Vet Issues 14



Association of the United States Army<

Legislative Newsletter

February 9, 2001




ALERT - TRICARE for Life Scam.  AUSA has learned that scam artists posing as military-related associations are targeting Medicare-eligible military beneficiaries.  The individual or group guarantees for a fee that the beneficiary will be enrolled or registered in TRICARE for Life.  These people are frauds.  There is no charge or fee related to eligibility for TRICARE for Life if you are a Medicare-eligible military beneficiary.  You need only participate in Medicare Part B to be eligible for TRICARE for Life. Tell your friends not to get sucked in by this scam to steal money from Medicare-eligible military beneficiaries.  

            Currently, individuals who do not participate in Medicare Part B at the time of their initial eligibility for Medicare must pay a significant penalty to enroll in Part B at a later date.  AUSA, along with other organizations, is seeking ways to get relief for beneficiaries who did not participate in Part B because they believed they would have lifetime access to a military medical treatment facility.  We’ll keep you updated on any legislative developments.


DEERS Update.  There has been some confusion over what TRICARE for Life (TFL) beneficiaries will have to do to update their records so they will be sure to receive TFL.  Steve Lillie, Director of the TFL Working Group has asked that the following be disseminated:

            We understand that there is a lot of uncertainty about whether beneficiaries need to provide evidence of their Medicare Part B enrollment in order to assure that they can get TRICARE for Life benefits.

Beneficiaries do not need to provide Medicare Part B information to DoD.  DoD will work with the Health Care Financing Administration to obtain evidence of Part B coverage for all beneficiaries.

We will be working to get the story straight on all our information sources over the next few days, and would appreciate your help in getting the word out.”


Wolfowitz Named to Pentagon Post.  President Bush nominated Dr. Paul D. Wolfowitz for the post of Deputy Secretary of Defense this week.  Wolfowitz served as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from 1989-1993. At that time he advocated using the military strength of the United States as the world’s sole superpower to prevent the rise of strategic competitors.  He was Senator Bob Dole’s (R-KS) foreign policy advisor during the Senator’s unsuccessful presidential campaign.  Wolfowitz also served as a member of the Rumsfeld Commission and was part of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and for a time worked on the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT). He was also the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and ambassador to Indonesia during the Reagan Administration.  Wolfowitz, 57, must be confirmed by the Senate.


Broken Promise?  AUSA is very concerned by recent reports in the media projecting a relatively flat Defense budget in Fiscal Year 2002.  During the presidential campaign, it appeared that the message had actually gotten through to both candidates that the military was seriously underfunded.

            Immediately after the election, signals were sent that Defense would receive a much-needed boost in funding.  President Bush spoke of the need to “strengthen the bond of trust with the military.”  Vice President Cheney cited the negative personnel and readiness impact of years of under-funding of the military and guaranteed that “help was on the way.”  Even Secretary Rumsfeld, at his confirmation hearing, reassured Senate Armed Service Committee Chairman John Warner (R-VA) that the Defense budget would grow.

            This week, AUSA President Gordon Sullivan wrote to Deputy Secretary of Defense Designate, Dr. Paul Wolfowitz to congratulate him on his nomination and to express his concern that promises made must become promises kept.  We will stay on top of this issue and keep you posted.

            On Thursday it was announced that Secretary Rumsfeld had asked Andrew Marshall to review Armed Forces structure and needs before any increases in spending are approved.  Marshall, a long time Pentagon employee, is known in the Defense community for his far-reaching, if controversial, recommendations for the Armed Forces.  The review should be finished by the end of March.


Moving Veterans Day?  Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee has introduced legislation to move Veterans Day from November 11 to Election Day in presidential election years. November 11, of course, is the day in 1918 that World War I ended.  For a brief time, Veterans Day was moved to provide Americans with another long weekend.  Saner heads prevailed when the importance of the November 11 date was reaffirmed as the holiday to honor veterans and their service to the nation.  AUSA hopes that Ms. Jackson-Lee acknowledges the importance of this date and withdraw hers legislation.  The bill has been referred to the Committee on Government Reform where it will likely die a quiet death. There are currently no cosponsors.


