Veterans Corner: program for homeless veterans; PACT law; Q&A on COVID vaccines | Local News
HOMELESS VETERANS GRANT PROGRAM FOR COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS
VA has released a proposed rule allowing Grant and Per Diem (GPD) program recipients to receive reimbursement for costs associated with serving minor dependents of homeless veterans supported by the veteran. The GPD program has provided community housing with support services to veterans since 1994 as they transition to permanent housing. By the end of 2022, VA plans to place 38,000 homeless veterans in permanent housing. The VA GPD program provides grants to local community organizations and agencies to assist veterans in a variety of ways as they transition from homeless shelters and homelessness to regular employment and regular housing. Browse “VA Subsidy and Per Diem Program” or visit www.va.gov/homeless/gpd.asp for more information, including how community organizations can use GPD grants to help homeless veterans.
The Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (PACT) has been signed into law! The PACT Act expands access to VA health care services for veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during military service and waives the “income” criterion for access eligibility. Although the changes reduce the number of veterans deprived of access to VA health care, the number remains high. That means the test particularly affects older veterans whose former employers no longer help pay for the cost of retiree health insurance. The law will increase compensation for veterans exposed to Agent Orange to approximately 600,000 of Vietnam’s 1.6 million living veterans (boots on the ground) by adding to the list of veterans exposed to the Agent Orange, veterans who served in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam and American Samoa. and Johnston Atoll. A significant change under the PACT ACT also includes the elimination of the need to prove service connection on a combustion fireplace exposure claim. There are 23 new medical conditions that are considered presumptive for exposure to combustion fireplaces. This change significantly reduces the paperwork and time to file a service-related disability claim because the veteran does not have to provide proof of exposure. Visit www.va.gov/resources/the-pact-act-and-your-va-benefits for more details.
Q: I am a member of the National Guard. I received the COVID-19 vaccination as ordered by my command. I had concerns about being vaccinated against COVID-19 as directed by the Pentagon directive for active duty personnel. Unlike about 40,000 other members of the Guard, I took the vaccine. What’s the matter, that some Guardsmen who refused the vaccination weren’t affected?
A: According Military.com, the National Guard does not have a referral policy, unlike active-duty formations, requiring members of the Guard to be separated if they refuse to be vaccinated by order of the Pentagon. Part of the problem is that National Guard formations are under the authority of the states, not directly under the authority of the federal military. Several lawsuits have been filed by attorneys for the Air Force and Navy servicemen. Most courts have ruled that members seeking religious dispensation from getting vaccinated can only be released after a final decision on their waiver application has been made. The Marine Corps discharged 3,069 Marines with the vaccine denial discharge code in early July. Refusals to get vaccinated often indicate that the use of fetal cell lines in creating the vaccine is a point of contention for those with strict religious stances against abortion. Hopefully, when this issue is resolved, it will not diminish the effectiveness of our military forces or be the start of new refusals to follow what, on the face of it, appear to be legitimate orders.
Jerry Vogler is superintendent of the McLean County Veterans Aid Commission.