"That's an additional $470,000 that your Veterans Affairs office has helped obtain in one year!!!!"
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State of Affairs


After a lenghty hiatus, we're putting out our first email in nearly six months. The office has been extremely busy and we continue to work around the clock to work on what matters most to you: your benefits!

On a personal note, Neal would like to thank all of the veterans who've shared their concerns about his well-being. He works tirelessly to ensure your paperwork is completed on time and that we're submitting the best possible claim for each of you. He has assured us that his work will continue until, for whatever reason, he can't do it anymore, regardless of our admonishments.

VA Might Add More Presumptive Illnesses

by Tom Philpott

By August of this year, many more thousands of Vietnam War veterans, those suffering from bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinson’s-like symptoms and even high blood pressure, could learn they will be eligible for Veterans Affairs health benefits and disability compensation.

Or perhaps not.

Difficult months of study lie ahead for a working group of senior scientists and health experts that VA Secretary Bob McDonald convened last week, following release of a 10th and final biennial review of evidence of health problems linked to Agent Orange and other herbicide exposures.

Every review in the series, going back two decades, has been conducted, as Congress mandated, by the Institute of Medicine, a division of the National Academies of Sciences. Its latest review, Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2014, takes into account medical and scientific literature published from Oct. 1, 2012, through Sept. 30, 2014.

The IOM concludes that the research supports changing the strength of association to herbicide exposure for several ailments. For bladder cancer and hypothyroidism, it found “limited or suggestive” evidence of an association, an upgrade from previous “inadequate or insufficient” evidence.

This latest review looked again at scientific literature on cardiovascular conditions and herbicides. The IOM didn’t upgrade, but it did affirm limited and suggestive evidence that hypertension may be linked to herbicides.

This review also considered whether conditions resulting in Parkinson’s-like symptoms, apart from Parkinson’s disease itself, should fall into the same limited or suggestive category of evidence. Yes, it should, the IOM concluded, finding “no rational basis” for the current exclusion.

For only the second time, the IOM withdrew an earlier finding of that herbicide exposure may have caused an ailment, in this case spina bifida in children born to Vietnam veterans. For 20 years, VA has used a preliminary finding of an association to grant children benefits. The IOM says it no longer believes the evidence merits retaining spina bifida in that category.

On March 9, the same day the IOM briefed senior VA officials on its report, McDonald ordered the VA working group convene to review not only the 1,100-page IOM report, but original studies IOM refers to as well as any peer reviews on ailments and herbicides completed since October 2014, which would be research the IOM had considered in its final review.

Dr. Ralph Loren Erickson, chief consultant of post deployment health services for the Veterans Health Administration, is co-chair of the working group. He said the plan is to review carefully all of the studies and the IOM recommendations and then prepare “a response document” to be distributed “throughout our senior leadership, with suggestions and recommendations for action,” before presenting to McDonald for final decisions.

“No question when the (IOM) moves something to a higher category, you can bet we will look even more closely at those particular diseases,” Erickson said. “It certainly is not within my purview to make any statement at this point as to how the secretary will decide. In the past, there have been things in this (limited or suggestive evidence) category that have become presumptions and there are things in this category that have not.”

The IOM says “limited or suggestive” means the epidemiological evidence indicates there could be a link between herbicide exposure and increased risk for a health effect. For some ailments, including ischemic heart disease, past VA secretaries use “limited or suggestive evidence” to add diseases to the presumptive list. Yet for others, including hypertension, that same category hasn’t been viewed as enough.

Among provisions of the Agent Orange law Congress allowed to sunset last year was a requirement that the VA secretary take action on IOM recommendations within 60 days. Erickson said the working group hopes to give McDonald what he needs to make decisions on the IOM by late July.

“We feel that if we can move at a pace that gets this all taken care of within about four months, we’re be doing well,” he said.

It would be far longer before any veterans or survivors see more or higher disability pay, however. VA rulemaking after a decision to add diseases to the presumptive list involves writing and publishing proposed regulations, collecting and reacting to public comments, and then publishing final regulations, a process that could take more than a year with added delay possible from the change in administrations to occur in January.

