Northport VA Introduces Valet Parking for Patients

New Solution Tackles Parking Issues

NORTHPORT, N.Y. — On July 29, the Northport VA Medical Center will cut the ribbon on its new valet parking service.

This solution to Northport’s long-standing parking issues, provided by highly professional and courteous staff, is designed with the maximum convenience of veterans in mind.

“A convenient, simple, and stress-free way to get in and out of the hospital will benefit the physical and mental health all of our veterans,” said Dr. Cathy Cruise, the facility’s interim director.

Veterans with appointments, and visitors of admitted patients, will enjoy the new service free of charge.

Questions about the valet parking service can be directed to the Northport VA Medical Center public affairs office.

Veterans Qualify for New Benefits

VA MISSION Act Provisions Expand Access to Urgent Care

On June 6, the VA began implementation of the MISSION Act, an overhaul of VA operations designed to simplify and expand veteran access to healthcare both within, and outside of, the VA.

One of the most exciting new benefits provided by the MISSION Act is the addition of urgent care and walk-in clinics located within the local community. This is a giant step forward in terms of convenience for our patients, as eligible veterans do not need to get prior VA authorization to visit an urgent care provider that has been vetted, approved, and added to the network.

This urgent care benefit is meant to give veterans a convenient way to get treatment for minor injuries and illnesses such as colds, strep throat and pink eye. To be eligible for urgent and walk-in care, veterans must be enrolled in the VA health care system and have received care through VA from either a VA or community provider within the past 24 months.

As an example of how this works, please see here:

Veterans can click on the following link to find urgent care and walk-in clinics in their local areas:

For more information, or to schedule an interview with one of our MISSION Act experts, please contact the Northport VA Medical Center’s public affairs office.

Blue Water Update

Good evening —

I hope that you are all having a nice weekend. 

A few updates tonight: 

(1) I’ve received several emails asking whether Secretary Wilkie’s stay of Blue Water Navy claims until January 1, 2020, means that Blue Water Navy Veterans “should not bother filing or re-opening a claim” until that date arrives. 

The answer to that question is a resounding NO! 

Please do not delay in pursuing these claims. If you wait to file until January 1, 2020, then you will wind up losing several months of payments if the claim is granted. File now and preserve the earliest possible effective date for the claim. 

(2) The VA issued a press release late in the afternoon yesterday concerning claims filed under the Blue Water Navy Act. 

This press release confirms that when the VA does begin processing claims filed under the Blue Water Navy Act, two categories of claimants will receive priority in claims processing: Veterans over the age of 85 and Veterans who have a “life-threatening illness.” 

Here is a link to the press release:

(3) Many of you have asked how the VA will calculate the effective date for Blue Water Navy Veterans whose original claims were denied. 

The VA just released a “Fact Sheet” regarding Blue Water claims. Of particular interest is the following language: 

“Presumptive Agent Orange conditions granted for Blue Water Navy Veterans may be retroactive to the date VA received your original claim. If you had a previously denied claim and you resubmit your claim, the effective date will be determined on a case-by-case basis.”

With this language, the VA appears to be opening the door to granting at least some re-opened Blue Water cases back to the original date of claim. 

We do not yet know what rationale the VA will use to grant or not grant these retroactive payments. This language is from a VA-issued fact sheet, not from a law or regulation. However, it at least keeps the door ajar for at least some of these cases to be granted back to the effective date of the original claim. 

(4) Lastly, please remember that under 38 C.F.R. 3.156(c), if a claim is re-opened with military records that the VA did not consider when adjudicating the original claim, the effective date of that re-opened claim is always the original date of claim. 

The Blue Water Navy Act has no effect on this regulation. Therefore, if you can provide relevant military records that the VA failed to consider when deciding the original claim, and you are successful in winning the re-opened claim, then the VA should establish the original date of claim as the effective date, regardless of whether this re-opened claim is for a Blue Water Navy Veteran. 

