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Announcements: 2015 State of Michigan 90th Convention Report


2015 State of Michigan  90th Convention Report 


Disabled American Veterans Department of Michigan 90th Annual State Convention June 3-4, 2015 Service Officer Conference June5-7, 2015 State of Michigan Convention Report Submitted by: Alan R. Stranyak Senior Vice Commander Dee Harris 1st Junior Vice Commander June 3, 2015 Service Officer Conference: DAV Chapter 114 Livonia, Michigan has 4 attendees at the Service Officer Conference, those attending are; Commander Thomas A. Dempster, Dee Harris, David Laverty, and Alan Stranyak. After opening remarks by Department of Michigan Service Director Doug Wells, National Service Officer Jason (Jay) Zielke briefly reviewed much of the information contained in the new Service Officer’s Manual. This information included: • DAV Mission and strategic plan • DAV: What we do • Talking about our work • The DAV Style Book • Chapter Service Officer indemnification • Purpose of Certification • Privacy • Confidentiality • DAV Contact Brief • VA Form 21-22 (Power of Attorney) • The Claims Process including Fully Developed Claims • The importance of evidence along with various types of evidence Dave Leonard – VA Director of the Detroit Regional Office gave a presentation on how the VA is trying to improve results for all veterans. He stated that 3–4 years ago the regional office in Detroit had 165 employees trying to process claims plus a backlog of approximately 900,000 claims. Currently, the regional office employs 260 people to process claims. This has reduced the backlog to approximately 400,000. He also stated that 75% of all VA hires, that process claims, are veterans. Mr. Leonard stated that while claims have improved and still have a long way to go, appeal time has not improved. Currently, appeals are still taking too long. Calendar year 2016 will contain a push to shorten the time to process an appeal. Mr. Leonard expects a 30-35% improvement. This will be done by moving some of the claims staff into the appeals department. Leonard then reported on the new VA disability processing system referred to as National Workload Queue (NWQ). This is a system that tries to balance workloads between regional VA offices throughout the United States. He also stated during a Q&A Session that this new system’s usage could mean as many as 4 different regional offices working on a veteran’s fully developed claim. He did say that he expected the majority of Michigan’s veterans claims would be done in Michigan since our Regional Office is “now up to speed” on employing enough claims representatives to handle Michigan plus help other states. Mr. Leonard stated that Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Battle Creek VA Medical Centers are up to speed on processing Disability Benefit Questionnaires (DBQ). He also wanted us to know that private physicians carried as much weight as VA physicians when completing these forms. Veterans wanting to have these questionnaires completed should call their VA facility to schedule exams. Dave Leonard let us know that as Chapter Service Officers we were able to contact him or his assistant, Julie, directly. Lastly he said the VA was going to start a new initiative referred to as “My VA Initiative, No Wrong Door for Veterans to Walk Through”. Todd Peddle, National Service Officer, then had us return to our manuals while he reviewed the following: • NSO Office coordination • New Mandated forms o VA Form 21-0966 Claim Initiation o VA Form 21-526EZ (Fully developed claim) o VA Form 21-527EZ (Pension Benefits) o VA Form 21-534EZ (Death Benefits) • Protected Ratings • Incarcerated Veterans Todd was emphatic that the EZ forms had to be signed by the veterans. That included if they could only sign an “X”. The “X” had to be witnessed by 2 people who also had to sign that the veteran is the individual who placed the “X” on the form. The ONLY reason for the veteran to not sign the form was death! The Service Officer Training was from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. In the evening, National 10th District hosted a conference on “Local Outreach to the Media”. Thomas A. Dempster and Alan Stranyak attended this meeting. The speaker, Steve Wilson is the Assistant National Director of Communications for the DAV. Mr. Wilson discussed various methods of communicating with members and the public. Also discussed was how these different methods appeal to different demographics. For example, newspapers appeal to older people and business people. Magazines appeal to very narrow demographics since magazines are designed as such. Radio was discussed and Mr. Wilson stated that demographics showed people who love veterans tend to listen to AM radio stations. The internet and social sites appealed to a younger demographic, etc. Steve Wilson discussed with those in attendance how to contact people who could help get our message out and how to prepare and handle interviews. An interesting point made by Wilson was that if a reporter asks you about a situation regarding a veteran related story or a DAV story the worst answer anyone could give is “No Comment”. He said the no comment equals guilty or uninformed. Mr. Wilson then showed us how to respond to questions and how include any message that we wanted the public to know about our DAV Mission. This meeting was from 7:00 PM to 8:45 PM June 4, 2015 Service Officer Conference: DAV Chapter 114 Livonia, Michigan has 4 attendees at the Service Officer Conference, those attending are; Commander Thomas A. Dempster, Dee Harris, David Laverty, and Alan Stranyak. Women Veterans: The Long Journey Home Lynette Davis and Toni Moses co-facilitated a presentation regarding women veterans and many of the unique problems faced by them both in the service and as they are discharged from service. Here are some facts to consider: • Today, 1 in 5 veterans are women • Most women veterans do not think of themselves as veterans • 280,000 women have served in post 9/11 • Compared to men, when leaving the service: o Women are less likely to be married o Women are more likely to be divorced o Women are less likely to use VA benefits o Women are more likely to be unemployed o Women are more likely to be single parents The DAV has identified the following gaps between men and women: • Health care • Employment • Acknowledgement of sexual assault • Finance • Housing • Social issues The transition back to “normal” society is very difficult for women veterans. Service officers must be aware that many female veterans have unique problems that are compensable. For example: up to 30% of women have endometriosis, which is compensable. Breast masses may be compensable. (Note: Toni Moses will put together a women’s checklist for DAV Service Officers.) The VA is pushing a new women’s initiative on Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The form to file for MST must be given to a women veteran to take home as she will likely relive some of her painful memories while completing the form (21-0781A). Bottom line, it is recommended when dealing with such a sensitive matter that the service officer complete a VA Form 21-22 (POA), complete VA Form 21-0966 to initiate a claim, and have the veteran take the above mentioned form home to complete. When it is completed, she can return the form to her service officer. Proof of MST could be something like looking at the veterans military records. If requests for transfer are in the record these could be considered as “markers” or proof that MST has taken place. How can we let women know that DAV is here to help them with their claims? • Community events • Church bulletins • Public service announcements • DHS The last thing pointed out by Ms. Moses was that women are currently 10% of the military population (Population is defined as veterans and people currently in the military) yet women are 40% of the suicides. PTSD-TBI-MST Department Service Officer Joe Marczak followed with a presentation on PTSD-TBI-MST. He pointed out a few statistics regarding PTSD and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). In Vietnam 30% of men returned with PTSD, 27% for women. In Desert Storm they are finding that 10% men and women returned with PTSD. In Operation Enduring Freedom, Iraq, and Afghanistan veterans are experiencing 14% PTSD. Lastly, Joe pointed out that in Iraq, 68% of veterans saw people die or be injured and 51% of the veterans dealt with human remains in one way or another. When encountering a veteran with suspected PTSD do NOT do a Stressor Statement. This is a statement that lists possible reasons and experiences which may have caused PTSD. The VA Medical Examiner MUST make the initial PTSD diagnosis for the veteran to qualify for benefits. The Stressor Statement should be done during the VA exam. If done before the exam it could delay processing the claim while the VA investigates the incident. After the initial diagnosis, the treating physician can complete a Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ). Not all veterans with problems have PTSD. Many of them may have anxiety, bi-polar disorder, depression, or schizophrenia. All of which are compensable without having PTSD. Substance abuse can be secondary to PTSD or any of the diagnoses’ mentioned above and could be compensable. MST not diagnosed can cause depression and/or PTSD. TBI is compensable when occurring in on-post accidents and war. It could be a concussion that causes cognitive problems. Bottom Line = Get a Diagnosis First!!! At this point, attendees went into 2 different break-out sessions on appeals and special monthly benefits. The Reality of VA Claims After the break-out sessions a short presentation entitled “The Reality of VA Claims” was done by Kristina Derro, an attorney. Ms. Derro told us that attorneys who work on a contingency fee should be in the 20% to 33.33%. The VA will not honor any contingency fee higher than the 33.33%. Ms. Derro also stated that attorneys usually get involved in the appeals process, not the actual application for benefits. The application of benefits is best done by a VSO, like DAV. During the appeal a veteran can use an attorney. This attorney MUST be accredited by the VA. The attorney must be familiar with state and VA rules. If an attorney is not accredited by the VA they should withdraw from the action. The alternatives a veteran has are as follows: • VSO representation • The veteran can do pro se (represent themselves) • Be represented by a law student through Equal Justice of America (EJA) (The VA may pay for EJA representation) Targeted Outreach Rob Price, Director at the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) spoke briefly. His first priority was to let us know that a primary responsibility of MVAA is to ensure VSOs are accredited. He then shared some statistics regarding VSOs in Michigan. They are: • Michigan