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Veterans Affair

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US Department of Veterans Affairs OPERATION STATUS UPDATE:

First information regarding services from our Houston Regional Office for Benefits(VBA)(my administration), Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center(VHA), and Houston National Cemetery(NCA).

Veterans Benefits Administration(VBA):

The Houston Regional Office(VBA) remains closed to the public. Veterans can continue to get information about benefits or file a claim for benefits by visiting our website at www.va.gov. Veterans with claims specific or other questions may request information via Inquiry Routing & Information System (IRIS) or telephone at 1-800-827-1000.

We are maintaining all other business operations. Monthly benefit payments will continue uninterrupted. Please check our website for future updates. https://www.benefits.va.gov/houston/

If you have claims related documentation to submit, we encourage you to utilize www.va.gov or fax to 844-531-7818. Claims applications may be searched and downloaded via any internet web browser.

You may request to speak with me directly via the NCC phone number at 1-800-827-1000.

Veterans Health Administration(VHA):

Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center(VHA), has continued providing services to Veterans via Telemedicine Online services and the https://www.myhealth.va.gov Web Portal which allows Veterans to communicate with their providers via secure messaging. They may also order prescription refills through this same portal. In person services are being provided only in the case of Emergencies.

Veterans Crisis Line

Are you a Veteran in crisis or concerned about one?

Connect with the Veterans Crisis Line to reach caring, qualified responders with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Many of them are Veterans themselves.

How to Connect With a Responder;

Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1

Text 838255 

Chat Connect online 

Support for deaf and hard of hearing 1-800-799-4889 

National Cemetery Administration(NCA)

Houston National Cemetery(NCA)

Dear Funeral Directors:

Effective Monday, March 30, 2020, as part of the National Cemetery Administration’s on-going effort to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of our employees conducting interments, NCA national cemeteries will not accept floral arrangements with direct interments.

Families that wish to place a floral arrangement(s) (limit 2) may do so after 4:30 pm on the day of interment or any time thereafter. This change will be in effect until further notice.

We request you share this with the families in advance of your arrival to the national cemetery. We appreciate your patience and understanding in this matter.

We are all feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As you know, the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) has adjusted operations in order to keep people safe and to do our part to stop the spread.

In order to get the word out to Veterans, family members and supporting organizations, NCA produced a video designed to explain how and why we adjusted operations. As you will see, the video shows that we are working harder than ever and our NCA team members continue showing the dedication NCA is known for.

Community Partners and Stakeholders Providing Assistance:

Brazoria County Veteran Service Office:

Our office is still fully up and functioning with the doors closed. So if you get a Brazoria County Vet, let them know. They can call us 979-864-1289 to schedule a telephone appointment to file a full claim or an ITF.

We use a program called Vet Pro which captures signatures on the claim forms remotely from our clients personal smartphones (in the office we use a tablet).

When COVID shut things down around us, I realized we chose the right program last April. It has become very useful right now.

We just switched from face to face appointments to telephone ones.

We are unable to take clients from other counties, so we can only refer them back to their agency.

Sonya T. Broadway 979-864-1289

sonyab@brazoria-county.com <sonyab@brazoria-county.com


Gulf Coast Region Veterans Coordinating Council (GCRVCC)-Veterans Experience Office

The Houston Texas-based Gulf Coast Region Veterans Coordinating Council (GCRVCC) is one of those boards and has served as a CVEB in the state of Texas since its establishment in 2018. The GCRVCC CVEB has established a collaborative partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the Houston Regional Veterans Benefits Office, and of course, our Congressional and Community Veteran Stakeholders.

If you want to learn more about Community Veteran Engagement Boards or Veteran Friendly Community Recognition, visit the VA’s Veteran Friendly Community webpage. Or contact us at Vet-FriendlyCommunities@va.gov.

Eric Montgomery, MBA 210-365-1495

Eric.montgomery@va.gov 

CSM US Army (Ret.)


Friends,

I hope you and your families are safe and healthy. As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on our community, your United Way is here connecting our neighbors with assistance, assessing needs, and working to provide support for the most vulnerable among us.

Last week, United Way of Greater Houston and the Greater Houston Community Foundation launched the Greater Houston COVID-19 Recovery Fund to help meet the needs of our neighbors related to the COVID-19 outbreak and the sudden, severe financial hardships many in our community are facing. The joint fund will provide urgently-needed basic necessities such as food, health care, and shelter to vulnerable individuals and families in Harris, Fort Bend, Montgomery, and Waller counties. The fund has been endorsed by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

The Houston Endowment, in addition to their lead gift of $1 million to the fund, has generously offered to contribute another $1 for every $4 given, up to an additional $1 million. We know the needs in our community will far exceed any of the resources we can secure, and that is why the Houston Endowment’s challenge grant is so important. If you are able, please consider a gift to the fund to help our neighbors in need and to secure the matching funds that will provide assistance to even more people.

You can read more about the fund at greaterhoustonrecovery.org, where you will also find information about the various ways to give. Please feel free to share the fund website with your colleagues and friends.

As always, our 211 Texas/United Way HELPLINE is here connecting our neighbors with critical resources and information. To date, more than 22,000 people in our area have called 211 for help. If you or anyone you know needs assistance related to COVID-19, please call 211.

You can find information about 211 and other resources, as well as updates from United Way of Greater Houston on our website.

I know many of you are at home with your children or grandchildren and are looking for ways to keep little ones engaged. Check out our Educational Resources page for activities, videos, experiments, and more!

