and the Board will reassess the situation after that period has ended. For a comprehensive list of all affected AOD areas, visit: www.bva.va.gov/Natural_Disasters.asp.

In addition to Super Typhoon Yutu, VA also concluded that the significant effects of hurricanes Florence and Michaelwere sufficient cause for the Board to advance the appeals for counties in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia found to be disaster areas by FEMA.

The mission of VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals is to conduct hearings and decide disability benefits appeals for Veterans in a timely manner. For more information about the Board, visit www.bva.va.gov/.

Source

WHEN DO VA RATINGS BECOME PERMANENT?

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RATINGS BECOME PERM

 

The VA offers protections for disability ratings that have been in effect for certain periods of time. Until these regulatory protections kick in or your ratings become permanent, VA may severe or reduce a Veteran’s disability rating based on specific findings.

WHEN CAN THE VA SEVER SERVICE CONNECTION?

Severance is when the VA tries to revoke a finding of service connection. If the VA tries to sever service connection, it will notify the Veteran of the proposed action and give him or her 60 days to submit evidence to show that service connection should not be severed and 30 days to request a hearing. If the Veteran does not submit evidence within that 60-day window or request a hearing within 30 days, the VA will issue a final decision.

In cases of severance, Veterans are given added protection if they have been service-connected for the condition for 10 years or more. Under 38 C.F.R. 3.957 in the VA code of regulations, a Veteran’s service-connected disability that has been in effect for ten years or more “will not be severed except upon a showing that the original grant was based on fraud or it is clearly shown from military records that the person concerned did not have the requisite service or character of discharge.” The ten-year period is calculated from the effective date of the award for service connection. For example, if a Veteran was granted service connection for a low back injury effective October 20, 1980 and the VA issued a decision dated August 29, 2018 attempting to sever service connection, the VA would have to abide by the ten-year rule above.

WHEN CAN THE VA REDUCE MY DISABILITY RATING?

Veterans with disabilities that are not considered permanent may be sent for future VA examinations in order for the VA to evaluate the severity of those disabilities and rate them appropriately. If the VA finds that a Veteran’s condition has improved, it can reduce a Veteran’s disability rating.

The VA is required to follow the same process for reductions as they are for severances. This means that if the VA wishes to reduce a disability rating, they must issue notice of the proposed reduction and give the Veteran 60 days to submit evidence and 30 days to request a hearing. However, there is one major difference between the process of a reduction and severance. When the reduction would not change the actual amount of compensation that a Veteran is receiving, the VA does not have to issue notice of the reduction.

WHEN DOES MY VA RATING BECOME PERMANENT?

An easy way to tell if your VA disability ratings are permanent is if the VA has deemed you to be totally and permanently disabled. This means that the VA does not see a reasonable chance of your conditions improving. However, if you are not “permanent and total,” the VA has regulatory protections for reductions of service-connected disabilities.

Under 38 C.F.R. 3.951 (b), the VA cannot reduce a rating that has been “continuously rated at or above any evaluation of disability for 20 or more years” unless it is shown that the rating was based on fraud. So, for example, if you are rated at 20% for a right knee disability from January 1994 and the VA proposes to reduce your right knee rating to 0% in March 2017, they can only do so if they find that your initial 20% rating was based on fraud. If they cannot show that, they cannot reduce your 20% rating. This rule protects disabilities that have been increased over the span of 20 years or more as well. For example, the Veteran who receives 20% for his right knee disability from January 1994 was increased to 30% in 2006. In March 2017, the VA proposes to reduce his 30% to 0%. Although the rating for the right knee condition changed between the initial grant and the proposed reduction, he is still protected under the 20-year rule.

WHAT IF I HAVE TDIU?

For Veterans that have been granted entitlement to Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (“TDIU”), the VA can only reduce that rating if “actual employability is established by clear and convincing evidence” (38 C.F.R. 3.3.43(c)). What that means is the VA can only sever your TDIU if you have been found to be employable. For Veterans with TDIU, the VA will send out a yearly employment questionnaire to see if a Veteran participated in substantially gainful employment during that year. In order for the employment to be substantially gainful, a Veteran would have had to be employed for 12 months or more and would have had to earn over the federal poverty threshold.