A Word on Methodology.  AUSA continues to follow the introduction and early movement of bills of interest to our membership.  During these early days of a congressional session, members of Congress introduce many bills that are doomed to be referred to committee where they will die without legislative attention.  Throughout the year, we will attempt to keep our readers posted on those that are progressing, as well as those that will not move forward.

            Often, an AUSA member will mistake our honest appraisal for a statement of our position on an issue.  There are many positions that we advocate, knowing that success will not be ours this year and perhaps for years in the future.  Nonetheless, we pursue the course because it is best for the Army, for soldiers (past, present, and future), and for their families.  We follow this course as well because progress is very often made only after years of effort.  We’re in the fight for the long haul.

            In this spirit, we will continue to provide our honest assessment of a bill’s chances because we are strongest when you are accurately informed, not when you are stirred to a frenzy that will only disappoint as a result of false and unwarranted expectations.


>: Diabetes Eye Exam >
>>Diabetes Eye Exam Program: The Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA)
>>in collaboration with the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and the
>>American Optometric Association (AOA) have initiated a National program
>>Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes to encourage them to get their eyes
>>examined. Under the initiative, beneficiaries age 65 and older who have
>>diabetes and haven't had a medical eye exam in the past three years, will
>>be matched with a volunteer ophthalmologist in their area. They'll receive
>>a free comprehensive eye exam and up to one year of follow-up care for any
>>condition diagnosed at the initial exam. To get the name of an
>>ophthalmologist participating in the EyeCare AmericaSM  National Eye Care
>>Project® in a specific area, call the 24 hour toll-free number at
>>      Beneficiaries can also call the American Optometric Association's
>>Diabetes Hot Line at 1-800-262-3947 (7AM  7PM Monday through Friday CST)
>>be matched with an optometrist in your area who will perform an eye exam
>>and arrange for subsequent care. Depending on financial need, the
>>optometrist may waive the Medicare deductible and co-payment for this
>>service.  Web Sites of Interest:
>>-- Health Care Financing Administration
>>-- American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO)
>>-- American Optometric Association (AOA)
>>      For more information, contact Kathy Winchester at
>> [SOURCE:  MEDICARE web page at
>>23 JAN 01]