Please let me know if you have any questions. I will continue to provide more updates as new information becomes available. 

Thank you, as always, for everything that you do. 


Benjamin Pomerance 

Deputy Director for Program Development 

New York State Division of Veterans’ Services 

Nave Blue Water Veterans

Good morning —

I hope that all of you had a wonderful Independence Day celebration. 

Many of you have asked me how quickly the VA will begin processing disability compensation claims for Blue Water Navy Veterans, now that the Blue Water Navy Act has been signed into law. 

Attached is a new memorandum from VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. In this memo, Secretary Wilkie orders the adjudication of claims that are impacted by the Blue Water Navy Act to be “stayed” (postponed) until January 1, 2020. 

We know from the Blue Water Navy Act that the VA has 120 days to provide a report of their “go forward plan” to Congress. We now also know from this memo that the VA is not going to start processing claims under this new law until at least January 2020 (and, if the VA has not finished promulgating its new Blue Water Navy regulations by that point, perhaps even later). 

The one remaining question is whether the VA’s postponement of processing these claims is valid under the Federal Circuit’s decision in Procopio v. Wilkie. The Procopio decision arguably did not grant the VA any latitude to delay adjudication of these cases for several months. 

Instead, Procopio simply stated that Veterans who served aboard ships on the offshore waterways should receive the same presumption of herbicide exposure as any other in-country Vietnam War Veteran. The majority opinion in this case does not provide any clear authority for the VA to treat a claim from a Blue Water Navy Veteran differently than a claim from any other in-country Vietnam Veteran. 

I have heard, but cannot yet confirm, that the Blue Water Navy Association is considering a legal challenge to the VA’s stay by presenting the case that this delay violates the Procopio decision. I will keep you posted as I learn more. 

In the meantime, if you are still seeking to immediately pursue a Blue Water Navy Veteran’s case, I recommend that you cite the Procopio decision, and not the Blue Water Navy Act, as your rationale in pursuing the claim. This could have effective date implications if the Blue Water Navy Association (or anyone else) is successful in challenging the validity of the stay. This is sort of a “Hail Mary pass” at this point, but it seems like the best option in light of Secretary Wilkie’s memo. 

I will keep you updated if more details arise. Thank you, as always, for all that you do. 


Benjamin Pomerance 

Deputy Director for Program Development 

New York State Division of Veterans’ Services 

Blue Water Navy Act

Here are some key details from the Blue Water Navy Act that was just signed into law by the President.

Effective Date: The new law goes into effect on January 1, 2020.

VA’s Responsibility: Within 120 days, the Secretary of the VA is required to submit a report to the Senate and the House of Representatives detailing the Secretary’s plans “to conduct outreach” to Veterans concerning this new legislation and “to respond to inquiries from Veterans regarding claims for disability compensation” under these new statutory provisions.

Translation: Within 120 days, we will know what the VA’s “go forward plan” is regarding these disability compensation claims, including the unanswered questions of whether Nehmer rules will apply to these cases, how the VA intends to prioritize these cases, etc., etc.

Definition of Offshore: A location is deemed to be “offshore of Vietnam” (and thus eligible for the presumption of Agent Orange exposure) if the location is within 12 nautical miles of the coast of Vietnam and Cambodia, along a line of demarcation intersecting the following points:

“Points Geographic NamesLatitude NorthLongitude East
At Hon Nhan Island, Tho Chu Archipelago Kien Giang Province9°15.0′103°27.0′
At Hon Da Island southeast of Hon Khoai Island Minh Hai Province8°22.8′104°52.4′
At Tai Lon Islet, Con Dao Islet in Con Dao-Vung Toa Special Sector8°37.8′106°37.5′
At Bong Lai Islet, Con Dao Islet8°38.9′106°40.3′
At Bay Canh Islet, Con Dao Islet8°39.7′106°42.1′
At Hon Hai Islet (Phu Qui group of islands) Thuan Hai Province9°58.0′109°5.0′
At Hon Doi Islet, Thuan Hai Province12°39.0′109°28.0′
At Dai Lanh point, Phu Khanh Province12°53.8′109°27.2′
At Ong Can Islet, Phu Khanh Province13°54.0′109°21.0′
At Ly Son Islet, Nghia Binh Province15°23.1′109° 9.0′
At Con Co Island, Binh Tri Thien Province17°10.0′107°20.6′

