|Veterans Headline News|
On a cold night each January, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) takes a count of the number of people who live on the street and in shelters. On the chosen night this year, 49,993 veterans were homeless. It’s a 33% drop since 2010.
But that’s not the whole story. The HUD’s statistic for several years did not include Bobby, a former paratrooper who joined the army out of high school in 2001 and retired on honorable discharge in 2006, after serving three tours and making, he says, numerous jumps in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bobby doesn’t like to be pressed for details about the war. His voice turns gruff, and his speech slows down as he explains: “I don’t like to talk about that part. I’m done. I’ve been over there. I won’t go back. I won’t wish that on my worst enemy.”
After leaving the army, Bobby was homeless but slept on friends’ couches in Houston, Texas. He overstayed his welcome. Having suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe back injuries as well as traumatic brain injury from his time in the war drove him to substance abuse.
“When you’re experimenting on drugs it’ll feel like la-la land,” says Bobby over the phone borrowed from a worker belonging to the National Veterans Foundation (NVF), a Los Angeles–based nonprofit. “You asked me to remember my age,” repeats Bobby, who will not share his last name. “I got a little TBI [traumatic brain injury] too. I remember some parts. I have blackouts sometimes. My speech is not that well.”
Bobby is one of the many who are chronically undercounted by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) renewed efforts to end veteran homelessness.
Shad Meshad, a retired army medical officer, is also the founder of the National Veterans Foundation. Meshad says that the VA’s estimate of homeless veterans may be a mere fraction of the actual numbers – he speculates that veteran homelessness may be five times the problem that the VA acknowledges.
Meshad’s teams go out scouting for homeless veterans in the Los Angeles area twice a week. “Being in this work for 43 years, I have a pretty good idea of where they would go.” He adds quietly: “… where I would go.”
Veteran homelessness should end by 2015, according to a 2009 plan from the Obama administration. The fallout from VA’s recent healthcare scandals – culminating in the resignation of former secretary Eric Shinseki – was followed by the administration pumping in an additional $270m in October to anti-homelessness efforts.
On Monday, the new VA chief, Robert McDonald, a veteran himself, announced that he will soon fire 40 high-ranking employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs. He promised that the number may climb to 1,000. This retribution for “the people who violated our values” is the VA’s biggest overhaul yet.
When the scandal broke in May this year, severe shortages were unearthed at VA hospitals, with many veterans dying while on the wait list.
As part of McDonald’s reconfiguration, plans are afoot to hire 28,000 new medical professionals, including 2,500 mental health experts to make up for the severe paucity of manpower in VA hospitals.
McDonald has been in the news ever since he took office, travelling around the country, dramatically offering his cellphone number to the public at a congressional hearing, offering high salaries and loan waivers to students at top medical schools to come help at the VA.
But these changes will take time, if they happen at all.
‘He said he became invisible’
“I would say yes, it is a lofty goal,” agrees Jason Hansman about the VA’s target of ending homelessness by 2015.
Hansman is the director of external program relations at the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, or IAVA. The VA has started new programs like cash assistance for housing to veterans under the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program. Hansman and IAVA are innovative and have gotten the VA finally thinking out of the box. But it may not be enough to solve the problem as soon as the VA hopes, given its scale, he says.
Hansman explains that there are thousands of resources offered by the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, but these are complicated and exist in silos, and vets are expected to navigate them on their own.
The bloated VA functions like a large fortress, Meshad says, and it can’t expect homeless veterans to come knocking on its doors. If the VA really wants to fix itself, it will have to aggressively go out and bring the homeless veterans in, says Meshad, pointing to his street teams.
Even before the overhaul was announced, Meshad demanded far more radical changes to the system than McDonald has planned. “It doesn’t work and it hasn’t worked for 50 or 60 years,” he says of the VA, agreeing with commentators who say the US’s second-largest bureaucracy needs to be scrapped. “They keep dumping hundreds of billions of dollars into it,” he says.
‘You’re ill-fed, ill-clothed, you smell like a dead bear’
Even if McDonald has claimed that the long waits at VA hospitals have reduced, they are still beyond the tolerance of most veterans.
Meshad says benefit applications take several months and are often denied, slowly cutting off any aid veterans can get, pushing them out of their homes and families to the perimeters of cities.
Bobby never gets through when he calls the VA. “In some places, they give you a recorded message. You tell them you want to commit suicide, they call 911” – this, despite the staggering statistic that 22 veterans take their own lives each day.
Instead Bobby prefers to call the NVF helpline. “I’m glad it’s toll-free. [You] call VA, [you] get through: recorded message. No one calls you back,” he says. Bobby is still waiting for the VA’s help, even after the NVF’s veterans service officer has connected him with for his benefits.
“They don’t care,” he says. “How long does it take to sign a piece of paper?”
Meshad likes to illustrate the problem of veteran homelessness with the story of a destitute soldier he worked with. “Every time he was begging or hustling for money, people ignored him and walked by,” Meshad says. “He said he became invisible.”
“You’re ill-fed, ill-clothed, you smell like a dead bear. You look raggedy, nobody wants to be around you,” the very system that should be helping vets return to their lives pushing them away. “You get more and more distanced from the society that you want to integrate back into.”
‘I need a cigarette, they buy me a cigarette’
Each war creates a different generation of difficulties for some veterans. The backlash against the Vietnam war had people confusing “the war with the warrior”. Iraq and Afghanistan vets came back to a terrible economy and the housing crisis, eventually losing their homes and families.
After being rejected from his friends’ couches, Bobby decamped to sunny California. “That’s how I ended up in Long Beach.” Bobby lived under a bridge in the Lincoln Park section of the sunny town, with a community of veterans. They received regular visits from men in white National Veterans Foundation vans who came by.
They offered food, socks and warm clothing, as well as small indulgences to make a hard life more bearable. “I need a cigarette, they buy me a cigarette,” Bobby recalls.
Life was tough, he explains. Long Beach brought in trucks to drive the settlement of homeless veterans off the streets and into shelters, Bobby says, but NVF’s workers kept returning looking to help.
“These guys were persistent, they kept coming around and giving everyone pamphlets. And I finally called them up. They helped me get my benefits from the VA.” The foundation also gives him therapy for his PTSD, he says.
Several veterans battle chronic pain as a consequence of their time at war.
“My back hurts. They gave me some pain medication. Just to kind of cope with it, till I get my benefits,” Bobby says.
The only other succor for his pain is marijuana. He says it calms him down and he eats more. “I would do that any day,” he says, imploring a reporter to try weed.
For now, Bobby makes a living from recycling plastic and fixing old computers. “When I work on my computer, that kind of helps me,” he says. “Repair work, I see things get done. That’s kind of like therapy too.”
Bobby refuses to regret working in the military. “I wanted to serve my country and do my part. I want to say I’m proud for what I did,” he says, only wishing for better circumstances: “I need a little bit more stability.”
Editor’s Note: we have asked Bobby for comment on the number of jumps he recalls in Iraq and Afghanistan, which some readers have contested.
VA officials will add a new customer service branch and a national network of veteran advisory councils
in what is being touted as the largest restructuring of the department in its history.
Veterans Affairs Department officials will add a new customer service branch and a national network of veteran advisory councils in what is being touted as the largest restructuring of the department in its history.
The moves come after months of scandal within the department and promises from VA Secretary Bob McDonald of a new "veteran-centered" culture throughout the bureaucracy.
The former Proctor & Gamble CEO dubbed the reorganization his "MyVA" plan, another phase of ongoing efforts to add a personal touch to VA operations.
The moves announced Monday do not include any employee dismissals, although McDonald repeatedly has promised such actions in public appearances. In a "60 Minutes" interview that aired Sunday, he said at least 35 employees face firing in coming days and more than 1,000 others could face other discipline.
But lawmakers have criticized his actions as too slow and cautious, and openly mocked his promises of more department accountability when only one senior department executive has been fired despite dozens of ongoing administrative and criminal investigations.
VA's new customer service branch, led by a chief customer service officer who reports directly to McDonald, is designed to "drive VA culture and practices to understand and respond to the expectations of our veteran customers."
The moves come after a three-month listening tour by McDonald, in which the new secretary collected criticism and ideas for improvement from patients and department employees. To keep those ideas coming, VA also will set up an online suggestion box.
The veterans advisory councils will include state and local advocates as well as VA employees, to offer additional improvements to local and national operations.
