September 24, 2008
The Honorable James B. Peake, M.D.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20420
Dear Secretary Peake:
Veterans for Common Sense thanks you for your decision to use your rule-making authority and grant service-connected benefits for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
VCS urges VA to notify veterans about the new regulations under the duty to assist provisions of the Veterans Claims Assistance Act. For the new ALS regulation, VA should notify all veterans with a previously denied claim for ALS. And for the new TBI regulations, VA should notify all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with a pending or completed claim.
Veterans for Common Sense remains concerned about VA’s past approach to implementing new laws and regulations. In 2001, Congress expanded benefits for Gulf War veterans. Shortly thereafter, VA staff identified all of the veterans with previously denied claims for chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel. However, Ron Henke, the person in charge of Compensation and Pension Service at the time, refused to inform these targeted Gulf War veterans about the new law and regulations, saying he did not want to add to VA’s enormous claims backlog.
VCS asks VA to take another approach for the new regulations and individually notify the impacted populations as soon as possible. We look forward to hearing from VA about the details of VA’s outreach efforts to veterans eligible for new ALS and TBI disability benefits.