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Posted 18 May 2017

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Announcements

 

May 25, 2017

 

June Focus on Health Equity and Action Cyberseminar

Chronic conditions 3 panel


Please join the Office of Health Equity for the June 2017 Focus on Health Equity and Action Cyberseminar titled, “Chronic Health Conditions among Vulnerable Veterans: Current Research and Action.” Event description and registration information is below.

 Chronic Health Conditions among Vulnerable Veterans: Current Research and Action

 Thursday, June 29th, 2017
3:00 – 4:00 PM (EST)

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Event Description

June’s Focus on Health Equity and Action Cyberseminar session spotlights recent publications on chronic health conditions and disparities among vulnerable Veteran patient groups.  Panelist will discuss the following: 1) demographic variability in the prevalence of chronic health conditions and disparities among Veterans using primary care in VHA; 2) recent efforts in using VA data to systematically characterize health and healthcare disparities in VA for vulnerable Veteran groups; and 3) operational and research partnerships executed by the Office of Health Equity to advance the goals of the VA Health Equity Action Plan

Confirmed Speakers

  • Jessica Y. Breland, PhD
    VA Palo Alto Healthcare System, Palo Alto, CA
     
  • Donna L. Washington, MD, MPH
    VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Los Angeles, CA  
  • Uchenna S. Uchendu, MD
    Chief Officer, Office of Health Equity, Washington, DC

Background Resources 

REGISTER

 

Visit the Office of Health Equity website at https://www.va.gov/healthequity/ for more details about Veteran health equity issues, VA’s strategic plan to achieve health equity for Veterans (Health Equity Action Plan), and to learn more about the Focus on Health Equity and Action Cyberseminar series.

 


Learn How VA Uses Data to Characterize Health and Healthcare Disparities in the VA with the Office of Health Equity-QUERI Partnered Evaluation Center

Despite some progress in eliminating or reducing health disparities in the VA healthcare system, health and healthcare disparities unfortunately exist for some vulnerable Veterans. The Office of Health Equity-QUERI Partnered Evaluation Center, led by Dr. Donna L. Washington, Principal Investigator, was established to support the Office of Health Equity’s efforts to better understand the extent of these disparities and engender appropriate actions. Join Dr. Washington this month as she discusses the work of the Office of Health Equity-QUERI Partnered Evaluation Center.

Using VA Data to Characterize Health and Healthcare Disparities in VA

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017
12:00 – 1:00 PM (EST)

 
REGISTER

 
Event Description

The Office of Health Equity-QUERI Partnered Evaluation Center uses VA data to systematically characterize the health and healthcare disparities in the VA for vulnerable Veteran groups. This presentation will describe the challenges and strategies for using VA data to measure characteristics of vulnerable populations, such as race/ethnicity and socio-economic status. The cyberseminar will also present findings on health and healthcare disparities in the VA.

Objectives

  1. Describe the data sources and data decisions used to construct vulnerable population characteristics, such as race/ethnicity and measures of socio-economic status.
  2. Describe variations in patient experiences of VA care and in VA care quality by vulnerable population characteristics.

REGISTER

Additional Resource


Are You a Veteran or a Family Member of a Veteran Facing Challenges in Your Everyday Life?

Veteran Mental Health Awareness


May is National Mental Health Month. The Office of Health Equity has joined the efforts of the Make the Connection initiative to help raise awareness of mental health and supportive resources. MakeTheConnection.net is an online resource that connects Veterans, family members, friends, and others supporters with information, resources, and solutions to issues affecting their lives.
 

The Office of Health Equity is pleased to share select videos of Veteran stories of recovery that have been tailored for some Veteran groups most likely to experience health and healthcare disparities and other challenges. All videos can be viewed on MakeTheConnection.net or YouTube.

 

Together, we can raise awareness and offer support for challenges our nation’s Veterans and their families may be experiencing.

Racial or Ethnic Group      

  • Group therapy to overcome PTSD and stress - Ari, an Army Veteran, served in Vietnam. Both combat and the racism he encountered caused stress. When he came home, he was on edge and angry. Different sounds brought him back to Vietnam. After time in prison, he sought treatment for PTSD. Group therapy with other Vietnam Veterans supported Ari through his recovery and reduced his stress. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/595

Sex    

  • Women Veterans’ inspiring true stories - Women Veterans represent an enduring legacy of leadership, service, and sacrifice. Each woman’s experience is unique, yet many face similar challenges while serving in the military and after returning to civilian life. Hear inspiring stories from women who discovered ways to stay strong and find success. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/457
  • Leading and living strong after facing adversity - From an early age, Trista knew she wanted to be in the military, and she proudly served in three branches. For a long time, she didn't acknowledge the effects that military sexual trauma was having on her life. After years of not recognizing the emotional effects of her experience, she told a VA counselor about it and changed her life for the better. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/17 
  • Paige found a new perspective through treatment - Paige served in the Navy and the Army National Guard. The sexism she experienced in the service affected her. She pushed through things, but eventually felt confused and hopeless. She called a crisis line and was connected to VA care. A combination of medication and therapy helped Paige. Her relationships have improved and she is happier now. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/567  
  • Every day there were issues with sexual harassment - Marylyn talks about circumstances that led to sexual harassment while she was deployed. Sometimes people would find excuses for inappropriate physical contact. Other times there were unwelcome advances when she was alone and isolated on duty. These things added to the stress and difficulty that she was already experiencing on active duty. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/104  
  • When We Were Young 60 Second - Age and experience bring independence. But it’s also important to remember the strength that comes from asking for help — like we did when we were young. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/654

Age      

  • A healthy and fulfilling life for older Veterans - Retirement and aging can be challenging. For those Veterans who have difficulty adjusting, connecting with counseling and therapy can ease this transition. Listen to these Veterans talk about how they found solutions to live well as they get older, leave jobs, and start their next phase of life. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/640  

Sexual Orientation  

  • Finding complete recovery years after serving - Monty knew he was gay before he entered the Navy, but he hid who he was so he could join. He drank a lot both during his service and after he got out. After a number of DUIs, Monty went to Veterans Court and entered a recovery program. Through counseling and group therapy, he has stayed sober. Now, Monty feels free to be open about who he is. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/584  
  • Overcoming PTSD and MST one day at a time - Besides dealing with stressful combat situations, Tracey felt betrayed by people she thought were her friends and experienced military sexual trauma. With the help of VA, unique Veterans' programs, and supportive family and friends, Tracey continues to move toward a more fulfilling life, every day. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/137  

Military Era/Period of Service 

  • I wish I had addressed it when I first came back - Jesse came back from Vietnam and felt like he had to hide his service. He thought others couldn't understand him, he felt depressed, and had marital problems. Years later, Jesse visited VA and found professionals to help him with his long-standing issues. Jesse knows he may always face challenges, but by accepting support, he can overcome them. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/232

Disability – Cognitive, Sensory, Physical

  • Coping with TBI to improve quality of life - Veterans who have experienced TBI, including some who didn't know they had a traumatic brain injury until later, talk about their experiences. Listen as they describe the signs and symptoms of TBI and its effects on their families. By reaching out for help, they were able to overcome these obstacles and live better lives. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/179 
     
  • Recovering and living well after physical injury - Veterans who experienced physical injuries talk about their experiences. As they recovered and transitioned from the military, they faced difficult circumstances. Reaching out for support helped them overcome their challenges. Listen as they share stories of strength and resilience. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/436 
     
  • Finding inner strength and fortitude - A blood clot caused Leslie to lose her leg and ended her military career. She began to isolate herself and thought other people viewed her differently because of her prosthetic leg. Leslie recognized she had to learn to look at things in new ways. Going to a Vet Center helped her get in touch with her inner strength and turn her thinking around. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/231

