President Trump is expected to sign the Forever GI Bill, and it will cost more than $3 billion over the next 10 years. Veterans Affairs Secretary, David Shulkin, stated: “It restores benefits to veterans who were impacted by school closures since 2015 and has special benefits for our reservists, surviving dependents, and Purple Heart recipients.” Veterans will also no longer have a 15-year limit on educational benefits for new enlistees. Some other changes include: Veterans whose colleges closed in the middle of the semester will get restored benefits; Expanded benefits emphasize STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math degrees) programs through financial initiatives; All Purple Heart recipients since September 11, 2011 are eligible for educational benefits; New service members may use the benefit throughout their lifetime so long as they were discharged on or after January 1, 2013; GI Bill entitlements may be transferred to another dependent or spouse upon the serviceman or servicewoman’s death.
United States teenagers between ages 16 and 19 are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal car accident, and motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death in teenagers. The main reason for these statistics is that teenage drivers lack experience. But additional distractions such as texting and poor driving behaviors like failing to obey speed limits or wear seat belts increase the likelihood of an accident. Teenagers are also more prone to suffering serious injuries in car accidents than adults. Injuries include spinal injuries, neck and back injuries, head and brain injuries, soft tissue injuries, and broken bones. If your teenager has been injured in a car accident, it is important to seek out the help of a personal injury attorney immediately. An attorney can help your child receive the compensation he or she deserves.
The number of disability cases that are related to PTSD has nearly tripled in the last decade from around 345,000 cases in 2008 to more than 940,000 today. 22 percent of all veterans receiving compensation benefits from the department are service-connected PTSD benefits. Ronald Burke, the assistant deputy undersecretary at the Veterans Benefits Administration said that one of the reasons for the spike in PTSD claims has been the decision to relax eligibility and evidentiary rules for PTSD diagnoses since 2010. Additionally, more public attention on the topic and more awareness among veterans has prompted veterans to file claims. Both the VA and the Defense Department have been working to erase the stigma attached to seeking help for mental illness.
Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs does not recognize a causal connection between Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War and Glioblastoma, a kind of brain cancer. The VA has made exceptions in the past and allowed some veterans to prove the connection between Agent Orange exposure and Glioblastoma. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York is working to make sure fewer veterans have to jump through hoops to obtain this recognition: “There have been more than 20 individual appeals of vets with Glioblastoma that have been approved.” Senator Schumer has requested that the VA make publicly available “all claims submitted by veterans, or VSOs on a veteran’s behalf, for service-connected disability compensation due to a veteran’s diagnosis of Glioblastoma.” He has also asked the VA to fill in gaps of information in its data set for Vietnam era veterans who have been diagnosed with Glioblastoma. Diagnoses received by private physicians are not counted in the VA’s data. Lastly, Senator Schumer encouraged the VA to commission research “to determine whether a causal relationship exists between Glioblastoma and exposure to dioxins like Agent Orange.”
A report released this week by the Federal Reserve shows that more consumers are getting access to credit cards backed by major banks: more than 171 million consumers have access to these cards, up from 162.5 million who had access in 2005. Lenders are giving more consumers with sub-prime credit scores access to credit cards but with lower spending limits. More consumers have taken on auto and student loans, which make it harder for younger consumers to buy homes. Debt delinquencies of 90 days or more have mostly improved since 2008, but about 10 percent of student loans have balances that are 90 days or more delinquent. Housing debt is down close to $1 trillion, but auto loan balances are $367 billion higher, and student loans are $671 billion higher. Mortgages remain the bulk of the debt total at 67% as of 2016.
United States credit card debt reached a new high at $1.02 trillion. Matt Shultz, the senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com summed up the need of paying down one’s debt: “Even if you feel your debt is manageable right now, know that you could be one unexpected emergency away from real trouble. Get that debt paid down while things are good so you can be better prepared if things turn for the worse.” The percentage of American households carrying balances on their credit cards fell from 44 percent in 2010 to 34 percent in 2014. But 6 in 10 millennials don’t pay off their credit card balances in full every month. Delinquencies and late payments are near historic lows, but they are rising. It is fine to maximize credit card rewards, but make sure you’re paying off your balances to avoid high interest rates and fees.
VA Secretary David Shulkin recently assured transgender veterans that, despite President Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military, the VA’s services will be unaffected. As Secretary Shulkin stated: “I’ve assured them that our mission is to take care of all veterans and take care of them in a way that respects their dignity and provides care in the way that they deserve to get care.” He continued: “So, our commitment will be: As long as they are veterans, we are there for them for life, and we will continue to care for all vets.”
A House Bill recently passed 414-0 that will now move to the Senate to provide $2.1 billion to continue funding the Veterans Choice program, which allows veterans access to private medical care. An additional $1.8 billion will go to core VA programs, which include 28 leases for new VA medical facilities. As House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy stated: “Ultimately, it shouldn’t matter where veterans get care as long as they get the care they need.” More than 30 percent of VA appointments are currently in the private sector. The VA’s annual budget is approximately $180 billion.
If you are expecting a child it is important to understand the risk factors during pregnancy and at birth. The most common injuries that occur during pregnancy are brain development injuries due to lack of oxygen or infection and fetal alcohol syndrome. The most common causes for these are maternal medical conditions, taking certain medications while pregnant, smoking or taking recreational drugs, genetic defects and family history, and pregnancies after age 34. The most common birth injuries are caused by failure to perform a timely C-section, failure to diagnose and treat fetal infections, improper use of birth tools, which can cause developmental and physical damage, and lack of oxygen, such as cutting the umbilical cord too soon or umbilical cord compression.
Senator Claire McCaskill has asked the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America for information regarding how veterans have been affected by “other than honorable discharges” from the military. She’s also inquired what steps they would like to Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense to take. A report from the Government Accountability Office found that thousands of veterans who received misconduct separations had diagnoses of Traumatic Brain Injury, PTSD, and other related diagnoses within two years prior to their separation. Veterans can receive an “other than honorable discharge” for a variety of reasons, and the characterization of a veteran’s discharge plays a role in determining VA benefit eligibility.