New partnership means free legal representation for Michigan veterans in high-level VA appeals cases
A new partnership between the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) and the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) will mean free legal representation for Michigan veterans and their families in appeals before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
"Michigan veterans will now have access to an unprecedented level of representation by a national legal team who will defend their rights at the highest legal levels, to ensure fairness in the disability benefit arena," said Zaneta Adams, director of the MVAA, which serves as the central coordinating agency for Michigan's 550,000-plus veterans.
"In addition," Adams said, "our veteran advocates will capitalize on NVLSP's extensive training and professional development portfolio as we continue to serve Michigan veterans and their families, now and in the future."
NVLSP is a national nonprofit organization that works to ensure the government delivers to America's 22 million veterans and active-duty personnel the benefits to which they are entitled because of disabilities resulting from their military service to our country.
"We are delighted to partner with the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency and we look forward to leveraging our shared knowledge to help Michigan veterans and their families access the benefits to which they are entitled," said NVLSP Executive Director Paul Wright.
When disability claims are denied by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), veterans have the right to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). The CAVC provides veterans an impartial judicial forum for review of administrative decisions by the Board of Veterans' Appeals that are adverse to the veteran's claim of entitlement to benefits for service-connected disabilities, survivor benefits and other benefits such as education payments and waiver of indebtedness.
Through the new partnership, NVLSP will provide free legal representation in support of appeals cases. This process begins when NVLSP reviews a case in which a veteran's appeal to the Board of Veterans' Appeals (BVA), the highest authority within the VA, is denied and determines there are grounds for an appeal to the CAVC. When this is the case, NVLSP offers to represent the veteran or the veteran's family at no cost. The partnership between the MVAA and NVLSP makes this free legal service available to veterans in Michigan for the first time.
In addition to NVLSP's assistance to veterans with claims appeals, NVLSP will also assist Michigan veterans with discharge upgrades, which will help veterans access benefits they may be wrongfully denied due to a less than honorable discharge.
Tracking the PACT Act: Military toxic exposure legislation nears the finish line (again)
The Senate is expected to take up major military toxic exposure legislation in coming days after House lawmakers passed corrections to the measure last week, Military Times is reporting.
The bill — the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (or PACT Act) — was expected to be sent to the White House before the July 4 holiday, but was stalled by technical problems with the measure. The House addressed those in a bipartisan vote last Wednesday. Advocates are hopeful that the Senate can move quickly on the issue this week.
The legislation would cost almost $280 billion over the next 10 years and provide new medical and disability benefits for as many as one in every five veterans living in America today. Both veterans groups and lawmakers have called it possibly the most comprehensive effort ever to address toxic exposure issues in the military.
VA focusing on Long COVID care
VA has diagnosed more than 620,000 veterans with COVID-19. Of this group, between 4% and 7% may have developed Long COVID symptoms.
While there is no universally agreed-upon definition of Long COVID, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines it as long-term health problems following infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.
The condition can be debilitating for patients. That's why VA is focused on research and personalized clinical care for the illness through the Whole Health initiative.
LaTrice Hollomon is a veteran experiencing VA's comprehensive approach to Long COVID. She was working at a homeless shelter in December 2020 when she was first diagnosed with COVID. "I kept coughing and having body aches during rounds," she said. "It is a scary feeling. I didn't know how it was going to affect me, considering I had underlying health issues."
By February 2021, she was experiencing Long COVID. She had a dry cough, fevers that came and went, and memory issues.
Read more in VA's VAntage Point blog.
Congress salutes Marine veteran, the last WWII Medal of Honor recipient
Congress gave its ultimate final salute last week to Hershel W. "Woody" Williams, a hero of the battle for Iwo Jima who was the last remaining Medal of Honor recipient from World War II.
Williams, who died in June at age 98, was lying in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, a tribute reserved for the nation's most distinguished private citizens. Only six others have received the honor: civil rights icon Rosa Parks, the Rev. Billy Graham and four Capitol police officers.
Just 21, Williams was a Marine corporal when U.S. forces came ashore on the strategic Japanese island in early 1945.
Williams moved ahead of his unit and eliminated a series of Japanese machine gun positions. Facing small-arms fire, he fought for four hours, repeatedly returning to prepare demolition charges and obtain flamethrowers. President Harry Truman awarded him the Medal of Honor, the military's highest decoration, later that year.
Read more in Marine Corps Times.
VA changes home pest-inspection rule; Space Force veterans now eligible for VA home loan
VA buyers everywhere can now pay for pest inspections to keep their loan moving forward, according to Military.com.
Veterans buying homes in areas prone to termite infestation typically need a pest inspection to satisfy the VA's property condition guidelines, known as the Minimum Property Requirements. Over the years, only VA buyers in certain areas of the U.S. have been allowed to pay for the inspection. For everyone else, the seller or another party to the transaction had to cover this cost.
That distinction put some buyers at a disadvantage, especially in a competitive housing market where sellers were choosing between multiple offers.
The VA loan program encourages buyers to negotiate with sellers regarding payment of the inspection fee and any repairs needed.
In related news, current and discharged Space Force Guardians finally have liftoff for mortgages backed by the VA.
The VA loan program announced last month that its certificate of eligibility (COE) now includes members and former members of the U.S. Space Force. A COE proves veterans meet the length-of-service and character-of-service requirements to be eligible for a VA loan.
US sends Syracuse-based National Guard soldiers to help train Ukrainian military
More than 100 National Guard soldiers based in Syracuse, New York, are headed to Germany to help train the Ukrainian military, Stars & Stripes is reporting.
Some 140 soldiers from the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team left last week for Fort Bliss, Texas, to prepare for a trip to Europe, according to a news release by the New York State Division of Military & Naval Affairs.
The soldiers from Syracuse's 27th Infantry Brigade will replace 160 soldiers from Florida, who have been training Ukrainian military personnel since November — first in western Ukraine and then in Germany in February after Russia began signaling it would invade.
The Syracuse-based soldiers are expected to replace their predecessors in September, after they've completed training in Texas, officials for the Division of Military & Naval Affairs said.
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