We are all in this together. Thanks so much for all you do to keep our community strong.

Anna M. Babin
President and CEO

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to collide with our daily lives, we want to assure our extended BakerRipley family that this Agency remains unwavering in its mission to bring resources, education, and connection to our neighbors across this region.

We will continue to keep you informed about our work around the region and share other resources available to the community through these e-mails and via our social media pages.

Your Virtual C&P Examination Alternatives During the Pandemic

The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is providing information about utilizing alternatives to in-person Compensation and Pension (C&P) examinations during the COVID-19 pandemic to support social distancing and the safety and health of Veterans and clinicians. VBA will continue to complete as many examinations as possible using virtual means that do not involve a face-to-face examination. This message is intended to advise you about the change and provide guidance and resources.

What are C&P Examinations?

  • C&P examinations are forensic examinations used to gather evidence used by VBA claims processors in making decisions on Veterans’ claims for disability compensation and pension benefits. C&P    exams are scheduled when the evidence already in the Veteran’s record does not contain all the information needed to make a decision on the claim.
  •  Disability Benefits Questionnaires, or DBQs, are standardized forms used by clinicians when performing C&P exams. The purpose of a DBQ is to ensure the clinician performing the exam captures and          records all the information needed by VBA claims processors to make a decision.
  •  For many years, both Veterans Health Administration (VHA) clinicians and VBA contract vendors have conducted C&P examinations using DBQs. In FY19, VBA completed about 65 percent of the more       than 1.6 million examination requests generated by regional office claims processors.

What are options for conducting C&P Examinations?

  • The C&P exam process most familiar to most people is the in-person appointment where the Veteran physically reports to the medical provider’s office. For some disabilities, in-person examinations      are required and cannot be completed through an alternate method.
  • C&P examinations can also be completed using a process called Acceptable Clinical Evidence (ACE) examinations. ACE examinations can occur after a medical provider reviews the evidence of record   and determines that the evidence is sufficient to complete a DBQ without an in-person examination. Sometimes, the examiner may need to call the Veteran and ask for clarification or ask the Veteran           to answer some questions. Frequently, the ACE examination can be completed without telephone interaction with the Veteran.
  • 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 DBQ types, 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.

Why has VA decided to suspend the in-person examination option?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, VA recognizes the value of social distancing and the need to reduce the amount of face-to-face contact. On April 2, 2020, the VHA temporarily discontinued performing C&P exams in order to prioritize resources for essential and critically needed health care services in this emergency. This directive also eliminate in-person examinations except in urgent care situations and reduces the number of people entering VHA facilities in order to protect employees and patients. VHA will conduct some C&P examinations through tele-exams and ACE where possible. Out of an abundance of caution for Veterans and medical providers, VBA is similarly suspending in-person C&P examinations until further notice and will continue to conduct C&P exams through ACE and Tele-C&P, when possible.

What can I do to assist with my claim?

Make sure your current private medical records are part of your VA claims file. The Department of Veterans Affairs encourages all Veterans to submit their private medical records for consideration during the processing of their benefits claim. VA values evidence from your private treatment providers because they are familiar with your medical history, often over a long period of time. VA appreciates the trusted and special relationship between private treatment providers and their Veteran/patients.

Key methods that private medical records can be submitted are as follows:

  • Veteran/Private treatment provider can send medical records directly to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Claims Intake Center, P.O. Box 4444, Janesville, WI., 53547-4444 or submit to VA regional    office, Houston, Texas:  https://www.benefits.va.gov/houston/
  •  National VA Regional Offices:  https://www.va.gov/find-locations/
  • VA will request your private medical records for you if you submit signed a VA Form 21-4142 and VA Form 21-4142a.  You must complete and submit both of these documents.
  • Private treatment records can be uploaded as part of an on-line submission of a claim:  https://www.va.gov/disability/how-to-file-claim/

 Resources

  • We encourage all Veterans to work with an accredited representative for assistance in completing claims for VA benefits. The accredited representative can help guide the Veteran in submitting    applicable medical records for consideration on his or her claim.
  • A list of accredited organizations can be found on the Office of General Counsel site at this link: Search the VA Office of the General Counsel’s list

              https://www.va.gov/OGC/DistrictOffices.asp

Questions on Claims?

You can start and continue to file claims with no delay.

How to start or continue a claim

  •  File a claim online at https://www.va.gov/disability/how-to-file-claim/
  • Fax a claim to VA’s Centralized Mail hub at (844) 531-7818
  • Submit completed applications by paper mail: US Department of Veterans Affairs, Claims Intake Center, P.O. Box 4444, Janesville, WI., 53547-4444

For individuals who need more assistance, VBA offers robust resources through the National Call Center (NCC) at 1-800-827-1000.

Intent to file a claim

  • Faxing or mailing a completed VA Form 21-0966 at (844) 531-7818
  • Calling the NCC at 1-800-827-1000 or Veterans Service Center,
  • Starting a claim online www.va.gov, or
  •  Asking a Veterans Service Organization (VSO) to complete one on a claimant’s behalf:  https://www.benefits.va.gov/vso/

Note: Intent to file a claim will preserve a potential effective date and allow the Veteran up to one year to submit a completed claim form. Veterans can also work with a local VSO to submit claims electronically or by mail.

A grateful nation thanks you for your service.

Connect With Us  1-800-827-1000

 Inquiry Routing & Information System (IRIS); https://iris.custhelp.va.gov www.va.gov