>Below is information from the VA about your VA compensation and taxes, VA
>compensation is not taxable, but it could be taken to pay other
>such as "Tax Liens".  Also Military retired can receive an exclusion on
>their retired pay in the amount of VA Compensation retroactive pay they
>would have received (see forms need below).
>Also updates of recently enacted veterans laws.
>It is income tax time again. The following information is provided to
>veterans and dependents who are receiving VA benefits. However, all
>questions concerning federal income taxes should be directed to the
>Revenue Service (IRS).
>All VA benefits are exempt from taxation. This includes the VA Work Study
>Program. Moneys paid to participants in the Work Study program are
>educational assistance benefits paid under the same Chapter under which the
>student is receiving VA educational assistance. VA does not issue W-2 or
>1099 forms with one exception: In the case of a beneficiary who is granted
>waiver of an overpayment, the amount waived is taxable income, and is
>reported as such to the IRS (1099 form issued).
>VA benefits are subject to collection for tax liens, i.e. in cases where
>beneficiary owes the IRS. Secondary interest on VA benefits may be taxable.
>For example, if a veteran deposits his or her compensation check in an
>interest-bearing account, the interest is not tax exempt.
>Military Retired Pay: Veterans in receipt of military retired pay who are
>awarded VA compensation benefits retroactively may claim an exclusion on
>their income in the amount of VA compensation they would have received had
>they not been in receipt of military retired pay. Affected veterans should
>claim the exclusion by submitting the award letter showing the amount and
>effective date of compensation they would have received but for the receipt
>of military retired pay. IRS instructions tell affected veterans to submit
>"VA Form 20-8993." VA Form 20-8993 is the award letter. If the veteran
>doesn't have it, VA can provide a letter in lieu of it.
>Claimants of the IRS Disability Income Exclusion are required to submit a
>certificate attesting to permanent and total disability. Under an agreement
>with the IRS, IRS will accept a VA certification on VA Form 21-0172,
>Certification of Permanent and Total Disability, based solely on an
>rating of permanent and total disability in place of the required private
>physician's statement if the form is completed and signed by a member of
>rating activity.
>Veterans needing the VA Form 21-0172 should either call or write the VA
>Regional Office
>All beneficiaries receiving income-based VA benefits (Pension and Parent's
>Dependency and Indemnity Compensation) should have received an Eligibility
>Verification Report (EVR) around the first of the year unless they have
>either no income or Social Security income only. Those people should have
>received a letter stating that an EVR would not be issued. Persons in
>receipt of pension or parent's DIC benefits who did not receive either the
>EVR or the letter should call 1-800-827-1000 and verify that VA has their
>correct mailing address.
>All beneficiaries who receive EVRs must complete and return them by March
>2001. Failure to return an EVR will result in the benefits being suspended,
>beginning with the April 1 checks
>There are a number of issues in these new laws that impact the VA
>Compensation and Pension programs.
>P.L. 106-419, Section 301-Strokes and Heart Attacks in Reservists This
>section establishes entitlement to service-connection for heart attacks and
>strokes incurred while performing, or in transit to or from, inactive duty
>for training. This provision covers strokes and heart attacks which
>prior to November 1, 2000, as well as future events. The conditions covered
>by this legislation are limited to: acute myocardial infarction; cardiac
>arrest; and cerebrovascular accident.
>P.L. 106-419, Section 302-SMC for Mastectomy This section establishes
>entitlement to special monthly compensation (SMC) for women veterans who
>have suffered the anatomical loss of one or both breasts (including loss by
>mastectomy), if such loss is service-connected.
>P.L. 106-419, Section 303-Disabled during Compensated Work Therapy Program
>This section establishes entitlement to compensation for disability or
>(past or future) proximately caused by participation in a compensated work
>therapy (CWT) program under 38 U.S.C. 1718.
>P.L. 106-419, Section 304-Revision to Limitation of Benefits for
>Institutionalized Veterans This section replaces the previous thresholds of
>$1,500 and $500 for withholding and resumption of benefits for incompetent,
>hospitalized veterans without dependents. The new standard for suspension
>benefits is five times the 100% service-connected disability rate for a
>veteran without dependents. The resumption rate while hospitalized is now
>one half that rate (one half five times the 100% rate) for a veteran
>dependents. The threshold will, therefore, change with each cost of living
>P.L. 106-419, Section 332-Payment Rate of Burial Benefits For Filipino
>Veterans of WWII This section grants the full dollar rate of burial
>to certain Filipino veterans of World War II who die after November 1,
>P.L. 106-419, Section 401-Children of Women Vietnam Veterans Born with
>Certain Birth Defects This section authorizes the payment of monetary
>benefits to, or on behalf of, certain children of female veterans who
>in Vietnam. Benefits are payable to qualifying children, or on their
>beginning December 1, 2001. There are three eligibility requirements. To be
>eligible, the child must: be the biological child of a woman veteran who
>served in the Republic of Vietnam (RVN); have been conceived after the date
>the veteran first served in the RVN during the Vietnam era; and have
>birth defects to be identified by the Secretary resulting in permanent
>physical or mental disability.
>P.L. 106-377, Section 501(a)-Filipino Veteran's Benefits Improvements This
>new legislation authorizes the full dollar rate of compensation to certain
>Filipino veterans. To be eligible for full payment the veteran must produce
>acceptable evidence of residence in the United States.

2001<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


Director (00/21)                        211A

All VBA Regional Offices and Centers                        FL01-05


SUBJ:  Relationship of PTSD or Stress to Cardiovascular Disorders


1.      A letter on this subject (96-95) was published on September 26, 1996.  This letter explained that a causative relationship between PTSD or other long-term stress, such as the POW experience, and subsequently developing cardiovascular disease has not been established.  More recent medical literature on this subject, for example, "Physician-Diagnosed Medical Disorders in Relation to PTSD Symptoms in Older Military Veterans," published in January 2000 (P. P. Schnurr, A. Spiro, III, and A. H. Paris, Health Psychology, 19 (1), 91-97), continues to state that it is premature to draw firm conclusions about the relationship of combat and PTSD to cardiovascular and other disorders.  Two VA studies now in progress may shed further light on the subject of a possible relationship.


