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Washington update for January 16th, 2017

TREA Washington Update for Monday, January 16th 2017


People are saying good-bye and others are buying houses in DC. Hearings for nominated Cabinet members are running long into the evening. Roads are being closed for security and fenses are being placed all over town. The Inauguration is coming up fast  and the things will really get fast and dramatic. But for now:



Present VA Under Secretary of Health nominated to become VA Secretary


DoD opens Online Exchanges to Veterans


Presumptive Service Connected Diseases rule from Exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune announced by VA





Present VA Under Secretary of Health nominated to become VA Secretary


Last week, President-elect Trump nominated the present VA Under Secretary of Health to take over the top job of Secretary of the VA.  It was a surprise nomination that was greeted with happiness by most VSOs including TREA. David Shulkin is an MD who has headed the VA medical section since 2015.

He is well liked and admired though there was disappointment that he is not a veteran. Indeed if he is confirmed he will be the first Secretary of the VA who is not a veteran himself or herself.

Doctor Shulkin ran several large medical istitutions including  Morristown Medical Center, Goryeb Children’s Hospital, Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute and as  president and CEO of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

The nomination leads us to believe that there will not be a major push to privatize the VA as many had worried there would be.

Mr. Trump announced the nomination during his first press conference since his election. The press conference was a dramatic affair and some of the news was lose in the shuffle- so you may not have heard of it.

The reaction from both sides of the aisle was positive. President-elect Trump said while announcing his selection: “He’s fantastic. He will do a truly great job.”Dr.  Shulkin responded to the appointment by saying: “It is my honor to serve as President-elect Trump’s Secretary of Veterans Affairs. President-elect Trump’s commitment to caring for our veterans is unquestionable, and he is eager to support the best practices for care and provide our Veterans Affairs’ teams with the resources they need to improve health outcomes."

The new Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), said he was pleased with the choice of Shulkin:” “I am pleased President-elect Trump has chosen a physician to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, especially one familiar with the integrating of private practitioners into the VA's network of health care providers. I’ve long said I would be happy to work with anyone committed to ensuring our heroes have access to the services they have earned, especially quality health care, and I look forward to working with Dr. Shulkin to bring wholesale reform to the Department.”

In the Senate Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Sen. Johnny Isakson )R-GA) congratulated Shulkin and said he understands how to work with Congress for meaningful reform.

“There is a tremendous amount of work to be done – by the VA and by Congress – to change the paradigm at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Dr. Shulkin understands the critical importance of working hand-in-hand with Congress on enacting meaningful, bipartisan reforms to help right the ship at the VA. I congratulate Dr. Shulkin on his nomination, and I look forward to chairing his confirmation hearing and discussing our shared priorities to ensure the VA is putting veterans first.”

On the other side last year’s ranking member of the committee said Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), who was ranking member of the committee last year, said Shulkin was the most qualified of Trump’s potential VA candidates. He said,” After calling the Department of Veterans Affairs ‘the most corrupt agency in the United States’ on the campaign trail, the President-elect’s decision to retain a current VA leader and Obama-appointee is a notable departure from his inflammatory rhetoric. I sincerely hope he will leave his promise to move the VA toward privatization on the campaign trail as well.”

At a briefing of approximately 30 VSOs and MSOs departing Secretary McDonald and Deputy Secretary Gibbons also praised David Shulkin and said that they believed he would skillfully continue the work and plans that they had been establishing for the last 2 years.


DoD opens Online Exchanges to Veterans

Last Friday the Department of Defense released the following information:

DoD Opens Online Exchange Shopping to Veterans

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2017 — The Defense Department announced today that veterans will soon be able to shop online at military exchanges.

The policy change will extend limited online military exchange shopping privileges to all honorably discharged veterans of the military, DoD officials said.

The shopping benefit will be effective this Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2017.

While shopping privileges exclude the purchase of uniforms, alcohol and tobacco products, it includes the Exchange Services’ dynamic online retail environment known so well to service members and their families, the release said. The change follows careful analysis, coordination and strong public support, officials said in the release.

“We are excited to provide these benefits to honorably discharged veterans to recognize their service and welcome them home to their military family,” said Peter Levine, performing the duties for the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

“In addition, this initiative represents a low-risk, low-cost opportunity to help fund morale, welfare and recreation programs in support of service members’ and their families’ quality of life. And it’s just the right thing to do,” Levine added.

The online benefit will also strengthen the exchanges’ online businesses to better serve current patrons. Inclusion of honorably discharged veterans would conservatively double the exchanges’ online presence, according to DoD officials, thereby improving the experience for all patrons through improved vendor terms, more competitive merchandise assortments and improved efficiencies.

“As a nation, we are grateful for the contributions of our service members,” Levine said. “Offering this lifetime online benefit is one small, tangible way the nation can say, ‘Thank you’ to those who served with honor.”


Last week the Department of Veterans Affairs released this information with regard to  diseases associated with the contaminated water supply at Camp Lejeun, North Carolina.



Presumptive Service Connected Diseases rule from Exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune announced by VA

VA’s Rule Establishes a Presumption of Service Connection for Diseases Associated with Exposure to Contaminants in the Water Supply at Camp Lejeune

VA to provide disability benefits for related diseases

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has published regulations to establish presumptions for the service connection of eight diseases associated with exposure to contaminants in the water supply at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

The presumption of service connection applies to active duty, reserve and National Guard members who served at Camp Lejeune for a minimum of 30 days (cumulative) between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987, and are diagnosed with any of the following conditions:

•           adult leukemia

•           aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes

•           bladder cancer

•           kidney cancer

•           liver cancer

•           multiple myeloma

•           non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

•           Parkinson’s disease

 “We have a responsibility to take care of those who have served our Nation and have been exposed to harm as a result of that service,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald. “Establishing a presumption for service at Camp Lejeune will make it easier for those Veterans to receive the care and benefits they earned.”

Environmental health experts in VA’s Technical Workgroup conducted comprehensive reviews of scientific evidence, which included analysis and research done by the Department of Health and Human Service’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the Environmental Protection Agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the National Toxicology Program, and the National Academies of Science. 

Veterans with 30 or more cumulative days of active duty service, at Camp Lejeune during the contamination period are already eligible for certain medical benefits, following passage of the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012.

In the early 1980s, volatile organic compounds, trichloroethylene (TCE), a metal degreaser, and perchloroethylene (PCE), a dry cleaning agent, as well as benzene and vinyl chloride, were discovered in two on-base water supply systems at Camp Lejeune. The contaminated wells supplying the water systems were shut down in February 1985.

The area included in this presumption is all of Camp Lejeune and MCAS New River, including satellite camps and housing areas.

The rule will be effective either 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, or following conclusion of the 60-day Congressional Review, whichever is later.

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