Burn Pits

Burn Pits
10/23/2013

It seems that every war or conflict has its own set of “health issues” for veterans. For the Korean Conflict, it was frost bite. For Vietnam there are 16 presumptive illnesses from exposure to Agent Orange. For those that served in Iraq and Afghanistan its respiratory illnesses due to exposure to airborne hazards from burn pits.
Burn pits are big holes where every conceivable type of waste was piled high and burned slowly. Plastics, batteries, appliances, medicine, dead animals, even human body parts and waste were doused with jet fuel and burned. Huge black plumes of smoke rose from the piles and releasing toxins into the air and water supply. Breathing dust, fumes, and other toxic substances from burn pits, exposed troops, contractors, and civilians deployed overseas to serious health hazards. Some of the chemicals were very toxic carcinogens and are deadly.
At US Senate hearings it was revealed that the toxic carcinogen, Sodium Dichromate, was spread across the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant near Basra, Iraq, exposing both soldiers and civilian contractors. An exposure to this chemical may produce: Chronic health effects, Lung and throat cancer, blisters and deep ulcers, damage to the septum, skin allergy, Asthma-like allergy, and kidney damage.
Thousands of returning veterans that were otherwise in perfect health before being stationed near a burn pit are now attributing various symptoms – leukemia, brain tumors, cancers, respiratory problems and even ALS to exposure to burn pits.
While the Department of Veterans Affairs currently does not acknowledge burn pit exposure illnesses for compensation yet, their website states “Veterans who were closer to burn pit smoke or exposed from longer periods may be at greater risk.” It goes on to state “Toxins in burn pit smoke may affect the skin, eyes, respiratory and cardiovascular systems, gastrointestinal and internal organs.” The Department of Veterans Affairs is in the process of establishing the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry that will allow OEF/OIF/ON and 1990-1991 Gulf War Veterans to document their exposures and report health concerns.
If you served during the Gulf War or anytime in Iraq and Afghanistan and suffer from health issues like the ones mentioned in this article, please contact my office or another Veteran Service Officer to get help. Our office is located at 135 N. Schuyler Ave, Kankakee or call at 815-937-8489.

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Agent Orange Exposure Benefits

VIETNAM VETERANS
By Michael Roof
9/23/2013
Starting in February 1961, United States military personnel began to ascend upon Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, between 1962 and 1971, the United States military sprayed nearly 20,000,000 US gallons of material containing chemical herbicides and defoliants mixed with jet fuel in Vietnam, eastern Laos and parts of Cambodia, as part of Operation Ranch Hand. By 1971, 12 percent of the total area of South Vietnam had been sprayed with defoliating chemicals, at an average concentration of 13 times the recommended USDA application rate for domestic use. The primary goal was to defoliate forested and rural land, depriving guerrillas of cover.
The devastating effects did not end with the vegetation in Vietnam. An estimated 2.4 million American service members were exposed in one way or another. This came in many forms including being sprayed overhead by helicopters or jets to drinking water from exposed streams and waterways.
In 1991, Congress enacted the Agent Orange Act. This legislation empowered the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to declare certain health issues “presumptive” to exposure to Agent Orange/herbicides and enable Vietnam veterans, along with some veterans who served along the demilitarized zone in Korea in the last 1960s, to receive treatment and compensation for these health conditions.

Below is the list of the Agent Orange “presumptives”.

AL Amyloidosis
Chronic B-cell Leukemias
Chloracne (or similar acneform disease)
Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
Hodgkin’s Disease
Ischemic Heart Disease
Multiple Myeloma
Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
Parkinson’s Disease
Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-Onset
Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
Prostate Cancer
Respiratory Cancers (includes lung cancer)
Soft Tissue Sarcomas (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma)

I am still startled by the number of Vietnam veterans that do not know about what is available to them.
If you served in Vietnam and have one or more of the above “presumptives”, you may be eligible for free healthcare and/or monthly compensation. Please contact our office for help in filing a claim at 815-937-8489.

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Register for VA Healthcare!

When someone enlists into the military, future healthcare is probably not one of the main reasons for joining. Many veterans believe that several years after serving they can just walk into a VA hospital and get healthcare. This is simply not true.

For basic eligibility, if you served in the active military service and were separated under any condition other than dishonorable, you may qualify for VA health care benefits. Current and former members of the Reserves or National Guard who were called to active duty by a federal order and completed the full period for which they were called or ordered to active duty may be eligible for VA health benefits as well. Combat Veterans who were discharged or released from active service on or after January 28, 2003, are eligible to enroll in the VA health care system for 5 years from the date of discharge or release.

When a veteran enrolls in VA healthcare, the VA considers a variety of factors when determining a Veterans’ eligibility for enrollment, but once a Veteran is enrolled, that Veteran remains enrolled in the VA health care system and maintains access to certain VA health benefits. The VA has priority groups set up account to the veterans status.

VA Healthcare is not always 100% free for all veterans. One of the main variables considered is a veteran’s annual income. If a single veteran has an annual income of $36,600 or below he/she is eligible. The allowable income guideline goes up approximately $4,000 per dependent. The veteran may or may not have copays or prescriptions costs. If a veteran has a service connected disability, then annual income is not a factor.

There are many variables that determine if a veteran is eligible for VA Healthcare. The best advice is to stop by the office and REGISTER FOR VA HEALTHCARE. After registration, the VA will mail a packet out informing the veteran of his/her priority group status.

Even if you are not eligible, it helps the thousands of veterans by letting the VA know how many veterans are in our county. With a more accurate number of veterans, we could get access to more services.

