Senate Passes Veteran Mental Health Legislation
Last Wednesday, the Senate passed the VFW-supported S. 785, The Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019, which would support the VA as it continues to make improvements to veteran’ mental Health Care. The bill covers a strategic plan for veterans transitioning from active duty, pilot programs integrating alternative therapies, establishing a VA and DOD clinical provider treatment toolkit, improving care and services for women veterans and expanding the mental health medical workforce. Project ATLAS could benefit from this bill as there is an opportunity to expand telehealth capabilities, suicide prevention and mental health programs to veterans in rural and highly rural areas.
Expansion Of Caregiver Program Planned For Fall
The VA released the final rule on revising its regulations for VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC). According to the document, the expansion is set to begin on Oct. 1. Under the rule, PCAFC will be expanded in two phrases. The first phase is for caregivers of veterans injured on military duty before May 7, 1975. Veterans injured in service between 1975 and 2001 will have to wait two more years. With this final regulation, PCAFC will be open to veterans with a service-connected disability rating of 70 percent or higher.
Legislation Introduced DBQs On VA Website
Last Wednesday, Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) introduced a VFW-supported S. 4412, to improve the ability of veterans to access and submit disability benefits questionnaire forms. This important legislation would require the VA to publish Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs) on a public website. DBQs were introduced in 2010 to streamline the collection of medical evidence in support of disability benefits claims. Until recently, both VA and private medical physicians were permitted to use DBQs. As stated by VFW National Legislative Service Deputy Director Matthew Doyle, “For more than a decade, VA physicians and private medical providers used DBQs to supplement evidence in support of disability claims. This April, the VA removed public-facing DBQs from its website, thereby preventing private medical providers and veterans from accessing these forms.”
Legislation Introduced To Help Veterans Request VA File
Last Wednesday, Representatives T.J. Cox (D-CA) and Chip Roy (R-TX) introduced VFW-supported H.R. 7926, to allow for the electronic request of certain records. This legislation would require VA to permit veterans to request copies of their entire disability claims file on line. These files contain comprehensive information regarding the evidence a veteran submitted in support of a claim, information VA obtained from third parties and a record of requests for higher-level review and supplemental claims.
TRICARE Select Enrollment Fee To Start Jan. 1
The Department of Defense (DOD) announced that TRICARE Select Group A retirees will be required to pay an enrollment fee beginning on Jan. 1. Congress directed the Defense Health Agency in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 to implement TRICARE Select retiree enrollment fees, but delayed the implementation. Group A is comprised of retirees and their family members if the sponsor’s initial enlistment or appointment occurred before Jan.1, 2018. The enrollment fee is waved for medically retired individuals and their family members, and for survivors of active-duty deaths. During TRICARE Open Season, which will run from Nov. 9 to Dec. 14, beneficiaries must set up an allotment with their regional contractors for the enrollment fee to begin on Jan. 1, 2021. Beneficiaries who do not set up their allotment by the deadline will be un-enrolled due to non-payment, and will have 90 days from termination date to request reinstatement.