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Q: I am a veteran and I filed a claim for service-connected disability several months ago. The VA denied my claim and I filed an appeal. The only answer I get from the VA is that there is a backlog. What is the VA doing about reducing it?

A: President Trump signed legislation at the American Legion’s national convention in late August that should go a long way toward fixing the beleaguered Department of Veterans Appeals appeals process. The Veterans Appeal Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 creates three appeals '‘lanes.'’ Veterans choose the lane that best suits their needs. The lanes are: Local Higher Level Review, in which an adjudicator reviews the same evidence considered by the original claims processor; the New Evidence lane, for which the veteran could submit new evidence for review and have a hearing; and the Board Lane, in which jurisdiction for the appeal would transfer immediately to the Board of Veterans Appeals.

The first lane requires little time because no new evidence and subsequent verification would be necessary. Allowing the claim to go directly to the appeals board, rather than local review or review of new evidence, also should reduce the waiting time. Contact your veterans service officer for more information.

Did you know?

The numbers are in for FY2016 VA expenditures in McLean County. The total number of veterans in McLean County was 10,425. The total expenditures in McLean County by the VA was $43,243,000. Payments to veterans for education, vocational rehabilitation and employment benefits were $4,669,000. VA payments for service-connected compensation and low-income pensions were $24,558,000. Insurance and indemnities totaled $1,101,000. VA medical care totaled $12,916,000.

Did you know?

The Illinois Department of Employment Security Job Service provides a trained “veterans representative” to help veterans get the training and jobs they need. An electronic statewide job search information system is available; call 1-888-FOR-IETC to find the nearest representative.

Event!

A Tree of Honor dedication is planned at the Central Illinois Regional Airport on Nov. 28, around 10:30 a.m. The Bloomington/Normal Airport Authority, America’s Gold Star Families and The Sgt. Anthony Maddox Memorial support this event. A nine-foot Christmas tree will be placed at CIRA to honor fallen soldiers.

The tree will be placed in the airport annually and will include ornaments representing fallen heroes from all states, military branches and conflicts.

The Gold Star recognizes that a family member serving in the military was killed while serving.

Q: I am a veteran who has smoked cigarettes since I was a teenager. My family has finally convinced me to quit. The Army used to put five cigarettes in my evening K-ration. I have a VA medical card and my VA doctor encouraged me to quit. I have never pursued quitting before and I want to be successful! What type of programs does the VA have to quit smoking?

A: Besides the help that is available at your VA health care provider, the VA also has online information to help you quit smoking. Statistics report that over one-half of all adults who ever smoked have quit, so you can do it. Research shows that a person has the best chance of quitting tobacco for good when they use smoking cessation medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration and take part in tobacco cessation counseling.

Most VA Community Based Outpatient Clinics have smoking cessation therapy groups that meet at the clinic. The VA also has smoking quit-line counselors available at 1-855-784-8838. Finally, you can get text message support from SmokefreeVET. Engage the support and encouragement of family members and friends. Good luck on your journey!

Veterans Corner publishes Monday. It is written by the McLean County Veterans Assistance Commission, 200 W. Front St., Bloomington, IL 61701; call 309-888-5140.

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