Spina Bifida Cases: Under this law, benefits are now available for children diagnosed with spina bifida who had a parent who served at covered locations in Thailand (e.g., Royal Thai Air Bases in certain military occupational specialties) during the Vietnam War. (This coverage is already available for children diagnosed with spina bifida who had a parent who served in Vietnam and along the Demilitarized Zone [DMZ] in Korea).

New Starting Date For Korean DMZ Presumptions: The new law amends the starting date for the presumption of exposure to Agent Orange to apply to a Veteran who served along the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) from April 1, 1968, to September 1, 1967.

Obviously, there are still several unanswered questions — particularly focusing on the mechanics of how the VA is going to handle these cases — but we will have these answers in the VA’s report to Congress within 120 days.

Thank you, as always, for all of the work that you do for Veterans, Service Members, and their families every day.


Benjamin P. Pomerance

Deputy Director for Program Development

New York State Division of Veterans’ Services

2 Empire State Plaza, 17th Floor, Albany, NY 12223

Phone (518) 474-6114 | Fax (518) 473-0379 | |

Secondary PTSD; The Toll of War Injuries on a Veteran’s Caregiver

PTSD, also known as post-traumatic stress disorder, is a common word used in the veteran community. My work with veteran nonprofits has taught me many things about PTSD, one of which being that today is PTSD Awareness Day, a day dedicated to creating awareness around the condition.

I’d like to share with you PTSD from a different perspective- from that of a veteran caregiver.

My wounded veteran husband claims he doesn’t have PTSD. Because he’s not currently depressed, he’s got that “tough Dad” image to keep up, and just simply because he fights through his obstacles every day without the admission.. So, why would he say, “I have PTSD.”

I have Secondary PTSD.

There. I said it. It took me many years to self-diagnose that statement.

Many days feeling like my life would never go back to “normal.” An obscene amount of ignored phone calls and messages from family and friends offering support. More denied outing requests than I’d care to admit from friends that didn’t know how to be there but continuously wanted to show me they cared by inviting me out to dinner, a playdate with their family, birthday parties- anything to take my mind off the chaotic changes taking over my life.

What they didn’t know, couldn’t have known, because I didn’t even know, was that I was suffering and at any point of my life, it can happen again. I won’t know I’m suffering because I’m too busy dealing with the personal stress, anxiety, and sometimes even depression of caring for my husband who also suffers, even when he won’t admit it.

We know how PTSD affects veterans and military persons. Many people don’t realize how indirect exposure with someone’s else firsthand trauma can have lasting effects. In a Veteran Caregiver’s situation, effects that gradually slide him/her into a role where she/he is constantly watching out for other’s well-being, whether that be people OR situations that will trigger the veteran’s traumatic experiences and/or injuries. The caregiver may start avoiding people, situations and places that might bring flashbacks or cause aggravation to the veteran. Soon, it becomes second nature to just isolate ourselves and we don’t even realize we’re doing it.

Basically, my behaviors mimic those of my husband’s post-traumatic stress because ultimately I’m trying to keep every situation calm and under control.

