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VA Expands Disability Benefits for Air Force Personnel

VA Expands Disability Benefits for Air Force Personnel Exposed to Contaminated C-123 Aircraft

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today published a new regulation that expands eligibility for some benefits for a select group of Air Force Veterans and Air Force Reserve personnel who were exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange through regular and repeated contact with contaminated C-123 aircraft that had been used in Vietnam as part of Operation Ranch Hand (ORH).

VA published this regulation as an interim final rule so that it could immediately begin providing benefits to eligible Air Force veterans and Air Force Reserve personnel who submit a disability compensation claim for any of the 14 medical conditions that have been determined by VA to be related to exposure to Agent Orange.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald made the decision to expand benefits following receipt of a 2015 report by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (IOM) on Post-Vietnam Dioxin Exposure in Agent Orange-Contaminated C-123 Aircraft. This VA-requested report found evidence that as many as 1,500 to 2,100 Air Force and Air Force Reserve personnel who served as flight, medical and ground maintenance crew members on ORH C-123 aircraft previously used to spray Agent Orange in Vietnam were exposed to the herbicide.

“Opening up eligibility for this deserving group of Air Force veterans and reservists is the right thing to do,” said Secretary McDonald. “We thank the IOM for its thorough review that provided the supporting evidence needed to ensure we can now fully compensate any former crew member who develops an Agent Orange-related disability.”

Under this new rule, Air Force and Air Force Reserve flight, medical and ground maintenance crewmembers who served on the contaminated ORH C-123s are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides during their service, thus making it easier for them to establish entitlement for some VA benefits if they develop an Agent Orange-related presumptive condition. In addition, for affected Air Force Reserve crew members, VA will presume that their Agent Orange-related condition had its onset during their Reserve training. This change ensures that these reservists are eligible for VA disability compensation and medical care for any Agent Orange-related presumptive condition, and that their surviving dependents are eligible for dependency and indemnity compensation and burial benefits.

The interim final rule can be found on the Federal Register: www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection. VA will immediately begin processing claims and issuing benefits to eligible Air Force crew members.

VA encourages reservists who were assigned to flight, ground or medical crew duties at Lockbourne/Rickenbacker Air Force Base in Ohio (906th and 907th Tactical Air Groups or 355th and 356th Tactical Airlift Squadron), Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts (731st Tactical Air Squadron and 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron) or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, International Airport ( 758th Airlift Squadron) during the period 1969 to 1986, and developed an Agent Orange-related disability to file a disability compensation claim online through the joint VA-Department of Defense web portal, eBenefits (https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/).

VA also has identified several active duty locations where ORH C-123 aircraft may have been used following their service in Vietnam. Active duty personnel who served in a regular USAF unit location where a contaminated C-123 was assigned and who had regular and repeated contact with the aircraft through flight, ground or medical duties during the period 1969 to 1986, and who develop an Agent Orange-related disability, also are encouraged to apply for benefits. For more information on applying for these benefits, including the affected units, Air Force Specialty Codes and dates of service for affected crew members, and a listing of Agent Orange-related conditions, visit www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/claims-postservice-agent_orange.asp.

In order to avoid unnecessary delay of benefits, claimants should annotate “(C-123)” after each Agent Orange related disability in Part II, Block 14 of VA Form 21-526 or Section I, Block 11 of VA

Form VA Form 21-526EZ when filing on eBenefits. Example: Diabetes (C-123). If claimants have any of the following documents, they should be attached to their application:

  • Discharge, separation papers, (DD214 or equivalent)
  • USAF Form 2096 (unit where assigned at the time of the training action)
  • USAF Form 5 (aircraft flight duties)
  • USAF Form 781 (aircraft maintenance duties)
  • Dependency records (marriage & children’s birth certificates)
  • Medical evidence (doctor & hospital reports)

VA will process all claims related to C-123 exposure at the St. Paul, Minnesota, VA Regional Office. Claims not filed through eBenefits should be mailed to the following address (or faxed to 608-373-6694):

Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
Attention: C123 Claims
PO Box 5088
Janesville, WI 53547-5088

Individuals with specific benefit questions related to herbicide exposure on C-123s may call VA’s special C-123 Hotline at 1-800-749-8387 (available 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. EST) or e-mail VSCC123.VAVBASPL@va.gov.

2015 Scholarship Recipients

WASHINGTON DC – AMVETS announced the 2015 recipients of its National Scholarship Program recently.