On CNN, McDonald described the changes as "embracing veterans, giving them a warm hug and the care they need."
VA officials also promised a single regional framework for operations that will "simplify internal coordination" and "allow veterans to more easily navigate VA without having to understand our inner structure."
No details were immediately available on what those changes would mean for staffing, benefits processing or availability of medical care appointments.
McDonald also has promised to update internal business processes to cut costs, increase productivity and better serve veterans. That includes "options used in the private sector to enhance our rapid delivery of services."
The department has also stood up a new digital services team to increase VA's technical offerings. Officials said the team will include "some of the nation's top technologists," but no formal hires have been announced.
News of the restructuring came just hours before Veterans Day, with lawmakers and veterans groups given little advance notice of the massive changes. Members of Congress have been critical of similar unexpected announcements in recent weeks, noting that the department's lack of transparency was at the root of recent care delay and mismanagement scandals.
But VA officials insist they are working to overcome that image, sharing more data on patient wait times and personnel actions in recent months.
On Friday, during a National Press Club event in Washington, D.C., McDonald struck back at critics who said the department isn't changing fast enough, saying he is still heartbroken over its past mistakes.
He also labeled some of the questions over employee dismissals and ongoing investigations as "shenanigans going on for political purposes" rather than constructive criticism.
"Any veteran outcome that's adverse in our facilities, I take personally," he said. "That's all you need to know."
Governor Signs 19 Veteran-Related Bills
Sacramento – Veterans, active duty service members, and their families received needed legislative support thanks to several bills signed by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.
“By signing these important bills into law, the Governor once again demonstrates his unwavering commitment to our California Veterans, service members, and their families,” said Peter J. Gravett, Secretary, California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet).
The package of 19 bills includes legislation allowing Veterans to receive special designation on their driver’s licenses (AB 935); provides spouses of military personnel who are licensed in another state to receive a 12-month temporary license to practice their profession in California (AB 186); directs CalVet to develop a California-specific transition assistance program for Veterans leaving the military (AB1509); provides greater oversight of private for-profit colleges and universities (AB 2099); and exempts a Veteran from any state from paying out-of-state tuition at California community colleges, California State Universities or University of California Campuses (AB13).
The Governor signed the following bills into law:
• AB 935 by Assemblymember Jim L. Frazier Jr. (D-Oakley): Allows Veterans to apply for a driver's license or identification card that includes a special “Veteran” designation.
• AB 186 by Assemblymember Brian Maienschein (R-San Diego): Requires Department of Consumer Affairs licensing entities to provide military spouses and domestic partners licensed in another state with a 12-month temporary license to practice their profession in California if they meet certain conditions.
• AB 1509 by Assemblymember Steve Fox (D-Palmdale): Requires CalVet to develop a transition assistance program for Veterans who have been discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces or the National Guard of any state.
• AB 2099 by Assemblymember Jim L. Frazier Jr. (D-Oakley) – Provides the California State Approving Agency for Veteran Education (CSAAVE) with greater authority over for-profit colleges and schools that serve Veterans using their GI Bill education benefits.
• AB 13 by Assemblymember Connie Conway (R-Tulare): Requires the California Community Colleges and the California State University to update in-state tuition rate policies for eligible Veterans to ensure compliance with the Federal Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 and it requests the Board of Regents for the University of California to do the same thing.
Other Veteran-related bills the Governor signed include:
• AB 585 by Assemblymember Steve Fox (D-Palmdale): Requires the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) to develop a prioritized list of uses for unused or underutilized nonresidential real property it owns.
• AB 614 by Assemblymember Rocky Chávez (R-Oceanside): Ensures that a Veteran with 70 percent or more service-connected disability receiving intermediate care or skilled nursing care in a Veterans home shall have their account deemed paid in full by the amounts paid on their behalf by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
• AB 919 by Assemblymember Das G. Williams (D-Santa Barbara): Permits Veterans who are itinerant vendors to receive a refund of sales taxes paid to the Board of Equalization between April 1, 2002 and April 1, 2010.
• AB 1397 by the Committee on Veterans Affairs: Requires the California Department of Human Resources to collect and report on data regarding the Veterans preference system in state hiring.
• AB 1453 by Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton): Requires CalVet to cooperate with local government bodies in Orange County to design, construct and equip a state-owned and operated Southern California Veterans Cemetery in the City of Irvine and establishes eligibility for interment.
• AB 1589 by Assemblymember Jim L. Frazier Jr. (D-Oakley): Requires an elections official to arrange electronic delivery of a ballot to a military or overseas voter who makes a standing request for all elections, eliminating the requirement that the individuals renew their email address every two years.
• AB 1821 by Assemblymember Richard S. Gordon (D-Menlo Park): Establishes the Medical Foster Home Pilot Program and authorizes U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs facilities to create a medical foster home not subject to licensure or regulation as a residential care facility for the elderly.
• AB 2215 by Assemblymember Brian Maienschein (R-San Diego): Allows a Veteran’s family or legal representatives to file a copy of a Veteran’s military discharge document with a county recorder without the consent of the Veteran.
• AB 2263 by Assemblymember Steven Bradford (D-Gardena): Authorizes a Veterans service organization to volunteer as a Veterans service advocate at California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation facilities.
• SB 842 by Senator Stephen T. Knight (R-Palmdale): Requires the California Department of Transportation to construct directional signs on state highways for each Veterans home in the state.
• SB 1110 by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara): Requires the court to inform active duty or Veteran status defendants of restorative relief rights available to them and requires the Judicial Council to include information about the provisions in its military service form.
• SB 1113 by Senator Stephen T. Knight (R-Palmdale): Extends the statute of limitations for a Veteran with a 100 percent service-connected disability to claim a disabled Veteran property tax exemption refund from four to eight years.
• SB 1226 by Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana): Expedites the Department of Consumer Affairs boards’ and bureaus’ initial licensure process for Veteran applicants who were active duty and stationed in California and authorizes prospective proprietary private security officers to submit verification of military training in lieu of a course in security officer skills.
• SB 1227 by Senator Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley): Authorizes a court to create a diversion program for active duty military personnel or Veterans who commit misdemeanors and who are suffering from service-related trauma or substance abuse.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing last night examining the VA’s shortcomings in appropriately responding to information provided by whistleblowers, and into claims that whistleblowers within the VA face negative repercussions for stepping forward. The hearing comes shortly after the Office of Special Counsel raised new concerns over the VA’s response to whistleblower allegations relating to patient care and safety. Congressman Mike Michaud (D-ME), Ranking Member on the Committee, issued the following statement:
“I’m glad we have had the opportunity to hear directly from whistleblowers – dedicated professionals who stood up and spoke out when they saw something wrong happening around them. The VA for far too long has condoned a culture of retaliation and intimidation regarding whistleblowers. I applaud Acting Secretary Gibson’s promise to change the VA’s culture. But, changing the culture of the second-largest federal agency will not be easy.
“This will not be accomplished by words alone. Talk is cheap and real solutions are hard to find. I am hopeful that last night’s hearing is a step toward finding these solutions to ensure that after the spotlight is turned off, VA is fully living up to its commitment to care for our veterans. This is a process that will require the hard work of every single VA employee to ensure that VA instills a true culture of accountability and that there is zero tolerance for any act of retaliation or intimidation.”
Dan Rafter | Communications Director
Congressman Mike Michaud (ME-02)
House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Democrats
1724 Longworth HOB, Washington, DC 20515
202-225-6306 (office) | firstname.lastname@example.org (email)
House/Senate Conferees Meet on VA Bill: House and Senate Conferees recently met to begin working out the differences between their proposals to address the VA health care crisis. It has been more than 15 years since a conference was called to discuss any VA-related legislation. All conferees spoke about their commitment to fix the VA so that all generations of veterans could receive the quality and accessible healthcare they have earned. One of the sticking points among members is how to pay for the bill. Last week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated the proposals could cost roughly $50 billion per year. Senate VA Ranking Member Richard M. Burr (R-NC) called the numbers “grotesquely” out of line.
House VA Committee Chairman, Jeff Miller (R-FL) said CBO needs to issue a new estimate, but added that the conferees will keep working to settle their differences while they wait for updated numbers. Despite differences of opinion over funding and the overall quality of care at the VA, lawmakers were hopeful they can come to a resolution.
Take Action Now!
