Newsletters


March 3, 2021:  For residents impacted by recent winter weather ice storm: How to Apply for FEMA Assistance

If your home, vehicle or other property was impacted by the recent ice storm, then you can apply for disaster assistance in Gillespie County.  

The web address to apply is www.disasterassistance.gov / or call 1-800-621-3362 (6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. CT, 7 days a week) or

to report damages is www.damage.tdem.texas.gov 

Please review the attached "Disaster Assistance Flow Chart":  This will help inform individuals in declared counties on the ways to apply for FEMA assistance, and will inform individuals in non-declared counties on the way to submit their disaster damages to TDEM so that data can continue to be reported to FEMA.  

-What I Need to Know About Individual Disaster Assistance - FEMA.gov pdf 

-FEMA Individual Assistance Information 

-Individuals and Households Program Information 

  1.  If you have a diagnosis of one of these 3 medical conditions AND you meet the criteria of: on-ground in Vietnam, brown waters of Vietnam, Blue Water - within 12 nautical miles off the coast of Vietnam, Korea DMZ, C-123 aircraft, Thailand base w/ exposure on the perimeter of the bases or handled Agent Orange somewhere in the world - contact my office.  
  2. What is needed for this claim:
    a.  Proof of the above: Diagnosis with medical records AND military record proof of where you were stationed and what your job was.
    b.  Let us know if you have previously filed a VA disability claim for one of the 3 conditions, and hopefully provide a copy of the denial letter.  Veterans can be paid retroactive monies back to 25 Sep 1985 based on the Nehmer Court Decision.
  3. Once we have the evidence required for the claim, we will file the claim and we WILL NOT wait on the VA to dictate when to start sending claims.  
December 2020:  Court Decision Blue Water Navy Agent Orange Claims for Veterans and Survivors  The U. S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled in favor of Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans and their Survivors on 5 Nov 2020. 
What does this mean for Veterans and their Surviving Spouses:
- Did a Veteran serve in the territorial waters of the Republic of Vietnam (within 12 nautical miles off the coast) between 9 Jan 1962 to 7 May 1975?
- Does the Veteran have a diagnosed Presumptive Agent Orange Disability?  See below list.
- Did the Veteran or Surviving Spouse file a disability claim with an effective date of 25 Sep 1985 or later for a Presumptive Agent Orange Disability that was denied by the VA?  Or did the Surviving Spouse file a DIC (Dependency Indemnity Compensation-For a Service Connected Veteran death) claim that was denied by the VA?

If the answer is yes to all of the questions above, please contact our office and we will tell you what you must provide and gather for a potential claim. 
December 2020:  The U.S. Army will be reviewing the cases of thousands of former soldiers who were separated from the service after Oct. 7, 2001, with less-than-honorable discharges and potentially upgrade their service paperwork to read “honorable,” under a settlement agreement filed this week in U.S. District Court in Connecticut.  
The agreement, which requires a judge’s approval, could result in thousands of veterans gaining access to full Department of Veterans Affairs benefits, which they were previously not guaranteed because of minor misconduct while in uniform. 
The settlement requires the Army to send individual notices to veterans who were denied discharge upgrades from Oct. 7, 2001, to April 16, 2011 despite evidence that veterans were struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury or military sexual trauma when they separated from the military. These veterans will be given information about what to include in their applications for upgrades and how the process works. 
The lawsuit alleged that the Army Discharge Review Board had systematically failed to follow guidance set by then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in 2014 that required the service to consider mental health conditions when veterans request that their discharge status be upgraded.  As many as 50,000 to 100,000 additional former soldiers may be eligible for upgrade reviews as members of the class-action suit. 
This is the link to the Army Review Board: https://arba.army.pentagon.mil/
November 2020: Personnel Records Center Temporarily Halts Operations effective 20 Nov 2020: The National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, has been closed to the public since March and is now temporarily shutting down most of its remaining operations because of increased COVID-19 spread in the area.  
There is no prediction for when full operations might resume. “The NPRC will be operating at various degrees of reduced on-site capacity until the public health emergency has ended,” the center says in a statement.
The records center said it does not have much choice in the partial shutdown. The facility “is located in an area which has one of the highest per capita rates of confirmed COVID-19 cases in St. Louis County,” a records center statement says.
“It employs nearly 1,000 federal employees and contractors from multiple agencies, working in densely populated office space. Cubicles are in close proximity to each other; work processes require frequent, close interactions with coworkers; and the servicing of most requests requires access to over 60 million paper records that are stored on-site and unable to be accessed remotely.”
November 2020:  It is now OPEN SEASON for TWO Retired Military Health programs:   OPEN SEASON Monday Nov 9 - Saturday Dec 14, 2020
 