Graduating high school seniors selected to receive four-year undergraduate scholarships of $4,000 are:

  • Karl Salzmann of East Northport, New York
  • Ryan Kinney of Matthews, North Carolina
  • Alexis Scott of Powder Springs, Georgia
  • Michael Thompson of Elizabethtown, Kentucky
  • Kendall Langum of Friendswood, Texas
  • Haley Kestler of Santa Maria, California

Graduating high school senior selected as the $1,000.00 scholarship recipient of the JROTC scholarship:

  • Mathieu Zamora of Colton, California

Veterans selected to receive four-year scholarships of $4,000.00 are:

  • Kacey Milligan of Winston Salem, North Carolina
  • Benjamin Elliott of Mount Clemens, Michigan
  • Bobby Linnane of Lewiston, New York

Veterans selected to receive the Dr. Aurelio M. Caccomo Family Foundation Memorial Scholarship of $3,000.00:

  • Kiel Edson of Pasadena, Maryland
  • Franklin Palacios of Portland Oregon

Veteran selected to receive The Henry G. Huestis Memorial Scholarship in the amount of $1,000.00:

  • Jo Young Chan of Newton Highlands, Massachusetts

The winners were selected on the basis of academic excellence and financial need. Since its inception in the 1950s, the AMVETS National Scholarship Program has awarded more than $2 million in scholarships to veterans and graduating high school students who are sons and daughters or grandchildren of American veterans.

University of Phoenix and AMVETS Offer Full-Tuition Scholarships

Scholarship program provides active-duty service members, their families and veterans with education opportunities this Memorial Day

LANHAM, Md, May 22, 2015 — University of Phoenix and AMVETS, a vocal advocate for veterans’ education, are committed to helping America’s military stand out among job seekers in today’s competitive employment landscape and pursue their civilian career. To reinforce that commitment, the University and AMVETS are awarding 20 full-tuition scholarships to active-duty service members, eligible family members and veterans to pursue an undergraduate or master’s degree from University of Phoenix. AMVETS has teamed with University of Phoenix since 2007, offering 345 scholarships in appreciation of the sacrifice these individuals make for the country and to assist them in transitioning from the military to the civilian sector.

“We must do all we can to help all veterans, particularly our post-9/11 veterans, attain their educational goals as they strive to make a successful reintegration back into the civilian world,” said AMVETS National Commander Larry Via. “We are so very grateful for our long standing education partnership with University of Phoenix, and extremely proud to announce the new scholarships available. This commitment will truly change the lives of those selected.”

“We all have a responsibility to the servicemen and women who have and continue to protect our freedoms, including helping them prepare for careers as they transition from military to civilian life,” said University of Phoenix Military Relations Vice President retired Army Col. Garland Williams. “University of Phoenix and AMVETS share a common mission in providing America’s active-duty service members, their families and veterans access to the education they need to enhance their professional skills and pursue their career goals.”

Applications for the 2015 University of Phoenix AMVETS Scholarship are being accepted now through Sept. 8, 2015, and scholarship recipients will be announced on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2015.

More information on the 2015 University of Phoenix AMVETS Scholarships, including eligibility requirements, terms and conditions and how to apply can be found at www.phoenix.edu/amvetscholar.

About AMVETS
A leader since 1944 in preserving the freedoms secured by America’s armed forces, AMVETS provides support for veterans and the active military in procuring their earned entitlements, as well as community service and legislative reform that enhances the quality of life for this nation’s citizens and veterans alike. AMVETS is one of the largest congressionally-chartered veterans’ service organizations in the United States, and includes members from each branch of the military, including the National Guard and Reserve. To learn more, visit www.amvets.org.

About University of Phoenix
University of Phoenix is constantly innovating to help working adults move efficiently from education to careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant and engaging courses, and interactive learning can help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. As a subsidiary of Apollo Education Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: APOL), University of Phoenix serves a diverse student population, offering associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs from campuses and learning centers across the U.S. as well as online throughout the world. For more information, visit www.phoenix.edu.

AMVETS Announces Summer Sweepstakes Winners

LANHAM, MD, May 21, 2015 — AMVETS leaders this week congratulated AMVETS 2015 Memorial Day Weekend Sweepstakes grand prize winner Robert Davis. AMVETS National Commander Larry Via personally called Mr. Davis to congratulate him on winning the $10,000 sweepstakes grand prize.

