Archive for May, 2012

VA Claims Backlog

Posted: May 31, 2012 in Uncategorized
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Mike Grabski, 32, left the Marine Corps in 2006. The burly veteran, who played defensive end on the College of San Mateo football team before joining the military, would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night at home in San Bruno and grab his girlfriend, putting both hands around her neck. “I had no ill will toward her,” Mr. Rodriguez, 28, said in an interview, “but while I was asleep I felt like I was still back there, and I acted it out.” He said he slept with a .40-caliber Glock pistol under his pillow and drank a bottle of whiskey every night to help him forget the war and fall asleep. In December 2006, he filed a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs, arguing that he deserved a monthly disability check and priority mental health care from the agency because of post-traumatic stress disorder. More than five years later, he is still waiting for a final determination on his case. Rodriguez is one of 870,000 veterans nationwide who are waiting for a decision on a disability claim from the V.A. The waiting list has more than doubled since President Obama took office, despite the appropriation of more than $300 million for a new computer system and the hiring of thousands of claims professionals nationwide.
The problem is particularly acute in the Bay Area, where, according to figures provided by the V.A., returning soldiers wait an average of 313 days for a decision. Eighty percent must wait at least 125 days. Of the nearly 60 V.A. offices around the country, the Oakland office at 1301 Clay Street, Rm. 1400 North is the slowest. “The place is filled with paper, piles of it, everywhere,” said Representative Jackie Speier, a Democrat from San Mateo who toured the Oakland office last month as part of a meeting with the agency’s regional director on behalf of a group of constituents with claims dating as far back as six years. According to Speier, the backlog in Oakland has grown so severe that all new claims are immediately sent to V.A. offices in Lincoln, Neb., and Muskogee, Okla., where the backlog is less serious. “It is an epidemic of delay,” Speier said. “I did not exactly leave invigorated.” The Bay Citizen was denied a request to tour and photograph the department’s Oakland office and interview its director, Douglas Bragg. Mr. Bragg was unavailable for comment, according to Jessica Arifianto, an agency spokeswoman, but she released a statement from the office. “We are continuously working to improve our timeliness and performance in our service to our veterans,” it said, citing “ongoing efforts” to improve the quality and timeliness of ratings decisions, including hiring additional staff members, using simpler forms and forming quality control teams. The statement said the office was “taking steps” to meet a goal set by Eric Shinseki, the secretary of Veterans Affairs, to process all disability claims in fewer than 125 days with 98 percent accuracy by 2015.
On a tour of a V.A. facility in New Hampshire on 10 APR, Mr. Shineski said that, nationally, he expected waiting times to be cut in half over the next year as the new strategies are implemented. So far, however, there is little evidence of progress. According to government records, the number of V.A. disability claims, and the resulting backlog, has grown every year since Mr. Obama took office. While the agency has modestly increased the number of claims processed each year, the number of new claims filed has increased by 48 percent over the last four years as a flood of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans return home and file disability claims seeking compensation for wounds suffered in the line of duty (677,000 as of October 2011). At the same time, 231,000 Vietnam veterans have filed fresh disability claims related to diseases that the government only recently acknowledged stemmed from the spraying of the toxic defoliant Agent Orange.
“They build a technology infrastructure but haven’t pulled the trigger,” said Tom Tarantino, a former Army captain who works as a deputy policy director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “So all the extra money and full-time employees have done is prevent the problem from going way into the red. If they hadn’t been doing what they were doing, it would be a total disaster.” Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of veterans wait. “The V.A. is this monster paperwork machine,” said Mike Grabski, 32, an Army veteran of the war in Afghanistan who has been waiting since December 2009 for his disability paperwork to go through. Grabski, who lives in Napa, is unemployed and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. In 2007, Grabski’s friend, Staff Sgt. Larry Rougle, was killed by Taliban fighters. “Seeing your best friend full of holes is not fun,” he said. Grabski said that in addition to post-traumatic stress disorder, he sustained a mild traumatic brain injury, shoulder and knee injuries and hearing loss related to bomb blasts during his tours as a paratrooper in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also suffers from asthma, which he said worsened as a result of his service. “It’s been a constant heartache,” Mr. Grabski said of the disability claims process. “The money would be nice, but it’s not about the money. It’s about the care. I’ve got issues that need attending to.”
For Rodriguez, the Marine Corps veteran from San Bruno, the money is important. He filed his initial disability claim for post-traumatic stress disorder in December 2006 and received a 30 percent rating from the V.A. 403 days later, in January 2008. Rodriguez said the rating, which entitles him to $389 a month in disability payments, is not generous enough to allow him to take off from work to attend counseling and group therapy sessions that the V.A. offers during business hours. He said he wants the department to give him a 70 percent disability rating, which
would entitle him to $1,272 in compensation monthly. In an interview, Rodriguez said he still experiences frequent flashbacks and intrusive feelings of guilt and grief, prompted by his experiences conducting house-to-house searches during his deployment in Iraq in 2004, as well as by a stint in New Orleans, where he deployed to collect bodies after Hurricane Katrina. “If they upgraded my claim, I would be able to go to group therapy every day,” Mr. Rodriguez said, “and I hope I would get better.” In handing down its initial 30 percent rating in 2008, the agency did not dispute Mr. Rodriguez’s description of his condition, but wrote that “to assign a greater evaluation, there must be reduced reliability and productivity.” Michael Blecker, the executive director of Swords to Plowshares, a nonprofit veterans services organization that is helping Mr. Rodriguez with his appeal, said disability is not only about the ability to work. “It’s about somebody’s quality of life and making them whole from what they lost in the war,” he said. [Source: New York Times Aaron Glantz article 14 Apr 2012 ++]