Check out our video on Permanent and Total disability HERE.

Source

RATING REDUCTIONS: WHAT VA CAN AND CANNOT DO

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Rating Reductions

 

Under certain conditions, VA may reduce your disability rating. Legally, VA is entitled to rating reductions but there are rules they must follow when doing so. But unfortunately, mistakes are still made and VA often does not get rating reductions quite right. So, in this post, we’ll discuss what VA can and cannot do when reducing your rating and what you should do if VA sends notice that your rating may be adjusted.

WHY DOES VA REDUCE RATINGS?

The idea is that some service-connected conditions will improve over time or with treatment and VA wants to make sure they are compensating each Veteran according to their present level of disability. For example, if you had service-connected cancer and but it goes into remission, VA would propose a rating reduction because, presumably, your cancer is less disabling – i.e. has less of an impact on your ability to function in life and at work.

VA normally starts the process of reducing a rating under two circumstances:

  • Scheduled re-examinations. Usually, VA will evaluate (after you are granted service-connection) whether your disability should be scheduled for a future re-examination (a C&P exam) to determine if your benefits need to be adjusted. VA usually makes this determination if they believe your disability can be expected to improve. Typically, the first re-exam will be scheduled 2-5 years from the date of your first Rating Decision.
  • Evidence of change in condition. VA can also order a re-examination at any time if there is new, relevant medical evidence that your disability has improved.

But disabilities, as you likely know, are complicated. Symptoms of a disability may temporarily decrease but resume at baseline level soon after. Or, for example, symptoms may improve but not enough to significantly (or, as VA would say, materially) improve your ability to function under the ordinary stressors of life or work. So VA has strict rules guiding the process of rating reductions. But, those guidelines are not always applied correctly, so it can help to have an idea of what VA is required to do.

GENERAL RULES VA MUST FOLLOW FOR RATING REDUCTIONS

There are a number of things VA must do when reducing ratings under any circumstances:

  • A proposed rating (as well as a final decision) must be based on a review of the Veteran’s entire medical history
  • VA must show that there has been an actual change in the disability since the last rating decision
  • VA must show that change in the disability reflects material improvement in the Veteran’s ability to function under the ordinary conditions and stressors of life and work
  • Examination reports must be based on thorough examinations

Additionally, the procedural manual (M21) that VA adjudicators use to process claims states that VA must outline the time period during which your condition is said to have (materially) improved.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU GET NOTICE OF A POTENTIAL RATING REDUCTION

VA is required to send a letter proposing the reduction of your benefits, if the decrease will affect the amount of monthly compensation you receive. The letter is not a final VA decision and so cannot be appealed, but VA gives you the opportunity to respond to the proposal by submitting evidence and/or attending a hearing.

From the date of the letter, you have 60 days to submit evidence if you believe the reduction is not warranted. Within the first 30 days of the 60-day period, you have the option to request a hearing to be conducted by VA personnel unrelated to the proposed reduction. VA must consider evidence you submit during this period (including the transcript of the hearing, if you choose to attend one) and all previous evidence and medical records associated with your file.

What are some types of evidence you might submit? You do not need to submit treatment records from your VA Medical Center as VA already has access to those documents. But it can be helpful to submit a medical opinion from an outside, independent doctor if your Compensation and Pension exam was not favorable. Additionally, you may want to submit statements from family, friends, or employers who have observed your ability to function in daily life and/or at work. If you choose not to submit evidence within the 60-day period, VA will issue a final decision reducing your rating.

If, after 60 days or the review of your submitted evidence, VA sends a final decision that reduces your rating, you can file an appeal with a Notice of Disagreement form.

SPECIAL CASES

For certain special cases, there are rules in place that protect Veterans from rating reductions or severance of their disability benefits.

Stabilized Ratings: 5 Years or more

Any rating that has remained at the same level for 5 years or longer is considered “stabilized.” In addition to the general rating reduction rules that VA must follow (see above), VA must show sustained improvement in your condition.

