VA eliminates signature requirement
The VA has announced it has eliminated paper signature requirements for veterans wishing to enroll in VA health care. Effective immediately, VA has amended its regulations to allow veterans to apply by telephone without the need for a paper signature.
By adding this telephone application option, VA now offers a convenient third enrollment option in addition to the paper VA Form 10-10 EZ and the online health care application. To apply, call 1-877-222-VETS (8387), Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., EST.
Women veterans sought for registry
The Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation is reaching out to the public to raise awareness and support for its memorial, education center and registry. Its 33,000-square-foot building opened in 1997 at the gateway to Arlington National Cemetery. Its mission is to recognize all women who served in the armed forces.
It is the only major national memorial to honor all of our nation’s 3 million service women, yet its registry only lists less than 10 percent of those who have served or are serving. Donations are encouraged, but are not required to register. Ladies, please register here: http://www.womensmemorial.org/Membership/reg.html
VA overpays in prison
According to an internal VA IG finding, the VA improperly shelled out $104.1 million in disability compensation and pension payments between 2008 and 2015 to incarcerated veterans.
Federal law requires VA to reduce disability compensation and discontinue pension payments for veterans serving more than 60 days in federal, state or local correction- al institutions for a felony, and in some cases, a misdemeanor.
For vets with a service- connected disability rating of 20 percent or more, the government reduces disability compensation to a 10 percent rate while they are in prison; for those with a 10 percent rating, the VA cuts the benefit payment in half for the duration of incarceration. VA blames their inattention on disability claim backlogs during that period. (Source: NAUS Weekly Update – 07/01/2016)
Limited relief for military survivors
The unfair deduction of VA Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from military Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuities affects around 63,000 survivors. In 2007 Congress recognized the unfairness of the SBP-DIC offset and created the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) to begin phasing out the offset.
The law authorizing SSIA (currently $270 monthly, rising to $310 for FY17) is set to expire in October 2017. Both the Senate and House versions of the FY 2017 defense bill contain provisions extending SSIA; however, they come up short in addressing the repeal of the offset in a comprehensive way.
The House defense bill would extend SSIA for one year at $310 per month. The Senate bill would make SSIA permanent at $310 per month. (Source: MOAA Legislative Update 06/24/16)
SgtMaj Tony Elliott USMC (Ret) is a member of the Hawaii Office of Veterans Services on Kauai.