 

The Veterans Affairs Department faces a "staggering" backlog of 897,566 disability claims with more than 65 percent pending for more than 125 days, a problem compounded by an error rate of 16 percent, representatives of veterans' services organizations told lawmakers on the House Veterans Affairs Committee on 18 APR. The department has seen a 48 percent increase in claims since 2008. Officials expect the backlog will grow to 1.2 million claims this year and another 50,000 will accrue in 2013 as veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars flood the system, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in March. He vowed to process all claims in fewer than 125 days with a 98 percent accuracy standard by 2015. Veterans' services organizations testimony included:
 Jeffrey Hall, assistant national legislative director for Disabled American Veterans, an advocacy group, told House lawmakers that "while the elimination of the backlog will be a welcome milestone, we must remember that eliminating the backlog is not necessarily the same goal as reforming the claims processing system, nor does it guarantee that veterans are better served."
 James Wear, assistant director for veterans benefits policy for the group Veterans of Foreign Wars, testified that the high error rate and the poor quality of VA's rating decisions, which determine the financial benefits veterans receive, are a serious problem. "Quality of decision-making is problematic . . . The national average [error rate] has remained nearly stationary at 16 percent for months," Wear said, adding the Veterans Benefits Administration's Baltimore regional office has the worst claims error rate in the country — 29 percent, which is a slight improvement over its error rate of 33 percent just a few months ago.
 Randall Fisher, the American Legion's service officer for Kentucky, told lawmakers that in order to improve the claims process, VA must make training a priority and hire more veterans whose experience would prove beneficial. Hall said due to budget constraints, VA has cut back on training, conducting it locally rather than using its national training academy. "We have concerns that this change was made strictly for short-term financial considerations rather than to achieve the long-term goal of reforming the claims processing system," he said.
Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., the ranking member on the committee, said, "There's no shortcut of getting around the basics — of having well-trained employees who are empowered with the right tools and the right systems to get the job done right the first time." Shinseki promised earlier this month that VA will roll out its paperless Veterans Benefit Management System to 16 regional offices by September, with installation in all 56 regional offices in 2013. Hall said he was concerned budget constraints could impede the national rollout of VBMS, and urged the committee to provide full funding for the system. VA requested $92.3 million for VBMS in 2013, and spent a total of $343.6 million on the system in 2011 and 2012. Even as it moves to a paperless claims system, Hall said VA still will face older paper claims and it has yet to determine when or how those would be converted to digital files. A majority of claims processed each year are for reopened or appealed claims, which can remain active for decades. "Until all legacy claims are converted to digital data files, VBA could be forced to continue paper processing for decades," Hall said.
Paul Sullivan, managing director for public affairs and veteran outreach at Bergmann & Moore LLC, a law firm based in Bethesda, Md., said veterans service organizations or lawyers representing veterans cannot gain access to VBMS, something he urged the committee to change. On 16 APR, VA announced plans to streamline and speed up disability claims processing by segmenting claims so those that can be more easily rated can be moved quickly through the system; more complex claims would be handled by more experienced and skilled employees. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said VA's track record of making changes to its claims processing system has been "substandard." He added that VA needs to ensure that the much touted VBMS system is set up correctly and used efficiently. [Source: NextGov.com Bob Brewin article 19 Apr 2012 ++]

