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  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Prioritizing all Pending Veterans Benefits Appeals Claims for Victims of Hurricanes Florence and Michael

    U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Prioritizing all Pending Veterans Benefits Appeals Claims for Victims of Hurricanes Florence and Michael



    Washington, DC - - (October 30, 2018) - - Veterans impacted by recent hurricanes Florence and Michael will now have their pending appeals claims for benefits prioritized by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), department officials announced.

    VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals has determined that the significant effects of hurricanes Florence and Michael were sufficient cause for the Board to advance the appeals for counties in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia determined to be disaster areas by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

    “Accelerating the decision process on pending appeals claims for those Veterans and their families affected by hurricanes Florence and Michael is the right thing to do,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

    By regulation, the Board may advance appeals on its docket by a motion of the chairman if sufficient cause is shown. All Veterans and other appellants with an appeal currently pending before the Board whose addresses of record are in one of the affected counties will have their appeal automatically advanced on the Board’s docket. No action from Veterans or appellants are needed if their addresses are current. Visit the list of counties affected by hurricanes Florence and Michael at this link: https://www.bva.va.gov/.

    The advancement on docket (AOD) for these two storms is expected to last for six months from the date of the events. Therefore, Florence counties will be AODed from Oct. 1, 2018, to March 31, 2019; and counties affected by Hurricane Michael will be AODed from Nov. 1, 2018, to April 30, 2019. The Board will reassess AOD for these two storms once the six-month periods end.

    The Board’s mission is to conduct hearings and decide appeals in a timely manner. For more information about VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals, visit www.bva.va.gov/.




    Credit: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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  • Federal Trade Commission Brings First-ever Action Targeting “iV Cocktail” Therapy Marketer

    Federal Trade Commission Brings First-ever Action Targeting “iV Cocktail” Therapy Marketer




    Order settling complaint bars Texas-based firm and owner from making unsupported claims that iV cocktails can treat serious diseases and produce fast, long-lasting results



    The Federal Trade Commission today, for the first time, charged a marketer and seller of intravenously injected therapy products (iV Cocktails) with making a range of deceptive and unsupported health claims about their ability to treat serious diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and congestive heart failure.

    The proposed FTC order settling the claims prohibits the company, which operates a string of clinics in north Texas; New Braunfels, Texas; and Vail, Colorado, and its owner from making such claims, unless they can be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.

    The iV Cocktails, which were advertised as an alternative to traditional medical therapy, are actually a simple mix of water, vitamins, minerals, and herbs injected directly into the bloodstream for between $100 and $250 per “treatment.” Such therapy, sometimes referred to as “Intravenous Micro-Nutrient Therapy,” “Intravenous Vitamin Therapy,” and “Hydration Therapy,” has recently seen an increase in popularity throughout the country.

    “This enforcement action should send a clear message to the burgeoning iV therapy industry and sellers of all healthcare products,” said Joe Simons, Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. “Health claims must be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.”

    What the FTC Did to Protect Consumers

    According to the FTC’s complaint, A & O Enterprises Inc., doing business as iV Bars Incorporated and iVBars, and its owner and operator Aaron K. Roberts deceptively advertised, promoted, and sold a line of iV Cocktails, including one called the Myers Cocktail, to consumers seeking alternative treatments for major diseases. In marketing its products online, the iV Bars respondents (iV Bars) allegedly made a range of unsupported health and efficacy claims for the treatments.

    Beginning in mid-2015, iV Bars used its website and social media to advertise a variety of iV Cocktails to consumers, designed to be administered directly into the bloodstream, typically through a vein in the arm. Each iV Cocktail costs $100 or more per session.

    iV Bars claimed the iV Cocktails could treat serious diseases including cancer, congestive heart failure, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, fibromyalgia, and neurodegenerative disorders. iV Bars also claimed that their iV Cocktails produced fast, lasting results, and in many instances, were more effective and better-tolerated than conventional medical therapies.

    The complaint alleges that iV Bars’ health treatment and efficacy claims either were false or not supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. It also alleges that iV Bars made false establishment claims that iV Cocktails were clinically or scientifically proven to provide the health benefits advertised.

    What the Settlement Means

    The proposed settlement order, which is subject to public comment, prohibits iV Bars from making the false or unsubstantiated claims that its iV Cocktails: 1) are an effective treatment for any of the diseases included in the complaint; 2) produce fast, lasting results; or 3) cure, mitigate, or treat any diseases, unless the claim is supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. The order also prohibits iV Bars from making any express or implied health, safety, or efficacy claims unless they are not misleading and are supported by scientific evidence.

    In connection with the advertising, marketing, promotion, or sale of any covered product, the order prohibits iV Bars from misrepresenting that it has had medical professionals test or approve the product, or that it has a research facility. The order also prohibits iV Bars from misrepresenting the existence or conclusions of any scientific evidence, or that a product, including iV Cocktails, is scientifically or clinically proven to produce any benefit.

    Finally, the order requires iV Bars to preserve any underlying scientific data and documents used to support health claims made for any product.

