Medical Legal Partnership MLP Program
The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP) program is a collaboration between the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center, Stetson University Veterans Law Institute, Bay Area Legal Services, and Gulfcoast Legal Services. The program will become available to Veterans enrolled for care with the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System on February 1, 2017.
What is the MLP Program and who is eligible for services?
The MLP program encourages service delivery collaboration between medical and legal practitioners. MLP Attorneys train VA health care teams to screen for legal Veterans’ legal needs. The health care teams then refer Veterans to on-site legal clinics, whose pro bono attorneys provide advice, intervention, and representation. The health and legal teams collaborate to resolve the issue and provide any necessary follow-up services.
The program is designed specifically for Veterans enrolled for care with the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System (some exceptions may apply) who are in need of legal representation/consultation for non-criminal offenses, who may not otherwise be able to afford legal representation, in the following areas:
Social Security Disability Benefits
Assistance obtaining Florida identification cards
Ancillary Elder Law
Family Law matters
Military Discharge Upgrade
Compensation and Pension Support
Services are provided by MLP attorneys at no cost.
Where is the MLP Program office located and when is it open?The MLP Program office is located in building 100, room 1E-241, C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center.
Address: 10000 Bay Pines, Blvd., Bay Pines, FL 33744
The MLP program office is open every Tuesday and Wednesday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
How can Veterans receive services and talk to an MLP attorney?
Veterans can receive MLP services two different ways:
Walk-in during regular office hours (Tuesday and Wednesday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
Make an appointment via telephone by calling 727-398-9592
Who can Veterans contact for questions and additional information?
Veterans can call 727-398-9592 (on or after February 1, 2017), or ask to speak with their Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) social worker.
• C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center
building 100, room 1E-241
10000 Bay Pines, Blvd. Bay Pines, FL 33744
Hours of Operation
• Tuesday and Wednesday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
RECENT CHANGES TO THE VETERANS CHOICE PROGRAM
VA announced a number of changes to make participation in the Veterans Choice Program easier and more convenient for Veterans who need to use it. The move, which streamlines eligibility requirements, follows feedback from Veterans along with organizations working on their behalf.
Under the updated eligibility requirements, a Veteran is eligible for the Veterans Choice Program if he or she is enrolled in the VA health care system and meets at least one of the following criteria:
•Told by his or her local VA medical facility that they will not be able to schedule an appointment for care within 30 days of the date the Veteran’s physician determines he/she needs to be seen or within 30 days of the date the Veteran wishes to be seen if there is no specific date from his or her physician;
•Lives more than 40 miles driving distance from the closest VA medical facility with a full-time primary care physician;
•Needs to travel by air, boat or ferry to the VA medical facility closest to his/her home;
•Faces an unusual or excessive burden in traveling to the closest VA medical facility based on geographic challenges, environmental factors, a medical condition, the nature or simplicity or frequency of the care needed and whether an attendant is needed. Staff at the Veteran’s local VA medical facility will work with him or her to determine if a Veteran is eligible for any of these reasons; or
•Lives in a State or Territory without a full-service VA medical facility which includes: Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire (Note: this excludes New Hampshire Veterans who live within 20 miles of the White River Junction VAMC) and the United States Territories (excluding Puerto Rico, which has a full service VA medical facility).
Veterans seeking to use the Veterans Choice Program or wanting to know more about it, can call1-866-606-8198 to confirm their eligibility and to schedule an appointment. For more details about the Veterans Choice Program and VA’s progress, visit: www.va.gov/opa/choiceact
When Veteran family members need housing for the Bay Pines hospital
When Veteran family members need housing for the Bay Pines hospital to be near their Vet or a Vet needs temporary rooms to make their appointment, contact the Fisher House/Lodgetel. They must live more than 50 miles from the Bay Pines main campus to be eligible.
Where do families stay when visiting their Veterans in the hospital?
Some Veterans spend days, even months recovering from medical problems that put their life on hold. They know that they will be taken care of at the VA, but what if their families want to visit them? Loved ones often drop everything to visit and support their loved in the hospital, putting their lives on hold can strain both emotionally and financially.In 1990, philanthropist Zachary Fisher recognized this need for families visiting their recovering Service members and built the first Fisher House. Today there are 67 Fisher Houses near major military bases and VA hospitals across the country.Fisher House served 25 million families last year.
Bay Pines VA Healthcare System has two types of temporary lodging programs
These programs assist veterans and their families. To be eligible for either program, the veteran and/or family members must live more than 50 miles from the Bay Pines main campus.During regular business hours Bay Pines' Social Work Service screens guests for these programs and makes referrals if eligible. After hours, this is done by the Administrative Officer of the Day (AOD).Our Fisher House is located on the grounds of the Bay Pines main facility and was dedicated on July 1, 2002. It is a home away from home for families of acutely hospitalized veterans. The Fisher House has a kitchen and laundry facilities. Guests must be able to take care of their own personal needs. Guests are responsible for maintaining their own rooms and keeping the common areas clean. There is no maid service.Lodgetel is an off-site program that provides temporary lodging for veterans who have problems with their medical appointments due to distance and time-of-day. The Lodgetel program is a self-care program and there are no clinical services available.