 1.  TRICARE: 
       a.  If you are age 65 or older using Medicare and Tricare for Life - DO NOTHING
       b.  If you are currently enrolled in TRICARE PRIME:  if you want to continue Tricare Prime - DO NOTHING.
             If you want to cancel Tricare Prime and enroll in Tricare Select, they you must do this during OPEN SEASON.
       c.  If you are currently enrolled in Tricare Select, you must sign up for it, and establish a payment method.  This enrollment period may be extended due to mass confusion about the program. 
 
 2.  Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP)
      a.  Sign up for Dental or Vision Insurance Plans.

If you miss the open season you have to wait until the next calendar year open season to make changes or enroll in program, unless you have a Qualifying Life Event (marriage, death, divorce, birth of child, etc). 
    ** Click below to view the documents for how to sign up. **

1.  MILITARY RETIREE TRICARE OPEN SEASON

2.  TRICARE SELECT ENROLLMENT INFO

 

November 2020:  The Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers is now accepting applications.  This is a VA HEALTH PROGRAM, not a VA Benefits program. 

Overview of the program:
  1.  Program was originally for GWOT Veterans who had severe injuries.
  2.  Expansion now includes Veterans who served from 7 Dec 1941-7 May 1975 (WWII-Vietnam)
  3. Veterans must have a Service Connected Disability of 70% overall or higher
  4. Veteran must need assistance with Activities of Daily Living (one or more): Dressing, Bathing, Grooming, Adjusting prosthetic/orthopedic appliance, Toileting, Feeding, mobility (walking, going up stairs, transferring from bed to chair), and other requirements. 
  5. Potential Monthly stipend average: Veteran needing less assistance $1,751.10; Veteran needing more assistance $2,803.00 plus additional benefits for caregiver (health insurance, training, etc.)  
  6. Veteran MUST BE ENROLLED IN VA HEALTH CARE and actively receiving care from a VA Primary Care Team.
If you need assistance completing the application (faxed or online), please contact our office.  Once your application is submitted to VAMC Audie Murphy you will be working directly with the Family Caregiver staff and not with the Veterans Service Office.  We do not have access to your VA Health information, only disability information.  

1.  Handout

2.  Information Booklet 

3.  Eligibility Criteria Fact Sheet 

4.  Application Process Fact Sheet 

5.  Application VA Form 10-10 CG 

6.  Request for and Authorization to Release Health Info VA Form 10-5345 

November 2020:  Veterans Day 2020 is on Wednesday, Nov. 11th, 2020. This Veterans Day discounts list will continue to be updated as we learn of more nationally available Veterans Day discounts, meals or other ways businesses and organizations want to give back to Veterans. These Veterans Day discounts, free meals and other programs are being shared so that Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors are aware of all resources available to them. Due to COVID-19, some organizations are now offering discounts to Veterans all the time instead of their regular Veterans Day discounts. These adjustments help Veterans take advantage of the discounts offered while avoiding the usual Veterans Day crowds. A new section at the bottom of this story will list all the year-round Veterans discounts.   https://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/80347/veterans-day-2020-discounts/

October 2020:  Helping Veteran Business with Promotional Videos Free of Charge: Please see the attached flyer and share if you know of a Veteran owned business that would like FREE assistance with promotional videos. 