Mental Health           

  • Strength Over Silence PSA - Facing life’s difficulties — whether they’re physical challenges or struggles you can’t see — takes determination. Learn how other Veterans chose strength over silence and reached out for help. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/660  
  • Reaching out for help led to a better life - Reaching out for help can be difficult. Support from a loved one, advice from a fellow Veteran, or a desire for self-improvement and wellness can help a Veteran take that step. When faced with challenges, Veterans may find that help and support give them the strength to overcome their obstacles. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/637  
  • Treatment works and recovery is possible - Hear Veterans just like you tell their stories of strength, resilience, and recovery. Although their individual problems may differ, these Veterans share similar experiences of reaching out for support from loved ones, fellow Veterans, and the professionals at VA. They were all able to find solutions that worked for them and get back on track. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/184  
  • Bipolar treatment got them back on track - Listen as Veterans describe living with bipolar disorder and finding treatment that works. Racing thoughts, trouble sleeping, and emotional ups and downs sometimes made their lives difficult. With professional support, they discovered ways to manage symptoms and succeed. They encourage other Veterans to take advantage of resources for living well. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/553 
  • Brenda found the support she needed to live well - Brenda was injured while in the Army Reserve. Later she felt stressed, had panic attacks, and heard voices. When she went to VA, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia and PTSD. She began gambling and fell into debt. Gamblers Anonymous and a VA budgeting class helped Brenda stop gambling. With ongoing VA support, she is living well. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/643

 

 
 
 
 
Posted 18 May 2017

The American Legion GI Bill forum,
exhibit set for The National WWII Museum

 

June 20 event to open centennial salute to “the greatest legislation”
 
WASHINGTON (May 17, 2017) - The original cover and signature page of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, along with the typed and hand-edited speech given by President Franklin D. Roosevelt after signing it, will be showcased at The National WWII Museum in New Orleans beginning June 20 as part of an American Legion centennial salute to the GI Bill.
 
        The bill, drafted and pushed to passage by The American Legion in 1943 and 1944, transformed the United States, building the middle class and democratizing higher education. The exhibit, titled “The Greatest Legislation,” features illustrated panels and touchscreen videos that tell the dramatic story of how The American Legion drafted the measure and overcame numerous challenges to get it to the president’s desk June 22, 1944. It also traces the effects of the bill during the 20th century and its evolution to best serve veterans of the post 9/11 era.
 
        A free reception at the museum is planned at 5 p.m. June 20, followed by a moderated panel discussion led by American Legion 100th Anniversary Honorary Committee Chairman Ted Roosevelt IV. Scheduled panelists include former U.S. Sen. James Webb, who wrote, introduced and championed the Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008; VA Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity Curtis Coy; Student Veterans of America CEO and President Jared Lyon; and American Legion Assistant Director of Veterans Employment and Education John Kamin.
 
        The panel discussion will include remarks from National WWII Museum President Dr. Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller and American Legion Executive Director Verna Jones. The event will include a question-and-answer session were audience members will be invited to share the ways in which the GI Bill has influenced their lives and to discuss the future of the benefit for today’s veterans.
 
        In addition to the cover and signature pages of the original act, on loan from the National Archives, and the speech, on loan from the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, is a pen used by President Roosevelt to sign the bill into law, on loan from The American Legion National Headquarters.
 
        Visitors planning to attend the June 20 event are asked to call ahead at
1-877-813-3329 extension 412.
  
The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world – why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today – so that future generations will know the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America’s National WWII Museum, it celebrates the American Spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifices of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and served on the Home Front. For more information, call 877-813-3329 or 504-528-1944 or visit nationalww2museum.org.
 
With a current membership of 2.2 million wartime veterans, The American Legion, www.legion.org, was founded in 1919 on the four pillars of a strong national security, veterans affairs, Americanism, and youth programs. Legionnaires work for the betterment of their communities through more than 13,000 posts across the nation.
 
Contact: Joe Plenzler, (202) 263-5758/ 301-800-9457 cell, jplenzler@legion.org
  
John B. Raughter
Deputy Director, Media Relations
Phone: (317) 630-1350  Fax: (317) 630-1368
 

     

 
Posted 27 April 2017
Legion learns about VA's program to improve health care
Dr. Luis E. Selva describes the process by which DNA is made from blood samples to Past National Commander Jake Comer and Department of Massachusetts Commander Ken Starks at the Million Veteran Program in Massachusetts. Photo by Joe Plenzler/The American Legion
 
By Joe Plenzler

The MVP is a national research program funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs in partnership with veterans receiving care in the VA health care system.

The purpose of the MVP is to learn more about how a person's genetics affects their health so that doctors can better understand diseases and design future treatments specific to an individual's molecular body composition.

The research is led by Dr. Mike Gaziano and Dr. John Concato who co-lead the MVP as principal investigators.

“We are doing this for veterans, and we are leading in building the best and largest genetic cohort in the world,” Gaziano said.  "We are just beginning to scratch the surface of the potential of this research. It is an exciting paradigm shift that will have as large an impact on medical science as the Apollo space missions, the Hubble Telescope, and the supercollider at CERN had on the world of physics."

This database is already providing medical researchers opportunities to study the ways a person’s genes contribute to Gulf War Illness and post-traumatic stress disorder risk factors, functional disability in schizophrenia and bipolar illness, substance abuse, obesity, diabetes, heart, kidney and cardiovascular disease, and macular degeneration.

Gaziano and his team of medical researchers are actively recruiting veterans to participate in this project with the goal of obtaining one million DNA samples.

Launched in 2011, the program reached its half-way goal in August of 2016 when they collected their 500,000th DNA sample - establishing the MVP as the largest genomic database in the world.

The success of the program relies on three factors:

  • Veteran volunteers,

  • Access to veterans' electronic health records, and

  • Completion of a lifestyle questionnaire and DNA blood sample.

The American Legion leadership is excited about the potential of this project to improve health care for veterans and all Americans.

Legionnaires interested in participating in this landmark study can apply at www.research.va.gov/mvp.

Data collected from the MVP will be stored anonymously.

 
Posted 26 April 2017
VA, Legion team up to provide benefits info
Due to a recent change, veterans can now find out in advance if they and their family members are eligible for burial in a Department of Veterans Affairs national cemetery. To share this information, as well as answer other questions regarding VA memorial benefits, The American Legion and VA staff recently teamed up for a live chat on Facebook.
 
Previously, eligibility for burial in a VA national cemetery could only be determined after the death of the veteran or family member. With the change, veterans can find out if they are eligible for burial in a VA national cemetery before the time of need. This “pre-need” eligibility determination helps families plan in advance and streamline access to burial benefits that veterans have earned through military service for themselves and their eligible family members.
 
Anyone interested in applying for a pre-need eligibility determination for burial in a VA national cemetery may submit VA Form 40-10007. More information is available here.
 
Many of the chat questions were related to eligibility, including whether or not it was necessary to have served in a war zone. VA staff responded that veterans with other than a dishonorable discharge and their spouses generally are eligible for burial in a national cemetery. Those inquiring were advised to apply for pre-need eligibility.
 
Other veterans inquired as to how long it normally takes to hear back from VA after applying for pre-need eligibility. The average wait time is 90 days. And the question of whether spouses could also be buried in a national cemetery was presented. Those spouses also were advised to apply for pre-need eligibility.
 
The chat also provided 10 frequently asked questions about memorial benefits. Included in those were:
 
I plan to be buried in a private cemetery and all I want is a government headstone. Can I use the pre-need burial form to determine if I’m eligible for a government headstone or marker? Yes. We encourage you to submit a completed VA Form 40-10007, Application for Pre-Need Determination of Eligibility for Burial in a VA National Cemetery even if you are only interested in receiving a government-furnished headstone or marker. VA will maintain your pre-need application, supporting documentation and decision letter in an electronic information system. At your time of need, your family member or individual responsible for the disposition of your remains must submit a VA Form 40-1330, Claim for Standard Government Headstone or Marker. They should write in box 27 entitled “REMARKS” on VA Form 40-1330 “decedent has a VA pre-need decision letter”.
 
Who can apply for a pre-need burial eligibility determination? Veterans and spouses can apply for a pre-need burial eligibility determination. Family members, authorized representatives and agents can apply on behalf of eligible claimants. Learn more here.
 
What happens after you determine that you are eligible for VA burials? VA will save the pre-need claim form, supporting documentation and decision letter in a recallable system to expedite your burial arrangements at your time of need. At time of death, should your family or personal representative request burial in a VA national cemetery, VA will confirm eligibility based on the laws in effect at that time.
 
To view the chat in its entirety, click here.
 
 
Posted 11 April 2017
American Legion National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division Deputy Director Zachary Hearn testifies during a legislative hearing on April 5, in Washington, D.C. Photo By Johnathon Clinkscales
 
Legion testifies on proposed 2017 veteran legislation
American Legion National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division Deputy Director Zachary Hearn testified before the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs on April 5 in regards to seven proposed laws that impact veterans. The laws range from financial fraud protection to increased transparency for disability claims processing and adjudication.
 
