VETERAN’S NEWS From the Internet
Gathered by Bob Kinsler, SSG (ret), US Army, DAV, VFW Dept. of Oklahoma, PRO/Editor
The VA has established a phone number, 877-881-7618, for veterans to call if their credit has been adversely impacted by private sector health care providers improperly billing them for care the VA is required to pay. The VFW urges any veteran being pursued by collection agencies to seek the VA’s assistance. However, veterans who were sent a bill from a Choice Program provider should contact the Choice Program call center, 866-606-8198, to determine if the VA is liable for the cost of the care.
VA Expands Hepatitis C Drug Treatment
Expanded funding now allows VA to provide increased drug therapy at VA facilities nationwide
WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that it is now able to fund care for all Veterans with hepatitis C for Fiscal Year 2016 regardless of the stage of the patient’s liver disease. The move follows increased funding from Congress along with reduced drug prices.
“We’re honored to be able to expand treatment for Veterans who are afflicted with hepatitis C,” says VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. David Shulkin. “To manage limited resources previously, we established treatment priority for the sickest patients. Additionally, if Veterans are currently waiting on an appointment for community care through the Choice Program, they can now turn to their local VA facility for this treatment or can elect to continue to receive treatment through the Choice Program.”
VA has long led the country in screening for and treating hepatitis C. VA has treated over 76,000 Veterans infected with hepatitis C and approximately 60,000 have been cured. In addition, since the beginning of 2014, more than 42,000 patients have been treated with the new highly effective antivirals. In fiscal year 2015, VA allocated $696 million for new hepatitis C drugs (17 percent of the VA’s total pharmacy budget) and in fiscal year 2016, VA anticipates spending approximately $1 billion on hepatitis C drugs. VA expects that with the expansion, many more Veterans will be started on hepatitis C treatment every week this fiscal year.
In addition to furnishing clinical care to Veterans with hepatitis C, VA Research continues to expand the knowledge base regarding the disease through scientific studies focused on effective care, screening, and healthcare delivery including to female Veterans and Veterans with complicated medical conditions in addition to hepatitis C.
For additional information on Hepatitis C treatments Veterans can log onto http://www.hepatitis.va.gov/patient/hcv/index.asp.
Veterans: Protect yourself, your information from “phishing” attempts
Phishing is the attempt to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card information, often for malicious reasons, by posing as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. This type of behavior is one of the ways that Veterans may become victims of identity theft.
While it is unfortunate that anyone would try to take advantage of a Veteran, tactics such as phishing are becoming more common. It is important to remain vigilant in screening unknown e-mails, social media messages and phone calls to avoid these threats and to recognize someone posing as VA or a Veteran service organization.
We’ve had Veterans share with us several emails recently purporting to be from VA’s vets.gov website and the Veterans Employment Center (VEC). As a reminder, neither vets.gov nor the VEC will ever ask for your personal information. In fact, VEC does not store resumes, addresses, phone numbers, dates of separation or any personally identifiable information. If you feel that someone is contacting you using various phishing tactics, it is important that you do not reply and instead report it immediately to VA Identity Theft Help Line: 1-855-578-5492
VA’s “More Than a Number” identity protection program provides information to educate Veterans and their beneficiaries on how to protect themselves from identity theft, as well as how to combat identity theft tactics such as phishing. For more information, please visit the More Than a Number website at www.va.gov/identitytheft . You will find there a wide range of information on identity theft, how to spot it, ways to prevent it and what to do if you suspect you have been made a victim. You can also browse through links to other useful identity theft resources from across the Web.
If you feel that you have been a victim of identity theft or if you suspect that your identity may have been compromised, please contact the toll-free Identity Theft Help Line created for Veterans and their beneficiaries. The toll-free number is 855-578-5492, open Monday-Friday from 8AM-8PM, EST.
VA Takes Accountability Actions against Board of Veteran Appeals Personnel
Actions Proposed Against Three Attorneys, Two Judges Referred to Merit Systems Protection Board
WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced it proposed disciplinary action against three Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) attorneys, and has filed a Complaint against two Board Veterans Law Judges. Accountability actions against the Board judges have been referred to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), which has direct jurisdiction over cases concerning administrative law judges.
Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D. Gibson filed a Complaint against two Board Veterans Law Judges with the MSPB and VA proposed actions against three board attorneys for reasons of misconduct based on information received as part of an Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation that revealed a pattern of inappropriate emails that were racist and sexist in tone. The OIG proactively brought the information to VA early in their investigation and VA acted immediately by assigning the Board employees to non-adjudicative duties pending the disciplinary actions that have now been taken to protect Veterans appellate rights.
“These actions are reprehensible and completely counter to our values,” said Gibson. “It undermines the trust the American people place in the VA to serve our Veterans and has no place in this Department. We will not tolerate it. Taking action as quickly as we did was simply the right thing to do.”
VA proposed disciplinary actions in mid-January against two attorneys. One attorney retired, and one resigned from Federal service while the actions were pending. VA proposed a lesser administrative penalty against one attorney.
VA is conducting a review of appeals handled by these individuals while also examining comparative statistical data from internal quality review processes and appeals of Board decisions to the federal courts. At this time, we have no indication that any Veterans’ appeal was unjustly influenced by their conduct.