It is possible to be compensated at a level above 100 percent for service-connected disabilities through VA’s special monthly compensation (SMC) program. Conditions that rate SMC are identified by letters ranging from (k) to (s). Refer to rate tables at http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/Rates/comp02.htm. For example, a SMC(k) rating provides an additional $99 per month above whatever your disability payment is already. Some SMC ratings provide $8,000+ support beyond the amount awarded for a 100 percent disability rating. Medical conditions for which SMC applies include the specific loss or loss of use of organs or extremities — either an amputation or having no effective remaining function in an extremity or organ. VA lists these disabilities as eligible for SMC:
 Loss, or loss of use, of a hand or foot.
 Immobility of a joint or paralysis.
 Loss of sight of an eye (having only light perception).
 Loss, or loss of use, of a reproductive organ.
 Complete loss, or loss of use, of both buttocks.
 Deafness of both ears (having absence of air and bone conduction).
 Inability to communicate by speech (complete organic aphonia).
 Loss of a percentage of tissue from a single breast, or both breasts, from mastectomy or radiation treatment.
VA will pay more for combinations of these disabilities such as loss or loss of use of the feet, legs, hands and arms. The distinction between “loss of a limb” and “loss of use of a limb” is important — you don’t have to undergo an amputation to qualify for SMC. For example, if a veteran cannot balance or push off his foot, he may be considered to have lost the use of that foot, and so would qualify for SMC. Similarly, if a veteran cannot pick up objects with his hand, he may qualify for SMC for loss of use of that hand. In addition, veterans rated 100 percent disabled by VA who are housebound, bedridden or need the aid and attendance of another person also may be eligible for SMC. The amount of payment in these instances varies depending on the level of aid required. SMC payments aren’t meant to compensate for potential loss of earnings from a disability but rather for noneconomic factors such as personal inconvenience, social inadaptability or the profound nature of a disability. In determining qualifications for SMC, the VA must review the medical evidence regarding the loss or loss of use and then make a decision regarding the level of SMC to be paid. Contact your nearest VA regional office for more details on SMC or you can call VA’s main benefits information hotline toll free at 800-827-1000. VA also has a SMC fact sheet listed at http://www.vba.va.gov/VBA/benefits/factsheets/. [Source: Command Master Chief Alex Keenan, USCG (Ret) article 23 Apr 2012 ++]