“The simple fact is (that) serving in our nation’s armed forces is inherently dangerous,” Hearn said in his opening remarks. “Medical conditions may manifest due to service, and we, as a society, have an obligation to compensate for medical conditions related to this service. Many of these veterans depend upon these benefits and for this reason, it is imperative that we ensure these deserving veterans and their family members receive the highest level of consideration.”
 
When it comes to having an obligation to compensate, H.R. 105, the Protect Veterans from Financial Fraud Act of 2017, is designed to ensure that the VA secretary is able to repay veterans who have been swindled by fiduciaries, as well as establish an appeals process for determinations by the VA secretary of veterans’ mental capacity and for other purposes.
 
Hearn said VA’s Fiduciary Program is designed to protect the most vulnerable beneficiaries who are deemed unable to manage their financial affairs. Over 50 percent of these beneficiaries are 80 years old or older, and in most cases, are unable to recover their lost benefits because not all fiduciaries act in their best interest, he said.
 
The Legion supports the passage of H.R. 105, according to Hearn, as all veterans injured by VA fiduciaries should be able to collect on lost funds due to a betrayal of trust.
 
“Veterans who have been impacted by poor acting fiduciaries do not have the ability to recoup their lost funds from VA unless the fiduciary represents 10 or greater beneficiaries,” said Hearn. “(H.R. 105) would now permit VA to provide the lost funds to the veteran regardless of the amount of beneficiaries represented by a fiduciary.”
 
As for H.R. 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017, Hearn said it corrects a wrong that has plagued the Blue Water veterans community, which includes over 800,000 people who served on open sea ships during the Vietnam War between 1962 and 1975.
 
“(For years,) Blue Water Navy veterans have pointed to a 2002 Australian study that found the distilling of seawater not only failed to eliminate the toxic chemicals, but it (also) enhanced its impact,” Hearn said.
 
In May 2011, the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine (IOM) released its report, “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans and Agent Orange Exposure,” after the VA requested a review of medical and scientific evidence on the veterans’ exposure to herbicides like Agent Orange, a blend of tactical herbicides the U.S. military sprayed to remove trees and dense tropical foliage that provided cover for enemies during Operation Ranch Hand in the Vietnam War.
 
The report from IOM concluded that there was not enough evidence to support the Blue Water Navy veterans’ presumptive exposure to such herbicides. “In short, VA cannot prove Blue Water Navy veterans were exposed to Agent Orange and it appears they never will,” Hearn said. “The American Legion has long believed that these veterans of the Blue Water Navy deserve to be treated as presumptively exposed and supports (H.R. 299).”
 
H.R. 1328, the American Heroes Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Act of 2017, would seek to provide an automatic annual cost-of-living adjustment for veterans disability benefits. While this bill would prove efficient in the administration of COLA, Hearn said it could come at a significant cost to the nation’s veterans as it uses the Chained Consumer Price Index, or chained CPI, as its foundation.
Hearn said the current COLA formula already understates the true cost-of-living increases faced by seniors and people with disabilities. “A 30-year-old veteran with no children and 100 percent disabled would likely lose about $100,000 in disability compensation by the time the veteran (reaches) 75 years of age. This is the equivalent of years of benefits lost due to (H.R. 1328),” Hearn said.
 
Although the Legion understands and appreciates the efforts to remove affected veterans from the political debate in determining appropriate annual adjustments for disability benefits, Hearn said the Legion opposes any legislative efforts to automatically index such cost-of-living adjustments to the cost-of-living adjustment authorized for Social Security recipients, non-service connected disability recipients and death pension beneficiaries, as noted in American Legion Resolution No. 187.
 
Unlike H.R. 1328, Hearn said the Legion supports legislation to provide a periodic cost-of-living adjustment increase and to increase the monthly rates of disability compensation. H.R. 1329, the Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2017, would provide a COLA for VA disability and other monetary benefits effective this year on Dec. 1.
 
“For nearly 100 years, The American Legion has advocated on behalf of our nation’s veterans, to include the awarding of disability benefits associated with chronic medical conditions that manifest related to selfless service to this nation,” Hearn said. “COLA is not simply an acronym or a minor adjustment in benefits. Instead, it is a tangible benefit that meets the needs of the increasing costs of living in a nation that they bravely defended.”
 
H.R. 1390 authorizes the VA to pay costs associated with transporting deceased veterans to state or tribal-owned veterans cemeteries. VA currently pays transportation costs for national cemeteries – Hearn said the Legion supports this bill as it would expand options for veterans’ families.
 
H.R. 1564, the VA Beneficiary Travel Act of 2017, specifies a funding source for travel related to examinations by medical professionals, not employed by VA, for compensation and pension examinations. This Legion-supported bill properly designates where VA draws funds for veterans to receive payment for travel to compensation and pension exams and does not impose additional funding requirements.
 
In terms of disability compensation claims, the Legion has reviewed tens of thousands of claims in regional offices around the country for the last 20 years through its Regional Office Action Review program. Hearn said the Legion has even testified to Congress that VA schedules unnecessary and duplicative examinations, despite already having the evidence necessary to grant such claims.
 
“This second exam comes at a cost to VA and delays an adjudication,” Hearn said. “Despite enduring medical examinations for Social Security purposes and having the benefit granted by the agency, VA would conduct their own examinations to determine the veteran’s employability. Some in the veteran community refer to this needless development of disability claims as ‘developing to deny.’”
 
While it’s unfortunate that a bill has to be passed to force VA to do what it already has the authority to do, Hearn said H.R. 1725, the Quicker Benefits Delivery Act of 2017, would compel VA to release data that establishes acceptable clinical evidence and increase transparency for claims development and adjudication.
 
“The American Legion believes that the treatment of the evidence received from private medical providers will receive higher consideration,” he said. “This will expedite adjudications and increase claims processing transparency.”
 
Posted 23 March 2017
American Legion National Veteran Affairs and Rehabilitation Division Director Louis Celli speaks at a U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health hearing on March 22 at the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

Legion testifies on the dangers of VA staff shortages

The hearing, hosted by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health, focused on “Healthy Hiring: Enabling VA to Recruit and Retain Quality Providers.” Celli was among several other witnesses who spoke, including U.S. Government Accountability Office Strategic Issues Director Robert Goldenkoff, Partnership for Public Service President and CEO Max Stier, and Steve Young, deputy undersecretary for Health for Operations and Management at the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs VHA.
 
Celli said the Legion has been concerned about the dangers of staffing shortages among physician and medical specialists at VHA since 1998. “VA currently operates 1,233 health care centers and at one time,” he said. “In 2015, VA lost over 2,000 medical officers alone. We have got to do better.”
A full one-third of all veterans treated by the VA live in a rural area and the Legion echoes VA’s concern to increase access to quality health care for veterans living in those communities. Celli said VA medical centers in rural areas face ongoing challenges recruiting and retaining qualified medical and clinical providers due to their inability to compete with medical centers in large metropolitan areas.
“The differences between VA and nearly every other hospital in America is selectivity,” said Celli. “This is a business model that no other hospital system in the country suffers under, nor would they be able to survive if made to adhere to the regulatory guidance that VA has to follow.”
 
As the number of veterans residing in rural communities continue to grow, Celli said veterans will continue struggling to find timely and quality VA health care that meets the needs of the communities in which they live. “In 2015, during our SWS (System Worth Saving) site visit to the VA Medical Center in St. Cloud, Minnesota, providers were openly upset about the number of physician vacancies and how the additional workload is impacting morale at the medical centers,” he said. “One veteran told us, ‘Every time I visit the medical center, I am assigned a new primary care provider because my last provider either quit or transferred to another VA.”
 
Unfortunately, Celli said there are no easy solutions for VHA when it comes to effectively and efficiently recruiting and retaining staff at VA health care facilities. The American Legion believes that access to basic health care services offered by qualified primary care providers should be available locally, as often as possible, at all times, he said.
 
“There are too many vacancies in VHA and the recent action by (President Donald Trump) to freeze federal hiring will only add to delays in performing life-saving surgeries, patient wait times and claims backlogs,” said Celli. “All health care employees are essential and critical to the health and safety of all patients entrusted to their care.”
 