click here for information 

August 2020:  USAA giving $30M to help military families To support the military community and help mitigate the pandemic's impacts, USAA is donating $30 million to two dozen nonprofit organizations to offer relief and support. The Military Family Relief Initiative will help military aid organizations provide zero-interest loans and emergency grants to eligible service members, guardsmen, reservists and their families. The funding also will enhance veteran and spouse employment prospects and military family support efforts. This includes augmenting child-care costs for essential personnel; supporting virtual delivery of education, including online resources and content for parents; and emotional support for children.  Our goal is for this contribution to give military aid organizations a lasting benefit.  As interest-free loans are repaid, the funds can help new recipients well into the future. To Apply if you think your family would benefit from financial support via the military aid societies, visit:  https://www.usaa.com/inet/wc/coronavirus-info-usaa-members?TXID=EM:TX1:S4ID9QRCSS&emlink=cta1&akredirect=true
August 2020:  A recent change on how the VA is able to update your address if you use your VA.gov account:   When you change the address and other contact information in your VA.gov profile, it updates across these VA benefits and services: 
  • VA health care (including prescriptions, appointment reminders, lab and test results, and communications from your VA medical center)
  • Disability compensation
  • Pension benefits
  • Claims and appeals
  • Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E)
       https://www.va.gov/
You can sign in with your DS Logon, My HealtheVet, or ID.me account. If you don't have an account, you can create one now.
You must still contact directly the following VA departments to change your address: 
Education benefits:  call us at 888-442-4551 
For home loan benefits:  call us at 877-827-3702   
Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI):  call (VAIC) at 800-669-8477
CHAMPVA:  call us at 800-733-8387
Foreign Medical Program: call us at 877-345-8159
 

August 2020:  Information from Connecting Vets: As veterans and VA staff report USPS prescription delays, officials say to order early:  The vast majority of Department of Veterans Affairs prescriptions are fulfilled by mail. But as U.S. Postal Service delays mount, more and more veterans are reporting long wait times to receive critical medication and VA staff says the problem is only growing. 
In fiscal year 2016, VA's mail-order pharmacy processed nearly 120 million outpatient prescriptions and VA provides about 80% of all its outpatient prescriptions to veterans by mail using seven "highly automated pharmacies," according to the department. The other 20% are filled at local VA medical facilities.   
VA's mail-order pharmacy system, the Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy (CMOP), processes nearly half a million prescriptions daily and each working day, more than 330,000 veterans receive a package of prescriptions in the mail. Veterans who live further from VA medical facilities, especially in rural and remote areas of the country, often depend on mail-order prescriptions. 
VA's website says prescriptions "usually arrive within three to five days" of being ordered or even an average of "60 hours from filling to delivery," and advises veterans to request refills at least 10 days in advance of running out. That estimate appeared consistent with the normal wait times veterans described to Connecting Vets, and some vets said they have yet to see significant delays. 
But in recent weeks, dozens of veterans said they faced wait times that have doubled, tripled or worse. Some reported wait times as long as three weeks or more for prescriptions that previously took a few days. None of them have been contacted by VA with an explanation, they said. 
Others said they saw delays in delivery of medical equipment, in addition to medications. 
A VA pharmacy chief described the USPS delays for prescriptions as "critical breaks in veterans' therapy," adding, "we are swamped with patient complaints over delivery delays." 
VA's online My HealtheVet tool allows veterans to track their mail-order prescriptions. For some veterans who spoke to Connecting Vets, their medications have been sitting at post office locations for nearly two weeks with no movement.   
USPS is now headed by a new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, who took over on June 15. DeJoy, issued a memo during his first month leading USPS which mentioned the Post Office's continued financial struggles and announced new policies, including that the Post Office would now accept delayed mail to save costs. 
"One aspect of these changes that may be difficult for employees is that — temporarily — we may see mail left behind or mail on the workroom floor or docks (in Processing and Distribution Centers), which is not typical," the memo reads, adding that USPS should avoid overtime payments caused by "late and extra trips." 
The memo, first reported by The Washington Post, directed employees to leave mail behind at distribution centers if it would delay carriers on their routes. USPS warned customers months before DeJoy took over that the coronavirus pandemic could cause mail delays. USPS is one of the country's largest veteran employers. 
Veterans and VA staff told Connecting Vets they did not begin seeing delays in mail-order prescriptions until July. 

