New program aimed at providing veterans quicker decisions on benefit claims

The Department of Veterans Affairs will launch the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program, or RAMP, with the goal of providing veterans with the earliest possible resolution of disagreements with VA’s decisions on benefit claims.  

RAMP will provide expanded opportunities for veterans to enter the new claims review process outlined in the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump on Aug. 23.

“At its core, VA’s mission is to provide veterans with the highest quality of service,” said VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin. “The new process under the RAMP initiative reflects major steps in not only VA’s effort of continuous improvement, but also in providing greater choice for veterans and their families.”

VA began its 18-month implementation of the new process immediately after the bill became law.

By February 2019, all requests for review of VA decisions will be processed under the new, multi-lane process. The new law is meant to streamline the process and includes safeguards ensuring claimants receive the earliest possible effective date for their claims.  

Participation in RAMP is voluntary, however veterans can expect to receive a review of VA’s initial decision on claims faster in RAMP than in the legacy appeals process. The initiative allows participants to have decisions reviewed in the Higher-Level or Supplemental Claim review lanes outlined in the law.

The reviewer can overturn previous decisions based on a difference of opinion, or return it for correction. Participants who select the Supplemental Claim Lane may submit new evidence and receive VA’s assistance in developing evidence in support of their claim.   

Veterans who disagree with the decisions they receive in RAMP can appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals under the new process and have their appeal decided by the board when the new law becomes effective. Veterans who participate in RAMP will not be able to return to the legacy appeals process.

VA encourages eligible veterans with pending appeals to participate in RAMP and the benefits of the new review process. VA will begin sending eligible veterans invitations to participate in early November and continue the program until February 2019.  

VA will continue working with Congress, veterans service organizations and other veteran advocates to implement the new appeals process through the next several months, as VA continues to make changes on behalf of veterans, their families and survivors.

‘Movember’ seeks to raise awareness of men’s health
On average, men die six years earlier than women.
The Movember Foundation encourages men to grow moustaches this month to raise awareness and funds to address the causes of premature death in men.
“Men are facing a health crisis that isn’t being talked about. They are dying too young, before their time,” according to the Movember Foundation website. The site also provides five tips to empower men to take control of their health.

Make man time. Stay connected. Friends are important, and spending time with them is good for you. Catch up regularly, check in and make time.

Have open conversations. Being there for someone, listening and giving your time can be life-saving. Reaching out is crucial.

Know the numbers. At age 50, men should talk to their doctors about prostate cancer and whether a PSA test is the right option. African Americans or those who have a father or brother with prostate cancer should be having this conversation at age 45.

Know your body. Get to know what’s normal for your testicles. Give them a check regularly, and go to the doctor if something doesn’t feel right.

Move more. Add more activity to your day. Do more of what makes you feel good.

Tips offered for caregivers of older adults

Caring for an older adult can bring both positive and negative emotions, and the following signs may signal the need for extra support.

• Exhaustion
• Frustration or anger with everyone, from the care recipient to doctors
• Worry or anxiety
• Feelings of guilt or jealousy
The following tips from the National Institute on Aging may help.

Take care of your own health. Eat healthy, exercise and get enough sleep.
• Join a caregiver support group. Sharing stories with others in similar situations can relieve a sense of isolation and introduce resources others find helpful.
• Ask for help. Check out these suggestions for starting a conversation about dividing caregiver responsibilities among the family.
• Take personal time. Take breaks during the day, spend time with friends and keep up with hobbies.

Diabetics urged to keep vaccines up to date
People with diabetes — Type 1 or Type 2 — are at higher risk for serious problems from certain diseases that can be prevented with a vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following vaccines for adults with diabetes.
Influenza: This vaccine protects against the seasonal flu and is recommended every year.
Pneumococcal: These vaccines protect against pneumococcal disease, including serious complications, such as pneumonia or meningitis.
Hepatitis B: This vaccine series protects against hepatitis B, a serious liver infection.
Tdap: This vaccine protects against tetanus (lockjaw), diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).
Zoster: This vaccine protects against shingles.
All of the above vaccines are important, especially for people with chronic health conditions, including diabetes.
For information on how to take care of diabetes and remain healthy, visit the National Diabetes Education Program at the CDC website, which also offers “Diabetes Education Materials” in the subscription options.

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