Celli said VA will never be in a position to compete with the private sector. VHA is going to have to start leveraging the resources they already have to attract and retain medical talent. “VA has a variety of creative solutions available to them with and without the need for additional legislative action,” he said.
 
Celli urged the committee members to consider the following options:
  • Open VA to more patients;
  • Make VA more competitive and allow them to accept all forms of insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.;
  • Make VA a destination employer by offering physicians rotations in research, emergency preparedness and education areas;
  • Call on VA to establish a medical school; and
  • Instruct VA to engage in public-private partnerships with community hospitals across the country by renting wings of existing hospitals.
“The American Legion understands that fulfilling highly skilled vacancies at premiere VA hospitals around the country is challenging,” said Celli. “The American Legion calls on Congress and the American people to treat VA with fair and balanced criticism as well as praise. We all have a moral obligation to make it better, not torture it to death.“
 
Posted 18 March 2017
Veterans meet with Trump at the White House to discuss VA concerns
President Donald Trump, accompanied by Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, speaks during a meeting about veterans affairs, Friday, March 17, 2017, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.
EVAN VUCCI/AP
 
By NIKKI WENTLING
STARS AND STRIPES
Published: March 17, 2017
 
WASHINGTON DC – Ten major veterans groups sat down with President Donald Trump on Friday to discuss veterans issues ranging from health care for women to creating a White House office dedicated to veteran empowerment.
Veterans groups have worked for months to secure the meeting with Trump, who had made veterans issues a major part of presidential campaign. Several of the veterans who attended the listening session with Trump described the meeting as “positive” and “conversational.”
“He was really into the conversation, and his staff promised more conversations. They seemed dedicated to that,” said Joe Chenelly, director of American Veterans. “We’ll take the president at his word when he says this is just the beginning of working together as partners and reforming the [Department of Veterans Affairs], particularly the health care issues.”
In addition to Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, VA Secretary David Shulkin and senior White House staff, including Kellyanne Conway, Stephen Miller, Sean Spicer, Jared Kushner and Omarosa Manigault were present, the veterans said.
Organizations represented were the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Student Veterans of America, Vietnam Veterans of America, American Veterans, Concerned Veterans forAmerica, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, Military Order of the Purple Heart and Got Your 6.
Paul Rieckhoff, director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, took to Twitter on Friday, saying he was disappointed the White House denied IAVA’s request to attend.
Verna Jones, executive director of the American Legion, had strongly appealed for the meeting. Bill Rausch, executive director of the veterans nonprofit Got Your 6, said he thought the meeting showed the White House’s commitment to the veteran community.
“We’re hoping this is one of many,” Jones said of the meeting with the president.
During the meeting, Trump refuted claims he would privatize the VA, Jones said, reiterating a message Shulkin and key Republican lawmakers have conveyed in recent months.
“He assured us the VA is here to stay, that they’re not going to privatize it – veterans will have a healthy VA,” Jones said.
Some groups have expressed concerns that veterans’ health care would move too far into the private sector and remove services from the VA, which they see as providing care uniquely fit for veterans.
Rausch said there was “a clear consensus for support of the veteran community through a strong VA” during the meeting.
The members from each group took turns talking to Trump about their priorities. Some of them spoke about the Veterans Choice Program, which veterans use to receive care in the private sector when they can’t get an appointment at a VA facility. The program, which has been criticized as complex and confusing, is in flux. It will expire in August without action from Congress, and Shulkin is working on an improved version that he promises will have “less red tape.”
Chenelly told Trump that the choice program should continue, but the VA should better inform veterans about their options when deciding where to seek health care.
Rausch proposed Trump sign an executive order establishing a new office in the White House dedicated to veteran empowerment. Trump was receptive to the idea, Rausch said, and asked Pence to follow up.
Others told Trump about the need to modernize the process that veterans use to claim disability and pension compensation and the need for more benefits to caregivers of veterans injured pre-9/11, Jones and Chenelly said. They also asked for more details about an announcement that Shulkin made last week that he would expand urgent mental health care for veterans with other-than-honorable discharges.
“There was not a lot of response from them, but I saw that as our chance to have our voices heard,” Chenelly said.
In statements before the meeting, Shulkin thanked Trump for the budget that he proposed Thursday for the VA, which includes a $4.4 billion increase from 2017.
“I think you’re upholding your commitment to showing that this country cares about the veterans, and you’ve given us the ability to make sure that we are able to care for them,” Shulkin told Trump.
Shulkin also thanked the Republican-led House for passing legislation Thursday that would allow him to quickly fire, demote and suspend VA employees. That bill now will now go to the Senate, but there’s no clear timeline of when senators will consider it.
Mark Lucas, executive director of Concerned Veterans for America, said he urged Trump during the meeting to talk to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., about expediting a vote on the bill.
Trump said he’s heard “horrible stories” about the VA but “already a lot of improvements are being made.”
He said he was forming a VA board that will be comprised of businessmen and medical professionals. Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter, CEO of Marvel Entertainment, is part of that board, Trump said, though he did not say who else will take part. The president also announced a “major” meeting about the VA scheduled for Friday night at his Mar-a-Lago estate.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., has been critical of Trump for not meeting with veterans groups. He said Friday that the listening session was a “step in the right direction.”
“Moving forward, I am hopeful the administration will better engage with key veterans’ advocates to ensure they have a seat at the table in shaping policies,” he said in a statement.
 
 
US Army News
Posted 22 February 2017 
 
 
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Information Technology Specialist (INFOSEC)
 
Job Announcement Number: NCBV174561521915087HI
Location Name: Warren, Michigan
Department: Department of the Army
Agency: Army Tank-Automotive and Armament Command (TACOM)
Occupation Code: 2210
Pay Plan: GS
Appointment Duration: Term NTE 13 months
Opening Date: Thursday, February 23, 2017
Closing Date: Thursday, February 23, 2017
Job Status: Full Time
Salary: $65,767.00 to $85,494.00 / Per Year
Pay Grade(s): 11 to 11
Who May Apply: United States Citizens
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About the Position:
THIS IS A DIRECT HIRE SOLICITATION Who May Apply: ALL U.S. Citizens
 
Information Technology Specialist (INFOSEC)
 
Job Announcement Number: NCBV175623891915416HI
Location Name: Warren, Michigan
Department: Department of the Army
Agency: Army Tank-Automotive and Armament Command (TACOM)
Occupation Code: 2210
Pay Plan: GS
Appointment Duration: Term NTE 13 Months
Opening Date: Thursday, February 23, 2017
Closing Date: Thursday, February 23, 2017
Job Status: Full Time
Salary: $93,737.00 to $121,857.00 / Per Year
Pay Grade(s): 13 to 13
Who May Apply: United States Citizens
Job Summary:
About the Position: This position is under the supervision of the Business Management Directorate, Information Management & Support Directorate. The referral list generated by this announcement may be used to fill future vacancies in other organizations throughout the Integrated Logistics Support Center (ILSC). The ILSC is responsible for sustaining war fighting readiness and managing a large part of the Army's investment in war fighting capacity as integrators of nearly 3,000 weapon systems that form the core of the Army's war fighting capability. TACOM is located in Southeastern Michigan, north of Detroit, with nearby universities, world-class museums, art galleries, concert halls, golf courses, and collegiate and professional athletic venues. We provide flexible work schedules depending on the mission and free on-site parking. TACOM generates, provides and sustains mobility, lethality, and survivability for soldiers, other U.S. Military services, and our allies, all to ensure Army readiness today, tomorrow, and beyond. TACOM's military and civilian associates develop and implement technology and logistics solutions for the soldier. From Tank-Automotive and Armaments weapon systems research and development through retirement, TACOM's associates provide cradle-to-grave support to America's armed forces. The soldier is truly the focus of everything we do. Who May Apply: U.S. Citizens
 
 

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VA News
Posted 21 February 2017
 
CWV Banner
 
Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page. Bookmark and Share
In Case You Missed It:  The Center for Women Veterans is sharing recent news stories that may be of interest to women Veterans, military women, and their supporters on a weekly basis.  Share your thoughts about them on social media with the hashtag #womenVets.
 