Background: S. 2450, The Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014 will begin to address the unacceptably long appointment wait times found within many VA medical facilities. Built on a compromise between VA Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ), the bill will provide quicker access to health care for veterans and critical accountability within VA.
It begins tackling some of the tough issues facing VA by making improvements to their appointment scheduling system and allowing veterans to seek care outside the system if they are unable to access VA within a reasonable time or live more than 40 miles away from a facility. It also authorizes an expedited hiring authority for VA to employ more doctors, nurses and other medical providers, along with the authority to fire top executives who are not doing their jobs - something the VFW believes is essential to providing timely access to care for all veterans.
If passed, the bill would also improve access to counseling and treatment for victims of sexual trauma; authorize 26 major medical facilities leases and provide in-state tuition for eligible veterans using the Post 9/11 and Montgomery GI Bills.
Action Needed: Call or email your Senators today and insist they immediately pass S. 2450, The Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014. Tell them that this legislation will provide vital solutions needed for veterans and begin to restore confidence in VA as a health care provider.
Senate VA Bill Moves Forward: Senate VA Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) laid out a bipartisan bill that broadly outline solutions to VA healthcare scheduling and access deficiencies. The VFW is pleased that the Senate has reached a compromise that will begin to improve access to care and rebuild veterans' confidence in VA. We urge both the Senate and the House to move quickly on this and other measures to provide timely and quality care for veterans. As this bill moves through the process, we will keep you informed.
The text of the bill is not yet available, but the provisions discussed would:
* Authorize a two-year program that allows veterans to seek medical care outside the VA if they cannot get an appointment within a reasonable time (based on a VA wait time metric), or who reside 40 miles or more away from a VA hospital or clinic.
* Authorize 26 new major medical facilities leases in 18 states.
* Provide an expedited hiring authority for VA to employ more doctors, nurses and other medical providers.
* Permit the VA Secretary to fire employees immediately without pay, but allow employees to appeal to the Merit System Protection Board within one week of dismissals.
* Create independent commissions on capitol planning and scheduling.
* Improves access and care for victims of Military Sexual Trauma.
* And provide in-state tuitions for veterans at public colleges and universities, which is VFW-supported legislation that has already cleared the House.
5. House passes VA accountability bill. The House on Wednesday approved a bill with bipartisan support in a 390-33 vote, granting VA Secretary Eric Shinseki the authority to fire career public employees in efforts to aggressively hold officials accountable... President Obama said he would not tolerate a scandal and that if the allegations were proven true, he would not hesitate to punish those involved... The stern warning was meant for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki too.
VETERANS NETWORK COMMENTARY RESPONSE:
"More lip service? Or will enough heads roll to get us on the right track. To hear these politicians and their rooster crows, one must ask, how many of these birds fought in the jungles, deserts and trenches to know what combat veterans are and what they deserve? Veterans Network knows the truth, which is that our Senate and House currently have the smallest percentage of veteran members since the end of WWII.
To be continued."
WASHINGTON, DC – This evening, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4486, a bill that provides funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs for the coming fiscal year that begins on October 1, and provides advance funding for VA medical care programs for the following year. H.R. 4486 provides nearly $160 billion for veterans’ benefits and services.
Representative Mike Michaud (D-ME), Ranking Member on the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, released the following statement after passage:
“This appropriations bill ensures the VA can provide our nation’s veterans with the highest quality of healt care and provides funding requested by the Administration to reduce the claims backlog, a goal the VA set to accomplish next year. The bill also includes important provisions that will assist us in our oversight efforts to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and veterans are receiving the benefits they have earned. This bill highlights the importance of veterans’ issues, and is a great example of what we can do when we put party differences aside and work together to achieve real pragmatic goals.”
H.R. 4486 also provides advance funding for VA medical care programs for FY 2016. “Providing advance funding is vitally important” added Michaud, “as we saw last year during the government shut-down. This bill ensures that the VA medical care budget is already in place and ready to help veterans not matter what the future holds.”
Staff Sgt. Jen Lee of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program is backup goalie for the USA sled hockey team that beat Italy, 5-1, and South Korea, 3-0, over the weekend and faces Russia today.
Army veterans on Team USA include:
-- Retired Staff Sgt. Rico Roman, of Portland, Ore., who also is on the USA sled hockey team;
-- Retired Staff Sgt. Heath Calhoun of Clarksville, Tenn., who is competing in alpine skiing;
-- Former Spc. Joel Hunt, of Kokomo, Ind., scheduled to compete in the men's standing giant slalom March 15;
-- Retired Staff Sgt. Bryan Price of Belton, Mo., competing in Nordic or cross-country skiing;
-- Former Spc. Andy Soule of San Antonio, competing in biathlon and cross-country skiing;
-- Former Sgt. Jeremy Wagner of Nanakuli, Hawaii, who is competing in biathlon events;
-- Former Pfc. Patrick McDonald of Madison, Wis., who is competing in wheelchair curling, in which Team USA lost 6-4 to Slovakia and 9-5 to South Korea on March 8. On March 9, they beat Norway, 8-5. Yesterday, Team USA lost 7-2 to Canada and 6-5 to Russia.
Calhoun finished fourth in the Super-G-sitting skiing event March 9 with a time of 1 minute, 24.65 seconds, behind Japan's Akira Kano, who took gold with a time of 1:19.51. Japanese teammate Taiki Morii took silver with a time of 1:21.60, and Canada's Caleb Brousseau took bronze with 1:22.05. Calhoun will compete in the combined Super-G today.
Soule finished fourth March 8 in the 7.5-km sitting biathlon competition with a time of 21:48.5. Russia's Roman Petushkov took the gold with a time of 21:03.7. Ukraine's Maksym Yarovy took the silver, and Japan's Kozo Kubo won the bronze. Soule and the other top three finishers never missed a target, finishing with a perfect shooting score.
Soule finished fifth in the 15-km cross-country skiing event March 9 with a time of 42:53.8. Russia's Petushkov took the gold with a time of 40:51.6. Russia's Irek Zaripov won the silver, and Russia's Aleksandr Davidovich took the bronze.
Soule is scheduled to compete in the men's 12.5-km biathlon event today, as is Wagner, who finished 18th in the 7.5-km sitting biathlon competition March 8 with a time of 26:16.1.
On March 9, Price finished 19th in the men's 15-km sitting cross-country event with a time of 53:56.6. He is scheduled to ski the 1-km sprint tomorrow, the 4x2.5-km open relay March 15, and the men's 10-km on March 16.
The U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command congratulated all members of the 2014 U.S. Paralympic team last week and offered special encouragement to the eight Army athletes.
"The Warrior Transition Command encourages every wounded, ill and injured soldier to have a sport to call their own," said Army Lt. Col. Keith L. Williams, head of the Warrior Transition Command's adaptive reconditioning program. "When soldiers face injury or illness, they can still participate in sports and other physical activities. These activities significantly enhance their physical and emotional recovery … . The soldiers and Army veterans on this year's Paralympic team represent the enduring strength and resilience of the Army."
In January of 2014, CNN reported that at least 19 veterans had died because of delays in diagnosis and treatment at VA hospitals. In January of 2013 I posted a blog here about the VA’s backlog of claims and the fact that, according to The Bay Citizen, retroactive benefits had been paid to nearly 19,500 veterans who died waiting. Small comfort for their loved ones, those retroactive benefits.
While these stories are not identical, who’s in a position to argue that point to a veteran who’s depending on the VA for medical care? Seems to me it doesn’t matter whether that vet is just back from deployment in Afghanistan or a veteran of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Bosnia or Iraq. In fact, any veteran who served here or abroad. Read the entire story here: http://tinyurl.com/ptepjsg
Washington State University
Study Title: Native American Veterans' Perceptions, Knowledge, and Attitudes toward Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Available Treatment
You are being asked to take part in a research study, conducted by Greg Urquhart, Sarah Sevedge,Matthew Hale, Nasreen Shah and ,Dr. Phyllis Erdman. The research team includes Native American veterans and individuals experienced in working with veterans and Native American veterans. This form explains the research study and your part in it, if you decide to participate. Please read the form carefully, taking as much time as you need. If you participate in the study, you can change your mind later or quit at any time. There will be no penalty or loss of services or benefits if you decide not to participate or quit the survey. This study has been reviewed for human subject participation by the Washington State University Institutional Review Board.