2.      Some have used FL 96-95 as the basis of denial of a claim for a cardiovascular condition secondary to PSTD.  The lack of confirmation of a relationship in general, however, does not mean that a claim for a cardiovascular condition secondary to PTSD, supported by a medical opinion, should routinely be denied.  As with all medical opinions, the weight and credibility of the opinion has to be considered in light of all other evidence of record and in light of other medical information.  The United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in Guerrieri v. Brown, 4 Vet. App. 467 (1993), stated that the probative value of medical opinion evidence is based on the medical expert's personal examination of the patient, the physician's knowledge and skill in analyzing the data, and the medical conclusions that the physician reaches.


3.      In the case of a claim for coronary artery disease (CAD) due to PTSD, for example, the examiner would, at a minimum, have to discuss known risk factors for CAD, what role they play in this particular veteran, and explain why he or she considers PTSD to be at least as likely as not the cause of the CAD in this veteran.  A similar discussion would be needed if the claimed condition is hypertension or a stroke.


4.       In some cases you may wish to request an additional medical opinion, either by a mental health professional or a cardiologist, or both, and in questionable cases, you may want to request an opinion from the Advisory Review staff (211B).  Whatever your decision, you must provide adequate reasons and Relationship of PTSD or stress to cardiovascular disorders bases to support it.


5.      If you have questions about this letter, please contact the person shown on the website at:


6.      This letter is rescinded January 1, 2003.





                        Robert J. Epley, Director

                        Compensation and Pension Service

**********************************VA Initiates Pain Management Program

Pain is one of the most common reasons people consult a physician, according
to the American Academy of Pain Medicine and the American Pain Society. In
fact, it is the primary symptom in more than 80 percent of all doctor visits
and affects more than 50 million people. In January 1999, the Department of
Veterans Affairs (VA) took the lead in pain management by launching a
nationwide effort to reduce pain and suffering for the 3.4 million veterans
who use VA health care facilities.
VA and Pain Management VA believes that no patient should suffer preventable
pain. Doctors and nurses throughout VA's 1,200 sites of medical care are
required to treat pain as a "fifth vital sign," meaning they should assess
and record patients' pain just as they note the other four health-care basics
-- blood pressure, pulse, temperature and breathing rate. They ask patients
to rate their pain on a scale of zero to 10, then consult with the patients
about ways to deal with it.
"It changed how VA approached pain," said Dr. Jane Tollett, national
coordinator of VA pain management strategy. "We're too often obsessed with
finding out what's going on at the molecular, cellular and pharmacological
levels as opposed to asking: Is the person feeling better?" Measuring pain
as a vital sign was part of the first step in the following comprehensive
strategy to make pain management a routine part of veterans' care.

Pain Assessment and Treatment: Procedures for early recognition of pain and
prompt effective treatment began at all VA medical facilities. Pain
management protocols were set up, including ready access to resources such as
pain specialists and multidisciplinary pain clinics. VA updated its
Computerized Patient Record System (CPRS) to document a patient's pain
history. Patient and family education about pain management was included in
patient treatment plans.

Evaluation of Outcomes and Quality of Pain Management: VA began to
systematically measure outcomes and quality of pain management, including
patient satisfaction measures. Across the nation, VA set up quarterly data
collection to evaluate: Was the patient assessed for pain using a 0-10
scale? Was there intervention if pain was reported as 4 or more? Was there a
plan for pain care? Was the intervention evaluated for effectiveness?