Passing of the Leash
02/17/2017 07:00 AM EST
Smoky Mountain Service Dogs provides first female Veteran a service dog. [from The Daily Times]
 
Sorting the Mail, Blazing a Trail: African-American Women in World War II
02/17/2017 07:00 AM EST
The push to include African-Americans in the WAAC had faced challenges, but the efforts of African-American newspapers and activists had ultimately prevailed. A quota was set for 10 percent of the total WAAC. [from U.S. Department of Defense]
 
Profiles of Bravery - Brig. Gen. Hazel Johnson-Brown
02/17/2017 07:00 AM EST
1979: First black chief of the Army Corps and first black female brigadier general. [from U.S. Army]
 
Face of Defense: Navy Chief Finds Joy in Volunteer Work
02/17/2017 07:00 AM EST
In less than a year, Navy Chief Petty Officer Heather Lane will retire from the Navy and begin a civilian career. When she leaves she will have completed in excess of 6,000 volunteer hours, received four Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medals, and be eligible for the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award for volunteer service. [from U.S. Department of Defense]
 
No limits: Lt. Gen. Stayce Harris Broke Air Force's Barriers with Resolve
02/17/2017 07:00 AM EST
Stayce Harris, the first black woman to become an Air Force lieutenant general, gets her inspiration from the legendary Tuskegee airmen. [from USA Today]
 
Face of Defense: Deployed Siblings Reunite After 10 Years Apart
02/17/2017 07:00 AM EST
Both brother and sister are currently deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. [from U.S. Department of Defense]
 
Face of Defense: Army Mom Surprises Daughters With Early Return
02/17/2017 07:00 AM EST
When she came out, her daughters leaped from their chairs and ran to her. [from U.S. Department of Defense]
 
Face of Defense: Coast Guard Reservist Succeeds Through Hard Work, Dedication
02/17/2017 07:00 AM EST
Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Casondra Minifield, currently a graduate student at Marymount University, is a reserve boatswain’s mate who hopes to advance in the Coast Guard while seeking a career in federal law enforcement. [from U.S. Department of Defense]
 
SPECIAL REPORT: Female Vets and PTSD, Part 3
02/17/2017 07:00 AM EST
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder manifests itself in different ways. Some Vets have nightmares, others deal with anger issues or have trouble maintaining relationships. [from News West 9]
 
Vets Group: New Study Results Justify Continued Funding for GI Bill
02/16/2017 07:00 AM EST
The study found that 54 percent of Veterans who used the bill from 2009 to 2015 completed degrees. As of September 2015, 18 percent were still working on their degrees. Of those, 23 percent were women, though women are only about 16 to 18 percent of the armed forces. [from Stars and Stripes]
 
Helping Homeless Veterans Does Not End with Housing Them
02/16/2017 07:00 AM EST
Since 2009, the number of homeless Veterans dropped nearly 50 percent - and in 2015 alone, the number decreased by 17 percent. [from Stars and Stripes]
 
CWV Partner eMentor Program Winner of 2017 Leadership Excellence Award
02/15/2017 07:00 AM EST
This award recognizes exceptional leadership development and programs of a solution partner or provider.
 
SPECIAL REPORT: Female Vets with PTSD
02/15/2017 07:00 AM EST
Post traumatic stress disorder in Veterans comes in many forms, whether it stems from combat missions, sexual trauma, feeling alone or worrying about family. Now more and more women are showing signs of the disorder. [from News West 9]
 
2017 Dole Caregiver Fellows Announced
02/15/2017 07:00 AM EST
Military and Veteran Caregivers who Advocate for the 5.5 million Hidden Heroes caring for Wounded, Ill and Injured Veterans. [from Elizabeth Dole Foundation]
 
After the War: Female Veterans Fight Military Sexual Trauma at Home
02/15/2017 07:00 AM EST
Listed on the Department of Veterans Affairs' website are several initiatives that have been put in place to accommodate women. [from WTVR]
 
Combat to Community: Engaging Veterans in the Workforce
02/15/2017 07:00 AM EST
In-Person Event and Webinar, March 16 [from Swords to Plowshares]
 
Women Marines Celebrate 74 Years of Service Feb. 13
02/15/2017 07:00 AM EST
The Marine Corps has been in existence for more than two centuries, but women have only been able to wear the eagle, globe and anchor for the last seven decades. [from JD News]
 
Got Your 6 Welcomes Lauren Augustine as Director of Government Relations
02/15/2017 07:00 AM EST
U.S. Army veteran to lead group's empowerment policy efforts. [from Got Your Six]
Keep updated & let us know how we're doing.
 
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Please remember the only secure way to ask personal questions is at https://iris.custhelp.com.
Explore VA benefits at explore.va.gov
 

 

DOD News
Posted 21 February 2017

Health.mil

 

02/21/2017

 

MHS GEN logo

New DoD electronic medical record system called a success

The Defense Department’s newly modernized electronic health record system was recognized as successful after a week-long deployment at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington, officials there said Feb. 15, 2017.

 

Read More ..

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

VA News
Posted 3 Febuary 2017

See the changes to VA benefitsVeterans Day poster contest

 

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[ABOVE] Submit your creative ideas for the 2017 Veterans Day poster

 
VA News

Posted 3 Febuary 2017

 

American Legion eager to work with new VA Secretary
Posted 11 January 2017
 
WASHINGTON (January 11, 2017) – National Commander Charles E. Schmidt of The American Legion issued the following statement concerning President-Elect Trump’s selection of Dr. David J. Shulkin to lead the department of Veterans Affairs:
 
“My staff and I have worked closely with Dr. Shulkin and believe he has improved the Veterans Health Administration in the short time he has been at the helm.  I met with him just last month and believe he is deeply committed to improving VA care and all of the services that VA provides to veterans.   If confirmed by the Senate, Dr. Shulkin will continue to find The American Legion to be a resourceful and knowledgeable friend with nearly a century of experience as an advocate for America’s veterans. While The American Legion believes in a strong and robust VA, friends tell each other the unvarnished truth. When VA serves veterans well, we will say so. When it doesn’t, we will demand fixes. The American Legion has a team of Washington-based staff, and expert volunteers from across the nation, who are eager to meet with Dr. Shulkin to discuss ways to modernize an antiquated appeals system, decrease wait times for health care and hold poor-performing VA staff accountable. We believe that Dr. Shulkin shares our goals.”
 
With a current membership of 2.2 million wartime veterans, The American Legion, www.legion.org, was founded in 1919 on the four pillars of a strong national security, veterans affairs, Americanism, and youth programs. Legionnaires work for the betterment of their communities through more than 13,000 posts across the nation.
 
Media contacts: John Raughter (317) 630-1350 / 317-441-8847 (cell), jraughter@legion.org  or Michael Dorsey (202) 263-5758, mdorsey@legion.org
  
John B. Raughter
Deputy Director, Media Relations
Phone: (317) 630-1350  Fax: (317) 630-1368
  
     
 
 
Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs
David J. Shulkin
Under Secretary for Health
Posted 11 January 2017
 
Dr. David J. Shulkin
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Honorable Dr. David J. Shulkin is Under Secretary for Health for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. As the Chief Executive of the Veterans Health Administration, Dr. Shulkin leads the nation’s largest integrated health care system with over 1,700 sites of care, serving 8.76 million Veterans each year. The Veterans Health Administration is also the nation’s largest provider of graduate medical education and major contributor of medical research. Dr. Shulkin will have oversight over the system that employs over 300,000 people who work in the health system.
Prior to being nominated by President Obama and being confirmed by the United States Senate as Under Secretary for Health, Dr. Shulkin served in numerous chief executive roles including serving as President at Morristown Medical Center, Goryeb Children’s Hospital, and Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute, and the Atlantic Health System Accountable Care Organization. Dr. Shulkin also previously served as President and CEO of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. Dr. Shulkin has held numerous physician leadership roles including the Chief Medical Officer of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University Hospital, and the Medical College of Pennsylvania Hospital. Dr. Shulkin has also held academic positions including the Chairman of Medicine and Vice Dean at Drexel University School of Medicine. As an entrepreneur, Dr. Shulkin founded and served as the Chairman and CEO of DoctorQuality one of the first consumer-oriented sources of information for quality and safety in healthcare.
Dr. Shulkin is a board-certified internist, a fellow of the American College of Physicians. He received his medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania, his internship at Yale University School of Medicine, and a residency and Fellowship in General Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Presbyterian Medical Center. He received advanced training in outcomes research and economics as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania.
Over his career Dr. Shulkin has been named as one of the Top 100 Physician Leaders of Hospitals and Health Systems by Becker’s Hospital Review and one of the “50 Most Influential Physician Executives in the Country” by Modern Healthcare and Modern Physician. He has also previously been named, “One Hundred Most Influential People in American Healthcare” by Modern Healthcare.
 