What is the study about? This study is being conducted to explore the perceptions, knowledge, and attitudes among active and former Native American service-members of the United States armed services regarding Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). You are being asked to participate because we value your opinion, experience, and perceptions as a service-member. You do not need to have experienced any symptoms of PTSD in order to participate. The survey will take about 10-15 minutes. If you choose to participate, you will be asked to answer questions regarding your perceptions, knowledge, and attitudes of PTSD and similar combat stress disorders and their treatment.
For More Info and to Participate Click Here: http://tinyurl.com/q67p9qp
#VeteransNetwork #VeteransNation #Veterans
In January of 2014, CNN reported that at least 19 veterans had died because of delays in diagnosis and treatment at VA hospitals. In January of 2013 I posted a blog here about the VA’s backlog of claims and the fact that, according to The Bay Citizen, retroactive benefits had been paid to nearly 19,500 veterans who died waiting. Small comfort for their loved ones, those retroactive benefits.
Th Vietnam Wall
For those who lost friends or family in the Vietnam War, you can now find them on the Vietnam Wal in Washington DC, thanks to this amazing website. Search by State,City,Name.
In my last post I talked about the effect of the fall of Fallujah on veterans. Veterans of all eras. Not just the ones who served in Anbar province or in other parts of Iraq in 2004 when both Battles of Fallujah took place. You read that right: both. The battles in April and December of that year were among the fiercest, the bloodiest.
The Second Battle of Fallujah with its urban conflict has been compared to the Battle for Huế in Vietnam in 1968. Just as it’s likely that you didn’t remember there were two battles for Fallujah, I’d guess that if you remember the Tet Offensive in 1968, your memory is that the Viet Cong was eventually beaten back during that campaign. But that wasn’t the end of the story, was it?
Forty-five years later we are still dealing with veterans of the Tet Offensive and their colleagues, all of whom are at risk of having their PTSD symptoms reactivate at the news of the fall of Fallujah. Oh, and their families. Don’t forget them. Read the entire story here: http://tinyurl.com/oa92aen
Young veterans just out of the service and receiving health care from the government committed suicide at nearly three times the rate of active-duty troops in recent years, according to data released Thursday by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"The rates ... are honestly alarming. This group of young veterans appears to be in some trouble," says Janet Kemp, head of the department's suicide prevention program.
The Army has struggled with suicide among active-duty troops more than other service branches during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the risk persists after soldiers return to civilian life.
Veterans ages 18-24 enrolled in the VA's health program killed themselves at a rate of 46 per 100,000 in 2009 and nearly 80 per 100,000 in 2011, the latest year of data available, according to the figures.
Non-veterans of the same age had a suicide rate during 2009 and 2010, the most recent data available, of about 20 per 100,000, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Thirty-six young veterans receiving some form of VA health care committed suicide in 2009 and 65 died by their own hand two years later. Among those in the broader age group 18-29, the suicide numbers rose from 88 in 2009 to 152 in 2011.
The overall suicide rate for active-duty personnel in the Army hovered at 22 per 100,000 during 2009-11, according to military figures.
The number of soldier suicides peaked at 185 in 2012 and a record rate for the Army that year of 30 per 100,000. Numbers for 2013 are not yet available.
Kemp says a preliminary analysis shows that most of them were not receiving mental health therapy but had been treated for other health issues by the VA.
"They're young. They've just gotten out of the service," she says. "They're more concentrated on going home, getting jobs, for the most part. They're not coming in for mental health care."
VA epidemiologist Robert Bossarte says a similar pattern was found among veterans in the past.
"There were were several studies after Vietnam that showed increases in suicide and other forms of injury/mortality for about the first five years following return from service," Bossarte says. "Those rates (eventually) came down to be about the same as the rest of the population."
A positive sign in the new data, Kemp says, is that suicide rates for male veterans of all ages who are diagnosed and treated for mental health problems by the VA have fallen steadily from 2001-2011, in contrast to suicide patterns among non-veteran males.
The same is not true for female veterans, whose suicide rates have not improved and remain higher than women who are not veterans, according to the VA data.
Kemp says recent success in reaching veterans through social media offers hope that more young people can be brought into therapy.
Online chat connections with veterans through the VA's suicide prevention office (hotline number is 1-800-273-8255) have increased from several hundred in 2009 to nearly 55,000 last year, VA data show.
"If we can get them engaged in (mental health) services, we can make a huge difference, and that's encouraging," she says.
When the news hit about an al-Qaeda-affiliated force taking control of Fallujah, I knew I’d be hearing from vets. Especially the Marine vets in Florida I’d known since 2008 when a buddy of theirs whom I’d treated for PTSD here in Los Angeles, asked me if I’d work with them and then handed me a plane ticket to Florida.
Originally a group of nine, one was now in prison, two were suicides, and one had been killed in a shoot-out. The five surviving vets called my personal cell; news of Fallujah’s takeover had completely reactivated their PTSD symptoms. All they’d fought for was now in danger of being lost, which gave rise to questions about what it had all been for, the blood, the sacrifice, the loss of comrades. I knew they were filled with anger, frustration and a sense of meaninglessness. Was our sacrifice for nothing? Was there no meaning to the losses? Read the entire story here: http://tinyurl.com/pxcf6fj
Hey, vets! Here's your latest Veterans Network History Quiz question. First correctly e-mailed answer will receive a $100 gift card to the store or service of your choice. If you are correct, we will contact you to get your mailing address for your prize. E-mail your answer to: email@example.com
THE QUESTION: (2 parts)
What were the first 2 FULL & COMPLETE divisions based in III Corp (3rd Military Region) of Vietnam during that war?
What were the first 3 FULL & COMPLETE divisions deployed to Iraq, beginning in 2003. (Operation Iraqi Freedom)?
Have fun, vets! Good luck!
Hey, vets! Here's your latest Veterans Nation Music Quiz question. First correctly e-mailed answer will receive a $100 gift card to the store or service of your choice. If you are correct, we will contact you to get your mailing address for your prize. E-mail your answer to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Name the song title and the band who recorded this song in the early 70's.
Here are the clues-
1. A British castle
2. A southern fruit
3. A mountain
Have fun, vets. Good luck!
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued new guidance concerning service animals and other assistance animals used by people with disabilities in housing and HUD-funded programs.
Know your rights.
Looking to make an educated and informed decision regarding your academic and/or career future? This resource is for you!
Women's Call Center Open for Business
Female veterans can now contact the VA for health care and benefits information through a new hotline.
Compensation for Surviving Family Members
VA provides a number of benefits for certain surviving members of a deceased veteran’s family. See if you’re eligible. http://tinyurl.com/lg4v9my
Sometimes proving you’re a vet isn’t easy. An identification card or a driver’s license that denotes military experience will help avoid the hassle. Find out how to get one.
Environmental Health Registry Evaluation Programs
Did you know the VA offers a free, voluntary medical assessment for veterans who may have been exposed to certain toxic and environmental hazards during their military service? Learn more.
The U.S. House recently passed the Military Construction-VA funding bill 421-4. HR 2216 is the first appropriations measure to be advanced by the House this session.
Overall the bill provides $157.8 billion for veterans programs and military construction in FY 2014. The bill also included several amendments designed to reduce wait times for disability claim decisions to include increased funding for a paperless claims system for digital scanning of health and benefits files to help VA in its goal to end the backlog by 2015.
Other Highlights included:
* $57.5 billion for VA medical care accounts (this includes $54.5 billion for advanced appropriations for FY 2014).
* $55.6 billion in advanced funding for VA Medical programs for FY 2015.
* $290 million for disability claims systems
* $35 million for TBI and PTSD research
* $252 million to establish a single, integrated Department of Defense and VA electronic health record system.
Short comings include:
* Prosthetics research, $586 million requested, $25 million less than the IB request
* Medical Facilities (which include non-recurring maintenance), $4.87 billion requested, $698 million less than the IB request.
* Construction, $1.2 billion requested, $1 billion less than the IB request.
This month's new Poll question: Do you feel that wounded veterans who have been awarded the Purple Heart should be granted a $1,000 tax credit by the IRS? To submit your vote, go to the Veterans Network Home Page and scroll to the icon for the Poll. All Veterans Network poll results are submitted to the U.S. House Committee for Veterans Affairs.
The president signed the new Stolen Valor Act of 2013 into law on Monday. VFW National Commander John Hamilton says, "The new law is bullet-proof against another constitutional challenge because the focus is now on the intent to profit from the lie --- to obtain money, property or something of a tangible benefit or value --- which is what con artists have been doing
Not every combat award is covered, but the ones most coveted will now have wannabe heroes facing up to a year in jail and $100,000 fines for each offense.
