FRA NewsBytes – 9-13-13

fra_logo_tr-c6-opt1In this week’s edition:
Alternative Military Pay Plan
House Panel Reviews Preventable Deaths at VA
PDBR Review of Disability Claims Continues
Alternative Military Pay Plan
In a recent letter to Congress, President Obama referenced his authority under Title 37 to set military pay increases for FY 2014 at one percent  the amount requested in the Administration’s budget for the new fiscal year  versus the Employment Cost Index (ECI) level of 1.8 percent.  The House supports the authorization of the higher amount as part of the FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), however, it’s unclear if the full Senate will follow its Armed Services Committee’s recommendation for the lower rate.

FRA strongly supports the 1.8-precent pay hike for service members to maintain pay comparability with the civilian sector and will continue its advocacy on this matter as Congress works to approve a final version of the NDAA.

House Panel Reviews Preventable Deaths at VA
The House Veterans Affairs Committee held a field hearing recently at the Allegheny County Courthouse in Pittsburgh, Pa., to examine the emerging pattern of preventable veteran deaths and serious patient-safety issues at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers across the country. The Committee focused on recent events at VA medical centers in Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Buffalo and Jackson (Miss.) and discussed the adequacy of current VA management and accountability structures.

Rep. Jeff Miller (Fla.), committee chairman, noted that the VA “has consistently given executives who preside over these events glowing performance reviews and cash bonuses,” citing an instance where the death of five Pittsburgh veterans from Legionnaires disease was kept secret for a year. The top VA official in that region received a bonus a few days after the VA Inspector General report was released indicating that the outbreak was a result of mismanagement. In addition to numerous allegations of poor patient care, the IG report also attributed a patient death by overdose and two suicides in the Atlanta facility to mismanagement and cited the reuse of disposable insulin pens as the cause of 18 veterans contracting hepatitis in Buffalo.

Robert Petzel, VA Undersecretary of Health, told the committee that “patient care issues raised by the committee are serious, but not systematic.”  Petzel also provided the committee information outlining disciplinary actions taken in response to these events and steps VA has taken ensure these problems are avoided in the future.

PDBR Review of Disability Claims Continues
The Physical Disability Review Board (PDBR) was created by the FY2008 Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to reassess the accuracy and fairness of combined disability ratings of 20 percent or less for service members who were separated from service, rather than medically retired because of medical conditions. In order to be eligible for a PDBR review, service members must have been medically separated between September 11, 2001, and December 31, 2009, with a combined disability rating of 20 percent or less, and found ineligible for retirement. The Physical Disability Review Board (PDBR) claims that more than half of reviewed claims have been upgraded to a disability rating of 30 percent or more.

This review panel is authorized to recommend an increase in a disability rating, uphold the previous finding, or issue a disability rating when the previous board did not assign one. The board, however, is not able to recommend a lower rating. Eligible veterans can request a board review by submitting a Department of Defense Form 294, Application for Review of Physical Disability Separation from the Armed Forces of the United States, which is available at http://www.va.gov/vaforms/

Veterans requesting a review must mail their completed and signed DD Form 294 to SAF/MRBR, 550 C St. W., Suite 41, Randolph Air Force Base, TX 78150-4743. Applicants may submit statements, briefs, medical records or affidavits supporting their application.

For more information about the PDBR go to:
http://health.mil/About_MHS/Organizations/MHS_Offices_and_Programs/PDBR.aspx