A group of lawmakers, including Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio have asked the Pentagon to investigate allegations the Marine Corps and Navy have concealed information about water pollution at Camp Lejeune from regulators and the public. More than 17,000 Floridians may have been exposed to highly contaminated drinking water at the Marine Corps base in North Carolina before 1987, Corps figures show. The Corps has requested in recent months that the federal agency studying contamination at the base redact portions of a public report showing the location of active water wells and water systems at Lejeune. The Corps says releasing that information poses a security risk. Critics of the Corps argue that withholding such information makes it impossible for other scientists to evaluate the report. They say it is an attempt to hinder work that may prove the Corps and Navy culpable in poisoning veterans.
"Some of our offices have received information indicating that the (Navy) and (Corps) have used (public records) exemptions to justify the withholding of key information contained in many of these documents from the public without adequate legal justification," the lawmakers said in a letter to the Pentagon's inspector general. "We want to ensure the reports provided to the public have not, and will not, omit critical information that would aid future scientific inquiry and most importantly, cause the public to doubt the transparency and integrity of this inter-agency process," the letter signed by six senators and three representatives said. The letter was signed by Rubio, a Republican, and Nelson, a Democrat; Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Kay Hagan, D-N.C.; and U.S. Reps. John Dingell, D-Mich., Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Brad Miller, D-N.C. So far, the inspector general has not said if it will investigate. The Corps said it has withheld nothing from the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, which is leading efforts to research the water contamination and its health effects.
ATSDR scientists are currently working on a water model that will help determine the level of contaminants throughout Lejeune going back decades. In January, a technical report supporting that work was released and was redacted at the Navy and Marine Corps' request."We support (ATSDR) and have given them full access to our data so they can seek science-based answers for our former residents and workers," said Capt. Kendra Hardesty, a Corps spokeswoman. "Secrecy would be counterproductive to this mission." Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and administrator of ATSDR, told lawmakers earlier this year that ATSDR did not have the expertise to determine if the redactions are necessary, so it agreed to withhold the locations of the water system infrastructure. He said location information was "scientifically unnecessary." But the scientist hired by ATSDR to help produce the report took the rare step of criticizing Frieden in a letter to ATSDR's director, saying Frieden's statement about scientific necessity "is patently false and … borders on the inane and silly." The scientist, Robert Faye, said the redactions "do indeed substantially compromise the technical and scientific integrity" of the report. An ATSDR spokeswoman said in a statement, "ATSDR has received all information necessary for completing" its Lejeune work. "Our science has not been compromised." [Source: Tampa Bay Times William R. Levesque article 13 Apr 2012 ++]

As American military operations draw down in the Middle East, officials in several U.S. states are trying to hold down the number of soldiers who show up in local criminal courtrooms and jails. The soldiers don't always show visible scars from the battle zone. A larger problem, say those who help treat and study them, are mental and emotional problems caused by violent bomb blasts, constant combat stress and the jarring return home to mostly civilian neighborhoods. "A significant sacrifice falls on a tiny footprint of the population," said James Holbrook, a University of Utah law professor who helped found the National Center for Veterans Studies at the school. "They see a whole host of issues when they come back and try to reintegrate. It's a very isolating experience." Some of the troubled soldiers commit crimes, sometimes driven by mental problems or drug and alcohol abuse. But officials in an increasing number of states say that these veterans — like some drug offenders — belong in rehabilitation and counseling programs instead of behind bars.
During the past three years, at least 27 states across the nation have set up "veterans' treatment courts," aimed at healing instead of punishing. Missouri currently has four such courts in St. Louis, Kansas City, Jackson County and Poplar Bluff. State Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, thinks the state should be adding even more. Barnes is sponsoring legislation to allow circuit courts in Missouri to establish such courts. The measure passed the House earlier this month and is pending before a Senate committee. The 13th Judicial Circuit has been working on a plan to establish a veterans court in Boone County. The circuit has applied for federal funding to establish the court. Defendants in veterans' courts, often first-time offenders, are usually pre-approved by the judge. Also in the courtroom is a liaison from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, scheduling therapy and helping ex-soldiers figure out which VA services they qualify for. In addition to treatment, the courts also try to find veterans who can befriend soldiers and relate their own experiences. For those who successfully complete treatment, some courts allow charges to be reduced or dropped. [Source: Columbia Daily Tribune article 15 Apr 2012 ++]

