American Legion National Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Director Barry Searle, along with Deputy Directors Ian de Planque and Verna Jones, recently met with staff from the Compensation and Pension (C&P) division of the Department of Veterans Affairs Central Office, as well as several other veterans service organizations for a VSO Forum.
The forum began with a question and answer session with director of VA's C&P Service, Bradley Mayes. Key topics discussed included an update on the status of final regulations regarding the three new presumptive Agent Orange conditions, now out of its period of public comment and in the revision stages in preparation for the final regulation hopefully some time this summer; the upcoming final regulation on the confirmation of PTSD stressors in a combat zone, also in the final revision stages; as well as determining a proper point of contact and procedures for adding new ships to VA's Brown Water Navy registry. The American Legion pressed for the addition of numbers on VA's quality measures to VA's Monday Morning Workload Reports. Mentioned both in recent testimony last week and in recent meetings with VA, The American Legion and other VSOs have asked VA to include the quality numbers as a part of VA's transparency efforts and stated mission of addressing the accuracy component of the claims system. VA promised to investigate ways to make these numbers more public, drawing from the data already collected by VA's STAR review process to address quality both nationally and regionally. Subject matter experts from VA also provided updates on the status of the various pilot programs ongoing as part of VA's attempt to update the workplace model. New to these discussions was an update on the Fully Developed Claims program, which promises expedited adjudication of claims that are presented to VA will all necessary information and essentially in a ready-to-rate condition. One of the concerns voiced by VSOs was the fact that veterans in that program are automatically dropped and reverted to the traditional claims process if an examination is missed. However, there are communication problems between veterans and examining authorities in some regions, and veterans can unfairly be dropped if they were improperly notified of the exams. There is a mechanism in place to return veterans to the proper expedited status if it can be determined that the veteran missed the exam through no fault of his or her own. These procedures were described, with the key point being the promptness with which VSOs assist veterans in replying to VA's change of the veteran's claims status.