According to the Association of American Railroads, some 500 companies and organizations in the railroad industry sought to hire about 5,000 veterans in 2012. These companies include freight, inter-city passenger and commuter railroads, as well as rail supply companies.
As a growing number of current railroad employees look toward retirement, the number of job openings will begin to rise in future years.
Ray LaHood, former U.S. Department of Transportation secretary, highlighted the overlap in personal traits and skill sets of railroad employees with military servicemen and women. He added that veterans have “disciplined” backgrounds, with special capabilities and qualities that are uniquely suited to help keep freight railroads efficient and safe.
To learn more about jobs in the railroad industry check out the Railroad Association military skills translator at: www.aar.org/jobs/Document/SkillTranslator.pdf
Veterans also can visit the Veterans Transportation Career Center sponsored by VA and the Department of Transportationat: www.dot.gov/veteranstransportationcareers
U.S. Senate Committee Chairman for Veterans Affairs Patty Murray has
released the following statement after the VA and DoD jointly announced
changes to their plan to pursue a fully integrated electronic medical
Quote: “I’m disappointed that the VA and the Pentagon are now backing away
from a truly seamless medical records system. While this is a very complex
problem, we must provide the best care for our service members and
"What they are now proposing is not the fully integrated, end-to-end I.T.
solution that this problem demands. VA and DOD have been at this for years
and have sunk over $1 billion into making this the cornerstone of a
nationwide electronic medical records initiative. I intend to follow-up
with both Secretaries to find out why this decision was made.”
The 2013 National Defense Bill will now require Tricare to increase copayments on brand name and non-formulary medications that are not filled at military treatment centers. There is no increase on generic medications, and many co-pays vary, based on the class of drug and where the prescriptions are filled.
For example, the co-pay for generic medications remains $5 when filled at a network pharmacy and a 30-day supply of brand name medication filled at a retail pharmacy goes from $12 to $17. Beneficiaries using Tricare Home delivery will pay $13 for brand name drugs, however home delivery is for a 90-day supply. The greatest change in co-pays applies to non-formulary medications- a $25 dollar co-pay increases to $44 at retail pharmacies and is $43 through the home delivery system. For 2014 and forward, co-payment increases are tied to annual cost-of-living adjustments.
WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, 2013 - The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments have
released improvements to the functionality of eBenefits, a joint, self-service Web portal that provides registered users with secure online information and access to benefits resources for service members and veterans.
E-Benefits 4.3, allows for easy navigation of the online disability compensation claim submission process using interview-style questions and drop-down menus similar to tax-preparation software, instead of a traditional fill-in-the-blank form. The latest release also pre-populates the application with information from a veteran's record in VA's secure database.
Veterans also can view processing times for each phase of their claim. Other site improvements include a tool to help in determining if a veteran is eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment benefits, a calculator for military reservists to determine retirement benefits, and a search function that identifies a claimant's appointed veterans service representative, with links to Google Maps indicating the location of their nearest representative's office.
Service members and veterans also can access records such as Post-9/11 GI Bill enrollment status, VA payment history and DOD TRICARE health insurance status. To access eBenefits, veterans and service members must obtain a DOD Self-Service Logon, which provides access to several benefits resources using a single username and password.
The service is free and may be obtained in person at a VA Regional Office, DOD ID Card station or online at http://www.ebenefits.va.gov.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently introduced VFW-supported legislation to extend and improve upon veterans' employment benefits included in the 2011 Hire Heroes Act. The comprehensive employment package, Putting Our Veterans Back to Work Act of 2013, or S.6, includes a key provision to extend the highly popular Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP), which offers one year of additional GI Bill-style education benefits to unemployed veterans between the ages of 35-60. VRAP is scheduled to expire in March 31, 2014. The VFW also pushed for many of the additional reforms, which garnered bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, during the last Congress.
It has now been 22 years since the start of the 1990-1991 Gulf War which comprises the deployment and combat operations known as Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Almost 700,000 Service members were deployed during this period. Those Veterans who have enrolled in the VA health care system have made over 2 million outpatient visits for health care and had over 20,000 inpatient admissions in the VA health care system.
In support of care and services to the Veterans of the first Gulf War, VA has led efforts to better understand and characterize Gulf War Veterans illnesses and to improve treatment. Research initiatives have included:
Funding an independent Institute of Medicine (IOM) review of scientific and medical research related to treatment of chronic multi-symptom illness among Gulf War Veterans. The report is expected in 2013.
Funding and encouraging a wide spectrum of research focused on identifying new treatments to help Gulf War Veterans, including studies on pain, muscle and bone disorders, autoimmune disease, neuro degenerative disease, sleep disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory problems, and other chronic diseases. Research is ongoing in other conditions, as well, that may affect Gulf War Veterans, such as brain cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease, or ALS), and multiple sclerosis.
Launching in May 2012, the third follow-up study of a national cohort of Gulf War and Gulf War Era Veterans (earlier studies were conducted in 1995 and 2005; the health surveys are done to understand possible health effects of service and guide health care delivery).
Continuing the clinical, research, and education activities of the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center program which focuses on post-deployment health.
VA is also improving care and services for Gulf War Veterans through initiatives outlined in the 2011 GWVI Task Force Report. These include the evaluation of a clinical care model specifically for Gulf War Veterans and of enhanced education for health care providers about Gulf War Veterans concerns. Additionally, a VA Gulf War Research Strategic Plan has been developed to address effective treatment for the symptoms experienced by some Gulf War Veterans and to guide efforts toward improvements in diagnosis, the understanding of genetic and biologic factors related to Gulf War Veterans' illnesses, and the application of research findings in Veterans' health care.
VA provides care for Veterans of all eras as part of its mission. VA operates the nation's largest integrated health care system. With a health care budget of more than $50 billion, VA expects to provide care to 6.1 million patients during 920,000 inpatient hospital admissions and nearly 80 million outpatient visits during 2012. VA health care network includes 152 major medical centers and more than 800 community-based outpatient clinics.
For more information on Gulf War Veterans illnesses, see: http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/gulfwar/.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has joined with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense to launch a training program for transitioning service members and veterans to help them become entrepreneurs and create jobs. "Operation Boots to Business: From Service to Startup" is a national initiative that will be piloted with the U.S. Marine Corps. The announcement was made today by U.S. Small Business Administrator Karen Mills and U.S. Marine Corps representatives at Quantico, VA.
Entrepreneurship and small business ownership are valuable opportunities for transitioning service members and veterans. Each year, more than 250,000 service members transition out of the military. Transitioning veterans are natural entrepreneurs who possess the skills, experience and leadership to start businesses and create jobs.
Through its ongoing collaboration with Syracuse University's Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), SBA also will provide comprehensive training materials specifically geared toward transitioning service members
SBA partners will coordinate training and services at military bases around the country, delivering a face-to-face introductory entrepreneurship course. In addition, an intensive eight-week online business planning training will be provided by Syracuse University and its affiliated university partners for those service members who choose to continue to pursue entrepreneurship after the face-to-face introductory course. Following, service members and veterans will be referred to SBDCs, WBCs, SCORE chapters and VBOCs for counseling and training throughout the lifetime of their business.
The program will pilot in four locations: Quantico, Va., Cherry Point, N.C., Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Twenty-Nine Palms, Calif.Â It will be expanded across the nation during fiscal year 2013 with the goal of providing entrepreneurial training and awareness to transitioning service members from all branches of the military.
For more information on Boots to Business training program, and on how to take part as a transitioning service member, please visit http://www.sba.gov/bootstobusiness.
WASHINGTON (May 30, 2012) The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it will collaborate with the 100,000 Homes Campaign and its 117 participating communities to help find permanent housing for 10,000 vulnerable and chronically homeless Veterans this year.
"President Obama and I are personally committed to ending homelessness among Veterans", said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. "Those who have served this Nation as Veterans should never find themselves on the streets, living without care and without hope."
The collaboration is intended to help accomplish Secretary Shinseki goal of ending Veteran homelessness in 2015. It will also support the ongoing work of the U.S Interagency Council on Homelessness and a host of state and local organizations working to implement Opening Doors,
the federal plan to end chronic and Veteran homelessness. According to the 2011 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report to Congress, homelessness among Veterans has declined 12 percent since January 2010.