Daniel S. Wheeler
National Adjutant
 
The American Legion 
“Every Day Is Veterans Day”
 
     
 
2017 VA Disability Compensation Rates
Posted 17 Dec 2015
 
The following tables show the 2017 VA compensation rates for veterans with a disability rating 10 percent or higher. (Effective Dec. 1, 2016)

Dependents Allowance:

In addition veterans entitled to compensation whose disability is rated as 30 percent or more, are entitled to additional compensation for dependents as follows (monthly amounts):

Without Children:

Disability Rating: 30% - 60%
Disability Rating: 70% - 100%

With Children:

Disability Rating: 30% - 60%
Disability Rating: 70% - 100%

You May Also Like: Dependency & Indemnity Compensation a VA benefit for survivors of disabled veterans.

10% - 20% (With or Without Dependents)

Percentage

Rate

10%

$133.57

20%

$264.02


30% - 60% Without Children

Dependent Status

30%

40%

50%

60%

Veteran Alone

$408.97

$589.12

$838.64

$1,062.27

Veteran with Spouse Only

$456.97

$654.12

$919.64

$1,159.27

Veteran with Spouse & One Parent

$495.97

$706.12

$984.64

$1,237.27

Veteran with Spouse and Two Parents

$534.97

$758.12

$1,049.64

$1,315.27

Veteran with One Parent

$447.97

$641.12

$903.64

$1,140.27

Veteran with Two Parents

$486.97

$693.12

$968.64

$1,218.27

Additional for A/A spouse (see footnote b)

$45.00

$59.00*

$74.00

$89.00


70% - 100% Without Children

Dependent Status

70%

80%

90%

100%

Veteran Alone

$1,338.71

$1,556.13

$1,748.71

$2,915.55

Veteran with Spouse Only

$1,451.71

$1,686.13

$1,894.71

$3,078.11

Veteran with Spouse and One Parent

$1,542.71

$1,790.13

$2,011.71

$3,208.56

Veteran with Spouse and Two Parents

$1,633.71

$1,894.13

$2,128.71

$3,339.01

Veteran with One Parent

$1,429.71

$1,660.13

$1,865.71

$3,046.00

Veteran with Two Parents

$1,520.71

$1,764.13

$1,982.71

$3,176.45

Additional for A/A spouse (see footnote b)

$105.00

$119.00

$134.00

$149.08


30% - 60% With Children

Dependent Status

30%

40%

50%

60%

Veteran with Spouse and Child

$492.97

$702.12

$978.64

$1,230.27

Veteran with Child Only

$440.97

$632.12

$892.64

$1,127.27

Veteran with Spouse, One Parent and Child

$531.97

$754.12

$1,043.64

$1,308.27

Veteran with Spouse, Two Parents and Child

$570.97

$806.12

$1,108.64

$1,386.27

Veteran with One Parent and Child

$479.97

$684.12

$957.64

$1,205.27

Veteran with Two Parents and Child

$518.97

$736.12

$1,022.64

$1,283.27

Add for Each Additional Child Under Age 18

$24.00

$32.00

$40.00

$48.00

Each Additional Schoolchild Over Age 18 (see footnote a)

$78.00

$104.00

$130.00

$156.00

Additional for A/A spouse (see footnote b)

$45.00

$59.00

$74.00

$89.00


70% - 100% With Children

Dependent Status

70%

80%

90%

100%

Veteran with Spouse and Child

$1,534.71

$1,781.13

$2,001.71

$3,197.16

Veteran with Child Only

$1,414.71

$1,642.13

$1,845.71

$3,024.27

Veteran with Spouse, One Parent and Child

$1,625.71

$1,885.13

$2,118.71

$3,327.61

Veteran with Spouse, Two Parents and Child

$1,716.71

$1,989.13

$2,235.71

$3,458.06

Veteran with One Parent and Child

$1,505.71

$1,746.13

$1,962.71

$3,154.72

Veteran with Two Parents and Child

$1,596.71

$1,850.13

$2,079.71

$3,285.17

Add for Each Additional Child Under Age 18

$56.00

$64.00

$72.00

$80.76

Each Additional Schoolchild Over Age 18 (see footnote a)

$182.00

$208.00

$234.00

$260.91

Additional for A/A spouse (see footnote b)

$105.00

$119.00

$134.00

$149.08

FOOTNOTES:

  • A. Rates for each school child are shown separately. They are not included with any other compensation rates. All other entries on this chart reflecting a rate for children show the rate payable for children under 18 or helpless. To find the amount payable to a 70% disabled Veteran with a spouse and four children, one of whom is over 18 and attending school, take the 70% rate for a veteran with a spouse and 3 children, $ 1,646.71, and add the rate for one school child, $182.00. The total amount payable is $1,828.71.
  • B. Where the veteran has a spouse who is determined to require A/A, add the figure shown as "additional for A/A spouse" to the amount shown for the proper dependency code. For example, veteran has A/A spouse and 2 minor children and is 70% disabled. Add $105.00, additional for A/A spouse, to the rate for a 70% veteran with dependency code 12, $1,590.71. The total amount payable is $1,695.71.

These rates were provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The original copies can be found on the Department of Veterans Affairs website.

VA Travel Reimbursement

Reimbursement for mileage or public transportation may be paid to the following:

  1. Veterans with service-connected disabilities rated at 30% or more;
  2. Veterans traveling for treatment of a service-connected condition;
  3. Veterans receiving a VA pension;
  4. Veterans traveling for scheduled compensation or pension examinations;
  5. Veterans whose income does not exceed the maximum VA pension rate;

Mileage Reimbursement is at the rate of 41.5 cents per mile. These mileage subject to a deductible of $3 for a one way trip, $6 for a round trip, with a maximum of $18 per or the amount after six one-way trips (whichever occurs first) per calendar month. However, these deductibles can be waived if they cause a financial hardship to the veteran.

The deductible is also waived for veterans traveling for scheduled compensation or pension examinations.

 

 
Veteran Disability Compensation
Post on 17 Dec 2016

If you are military veteran with a service-related disability you may qualify for over $3,300 in monthly benefits. These benefits are paid to veterans who have injuries or diseases that happened while on active duty, or were made worse by active military service. It is also paid to certain veterans disabled from VA health care. These benefits are tax-free. The following is a summary of VA Disability Compensation:

VA Disability Compensation Eligibility:

You may be eligible for Disability Compensation if you have a service-related disability and you were discharged under other than dishonorable conditions.

VA Disability Compensation Amounts:

The amount of basic benefit paid ranges from $133 to over $3,300 per month, depending on your level of disability and number of dependents.

Note: You may be paid additional amounts if:

  • you have very severe disabilities or loss of limb(s)
  • you have a spouse, child(ren), or dependent parent(s)
  • you have a seriously disabled spouse

Click here to check out the current Veteran Disability Compensation rates.

VA Disability Compensation Application Process:

For the fastest service you should apply online through the VONAPP website, you should submit what the VA calls a "Fully Developed Claim", this simply means that you should submit all of your supporting documentation with your claim for benefits. This documentation includes: 

  • Medical evidence (doctor & hospital reports), this includes both military and civilian (if any) documentation
  • You should also attach any copies of your DD214 or separation documents you may have
  • Dependency records (marriage & children's birth certificates)

Remember, if you have any doubt as to whether or not you should submit documents ALWAYS SUBMIT IT!

You can also apply by filling out a VA Form 21-526 (Veterans Application for Compensation or Pension) and attaching copies of all your supporting documentation with it.

In certain circumstances you can apply for benefits before being discharged from the military, please visit our Pre-Discharge Program for Disability Compensation page for details.

For More Information Call Toll-Free 800-827-1000.