Disabled Veterans eligible for free National Park Service Lifetime Access Pass:  Veterans who have been medically determined to have a disability are eligible for the Lifetime Access Pass—with three options for obtaining the pass:

First, Veterans with disability documentation can order the Access Pass onlinefor a $10 processing fee which includes standard shipping. Documentation required includes:

  • Proof of residency
  • VA disability award letter, VA summary of benefits, or proof of SSDI income

Second, the Interagency Access Pass may be obtained through the mail. Download a paper application from https://store.usgs.gov/access-pass. Follow the instructions on the website and pay the document processing fee of $10.  Once the application package is received by USGS, the documentation will be verified and a pass imprinted with the pass owner’s name will be mailed to the applicant.

Passes ordered online or through the mail will be delivered 3 to 4 weeks after receipt of documentation and processing payment.

A third option is for disabled Veterans to visit a participating federal recreation sitewhere interagency passes are issued, present photo identification (e.g., Driver’s license, State ID, birth certificate, Passport, or permanent resident card), provide documentation of permanent disability, or read and sign a Statement of Permanent Disability affidavit. That’s It. The Pass is free and issued at the time of entry.


Key Messages on the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2109 (Pl116-23) Agent Orange Claims:   This is the latest release from the VA about the new Blue Water Navy rules starting on 1 Jan 2020.  Yes they will have people working on 1 Jan to start processing the claims that are already in the stack.  A couple of things to take note of that are not real clear in the attached message/talking points.   
• The veteran or surviving spouse MUST file a claim for exposure to herbicide toxins. They must list the current diagnosis, the ship they were on and when they were on it, to include the location if they know, and where they have or are receiving treatment for the claimed condition(s) 
• The dates for the Korea DMZ have been extended, all of the other current rules still apply the VA just extend the dates of exposure 
• The only thing the VA did for veterans in Thailand is add the condition of spina Bifida for their children if they meet all of the current requirements for tactical herbicide exposure at/on/or near the fence line in Thailand Airbases. 
• Waco RO will be one of the six national ROs that will get extra training and people to handle the development, rating, and promulgation of these claims 
If you believe you meet the criteria for a Blue Water Navy claim or you know of a Surviving Spouse that was denied DIC for a service connected death, please call for an appointment so we can direct you as to what you need to bring us for documentation.  

click here for information


October 2019: VA shares electronic health records:  Veterans will not have to fill out paperwork to share health information:  VA Health Care will be sharing your VA medical electronic records with participating community care providers using the Veterans Health Information Exchange.  You may have received this letter from the VA informing you of this change.  If you want to opt out then you must submit VA Form 10-10164 anytime after 10/01/2019.  If you change your mind at any time you can make the change to opt in or opt out.   This is the link to the form:   https://www.va.gov/vaforms/medical/pdf/Updated%2010-10164%20(003).pdf
This is the link to the VA Press Release dated 10/01/2019:  https://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/66706/va-shares-electronic-health-records/


September 2019:  On-Base Shopping Eligibility Expands January 1:  Beginning in the new year more than 3 million service-connected disabled veterans with VA ratings from zero to 90 percent will be authorized on-base exchange and commissary shopping privileges, as well as access to certain MWR facilities, but you must have a VA-issued Veteran Health Identification Card, or VHIC, to gain access. The VHIC is issued only to veterans who are enrolled in the VA health care system. You can apply online, or in person at your local VA medical facility. Family members of the newly eligible veterans will not be authorized to shop, but will be permitted on-base as guests of the VHIC-carrying veteran. Veterans who do not reside near a military installation can still shop online at the four military exchanges. Search for stores at ShopMyExchange, Marine Corps Exchange, Navy Exchange, and Coast Guard Exchange. Caregivers will be processed differently, initially, since they have no military or VA affiliation. The VA will post a memo to VA.gov for caregivers to be used for access at the front gate, along with a driver’s license. This process is expected to transition to a caregiver-type ID card, which will have scanning swipe capability. One hundred percent disabled veterans, their spouses, and eligible dependents already have access because they are issued military identification cards.