VA Claim Processing

Posted: May 27, 2012 in Uncategorized
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The Department of Veterans Affairs announced 16 APR the national deployment of claims transformation initiatives to 12 regional offices in the remaining months of fiscal year 2012 to improve benefits delivery to Veterans, families and their survivors. "This is an important milestone in our transformation to achieve the goal we established in 2009 of processing all disability claims within 125 days at a 98 percent accuracy level in 2015,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. The 12 regional offices to begin the deployment of the transformation initiatives include: Huntington, W.Va.; Hartford, Conn.; Portland, Ore.; Houston, Texas; Cleveland, Ohio; Des Moines, Iowa; Boise, Idaho; Phoenix, Ariz.; New Orleans, La.; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Atlanta, Ga.; Newark, N.J. This deployment follows four pilot programs at Indianapolis, Ind., Wichita, Kan., Milwaukee, Wis., and Fort Harrison, Mont., in 2012.
VA’s transformation plan is based on more than 40 measures that were selected, evaluated, tested and measured from over 600 stakeholder and employee innovation ideas. “This national deployment, consisting of people, process and technology initiatives, follows comprehensive planning and testing to ensure we have the right recipe for success," added Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey. During the national deployment, VA will further track and gauge the integrated effects of the transformation plan to reduce the backlog of disability claims and provide Veterans, their families, and survivors with more timely and accurate claims decisions. VA expects to deploy the transformation plan to the remaining 40 regional offices throughout calendar 2013. The major components of the transformation plan that will be nationally deployed include:
 The Intake Processing Center, which adds a formalized process for triaging claims documents and other mail, and drives faster and more accurate association of mail with Veterans’ claims files;
 Segmented Processing Lanes, which allow claims that can be more easily rated to move quickly through the system and the more complex claims to be processed by VA’s more experienced and skilled employees;
 Cross-Functional Teams, which support a case-management approach to claims processing that minimizes rework and reduces processing time; and
 The Veterans Benefits Management System, which is a new electronic claims processing system that employs rules-based technologies to improve decision speed and quality.
VA has already nationally implemented:
 Quality Review Teams, which are composed of dedicated local quality review specialists who will evaluate station and individual employee performance and conduct in-process reviews to eliminate errors at the earliest possible stage.
 Simplified and Standardized Rating Notification Letters, which give Veterans one simplified decision letter that provides notice of VA’s decision, including a summary of the evidence considered and the reason for the decision.
VA provides compensation and pension benefits to more than four million Veterans, family members and survivors. Veterans filing claims may file online through eBenefits, a joint project between the Department of Defense and VA, at https://www.ebenefits.va.gov. They can check the status of their claim with a Premium eBenefits account, and use a growing number of online services or contact VA Call Centers for more information at 1-800-827-1000 [Source: VA News Release 16 Apr 2012 ++]

Did you miss this year’s 17 APR filing deadline. You are not alone. The IRS says 10 million of the 140 million Americans who file tax returns each year ask for extensions – and this year, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is one of them, according to The Washington Post. In fact, the IRS website http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=108326,00.html has an entire section called Filing Late and/or Paying Late. If you have not filed the following is germane:
1. Missed the deadline. While midnight 17 APR was the deadline to file your taxes, it’s also was the deadline to get an extension to file your taxes. A Form 4868 would have given you extra six months if you filled out the form correctly and sent it in by the deadline. U.S. citizens and residents are granted an automatic 2 month extension beyond 17 April if they are outside the United States or Puerto Rico on that date. If you intend to file during the two month period granted annotate the top of your tax form “Taxpayer Abroad” (temporary) or “Out of the Country” (you live outside the United States). It's important to understand the ramifications of not filing a past due return and the steps that the IRS will take. Taxpayers who don't file a past due return or contact the IRS are subject to the following:
 Penalties and Interest will be assessed and will increase the amount of tax due. Expect a failure to file penalty of 5% per month of taxes due up to a maximum of 25% with minimum penalty is $135. In addition a failure to pay penalty (i.e. interest) of one half of 1% will be assessed. If you pay with an IRS installment plan, that cuts your penalty down to a quarter of a percentage point monthly. If you owe less than $10,000 and don’t have any other problems with the IRS, this is as automatic as the tax-filing extension. You’ll have to pay $105 to set up the installment plan, but that gets cut in half ($52) if you let the IRS take the money out of your bank account electronically.
 The IRS will file a substitute return for you. But this return is based only on information the IRS has from other sources. Thus, if the IRS prepares this substitute return, it will not include any additional exemptions or expenses you may be entitled to and may overstate your real tax liability.
 Once the tax is assessed the IRS will start the collection process, which can include placing a levy on wages or bank accounts or filing a federal tax lien against your property.
 Even if the IRS has already filed a substitute return, it still makes sense for you to file your own return to make sure you take advantage of all the exemptions, credits, and deductions you are allowed. The IRS will generally adjust your account to reflect the correct figures.
NOTE: Taxpayers who continue to not file a required return and fail to respond to IRS requests for a return may be considered for a variety of enforcement actions. Continued non-compliance by flagrant or repeat nonfilers could result in additional penalties and/or criminal prosecution.
2. You might be a special case. There are exceptions to every rule, even those written by the IRS. If you qualify for a program called Fresh Start, you get a penalty-free extension on actually paying your taxes. Even then, you will still owe interest. But you must fall into one of these categories:
 .Wage earners who have been unemployed at least 30 consecutive days during 2011 or in 2012 up to this year’s April 17 tax deadline; or
 Self-employed individuals who experienced a 25 percent or greater reduction in business income in 2011 due to the economy.
 you’ve survived a natural disaster in the past year or you were on active military duty, you might also qualify for the same break.
3. Deadline not applicable. There’s one class of taxpayer that doesn’t have to worry about today’s deadline: those getting a refund. If Uncle Sam owes you, you won’t be penalized for filing late.
4. How you can avoid owing money on next year's return? Many people don't file tax returns because they don't have enough money to pay the tax they owe. They find out after completing their return that their withholding or Estimated Tax payments do not equal their tax liability. To help avoid this situation, the IRS can advise taxpayers how to ask an employer to withhold enough tax from their pay. For any income that is not subject to withholding, the IRS can provide information necessary to make quarterly payments to cover any amount to be owed. To make payments electronically check out http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=174251,00.html, or go to the EFTPS Web site http://www.irs.gov/app/scripts/exit.jsp?dest=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.eftps.com%2F. Changes in financial circumstances could have an impact on taxes. For example, an increase in income, divorce, or selling an asset, may require adjustments to withholding or estimated payments. By taking these steps, taxpayers will be better able to meet their tax obligations and avoid tax day surprises.
[Source: MoneyTalksNews Stacy Johnson article 17 Apr 2012 ++]