    Notice to Consumers About the Myers Cocktail

    In addition to agreeing to the terms of the proposed order, on September 4, 2018, iV Bars emailed a notice to consumers who bought the Myers Cocktail before the FTC-challenged health claims were eliminated from the company’s advertising.

    The notice, signed by respondent Roberts, makes clear to consumers that:
    • Contrary to the company’s marketing materials, studies have not shown that the Myers Cocktail is an effective treatment for any disease, including nine specific diseases, ranging from cancer to multiple sclerosis and diabetes;
    • Consumers should consult a doctor or other healthcare provider before using any alternative disease treatments;
    • Consumers should talk with their doctor or healthcare provider before stopping any prescribed treatments; and
    • It is important for consumers to talk with their healthcare provider to ensure all aspects of their medical treatment work well together.

    The Commission vote to issue the administrative complaint and to accept the consent agreement was 5-0. The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement package in the Federal Register shortly.

    The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through October 22, 2018, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent agreement final. Interested parties can submit comments electronically by following the instructions in the “Invitation To Comment” part of the “Supplementary Information” section.

    NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $41,484.



    Courtesy: Federal Trade Commission...
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  • Veteran Affairs’ Board of Veterans’ Appeals Resolves Record Number of Claims to Date for FY 2018

    Veteran Affairs’ Board of Veterans’ Appeals Resolves Record Number of Claims to Date for FY 2018



    Washington, DC - - (June 4, 2018) - - Underscoring the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) pledge to reduce the wait time for those appealing disability benefits claims, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, as of May 27, has signed more than 53,650 decisions to date in fiscal year (FY) 2018, which is approximately 86 percent more than the 28,839 decisions signed through the same period last year.

    The Board is currently on track to meet and exceed its FY 2018 total goal of reviewing a historic 81,000 appeals by Sept. 30, 2018.

    This pace paves the way for implementation of the Appeals Modernization Act, which has a target implementation date of Feb. 14, 2019, and will offer Veterans more choice and control over their claims and appeals process.

    “I’m proud of the Board for its dedication and commitment toward resolving appeals decisions for Veterans, and striving to reach a historic fiscal year goal of 81,000 appeals decisions delivered to Veterans,” said VA’s Acting Secretary Peter O’Rourke. “The Board’s significant increase in results for Veterans and their families serves as another strong example of the department’s commitment to getting it right for Veterans.”

    In FY 2017, Congress allocated the Board approximately $42 million, which was used to hire additional staff, primarily more than 200 decision-writing attorneys and 24 Veterans law judges. The increase in staff, along with streamlining several processes, contributed to the result.

    VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals’ mission is to conduct hearings and decide appeals in a timely manner. VA’s disability appeals process is a complex, multi-step adjudication process that uses “open records,” which allows Veterans to submit medical and lay evidence at any point from the beginning to the end of the process, including while the claim is pending on appeal; this may, in turn, require VA to develop further evidence on the Veteran’s behalf.




    Courtesy: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Offers Early Participation in a Faster New Claims Decision Review Process

    U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Offers Early Participation in a Faster New Claims Decision Review Process




    Washington, DC - - (May 4, 2018) - - Today the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it is offering two opportunities for early participation in the new, more efficient claims decision review process outlined in the historic Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017.

    These two opportunities will allow eligible Veterans to receive a review of a decision on a claim much faster than the current appeals process.

    “VA is committed to transforming the appeals process,” said VA Acting Secretary Robert Wilkie. “This is evidenced by the success of Rapid Appeals Modernization Program which has seen over 12,000 Veterans opt-in. In addition, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals has issued approximately 46,000 decisions this fiscal year — nearly 23,000 more decisions than last year at this time. We are on pace to reach a historical fiscal goal of 81,000 decisions.”

    First, VA will expand the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) by removing the requirement that Veterans first receive an invitation from VA in order to elect participation in the program.

    RAMP, which was initially launched in November 2017 as an invitation only program, allows eligible Veterans with a disability compensation appeal early access to the Higher-Level Review and Supplemental Claim Lanes outlined in the Appeals Modernization Act. By removing the invitation requirement, Veterans will have the opportunity to benefit from the new, more efficient decision review process, versus continuing to wait in the legacy appeal process. As of March 31, RAMP reviews were completed in an average of 52 days.

    Second, in May, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals will launch its Early Applicability of Appeals Modernization (BEAAM) pilot project. Under this project, the Board will partner with the National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates, Paralyzed Veterans of America and the California Department of Veterans Affairs to identify 50 Veterans who are dissatisfied with a recent decision on their benefits claim.

    These Veterans will participate in a study that allows them the option of appealing directly to the Board or seeking a review in RAMP. In this study, the Board will collect preliminary data about Veteran choices and experiences.

    In October, the Board will begin deciding appeals from RAMP decisions using the features of the Appeals Modernization Act, specifically its new, separate Direct, Evidence and Hearing dockets.

