News

Veterans can be proud of themselves on the 4th of July. Independence Day is partly due to the sacrifice they've given to create freedom. However, those who served in conflicts and wars have to deal with the loud explosion-like sounds that come from fireworks. According to Dr. Kathleen Chard, director of the Cincinnati VA Trauma Recovery Center and associate chief of staff for research, said veterans can prepare themselves.  "One of the best things veterans can do is to tell themselves to expect loud noises at any time. It may also be helpful to plan errands for earlier in the day when fewer people are likely to be out setting off fireworks," she said. "If the veteran is very unsettled by fireworks, it might be a good idea to mention it to some of their neighbors, so they can plan to set off their fireworks at a set time or at someone else's house." The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that between 11% and 20% of veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan deal with PTSD. The VA says as many as 30% of Vietnam War veterans have PTSD in their lifetimes.
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/agentorange-c123.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
It’s interesting how some stories just sort of drop off the media radar screen, especially when they’re disastrous for the Obama Administration. Remember when the “secret death list” scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs became the biggest story in America a year ago? Big Media was told the story was basically over after VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned, after a long period of resistance, because Obama doesn’t like to admit failure or risk provoking high officials into spilling the beans by sacking them. Promises of reform were made. The news cycle rolled on to other things, over the protestations of veterans groups who doubted anything would really change. It’s a year later. Nobody ever really got fired over the VA debacle. And while we’re hopefully past the business of supervisors cooking the books to collect performance bonuses, according to the New York Times, the waiting lists are worse than ever:   The number of veterans on waiting lists of one month or more is now 50 percent higher than it was during the height of last year’s problems, department officials say. The department is also facing a nearly $3 billion budget shortfall, which could affect care for many veterans.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald said his department's goal of cutting the number of homeless veterans to zero by next January is less important than making sure that number doesn't rise again in years to come. "The important thing is not just to get to zero, but to stay at zero," he said. "How do we build a system that is so capable, that as a homeless veteran moves from Chicago to Los Angeles in the winter, we have the ability to touch them immediately?" On Wednesday, McDonald addressed about 600 community organizers at the annual National Coalition for Homeless Veterans conference, charging them to keep up the progress thus far as his department's self-imposed deadline approaches. From 2010 to 2013, the number of homeless veterans nationwide dropped more than one-third to about 50,000 individuals, and VA officials expect that number to dip even further when the 2014 estimates are released later this summer. Meanwhile, VA funding for homeless assistance and prevention programs has jumped from about $2.4 billion in fiscal 2008 to nearly $7 billion for fiscal 2016, providing resources that advocates say were nearly nonexistent a decade ago. Despite the positive trends, the effort to end veterans homelessness will need dramatic strides in coming months to come close to the lofty goal of zero veterans on the streets at the end of 2015.
Five employees who work in the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System hospital in Oakland have been placed on paid leave pending an investigation into allegations that they harassed a fellow employee, the VA said today. The Pittsburgh VA employee told a supervisor on Thursday that fellow employees had been harassing him in his work area for the prior week, the VA said. To read the full story click here
Summary of article: click below for full story: A surgeon doing work for the V.A. and his wife pleaded guilty to avoiding $500,000 in taxes owed. The couple live in a luxury Upper East Side apartment. Neither Dr. Jeffrey Stein nor Marla Stein looked at all prepared for incarceration as they arrived on the 15th floor of the courthouse just before 2 p.m. on the day before Tax Day. They were there to plead guilty to evading more than $500,000 in taxes. The husband filed in excess of $125,000 in phony invoices using the names of disabled veterans, one of whom was dead. Marla got there a few minutes before her husband, stepping off the elevator in a black pantsuit and pearls. Courtroom 15-B was still locked for the lunch hour, and the 52-year-old Northwestern grad stood by a window in the hallway with a fellow lawyer. She gazed down at an inmate basketball game on the roof exercise yard of the adjoining Metropolitan Correctional Center. “See, they’re playing,” she said. Jeffrey appeared in a dark plaid business suit, white button-down shirt, and blue tie. The bespectacled 58-year-old MIT grad stood at his wife’s side and said nothing at all as he peered down at the sort of burly ballers who may soon be his cellmates. He did not seem to take any particular notice that the inmates were at least tame enough to remedy a foul with a free throw. The Steins were joined by their attorneys, Benjamin Brafman for the husband, Robert Katzberg for the wife. A clerk unlocked the courtroom door and they all entered along with the prosecutor. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stan Okula went up to the prosecution table carrying a thick law book and a manila folder marked “STEIN.  