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Army Echoes informs Retired Soldiers, surviving spouses, and their Families on changes to their benefits and entitlements, developments within the Army, and how they can continue to support the Army.

Agent Orange presumption policy leads to higher VA health care use
Posted on July 17, 2018

For Vietnam Veterans, having a medical condition presumed related to Agent Orange exposure is linked to greater use of Veterans Affairs health care. That is the main finding of a study by researchers with the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC) at the VA New Jersey Healthcare System. They say the results show that a law passed by Congress nearly 30 years ago has largely met its goal: helping affected Veterans get the care they need. The study results appeared in May 2018 in the journal Medicine. Agent Orange linked to 14 conditions Agent Orange is a chemical defoliant that was sprayed by the U.S. during the Vietnam War to kill plants and clear land. It was contaminated with dioxin, which is known to cause cancer and other conditions. Twenty million gallons of Agent Orange were sprayed during the Vietnam War. About 2.7 million U.S. military personnel may have been exposed. Veterans are eligible for compensation from the Veterans Benefits Administration if they have a service-connected disability. The higher the disability rating, the more compensation they are due. Veterans with higher service-connected disability ratings also have greater access to no-cost health care through the Veterans Health Administration. However, it is often difficult to prove direct service connection for Agent Orange-related conditions because they may develop years after exposure. To address this problem, Congress passed the Agent Orange Act of 1991. The act directed VA to presume service-connected disability for conditions the National Academy of Sciences deemed related to Agent Orange. Veterans with these conditions qualify if they were in Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975. Seven non-cancer conditions have been designated as presumptively service-connected for Vietnam Veterans: chloracne (a severe acne-like skin condition), ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, peripheral neuropathy, porphyria curtanea tarda (a skin condition that causes blisters, hair growth, and discoloration), AL amyloidosis (an immune-system disorder that can damage the organs), and Type 2 diabetes. Several forms of cancer are also included: chronic b-cell leukemias, Hodgkin’s disease, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers, and soft-tissue sarcoma. Veterans with connected conditions use VA health care more often To find out how this policy affected VA health care use, the researchers looked at 2013 data on 85,699 Vietnam Veterans. They found that those with one or more diagnoses of a presumptive condition were more likely to have multiple disabilities than those without one of the named conditions. While they were less likely to have a 100 percent disability rating than those with no presumptive condition, they were more likely to have individual unemployability. This means they cannot maintain employment because of service-connected disability. Of those with any presumptive condition, 73 percent had Type 2 diabetes. About 44 percent had ischemic heart disease, and 16 percent had some form of cancer. Looking at health care usage, the researchers found that 35 percent of those with a presumptive condition had five or more primary care visits in fiscal year 2013. Only about 15 percent of those without a presumptive condition had this many visits. Forty-five percent of the presumptive condition group had five or more specialty care visits, compared with 15 percent of those without presumptive conditions. Of the presumptive-condition patients, 37 percent had at least one mental health visit, compared with 16 percent for those without any of the conditions. In other terms, those with presumptive conditions were more than twice as likely as those without the conditions to be frequent users of primary and specialty care in the VA health care system. They were also more likely to visit emergency rooms than the other group. The study shows that Agent Orange legislation has been effective, write the researchers, at lowering “the threshold for accessing [Veterans Benefits Administration] and [Veterans Health Administration] benefits for Vietnam Veterans who may have been exposed to dioxin.” The findings highlight the importance of presumptive service connection in serving Veterans, they conclude. The results may also indicate that Vietnam Veterans with these service-connected conditions are more likely than those without these conditions to choose VA for their care. Dr. Dennis Fried, corresponding author on the paper, summed up the importance of the results: “In our era of increased Veteran choice with regard to health care delivery sites and greater integration of VHA and community care, these findings support the importance of VHA provision of services for conditions possibly related to military service.” For more information on Agent Orange exposure, visit VA’s Agent Orange website. To learn more about VA research concerning Vietnam Veterans, visit www.research.va.gov/topics/vietnam.cfm. Read original article at https://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/49751/agent-orange-presumption-policy-leads-higher-va-health-care-use/

Seeking Referrals or Prior Authorizations for Specialty Care with TRICARE
Posted on July 16, 2018

At some point, you may need specialty care that your primary care manager (PCM) or general physician can’t provide. He or she may refer you to a specialty provider, like a cardiologist, dermatologist or obstetrician. Under some TRICARE programs, you may need a referral or prior authorization from your PCM to seek care from a specialty provider. A referral is when your PCM or provider sends you to another provider for care. You may also need pre-approval, or prior authorization, for coverage of certain care.

Three Common Ways Your Social Security Payment Can Grow After Retirement
Posted on July 11, 2018

You made the choice and now you are happily retired. You filed online for your Social Security benefits. They arrive each month in the correct amount exactly as expected. But, did you ever wonder if your Social Security check could increase? Once you begin receiving benefits, there are three common ways benefit checks can increase: a cost of living adjustment (COLA); additional work; or an adjustment at full retirement age if you received reduced benefits and exceeded the earnings limit. The COLA is the most commonly known increase for Social Security payments.

Keep your DEERS information up to date
Posted on July 10, 2018

Other Social Media Recommended Content: TRICARE Health Program FALLS CHURCH, Va. – Do you or your family member expect to experience a Qualifying Life Event (QLE), including planning to move this summer? If so, you’ll need to update your information in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). To remain eligible for TRICARE coverage, you must keep your information current in DEERS. DEERS is a computerized database of active duty and retired service members, their family members and others who are eligible for TRICARE.

Years in the making: How the risk for Alzheimer’s disease can be reduced
Posted on July 9, 2018

From forgetting names to repeating questions, or having trouble remembering a recent event, growing older presents some challenges for an aging mind. But these symptoms can be an indication of something much more serious: Alzheimer’s disease. Army Maj. Abraham Sabersky, a staff neurosurgeon at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, said Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and the sixth leading cause of death for Americans. “The health of our service members and veterans is the paramount mission of the Military Health System,” said Sabersky.

Commissary savings remain at mandated levels
Posted on July 9, 2018

 FORT LEE, Va. – Commissary savings remain at more than 23 percent, according to price comparisons of fiscal 2016 and 2017 sales. “When you do the math, the value of the commissary benefit continues to add up for our patrons when compared to commercial retailers outside the gate,” said retired Rear Adm. Robert J. Bianchi, the interim director and CEO of the Defense Commissary Agency.

Are you ready for the next crisis? Commissaries offer savings on emergency supplies
Posted on July 5, 2018

 By Kevin L. Robinson, DeCA public affairs specialist May 24, 2018 Service members and their families in Puerto Rico don’t need a primer on using their commissary benefit to purchase emergency supplies. After being hit by two hurricanes, Irma and Maria, in the space of two weeks last September, they can write the book on disaster preparation. “From Sept.

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