AMVETS selected the 10 lucky sweepstakes winners from over 100,000 entries from around the country for prizes ranging from $500 to the $10,000 grand prize. The drawing took place today at the AMVETS National Headquarters in Lanham, MD.

Proceeds from the sweepstakes will help support AMVETS’ continuing mission to deliver quality of life programs for veterans and their families. Be sure to look for the next AMVETS Sweepstakes entry form in the mail in September 2015.

2015 Memorial Day Weekend Sweepstakes winners:
$10,000.00 – Robert Davis, Newark, DE
$5,000.00 – Rita Ludlum, Skillman, NJ
$2,500.00 – Anthony J, Picciuto, Grosse Ile, MI
$1,000.00 – Steven R. Clark, Lakewood, OH
$500.00 – Alice S. Dempsey, Barboo, WI
$500.00 – Gerald Maccombs, Elyria, OH
$500.00 – Gary E. Haines, Middleton, NH
$500.00 – Robert H. Boyd, Orange City, FL
$500.00 – Charles David Petty, Callaway, FL
$500.00 – Les Henriksen, Fort Wayne, IN

About AMVETS:
A leader since 1944 in preserving the freedoms secured by America’s armed forces, AMVETS provides support for veterans and the active military in procuring their earned entitlements, as well as community service and legislative reform that enhances the quality of life for this nation’s citizens and veterans alike. AMVETS is one of the largest congressionally-chartered veterans’ service organizations in the United States, and includes members from each branch of the military, including the National Guard and Reserves. To learn more visit www.amvets.org.

AMVETS’ Stewart Hickey Appointed to Commission on Care

LANHAM, MD, May 28, 2015 – AMVETS National Executive Director Stewart Hickey has been selected to serve on the Commission on Care established by Congress to examine how to best deliver health care to the nation’s veterans.

Appointed to the commission by Mitch McConnell, majority leader of the U.S. Senate, Mr. Hickey will be one of only 15 voting members on the panel, which was established by the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014. The goal of the commission is to examine how best to strategically organize the Veterans’ Health Administration, locate health care resources and deliver care to veterans.

“Stewart’s perspective is veteran-centered and expert-driven. He is an excellent choice to ensure the best health care choices for veterans all across the country,” said Senator McConnell. McConnell appointed Stewart for his military service and executive leadership in health care administration and the non-profit, veteran service organization sectors, noting he adds a valuable balance of professional expertise and first-person experience to the Commission’s due diligence and understanding in evaluating access to care throughout the VA health care system.

Since 2011, Major Stewart M. Hickey, United States Marine Corps, (Retired) has served as AMVETS National Executive Director where he operates the nation’s fourth largest congressionally chartered veterans service organization and its subordinate organizations, and the daily advocacy of issues affecting veterans, national security, foreign affairs and the economy. Previously Mr. Hickey was chief executive officer for the Hyndman (Pa.) Area Health Center, a multi-site community health center providing medical and dental services to several counties of Pa, WV and Md. His health care administration includes as Chief Human Resources Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Western Maryland Hospital Center in Hagerstown, Md., a 123-bed JCAHO accredited, long term care and sub acute hospital with rehab, OT, PT and Respiratory care.

Mr. Hickey received his Bachelor of Arts in History from Penn State University, and his Master of Arts degree in Management from Webster University. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1977 as an infantryman, and his commission in1978. Major Hickey served in Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield and was awarded a Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” for his achievements as Commanding Officer, Company D, Third Tank Battalion, Task Force RIPPER, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Saudi Arabia from Sept. 1990 to Feb. 1991.

Stewart Hickey resides on his family farm in Cumberland Valley Township (Bedford Co.) and in McConnellsburg, Pa. He and his wife Ellen have five children: Monroe, Ali, Charles, Andrew, and Bryce. Three of his sons, Andrew, Monroe, and Charles, followed their father’s path and currently serve in the United States military.

About AMVETS:
A leader since 1944 in preserving the freedoms secured by America’s armed forces, AMVETS provides support for veterans and the active military in procuring their earned entitlements, as well as community service and legislative reform that enhances the quality of life for this nation’s citizens and veterans alike. AMVETS is one of the largest congressionally-chartered veterans’ service organizations in the United States, and includes members from each branch of the military, including the National Guard and Reserves. To learn more visit www.amvets.org.

VA Accountability Act Press Conference

AMVETS’ National Executive Director, Stewart Hickey, participated in a joint press conference with House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC) Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) and other national veterans service organizations to demonstrate support for the VA Accountability Act (H.R. 1994, S. 1082). The VA Accountability Act would offer protection for whistleblowers, and empower VA Secretary McDonald to fire VA employees for misconduct or poor performance.