September 2019:  South Texas Veterans Health Care System is going smoke-free on October 1, 2019.  South Texas Veterans Health Care System will become smoke-free beginning October 1 as part of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) commitment to a smoke-free health care environment for patients, visitors, volunteers, vendors and employees.  
Smoking will no longer be permitted at the Audie L. Murphy and Kerrville Campuses, all Outpatient and Community Based Outpatient Clinics.  This new policy applies to all cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and any other combustion of tobacco and non-Federal Drug Administration approved electronic nicotine delivery systems including e-cigarettes, vape pens, or e-cigars.
“Although VA has historically permitted smoking in designated areas, creating a smoke-free healthy healing environment is one of the best things we can do for our patients and employees,” said Christopher Sandles, Medical Center Director/CEO.  “Implementation of this policy will help improve the health and overall quality of life for our patients and employees,” said Sandles.
South Texas Veterans Health Care System offers smoking cessation services for employees and Veterans interested in quitting smoking by contacting the Smoking/Tobacco Use Cessation at (210) 617-5300 ext. 16765.  They may also visit the following link for smoke free resources at www.smokefree.gov

January 2019:  Blue Water Navy Veterans Court Decision - Urgent to Submit Intent to File:  Blue Water Veterans must have actually stepped foot on the land of Vietnam or served on its inland waterways anytime between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975 to be presumed to have been exposed to herbicides when claiming service-connection for diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure.  Some offshore vessels docked to the shore of Vietnam, operated in Vietnam's close coastal waters and sent smaller vessels ashore, or conducted operations on the inland waterways of Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975. Evidence confirmed through military records must show that the Veteran was aboard one of these ships.  Blue Water Veterans who did not set foot in Vietnam or serve aboard ships that operated on the inland waterways of Vietnam anytime between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975 must show on a factual basis that they were exposed to herbicides during military service in order to receive disability compensation for diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure.

1. Review the attached list of Agent Orange Disabilities.  If you have been DIAGNOSED with one or more disabilities, continue to the next steps. 
2. Fill out the Blue Water Navy Worksheet.
3. Fill out the attached VA form 21-22 and VA form 21-0966 
(this will lock in your effective date). 
4. Call 830-997-3758 for an appointment to fax in the above 2 documents and be given DBQ's (Disability Benefits Questionnaires) for your private Physician to complete.  
5. To save your effective date in January, documents must be faxed in January OR if approved for the disability you will lose a month's pay if it is received Feb 1 or after.  
6. You will then be scheduled an appointment (when you have the physician documents completed) to process your formal claim.  


JANUARY 2018:  Veteran ID Cards - Link is now available on Vets.gov 

Click here for information brochure. 

This website was first available in Nov 2017 and the system crashed because so many Veterans were applying.   Requesting an ID Card is not mandatory, but may be useful to have a Veterans ID to obtain Veteran discounts (especially if you are not Retired Military or do not have a VA Health ID Card).  
Once you log in at:   https://www.vets.gov/
·        You have to apply online, 
·        you do not go into a VA facility to get one, 
·        it is mailed to you once you apply on line, 
·        it does not cost you anything.  
On bottom of page click on:  "Apply for printed Veteran ID Card"
Before you start to apply make sure you have photos in your computer of:
 1. Current Driver License
 2. Current Photo of yourself - passport photo size
 3. Photo of your DD-214 that specifies "Honorable Discharge"


NOVEMBER 2017:  National Purple Heart Hall of Honor

The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is requesting that all Veterans who were awarded the Purple Heart Medal to sign up for the Roll of Honor Data Base.  It is free of charge.  This is for living and deceased Veterans.   Visit www.thepurpleheart.com for more information.     Click here for the application.


 

MARCH 2017:  Hill Country Mental Health Centers Offer Programs:  "WE Serve Those Who Served US in The Military Forces"   

Click here for Information Brochure.