What does sustained improvement mean? Essentially it means one of two things: Either 1) VA cannot use just one re-examination (C&P exam) to show ‘sustained’ improvement, rather they must show through medical records as well as a C&P re-exam that you are not just temporarily experiencing improvement. Or, 2) VA must show that the evidence in your file predominantly demonstrates ‘sustained.’

VA must provide an explanation of why they are reasonably certain your condition will continue to show ‘sustained’ improvement.

100% (Total) Ratings

VA can reduce a total rating (that is, a rating of 100%) only if there is material improvement in the Veteran’s condition. In addition to the general rating reduction rules, VA must provide evidence that your condition has improved such that there has been an observable change in your ability to function under the conditions of daily life.

Continuous Ratings: 20 years or more

Conditions that have been rated at or above a certain rating level for 20 years or longer are considered “continuous.” VA cannot reduce a continuous rating below the original rating level (unless they determine the rating was based on fraud). For example, if a Veteran’s service-connected PTSD was originally rated 30% disabling and fluctuated between 30% and 70% over the next 20 years (without dipping below 30%), VA could not reduce the rating to below 30 percent.

Source

Student Veterans looking for missing GI Bill payments

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Missing GI Pmts

 

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) -- Some Veterans aren't getting their education and housing benefits and Congress wants to know why. A House committee says it will hold a hearing, after the election, and Veterans’ advocates say the VA needs to be held accountable.

The American Legion says some student Veterans are facing eviction because the VA is behind on GI Bill payments.

”Over 200,000 Vets with late payments.”

John Kamin with the American Legion says some monthly housing payments for student Veterans have been delayed up to 90 days.

“Left moving back in with their parents or couch surfing because the VA was not able to honor these Veterans and their service,” said Kamin.

On top of that, he says some schools won't let Veterans graduate or register for classes, because their tuition is late.

The VA acknowledges it's behind on the payments. In a statement, a spokesperson told us VA employees are working overtime to process the claims, and it has brought on 200 additional people to speed up the process.

“It's not enough. Absolutely not. We're beyond the point where we can take their word for it. we need to see executive action. Why has the secretary not spoken up about this?” asked Kamin.

The VA faced similar problems in 2009 but issued emergency payments to Veterans.

Congressman Jim Banks, serves on the Veterans Affairs committee. He says the VA needs a technology overhaul to keep up with the payments and other services.

“We'll get to the bottom of the matter. We'll do everything we can to see that it's fixed,” said Banks.

Kamin argues the VA knew its technology needed an update.

“The VA did not take it to be a serious problem and that's why we're where we are…Vets are left trying to figure out how to live their lives,” said Kamin.

Banks vows to hold the VA accountable but Kamin is skeptical, and already worried about payments for the upcoming spring semester.

The House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing looking into the issue is set for Nov. 14.

The VA says Veterans who aren't receiving their payments and need help to call its customer service number: 888-442-4551.

The American Legion also urges Veterans who are struggling to contact their offices.

Source

VA's Changes to Pension and DIC Rules May Make Getting Benefits Easier

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Pension and DIC Rules

 

The VA has made changes to regulations governing VA pension and Parents’ Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, which are need-based programs.  

According to the VA, these changes will ensure that only those with a genuine need receive these benefits.

There were four major changes to the qualifications for these benefits:

  1. Establishment of a clear net-worth limit for income and assets
  2. Establishment of a 36-month look-back period to review asset transfers at less than fair market value that may reduce net worth
  3. Establishment of up to a five-year penalty period to be calculated based on the portion of the covered assets that would have made net worth excessive, and
  4. Updates to medical expense definitions for consistency with VA internal guidelines.

Establishment Of A Clear Net-Worth Limit

Previously, the VA used a complicated formula to compute net worth. The new regulations create an arbitrary amount. VA says this will make computation easier, faster, and fairer.

Under the new regulations, the net worth limit for 2019 is $123,600. This limit will be increased by the same percentage as the annual social security COLA increase, if there is one. A primary residence does not count as part of net worth, also a mortgage does not count as a liability.