VA Travel Reimbursement

Reimbursement for mileage or public transportation may be paid to the following:

  1. Veterans with service-connected disabilities rated at 30% or more;
  2. Veterans traveling for treatment of a service-connected condition;
  3. Veterans receiving a VA pension;
  4. Veterans traveling for scheduled compensation or pension examinations;
  5. Veterans whose income does not exceed the maximum VA pension rate;

Mileage Reimbursement Rate: Mileage reimbursement  is at 41.5 cents per mile. There is a deductible mileage amount of $3.00 one way and $6.00 per round trip. The deductible is also subject to a monthly cap of $18.00, upon reaching $18.00 in deductibles travel payments made for the remainder of that month will be free of deductible charges.The deductible mileage reimbursement can be waived if you are:

  • in receipt of a VA pension
  • traveling for a scheduled compensation and pension examination
  • meet certain income levels.

 

LEGISLATIVE DIVISION UPDATE

Week ending 3/20/15

The House of Representatives returned to work from its monthly district work period. Both chambers will continued holding committee hearings on the President’s recently-announced FY 2016 federal budget proposal, as well as other legislative business.

CONGRESSIONAL ACTIVITIES

Senate, House Take Different Paths to Boost Defense Spending

House and Senate Republicans unveiled their Fiscal Year 2016 budget resolutions this week. A budget resolution is a nonbinding measure. It sets out, in broad strokes, goals for spending, tax revenues, and changes to crucial programs like Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and student loans as well as the health care law. Lawmakers in the House and Senate vote on the resolution, but it stays in Congress, never reaching the president's desk. Instead, it requires follow-up legislation to implement any changes proposed by the resolution, and that's often a major challenge.

The two budget resolutions are basically on the same page for military spending next year, although they get to that point in very different ways. The plans are only $1 billion apart after the Senate Budget Committee added $38 billion in war funds to its plan Thursday. Both stick with a $523 billion limit on base discretionary defense spending, reflecting the statutory post-sequester cap for fiscal 2016.

The initial House budget contained an additional $90 billion in war funds for defense — and efforts to add $2 billion to that fell apart in committee but may come back on the floor. The Senate added to its initial allotment of $51 billion for a total of $89 billion in war funds by adopting an amendment offered by Lindsey Graham (SC) The original Senate allocation reflected President Obama’s request for a total of $58 billion in war-related funds, with $51 billion for the Pentagon and $7 billion for non-military war-related activities. With base discretionary and war funds combined, the House would set discretionary defense spending next year at $613 billion, while the Senate would allow $612 billion.

The two chambers’ budgets chart different paths for defense spending after 2016, with the House more generous. Between 2017 and 2025, the House plan would raise the base defense limit every year, first above the statutory caps through 2021 and then above inflationary adjustments in 2022 through 2025. Over the 10-year period, the House would allow $6.2 trillion in base discretionary defense spending.

In its initial plan, the Senate kept base defense spending through 2021 at the sequester cap level and then allowed it to grow with inflation in 2022 through 2025. Defense spending over the decade would have totaled $5.8 trillion, less than the House, under that arrangement. But to offset higher war funds in 2016, the Graham amendment lowered the proposed limits on defense by $14 billion a year between 2022 and 2025 after the statutory caps expire. That change would reduce defense spending by a further $56 billion over the 2016-25 span. War funds, for spending on Overseas Contingency Operations, are outside of the discretionary spending caps created by the 2011 Budget Control Act (PL 112-25).

Before offering his amendment, Graham said he planned to match the House proposal for defense spending. It’s not clear why his amendment fell $1 billion below the House allocation. But it’s a difference that should be fairly easy to resolve in a budget conference committee next month, assuming the House and Senate adopt their respective budget resolutions next week.

While the two budgets are almost the same on defense, they differ on the war-related funds allowed to civilian federal agencies. The Senate plan contains $7 billion in funding for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development, reflecting the president’s proposal. The House plan limits those funds to $4 billion.

The GOP Battles Over War Spending

House Republicans writing the party's annual budget proposal this year found themselves with an impossible circle to square. Conservative spending hawks insisted that the GOP stick to the budget ceiling Congress imposed four years ago, while the party's other hawks—those who prioritize a robust national defense above all else—demanded that the plan pour more money into the Pentagon as it fights a new war against ISIS.

"This is a war within the Republican Party," the always-understated Senator Lindsey Graham told The New York Times. "You can shade it any way you want, but this is war."

Seeking an armistice in this war over war spending, the new House GOP budget chief, Representative Tom Price (GA), turned to an old accounting gimmick that both Republicans and Democrats have decried in previous years. He allocated an additional $94 billion (18 percent more than the base defense spending of $523 billion) to a separate budget known as the "overseas contingency fund" that was first used to finance the war on terrorism after September 11. The off-the-books emergency war fund allows Republicans to boost total defense spending over the budget proposed by President Obama, who simply ignored the legal caps currently in place. As Politico's David Rogers writes, the GOP budget is "a sweeping end-run around" the ceiling that Congress itself established in 2011 as part of a deal to avoid a default on the nation's debt.

The annual budget is not a law that gets signed or vetoed by the president, but it sets the parameters for the more important congressional appropriations process later in the year, when real money gets doled out. This year's proposal takes on added significance, however, because Republicans now control both chambers of Congress and desperately want to agree on a budget as a way of demonstrating their capacity to govern and to increase the GOP's leverage with the Obama administration over spending decisions. Aside from its gimmickry on defense, the Price budget closely resembles the proposals made in recent years by his better-known predecessor, Paul Ryan (who has moved on to lead the Ways and Means Committee). It purports to cut $5.5 trillion in spending to balance the budget within a decade; it partially privatizes Medicare, block grants Medicaid to the states; calls for repealing Obamacare and rewriting the tax code; and it steeply reduces the size of domestic programs across the government.

Yet if it were not for the House's desire to reach agreement with the Senate, the Price budget might have cut even more deeply into domestic programs to pay for higher Pentagon spending. The Senate Republican conference is plainly less conservative than the House GOP, and because so many of its members are up for re-election next year, it is more sensitive to the political repercussions of the budget. The proposal drafted by Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi of Wyoming, unveiled Wednesday, did not cut as deeply or overhaul entitlement programs so dramatically as the House version.

Can the two chambers agree? The fact that a budget can pass the Senate by a simple majority, without support from Democrats, will help. But if the bickering between House and Senate Republicans over homeland security funding earlier this year is any indication, the negotiation won't be easy. Many Republicans in the Senate have never been big fans of the conservative House budgets, so Tea Party hardliners in the lower chamber likely will have to compromise—something they are often loath to do—in any deal. The stakes aren't as high as they were in the DHS battle, but it remains an important test for a party that has found its new congressional power difficult to harness. And resolving the GOP's so-called "war" over defense spending will be key to that effort.

LEGISLATIVE DIVISION UPDATES

On Thursday, March 19, Assistant Director Warren Goldstein attended a House Appropriations, Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MCVA) Subcommittee hearing entitled “Oversight Hearing-Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of the Inspector General”. The hearing was to hear firsthand from the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (VAOIG) leadership on how they are addressing the recent activities that have taken place within the VA such as patient wait times (Phoenix VAMC), hospital construction (Denver VAMC), and opioid mismanagement practices (Tomah VAMC) within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), as well as mismanagement practices at various Veterans Regional Offices (RO) within the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), in addition to other VA topics of concerns that the committee had, to include whistleblower retaliations.

Staff Activities

On Monday, March 16, Director Ian de Planque and Assistant Director Warren Goldstein attended the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing titled The Power of Legislative Inquiry-Improving the VA by Improving Transparency. The purpose of the hearing was to discuss the committee’s congressional rights to provide oversight to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Office of Inspector General (OIG) programs. The primary focus of the hearing was to discuss how the VA and OIG are not fully cooperating with the committee in terms of providing responses to congressional requests and to understand why the VA is not being fully being transparent when dealing with Congress, staffers, veterans, and the American public.

On Monday March 16, Assistant Director Larry Provost, and Assistant Director for Veterans Employment and Education Steve Gonzalez, met with the staff of Senator Tom Carper (DE) in regards to Veterans Education issues, especially as related to the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

On Tuesday March 17, Assistant Director Larry Provost, attended a hearing on “Higher Education for the New Generation (of Veterans)” held in the Cannon House Office Building. The hearing highlighted best practices in higher education as it relates to veterans and also highlighted needed areas of improvement on college campuses.

