Veteran Challenges Within the VA System

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Veterans, whether in-active, active, in reserve, or other supporting role encounter day-to-day challenges combined with various human and diverse cultural interactions. Furthermore, veterans endure sacrifices through distance voyages, long-term family separations, endurance, and commitments such that others may enjoy or benefit from freedoms those veterans serve and protect. In addition when combining roles of veterans with other responsible positions develops high-esteemed candidates for any responsible organization. In essence veterans create high rankings for protecting individual freedoms, which unfortunately become unrecognized by Daniels or managers of Veteran Administration officials.

For instance, General Eric Shinseki performed meritorious service throughout his career path. Furthermore, wounded in Vietnam combat to becoming the Army’s Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinseki was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal. In addition General Eric Shinseki became recognized by the Honorable President Barack Obama, who appointed General Eric Shinseki as Secretary of Veteran Affairs. In essence General Eric Shinseki became recognized for his service, commitment, and due diligence within his command structure. As stated by the Department of Veteran Affairs (2009), “Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, he led the Army during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom and integrated the pursuit of the Global War on Terrorism with Army Transformation, successfully enabling the Army to continue to transform while at war.” GiBill.Va.Gov

Similarly, Honorable Senator John McCain endured numerous challenges from his military career to continued Congressional representative persistence. While volunteering for military service during the Vietnam War crises, Senator John McCain encountered dangerous missions including many low-flying bombing raids from carrier-based operations. Unfortunately, low-flying bombing raids have risks and Senator John McCain’s plane was shot down resulting in various injuries. In any event, Senator John McCain through perseverance and determination survived the crash including prisoner of war activity. As stated by Biography.com (2008), “He broke both arms and one leg during the ensuing crash. McCain was moved to Hoa Loa prison, nicknamed the “Hanoi Hilton,” on December 9, 1969.”

Additionally, other veterans such as Harold Samberg, gave enormous sacrifices such that others can appreciate or enjoy the liberties, which exist today. For instance, Samberg being a WWII veteran and prisoner of war endured many challenges under occupied Nazi Germany. As quoted by Samberg (2008), “Everybody did what they had to do.” In essence Samberg understood sacrifice and what Samberg was fighting for. As stated by Weber (2008), “Last Wednesday, U.S. troops in Afghanistan flew an American flag in honor of Samberg. He is expected to receive the flag sometime next week.” Hence Samberg as other veterans rank high enough resulting from sacrifices during time of service understood the commitment required for freedom to flourish.

Furthermore, as veterans such as me and others endured sacrifices committing 24/7 service toward peace and freedom, veterans such as I received honorable discharges and other medals for recognition toward such sacrificed service. In essence veterans rank high enough through preferences for committing sacrificed service. As stated by Mason (2009):

In speaking of the flag he encouraged people to remember that the white stripes represent purity of purpose; the red stripes courage and our willingness to die if necessary for American ideals; and the blue represents the tranquility upon which our states are united “to hold intact all that is truly ours.

In addition as stated by Brook (2003), “A 20-year military veteran, Staff Sgt. Philip Collins, 49, was days away from retirement when he got the call to active duty.” In essence Staff Sgt. Philip Collins understood sacrifice as other veterans understand sacrifice through respective and courage’s meritorious service. GiBill.Va.Gov

On the other hand, honorable veterans, who understand sacrifice, seek positions within the Veteran Administrations (VA), high-ranking employees inside the VA seek outside assistance for fixing GI bill payment disasters; high-ranking VA employees steal from homeless veterans; high-ranking VA employees require same veteran applicants applying for same position multiple times; high-ranking VA employees collect bonuses as veterans await benefit payments; high-ranking VA employees position files ready for shredding even as veterans are suffering. In essence high-ranking employees within the VA create incomprehensible and insulting decisions to qualified and honorable veterans. Furthermore, as stated by Whittington (2009) and reflecting upon Sotomayor comments, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” Similarly, I would hope that a high-ranking VA employee, who has not lived that life, would recognize a German, Jew, and veteran with cultural experiences toward assisting other veterans and developing or creating a wise decision.