Research: VA expanded research on management of acute and chronic pain,
emphasizing conditions that are most prevalent among veterans. Currently,
there are nine pain research projects funded by VA. Research funded by the
Health Services Research and Development Service focuses on identifying
research priorities, providing scientific evidence for pain management
protocols throughout VA and evaluating and monitoring the quality of care.
Education of Health Care ProfessionalsVA is assuring that clinical staff,
such as physicians and nurses, have orientation and education on pain
assessment and pain management. In collaboration with the Department of
Defense and the community, VA is developing clinical guidelines for pain
associated with surgery, cancer and chronic conditions.
Additionally, VA initiated an extensive education program for health care
providers that includes orientation for new employees and professional
trainees, four internet sessions on "pharmacotherapy of acute and chronic
pain," satellite broadcasts and interactive sessions with VA health care
facilities, guest lectures on topics like pain assessment and treatment of
the demented, purchase and distribution of pain management videos, and a Web
site ""
VA also focuses on pain management education for medical students and health
care professional trainees through VA's affiliations with academic
institutions. Among recent milestones:

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation last year awarded VA a grant of $985,595
to help train physicians in end-of-life care, including pain management.

The VA Office of Academic Affiliations recently awarded additional funding to
nine VA medical facilities to support graduate education residencies in
anesthesiology pain management, including VA medical centers in Milwaukee,
Wis.; Durham, N.C.; and Loma Linda, Calif. and the health care systems in
North Texas, New Mexico, Puget Sound (Wash.), Palo Alto (Calif.), and North
Florida-South Georgia. National Pain Management StrategyThe complexity of
chronic pain management is often beyond the expertise of a single
practitioner, especially for veterans whose pain problems are complicated by
such things as homelessness, post traumatic stress disorder and combat
injuries. Additionally, pain management has been made an integral part of
palliative and end-of-life care. The effective management of pain for all
veterans cared for by VA requires a nationwide coordinated approach. To
accomplish this, VA formed a team made up of representatives from an array of
disciplines -- anesthesiology, nursing, psychiatry, surgery, oncology,
pharmacology, gerontology and neurology.
Funded by an unrestricted educational grant, VA is producing a Web-based
physician education program aimed at end-of-life issues and an online forum
for VA pain management in which more than 200 clinicians actively
In December 2000, a pain management and end-of-life conference is scheduled
to showcase innovations and effective practices within VA, address
specialized topics with expert faculty and solve systematic problems that
cause barriers to improving pain management care. Additionally, VA will set
up programs to support clinicians in settings that are remote from pain
experts, centers or clinics.
"Untreated or undertreated pain takes its toll not just in monetary loss but
also in the psychosocial and physical cost to patients and their families.
Pain can exacerbate feelings of distress, anxiety and depression. . . . When
severe pain goes untreated and/or depression is present, some people may
consider or attempt suicide. The message is clear: all those in pain have
the right to systematic assessment and ongoing management of pain by health
care professionals." (The Journal of Care Management, November 1999)

Office of PublicAffairs

    Media Relations

   Washington, DC  20420

   (202) 273-6000

Department of

Veterans Affairs

Fact Sheet


January 2001


Facts about VA’s National Cemeteries


National cemeteries are honored places in communities where deceased veterans receive perpetual care to commemorate their service as members of the U.S. armed forces.  Most men and women who have been in the military are eligible for burial in a national cemetery, as are their dependent children and usually their spouses.  The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) manages the country’s network of national cemeteries through its National Cemetery Administration.

Key Statistics

  VA maintains more than 2.3 million gravesites at 119 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico as well as in 33 soldier’s lots and monument sites.


  The nation’s most famous national cemetery – Arlington National Cemetery – is one of the few not run by VA.  It is administered by the Army.


  More than 319,000 full-casket gravesites, 53,700 in-ground gravesites for cremated remains and 19,500 columbarium niches are available in VA national cemeteries.


  There are approximately 13,400 acres of land within operational national cemeteries.  About half are undeveloped and have the potential to provide more than 2.9 million gravesites.


  Of the 119 national cemeteries, 61 are open to all interments; 27 can accommodate cremated remains and family members of those already interred; and 31 are closed to new interments but accommodate family members in already occupied gravesites.