To get more information about the Fisher House or Lodgetel programs, contact Social Work Service at (727) 398-6661, extension 11350.
If you have not entered the VA Medical System, but are a Vietnam Veteran who was in Country with boots on the ground, you need to Mark the top of your VA application with “Vietnam Veteran, Priority 6” with a Black Magic Marker so it can be clearly seen. You are automatically eligible for VA medical benefits if you were there. You should also submit an Agent Orange Medical Exam form, so if they discover you are having any affects from exposure, you will be put on the Agent Orange Registry and are entitled to a disability.
The first thing you must know about using any of the Local, (Diplomat Parkway, Cape Coral) medical and support services or the Bay Pines VA medical services and hospital is that the Veteran has to be registered in the VA System. If you have questions or need help in getting registered contact Post 136 by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with a subject of “For Service Officer”.
Mesothelioma Cancer: The goal is to reach veterans and their families who have been affected by mesothelioma and connect them to our website which offers free veteran specific resources and support. 1/3 of all mesothelioma patients are veterans, since 2004 over 5,000 veterans have died from mesothelioma. The reason this cancer targets so many veterans is because of the prevalence of asbestos use in the military in the past. A large part of our mission is to help spread awareness to veterans and their families. http://www.asbestos.com/veterans/
Vietnam era veterans: This came from a Post 136 member for the members of the Vietnam era. It is not a VA message, which is what I represent, but it is a member’s interest, so I think it is appropriate to pass onto the post. It brings back a lot of tears and a lot of healing at the same time. following link, www.virtualwall.com
Some of the programs being offered at Cape Coral facility are:
- Smoking Cessation (Referral through your VA primary Doctor)
- Weight Loss, (MOVE Program) (Referral through your VA primary Doctor)
- Mental Health (PTSD/Depression/Suicide) – Contact Ryan Wilson MSA Mental Health at 239-651-1800 ext. 21490
- Drug/Alcohol Abuse (Referral through your VA primary Doctor)
Women Veterans full range of reproductive health services (Referral through your VA primary Doctor)
What’s the difference between a VA Claim and a VA Claim Appeal?
Often when I speak with many of you, you will say something like, “I have had a claim pending for 10 years.” Almost always, you have an appeal pending and not a claim. I don’t say this to undermine the frustration you feel from being in an appellate status for so long. But understanding the difference between a claim and an appeal, and using the correct term can help your VA representative know where to look, or advise you when discussing your case.
You submit a claim when seeking VA disability benefits (or increased benefits) for one or more medical conditions you believe are related to military service. These claims can be filed online through e-Benefits, submitted by mail or in person at the nearest VA regional office. The claim submission, the military service and health care records and any other evidence associated with the claim are reviewed in order to provide you a rating determination.
Every claim in VA’s inventory is as distinct as the Service member, Veteran or survivor who filed it. A complex set of laws, regulations and court decisions govern how, and to whom, VA administers benefits. The laws and the process allow Veterans and their survivors ample opportunity – and even assistance – to provide VA the evidence necessary to approve their claims.
Under those laws, VA grants service connection and pays disability compensation (if warranted) for a disability when evidence shows three things: injury or illness in service, a current disability and a link — usually medical evidence — connecting the two. The laws also allow for service connection for conditions caused or aggravated (permanently worsened) by conditions that are already service connected.
Once the decision is made to grant service connection, VA examines the medical evidence and assigns a level of disability under the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities. You are always afforded the benefit of the doubt. This means that if the evidence is weighed equally, 50 percent in your favor and 50 percent against, the claim is granted or the higher of two evaluations is assigned.
You can work with a state, county or Veterans service organization. These accredited service officers can help you sort out the best option for you claim. They cannot charge a fee during the claim process, and they provide guidance that can help identify and obtain the evidence necessary for VA to grant a claim. Remember, there are options for receiving assistance with a claim, so look for someone who files online, provides information about the Fully Developed Claims Program and takes time to answer questions.
What I continue to find interesting is that the accuracy of claim decisions has little bearing on whether we appeal our claims. In fact, regional offices with the highest quality can often have the highest appeal rates. That’s not to say processing errors don’t happen, they do, and VA continues to work to improve claims accuracy. Currently, VBA’s accuracy rate at the issue (or medical contention) level is 96 percent and the percentage of claim decisions being appealed remains in line with historical averages of 10 to 12 percent.