For instance, honorable and high-ranking veterans apply for positions within the VA organization, who desire toward making a difference using individual veteran training and aligned experiences. In addition when using veteran experiences, veterans can relate toward other veterans through similar experiences exposed throughout military service. Unfortunately, when veterans such as I or others apply toward positions within the VA, veterans such as I receive insults such as “not ranking high enough or “decisions not made,” whereas high-ranking VA employees collect bonuses for delayed decisions. In other words, as stated by Daniel, “most positions require multiple applications for the same position.” Hence, delayed or multiple applications create VA bonuses or a beggar’s society whilst veterans are exhausting respective lifelines. As stated by Ure (2009), “While hundreds of thousands of disability claims lay backlogged at the Department of Veterans Affairs, thousands of technology employees at the department received $24 million in bonuses.” As additionally stated by Gerson (1990), “…on the inadequate systems to care for homeless people [and! take a hard look at why people beg.” In essence and as Michael Moore revealed, can delayed payments or delayed hiring practices guide high-ranking VA employees receiving bonuses for relevant actions? Furthermore, can delayed hiring practices or multiple submittals contribute toward a veteran’s homeless society? As additionally stated by Scott (2009), “It is illogical to put a cap on VA funding when it is impossible to put a cap on the number of those wounded and injured in service to their country.” Similarly, placing a cap on hiring veterans currently at 30% seems unsound when veterans provide 100% service toward protecting America’s freedom.

Nonetheless, as honorable veterans attempt toward securing a VA position, other high-ranking VA workers manage stealing from homeless veterans. For instance, veterans stand downs are for veterans providing veterans with uplift and encouragement, which will add spirit toward veteran’s personality. Unfortunately, as homeless veterans seek desired goods, high-ranking VA employees find means toward reclaiming such goods. As stated by Scott (2009), “How can a VA employee believe that something donated to a homeless veteran belongs to them?” Unfortunately, as stated by Scott (2009), “..staff will be provided amnesty if merchandise is returned voluntarily…” In essence high-ranking and confiscated-goods employees receive amnesty as capable and honorable veterans receive homelessness.

Nevertheless, as honorable veterans endeavor toward securing a VA position, high-ranking VA employees focus toward retirement, collecting bonuses, or positioning files ready for shredding as veterans are suffering or awaiting benefits. For instance, individuals such as I seek basic information from individual records. Unfortunately, when requesting information, response of “We have been unable to locate the record needed to answer your request” occurs. In essence high-ranking employees cannot locate basic records for implied low-ranking veterans. As stated by Scott (2009), “A letter, apparently from a VBA employee, telling a widow that other employees have hidden files necessary to her late husband’s claim… and, then, it appears VAOIG is investigating the widow!” In other words, if a screening process is in place toward hiring high-ranking employees, then calamities of various incidences would not take place. On the other hand, if attempts toward hiring only a 30% veteran workforce, then misalignments will take place. As further stated by Scott (2009), “…brazenly admits that VA employees deliberately removed medical records from her late husband Robert’s file.” In essence lost paperwork can result in lost payments. Similarly, un-written answers toward hiring questions can result in implied low-ranking candidates. As stated by Maze (2009), “A new report about Veterans Affairs Department employees squirreling away tens of thousands of unopened letters related to benefits claims is sparking fresh concerns that veterans and their survivors are being cheated out of money.” Hence high-ranking VA employees deny veteran’s benefits and create shredding exercises for honorable and sacrificed veterans.