  Since 1973, annual interments in VA national cemeteries have increased from 36,400 to more than 82,700.  Interments are expected to peak at more than 116,000 annually in 2008.


  Seventy-four percent of interments in Fiscal Year (FY) 2000 were in the 20 busiest national cemeteries: Riverside (Calif.); Calverton (N.Y. ); Florida; Fort Snelling (Minn.);  Jefferson Barracks (Mo.); Willamette (Ore.); Fort Sam Houston (Texas); Fort Logan (Colo.); Fort Rosecrans (Calif.); National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona; Houston (Texas); Massachusetts; San Joaquin Valley (Calif.); Long Island (N.Y.); Tahoma (Wash.); Indiantown Gap (Pa.); Puerto Rico; Abraham Lincoln (Ill.); Santa Fe (N.M.); and Fort Custer (Mich.).


  As of September 30, 2000, six national cemeteries each contained more than 100,000 occupied gravesites, collectively accounting for 35 percent of all VA gravesites maintained: Long Island, N.Y. (241,160); Calverton, N.Y. (136,575); Fort Snelling, Minn. (125,903); Jefferson Barracks, Mo. (111,966); Golden Gate, Calif. (111,594); and Riverside, Calif. (107,361).


  Largest national cemetery:  Calverton (N.Y.), 1,045 acres.

    Smallest national cemetery:  Hampton (Va.) VA Medical Center, .03 acres.

    Oldest national cemetery:  14 established in 1862 (12 currently maintained by VA).

    Newest national cemetery:  Ohio Western Reserve, opened in June 2000.


  Major development projects at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona (Phoenix), Florida (Bushnell), Jefferson Barracks (St. Louis), Leavenworth (Kan.), Fort Rosecrans (San Diego), Fort Sam Houston (San Antonio) and Fort Logan (Colo.) will add more than 166,000 gravesites to VA’s national cemeteries.


  Since 1973, VA has provided more than 7 million headstones and markers.  In
FY 2000, VA provided more than 327,000 headstones and markers.


  VA provided more than 322,000 Presidential Memorial Certificates to the loved ones of deceased veterans in FY 2000.


  Since 1980, the State Cemetery Grants Program (SCGP) has awarded more than $87 million to 26 states, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas for the establishment, expansion or improvement of 49 state veterans cemeteries.  In FY 2000, these state cemeteries provided more than 14,000 interments.


  Volunteers donated more than 246,000 hours at VA national cemeteries during FY 2000.


  More than 8.8 million people visited VA national cemeteries in FY 2000.


  The Veterans Millennium Health Care and Benefits Act of 1999 requires VA to establish six additional national cemeteries in areas of the United States in which the need for burial space is greatest. Those areas are: Atlanta; Detroit; Miami; Sacramento, Calif.; Pittsburgh; and Oklahoma City.  



> Enroll for VA Benefits on the Internet:
> Veterans may now apply for VA health benefits in a secure online form.
> Visit for you online 1010EZ form of for
> more information about this convenient application process.
> Veterans who no service-connected disability or veterans with non-
> compensated 0% service-connected disability may be required to make 
> co-payments for care received at the VA if their family income exceeds
> the amounts specified below.  Some health insurance plans may pay
> for care received at the VA.
> The following income levels are used to determine co-payment for
> outpatient or inpatient services, not including prescription drugs.
> >  Veterans with no dependents and income of $22,888 and above
> require co-payment.
> >  Veterans with one (1) dependent and income of $27,469 and above
> require co-payment  (add $1,532 to income levels for each additional
> dependent)
> >  Veterans with income and assets of $50,000 or more require a co-
> payment.  For example, if you have income of $15,000 and savings of
> $40,000. the total would be $50,000, which would require a co-payment.
> Medical deductions (incurred by a veteran, spouse and minor children)
> that were not covered by insurance and that you paid out of your
> personal funds may reduce your income and asset amounts.
> The co-payment charge for outpatient care is $50.80 per visit regard-
> less of the number of services on a given day.
>    The following income levels are used to determine co-payment for
> prescription drugs:
> >   Veterans with no dependents and income of $8,989 or above require
> a co-payment.
> >   Veterans with one dependent and income of $11,773 or more
> require a co-payment.
> If you are a veteran with a 50% or greater service-connected disability,
> there will be no charge for medications.  If you have a service-connected
> disability rated at 0% - 49%, there will be no charge for prescriptions
> related to your service-connected.  However, there will be a co-payment
> for those prescriptions not related to your service-connected condition.
> Co-payments are $2.00 per prescription for each 30-day (or less)
> supply.  (90-day refills are available for chronic ongoing conditions)
> Again with $2.00 co-payment.
> For more information, contact your nearest VA facility or go online to
> for VA health benefits application infor-
> mation.
> Submitted,
> Senior Chief Don Harribine, USN(Ret)