Whatever decisions McDonald makes on the IOM recommendations will be “rooted in science” and “evidenced based,” said Erickson.

But doesn’t VA also take account of size of the population impacted? For example, hypertension afflicts two-thirds of Americans age 65 and older.

It is true, Erickson said, that Vietnam veterans have moved into their 60s, 70s and 80s and many have chronic diseases of older age.

“Hypertension is one of them,” he said. “And so teasing those things out – (to decide) is it related to this veteran’s age (or) to their being in Vietnam where they were exposed to Agent Orange – sometimes can be difficult.”

Does it finally come down to a judgment call?

“Well, a judgment call based on the evidence,” Erickson said. “The secretary has made it very clear, certainly to me and to others who work on these types of technical working groups, he wants to know what does the science show? What does the evidence show?”

The final decision will be based on “whether the preponderance of the evidence will support a proposal of the new presumption,” Erickson said.

If McDonald does accept IOM recommendations, this review would be the first in six years to result in one or more diseases being added to list of ailments VA presumes are linked to herbicide exposure.

The eligible population would be any veteran who can show they stepped foot in Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, including on ships in Vietnam’s inland waterways, also veterans who served in or near the Korean demilitarized zone any time from April 1, 1968, to Aug 31, 1971.

Bremer County Veterans Benefits


Each year, the Department of Veterans Affairs compiles a report, the Geographic Distribution of Expenditures (GDX), that lets counties know, across the United States, the level of benefits that are coming into their counties. The information is public and if you're curious about other counties, years or anything else, you can find the reports HERE.

This year has been no different than previous however, the numbers this year reflect the increase of benefits from your CURRENT Veterans Affairs staff. But enough already, let's see what your Veterans Affairs staff is doing for you!

To begin, our veteran population has seen a steady decline since 2006. This is common throughout the State of Iowa except in urban areas like Des Moines and Iowa City who've seen a steady increase since reporting began. From 2014 to 2015, we went from 1,743 veterans to 1,700 veterans. But, while our veteran population decreases, we continue to see a large increase in the benefits that they're receiving!!!
Total benefits for Bremer County veterans equate to $7,622,474 which is a 6.55% increase from the previous reporting year where it stood at $7,153,563. To be clear, that's an additional $470,000 that your Veterans Affairs office has helped obtain in one year!!!! We'll take it!
These monies include compensation & pension, education, medical care, and insurance & indemnities and reflect both direct payments to veterans and indirect payments on behalf of the veteran. 

What this also tells us is that our office is still growing from before claims for benefits were commonly developed and general assistance was the primary purpose of our office. Things have changed significantly since Nancy Edwards took the helm and it would appear she passed the baton to a staff that's more than capable of assisting every Bremer County veteran and their dependents.

Iowa Works Announces Two August Job Fairs


Due to the closing of Terex in Waverly, Iowa Workforce Development has announced two job fairs for the month of August. We expect these events to continue throughout the summer and fall as the nearly 200 displaced workers are again employed.

On Thursday, August 11th from 0900 to 1100, Iowa Works Cedar Valley is hosting a hiring event at UNI-CUE. The event will involve employers with current job openings. For more information, you may contact Iowa Works Cedar Valley at (319) 235-2123.

On Tuesday, August 23rd from 1100 to 1500, Iowa Works Cedar Valley is hosting another hiring event at the Waverly Civic Center. Also available at this event is their new construction simulator if you're interested in changing vocations and want to get a feel for the job before jumping into it.

Both of these events are free and open to the public.

What We're Doing for You


Each month, we provide a report to the Bremer County Commission on Veterans Affairs with information on how busy the office is, issues we've run into and other items like upcoming events and training. Since the Commission is responsible for the oversight of the Veterans Affairs office, it's imperative that they understand the usage that Bremer County veterans are getting out of the office. With this information, they can advise the Board of Supervisors on salaries and budgets. This is also important information when a veteran or their dependent has difficulty making an appointment or leaving a message for the staff.

In the FY 2016 year, the Veterans Affairs staff made 4,420 contacts with Bremer County Veterans. A contact consists of office visits, home visits, telephone calls, faxes, incoming and outgoing mail, text messages, and emails. When there were two Veteran Service Officers on staff, we only made 3,076 contacts which would suggest that having support staff has significantly increased your access to our staff.