The initiative will better integrate the efforts of VA case managers and their local partners by leveraging VA resources and those of participants in the 100,000 Homes campaign. The campaign's national support staff, provided by New York-based non-profit Community Solutions, will also work with VA to provide technical assistance to help communities reduce the amount of time necessary to house a single homeless Veteran.
As a result, community organizations will be better able to utilize the Housing and Urban Developments Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program. The program is a coordinated effort by HUD, VA, and local housing agencies to provide permanent housing with case management and other support services for homeless Veterans. The collaboration will also help VA increase the proportion of HUD-VASH vouchers that help house chronic and vulnerable homeless individuals. Research indicates that this approach can successfully end homelessness for vulnerable and chronically homeless Veterans while also achieving significant public cost savings. From fiscal years 2008 to 2012, HUD has allocated funding to local public housing authorities to provide over 47,000 housing choice vouchers to homeless Veterans.
Volunteers in participating 100,000 Homes communities will help the VA identify homeless Veterans through their registry week process. Registry weeks are community-wide efforts in which volunteers canvass their neighborhoods to survey homeless individuals and gather key
information to help VA case managers expedite the housing process.
Campaign support staff will also offer quality improvement training designed to help reduce the amount of time necessary to house a homeless Veteran to 90 days or less. Pilot training in Los Angeles and New York City has already helped shave an average of 64 days from the Veteran housing process in these communities.
In 2009, President Obama and Secretary Shinseki announced the federal government's goal to end Veteran homelessness by 2015. Through the homeless Veterans initiative, VA committed $800 million in FY 2011 to strengthen programs that prevent and end homelessness among Veterans. VA provides a range of services to homeless Veterans, including health care, housing, job training, and education.
The 100,000 Homes Campaign is a national movement of over 100 communities working together to find permanent homes for 100,000 vulnerable and chronically homeless individuals and families by July of 2014.
100,000 Homes Campaign Contact:
Be aware of a phone scam targeting veterans in an attempt to fraudulently obtain their credit card information.
Recently, veterans across the nation have been receiving calls from individuals claiming to represent the Patient Care Group. The callers claim that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has changed procedures for distributing prescriptions and ask for the veterans’ credit card number.
Please note, the VA has not changed its procedures regarding the dispensing of prescriptions.
Be suspicious of any calls requesting personal information such as credit card or social security numbers.
Quang Nguyen speaking at Freedom Rally in Prescott, Arizona:
"Thirty-five years ago, if you were to tell me that I was going to stand up here and speak to a several thousand patriots, in English, I would have laughed. But today, every morning, I wake up thanking God for putting me and my family into the greatest country on earth.
I just want you all to know that the American dream does exist and I am
living the American dream. I was asked to speak to you about my experience as a first generation Vietnamese-American, but I'd rather speak to you as an American.
I am a proud US citizen and here is my proof. It took me 8 years to get it, waiting in endless lines, but I got it and I am very proud of it.
I still remember the images of the Tet offensive in 1968, I was six years old. Now you might want to question how a 6-year-old boy could remember anything. Trust me, those images can never be erased. I can't even imagine what it was like for young American soldiers, 10,000 miles away from home, fighting on my behalf.
Thirty-five years ago, I left South Vietnam for political asylum. The war had ended. At the age of 13, I left with the understanding that I may or may not ever get to see my siblings or parents again. I was one of the first lucky 100,000 Vietnamese allowed to come to the US . Somehow, my family and I were reunited five months later, amazingly, in California . It was a miracle from God.
If you haven't heard lately that this is the greatest country on earth, I am telling you that right now. It was the freedom and the opportunities presented to me that put me here with all of you tonight. I also remember the barriers that I had to overcome every step of the way. My high school counselor told me that I could not make it to college due to my poor communication skills. I proved him wrong. I finished college. You see, all you have to do is to give a young boy an opportunity and encourage him.
This person standing tonight in front of you could not exist under a socialist/communist environment. By the way, if you think socialism is the way to go, I am sure many people here will chip in to get you a one-way ticket out of here. And if you didn't know, the only difference between socialism and communism is an AK-47 aimed at your head. That was my experience.
In 1982, I stood with a thousand new immigrants, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and listening to the National Anthem for the first time as an American. To this day, I can't remember anything sweeter and more patriotic than that moment in my life.
Fast forwarding, somehow I finished high school, finished college, and like any other goofball 21 year old kid, I was having a great time with my life. I had a nice job and a nice apartment in Southern California . In someway and somehow, I had forgotten how I got here and why I was here.
One day I was at a gas station, I saw a veteran pumping gas on the other side of the island. I don't know what made me do it, but I walked over and asked if he had served in Vietnam . He smiled and said yes. I shook and held his hand. The grown man began to well up. I walked away as fast as I could and at that very moment, I was emotionally rocked. This was a profound moment in my life. I knew it was time for me to give back.
You see, America is not a place on the map, it isn't a physical location. It is an ideal, a concept. And if you are an American, you must understand the concept, you must buy into this concept, and most importantly, you have to fight and defend this concept. This is about Freedom and not free stuff. And that is why I am standing up here.
Brothers and sisters, to be a real American, the very least you must do is to learn English and understand it well. In my humble opinion, you cannot be a faithful patriotic citizen if you can't speak the language of the country you live in. Take this document of 46 pages - last I looked on the Internet, there wasn't a Vietnamese translation of the US Constitution. It took me a long time to get to the point of being able to converse and until this day, I still struggle to come up with the right words. It's not easy, but if it's too easy, it's not worth doing.
Before I knew this 46-page document, I learned of the 500,000 Americans who fought for this little boy. I learned of the 58,000 names inscribed on the black wall at the Vietnam Memorial. You are my heroes. You are my founders.
At this time, I would like to ask all the Vietnam veterans to please stand. Thank you for my life. I thank you for your sacrifices, and I thank you for giving me the freedom and liberty I have today. I now ask all veterans, firefighters, and police officers, to please stand. On behalf of all first generation immigrants, I thank you for your services and may God bless you all."
The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) has provided the following
website for veterans to gain access to their DD-214s online:
This may be particularly helpful when a veteran needs a copy
of his/her DD-214 for employment purposes. NPRC is working
to make it easier for veterans with computers and Internet
access to obtain copies of documents from their military files.
Military veterans and the next of kin of deceased former military
members may now use a new online military personnel records
system to request documents.
Other individuals with a need for documents must still complete
the Standard Form 180, which can be downloaded from the
online web site. Because the requester will be asked to supply
all information essential for NPRC to process the request,
delays that normally occur when NPRC has to ask veterans
for additional information will be minimized.
The new web-based application was designed to provide better service on these requests by eliminating the records centers mail room and
Two MIAs Identified: The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office
announced the identifications of remains belonging to a Korean War
soldier and Vietnam War airman. Identified are:
Army Cpl. Henry F. Johnson, 20, of Conway, Ark. Johnson, of L
Company, 3rd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, was deployed in a
defensive line that ran east-west across the center of North Korea when
Chinese forces attacked on Nov. 25, 1950. It was later learned he was
taken captive but died in the spring of 1951 as a result of
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Allen J. Avery, 29, of Arlington, Mass. Forty
years ago on April 6, 1972, six airmen were flying a combat search and
rescue mission in their HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giant when it was hit
by enemy ground fire and crashed in Quang Tri Province in South
(Washington, D.C.) U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, will join with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans from across the country to introduce legislation that will give service members and veterans using the GI Bill, and other VA education benefits, access to information that would help them make informed decisions about the schools they attend so they get the most out of the benefit. This bill would also require that VA and DoD develop a joint policy to curb aggressive recruiting and misleading marketing aimed at service members and veterans using the GI Bill.
New tools will help root out poor performing schools and questionable practices to help protect taxpayer money and give our veterans the best opportunities for success in school and in the job market.
During a routine Defense Appropriations hearing this week, Senate VA
Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) questioned Army Secretary John
McHugh on the handling of PTSD cases by the forensic psychiatry unit at
Madigan Army Medical Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Murray's
home state. Murray asked why more than 40 percent of the service
members who walked in the door with a PTSD diagnosis at Madigan had
their diagnosis either changed or overturned entirely. The forensic
psychiatry unit at Madigan is currently under investigation for failure
to properly diagnose and treat the invisible wounds of war. Information
dated back to 2007 has shown that hundreds of cases are under
investigation for changing mental health diagnoses based on the cost of
providing care and benefits to service members. The Army is currently
reevaluating nearly 300 service members and veterans who have had their
PTSD diagnoses changed by that unit since 2007. To read Stars &
Stripes coverage of the hearing, click here:
The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office recently announced the identification of remains belonging to two soldiers from the Korean War and one pilot from World War II. Returned home are:
Master Sgt. Elwood Green, U.S. Army, E Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th
Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, was captured on Nov. 28, 1950,
and died in 1951 in a POW Camp in North Korea. He was accounted for on
March 1, 2012.