Vet Cremains

Posted: May 25, 2012 in Uncategorized
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On 20 APR ten veterans were buried with full honors in an Arizona cemetery. One served in Africa during World War II, another in Korea. A third earned an Army Commendation Medal for his service in Vietnam. The men were homeless or indigent when they died, and their remains sat unclaimed in funeral homes for months, even years. In other states, volunteers have found the remains of veterans who fought in the Civil War. A new bill S.2244 : Veterans Missing in America Act of 2012 from Sens. Rob Portman R-OH) and Mark Begich (D-AK) would instruct the Department of Veterans Affairs to work with veterans’ organizations to help find and identify the unclaimed remains of former servicemembers, and, if they are eligible, to ensure their interment in national cemeteries. Portman and Begich’s office predict bipartisan support for the bill, which they expect to pass with little resistance. A similar bill H.R.2051 sponsored by Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, already has 38 co-sponsors. But a version that was introduced in the last Congress died in committee.
Fred Salanti, the executive director of the Missing in America Project, which looks for and identifies the unclaimed remains of veterans and their dependents, worries that this year’s legislation will meet a similar fate.
“To me it’s very frustrating, because anybody that hears what we’re doing or sees what we’re doing automatically is on board,” he said. Since Salanti’s organization began in 2006, its work has led to the recovery, identification and burial of the remains of more than 1,600 veterans. He said the volunteers expected to reach 2,000 burials within the next couple of months. Many of the veterans they find were homeless or indigent when they died, he explained, while others were lost in mix-ups after their spouses or other loved ones died. The legislation, Salanti hopes, would help streamline the process and encourage funeral homes — which are sometimes fearful of releasing information or burial rights due to liability issues — to work with veterans’ organizations to identify unclaimed remains.
Neither the National Funeral Directors Association nor the Cremation Association of North America has records on the number of unclaimed remains at funeral homes. Barbara Kemmis, the executive director of the Cremation Association of North America, said the issue of unclaimed remains came up at a recent trade conference. Her impression from funeral home directors was that it’s an extensive problem. Funeral home directors will, “to a one,” she said, do everything they can to preserve cremated remains on the off chance that someone claims them. Some have even put up additions or new buildings to store them. The Congressional Budget Office hasn’t researched the cost of the Senate bill yet. A representative from Portman’s office said the CBO suggested that the cost should be low, considering that the VA already sets aside money for burying eligible veterans in national cemeteries. Another provision of both versions of the bill would instruct the VA to create a nationwide public database of missing remains to aid in their identification. Portman’s office added that the VA already keeps a database of veterans’ grave sites that could be adapted for accounting for missing remains, keeping costs down. There’s no CBO research into the House version of the bill, either, but an aide from Tiberi’s office said the cost would be “negligible.” [Source: Medil News service Andy Matarrese article 19 Apr 2012 ++]