View the entire press conference below, or click here to just view AMVETS’ comments.

VA Expands Choice Program Eligibility

Background:
On August 7, 2014, President Obama signed into law the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (Public Law 113-146) (Choice Act). Technical revisions to the Choice Act were made on September 26, 2014, when the President signed into law the Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2014 (Public Law 113-175) and on December 16, 2014, when the President signed into law the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 (Public Law 113-235).

The Choice Act required VA to implement the Veterans Choice Program through an interim final rule, and on November 5, 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) published an interim final rulemaking. In that rulemaking, VA adopted a straight-line method for determining eligibility for the Program based on the distance between a Veteran’s place of residence and the closest VA medical facility.

On April 24, 2015, VA published a second interim final rule that changed the way VA measures distance for purposes of determining eligibility. VA now considers the distance a Veteran must drive to the nearest VA medical facility, rather than the straight-line or geodesic distance to such a facility. This results in an expansion of eligibility for the Choice Program.

VA is pleased to announce this expansion effective today.

Effective immediately, VA is also changing the mileage calculation for beneficiary travel. The change will ensure consistency in VA’s mileage calculations. The beneficiary travel mileage calculation will now be made using the fastest route instead of the shortest route.

Summary:
A Veteran who meets threshold eligibility criteria may be eligible for the Choice Program based on the distance from his or her place of residence to the closest VA medical facility. VA previously determined eligibility based on place of residence using a straight-line measure of distance. VA is now using a driving distance measure.

For example: Under the new distance calculation, a Veteran who lives 40 miles or less, measured using a straight-line distance, from the nearest VA medical facility, but who needs to physically drive more than 40 miles to get there would be eligible for the Veterans Choice Program. Under the previous straight-line distance calculation, this Veteran would not have been eligible for the Program unless he or she was required to wait for an appointment longer than 30 days from his or her preferred date or the date determined to be medically necessary by his or her physician.

The expansion in eligibility increases Veterans’ access to high quality, timely healthcare. VA looks forward to continued collaboration with Veterans and our partners to ensure the success of the Veterans Choice Program.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: When is this rule change effective?
A: The interim final rule was published in the Federal Register on April 24, 2015, and is effective immediately upon publication.

Q: Why is VA changing this criterion now?
A: The change in criterion to the program will allow more Veterans to access care when and where they want it. VA believes a driving distance calculation is consistent with the law. The Choice Act does not state how distance should be calculated for purposes of determining eligibility based on place of residence. The straight-line measure adopted by the first interim final rule was consistent with language in the legislative history of the Choice Act. .

Q: What mapping tool is used to calculate the 40 miles?
A: VA will use the commercial product that is used by VA’s long-established beneficiary travel program. Because different mapping tools use different proprietary programming, the results may vary among products.

Q: Is the distance calculated the same way that is used to calculate mileage for beneficiary travel?
A: The mapping tool for beneficiary travel will now calculate the driving distance using the fastest route rather than the shortest route. This is a change to the beneficiary travel program that will make the distance determinations under the beneficiary travel program consistent with distance calculations under the Veterans Choice Program. The fastest route was chosen as the standard to ensure fairness to Veterans.

Q: Is it still 40 miles from any VA medical facility or is it 40 miles from a VA medical facility that actually provides the care needed?
A: This Choice Act requires VA to measure the distance from the Veteran’s residence to the closest VA medical facility, even if that facility does not provide the care that is needed. Absent a statutory change, VA does not have the flexibility to adopt an alternative approach. We are working with Congress to seek possible alternatives.

Q: How does VA plan to notify newly eligible Veterans?
A: All potentially eligible Veterans already received a Veterans Choice Card. VA will send follow-up letters notifying Veterans who are eligible under the revised mileage calculation.

Q: Who can a Veteran call if they have questions about the Veterans Choice Program or do not remember receiving their Veterans Choice Card?
A: If a Veteran does not remember receiving a Veterans Choice Card or has other questions about the Choice Program, they can call (866) 606-8198.