The Appeals Process
The multi-stage appellate process is available to you after you have already received one or more decisions on your claim, but disagree with some aspect of VA’s decision. During the appellate process, an appeal undergoes additional independent reviews, often multiple times and by different adjudicators, as you or your representative submit new evidence and/or a new argument. Nearly 74 percent of appeals are from Veterans who are already receiving VA disability compensation, but are seeking either a higher level of compensation or payment from an earlier effective date.
Once an appeal has been filed, a Veteran may also engage an attorney, but at his or her own expense. Attorneys’ fees are typically taken straight off the top of any retroactive award received from VA.
An appeal is different from a claim. I know firsthand that sending one or the other to VA can seem like the same thing, but understanding the difference and using the right terminology will help VA and your designated representative provide the best information in the quickest amount of time.
There is a perception that a lot of the regional offices’ decisions are appealed to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. This is not accurate. Historically, only 4 percent of all claims the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) decides are appealed to the board. The perception probably comes from the increasing number of pending appeals, but that growth is explained by looking at the math. In the last four years, VBA has completed more claims than ever before in its history. Because VBA has completed so many more claims, the volume of appeals has also increased, even though the rate of appeals of VA decisions has remained steady.
If after receiving a statement of the case (SOC) from the regional office you still are not satisfied with the regional office’s decision, you can file a VA Form 9, Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, within 60 days from the date the SOC is mailed.
Appeals at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals
Once the board receives your appeal, it assigns a docket date based on the date VA received your Form 9. This date is important: under the law, the board must work appeals in docket order. Currently, the median, or middle, docket date of appeals the board is working is July 2014. Some newer appeals can be pushed to the front of the line: those from older Veterans and survivors, those who are terminally-ill or those who have documented financial hardship, etc. It’s important to know that if the board remands (returns) your appeal to the regional office to gather more evidence, you won’t lose your place on the board’s docket.
Just like in the regional offices, several Veterans service organizations are located at the board. If you choose not to have a hearing before the board, your representative will write a legal argument on your behalf. The board will consider that argument when it conducts its own de novo review of your claim. If you choose to have a hearing, your representative will help you explain your case at that hearing. VA will transcribe the hearing and put it in your file. The board can do one of three things: grant your appeal, deny your appeal or send (remand) it back to the regional office for more action.
If you disagree with the board’s decision, you may pursue an appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). If the CAVC denies your appeal, you can appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. If you lose the appeal there, you can petition the U.S. Supreme Court for review. The Supreme Court grants review in very few appeals. Generally, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court review only legal matters in an appeal, not agency decisions.
In my next piece, we will discuss what happens when the board remands your appeal. But in the meantime, I am happy to answer questions about the process at the board in the comments section. Since I don’t work at the board, I have asked a friend who does work there to help me answer your questions. Please remember we cannot answer questions on your specific appeals.
When An Appeal Is Remanded
In my previous three posts, I discussed the difference between a claim and an appeal, the appeals process that occurs at the VA regional office and at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. If you have not read those posts, I suggest that you do, as this post builds upon those.
Just like in the federal court system, where a superior court has the ability to remand — or send back — an appeal to a lower court for another look, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals has the ability to remand a case back to the regional office.
While the Board has the ability to remand, it uses the remand differently than a typical court system. In a typical court system, a higher court usually remands a case when a lower court interprets a law incorrectly. In VA’s circular system, appeals are remanded for many reasons. A remand may be necessary if there has been a change in law, a worsening of a disability on appeal or the Veteran introduces new evidence or theory of entitlement at the Board.
Typically each time one of these things happens, a rule of law called Duty to Assist (DTA) is triggered. DTA is an obligation VA takes very seriously. It means VA has to help you develop your claim. Often, this means scheduling you for another exam, gathering records on your behalf or giving you an opportunity to comment since a law change. About two-thirds of the Board’s remands are for reasons that arose after VBA finished processing the appeal and sent it to the Board.
Appeals are remanded for many reasons…if there has been a change in law, a worsening of a disability on appeal, the Veteran introduces new evidence or theory of entitlement at the Board or if the regional office did not process your claim correctly.
FINANCIAL AID GUIDES FOR VETERANS
Student Financial Aid Guide For Veterans: https://www.moneygeek.com/education/college/resources/financial-aid-guide-for-veterans/
Tax Guide for Military Members & Veterans: https://www.moneygeek.com/financial-planning/resources/guide-to-veterans-taxes/
Military Life Insurance: https://www.moneygeek.com/insurance/life/resources/military-servicemembers-veterans/
The Servicemember’s Guide to Financial Scams: https://www.moneygeek.com/financial-planning/resources/servicemember-guide-to-military-scams/
From Camo to Business Casual: https://www.moneygeek.com/careers/resources/veterans-job-search-guide/
A Guide to Housing Benefits for Veterans: https://www.moneygeek.com/mortgage/resources/veterans-benefits-for-housing-guide/
Small Business Loans for Veterans: https://www.moneygeek.com/business-loans/small-business/veterans/