    The expansion of RAMP, combined with the BEAAM, will allow VA to collect valuable data about implementation of the Appeals Modernization Act.
    ...
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  • IRS Allows Additional Time to make Refund Claims for Wrongful Incarceration Exclusion

    IRS Allows Additional Time to make Refund Claims for Wrongful Incarceration Exclusion




    File back-year claims by Dec. 17, 2018, at special address



    Washington, DC - - (March 16, 2018) - - The Internal Revenue Service announced that wrongfully incarcerated individuals have additional time to take advantage of the retroactive exclusion from income for any civil damages, restitution or other monetary award received in connection with their incarcerations. Under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, a wrongfully incarcerated individual now has until Dec. 17, 2018, to file a related refund claim.

    Under the wrongful incarceration exclusion, a wrongfully incarcerated individual does not include in income any civil damages, restitution or other monetary award received that related to his or her incarceration for the covered offense for which he or she was convicted. A set of frequently-asked questions, available on IRS.gov, provides details on who qualifies for the exclusion, awards that qualify and documentation and recordkeeping requirements.

    To file a refund claim, an eligible individual taxpayer must file Form 1040X for each year he or she included a wrongful incarceration award in income and write “Incarceration Exclusion PATH Act” at the top of each Form 1040X.

    The IRS has established a special filing address for amended returns claiming the wrongful incarceration exclusion. Send these Forms 1040X, along with any supplemental documentation, to:

    Internal Revenue Service
    333 W. Pershing
    Stop 6503 5th Floor
    Kansas City, MO 64108

    Allow up to 16 weeks for processing. In most cases, taxpayers can then use the “Where’s My Amended Return?” application on IRS.gov to track the status of their refund claims.



    Courtesy: U.S. Internal Revenue Service
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  • Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims

    Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims

    Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims





    February 10, 2017



    Washington, DC - - (February 9, 2017) - - The following is an excerpt of the U.S. Department of Labor's unemploment insurance weekly claims data:


    SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA
    In the week ending February 4, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 234,000, a decrease of 12,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 246,000. The 4-week moving average was 244,250, a decrease of 3,750 from the previous week's unrevised average of 248,000. This is the lowest level for this average since November 3, 1973 when it was 244,000.

    The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.5 percent for the week ending January 28, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending January 28 was 2,078,000, an increase of 15,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised down by 1,000 from 2,064,000 to 2,063,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,075,750, a decrease of 3,750 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised down by 250 from 2,079,750 to 2,079,500.



    -------

    UNADJUSTED DATA
    The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 259,545 in the week ending February 4, a decrease of 19,099 (or -6.9 percent) from the previous week. The seasonal factors had expected a decrease of 5,892 (or -2.1 percent) from the previous week. There were 290,796 initial claims in the comparable week in 2016.

    The advance unadjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.8 percent during the week ending January 28, unchanged from the prior week. The advance unadjusted number for persons claiming UI benefits in state programs totaled 2,481,320, a decrease of 13,265 (or -0.5 percent) from the preceding week. The seasonal factors had expected a decrease of 30,950 (or -1.2 percent) from the previous week. A year earlier the rate was 2.0 percent and the volume was 2,680,598.



    -------

    The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending January 21 was 2,538,312, an increase of 32,996 from the previous week. There were 2,739,533 persons claiming benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2016.

    No state was triggered "on" the Extended Benefits program during the week ending January 21.

    Initial claims for UI benefits filed by former Federal civilian employees totaled 1,556 in the week ending January 28, an increase of 549 from the prior week. There were 932 initial claims filed by newly discharged veterans, an increase of 156 from the preceding week.

    There were 14,785 former Federal civilian employees claiming UI benefits for the week ending January 21, an increase of 1,559 from the previous week. Newly discharged veterans claiming benefits totaled 12,303, an increase of 40 from the prior week.

    The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending January 21 were in Alaska (4.8), Connecticut (3.1), Montana (3.1), New Jersey (3.1), Rhode Island (2.8), Illinois (2.7), Massachusetts (2.7), Pennsylvania (2.7), Puerto Rico (2.7), and California (2.6).



    -------

    The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending January 28 were in Ohio (+3,659), Indiana (+755), Florida (+741), Oregon (+700), and Wisconsin (+616), while the largest decreases were in California (-8,089), Washington (-564), Pennsylvania (-350), Puerto Rico (-325), and Virginia (-304).




    Information source: U.S. Department of Labor...
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  • Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims

    Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims

    Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims



    Seasonally Adjusted Data






    January 30, 2017




    Editor's note: This is a partial statement published by the U.S. Department of Labor


    Washington, DC - - (January 26, 2017)

    In the week ending January 21, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 259,000, an increase of 22,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 3,000 from 234,000 to 237,000. The 4-week moving average was 245,500, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since November 3, 1973 when it was 244,000. The previous week's average was revised up by 750 from 246,750 to 247,500.

    The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.5 percent for the week ending January 14, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending January 14 was 2,100,000, an increase of 41,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up 13,000 from 2,046,000 to 2,059,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,092,000, a decrease of 1,250 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 3,250 from 2,090,000 to 2,093,250.




    Information source: U.S. Department of Labor...
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