Washington Update for February 15th, 2019
Friday, February 15, 2019
TREA —WASHINGTON UPDATE
TREA is working hard to keep you updated on issues with the Departments of Defense (DOD) and Veterans Affairs (VA). TREA is sharing the information to assist you. Is the information helpful? Do you have an issue with DOD or VA and would like to see it addressed? Please provide feedback on the newsletter content or if let us know if you would like to see an issue covered in an upcoming newsletter.
UPDATE: Since TREA January entry on the Appeals Modernization Act (AMA)
February 19, 2019 —Effective date new Veteran appeals law—AMA
On February 14, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it will discontinue the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP), which provided eligible Veterans with early resolutions to their appealed claims, ahead of full implementation of the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (AMA) that takes effect Feb. 19, 2019.
Under the AMA, thousands of veterans, some of them trapped indefinitely in a complex system of trying to obtain benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, will get new options next week promised to deliver decisions in days or months, instead of years. This is the biggest change to appeals in decades.
The VA is set to implement a new process Tuesday, February 19, for veterans to appeal their claims for VA disability compensation – a system devised by VA, veterans organizations including TREA and lawmakers and approved by Congress in 2017. Under the current system, veterans wait three to seven years to reconcile their appeals. The new one could get veterans through the process in as little as 125 days, VA officials vowed.
The new system involves multiple avenues for veterans, including an option to appeal their claims with a higher-level adjudicator or directly with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Another option is to add information to their claim and appeal it with the same adjudicator who reviewed it. According to VA, officials will track the amount of time it takes veterans to get through each option. The agency will make that information public to help veterans decide which route to take.
For more information on Appeals Modernization, visit https://benefits.va.gov/benefits/appeals.asp and https://www.bva.va.gov/.
TREA Members please let us know if you plan to use the new Appeals process.
TREA Supporting Several Legislative Proposals
H.R. 333, The Disabled Veterans Tax Termination Act. TREA is pleased to continue to support and work with Rep. Sanford Bishop (GA) on legislation to eliminate the offset and permit Concurrent Receipt of retired military benefits and VA disability benefits. If enacted, TREA members would be permitted to receive both benefit payments.
H.R. 553, Ending the SBP-DIC Offset
TREA continues to support efforts to allow military retiree survivors to receive full Survivor Benefit Plan benefits. Legislation introduced by Reps. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) and John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) would end the deduction of Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuities from Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) paid to survivors of fallen service members, also known as the “widows tax.”
The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) was enacted into law in 1972. It includes a dollar-for-dollar offset of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from SBP, called the SBP/DIC offset, for surviving spouses of retired servicemembers who voluntarily participated in the insurance annuity program, paid premiums, and then died of a service-connected issue. Post-9/11 active duty surviving spouses also are impacted. The offset affects over 63,000 military surviving spouses.
TREA Members —Contact your Congressman and Senators and urge them to support both proposals.
TREA Request —Members —Do you use VA’s website —VA.GOV?
TREA wants to hear from you. VA completed its redesign of it main website va.gov in November 2018, by reorganizing and reframing web pages to make it easier for veterans to find the information they needed.
The project organized the many benefits veterans receive into eight content areas — healthcare, disability, education and training, careers and employment, pension, housing assistance, life insurance, and burials and memorials — plus a records section that helps vets find out what information the agency has on them. The site also gives users the ability to change their address information online, and that change will be made across the VA-wide system. Previously change of address could only be done over the phone.
Members do you use or will you use the website VA.GOV? Provide us your feedback and explore the redesigned VA.GOV.