Ways I’ve Found to Cope: Post-traumatic Growth

Everyone’s situation is different and unfortunately even finding ways to overcome secondary PTSD, I know that at any unexpected moment, something could happen to spiral us back into our isolation zone. It’s a fact that I’ve learned to accept as our new “normal.’ On the flip side, there are things that have helped me get through these trying times.
Maybe counselling is the best option- A Doctor once told me that a person who had gone through the trauma that my family had dealt with will always need counselling at some point in their lives.  He was right.  I found it very beneficial to have an unbiased person to talk to. I’d encourage you to try and find a therapist that has experience in dealing with your condition. Finding someone to talk to can be crucial, and sometimes that may just be another caregiver that understands the challenges. I’ve had success with various support chats offered through nonprofits or organizations that support the veteran community.  Lastly, I try to always make time to process the grief or anxiety I am feeling. “Me” time. Whether it is a 5 minute walk alone because that’s all I can fit into my hectic schedule, or a full day getting pampered at the spa, I always make time for my own mental health because I’ve learned that in order for my family to be in a good place, I MUST take care of myself too.

Post-traumatic growth. It’s possible. Everyone has struggles, there will always be setbacks, and sometimes it may feel overbearing. Reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength that you want to do better, be better, and feel better. If not for you, then for those that care for you.

Caregiver to a U.S. Army Veteran & Heroes Thanking Heroes Representative

Blue Water Navy Act Now Law!

VFW-championed legislation will benefit tens of thousands of veterans and dependent children

WASHINGTON (June 26, 2019) – The national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is saluting the president for signing the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 into law last night.

“Tens of thousands of Blue Water Navy veterans of the Vietnam War and dependent children born with spina bifida due to a parent’s toxic exposure will now benefit from this new law,” exclaimed VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence, “and the VFW is proud to have helped lead the charge to return these benefits to these deserving veterans and to expand existing benefits to dependent children. We look forward to the Department of Veterans Affairs publishing implementation guidance on their website very soon.”

The VFW-championed Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, or H.R. 299, restores VA benefits to thousands of Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans who had their disability eligibility taken away in 2002 after arbitrary regulatory changes. It benefits veterans exposed to Agent Orange while serving along the Korean DMZ with an earlier start date to encompass the timeframe when various defoliants were tested — to Sept. 1, 1967, instead of April 1, 1968 — and expands benefits to children born with spina bifida due to a parent’s exposure in Thailand, coverage that already exists for the children of Vietnam and Korean DMZ veterans. The new law also requires the VA to report on research being conducted on a broad range of conditions possibly related to service in Southwest Asia, which is important for future legislative efforts to create a list of presumptive conditions for veterans seeking VA health care and benefits.

“The VFW is proud of the 116th Congress for ending this benefits inequity, and we salute President Trump for quickly signing H.R. 299 into law,” said Lawrence.

Though the following VA webpages have yet to updated to reflect the new law, veterans and their families can learn more about benefits associated with Agent Orange exposure here, and about spina bifida birth defects related to exposure here. For assistance in filing claims, find an accredited VFW service officer here.


5 Warning Signs of Mental Health Risk


1. A Change in Personality If someone is acting like a very different person, or not acting or feeling like themself, this is a warning sign.
2. Uncharacteristic Anxiety, Anger, or Moodiness.  Severe changes in emotion are a cause for alarm, especially if they are persistent.
3. Social Withdrawal and Isolation.  If an individual is “closing off” socially, cancelling social engagements, or spending too much time alone, this is a serious warning sign of emotional or mental health issues.
4. Lack of Self-Care or Risky Behaviors.  Persons with mental health issues often lose concern over their own health and well-being, engaging in risky behaviors like drinking and drug use.  In addition, a lack of hygiene, or lack of concern with appearance, may be indicative of a mental health issue.
5. A Sense of Hopelessness or Feeling Overwhelmed.  Mental health difficulties often cause people to give up – to feel like life is just too hard, or that they will never feel “normal” again.

These warning signs, particularly when occurring together, are an indicator that it is time to take action – for yourself or for others.  Realize that you are not alone.  Many Americans suffer from mental health issues at one time or another.  Seek help from a licensed, professional counselor, or contact a physician or your local mental health association.