Veteran Affairs Updates

New VA Secretary
By Rudi Williams

American Forces Press Service Calling himself a veteran's activist, Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony J. Principi vowed to conduct a major top-to-bottom review of the VA's health care and claims processing systems.

Principi,who is from New Jersey, promises to make a difference, to work hard,to listen to veterans' concerns and to make decisions that will help. "If we don 't improve benefits and services after four years, I 'll consider my tour a failure," he said.The new secretary is a Vietnam combat veteran.His wife was a Navy nurse in Vietnam.

He said taking up to two years to reach a decision is not acceptable. "I want practical,hands-on solutions to better provide high-quality,timely evaluations on claims," he emphasized. "I want to ensure we have uniform access to high-quality healthcare."

"There has to be a close bond and trust between the people who defend the nation and who may come to us for their benefits after separating from the services," he said. "They need to know we're providing them with the care and benefits they've earned in service to our country."

Congressman Smith Calls for $2.1 Billion Increase in VA Budget
By Dan Amon

House Committee on Veterans' Affairs The U.S.House Veterans 'Affairs Committee approved what Chairman Chris Smith (R-NJ)called "a work in progress," a fiscal year 2002 budget calling for a $2.1 billion increase in discretionary VA spending.

The committee's recommendations address healthcare needs,claims back US Dept of Veteran Affairs Updates log,and crumbling medical infrastructure. The recommended increases of more $1.525 billion in VA health care and $49.8 million to address the backlog of disability and pension claims.

Chairman Smith said the Administration's recommended billion dollar,4.5 percent increase in discretionary VA spending outlined by VA Secretary Anthony J.Principi would "just about keep veterans health care even."

"But we need to do more than keep health care even," Chairman Smith said. "We know that veterans programs have some specific needs for which funding has been too long deferred."

The $1.525 billion increase in VA medical care would include $141 million for mental health programs, $100 million for higher pharmacy costs, $88 million for long-term care, $75 million for staff to reduce waiting times, $68 million for emergency care, $30 million for homeless programs, $23 million for spinal cord injury programs, and $1 billion to adjust for inflation.

A $130 million increase proposed for the Veterans Benefits Administration includes the $49.8 million for an additional 830 full-time employees to help deal with a backlog in claims processing that is getting worse.

In addition to the $2.1 billion increase in discretionary spending, the VA Committee recommends $300 million in additional direct spending for further benefit increases in both the Montgomery GI Bill and the Veterans Opportunities Act of 2001.

The VA Committee also recommends a $325 million increase for VA medical facility repair. This would fund The Veterans Hospitals Emergency Repair Act, which would authorize a two-year total of $550 million. The VA Committee also seeks modest increases for state nursing home and cemetery grants programs as well as for the National Cemetery Administration.

Become a Permanent Part of the NJ Vietnam Veterans' Memorial

The NJ Vietnam Veterans' Memorial is preparing this spring to engrave and install another set of paving stones for the Memorial in Holmdel, NJ.

Your personal message can become a permanent part of our state's tribute to the men and women of New Jersey who served this nation during the Vietnam War.

Many veterans organizations, individual veterans, and families of veterans decide to participate in this program. More than 1,100 engraved paving stones have been installed at the memorial since its dedication in 1995.

For a $250 donation, a personal message of your choosing (maximum of 3 lines with 12 characters on each line) can be engraved on one of the paving stones lining the Memorial walkways. As part of this program, your name or your group's name will be entered as a paver sponsor in the Memorial Walkway Paver Registry at the Vietnam Era Educational Center. All contributions are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law.

The deadline to have a paver installed each year is March 30. Forms received after that date will be installed the following spring.

If you would like a paving form or more information about this program, please call the Foundation's office at (732)335-0033.

Respite Care

Respite Care is now available at the three New Jersey veteran nursing homes in Paramus, Menlo Park, and Vineland. Respite care allows caregivers a break from their care giving responsibilities. The program provides for a 13 day short-term stay with the possibility of an extension. These services can be utilized twice in a calendar year. Services available are the same as those available to long-term care residents. Admission eligibility for these services have been extended to veterans of the National Guard and reserve component retirees of the US military service.

Additional programs offer short-term rehabilitation services to provide an opportunity to restore physical functioning in order to return home versus long-termcare admission.

Call (609)530-6979 for information.

VA Applications Online

Veterans can apply for VA benefits and health care online. Veterans may apply for compensation, pension, rehabilitation benefits and health care.

To apply for health care online, veterans must fill out an Internet-based form application. The form is automatically e-mailed to the VA facility selected by the Veteran. VA employees register the data, print the form and mail it back to the veteran for signature. Veterans can also print out the completed form and mail it themselves.

"Veterans On Line Applications" (VONAPP) is designed for veterans to apply for compensation, pension, and vocal rehabilitation benefits. Applications are sent electronically to the local VA Office. Processing begins right away. Veterans receive a response with the status of their applications.

Later this year, VA plans to offer education applications on the Internet. Currently, veterans attending school under the Montgomery GI Bill can make their monthly certification of enrollment at

To access Internet applications:

Veteran Entrepreneurs

The new Center for Veterans Enterprise will extend VA's services to veterans who want to start their own business. Veterans can call or email the center to receive assistance from a national network of business specialists. Information will be available about loans, business management programs, online training and procurement opportunities with federal, state, and local agencies.

There are 22 million businesses in the US. The new center estimates that 5 million are owned by veterans. Plans are underway to register each veteran-owned business and advise owners of opportunities to do business with federal government. Under this program, a veteran-owened business has 51 percent of the business controlled by a veteran.

For more information call toll free 1-866-584-2344, (202)565-8366 or

VA Links Agent Orange and Diabetes

Vietnam Veterans with Type-II diabetes will now be eligible for disability compensation from the VA based on their presumed exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides. Type-II diabetes is now a presumed disease associated with herbicide exposure.

Diabetes mellitus is characterized by high blood sugar levels resulting from the body's inability to process the hormone insulin. More than 90 percent of the 16 million American diabetics are categorized as Type-II.

Approximately 16 percent of veterans receiving care VA medical facilities have been diagnosed with diabetes.

Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death and the leading cause of death and the leading cause of blindness in the US.

The following conditions are now considered service-connected for Vietnam Veterans: cholracne, porphyria cutanea tarda, acute or subacute peripheral neuropathy, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, soft tissue sarcoma, Hodgkin's disease, multiple myeloma, prostate cancer and respiratory cancers (including cancers of the lung, larnyx, trachea, and bronchus). In addition, Vietnam veterans' children with the birth defect spina bifida are eligible for certain benefits and services.