The New York Times reported the Steins’ wedding at the pricey Le Cirque restaurant back in December 1995. The couple now joined their lawyers at a table reserved for defendants of all backgrounds. The wife reached into her purse and took out a bottle of water, in keeping with the ways of Manhattan women of a certain class.  The jury box was empty, as the Steins had decided that all they stood to gain by going to trial was a stiffer sentence. Brafman is widely regarded as one of the very best trial lawyers, but even he could not contest a case as strong as the one Okula and the IRS had assembled. “All rise!” the clerk called out.  In strode U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote.  “United States of America versus Jeffrey Stein and Marla Stein,” the clerk announced. Cote looks mild enough, but she is considered bad luck personified for defendants who hope to avoid prison.  “Welcome, everyone,” she said without a hint of intentional irony. “Good afternoon.”  Cote noted that the purpose of the proceeding was for the Steins to change their initial plea.  “Not guilty to guilty,” the judge said.  Before the Steins could own up to lying extravagantly to the IRS, they had to raise their right hands and swear to tell the truth.  “I do,” both assured the court.  “I was aware this was wrong and I deeply regret having done so.” Jeffrey was admitting to allegations set forth in court papers that he completely invented expenses such as transcription that was never done and wages supposedly paid to nonexistent employees. He also had pumped up various tax cheat favorites, including “travel and auto expenses, deductible meals and entertainment.” Marla was admitting to inflating expenses as well as inventing what court papers term “labor and advertising expenses purportedly incurred by her law practice but which were in truth and fact never incurred or paid.” In February 2013, the IRS had notified the Steins that their tax returns for 2010 and 2011 had been “selected for audit.” The IRS indicated that it was particularly interested in the expenses that the couple had claimed. The accountant who had submitted the returns agreed to represent the Steins at the audit. He asked for them to provide documentation to back up their expenses. That was when the Steins made their biggest mistake. When the IRS catches you faking expenses, your wisest course of action is to utter three words: “You got me!” The Steins imagined that they could fool the tax folks. “The defendants created and provided to the accountant various fabricated and fictitious documents and information as part of a corrupt effort to convince the IRS auditor that the expenses claimed…were legitimate,” the court papers say.   As a well-regarded vascular surgeon, Jeffrey Stein had done some work for the Veterans Administration and thereby had access to the agency’s databases. He used the names of four disabled veterans—two of them former patients—in creating bogus hospital invoices from nonexistent medical personnel such as a “vascular technologist” and an “ultrasound technologist.” The invoices totaled $125,525. “One of the veterans whose name was placed on a bogus invoice…was not even alive,” the court papers report. Marla Stein had altered genuine invoices from photographers and a videographer hired for family celebrations. The court papers note, “Among the invoices fraudulently created by Marla Stein and later provided to the accountant was one that falsely recited that a ‘day in the life’ video had been prepared for and paid for by Marla Stein in connection with the purported mediation of a law suit on behalf of a personal injury client.” She also had joined her husband in completely fabricating some invoices, though at least she had not used the names of veterans. She instead had appropriated the names of two individuals with whom she had dealings. One was a person who had provided medical care to a family member. The other was the Steins’s babysitter/housekeeper. Neither had done anything for her law practice, as she claimed in the tax return. The use of the housekeeper’s name was particularly unwise, as the Steins were paying her $75 a day, four days a week, for a range of domestic duties. And this led to the IRS hitting the Steins with an added violation that many of their friends likely commit with no fear of being charged. “[The Steins] failed to pay to the IRS various employment taxes due and owing to the IRS,” court papers say. “The cash wages paid to [the] domestic employee also aids the domestic employee in avoiding detection by the IRS of the domestic employee’s fraudulent failure to report her cash wages.” The Steins clearly underestimated the ability of the IRS in this digital age to find reported names and sums that do not match what is on record. Together, the fake and altered invoices constituted real and incontestable evidence that convinced the Steins to enter guilty pleas on Tuesday. The judge first had to ensure that they were of sound mind and understood what they doing. Cote asked Jeffrey if he had ever suffered from mental illness. He said he had not but allowed that he was seeing a therapist. “What are you seeing a therapist for?” the judge inquired. “For anxiety-related issues,” Jeffrey said.   “Is your mind clear today?” the judge asked. “Do you understand what’s happening in this proceeding?” “Yes, it is,” he replied. The judge posed the same question to Marla, who also said she had never suffered from mental illness. “I’m seeing a psychiatrist now, Your Honor,” Marla added. The judge did not ask her why, likely because it was obviously the prospect of going to prison. Marla assured the court that she also had a clear mind on this day and understood the nature of the proceeding. “I find they are competent to enter a plea of guilty,” Cote declared. Jeffrey pleaded guilty to both counts on the charge sheet, tax evasion and “corruptly endeavoring to obstruct and impede the due administration of the Internal Revenue law.” “I knew what I was doing was wrong,” he said. “I am truly sorry.” “Did you know you were violating the law?” the judge asked. “Yes,” he said. Marla was allowed to plead guilty only to the less serious obstructing count, perhaps because her fake deductions were smaller and she used no disabled veterans. “I was aware this was wrong and I deeply regret having done so,” she said. The more serious charge could have carried a maximum of five years, the lesser a maximum of three years. But the written agreements that preceded the guilty pleas call for Jeffrey to get between 18 and 24 months and Marla to get between 12 and 18 months. The judge set sentencing for 10 a.m. on Tuesday, July 28. “Thank you,” the judge said of this week’s proceeding on the day before taxes are due. “Thank you all.” Everybody rose as the judge departed. Brafman said the Steins would not be speaking to the press. He passed out a written statement saying they are “hopeful that the court at the time of sentence will recognize that they are fundamentally decent people whose poor judgment in this case does not define who they are.” Brafman himself seems to view them this way. He surely would have fought to keep them out of prison if that had been at all possible. “This breaks my heart,” he said. The Steins departed the courthouse. They would be back in the luxury of their Upper East Side apartment on Tax Day, but sometime after July 28 the couple who got hitched at Le Cirque will almost certainly be in his-and-hers prisons. And in that is a lesson for anybody who contrives to cheat the IRS, particularly those who answer an audit with what amounts to an insult. Too bad the lesson does not also apply to corporations.
Voice Dream, a read-aloud app used globally by more than 100 thousand individuals, has revolutionized how the visually-impaired and reading disabled are consuming information. The app reads books aloud to users which for those with visual impairments and reading disabilities, has enhanced their reading experiences significantly. Voice Dream Reader’s features are organized in an uncluttered, intuitive, highly usable way - thereby creating an unparalleled user-friendly experience.   Voice Dream Reader includes a female U.S. English voice and nearly 100 additional paid voices in 20 languages. In addition to English, Voice Dream supports Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, Dutch, Portuguese, Russian, Czech, Catalan, Polish, Turkish, Greek, and Arabic languages, among others.   With the use of Foxit Software, a leading software provider of fast, affordable and secure PDF solutions, Voice Dream extracts text from PDF files and marks them as read while customers use the app. With collaboration from Foxit, Voice Dream is able take text from PDFs so they can be read aloud and highlight text as it is being read, an important feature for users with reading disabilities.   Voice Dream also provides the following features for loading and managing reading material:   •        Text extraction from eBooks in DRM-free ePub format •        Text extraction from plain text, MS Word, MS PowerPoint, Apple Pages, RTF and HTML files •        DAISY 3.0 text-based eBooks •        DAISY 2.02 audiobooks •        Audiobooks as ZIP of MP3 files, such as LibriVox •        Dropbox, Google Drive and Evernote integration •        Load files using iTunes via USB or WiFi •        Bookshare integration •        Gutenberg integration for over 40,000 free eBooks •        Pocket and Instapaper integration •        Built-in Web Browser to extract text from Web pages •        Copy-paste via clipboard •        Text Editor •        Language translation via Google Translate through in-app purchases •        Folders for organizing content •        Export full text to clipboard, printer, email, and other apps •        Export highlighted text and notes to clipboard, printer, email and other apps •        Open the original Web page in Safari if possible •        Share what you’re listening with friends on Twitter, Facebook, SMS or email (iOS 6+)   For listening to text, Voice Dream offers the following:   •        Remote control enabled Play-Pause •        Remembers where you stopped in each book or article •        Powerful personal pronunciation dictionary •        Configurable default speech rate, volume and pitch for each voice •        Shows elapsed time and remaining time •        Sleep timer •        Previous and next book or article •        Rewind and fast forward by sentence, paragraph, page, chapter, 15, 30 and 60 seconds •        Rewind and fast forward through your bookmarks and highlights •        Change reading speed on the fly. 50-500 words per minute •        Change TTS voice on the fly •        Remembers the voice and speech rate used for each book or article •        Playlist for listening to multiple articles back to backs •        Continues reading when you exit the app or lock the screen   For a visual interaction with text, Voice Dream features:   •        Blazing fast vertical scrolling in two modes: Free and page by page •        Synchronized word and line highlighting plus options to disable •        Full screen mode to hide the controls •        Focused Reading Mode with reduced text area and auto-scrolling •        Full-text search •        Table of contents for ePub and DAISY books •        Page numbers for PDF documents and DAISY books •        Bookmarking •        Highlighting and note taking •        Customizable font and font size •        Includes OpenDyslexia font •        Preset light and dark color theme, plus a fully customizable color theme •        Built-in dictionary     Voice Dream, with the help of Foxit Software, has made millions of books, documents and PDFs accessible to individuals that never had access to these texts before. Both organizations are proud of the difference they have made in the lives of thousands through the services they provide.
