Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lawsuit against the VA Fiduciary Program and the veterans rights to appeal

William E. Freeman link to VA Watchdog Today article by Jim Strickland

William E. Freeman
Eric K. Shinseki
Secretary of Veterans Affairs,

"The Freeman case stands to change the way the VA views fiduciary-related matters.

Currently, a veteran who has been found incompetent and appointed a VA fiduciary has no say in the appointment process nor any recourse whatsoever if he or she wants a different fiduciary, is having problems with the VA fiduciary, etc. This is because the VA currently interprets the law regarding fiduciary-related matters (38 USC section 5502) as being at the Secretary's discretion.

The Freeman case is important because it stands to show how fiduciary-related issues "affect the provision of benefits" to a veteran and therefore must be able to be reviewed by the Board of Veterans' Appeals and the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Given that the VA's Fiduciary Program only has some 102,000 beneficiaries (according to VA OIG report from Mar 2010), the outcome of this case will not affect many veterans.

But, for this group of veterans, if the outcome is favorable for Mr. Freeman, then this case will improve all incompetent veterans' rights to say who can control their VA benefits."

Katrina Eagle, Esq.
President, National Organization of Veterans Advocates, Inc.


I really encourage all veterans and their family members to go to the link to VA Watchdog Today and read what Jim Strickland has written about this subject, all veterans who get benefits from the VA might one day be affected by the outcome of this court case and you should know what your rights are in dealing with the VA when they deny you appeal rights to a determination of incompentency and mandate a fiduciary of their choice and deny the veterans and their spouses of the right to manage theiir own funds, deny to pay bills, insurance policies, utility bills and provide the necessities of life that most people take for granted.

Some veterans die with tens of thousands of dollars in accounts that the families do not even know about and the veterans were denied funds to fix their vehicles, and in some cases buy their children health insurance, and even Christmas presents because the fidicuary could not be troubled.

This is important to all veterans as this could be you one day.

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Families At Ease VA Program Helps Families Help Their Veterans

Do you know a Veteran who needs help?

“Families At Ease” is a new program developed by Department of Veterans Affairs that works with family members and friends of Veterans of any era to help them help their Veteran get care.

Many Veterans are reluctant to get help for the symptoms or difficulties they are having, or may not recognize their need for help.

It could be difficulty at work or at home, problems sleeping, driving too fast, or drinking too much. Or it could just be that they seem irritable or sad.

Whatever the problem, family members are often very aware of Veterans’ mental health difficulties and want to play a positive role in helping Veterans seek the help they need.

The “Families At Ease” educational campaign attempts to reach new Veterans through their concerned family members and provides information and support to help the Veteran access VA facilities for services and benefits.

A multi-site call center was developed at the Philadelphia, Pa. and Durham, N.C. VA Medical Centers to answer calls from family members and friends, as well as Veterans.

Callers can get information on how to enroll in VA care. They can also get free telephone-based coaching by a mental health consultant to help when a Veteran is reluctant to admit having difficulties.

According to Dr. Steven Sayers, “Familes At Ease” Director, “We take a positive approach to motivating the Veteran, which means while we work with the family member to motivate the Veteran, the choice to come in is always in the Veteran’s hands.”

Dr. Sayers is a Clinical Psychologist with the Mental Illness, Research, Education, and Clinical Center at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center.

Dr. Steven Sayers
Families At Ease Director
He adds that, “Coaching of family members involves discussing ways to talk to the Veteran about the difficulties they are having and offering help without trying to force the Veteran to go for this help. A family member may have one, two or several coaching calls over the span of a few days or weeks in order to try to help them encourage the Veteran to seek care.”

The program has served about 50 family members and Veterans so far and has had positive results. About half of the calls pertained to Veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, with the rest serving in Vietnam, the first Gulf War, and other conflicts.

Seventy percent of Veterans associated with callers were already enrolled in VA care; the coaching of family members has resulted in an increase from 70% to 85% for enrollment in VA care.

A significant improvement was seen in Veterans receiving mental health care, with an increase from 24 percent to 45 percent, thanks to the coaching of family members.

Explaining the importance of the program, Dr. Sayers notes, “The role of family members in supporting treatment of our military Veterans is now a key part of the services provided by VA. ‘Families At Ease’ is an example of the innovative strategies now part of VA services.”

The pilot phase of the program was launched in Philadelphia and Durham in January 2010. By January 2011, “Families At Ease” will being to take calls during expanded business hours and start the process of becoming a national program.

Following the pilot phase of the new program, “Families At Ease” will be a national program with an additional call center site in Los Angeles.

VA is getting the word out on the new program with web-based advertising and networking on Facebook and Twitter.

VA has also reached out through clergy, Welcome Home events, newspaper ads, mass transit ads and grocery store carts.

Family members or Veterans can reach “Families At Ease” at 888-823-7458 (8:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m. ET), by e-mailing Families.Ease.PA@va.gov, or on the web at www.mirecc.va.gov/FamiliesAtEase.

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