Gulf War Vets Needed for Research: The War Related Illness and Injury Study Center at the VA in East Orange, N.J., currently has several research studies focused on Gulf War veterans who deployed to Operation Desert Shield/Storm, as well as non-deployed veterans of the same era. If you are a veteran from the 1990-91 era, or if you have a Gulf War illness and would like to know more about the research, please call 1-800-248-8005 or visit their Gulf War Research page at: http://www.warrelatedillness.va.gov/research/volunteer/nj-wriisc.asp.
(Source: VFW Action Corps Weekly, 18 September 205)
Affected Vietnam Veterans should consider Filing Reconsideration of Claim: As reported in the May 1, 2015 issue of NewsBytes, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims has ruled that veterans who served aboard ships in the harbors of Vietnam more than 40 years ago should not be arbitrarily excluded from Agent Orange claims—a significant step forward for these veterans. Former Navy seaman Robert Gray has been denied multiple disability claims by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) based on the fact that he was aboard a ship—not on land—during the Vietnam War, when the herbicide Agent Orange was liberally sprayed by American forces to remove foliage and eliminate enemy cover. The chemical was later found to cause numerous health problems for service members who were exposed, but the VA has denied disability claims to U.S. Navy sailors under the argument that the seamen were offshore and were not directly exposed. Veterans who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam who later developed specific health problems tied to exposure to Agent Orange should consider filing a claim for VA benefits or filing for re-consideration of previously denied claims.
In addition, FRA supports the “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act,” (H.R. 969/S. 681) which would clarify a presumption for filing disability claims with the VA for ailments associated with exposure to Agent Orange herbicide during the Vietnam War. Congress should recognize that so-called “Blue Water” veterans who served off the coast of Vietnam were exposed to Agent Orange herbicide. The bill authorizes presumptive status for VA disability claims associated with this exposure for this group of veterans. Members can weigh in on these proposals through the FRA Action Center (action.fra.org/action-center).
(Source: FRA NewsBytes 18 September 2015)
DHA Starts Annual Health Behaviors Survey: The Defense Health Agency (DHA) launched its 2015 Health Related Behaviors Survey (HRBS). The HRBS has been conducted approximately every three years since 1980 and is used to measure the health related behaviors and lifestyles of military personnel that have the potential to impact readiness. Service members are randomly chosen to provide their experiences. The survey, accessed online, takes about 40 minutes to complete. Participation in the survey is entirely voluntary and can be completed using a government computer during duty hours or a home computer with Internet access. To protect privacy, participants’ privacy the survey is anonymous.
“Through this survey and the service members’ candid responses, our experts are able to uncover those issues that may affect the health and well-being of our Service members,” said Dr. Jonathon Woodson, assistant secretary for Health Affairs and director, Defense Health Agency. As in past years, a summary report with the survey results will be posted to a DoD website as soon as the final report is ready, in Summer-Fall 2016.
(Source: NAUS Watchdog Weekly Update, 18 September 2015)
Did You or a Family Member Apply for VA Health Benefits, and Have Never Received a Response?: A recent VA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report exposed a backlog of over 880,000 veterans’ records in the VA Healthcare Enrollment System that are in a pending status due to VA’s inability to verify military service records and financial information for veterans seeking VA health benefits. According to the OIG report, 307,000 veterans in the pending backlog are listed as deceased. These veterans may have died without receiving the health benefits they earned through military service.
Veterans with pending health benefit applications would have applied one of the following ways: In person at a VA Medical Center or Clinic; over the phone by speaking with a VA Call Center Representative; by mailing a 10-10EZ VA Application form for Health Benefits to a VA Medical Facility or the Health Eligibility Center; by completing online application form 1010EZ; or by selecting the “I authorize VA to start the VA healthcare enrollment process on my behalf” option when applying for Disability Benefits.
If you or a family member applied for VA Health Benefits after 1998, and have not received a response from VA, the application may be in a Pending Status. Veterans and/or family members should contact VA at 1-877-222-VETS (8387) to determine if their application or family member’s application for VA Health Benefits is in a Pending Status.
(Source: VVA WebWeekly, 18 September 2015)
Two Fraud Alerts:
1. DFAS sends fraud warning to myPay customers: BEWARE! Several myPay customers have informed us that fraudulent SmartDocs email messages are being sent that could put your information and finances at risk.
The reported invalid emails contain what appears to be from a valid SmartDocs email address. The originators of these emails have “spoofed” their messages to hide their true origin and placed the SmartDocs address in the “From” line to make the email appear legitimate.
Valid SmartDocs messages from DFAS are always sent in plain text, do not include attachments and do not ask you to send any information in response. Your email program may automatically convert a valid SmartDocs message into HTML and convert some text into clickable links. We recommend that you do NOT click on any links within any email message. To access a site referenced in an email, open your browser and type the link (URL) directly into the browser.
Don’t get fooled. If you receive a SmartDocs message that contains a link, don’t click on it. If a URL is listed in the message type it in manually within your browser. Delete unexpected or unsolicited messages that contain attachments or that request you to send information back.
Becoming a victim is easy. Utilizing a few basic precautions with email handling are critical to protecting your information, finances and identity.
2.…And yet another scam targeting military families: TRICARE Beneficiaries Being Targeted by Fraudulent Secret Shopper Offer
The Defense Health Agency, Office of Program Integrity (DHA-PI) has received a significant number of return envelopes from mailings by a bogus organization. In the letter they identify themselves as TRICARE SURVEY INC., to TRICARE beneficiaries across the country and are attempting to solicit beneficiary to be “Secret Shoppers” for TRICARE. Please know that TRICARE does not employ “Secret Shoppers”.
Enclosed in the mailing is a form letter claiming to be a solicitation for a position as a Trainee Independent Private Evaluator, a counterfeit TRICARE WPS check for $3,775.00, and an instruction/survey form on how the beneficiary gets the check authorized through the company’s agent via phone. Beneficiaries are directed to cash the check at their local bank, retain a percentage of the money and utilize the remaining amount to purchase six “Vanilla Reload” cards at $500.00 apiece at various stores across the country.
The “Secret Shopper” is instructed to provide the company agent with the card numbers once they are bought, complete the survey and mail it, and wait for the next assignment. Once money has been loaded onto the card however, they are immediately available for transfer and the bogus company zeros out the monies on the cards.
DHA PI strongly advises you NOT to participate in this alleged “Secret Shopper” effort. TRICARE will identify the checks as counterfeit through a positive check controls process and return them to the bank in which they were drawn from as non-cashable. Potential exists for the beneficiary to be personally liable for the entire $3,775.00 in restitution to the bank.
Should you receive a letter DHA PI again, strongly advises you not to contact the company or attempt to cash the counterfeit check. Also, please immediately submit a Fraudline report to DHA PI. You can access our Fraud Reporting by clicking the “Report Health Care Fraud” button at www.health.mil/fraud.
(Source: TREA’s Washington Office, 1 September 2015)
Burial Benefits for Dependents: In the case of unmarried servicemembers, parents may be eligible for interment, and some children may be authorized burial with their veteran parent(s). Find out more at Burial Benefits.
(Source: The American Military Retirees Association Monday Morning Digest, 14 September 2015)