Nonetheless, as capable and honorable veterans seek positions and growth within the Veterans Administration assisting with various claims and decision processes, high-ranking VA employees seek outside assistance toward VA benefits processing. In other words, delayed hiring techniques create other dilemmas within the Veterans Administration Center. As stated by Scott (2009), “In what can only be called an act of desperation, the VA is now admitting that they can’t process claims for the New G.I. Bill in a timely manner and are seeking outside assistance.” In essence processing G.I. Bill benefits requires outside assistance. Furthermore, denied employment for capable and honorable veterans will delay future processing decisions. As further stated by Scott (2009), “…never once mentioning the tens of thousands of veterans who are not getting their G.I. Bill payments on time.” As additionally stated by a veteran:

Great job Larry! Please keep up the heat on these people. My VA claim was submitted by my school to the VA 10 weeks ago and I have not heard a peep. I had to take out a student loan because of the VA’s ineptness. I was told today by the Atlanta RPO that i have 6 more weeks to wait. As USAFRet said, let them all RESIGN NOW! They have failed the veterans, how many of these guys ever gave a minute for their country in a foreign land or at all? TEAR IT DOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In the meantime, senior management is constructing revised missions, which reduces veteran’s homelessness. In essence achieving veteran homelessness shows appreciation toward a veteran community. As stated by Levine (2009), “‘My name is Shinseki, and I am here to end veteran homelessness,’ VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said Tuesday in a speech to the National Summit on Homeless Veterans.” However, as senior management focuses toward reducing veteran homelessness, management comments of “attempt toward finding three veterans,” “not ranking high enough,” or “requiring multiple applications” creates a path of homeless direction. Furthermore, as stated by Allers, Ph.D. (2009), “Today’s conditions can lead to much worse than begging.” Additionally, as stated by another veteran:

There are some good people that are not vets, but for the most part, they should be hiring veterans with the proper background in the respective field. My local VAMC has 29% veterans. The Milwaukee VAMC has 31%. I would bet that is the same for the rest of the country. If that were scores on a test they both would be flunking!

In conclusion, honorable veterans seek positions within the VA organization using education and experiences, which are relevant toward other veterans. In addition, when veterans helping veterans exists, then relevant experiences can take place. Furthermore, when a desired goal toward reducing veteran homelessness becomes a viable mission, then veterans-helping-veterans becomes a solution. On the other hand, when VA managers create obscured hiring decisions or comments, then various dilemmas as aforementioned will occur. Furthermore, high-ranking employees within the VA would not create mischievous activities or require watchdog organizations from occurring.

References:

Maze, R. (2009). Unopened claims letters hidden at VA offices. HCVets.com. Retrieved November 3, 2009, from website http://www.hcvets.com/SurveillanceAlerts/090304Unopenedclaimshidden.htm.

Scott, L. (2009). VA EMPLOYEES STEAL FROM HOMELESS VETERANS. VA Watchdog.org. Retrieved November 2, 2009, from website http://www.vawatchdog.org/09/nf09/nfoct09/nf101909-1.htm.

Note: Article derived from personal experiences combined with research. Additional references or comments can be obtained via phjohan@hotmail.com

VA Home Loans

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You must have suitable credit, sufficient income, and a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to be eligible for a VA-guaranteed home loan. The home must be for your own personal occupancy. The eligibility requirements to obtain a COE are listed below for Servicemembers and Veterans, spouses, and other eligible beneficiaries. GiBill.Va.Gov

VA home loans can be used to:

  • Buy a home, a condominium unit in a VA-approved project
  • Build a home
  • Simultaneously purchase and improve a home
  • Improve a home by installing energy-related features or making energy efficient improvements
  • Buy a manufactured home and/or lot.

Eligibility Requirements for VA Home Loans

Servicemembers and Veterans

To obtain a COE, you must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable and meet the service requirements below:

Status Qualifying Wartime & Peacetime Periods Qualifying Active Duty Dates Minimum Active Duty Service Requirement
Veteran WWII 9/16/1940 – 7/25/1947 90 total days
Post-WWII 7/26/1947 – 6/26/1950 181 continuous days
Korean War 6/27/1950 – 1/31/1955 90 total days
Post-Korean War 2/1/1955 – 8/4/1964 181 continuous days
Vietnam War 8/5/1964 – 5/7/1975 *For Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam, the beginning date is 2/28/1961 90 total days
Post-Vietnam War 5/8/1975 – 9/7/1980 *The ending date for officers is 10/16/1981 181 continuous days
24-month rule 9/8/1980 – 8/1/1990 *The beginning date for officers is 10/17/1981
  • 24 continuous months, OR
  • The full period (at least 181 days) for which you were called or ordered to active duty
Gulf War 8/2/1990 – Present
  • 24 continuous months, OR
  • The full period (at least 90 days) for which you were called or ordered to active duty
Currently On Active Duty Any Any 90 continuous days
National Guard & Reserve Member Gulf War 8/2/1990 – Present 90 days of active service
  • Six years of service in the Selected Reserve or National Guard, AND
    • Were discharged honorably, OR
    • Were placed on the retired list, OR
    • Were transferred to the Standby Reserve or an element of the Ready Reserve other than the Selected Reserve after service characterized as honorable, OR
    • Continue to serve in the Selected Reserve

*If you do not meet the minimum service requirements, you may still be eligible if you were discharged due to (1) hardship, (2) the convenience of the government, (3) reduction-in-force, (4) certain medical conditions, or (5) a service-connected disability.

Spouses

The spouse of a Veteran can also apply for home loan eligibility under one of the following conditions:

  • Unremarried spouse of a Veteran who died while in service or from a service connected disability, or
  • Spouse of a Servicemember missing in action or a prisoner of war
  • Surviving spouse who remarries on or after attaining age 57, and on or after December 16, 2003
    (Note: a surviving spouse who remarried before December 16, 2003, and on or after attaining age 57, must have applied no later than Dec 15, 2004, to establish home loan eligibility. VA must deny applications from surviving spouses who remarried before December 6, 2003 that are received after December 15, 2004.)
  • Surviving Spouses of certain totally disabled veterans whose disability may not have been the cause of death

Other Eligible Beneficiaries

You may also apply for eligibility if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • Certain U.S. citizens who served in the armed forces of a government allied with the United States in World War II
  • Individuals with service as members in certain organizations, such as Public Health Service officers, cadets at the United States Military, Air Force, or Coast Guard Academy, midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy, officers of National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, merchant seaman with World War II service, and others – GiBill.Va.Gov

Restoration of Entitlement

Veterans can have previously-used entitlement “restored” to purchase another home with a VA loan if:

  • The property purchased with the prior VA loan has been sold and the loan paid in full, or
  • A qualified Veteran-transferee (buyer) agrees to assume the VA loan and substitute his or her entitlement for the same amount of entitlement originally used by the Veteran seller. The entitlement may also be restored one time only if the Veteran has repaid the prior VA loan in full, but has not disposed of the property purchased with the prior VA loan. Remaining entitlement and restoration of entitlement can be requested through the VA Eligibility Center by completing VA Form 26-1880.

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Military Educations Benefits Explained: Post 911 GI Bill and More

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If you are looking to further your education and are attached to the military in any way, make sure you take full advantage of your military education benefits, specifically the GI Bill. Don’t let it go to waste. Here are some of the basics of what you should know about your military education benefits and what they can do for you.

Military education benefits you may be eligible for include:

 

  1. The Post-9/11 GI Bill (New)
  2. The Montgomery GI Bill (Traditional)
  3. The Reserve Education Assistance Program (REAP)

 

What exactly is the GI Bill?

The GI Bill is actually a variety if bills in place to help active military, veterans and their family members pay for a higher level of education. This involves financial assistance for education-related expenses such as tuition, books, supplies and housing allowances.

David Munõz from Colorado Springs, former Senior Airman/E4 of the United States Air Force, has this to say about the Post 9/11 GI Bill that he is currently using to pay for a two  year educational program:

“The Government pays my school directly for my tuition and fees, sends me a $500 stipend every semester for books, and gives me a monthly living allowance based on my zip code. All of this allows me to attend school full-time and focus on studies without having to work a full-time job. It’s working out great for me.”

