Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. Attorneys at Law

COVID-19 Archives

Collection of VA Debts During COVID-19

The CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act required the Education Department and Treasury Department to pause debt collection for those type of debts owed to the Federal government. However, the Act did not do the same for those who owe a debt to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

ADVOCACY GROUPS PUSHING FOR FEDERAL BENEFITS FOR NATIONAL GUARD TROOPS ACTIVATED DUE TO COVID-19

National Guard troops may be activated on federal orders, commonly known as Title 32. Under 32 U.S.C., a state's governor is authorized or directed by the President of the United States to mobilize or activate the National Guard. The duties are performed under state control, but with pay and benefits provided by the Federal Government. This means that National Guard troops may be entitled to federal benefits, such as financial aid, health care, retirement points, education benefits, and possibly death gratuity.

Community Outreach during COVID-19

On March 13, 2020, Governor Kay Ivey declared an official State of Emergency in Alabama. Similarly, Mayor Sandy Stimpson followed suit by declaring a Public Health Emergency for the City of Mobile. Although Governor Ivey has now eased some of the restrictions surrounding businesses and daily life in Alabama, many of those in the Mobile area might still be needing assistance as the economic impact of a pandemic continues to take a toll. Below is a list of some of the different charities and services that are being provided in the Mobile area for those struggling during COVID-19.

New Law Protects Student Veterans During COVID-19

President Trump signed the Student Veteran Coronavirus Response Act on April 28. This new law is aimed at protecting educational benefits of those Veterans currently enrolled in school or vocational rehabilitation. There are three main ways the new law should positively impact Student Veterans:

IRS SETS MAY 5, 2020 DEADLINE FOR VETERANS REGARDING THE STIMULUS BENEFIT

Veterans receiving disability compensation who do not earn enough income to file tax returns annually have until May 5, 2020 to apply for the Coronavirus stimulus benefit. Many of these Veterans do not have direct deposit information on file with the IRS and so the IRS has requested that these Veteran's apply for the benefits directly by May 5, 2020. The IRS is also requesting information from these Veterans regarding dependents to determine if those veterans are entitled to the additional $500 payment per dependent, in addition to the $1,200 individual stimulus payment.

THE VA HAS BEGUN IMPLEMENTING THE "CARES" ACT PROVISIONS

The CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020. Following the signing, the Department of Veterans' Affairs began using its share of the funding to care for Veterans and strengthen its response to the pandemic.

VA and Facebook Partnering to Help Veterans Stay Connected During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Department of Veterans Affairs and Facebook recently announced a new partnership aimed at helping Veterans stay connected to family and friends during the COVID-19 pandemic. The partnership will provide 7,400 Facebook Portals (a Facebook videoconferencing device that typically costs $129) to Veterans and their caregivers or family members. In order to fully utilize the Facebook Portal, the users must have a Facebook account and will be able to video chat with any of their Facebook friends or friends with a WhatsApp account. For Veterans to be eligible to apply for a Facebook Portal, they must be enrolled in a caregiver program or a geriatric and extended care program. Those Veterans that are approved for the Facebook Portal will receive two devices, one for the Veteran and one for a caregiver or family member. VA hopes that the distribution of the Facebook Portals will help Veterans stay connected to their support systems and stem suicides in the Veterans' community.

IS COVID-19 AFFECTING VA DISABILITY CLAIMS?

Veterans have many questions regarding their disability claims and how the VA is currently handling claims amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Dr. Paul Lawrence, Department of Veterans Affairs Under Secretary, approximately 90% of the VA is enabled to telework (nearly 23,000 workers), which means that claims should continue to be processed as usual. However, all the VA disability offices are closed to the public at this time. Claims can still be filed online through VA.gov or by calling 1-800-827-1000.

IS COVID-19 AFFECTING SOCIAL SECURITY HEARINGS?

The Office of Hearing Operations closed its doors to the public almost two weeks ago and began offering some telephonic hearings depending on the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). At first the ALJs could not conduct hearings from home telephonically, but have been working with IT on that solution. Our office held conversations with the local hearing office which stated that they tested the phone for home hearings last week. In office staff at the hearing offices are limited.

IS COVID-19 AFFECTING SOCIAL SECURITY??

Per the National Association of Disability Representatives, SSA organized a conference last week regarding steps they are taking due to COVID-19. All district offices are continuing to take and adjudicate claims by phone, online and via mail. SSA is supposed to be prioritizing dire need claims and suspending policies which would reduce or eliminate benefits during this pandemic.

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