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VA officials seek opinion of veterans and public and private experts

WASHINGTON -- Officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs are hosting a public forum in Scottsdale, Ariz., aimed at improving the fairness of payments for veterans who are service-connected for genitourinary, digestive, dental, infectious, immune disorder and nutritional deficiency diseases and injuries.

"We welcome to this public forum key stakeholders, our nation's veterans, veterans service organizations, public and private health experts, health economists and Department of Defense professionals, who will provide us with the information we need to bring the disability rating criteria into the 21st century," said Michael Walcoff, the acting undersecretary for benefits.

The focus of the forum is to assist VA officials in gathering information to update the department's schedule for rating disabilities. The schedule is used to assign levels of disability compensation for veterans who are service-connected for these disabilities. The forum's agenda includes presentations by VA and DOD officials, as well as private subject-matter experts.

The forum is taking place from Jan. 25 to 28 and Jan. 31 to Feb. 3 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The public forum is the third in a series of meetings that will enable VA officials to make changes to the ratings schedule. It is part of a systematic update of all 15 body systems of the rating schedule, to be completed by 2016. The two previous forums held in 2010 focused on mental health and musculoskeletal disorders.

VA provides compensation and pension benefits to more than 4 million veterans and other beneficiaries through a VA nationwide network of 57 regional offices. Currently, the basic monthly rate of compensation paid to veterans ranges from $123 to $2,673.

Disability compensation is a non-taxable, monthly monetary benefit paid to veterans who are disabled as a result of an injury or illness that was incurred or aggravated during active military service.

After finding that a veteran's disability is service-connected, the rating schedule is applied to determine the level of disability, which ranges from zero to 100 percent. The veteran then receives compensation payments based on the disability level assigned.

Veterans and other people seeking information about, or assistance with, VA compensation or pension benefits may call 800-827-1000, or go to