Top 5 Benefits of the GI Bill

 

  1. The money is totally non-taxable.
  2. It works for a variety of educational program types.
  3. There is usually enough money to cover all educational expenses, and depending on the program, living expenses as well.
  4. With the added funds for living, you may be able to go to school full time and not have to work on the side, allowing you to focus on your studies and finish faster.
  5. It’s good for 10 years after you leave the service and will likely cover your entire educational experience.

 

What can these benefits be used for?

 

  • Vocational or occupational training
  • Technical training
  • Undergraduate degrees
  • Graduate degrees

 

How do I apply for the GI Bill?

You can apply for the GI Bill with the Department of Veterans Affairs by filling out a simple form.

When and how do I use my benefits?

You can begin using your military benefits after two years of service. Although you can use your educational benefits as an active duty service member, it is advised that you wait until after you have completed your service to get the most out of it.

Who do I contact for more information about military education benefits?

 

  • The Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Your commanding officer
  • A financial advisor at your chosen college campus

 

1 – The Post-9/11 GI Bill

The US Department of Veteran Affairs describes the Post-9/11 GI Bill as “financial support for education and housing to individuals with at least 90 days of aggregate service on or after September 11, 2001, or individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days. You must have received an honorable discharge to be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.”

If this applies to you, check out this list of approved training opportunities and find something that fits your lifestyle. Career-focused training programs are a great way to get started.

Approved Training for Post-9/11 GI Bill

 

  • Graduate and undergraduate degrees
  • Vocational, technical trades, or career training
  • On-the-job training, flight training
  • Correspondence training
  • Licensing and national testing programs
  • Tutorial assistance

 

What might be a little confusing is that they also say training and apprenticeships are not covered under this bill, but are due to be added as of October 1, 2011, along with many other benefits covered under the MGI Bill that were left out of the new bill.

2 – The Montgomery GI Bill

The US Department of Veteran Affairs describes the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) as “available for those who enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces. Under Chapter 30, Active Duty members enroll and pay $100 per month for 12 months; and are then entitled to receive a monthly education benefit once they have completed a minimum service obligation. Under Chapter 1606, a reservist must be actively drilling and have a 6-year obligation in the Selected Reserve to be eligible.”

This bill will apply to the majority of military seeking financial assistance for education. It can be used for a variety of educational programs ranging from graduate to vocational studies.

3 – The Reserve Education Assistance Program (REAP)

The US Department of Veterans Affairs explains REAP as a program that “provides educational assistance to members of National Guard and reserve components – Selected Reserve and Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) – who are called or ordered to active duty service in response to a war or national emergency as declared by the President or Congress.” GiBill.Va.Gov

Eligibility depends on active duty served on or after Sept.11, 2001. If you have served at least 90 consecutive days or an accumulated total of three or more years, you may be eligible for these benefits. Eligibility based on continuous service constitutes payments based on the number of continuous days served, while eligibility based on active duty service accumulation of three or more years constitutes the full allowable payment. GiBill.Va.Gov

If you are a reservist in any branch of the military, make sure to look into these benefits and take advantage of what you are eligible for; you won’t regret it.

Approved Training for REAP

 

  • Undergraduate, graduate, or post-graduate courses
  • State licensure and certification courses
  • Courses for a certificate or diploma from business, technical or vocational schools
  • Cooperative training
  • Apprenticeship or on-the-job training
  • Correspondence courses
  • Independent study programs
  • Flight training;
  • Entrepreneurship training
  • Remedial, deficiency, or refresher courses needed to complete a program of study
  • Preparatory courses for tests required or used for admission to an institution of higher learning or graduate school

 

Contact your local College or Technical School to find out how to use your military benefits and get your education today. GiBill.Va.Gov

Sources

 

 

IntelliTec College offers accelerated career training programs in Colorado Springs, Grand Junction and Pueblo. Request more information at: http://www.intelliteccollege.com/requestInfo.php or call 1-800-748-2282.