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VA Pension Poachers

Have you ever gone on vacation and been approached to attend a “free lunch” to hear about purchasing yearly housing opportunities in that location? Veterans and their surviving spouses are being approached in a very similar way.

In a 2007 report, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority found issues with 110 securities firms that presented free lunch seminars. Most of the time they are sale presentations, despite the fact majority were advertised as “educational.”

The report went on to state that 50 percent of these meetings featured misleading advertising; 23 percent involved possibly unsuitable recommendations; and 13 percent appeared to be fraudulent.

Across the U.S., financial advisors are hosting seminars in local nursing homes and assisted living facilities in hopes to get a big commission check. The advisors claim they can “help” the senior receive a VA benefit known as Aid & Attendance all for FREE.

The Aid & Attendance benefit is for certain veterans who served during wartime and their spouses. In qualifying for the benefit, a veteran’s assets are considered. Generally, those with assets more than $80,000 are excluded. Deceitful advisors often shape the presentation into “educating” seniors who are too well off to qualify and how to reposition their assets using an annuity in an irrevocable trust in order to meet the benefits threshold.

The Aid & Attendance benefit was not designed to assist wealthy or even moderately wealthy retirees. The issue is that seniors could jeopardize their chance to qualify for Medicaid if their finances and health deteriorates. In Illinois, Medicaid requires applicants to provide an overview of their assets over a five year period. Purchasing an annuity would be categorized as a nonexempt transfer, and would preclude the veteran or surviving spouse from qualifying for Medicaid benefits.

Back to the issue of “FREE” help. VA regulations do not allow someone to charge to complete the paperwork for VA benefits. I have heard locally that some advisors are telling seniors that they have a local attorney that will set up the irrevocable trust for only $2,000. The advisors also tell the senior that the do not charge for their help, but do not disclose they get paid from the purchase of the annuity. According to an AARP report on investment fraud, a $500,000 annuity sale could generate a $75,000 commission.

The Aid & Attendance benefit is to assist those veterans who do not have the financial resources to cover their medical or in-home health care needs. If you are looking for help in applying for or appealing a decision on the A&A benefit, avoid people who start talking about annuities and trusts instead of looking at your real income and expenses and assets to see if you legitimately qualify.

U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Richard Burr have introduced a bill in Congress called the “Veterans Pension Protection Act”. The bill will create a 36 month look back of financials for all VA benefits to hopefully stop these pension poachers.

The VA has asked if you are approached by any organization to report them to the VA Office of General Counsel at 708-202-2216.

Here are some organizations that have been found locally to be aware of: Wartime Veterans of America, Vets LLC.

If there is ever a question regarding entitlement to VA benefits, I can be reached at 815-937-8489.

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GET HELP ASAP!

A great veteran was gunned down this weekend. Chris Kyle, a former Navy SEAL described as the most prolific sniper in American military history, was gunned down by suspect Eddie Ray Routh. Routh, a 25 year old Iraq veteran, is described as apparently suffering from mental problems related to his military service, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

This is not just about the loss of Kyle, but the need of veterans everywhere to get help ASAP! With the wars winding down and service members returning home, many are coming home after facing deadly fire fights, death of comrades and are unable to process their tranistion. The Veterans Administration reported last week that 22 veterans committ suicide a week back in 2010.

Employers accross the nation are watching the lingering effects of war on veterans in their community and are hesitant to hire one. Fear of a veteran with PTSD creating havoc in the workplace has pushed the number of unemployed veterans up.

If you know a veteran that is alone, suffering mental issues or just needs a friend, don’t hesitate to get involved and create change for him/her. Get them connected to the VA healthcare system and get them help NOW!

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Struggling in life?

From time to time, we all need something to help us cope with life. I listen to music or workout. Some people read a book, call a friend or engage in a hobbie. Some veterans struggle utilizing good coping skills when dealing with life situations.

Help is just a click away with a new website from the U.S. Veterans Administration and the U.S. Department of Defense. According to their website “Moving Forward is a free, on-line educational and life coaching program that teaches Problem Solving skills to help you to better handle life’s challenges.” The website is not just for service members, but anyone looking for help in life.

Users can benefit from relxation techniques, brain games/quizzes and the library of videos. Do not travel on this journey alone. Visit http://www.startmovingforward.org and get help now!

@movingforward @veteranshealth

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Keeping track of your DD214!

I have been amazed by the number of veterans that have come into the office and  provide a pristine original discharge paper (DD214).   Those DD214s were  sealed and only brought out of the safe for special occasions.   More often, service men and women walk into the office having lost their discharge papers or they were distroyed in a house fire.  If you follow these simple tips, you will ALWAYS have a copy of your DD214 close by.

If you do not have a copy of your DD214

Option 1 – Come into the VAC Office located at 135 N. Schuyler Ave, Kankakee.  It just takes a couple minutes to fill out a form and we will have your papers back within 3 weeks.

Option 2 – Go to http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/ and request your DD214 on your own.  You can request it through an online request or print the form and have it mailed to your house.

Once you have your DD214

Step 1 – Go to the Kankakee County Recorder’s Office located at 189 E. Court St, Kankakee to have it recorded.  Once it is recorded, it will be on file forever.  It will NOT be seen by the public and the only people to get copies are the veteran and staff of the VAC.  Go to www.k3countyrecorder.com  to learn more about the recorders office.

Step 2 – Come to the VAC and allow us to scan it into our system.  That allows us to create an electronic file that includes your military service.

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