Sgt. 1st Class Richard L. Harris, U.S. Army, L Company, 3rd
Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, was captured
on Nov. 30, 1950, and died in January 1951 in a POW Camp in North
Korea. He was accounted for on Feb. 29, 2012.
2nd Lt. Charles R. Moritz, U.S. Army Air Forces, of the 496th Fighter
Training Group, was lost on June 7, 1944, when his P-51C Mustang
crashed near Goxhill airfield, England. He was accounted for on Feb.
The VA has added 47 vessels to its list of Navy and Coast Guard ships whose crews
may have been exposed to the defoliant Agent Orange. Former service members who
served aboard these "blue water" ships as well as the more than 200 others listed in
VA's database from 1962 to 1975 may be eligible for disability compensation.
According to The Military Times, vessels recently added to the roster include the
hospital ship Repose, which operated in close coastal waters from 1966 to 1970,
and the transport ship General R.M. Blatchford, which landed elements of the
1st Infantry Division at Vung Tau in October 1965. Read more at
WASHINGTON – Eleven states will share more than $10.3 million in grants to community
groups to provide enhanced services for homeless Veterans this year. This is in
addition to the $59.5 million in preventive grants awarded earlier this year.
“Homelessness is a national issue that will be solved at the local level,” said
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “VA is proud to partner with the
community organizations that share our dedication to serving those who served this
Nation. They are pulling Veterans out of homelessness and setting them on the path
As a key component of VA’s plan to eliminate homelessness among Veterans, VA’s
Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program provides grants and per diem payments
to help public and nonprofit organizations establish and operate supportive housing
and service centers for homeless Veterans. As a result of this funding, provided
through a program known as VA Special Need Grants for Homeless Veterans Service
Providers, 26 projects will receive approximately $10.3 million to continue
providing enhanced services for homeless Veterans who are seriously mentally ill.
The grants will also greatly benefit homeless women Veterans, including women with
children, elderly women, or those who may be terminally ill.
VFW Executive Director Bob Wallace recently sent letters to each member of the new 12-member Joint Select Committee on Debt Reduction---also known as the"Super Congress"---that's been tasked with developing a bipartisan road map to reduce the national debt over the next few months. In his letter, Wallace asked each member to preserve military personnel programs and veterans' benefits, and offered the VFW's input in the process. Read the VFW's letter and learn more about the Super Congress by visiting the VFW's Voice on the Hill blog.
WASHINGTON - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced
recently that more than $2.2 billion in retroactive benefits has already been
paid to approximately 89,000 Vietnam Veterans and their survivors who
filed claims related to one of three new Agent Orange presumptive
On August 31, 2010, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) amended its
regulations to add ischemic heart disease, hairy cell leukemia and other
chronic B-cell leukemias, and Parkinson's disease to the list of diseases
presumed to be related to exposure to Agent Orange.
For new claims, VA may authorize up to one year of retroactive benefits if
a Veteran can show that he or she has experienced one of those conditions
since the date of the regulatory change.
VA has reviewed, and continues to review, thousands of previously filed
claims that may qualify for retroactive benefits under a long-standing
court order of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of
California in "Nehmer vs. U.S. Veterans Administration."
VA encourages survivors of Veterans whose death may be due to one of
the three diseases to file a claim for dependency and indemnity
compensation, added Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey.
Secretary Shinseki's decision to add these conditions to the list of
Agent Orange presumptive conditions was based on a study by the Institute
of Medicine, which indicated a positive association between exposure to
certain herbicides and the subsequent development of one or more of the
Potentially eligible Veterans include those who were exposed based on duty
or visitation in Vietnam or on its inland waterways between January 9,
1962, and May 7, 1975; exposed along the demilitarized zone in Korea
between April 1, 1968, and August 31, 1971; or exposed due to herbicide
tests and storage at military bases within and outside of the United
The Agent Orange Claims Processing System website located at
https://www.fasttrack.va.gov/AOFastTrack/ may be used to submit claims
related to the three new presumptive conditions.
The website makes it easy to electronically file a claim and allows
Veterans and their physicians to upload evidence supporting the claim.
It also permits online viewing of claim status.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is seeking photos of all 58,000 men and women whose
names are inscribed on The Wall in Washington, D.C. The collection will be used to highlight their
service and sacrifice inside the new Vietnam Memorial Education Center, which is scheduled to break
ground next year.
So far, 18,000 photos have been submitted by families and fellow comrades-in-arms. Please submit
photos to Jan Scruggs, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, 2600 Virginia Ave., NW, Suite 104,
Washington, DC 20037. Include the deceased's name, location, unit and approximate month/year
the photo was taken. Digitized photos can be e-mailed to
The president recently awarded the country's highest military honor to Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A.
Petry, an Army Ranger who was shot in both legs and had his hand blown off while saving his fellow
soldiers during a firefight in Afghanistan. Petry became only the second living veteran of the wars in
Afghanistanand Iraq to receive the Medal of Honor.
The Defense POW/MIA Office announced the identification of remains belonging to
a soldier from the Korean War and two airmen from the Vietnam War.
* Army Capt. Melvin R. Stai, of Spokane, Wash., died in captivity after
being captured in January 1951 and marched north to a POW camp in Suan
County, North Korea.
* On April 29, 1966, Air Force Col. Leo S. Boston, of Canon City,
Colo., disappeared while flying a search-and-rescue mission in North
Vietnam in an A-1E Skyraider.
* And on March 26, 1970, Air Force Maj. Richard G. Elzinga, of Shedd,
Ore., and his co-pilot went missing when their O-1G Birddog failed to
return to base from a mission over Laos.
Read more about search, recovery and identification efforts at
The Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America organization has launched a groundbreaking new jobs partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at the first Veterans Working Group at CGI America 2011, the Clinton Global Initiative’s first annual meeting focused on strengthening the U.S. economy.
In its inaugural session, the Veterans Working Group, Operation Employment: Empowering America’s Newest Veterans, identified actionable steps to reduce skyrocketing rates of unemployment amongst Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, including building support structures for new vets, leveraging technology and media to connect them with employment opportunities, and bridging the civilian-military divide to broaden community response to veterans’ issues. Steered by IAVA Founder and Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff and White House Director of Wounded Warrior Policy Matt Flavin, the Working Group culminated in a targeted commitment between IAVA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a business federation representing American companies, business associations, state and local chambers, to host five “Smart Job Fairs” nationwide reaching 1,000 new veterans transitioning from combat to career.
“Veteran unemployment is a black eye on our society. New veterans are coming home to unemployment rates as high as 30 percent in some states. After 10 years of war, veterans are facing a crisis on the home front, and it’s not going to fix itself. The Chamber of Commerce understands the challenge, and is leading the way. We applaud their strong leadership and exceptional commitment to our community. Our new jobs partnership forged through the CGI America Veterans Working Group is a huge step in the right direction. Over the next 12 months, we’re focused on getting as many new vets hired into quality jobs as possible. These fairs will come at a critical juncture and provide new veterans access to job opportunities, resume and career-skills workshops, and even investment counseling to help many jumpstart their own small businesses,” said IAVA Founder and Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff. “Through his leadership at CGI America, President Clinton has given our community a critical platform and voice to address the diverse challenges gripping our generation of veterans. The best minds in government, tech and the military and veterans spaces came together this week to build a path to a sustainable network that empowers veterans in their transition from combat to career. As the drawdown in Afghanistan begins, now more than ever broad dialogue is needed to bridge the civilian-military divide and make the civilian workforce more accessible to veterans.”
“The Chamber of Commerce is thrilled to be working with IAVA on this groundbreaking partnership made possible by CGI America. By creating these ‘Smart Job Fairs,’ thousands of veterans and their families will be positively impacted immediately through increased access to viable employment opportunities,” said Vice President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Kevin Schmiegel. “With new veteran unemployment over 12%, the Chamber is proud to step up to make a difference for the men and women who have given so much for our country.”