Also in the FY 2016 year, we made 216 new contacts or veterans that have never before been seen in our office. That is 54 more than when there were two full-time Veteran Service Officers on board. We attribute this to our additional support staff and the massive amount of outreach to nursing homes and contacting the families of deceased veterans. New this year will be our outreach to the Bremer County Jail to ensure those charged with a crime have the benefits they've earned.
Also of significance, the Director, in 2016, has had 28 more office visits than when there was an Administrator AND an Assistant Administrator in 2014. Neal, like his predecessor, sees veterans on weekends and evenings but has had a significant number of veterans utilizing these services. He's stayed busy with the 505 veterans who've come through our office and we're continually trying to find more time to see more veterans. Considering we complete fully-developed claims in contrast to most other county Veterans Affairs offices, we're pretty happy with that number!

For a complete report on our office usage for FY 2016 or previous years, email the staff of Bremer County Veterans Affairs and we'll be happy to supply it.

Revibe Event Supports Veterans


On September 17, Revibe, Waverly's first Christian music festival, will hold it's annual fundraising event for a local charity. This year, Revibe has chosen Rally Point Cedar Valley Veterans and it's veteran's shelter, LZ Phoenix, to raise funds for our Cedar Valley's homeless veterans.

However, this year, they're doing something new by way of it's first 5K run / walk on September 17th, where 100% of the proceeds will benefit the shelter. Registration for the run / walk is nearing it's deadline though and all registrations must be received by August 31, 2016.

If you're interested in running and / or walking to support your local veteran's transitional and homeless shelter, please consider registering for this event.
Register Now!

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Take Me To It

August


August 8: VJ (Victory over Japan) Day

August 9: BCVA Commission Meeting, 3:00 pm in the Annex Board Room

August 11: IWD Hiring Event, UNI-CUE, Waterloo

August 15: 2016 Iowa State Fair Veterans Day

August 16: Veteran Roundtable with Senator Joni Ernst, Waterloo, IA

August 18: Military Retiree Appreciation Event, Altoona, IA

August 22: Veterans in Agriculture and Entrepreneurship Conference, Ames, IA

August 23: IWD Hiring Fair, Waverly

August 23: Veteran Roundtable with Senator Joni Ernst, Ottumwa, IA

August 24: Board of Supervisors Department Update (Open to the Public)

August 29: Marine Forces Reserve Birthday

August 30: U.S. Service Academies Open House, Des Moines, IA
 

September


September 5: Labor Day

September 11: Patriot Day

September 13: BCVA Commission Meeting, 3:00 pm in the Annex Board Room

September 16: POW/MIA Recognition Day

September 18: Air Force Birthday

September 25: Gold Star Mother's and Family's Day

September 29 - October 2: The Wall That Heals, Urbandale, IA

Beyond

October 8: WAVP Grand Opening

October 11: BCVA Commission Meeting, 3:00 pm in the Annex Board Room

October 13: Navy Birthday

October 19 - 21: IDVA Fall School

November 10: Marine Corps Birthday

November 11: Veterans Day

January 18: Veterans Day on the Hill

May 5: Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day

Common Claims Questions


Each newsletter, we ask each of our staff to submit an article for your information and pleasure. Jean's article this month surrounds common questions that relate to ratings, wait times and other general information on your claim. Hopefully, it may answer of few of your questions regarding the claims process.

Q: Why do some veterans receive a higher rating than others who appear to have the same disability?

A: Ratings may vary due to the severity of your condition. For example, Parkinson's Disease is considered presumptive for Agent Orange exposed veterans. This rating can vary widely depending on the progress of the disease. A veteran, able to live at home and care for their own needs, will usually have a lower rating than someone in a care facility, unable to care for themselves. As any condition progresses, the veteran can apply for an increase in the rating percentage.

There may be other conditions that are also rated, in addition to the original, primary disorder. The rating amounts for them can vary widely as well. It is rare that a veteran with the same diagnoses will have the same percentage on the total rating. 