----- Original Message -----
From: josephrosner
Sent: Monday, December 11, 2000 1:29 PM
Subject: VA Links Agent Orange and Diabetes

Here's the VA's press release, "VA Links Agent Orange and Diabetes." It was release on November 9, 2000. It was taken from the following:

Embargoed For Release

At Noon -- November 9, 2000

VA Links Agent Orange and Diabetes

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Vietnam veterans with Type-II diabetes will now be eligible for disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) based on their presumed exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides. Acting Secretary Hershel W. Gober announced today his decision to add diabetes to the list of presumptive diseases associated with herbicide exposure.

Gober’s decision follows the latest in a series of reports by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) examining the impact of herbicide exposure on veterans’ health. The most recent IOM report, released last month, included a review of research efforts by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the U.S. Air Force. Based on this new information, IOM researchers found "limited / suggestive" evidence of an association between the chemicals used in herbicides during the Vietnam War and adult-onset (Type-II) diabetes.

"This is a significant milestone in our ongoing effort to keep America’s promise to her veterans, especially those who suffer from this debilitating and life-altering disease," said Gober. "It also validates the process we’ve established to ensure decisions of this magnitude are based on the medical and scientific standards required by the law."

VA officials cautioned it will take several months to write the rules before Vietnam Veterans with diabetes can begin applying for disability compensation. They can, however, enroll in VA’s health care system immediately and begin receiving the care they need.

Diabetes mellitus is characterized by high blood sugar levels resulting from the body’s inability to process the hormone insulin. More than 90 percent of the 16 million diabetics in the United States are categorized as Type-II, which occurs primarily in adults.

Approximately 16 percent of veterans receiving care in VA medical facilities have been diagnosed with diabetes.

Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death and the leading cause of blindness in the United States.

The number of diseases VA has recognized as being associated with Agent Orange exposure expanded considerably during the 1990s. The following conditions are now considered service—connected for Vietnam veterans: chloracne (a skin disorder), porphyria cutanea tarda, acute or subacute peripheral neuropathy (a nerve disorder), non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, soft tissue sarcoma, Hodgkin’s disease, multiple myeloma, prostate cancer and respiratory cancers (including cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea and bronchus). In addition, Vietnam veterans’ children with the birth defect spina bifida are eligible for certain benefits and services.

VA already grants service-connection for diabetes when the diabetes developed during — or was otherwise related to — military service. "Service-connection" is necessary to receive VA disability compensation and may place the veteran in a higher priority classification for VA health care. Gober’s decision paves the way for that designation to be applied to any veteran who served in-theater during the Vietnam War and subsequently develops diabetes, without the diabetic veteran having to prove that Agent Orange caused the disease.

Today’s announcement begins a 60-day period for VA to publish proposed rules for implementing this change in benefits. After the rules are published, a 90-day period begins during which VA will seek input to the proposal, including a public comment period. When this process is complete, VA will publish final rules for implementing the change.

Additional information regarding medical care and compensation for veterans is available at VA regional offices or medical centers. The telephone numbers can be found in local directories under the "U.S. Government" listing. In most areas, for information about disability compensation and VA pensions, callers can use the following toll-free number: 1-800-827-1000. For health care and copayment information, call 1-877-222-8387. Information is also available on VA’s Web page,











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