Washington Update for 3/1/2019
TREA Members – Are you a Purple Heart Medal Recipient? Do you need to file an initial claim with VA? If so, here is good news starting April 1, 2019.
Purple Heart Initial Disability Claims Will Move Faster
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie announced that on April, it will provide priority disability benefits claims processing for the initial claims from discharged combat veterans who have been awarded the Purple Heart Medal. Secretary Wilkie announced the decision at a hearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies.
The Veterans Benefits Administration will amend its priority processing categories to include initial claims received from Purple Heart recipients on or after April 1, 2019.
The move follows existing department rules which give priority classification to Purple Heart veterans who request medical appointments at VA hospitals. Those veterans are also exempt from all co-payments for their medical care.
According to The Military Order of the Purple Heart more than 35,000 Iraq War veterans and more than 22,000 Afghanistan War veterans have received the medal, one of the best known military honors in the country.
The Purple Heart award is the oldest U.S. military decoration and is awarded to U.S. service members for wounds suffered at the hands of the enemy. General George Washington awarded the first purple-colored heart-shaped badges to soldiers who fought in the Continental Army during the American Revolution
VA’s current caseload of initial benefits claims include more than 83,000 that have been pending for more than 125 days, the department’s target timeframe for rendering a decision. The policy change will not affect supplemental claims or veterans’ appeals.
H.R. 299, Navy Blue Water Vietnam Veteran Act of 2019, Reintroduced
TREA continues to strongly support and is pleased to report that after meeting with House and Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs officials, that Congress will pass the bill.
Buoyed by an appeals court ruling, House and Senate leaders began another push for a "Blue Water Navy" bill on Agent Orange benefits that failed last year following opposition from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Sen. Johnny Isakson, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said he has enough votes in the Senate to pass the bill. He hopes to overcome two Senators who last year blocked a Senate vote on the previous bill, which had passed 382-0 in the House.
Isakson and Phil Roe, the House committee ranking member were joined by Rep. Mark Takano, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and Sen. Jon Tester, ranking member of the Senate committee, in urging VA Secretary Robert Wilkie not to appeal a January ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in favor of extending Agent Orange health care and benefits to offshore sailors.
TREA will continue to keep you posted on developments. We also want to hear from you, if you are a Navy Blue Water veteran.