County Veteran Counselors 107 (in 72 counties) • Michigan Veteran’s Coalition (VSOs) 65 • Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency 6 • Total number of Service Officers 178 • Total est. number of veterans in Michigan 221,000* *needing our services Mr. Price also informed us that MVAA was working with incarcerated veterans to help them apply for benefits. MVAA sets up the medical exams (C&P) for incarcerated men veterans, however, incarcerated women veterans are a problem. There are no VA facilities close enough to the prisons where women are incarcerated. Therefore, they are still looking for a reasonable solution to get those exams done. The Service Officer Training was from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM. DAV State Convention – Friday June 5, 2015 DAV Chapter 114 Livonia, Michigan has 5 attendees at the DAV State Convention. Those attending are; Commander Thomas A. Dempster, Dee Harris, and Alan Stranyak. In addition Dennis Wayne was in attendance after paying his own way. NSO Regional Director Doug Wells, Chapter 114 member was also present. Opening ceremonies were conducted by Department Commander Jim Dempsey. After the opening prayer and Pledge of Allegiance, the Commander introduced Bobby Body as our guest speaker. Bobby is a disabled veteran that Chapter 114 helped sponsor at the World Weight Lifting Contest. Mr. Body honored those who came before him with a short speech and video. Four DAV members were honored for their long memberships in the DAV. These members had been DAV members from 50 years to 62 years. Each of these gentlemen were awarded custom made canes. The session was adjourned while the Nomination Committee held interviews for individuals seeking higher office. The next session, the first Convention Business Session was initiated with a role-call of all DAV chapters. As each Chapter responded they were told the number of votes they had to cast in each vote. Chapter 114 was awarded 52 votes. We were informed that 70 Chapters were present at the convention. We were also told that Chapter 18 was not allowed to participate or vote since they have not informed Department who their new officers were. Convention attendees were then introduced to Mark Juday who coordinates the I-500 Snowmobile Race every year in Sault Ste. Marie. This is a 500 mile race held in February. Three years ago Mr. Juday had the idea of having veterans start the race. The DAV accepted the offer and each year the DAV has started the race. Next year DAV plans on having a bigger role with more visibility. Mark Juday presented a plaque to Jim Dempsey to thank the DAV for its participation. Joseph Violante, National Legislative Director spoke to convention attendees regarding the DAV. He informed us that currently the DAV has 275 National Service Officers and 65 Transition Officers. These Service Officers help direct and coordinate veterans and their claims on a national basis. From 1969 to present day DAV has donated 2,800 vehicles to help transport veterans for medical services. Mr. Violante also informed DAV members present that we all need to be active and to inform our elected officials that we need their help. For example, currently the Congressional Budget pending is $2 Billion less than what the VSOs asked for. Another example of a problem created by congress is the Choice Program, where a veteran can seek medical care outside the VA system. When congress was finalizing the bill congress added the phrase “as the crow flies” to the 40 mile requirement. This caveat impacted 500,000 veterans. In an effort to correct this, Congress then changed it to veterans being able to seek outside care if no facility was within 40 miles of their home. Unfortunately this meant that a veteran needing heart surgery and having a non-VA hospital that could provide cardiology care nearby could not go to that non-VA hospital, if a VA clinic that provided only counseling was within 40 miles of his home. This change impacted 4,100,000 veterans. Awards were given to Chapters who led membership sign-ups in their districts. Department and National all achieved their respective membership goals. Chapter 6 (Kalamazoo) exceeded its 2014-15 goal by 256 new members. Committee assignments were issued to Delegates and the session was adjourned. Later in the afternoon, a memorial service was held to honor veterans and their dead and missing comrades. It’s important to note, all veterans were honored for their service. Participating in the services were the DAV and DAVA Chaplains, Commanders, Senior Vice Commanders, and 1st Vice Commanders. Vietnam veterans were singled out during the memorial service for a special smudging ceremony performed by a local American Indian chief/medicine man. Smudging is a traditional Native American method of burning sacred herbs to produce a smoke cloud which is used in various cleansing or prayer ceremonies and purification or healing rituals. During the Smudging ceremonies and rituals the smoke may be fanned over the person by a medicine man either using the hand, feathers or a fan. Smudging is the ritual cleansing of the mind, body and spirit. POWs/MIA were also honored with a very touching service. Prayers were shared and we were dismissed for the day. DAV State Convention – Saturday June 6, 2015 DAV Chapter 114 Livonia, Michigan has 5 attendees at the DAV State Convention. Those attending are; Commander Thomas A. Dempster, Dee Harris, and Alan Stranyak. In addition