For Your Benefit
For and about Hawaii's military

See also: In The Military

VA does recognize
‘advance directives’

Question: I have heard the term "advance directive" and that it is connected to patient's rights. Does the Department of Veterans Affairs recognize advance directives?

Answer: The VA affirms the patient's right to make decisions regarding his or her medical care, including the decision to discontinue treatment, to the extent permitted by law. Each patient has a right to complete a form known as an "advance directive," a written statement that the patient completes in advance of serious illness about which medical decisions the veteran wants made for him or her in the event that the patient can no longer make his or her wishes known.

The two most common forms of advance directives are a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care. You will be asked about your wishes regarding an advance directive at admission. This document, if you choose to create one, will be maintained as part of your medical record and will be reviewed periodically with you or your surrogate decision maker.

The guardian, next of kin or legally authorized responsible person representing the patient has the right to exercise, to the extent permitted by law, the rights delineated on behalf of the patient if the patient has been adjudicated incompetent in accordance with the law, is found by his or her physician to be medically incapable of understanding the proposed treatment or procedures, or is unable to communicate his/her wishes regarding treatment. For more information, contact the VA at 433-0600

Q: I remember some time ago that VA Secretary Anthony Principi made a promise that he would reduce the claims backlog. What is the status of that promise?

A: On Sept. 30, the secretary made good on his pledge when the VA's pending inventory dropped to 253,000 claims, representing a 41 percent reduction from a high of 432,000. In 2001, Principi pledged to reduce the claims workload to 250,000 by Sept. 30, 2003. To do this, he created the VA claims processing task force, that recommended changes to improve the claims process, which have been implemented. As a result, VA has over the past two years decided about 68,000 claims per month, an increase of more than 70 percent from the 2001 level of about 40,000 per month. The improvements in claims processing have not been made at the expense of quality. VA's measure of the accuracy of its benefit entitlement decisions is now at 85 percent, an improvement from an 81 percent accuracy level in fiscal year 2002. For more information, contact the claims office at 433-1000.

If you have questions about your benefits as a veteran,
call Fred Ballard at the Veterans Affairs at 433-0049
or visit the VA Web site at
or the Star-Bulletin at 529-4747.

Gregg K. Kakesako, who covers military affairs for the Star-Bulletin,
can be reached by phone at 294-4075
or by e-mail at


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