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Committee Report 4/20/2013

The committee was called to order on 4/19/2013 at 7:00 P.M. Roll call was taken, we had a quorum.

We received a presentation from Dr. Berger regarding SWAN (Service Women’s Action Network) and their petition with regard to the VA and Service Connection for Mental Health Disabilities resulting from Military Sexual Trauma. After Dr. Berger’s presentation, the committee in favor of VVA joining the petition process.

We received the Benefits Director’s report, which the VVA Board of Directors had also received. During that report, Director Vale explained that due to staffing levels and the workload at the Appeals Management Center at the DC Regional Office, he had strong concerns about VVA being able to continue to handle the remands cases on a timely basis while also handling initial/reopened claims from walk-in clients from the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia areas, as well as providing outreach. These claims then go to an RO at which VVA has no presence. After discussion it was moved and seconded that VVA discontinue the claims processing and outreach for Maryland and Virginia. The motion passed without objection. Veterans would still be able to receive claims assistance at the Regional Office from other VSOs.  VVA would continue having two Service

Officers and an administrative staff person focus on working VVA’s remand cases.
We covered discussions on VetPro utilization as well as the staff of VetPro working through the minor bugs that have been discovered. Director Vale also continues to work with the VA on implementation at the Regional Offices.

The meeting was recessed until the scheduled committee meeting on Friday.

On the 19th, the committee re-convened, with a quorum, at our scheduled time.

A new motion was made regarding the workload for the VVA service officers at the Appeals Management Center, to include the elimination of claims processing and outreach for the DC walk-in clients. After a brief discussion, this motion passed without objection.

We received a copy of the VA News Release and the VA Fast Letter, discussing the implementation of a VA plan to eliminate the claims backlog. After discussion, it was decided that we ensure that VVA Service Officers are provided this information to enable them to assist the veterans they represent whose claim may be involved in this process.

Lastly, we have just received the VVA grant applications and the six- month reports from the grant applicants/recipients. 

The Benefits Committee sub-committee for the reviewing and processing of the grant requests, consists of myself, Felix Peterson, Joe Kristek. I added have added Herb Worthington. None of us are from a state council/chapter receiving any grant proceeds.

We will be reviewing the applications, and will make the grant funding determinations within the next two weeks. I will then forward our recommendations to President Rowan and ask that these be sent to the Board for an E-Vote. This will enable the grant recipients to do budget planning for the next grant period.

I would like to thank all committee members for their hard work.

This concludes my report.

Respectfully submitted,
John L. Margowski,
Chair, VVA National  Veterans Benefits Committee

Veterans Benefits Committee Chairman's Report 10/10/12

The Veterans Benefits Committee met on both October 4th and 5th 2012.

On Thursday we had a guest speaker Mr. Thomas J. Murphy, Director of VA
Compensation Service. He provide updated information on the VA's progress in going paperless, electronic claims and how they are processed. He also listened to and answered questions that the committee members had. The VA should be totally paperless in the claims process including the processing of all new claims. I was very impressed with the overall plan and also how veterans service officers will be able to follow their veteran's claim through the entire process.

We received the Directors report, which was also presented tot he Board by Mr. Vale. The first draft of the re-write of the Veterans Benefits Manual was reviewed, suggestionsand changes made and it will be back on the agenda for January.
We dealt with a service officer suspension/revocation.

We had a lengthy discussion on our Grant, suggestions for improving the process and discussion on changing the way grant applications are received, how and what criteria will be used to assess the applications and the processing of them for grant approval.

We will change the grant application dates to coincide with the VSF fiscal year to make the process smoother. The new deadline for the submission of applications for the VVA Veterans Benefits Grant will be March 1.

Our review of the Veterans Benefits Resolutions will be done at our January meeting.

Respectfully submitted,
John L. Margowski, Chair, Veterans Benefits Committee.

Veterans Benefits Committee Report on Convention Resolutions

The Veterans Benefits Committee, as required by Convention resolution, offers the following report on Veterans Benefits resolutions and pending federal legislation regarding enhancements and/or improvements to the many benefits that VVA’s resolutions cover. We recommended the following legislation be included in the Government Affairs Committee’s list of legislation for which it will seek successful resolution.

HR 178 Calls for an amendment to Title 10, United States Code, thereby repealing the current requirement for reduction of survivor annuities under the Survivor Benefit Plan for military surviving spouses to offset the receipt of the veterans’ dependency and indemnity compensation.

HR 303 Calls for an amendment to Title 10, United States Code, to permit additional retired members of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected disability to receive both disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs for their disability and either retired pay by reason of their years of military service or Combat-related Special Compensation. The bill also calls for the elimination of the phase-in period under current law with respect to such concurrent receipt.

Both of the following bills are related to VB-12 DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS (DVA) SERVICE-CONNECTED DISABILITY COMPENSATION PAYMENTS & MILITARY RETIRED PAY OFFSET as it applies to veterans and their survivors.

HR 1484, the Veterans Appeals Improvement Act of 2011, deals with improving the appeals process of the Department of Veterans Affairs and establishing a commission to study judicial review of the determination of veteran’s benefits. This bill contains language applicable to VB-7 Class Actions AT U.S. COURT OF APPEALS FOR VETERANS CLAIMS and VB-9 DVA IMPLIMINTATION OF U.S. COURT OF APPEALS FOR VETERANS CLAIMS DECISIONS.

There are other pieces of legislation which have been referred to the Government Affairs Committee by the Veterans Benefits Committee, which that directly affect our members and their survivors.

With regard to VB-13 PRESERVATION OF VVA SERVICE REPRESENTATION AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL, attorneys have been added to the VVA national staff. The Veterans Benefits Committee is seeking more funds for the Veterans Benefits programs operated by VVA through our chapters and state councils. There has been an increase in the number of grants requests for financial support through our Veterans Benefits Grant program.

--Respectfully submitted by John Margowski, Chair, Veterans Benefits Committee.

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