The American Legion is planning a town hall meeting April 20 in Memphis to discuss the quality and timeliness of Department of Veterans Affairs health care and the delivery of benefits to local veterans. The Legion will also set up a Veterans Benefits Center to help veterans enroll in VA health care, schedule VA medical appointments, file VA disability or pension benefits claims, and get information on GI Bill education benefits. The town hall meeting, scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., will be at American Legion Post 53 on 400 Legion Rd. in West Memphis, Ark. Local veterans, especially those currently receiving VA medical treatment, are encouraged to attend. The event is free and open to the public and members of other veterans service organizations. The Veterans Benefits Center will be at the Whitehaven Community Center on 4318 Graceland in Memphis, April 21-23. Operating hours are noon to 7 p.m. on the 21st, and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the 22nd and 23rd. The American Legion is conducting town hall meetings and Veterans Benefits Centers across the country as part of its national program to improve VA health care and help veterans get the benefits they have earned through military service. To date, the Legion has helped veterans recover well over $1 million in retroactive benefits. - See more at: http://www.legion.org/veteranshealthcare/226807/legion-reaching-out-vets-memphis-area#sthash.Fut70E8x.dpuf
(WASHINGTON, DC) - “Vietnam Veterans of America has joined four other veterans service organizations as a co-plaintiff to The American Legion et. al. v. McDonald in an effort to stop the implementation of a new rule eliminating most informal VA claims and limiting the types of claims the VA will adjudicate,” announced John Rowan, VVA National President. “Informal claims account for approximately half of all claims the VA receives,” said Rowan. “The new rule, which went into effect March 25, eradicates the decades-old right of a veteran to write a letter to the VA, seeking a specific VA benefit and having the VA consider that letter as an informal claim. "The new rule also prevents the VA from considering claims that are supported by the evidence in the VA record but have not been specifically claimed by the veteran.” The new rule changes, which require claims to be submitted on the VA’s standardized forms, will impose barriers for all those without access to those forms, as well as those without the medical and legal knowledge needed to fill them out correctly. "While the VA has promoted this rule change as being more efficient and therefore favorable to the veteran, in fact, this rule change over-formalizes the veterans claims process, making it more adversarial than ever before. "We will not stand by silently as our government places further obstacles in front of our injured and disabled veterans and their families, undermining our nation’s pledge to care for those who have borne the battle and their families," said Rowan. Prior to March 25, under the informal VA claims system, any benefits awarded would be paid back to the date that the VA had received a notice from the veteran, signaling his or her intent to file. Under the new rule changes, however, the clock for an effective date for benefits starts only when a veteran files the standardized VA paperwork. The suit, which seeks to have the Department of Veterans Affairs’ new rule declared unlawful by the courts, was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals on March 20 and was entered into the court’s docket on March 26. The other co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the American Legion, AMVETS, The Military Order of the Purple Heart, and the National Veterans Legal Services Program. Vietnam Veterans of America (www.vva.org) is the nation's only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated to the needs* of Vietnam-era veterans and their families. VVA's founding principle is “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”

COPYRIGHT © 2014 CHICAGO COMMUTER. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.