Sunday, February 15, 2009

Opinion: Economic Stimulus for Veterans?

Opinion: Economic Stimulus for Veterans?

by Bob Cattanach

America is watching and waiting with anticipation to see the results of President Obama's $789 billion economic stimulus package. The new Administration and the 111th Congress worked decisively in their first month on the job to address one of the most serious issues facing our country in decades.

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki should follow our Commander in Chief’s lead by quickly delivering an “economic stimulus”
to those who have served and sacrificed, but are stuck in a morass of red tape that slows -- by many months, and often, years -- the delivery of the disability benefits to which our veterans are entitled. Plainly and simply, the VA owes the money – it’s just a question of getting it into disabled veterans' hands quickly.

Currently, veterans are forced to wait, on average, anywhere from six months to more than a year, for initial decisions on their disability claims. That's not good for them, and it's not good for the economy -- just ask the disabled veterans forced out of their homes because their families cannot afford their mortgage payments, and the mortgage owners who take the hit on these foreclosed properties.

By acting promptly, the VA could infuse millions of dollars immediately into the American economy by paying the equivalent of a 30% disability benefit payment to the hundreds of thousands of American veterans being forced to wait to receive the benefits they have earned. This “stimulus” isn’t part of new legislation. It doesn’t need to be voted on by the House and Senate.

It doesn’t need to be approved by the President. Indeed, these funds are already there, having been authorized by Congress every single year when they approve the VA’s budget.

Providing prompt financial support to our disabled veterans is an important part of the promise that this country makes to its soldiers when they join the armed forces. It’s no secret that veterans are a group that has been hit especially hard by this financial downturn.

In addition to immediately infusing cash into our economy, a veterans stimulus -- in nothing more than the form of the prompt delivery of disability benefits to America’s veterans -- would act as an essential financial lifeline to those veterans suffering from the disabling physical and psychological consequences of their service to their country. Foreclosures on many disabled veterans' homes would be prevented. The suffering of families in crisis would be eased.

Moreover, this short-term infusion of millions of dollars a month into the economy should have happened long ago; the continued neglect of the VA in resolving veterans' claims promptly is what has prevented it. It is a national disgrace that the VA’s backlog of disability claims has, in just five years, jumped from 250,000 to more than 600,000. That staggering number will only increase as the over 1.7 million troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan become eligible for benefits.

The Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) and Veterans of Modern Warfare (VMW) are urging prompt action to fix a disability claims system that the General Accountability Office and the Congress have, on numerous occasions, decried as broken. The VVA and VMW were forced to sue the VA in Washington, D.C. federal court in order to get the VA to live up both to its statutory mandate, and moral duty, to process disability claims expeditiously.

The VVA and VMW seek a 90-day deadline for decisions on initial claims for disability benefits, and for appeals of those decisions to be resolved within 180 days. The VVA and VMW have asked that these deadlines -- reasonable by any assessment -- be enforced by the Court, at least partially, via the provision by the VA of interim monetary payments equivalent to a disability rating of 30% to those veterans whose claims have been delayed beyond the 90-/180-day periods. Such payments would furnish a minimal lifeline of support to veterans when they most need it.

Visit to learn more about the VVA and VMW lawsuit.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bob Cattanach is an attorney on the case from Dorsey & Whitney LLP.


I am one of the veterans whose claims have been on appeal for more than 180 days, in fact my claim was filed in Nov 2002 so my claim has been in the system for 2.267 days as of now, it has been denied numerous times and there has been partial grants of benefits along the way, but the entire claim has not yet been resolved, the last action was the Board of Veteran Appeals hearing on 4 February 2009, more than six years after it was filed.

I have 4 Independent Medical Opinions in VA language called (IMO's) from board certified cardiologists in 3 cases and in one case the doctor is one of the researchers from Edgewood Arsenal itself, the place where the military conducted the now questionable human experiments that lasted from 1955 thru 1975 that once the 1975 DA IG Report on Human Experimentation was published and released he is a medical doctor and a board certified psychiatrist he used Joseph Boscarino's, P.H.D. which has been accepted by the VA in Washington DC as valid research as a basis for his opinion that my military stressors contributed to my cardiovascular problems as Dr Boscarino's study shows, that my living with PTSD since the age of 19 which is when the main stressor happened to the present, created an environment that developed into early advancement of my severe cardiovascular problems.

Yet, the VA Regional Office used a Nurse Practitioner for one C&P exam to deny any relationship between PTSD and cardiovascular problems using the same sentence that a previous C&P doctor has used, he is the regular C&P doctor at Dorn VAMC, that there is NO literature that links PTSD and cardiovascular problems, despite the abundance of such research at the VA's own National Center for PTSD NCPTSD a quick search pulls up many documents on this subject PTSD and cardiovascular problems Found 383 documents out of 75594 and yet the VA owns doctors state there is NO literature on this subject. There last examining doctor to refute my IMO's was done by a Dr Kenneth Fox in August 2008, he is now in Savanah, Georgia as a Radiologist and they used his statement that there is no literature to support the idea that cardiovascular problems are related to service connected PTSD. The VA refuses to even acknowledge their own database at the NCPTSD as being valid research papers or even the mere fact that they even exist.

I wonder how the Judge from the Board of Veteran Appeals (BVA) reacts to the 4th IMO that was submitted by the Chief of Cardiology at Providence Hospital, Columbia SC that states"

Final summary is that this patient with extensive epicardial coronary artery disease laid down the substrate for coronary artery disease while he was in the service. It is as likely as not Mr Baileys PTSD exacerbated his epicardial coronary artery disease and the severity thereof and thus contributed to his epicardial coronary artery disease.

I have 4 specialists that state my heart problems are related to my PTSD and the VA keeps using doctors of questionable specialties to dispute cardiologists opinions, I have to wonder what the VA requires to decide "reasonable doubt"? In my opinion there is NO doubt the fact that I have lived a textbook case of PTSD symptoms since 1975 thru the present should help the VA management to see that my entire life has been a life of trying to cope with the symptoms of PTSD, and I did a very pizz poor job of doing it, they can ask any of my four ex wives and my three children who refuse to see or speak with me except at Xmas and they want their annual payoff.

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