Dennis Wayne was in attendance after paying his own way. NSO Regional Director Doug Wells, Chapter 114 member was also present. The second business session began Saturday morning with Commander Dempsey calling the meeting to order. After the opening prayer and Pledge of Allegiance, the Department Adjutant gave a short report regarding Department finances. Adjutant, Rollie Lee stated that Department was operating under budget for 2014-2015. The two Thrift Stores have contributed $228,000 from store sales and that since changing to a 501c3 the Department has collected over $20,000 in donations for operations. Commander Dempsey introduced Ron Springer from Buddies to Buddies. Buddies to Buddies (B2B) is a non-profit organization that was put together in 2009 by B2B, Michigan State University, The University of Michigan, and the Michigan Army National Guard, faculty from the Veterans Administration Health System, and veteran advocates to address the unique challenges facing Citizen Soldiers. It was found that many veterans have two distinct barriers: 1. Asking others for help and 2. Getting needed services to the veteran. The B2B organization trains their counselors to learn and look for red flags in veterans and offer those vets help and options. B2B is in need of 2 things: 1. Volunteers 2. Calls to help veterans B2B helps vets with: • Education • Employment • Financial difficulties • Legal • Medical • Mental health • Substance abuse • Relationship issues B2B Contact Information: 1-888-822-8339 or email buddytobuddyVVP@umich.edu The second business session was adjourned. The third business session was Saturday afternoon with Commander Dempsey calling the meeting to order. After the opening prayer and Pledge of Allegiance, Commander Dempsey introduced the Standing Company. Standing Company (SC) is a wheel chair company incorporated in Saginaw, Michigan. All of Standing Companies wheelchairs are custom made to fit the user. The Standing Company manufactures three models (Note: they only showed us two models): 1. MANUAL – totally counter-weighted for easy use 2. HALF-POWER 3. FULL-POWER. Each wheelchair is designed to make people healthier and stronger. It was found that the wheelchair will: • Improve circulation • Reduce skin breakdown • Improve respiratory capacity • Reduce urinary tract infections (UTI's) • Strengthen long bones • Reduce spasticity • Reduce back/neck pain/discomfort • Strengthen muscles, tendons, hamstring Life style benefits included: • Increased independence • Increased self-esteem • Increased social-interaction • Greater opportunities for employment If all goes well, these chairs take about 6-7 weeks to manufacture and cost between $17,000 and $22,000. Some VA Medical Centers are paying for veterans to have these chairs. After the presentation, 3 awards were presented: • Best Newsletter – Chapter 18 • Public Relations Award – Chapter 102 • Americanism Award – Chapter 102 Next, committee reports were presented by committee chairpersons. The only committee report not accepted outright was the Constitution and Bylaws Committee. After a floor vote by every Chapter, the Constitution and Bylaws Committees recommendations were accepted. Business Meeting number 3 was adjourned. A short DAV training session was facilitated by Joseph Violante, JD. Mr. Violante started the session with the statement, “that our VA benefits are being attacked in Washington, D.C.. He informed us all that we need to join the Commander’s Action Network, because Congress is looking for ways to limit care and money currently being spent on veteran care. Mr. Violante then explained how in the last ten years that Medical spending was underfunded by $8 million dollars and that Building spending was underfunded by $10 million dollars. If we veterans don’t speak up about this through our legislators, who will? Violante then answered questions from the audience and wrapped the session up by informing us that DAV National currently has major initiatives on the board. 1. Keep the Promise and advanced funding 2. Women’s initiative 3. A fully developed appeal DAV State Convention – Sunday June 7, 2015 DAV Chapter 114 Livonia, Michigan has 5 attendees at the DAV State Convention. Those attending are; Commander Thomas A. Dempster, Dee Harris, and Alan Stranyak. In addition Dennis Wayne was in attendance after paying his own way. NSO Regional Director Doug Wells, Chapter 114 member was also present. The fourth business session began Sunday morning with Commander Dempsey calling the meeting to order. After the opening prayer and Pledge of Allegiance, the Nominating Committee informed the DAV Convention attendees of their officer recommendations. Other Chapter nominations were made and motions and votes taken. Our Department Officers for 2015-2016 will be: • Commander Beth Gonzalez • Senior Vice Commander Thomas A. Dempster • 1st Vice Commander Jo Linda Cutler • 2nd Vice Commander Charlie Brock • State Treasurer Rollie Lee • Department Chaplin Mike Knudson Newly elected officers were introduced and thanked the Conference attendees. The 90th Annual DAV Convention was officially adjourned. It was followed by Executive Committee and a Board of Directors meeting. Respectfully Submitted, Alan R. Stranyak Dee Harris Senior Vice Commander 1st Junior Vice Commander


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Last modified at 7/23/2015 12:53 AM  by MI 114 Webmaster 

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