Q: Where can I get more information about the program?
A: Please review the VA Choice website at http://www.va.gov/opa/choiceact/

Univ. of Phoenix AMVETS Scholarship

Related: Apply Here for 2016 Scholarship: www.phoenix.edu/amvetscholar

2015 Recipients Announced!

AMVETS ScholarshipsScholarship program provides 20 full-tuition scholarships to active-duty service members, eligible family members and veterans

PHOENIX, Feb. 10, 2015 – University of Phoenix and AMVETS, an advocate for veterans’ education, awarded 20 full-tuition scholarships to active-duty service members, eligible family members and veterans to pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree from University of Phoenix. AMVETS has teamed with University of Phoenix since 2007, offering 325 scholarships to demonstrate the appreciation of the sacrifice active-duty service members, their families and veterans make for the country and to help them transition from the military to the civilian sector.

University of Phoenix AMVETS Scholarship recipients are:

  • Ronald Camacho of Oceanside, Calif.
  • Marie Cooper of Tinley Park, Ill.
  • Brittany Diaz of Phoenix, Ariz.
  • Kathryn Jones of Port Saint Lucie, Fla.
  • Trent Maxwell of Kings Bay, Ga.
  • Sheila Morrow of E. Saint Louis, Ill.
  • Shelia Palmer of Felton, Del.
  • Rebecca Parks of Salem, Va.
  • Karen Ramirez of Jacksonville, Fla.
  • Ethan Ramsey of Yuma, Ariz.
  • Tiffany Rupp of Hope Mills, N.C.
  • Wanda Shires of Chesterfield, Va.
  • Jill Slate of Camarillo, Calif.
  • James Stephens of Middletown, Del.
  • Ashley Stimac of Stafford, Va.
  • Edward Stimac of Stafford, Va.
  • Kevin Thieme of Delia, Kan.
  • Jimmy Tidwell of Lawrence, Tenn.
  • Jamie Train of Derby, Kan.
  • Michael Wainwright of Brockport, N.Y.

“We are so very grateful for our long standing education partnership with University of Phoenix. This is truly a commitment that changes the lives of the recipients,” said AMVETS National Commander Larry E. Via. “These scholarships are an important part of our mission to help all veterans. In particular, our post-9/11 recipients can attain their educational goals as they strive to make a successful reintegration back into the civilian world.”

“We have a responsibility to help educate America’s transitioning service members, their families and veterans for career opportunities in both the military and civilian sectors,” said University of Phoenix Military Relations Vice President retired Army Col. Garland Williams. “The 2014 University of Phoenix AMVETS Scholarships provides the 20 recipients an access to education opportunities to help increase their professional skill sets to secure future career opportunities.”

Even though the post-9/11 veterans unemployment rate is improving compared to a year ago1, there is still an urgent need to provide education and career services for transitioning active-duty service members, their families and veterans. University of Phoenix and AMVETS understand the critical need for America’s military to educationally distinguish themselves among job seekers in today’s competitive employment landscape.

Applications for the 2015 University of Phoenix AMVETS Scholarships will be accepted May 5, 2015, through Sept. 8, 2015, and scholarship recipients will be announced on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2015.

For more information on how to apply for the 2015 University of Phoenix AMVETS Scholarships and for scholarship requirements, please visit www.phoenix.edu/amvetscholar when the scholarship application period opens on May 5, 2015.

About AMVETS
A leader since 1944 in preserving the freedoms secured by America’s armed forces, AMVETS provides support for veterans and the active military in procuring their earned entitlements, as well as community service and legislative reform that enhances the quality of life for this nation’s citizens and veterans alike. AMVETS is one of the largest congressionally-chartered veterans’ service organizations in the United States, and includes members from each branch of the military, including the National Guard and Reserve. To learn more, visit www.amvets.org.

About University of Phoenix
University of Phoenix is constantly innovating to help working adults move efficiently from education to careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant and engaging courses, and interactive learning can help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. As a subsidiary of Apollo Education Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: APOL), University of Phoenix serves a diverse student population, offering associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs from campuses and learning centers across the U.S. as well as online throughout the world. For more information, visit www.phoenix.edu.

Eddie Ozzie Awards

eddie-ozzie-awards

2014 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie Award Honorable Mention

The annual Folio: magazine Eddie and Ozzie Award — is the largest and most inclusive awards program of its kind in the magazine publishing industry. The Eddies recognize excellence in magazine editorial and the Ozzies recognize excellence in magazine design. The Folio: team, along with a prestigious panel of 300+ judges recognized the redesign of our national magazine, American Veteran, as one of the very best in design from the more than 2,800 overall entries received this year.

Learn more >

Comcast Newsmakers

AMVETS’ Executive Director Stewart Hickey discusses resources for Gulf War veterans on Comcast Newsmakers