 

The Missing in America Project (MIAP) will conduct its first ceremony in the State of Virginia by honoring eighteen veterans whose cremated remains have been in the care of Altmeyer Funeral Homes of Newport News, Virginia Beach, and Bucktrout Funeral Home in Williamsburg, yet have remained unclaimed. Services will be conducted with full military honors for the following eighteen veterans at 11:00 am, Saturday, May 12, 2012 at Bucktrout Funeral Home, 4124 Ironbound Road, Williamsburg, VA 23188
 Sgt. Carrel D. Cramer, 1920-1973, WWII US Army Air Force 1940-1945
 PFC Willie N. Dailey, 1933-2010, USA 1955-1957
 Captain Raymond H. Diggle, 1914-2003, USN Retired 1942-1972
 Corporal Durwood C. Ewell, 1930-1988, USA 1950-1953
 Fireman First Class Petty Officer Henry Ferguson, 1929-2002, USN 1946-1948
 Sgt Carl Galimore, 1922-1996, USA Retired, 1942-Jan 1946, Mar1946-1965
 Technician 5th Grade Murray Gray, 1919-2001, USA 1942-1946
 Chief Aviation Pilot Henry G. Luhring, 1922-1996, USN 1942-1946
 Technician 4th Grade Martin C. Malone, 1917-1997, USA 1943-1945
 Sgt Peter J. Maresca, 1907-1974, USA 1943-1945
 Sgt Stuart B. Miller, 1896-1989, USA 1917-1919
 Chief Storekeeper Robert A. Rees, 1905-1991, USN 1942-1944
 Pvt George S. Roger, Jr. 1917-1992, USA 1946-1947
 Lt. Parke S. Rouse Jr. 1916-1997, USN 1942-1946
 Pfc Ray C. Seigla, 1924-2007, USA 1943-1946
 Cpl Harry Silverman, Jr. 1917-1978, USA 1943-1946
 AB Thomas B. Smith 1942-2007, US Air Force 1961-1963
 Pfc Robert L. Sumner, 1913-1983, USA Air Corp 1942-1945
A Bucktrout-Altmeyer Funeral Home hearse carrying the cremated remains will be escorted by members of the MIAP, Veteran's Recovery Program, with American flags flying on motorcycles and vehicles to Quantico National Cemetery. The hearse will be followed by Patriot Guard Riders, Mustangs M/C, Combat Veterans M/C, other participating veterans organizations and any member of the public who like to attend via motorcycle or vehicle. Government officials, the public and media are invited to attend. Details are as follows:
 Services will be conducted 12 MAY 2012 at 11:00 am in the Bucktrout Funeral Home, 4124 Ironbound Road, Williamsburg, VA 23188
 Interment is scheduled for 14 MAY 2012 at 09:00 am in Quantico National Cemetery, 18424 Joplin Road, Triangle, VA 22172, Date: May 14, 2012
 For information and/or pre-event media coverage: Charlie Warthling – Virginia MIAP State Coordinator, 757.567.2682(C), 757.468.1139 harley4ever820409@yahoo.com
A second ceremony for which the public is encouraged to attend is scheduled on 10 MAY 2012 at 1300 hrs (1:00 p.m.) at Great Lakes National Cemetery, 4200 Belford Road, Holly, Michigan 48442. The Michigan Police Escort and Honor Guard, Vietnam Veterans of America #154 Honor Guard, American Legion Riders, Patriot Guard Riders, Native American Veterans of SE Michigan are scheduled to participant. The following are to be interned:
 John Wayne Lillibridge, US Army
 Stephen Lewandowski, US Army
 Wanda Sue Greene, spouse of Paul Rayburn Greene, US Army
The purpose of the MISSING IN AMERICA PROJECT is to locate, identify and inter the unclaimed cremated remains of veterans through the joint efforts of private, state and federal organizations; to provide honor and respect to those who have served this country, by securing a final resting place for these forgotten Heroes. For more information, visit http://www.miap.us. [Source: MIAP Press Release 18 & 20 Apr 2012 ++]