We provide services for treatment for PTSD, TBI, and Depression.  We offer Confidential, No Cost support for our Veterans and their Families. We have resources to help the Veterans and their families understand the issues that Veterans face each day. We have Peer to Peer supportive services and refer to assistance with filing claims for VA benefits. We also provide services for Veterans in rehabilitation and Health care Facilities as a visitor and a listening ear. We are NOT affiliated with the VA.  Fore more information, contact Hill Country MHDD ~ Hattie Piper ~ Veteran Support Coordinator for Kerr, Gillespie, and Kendall Counties Office via Phone (830) 258-5433 ext. 2029 or Cell - (830) 285-1922 or email: hpiper@hillcountry.org.  


 

JANUARY 2017:  New VA Disability Presumptives for Camp Lejeune Contaminated Water / Submit Claims Now.

Click here for press release.

To clarify:  This affects the water sources of Camp Lejeune which includes MCAS New River, satellite camps and base housing areas.  
1.  If you served there during the dates specified, you need to find proof that you served there for 30 days or more of CUMULATIVE days of active duty (5 days, 10 days, 15 days or continuous 30 days).  Find copies of orders, training certificates, award citations, etc.  Put a copy of the PROOF in your file with my office.   This may require ordering your service records from the National Archives.
2.  If you have a diagnosis of one of the 8 disabilities listed, then the above info applies (find proof of service) and then contact me for an appointment so that I can give you the appropriate (DBQ) Disability Benefits Questionnaire for your physician to complete with supporting private treatment records.  
3.  This will also apply for Surviving Spouses whose Veteran Spouse died from one of the 8 disabilities.  This would be considered a service connected death and the Surviving Spouse may qualify for DIC.  
4.  Applications can be submitted now, and the effective date for claims will be 13 March 2017.  


 

SEPTEMBER 2016:  VA Plan of Expanded Disability Benefits Eligibility Re: Proposed presumptive disabilities for Veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC for at least 30 days during 1 Aug 1953 to 31 Dec 1987.

** Click HERE for Press Release Information reference proposed presumptive disabilities from Camp Lejeune contaminated water - this will be for active duty, reserves, National Guard and Surviving Spouses. **  You need proof:  DD-214, orders, evaluations, award narratives, etc.   We have been advised that we can start submitting the claims now.  The law will be effective in October/November time frame.

A reminder for Veterans of all branches of service who were stationed or trained at Camp Lejeune, NC: 
a.)  You should sign up for the Camp Lejeune Contaminated Registry. 
The website is:  https://clnr.hqi.usmc.mil/clwater/home.aspx?aspxerrorpath=/clwater/index.aspx
b.)  VA Website for Veteran info:
http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/camp-Lejeune/
c.)  Current study with proposed Presumptive SC disabilities:
http://iom.nationalacademies.org/Reports/2015/VA-Clinical-Guidance.aspx
d.)  VA website for family members who lived on base:
https://www.clfamilymembers.fsc.va.gov/  
e.)  For more information about the health studies and other work done by ATSDR at Camp Lejeune, please visit (http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/sites/lejeune/index.html).


 
JULY 2016:    New online VA health care application. If you decide to apply online, please give Tami King, Gillespie County VSO, feedback as to how long it takes and if you have any problems.  830.997.3758 office.

Providing health care to our Nation’s Veterans is a vital service of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), one that we must persistently improve.  Through the MyVA transformation, VA is rebuilding trust with Veterans and the American people; modernizing service delivery; and setting the course for long-term, VA excellence, all while continuing to expand access to high-quality care.  Through our improvement efforts, we reviewed many of the steps Veterans must take to receive health care and found that enhancements were necessary in the initial application to better the Veteran experience by removing barriers that hinder access.

Beginning June 30, 2016, Veterans applying for health care will be directed to the health care application on
www.vets.gov.  Veterans and other stakeholders will still have access to VA Form 10-10EZ, which was originally available through the Veterans On-line Application; however, going forward, those applying for health care eligibility will use the online application or call 877-222-VETS (8387).  

Please take a moment to review the new
online form, and, as of June 30, 2016, begin referring Veterans interested in applying for health care eligibility to the new site. 

To learn more about applying for health benefits, please visit VA’s Health Benefits
webpage.


Gillespie County
Veterans Service Office
95 Frederick Rd Suite 200
Fredericksburg, Texas 78624

Telephone: (830) 997-3758
Fax: (830) 997-3245