No veteran should come home from Iraq and Afghanistan to an unemployment check, yet nearly 300,000 have. The unemployment rate for new veterans has doubled in the last five years and continues to skyrocket. IAVA is fighting to change this through our innovative year-long campaign Combat to Career: The Fight to End Veteran Unemployment to help the 2.2 million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan successfully transition from service to the civilian workforce and reduce the unemployment rate by Veterans Day 2011. Learn more about the campaign by visiting IAVA's Combat to Career Headquarters.
Despite a decrease in overall hiring, the federal government brought on more veterans in fiscal year
2010 than in 2009, according to a report released by the Office of Personnel Management. The
number of veterans hired rose by about 2,000 to 72,133 in fiscal 2010. Veterans accounted for a
higher percentage of new hires, rising from 24 percent of new employees in 2009 to 25.6 percent
in 2010. The hiring of disabled veterans also rose from 7 percent of new hires to 8.2 percent. The
Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs hired the most new veterans, while Commerce, Energy,
and the General Services Administration hired the least. "The Veterans Employment Initiative is off to
a strong start, but this is only the beginning," said OPM Director John Berry in the report. "We
must work even harder in the months and years to come."
The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced the launch of a toll-free National Caregiver Support Line: 1-855-260-3274. The Caregiver Support Line was created to recognize the significant contributions made by caregivers allowing Veterans to remain at home surrounded by family and friends. Open Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time; licensed clinical social workers will be available to answer questions, listen to concerns and directly link caregivers to the Caregiver Support Coordinator at their local VA Medical Center. Each VA Medical Center has a Caregiver Support Coordinator who can locate assistance tailored to unique situations.
APPLICATIONS FOR RESIDENCY BEING ACCEPTED AT THE VETERANS HOME OF CALIFORNIA IN BARSTOW
The Veterans Homes of California have been built as an expression of gratitude towards California's deserving Veterans!
The beautiful Veterans Home of California in Barstow is a long-term care facility and residence for California's Veterans providing options for Domiciliary (Independent Living) with new, more spacious private rooms, as well as Intermediate Care and Skilled Nursing Care. Applications for residency are currently being accepted and there is currently NO WAITING LIST for the Domiciliary/Independent Living.
Located in the high desert area of Southern California 1.5 miles off Interstate 15 along Highway 247 (Barstow Road) at Veteran Parkway next to the Barstow Community College,the Veterans Home of California in Barstow is midway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas and only about an hour's drive from Ontario Airport.
Opened February 1996, the Veterans Home of California in Barstow provides California's Veterans with a living environment that protects their dignity and contributes to their feeling of self-reliance and self-worth, fostering a sense of community camaraderie. Excellent medical services are provided on-site with contract providers nearby as well as the VA Loma Linda Health Care System. Nearby Barstow College offers many cultural and educational opportunities for Home residents to enjoy. Other services include meals, field trips, housekeeping and activities in a safe and comfortable setting. Fees are based upon the Veterans income and levels of care provided.
A spouse is also eligible to apply with the Veteran. Veterans seeking admission or a tour should call (800) 746-0606 or (760) 252-6281, or write to:
Veterans Home of California, Barstow, Attn: Admissions
100 E. Veterans Parkway
Barstow, CA 92311
A Silver Lining
"Reflections on Pearl Harbor" by Admiral Chester Nimitz.
Sunday, December 7th, 1941--Admiral Chester Nimitz was attending a concert in Washington D.C. He was paged and told there was a phone call for him. When he answered the phone, it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the phone. He told Admiral Nimitz that he (Nimitz) would now be the Commander of the Pacific Fleet.
Admiral Nimitz flew to Hawaii to assume command of the Pacific Fleet. He landedat Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve, 1941. There was such a spirit of despair, dejection and defeat--you would have thought the Japanese had already won the war. On Christmas Day, 1941, Adm. Nimitz was given a boat tour of the destruction wrought on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Big sunken battleships and navy vessels cluttered the waters every where you looked. As the tour boat returned to dock, the young helmsman of the boat asked, "Well Admiral, what do you think after seeing all this destruction?" Admiral Nimitz's reply shocked everyone within the sound of his voice. Admiral Nimitz said, "The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever make or God was taking care of America. Which do you think it was?" Shocked and surprised, the young helmsman asked, "What do mean by saying the Japanese made the three biggest mistakes an attack force ever made?"
Nimitz explained. "Mistake number one: the Japanese attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of every ten crewmen of those ships were ashore on leave. If those same ships had been lured to sea and been sunk--we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.
"Mistake number two: when the Japanese saw all those battleships lined in a row, they got so carried away sinking those battleships, they never once bombed our dry docks opposite those ships. If they had destroyed our dry docks, we would have had to tow everyone of those ships to America to be repaired. As it is now, the ships are in shallow water and can be raised. One tug can pull them over to the dry docks, and we can have them repaired and at sea by the time we could have towed them to America . And I already have crews ashore anxious to man those ships. "
"Mistake number three: every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater of war is in
top of the ground storage tanks five miles away over that hill. One attack plane could have strafed those tanks and destroyed our fuel supply. That's why I say the Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could make or God was taking care of America ."
"There is a reason that our national motto is, IN GOD WE TRUST."
Washington, D.C. - Ranking Democratic Member Bob Filner reintroduced H.R.
814, legislation to allow veterans to use their earned Medicare benefits to receive
health care and services from the Veterans Health Administration at the Department
of Veterans Affairs (VA).
"There are veterans who have earned VA health care benefits with their service to
our country," stated Bob Filner. "They have also earned Medicare benefits by
contributing to the Medicare program during their working years. Because VA cannot
bill Medicare, elderly veterans are unable to use their Medicare benefits, even if
they may prefer to receive care at a VA facility among their fellow veterans. So
for those veterans, they basically forgo the hard-earned dollars that they
contributed towards Medicare benefits during their working years. This bill is
important legislation that would allow elderly veterans to access both VA health
care and their Medicare benefits."
Under current law, VA has the authority to bill enrolled veterans and their private
health care insurers for the treatment of veterans' non-service-connected
conditions. Current law, however, prohibits the billing of Medicare, barring
elderly veterans from using their earned Medicare benefits at VA health care
facilities. H.R. 814, the Medicare Reimbursement Act of 2011, would require VA to
develop a program that would allow VA to bill Medicare for services rendered to
veterans enrolled in Medicare Part A or B.
Washington, D.C. - Ranking Democratic Member Bob Filner reintroduced
legislation that would require all VA facilities to display a bill of rights
outlining VA's responsibility to women veterans.
"Women veterans are serving in record numbers alongside their male counterparts. It
is time for VA to shed the pervasive male environment that exists at many of the VA
Medical Centers and other facilities and embrace the female veteran population,"
stated Bob Filner. "While VA has taken steps toward recognizing and respecting the
unique concerns of women veterans, more needs to be done.
According to VA, there are 1.8 million women veterans, and that number only
continues to rise. According to VA estimates, by 2018 roughly a tenth of all
veterans enrolled in the VA health care system will be women, up from 7.7 percent
H.R. 809 calls for 24 key points detailing what women veterans should expect of VA,
and would ensure that they are treated with the dignity and respect that they have
earned. Specifically, these points would address VA's responsibility to provide
women veterans with full and timely access to quality health care, vigorous
outreach, and complete equality in accessing VA benefits and service, among other
Washington, D.C. - Ranking Democratic Member (D-CA) of the House Committee on
Veterans' Affairs Bob Filner reintroduced legislation that would further the goal of
ending veteran homelessness in five years.
"We know the Department of Veterans Affairs has many programs to address currently
homeless veterans, and they do a great job. However, the most important piece to
ending homelessness among the nation's veteran population is to prevent it in the
first place. It is unacceptable that even one of our veterans sleep on the streets
or in shelters after risking their lives on behalf of this country. H.R. 806 will
go a long way in strengthening our efforts to ultimately end homelessness."
According to recent reports, approximately one-third of the adult homeless
population served in the Armed Services. Population estimates also suggest that
about 131,000 veterans are homeless on any given night and perhaps twice as many
experience homelessness at some point during the course of a year.
This bill increases funding to successful programs for homeless veterans; requires
each VA medical center that provides supporting housing services to provide housing
counselors; requires housing counselors to conduct landlord research; strengthens
permanent housing programs, and pays special interest to the needs of homeless women
veterans and homeless veterans with children.