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Senators Call on VA to Address Toxic Exposure Claim Issues for Veterans

A group of Senate Democrats, led by Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester, D-Mont., is actively urging Veterans Affairs (VA) officials to enhance the process for handling claims related to constrictive bronchiolitis and hypertension under the newly enacted toxic exposure benefits legislation. This legislative push is essential to streamline the bureaucracy and ensure that veterans suffering from these conditions receive timely and fair compensation.

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In a detailed letter addressed to VA Secretary Denis McDonough, the senators emphasized the critical need for prompt action. They highlighted the long-standing issue: “Veterans have waited decades for benefits and recognitions for health conditions related to their toxic exposure. Outdated VA regulations should not deny them earned benefits,” the letter articulated.

Addressing the Approval Challenges

The focus is on the PACT Act, legislation passed in 2022, which significantly expanded veterans’ eligibility for disability benefits related to injuries from military toxins, such as chemical defoliants and burn pit smoke. Although the VA has processed nearly 900,000 claims with an approval rate of about 75% in the last 20 months, the process remains cumbersome for veterans dealing with certain conditions.

Secretary McDonough acknowledged the issue of “0%, service-connected ratings” for veterans with hypertension during a recent testimony before the House Appropriations Committee. Such ratings recognize health problems but do not provide any financial compensation, a gap that needs bridging to support veterans adequately.

Complexities in Hypertension and Bronchiolitis Claims

The senators relayed concerns from advocates that many hypertension claims receive a 0% rating or are considered non-disabling because the conditions are managed through medication. The VA’s current protocols, which require hypertension diagnoses to be confirmed with multiple readings across different days, can be onerous and potentially risky, pushing veterans to secure old medical records or alter their treatment to prove ongoing hypertension.

Similarly, veterans filing claims for constrictive bronchiolitis face challenges due to the difficulty of diagnosing this respiratory illness without invasive procedures and the inability to combine its ratings with other respiratory issues under VA rules. This often results in a de facto 0% rating, despite significant breathing impairments.

Looking Forward to Solutions

In response to these issues, Under Secretary for Benefits Joshua Jacobs has stated that a solution for the bronchiolitis claims is anticipated by fall. However, the senators are calling for more immediate measures.

After the hearing, McDonough indicated that while the VA is addressing the outlined concerns, some issues might require legislative changes, especially concerning the specific challenges with constrictive bronchiolitis. This situation highlights the importance of ongoing dialogue between Congress and the VA to refine policies and procedures, ensuring all veterans receive the support and recognition they deserve. This cooperative approach aims to remove unnecessary barriers and improve the lives of those who served our nation.

FAQs

What is the PACT Act and how does it affect veterans’ claims?

The PACT Act expands eligibility for disability benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances during service, such as chemical defoliants and burn pits. It simplifies obtaining compensation for a broader range of health conditions linked to military service.

Why are some veterans receiving a 0% rating on their hypertension claims?

A 0% rating occurs when hypertension is managed with medication, appearing non-disabling. The VA requires multiple confirmatory blood pressure readings, complicating the claims process.

What challenges do veterans face when claiming for constrictive bronchiolitis?

Constrictive bronchiolitis, hard to diagnose without invasive tests, often gets a 0% rating due to VA rules not allowing combined ratings with other respiratory conditions, despite significant symptoms.

What are senators doing to address these issues with the VA?

Senators have urged the VA to reform outdated rules that delay processing claims for conditions like hypertension and constrictive bronchiolitis, advocating for simpler and quicker evaluation processes.

What steps are being taken to improve the claims process for these conditions?

The VA is working on solutions, possibly including legislative changes, to address diagnostic and compensation challenges, especially for constrictive bronchiolitis, with expected updates by fall.

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5 Comments

  1. VHA is inflexible.. they’ll put that on you and call you that if you got a problem with the way they do or don’t do things. Services they don’t provide, you ask for it more than once, you’re “entitled.” Mother fucker! If we can get it done somewhere else easily, you’re advertising as w healthcare system, how the fuck are people entitled just for asking for services? Then they won’t to surgery for everything under the sun. They send you around in circles instead to half ass shit and make it look like they’re doing something, and then when you protest, they ask you if you’re just going through the motions. This kind of thing is criminal abuse and attorneys should see it as such. And because they maintain an image of it being a healthcare system, that’s fraud. I don’t care if it’s a government entity. You don’t commit fraud and abuse and hide behind immunity.

  2. We need a website or some sticky thread where people can showcase all the denial of care and degeneracy and unprofessionalism that goes on at VHA. I don’t give a shit about their workload, that’s their fuckin problem. Shut the place down or privatize if you can’t make it happen. Issue the insurance cards and open it up to the public and see how quickly they go bankrupt because of those apes. Their only claim to fame is that without them, people would end up in a state hospital. They are a state hospital! None of that would happen if they had an insurance program instead. We will pay!!!

  3. What about toxic mental health employees with mental health problems of their own and heavy views? When will they stop moving them around the VA system until some poor veteran takes care of them and is jailed for life? When will they admit to denial of care on national television and remedy this though issuing insurance cards to the victims of the scam?

  4. Pffft..they can call into the abyss all they want to and fund the place with every penny ever minted, and VHA may or may not do what they are there to do. Probably just use the money to build more satellite facilities that aren’t good for much of anything but stocking the place with government workers. With the free market being so much better, I can’t think of a bigger waste. That and those little CBOC outposts are only good for directing people to go see someone else 3 to 5 hours away. That and a lot of dead beats and bottom of the barrel people right out of college end up there to impose a myriad of views. If they did that in the free market, they would starve. I had some shit head psychologist from there say once that “I don’t have to be here. I can work for myself outside of here.” What his point in saying that was I don’t know but it made me want to say, “Well then what the fuck are you doing here anyway?” I personally couldn’t understand either!😆

    1. How about employee saying, “Not my duty/responsibility/job” to a plea for help from pt or associate?

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