2022 has been a significant year in veterans’ news. Topped off by the passing of the largest expansion of VA services in history, this year also saw a near unprecedented increase in VA disability payments, several important changes to VA policies, and more. We share seven of the most noteworthy news stories from this year.
1) PACT Act passes
The Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022, more commonly known as simply the PACT Act, passed in Congress with bipartisan support and was signed into law on Aug. 10, 2022. The bill failed to gain traction when it was first introduced in 2021. When Congress took it up again this year, it appeared to be moving toward approval until it hit a bureaucratic speed bump followed by an unexpected reversal by some senators that shocked service members, veterans, and civilians. Veterans and their supporters “camped out in 90-plus-degree heat, high humidity, and driving rain and storms” until the Senate finally passed the bill on an 86-11 vote.
The law provides health care and compensation for veterans exposed to toxins from burn pits, Agent Orange, and contaminated water and establishes a presumptive connection for numerous conditions. It is expected to cost more than $280 billion over the next decade and impact millions of veterans. As of December 2022, the VA has continued to make moves in response to the PACT Act that include mass toxic screenings, immediate prioritization of terminal PACT Act claims, and spreading awareness of the new law to impacted veterans. The VA has also been undergoing a massive hiring push to try to keep up with the influx of new PACT Act claims, which is expected to be more than 10 million over the next decade.
2) Historic rate increase for VA disability compensation
The more than 5 million veterans receiving disability compensation from the VA will see larger monthly checks beginning in January 2023. Due to skyrocketing inflation rates, the largest cost of living adjustment in 30 years was approved and signed into law by President Biden in October. VA disability checks will increase by 8.7% in the new year.
3) VA struggles with move to digital medical records
In October, the VA extended its delay on deploying electronic health records through Oracle Cerner to June 2023. Several months prior, it had been announced e-health records would deploy at a delayed date in January 2023.
The VA found continued system and performance challenges affecting usability and speed, which led to the extended delay. “Right now, the Oracle Cerner electronic health record system is not delivering for veterans or VA health care providers,” said Donald Remy, Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs. “We are holding Oracle Cerner and ourselves accountable to get this right.”
4) Camp Lejeune water addressed as other environmental concerns surface
The water at Camp Lejeune was further addressed by the passing of the PACT Act, but has become a separate story in its own right. Veterans and civilians who drank, bathed in, or were otherwise exposed to the water at Camp Lejeune between August 1953 and December 1987 may now sue the federal government with legal representation.
The VA had previously addressed Camp Lejeune by offering health care and benefits for numerous presumptive conditions to those affected by the contaminated water, which can cause cancer, infertility, miscarriages, and more. The new law allows those affected to take further action toward getting the justice they deserve.
The new law also comes in a year when environmental concerns and water supply issues at other U.S. military bases, including Pearl Harbor, are making headlines.
5) 988 suicide prevention line goes live
The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline launched in July 2022. Modeled after the 911 format, 988 is meant to be an easy-to-remember number that those in mental or emotional crisis can text or call for help. Veterans may call 988 in crisis situations or text 838255 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
The new, more comprehensive 988 line may provide a much-needed resource for many veterans, despite the VA’s assurance that veteran suicide rates are down to their lowest rate in over a decade. These reports are being met with some accusations that the VA is misrepresenting the data or undercounting veteran suicides.
6) Military struggles with recruitment efforts
All branches of the U.S. Armed Forces struggled to meet their recruitment goals for the 2022 fiscal year. The U.S. military being entirely based on volunteer recruits paired with an all-time low number of eligible Americans has led to the shortage.
In response, eligibility requirements have been continuously adjusted throughout the year. For example, the Navy increased the maximum age for enlistment to 41. Similarly, the Army relaxed on its tattoo policy after easing up on grooming standards in 2021.
7) U.S. veterans step up to support Ukraine
News of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine made worldwide news in February 2022. Many American veterans responded to the news by offering their aid to Ukraine’s forces after President Volodymyr Zelensky called for the formation of an “international legion.”
U.S. veterans heeded the call despite challenges with paperwork and screening as foreigners, as well as concerns over what their contractual obligations might be. Some planned to use their knowledge, skills, and experience to fight, while others hoped to train Ukranian troops. For some, the sacrifice involved being captured by Russian soldiers, tortured, and held for weeks before their release.
Our year in review at Woods and Woods
We have had another wonderful year here at Woods and Woods, fighting alongside our clients to help them get the disability compensation they deserve. The holiday season is an opportunity for our attorneys and staff to reflect on everything we have to be grateful for and how far we’ve come in 2022.
Some highlights of our year included expanding our staff to over 100 incredible team members and moving to a new legal operating platform. We worked hard together in the office and played hard together at work-sponsored family gatherings including a day at an amusement park, afternoons at the pumpkin patch and a baseball game, and most recently, our annual Christmas party.
We remain as thankful as ever for our clients, who were willing to sacrifice their health and their lives to protect our rights and freedoms. We wish you a safe, warm, and happy holiday!
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1) Dealing with that VA requires an expertise that many of us do not possess.
2) Woods & Woods made the difference.
Their savvy expertise in dealing with the VA and their commitment to their clients exemplifies a level of professionalism and commitment that seems not to be the standard in today’s world.“
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