The Moore County Veterans Service Office provides up to date information during this period of stay at home orders for veterans in Moore County. (see their current guidelines below).
Massage therapist Mary Alice Farina of Farina Integrated Therapy and Chiropractor Dr. Scott Stroker of Burleigh-Stroker Chiropractic talk about their disciplines and their essential vs non-essential state decreed work orders. They also both give some valuable tips to patients and clients who are staying at home as they work thru their day to day issues.
What’s new with the VA and our veterans during the pandemic.
Moore County Veterans Service Office:
The County has taken many steps to protect staff and their families as well as the public who may be visiting the offices. As part of this mandate, the Moore County’s Veterans Service Office is operating with a skeleton crew. All non-essential programs and activities have been postponed and staff are being encouraged to work from home and to stay home.
Jim Pedersen, Director of the Moore County Veterans Service Office, gave an update on what’s happening at the VA during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said many services are still available through the local office: • Information and status updates: Veterans who have questions about an existing claim can call 910-947-3257 to speak to a Veterans Service Officer for information and status updates. If the phone does not answer, leave a message and calls will be returned. • Some appointments are being done by telephone. For those who require a face-to-face visit, appointments are being scheduled into May. • Veterans who are having trouble accessing basic necessities during the crisis can call for a referral to the appropriate community resource to help them with that need. • Assistance with completing the Department of Motor Vehicles veterans license plate form is available by phone. Veterans need to provide proof of disability rating. • Because the office is operating with a bare-bones skeleton crew, they ask for your patience. Every attempt will be made to answer calls within 48 hours. What’s closed: • The Regional Office is not validating Property Tax Exemption forms for veterans who are 100% permanently and totally disabled. The county office can assist veterans with completing the forms and will hold them until the regional office begins processing them again. • The National Archives is not accepting any non-emergency requests for DD-214 discharge documents. Online Options:
The VA has expanded virtual services to assist veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic. • The Moore County Veterans Service office is updating their Facebook page with pertinent information at least weekly. Find them on Facebook at Moore County Department of Veterans Services.
- The answers to many questions are available by contacting the appropriate VA department directly. A Google search for the department needed is the fastest way to get the contact information to call directly. • Answers to many benefits questions are available at www.benefits.va.gov. • Veterans can use the VA’s My Health-e-vet (Pronounced My Healthy Vet) secure message system at www.myhealth.va.gov, to order prescription refills, message their physician, make and cancel appointments. They can also speak directly to individual departments like the prosthetics lab where they can apply for a HISA (pronounced Hissa) grant for bathroom and other upgrades to accommodate their physical disabilities. • At www.ebenefits.va.gov (pronounced E Benefits) veterans are able to manage their disability claim, add or remove dependents, apply for VA Healthcare, education benefits, pension benefits and other VA services. Emergency services: • The Veterans Service Office cannot provide emergency medical help or referrals for medical emergencies. For medical emergencies, veterans should call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room or VA Hospital emergency room and follow their instructions for accessing care. • The Veterans Suicide Hotline is operating 24/7 to help veterans who are having thoughts of suicide. The hotline number is 1-800-273-8255 and select option 1 Or they may call 911 for local assistance. New claims: • Veterans who wish to file a new claim can still reserve the earliest possible date for their claim by calling 1-800-827-1000 and asking to create an Intent To File. The intent to file stays open for one year. If the veteran does file a claim, the intent to file preserves the earliest possible date for payments to begin if the claim is decided in the veteran’s favor. If the veteran does not file within the year, the intent to file simply runs out. VA Compensation and Pension (C&P) Exams:
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Veterans Benefits Administration has discontinued face-to-face exams which are used to decide disability claims. They will continue to complete as many examinations as possible using virtual means that do not involve a face-to-face examination. • For some disabilities, in-person examinations are required and cannot be completed through an alternate method. For example, if a veteran is being examined for a back condition, they will still have to visit an examiner at a later date to complete a range-of-motion test. • C&P examinations can also be completed using a process called Acceptable Clinical Evidence (ACE), whereby a medical provider reviews the evidence of
record and determines that the evidence is sufficient to decide the claim without an additional examination. Sometimes a telephone conference with the veteran is required for clarification or to answer questions. • A third way of completing C&P examinations is through video or tele-C&P examinations. Tele-C&P examinations are suitable for the completion of some exams, most commonly for mental health conditions. Tele-C&P examinations enable the Veteran to remain in his or her home and teleconference with the medical provider so the provider can see and speak to the Veteran. Changes to Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs) • For many years, both Veterans Health Administration (VHA) clinicians and VBA contract vendors have conducted C&P examinations using Disability Benefits Questionnaires, commonly known as DBQs. Disability Benefits Questionnaires, are standardized forms used by clinicians when performing disability examinations to ensure the clinician performing the exam captures and records all the information needed by VBA claims processors to make a decision on a Veteran’s claim. • The VA has discontinued making DBQs available for public use. What does this mean? Previously, veterans could have a private health care practitioner complete the DBQ form and could submit the completed form to the VA for a decision. However the VA now only accepts DBQs from Veterans Health Administration and VA Contracted clinicians. • The removal of public-facing DBQs is a permanent change, not just one mandated by the COVID-19 guidelines. Why are DBQs no longer available for public use? • The VA has modernized and is updating their disability requirements. The formal process to update any public form is at least a year, which means veterans could submit an outdated form from a private doctor and then be required to complete a VA C&P exam anyway. • The VA has increased their capacity to conduct C&P exams in more places than just traditional VA Medical Centers and Outpatient Clinics. The contracted clinicians can provide wider coverage, especially in rural areas, in federal and state prison facilities and in 33 countries overseas where the Veterans Health Administration does not have a presence. Fraud • The third reason the VA has discontinued the use of public DBQ forms is to prevent fraud. In the past few years, the VA has seen growing industry of individuals and companies marketing the service of completing DBQs for Veterans. Some have provided honest, valuable service, however, many of these companies are engaged in questionable or fraudulent practices. This includes
charging high prices for completing DBQs or submitting DBQs with findings that are vastly different than the other evidence in the Veteran’s claims folder. These companies are often not accredited by the VA and therefore, the Office of the Inspector General for the VA has no authority over them. • It is a requirement that DBQs submitted by a private provider must be based on an exam conducted in person. VA’s Office of the Inspector General recently issued an audit report about providers who were completing DBQs for Veterans remotely and recommended that VA revisit its practice of making public-facing DBQs available. • Veterans with PTSD claims are often targeted by these fraudulent companies. In many cases, companies are conducting mental health examinations by i phone, which does not allow them to see the veterans entire body. Viewing the veteran’s body in order to check for verbal clues or body language is one of the requirements examiners must meet when doing DBQ exams for mental health. • Now that the VA has expanded its network of contracted clinicians and examiners, it will make it easier for veterans who live in rural areas or overseas to access a contracted claims examiner. • Veterans who have claims underway through the county office will see no change in the claims process due to this new regulation. They will continue to receive exam appointments as the VA requires them for their claim.
The Moore County Veterans Service Office encourages veterans to guard against fraud during the pandemic. Veterans who have questions about whether or not something they hear or receive in the mail is fraudulent are urged to call the county office at 910-947-3257.