Establishment Of A 36-Month Look-Back Period

This rule should keep people from hiding money in order to qualify for benefits. Some bad actors would sell stocks or other assets at a loss in order to qualify for pension benefits, others would "gift" money to a friend or family member in order to bring their net worth down to the qualifying limits.

The new rule requires VA to look at an applicant's finances for the 36 months prior to the application for pension to determine if there are any financial irregularities.

Establishment Of Up To A Five-Year Penalty Period

This rule is related to the 36-month look-back period.

If an applicant transfers money to a non-qualified source as determined above, the VA will withhold the pension based on the amount of money transferred. So, if an applicant transferred $12,000 to an uncle in order to qualify for pension and their monthly pension amount is $2,000, the VA will withhold 6 months of pension ($2,000 x 6=$12,000). This new rule allows the VA to withhold pension for up to 5 years in such cases.

Updates To Medical Expense Definitions

Medical costs have long been used in computing net-worth for pension benefits, however there has been much argument as to what really constitutes a "medical cost".

Previously, the VA didn't include some medical care such as custodial care, assistance with getting around in one's home, and in-home supervision. While this type of care isn't "medical" by definition, it is related to an underlying medical condition, therefore the VA has added it as a cost.

These new rules add these and other types of types of care as qualifying expenses.

Veteran's Pension

Veteran's pension is a monthly payment to certain Veterans with income below levels. The Veteran must have served at least one day during a wartime period and be:

  • 65 years or older, or
  • permanently and totally disabled, or
  • in a nursing home, or
  • receiving social security disability, or
  • receiving supplemental security income

See our Veterans Pension page for more details.

Survivor's Pension

Survivor's pension, also known as the "death pension", is paid monthly payment to low-income, un-remarried surviving spouses and certain children of deceased wartime Veterans.

See our Survivor's Pension page for more details.

Parents’ Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)

Parents' DIC is a tax-free income-based monthly benefit for the parents, or parent, of a military service member or Veteran who has died from:

  • A disease or injury incurred or aggravated while on active duty or active duty for training, OR
  • An injury incurred or aggravated in line of duty while on inactive duty for training, OR
  • A service-connected disability.

“The amended regulations bring consistency to the pension process and ensure benefits are available for Veterans and survivors with financial need,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “They will help maintain the integrity of and provide clarity to our needs-based pension program.”

Source

VA Announces Amended Regulations on Pensions

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Regs on Pensions

 

The Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced that it has amended its regulations governing entitlements to VA pension and Parents’ Dependency and Indemnity Compensation. The changes are meant to ensure that only Veterans that legitimately need the benefits receive them.

VA’s pension program provides monthly benefit payments to eligible wartime Veterans and their survivors with financial need.

The pension regulations, which were updated Oct. 18, cover the following:

  • Establish a clear net-worth limit for income and assets for Veterans to qualify for pension,
  • Establish a 36-month look-back period to review asset transfers at less than fair market value that reduce net worth and create pension entitlement,
  • Establish up to a five-year penalty period to be calculated based on the portion of the covered assets that would have made net worth excessive, and
  • Updates medical expense definitions for consistency with VA internal guidelines.

According to the VA’s pension website, the pension “helps Veterans and their families cope with financial challenges by providing supplemental income through the Veterans Pension and Survivors Pension benefit programs.”

Eligibility requirements are defined as follows as of the time of this writing:

  • Veterans must have at least 90 days of active duty, including one day during a wartime period. If the active duty occurred after September 7, 1980, the Veteran must have served at least 24 months or the full period that he or she was called up (with some exceptions).

Eligible Veterans must also be:

  • Age 65 or older with limited or no income OR
  • Totally and permanently disabled, OR
  • A patient in a nursing home receiving skilled nursing care, OR
  • Receiving Social Security Disability Insurance, OR
  • Receiving Supplemental Security Income

“The amended regulations bring consistency to the pension process and ensure benefits are available for Veterans and survivors with financial need,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “They will help maintain the integrity of and provide clarity to our needs-based pension program.”

Source

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