Dealing with GI Bill Overpayments

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Over the years many veterans have found themselves in a situation in which they owe the VA for an “overpayment” of GI Bill benefits. The number veterans experiencing indebtedness to the VA has increase since the Post-9/11 GI Bill went into effect. There are several situations in which a veteran may find themselves owing the VA for GI Bill overpayments, but the most common cause of indebtedness is veterans changing their enrollment, especially those changes which occur after the school’s drop/add deadline.

The VA says that if you decrease your training time (i.e. drop classes, leave school, etc.) and they have already processed a payment for tuition and fees an overpayment will occur. When the School Certifying Official (SCO) notifies the VA of a change, a debt is created against your account.

The school will issue any refunds in accordance with their internal policy, which may not fully cover the debt with the VA. If the amount refunded by the school does not satisfy the debt, the student is responsible for the remaining balance.

  • If the school refunds money directly to the VA, they will credit your account any amount the school refunds.
  • If the school refunds money directly to the student, the student must clear the debt with the VA.

A decrease in credit hours can also result in changes the students housing allowance and books and supplies stipend. If VA has already issued a payment for the term a debt will be created on veteran’s account.

The VA says that students are responsible for keeping track of their tuition and fee account balance and payments. They recommend that students visit their school’s financial office regularly to review their account, ensure the charges are correct and that payments and refunds are processed correctly. They also recommend that student contact their school’s certifying official to ensure the certification information they send matches their class schedule. GiBill.Va.Gov

Mitigating Circumstances – In some cases the VA is willing to forgive an overpayment due to mitigating circumstances.
According to the VA, if a student drops a course or withdraws from school after the drop period and receives a non punitive grade* the VA will reduce benefits effective the first day of the term unless there are mitigating circumstances.

Mitigating circumstances are circumstances beyond the student’s control that prevent the student from continuing in school or that cause the student to reduce credits. Mitigating circumstances include the following:

  • An illness or injury afflicting the student during the enrollment period.
  • An illness or death in the student’s immediate family.
  • An unavoidable change in the student’s conditions of employment.
  • An unavoidable geographical transfer resulting from the student’s employment.
  • Immediate family or financial obligations beyond the control of the claimant that require him or her to suspend pursuit of the program of education to obtain employment.
  • Discontinuance of the course by the school.
  • Unanticipated active military service, including active duty for training.
  • Unanticipated difficulties with childcare arrangements the student has made for the period during which he or she is attending classes.

When a student terminates or drops classes after the drop period and a non punitive grade is assigned — and mitigating circumstances are an issue — adequate evidence of mitigating circumstances must be provided with the Notice of Change in Student Status. If this evidence is not provided, the VA will not pay for the course or courses in question, leaving the student responsible to pay the school for any remaining tuition and fees.

If the student has already been paid for the course or courses (MGIB payments or Post-9/11 GI Bill Stipends), VA will create an overpayment (subject to the 6-credit hour exclusion described below) from the beginning of the term, quarter, or semester.
For example, the SCO may enter the following: “Student withdrew 5/6/04 following Father’s death on 4/30/04.” Submitting the reason for the reduction or withdrawal at the time the change is reported will help the student avoid or reduce an overpayment if the change is for an acceptable reason. GiBill.Va.Gov

6-Credit Hour Exclusion – VA automatically grants mitigating circumstances for up to 6 credits the first time a student reduces or terminates and mitigating circumstances must be considered. This automatic grant is called the 6-Credit Hour Exclusion.

In any instance of indebtedness to the VA, they recommend that students contact the Debt Management Center once they receive a debt notification from the VA. The Debt Management Center is the authoritative source of debt collection information. Veterans can reach them at 800 827-0648 or e-mail them at dmc.ops@va.gov.

* A non punitive grade is a grade that doesn’t count as earned credit and that doesn’t affect progress standards for graduation. A withdrawal after the drop period is non punitive if it isn’t calculated into the student’s GPA and if it doesn’t otherwise affect academic progress.

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