This is why, when we are asked what amount of disability can be expected, there is no great answer.

Q: Why does my claim take so long to come back?

A: There are a couple of ways to file a claim. A fully developed claim can result in a reasonably quick rating vs. a standard claim. A fully developed claim is submitted when you, with the assistance of Bremer County Veterans Affairs, request and submit all of the supporting evidence with your forms. A standard claim is when you request the Veterans Administration requests those documents. The VA will only request those documents from your medical providers two times. So, if they are unable to get them, they will make their decision without that medical evidence. With either claim, supporting evidence needs to be requested which takes time. To expedite the claims process, you are welcome to contact each of your medical providers and request the information. However, in such cases, the medical providers may charge you a fee for doing so.

When we begin the process of filing a fully developed claim, which we recommend, we will submit an "Intent to File." This is usually done at the first appointment. This form saves the date of your claim and, potentially, can provide a significant amount of back pay when your claim is finally adjudicated. Also at your first appointment, we will ask for any medical providers that you've seen since getting out of service. The reason we go back so far is in the event that we find other service connected conditions that you may not even be aware of. For obvious reasons, it is often a slow process to get the medical records and it may take more than one request. We may also contact your provider to request very detailed information about a possible service connected condition. If your claim has been denied in the past, we may also request your C-file (claims file) from the Veterans Administration so that we can see how, specifically, they came to their previous decision.

After a careful review (literally reading every word) of all records, the formal submittal packet is assembled and sent for rating to the service organization you have chosen. We have, from the date of the intent to file, one year to assemble the packet. We will also send you a complete copy of the claim to you, the veteran.

Q: What can I do to help speed up the process?

A: With either type of claim, there will be long waits that will seem like nothing is being done. Unfortunately, the most difficult thing a veteran will need to do is wait. There will be periodic mailings sent from the Veterans Administration. We recommend that you read them immediately and give us a call. If there is something the VA is requesting, we will provide that information. We may ask that you drop the letter off for us to review however, most of the time, we can answer your questions when you call. It's extremely important for you to not only read the VA's letters but also retain it. We've found that a certain degree of redundancy is necessary.

If we've requested records from the National Archives or from the VA, those records may be sent to you directly. We will be waiting for these and it is important that you bring them in as soon as you receive them. These records will not come quickly and there is no expeditious service when it comes to these records.

Above all else, we want each of you to know that we will do our very best to assist your claims process. We also want you to feel free to call us at any time with questions!!!
Bremer County Sheriff's Office: Dispatch

The Bremer County Sheriff’s Office is accepting applications for the position dispatcher. All applicants must meet the minimum hiring standards that are available on their website below. Application may be picked up at the Bremer County Sheriff’s Office at 111 4th Street N.E., Waverly, Iowa 50677 or print online by visiting website: www.bremercountysheriff.org. All completed applications and resume must be returned to the Bremer County Sheriff’s Office by August 26, 2016 or until filled. Bremer County is an EOE.
 

The Bremer County Highway Department is seeking applicants to fill a Bridge Crew Laborer position. Applicants should have some knowledge of road maintenance and operating construction equipment. Successful applicant must possess a valid CDL with air brake certification. Position is subject to DOT drug testing. Applications and job description are available at the Bremer County Highway Department, 1995 Euclid Ave, Waverly. Phone 319-352-4302. Applications will be accepted until August 12th or position is filled. Bremer County is an equal opportunity employer.

See more jobs that employers are specifically requesting veteran applicants:
Don't forget, if you would like individual employment counseling, you may call James Galanits with Iowa Workforce Development at (319) 235-2123 or Terry Scheffert with the AMVETS CODE Career Center at (319) 231-0232. 

DOL Occupational Outlook Handbook


Looking for a new job? Curious if you're currently being compensated at least as well as your peers? Thinking about moving and haven't a clue about how much you'll make in another community or state?

Look no further than the Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook. This handy online tool will provide you with a massive amount of information on a job you're currently doing or one that you've considered moving into. It will even tell you what to expect for salary when moving to a new area or simply asking for a raise at your current employer.
Check it Out!

Veteran Service Organization Online Magazines

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