On Thursday March 19, Assistant Director Larry Provost, attended a hearing on small business contracting and reverse auction issues before the House Small Business Committee. Assistant Director for Veterans Employment and Education Davy Leghorn testified at this hearing

Throughout the week, the American Legion lobbied U.S. senators to provide co sponsorship to the upcoming bill, to be introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), which will benefit Blue Water Navy Veterans and provide Agent Orange presumptive condition protection for Blue Water Veterans who served up to 12 miles offshore from Viet Nam from 1962-1975.

Update on Flag Amendment Bills

On January 7, House Joint Resolution (H.J. Res.) 9 was introduced by Rep. Steve Womack (AR). This legislation is a proposed constitutional amendment to protect the American flag from physical desecration. Its text states simply: “The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.”

Staff from the Legislative Division has met with staff of Senator Orrin Hatch (UT) to discuss the re-introduction of the flag protection amendment in the 114th Congress. Sen. Hatch has long been a champion of the amendment and it seems to be his intention to reintroduce it around Flag Day, which is June 14.

In addition to Rep. Womack and the five original co-sponsors of the joint resolution there are now a total of 20 cosponsors, with the addition of Rep. John Kline (MN) on March 17. H.J. Res. 9 has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. Additional cosponsors continue to be sought.

Ian de Planque, Director

The American Legion Legislative Division

ideplanque@legion.org

(202) 861-2700

For Week Ending 03-20-2015

Week ending 3/20/15

 

NATIONAL SECURITY

 

  1. Ashton Carter: Sequester-Level 2016 Funding Would Lead to Defense Strategy Changes

    Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has warned that the Pentagon will have to modify strategic goals if Congress enforces sequestration-level cuts to the fiscal 2016 defense budget, DoD News reported Wednesday.

     

    Cheryl Pellerin writes Carter described the White House’s proposed defense funding increase as a “responsible, prudent approach” in the current global security environment when he testified at a House Armed Services Committee hearing Wednesday.

     

    “I want to be clear about this –- under sequestration, which is set to return in 197 days, our nation would be less secure,” Carter told the committee.

     

    He added the department “would have to change the shape, and not just the size, of our military, significantly impacting parts of our defense strategy” if sequestration returns, according to DoD News.

     

    During the meeting, he also explained a White House proposal to authorize the use of military force against the Islamic State organization.

     

    Carter said the AUMF measure’s purpose is to give defense officials the flexibility to execute a campaign to defeat the militant group and prevent long periods of U.S. combat operation overseas.

     

    “We don’t foresee having to conduct another campaign like Iraq or Afghanistan,” he told the committee.

     

    To view the American Legion’s defense budget protection resolution visit:

    http://archive.legion.org/bitstream/handle/123456789/2316/2012F055.pdf?sequence=1

     

    2.  Senate, House Take Different Paths to Boost Defense Spending

    The House and Senate budget resolutions are basically on the same page for military spending next year, although they get to that point in very different ways.

    The plans are only $1 billion apart after the Senate Budget Committee added $38 billion in war funds to its plan Thursday. Both stick with a $523 billion limit on base discretionary defense spending, reflecting the statutory post-sequester cap for fiscal 2016.

    The initial House budget contained an additional $90 billion in war funds for defense — and efforts to add $2 billion to that fell apart in committee but may come back on the floor.

    The Senate added to its initial allotment of $51 billion for a total of $89 billion in war funds by adopting an amendment offered by Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The original Senate allocation reflected President Obama’s request for a total of $58 billion in war-related funds, with $51 billion for the Pentagon and $7 billion for non-military war-related activities.

    With base discretionary and war funds combined, the House would set discretionary defense spending next year at $613 billion, while the Senate would allow $612 billion.

    The two chambers’ budgets chart different paths for defense spending after 2016, with the House more generous.

    Between 2017 and 2025, the House plan would raise the base defense limit every year, first above the statutory caps through 2021 and then above inflationary adjustments in 2022 through 2025. Over the 10-year period, the House would allow $6.2 trillion in base discretionary defense spending.

    In its initial plan, the Senate kept base defense spending through 2021 at the sequester cap level and then allowed it to grow with inflation in 2022 through 2025. Defense spending over the decade would have totaled $5.8 trillion, less than the House, under that arrangement. But to offset higher war funds in 2016, the Graham amendment lowered the proposed limits on defense by $14 billion a year between 2022 and 2025 after the statutory caps expire.

    That change would reduce defense spending by a further $56 billion over the 2016-25 span.

    War funds, for spending on Overseas Contingency Operations, are outside of the discretionary spending caps created by the 2011 Budget Control Act (PL 112-25).

    Before offering his amendment, Graham said he planned to match the House proposal for defense spending. It’s not clear why his amendment fell $1 billion below the House allocation. But it’s a difference that should be fairly easy to resolve in a budget conference committee next month, assuming the House and Senate adopt their respective budget resolutions next week.

    While the two budgets are almost the same on defense, they differ on the war-related funds allowed to civilian federal agencies. The Senate plan contains $7 billion in funding for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development, reflecting the president’s proposal. The House plan limits those funds to $4 billion.

    http://www.cq.com/alertmatch/235566376?1&uid=news-4646695

    3.  Israel’s Netanyahu Reopens Door to Palestinian State

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Thursday walked back his pre-election declaration that no Palestinian state would be established on his watch, and said he had not been trying to suppress the votes of Arab citizens when he posted a video on Election Day warning that they were heading to polling stations in large numbers.

     

    Mr. Netanyahu said in a interview on Thursday, that he still wanted “a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that he had not intended to reverse the position he took endorsing that in a 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University. But he said the Palestinian leadership’s refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and its pact with the militant Islamist Hamas movement, made that impossible right now.

     

    “I haven’t changed my policy,” Mr. Netanyahu said in the interview, his first since his resounding victory on Tuesday, which handed him a fourth term. “What has changed is the reality.”

     

    “I don’t want a one-state solution; I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but for that, circumstances have to change,” he added. “I was talking about what is achievable and what is not achievable. To make it achievable, then you have to have real negotiations with people who are committed to peace.”

     

    4.  POW/MIA Update

    As the propellers of the CH-46A Sea Knight helicopter cut across the sky, the peace of that June 30, 1967, night belied the danger inherent in the mission to the men on board. Tasked with inserting a Marine reconnaissance team into Thua Thien-Hue Province, Vietnam, they realized the danger as the aircraft came upon the landing zone and received enemy fire. In an instant, the crack and boom of enemy guns brought the moment to a crisis, and the helicopter was forced to crash land, claiming the lives of U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Merlin Allen and four others

     

    “It was devastating,” said Marilyn Neff, Allen’s older sister, upon hearing the news that her brother was killed but not recovered from the crash-site. Remembering Allen as a fun-loving, patriotic young man with a contagious smile, it was difficult for her to face the prospects of him never returning from Vietnam. “We were never the same.” For nearly 46 years, Neff and her family dealt with that devastation of knowing that their “Merle,” as they affectionately called him, was not coming home to Wisconsin. For 46 years, they only had their memories of him hunting and fishing and dancing to keep his image firmly planted in their lives. Recently, after all those years without a physical connection to their beloved son and brother, Allen’s family received the information that Merle was finally coming home from Vietnam. Allen’s remains were discovered by the accounting community’s recovery operations in Thua Thien-Hue Province in 2012. Working diligently to connect Allen to the remains discovered at the helicopter’s crash-site, scientists at the Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii were able to positively make identification in June 2013. “I was in shock,” said Neff, speaking about her reaction to the news her brother was recovered. “We as a family never forgot Merle, so it was nice to know that his country never forgot him as well.

     

    Now buried beside his mother and father in his home state, Allen’s return to his family has brought peace and closure, said Neff, appreciative of the effort and consideration taken by Allen’s country to continue its search for him years after his death.  “He would have done the same thing for someone else,” she said.


    Now 69, Neff still thinks fondly of how her brother could light up a room when he entered, and how he always made people feel special when they spoke with him. And though he lives only in her memories, knowing that he rests beside those who he loved and likewise loved him brings her a comfort that eluded her for the nearly 46 years.

 

VETERANS AFFAIRS AND REHABILITATION COMMISSION

Health Policy Unit   

On March 18, 2015, VA&R staff attended a Mental Health Services (MHS) Stakeholder meeting at VA Central Office, 810 Vermont Avenue, Washington, DC.  During the meeting, VA staff presented information on the following topics:  Psychiatric Nurse Competencies for Assessment and Management of Individuals at Risk for Suicide; Integrated Mental Health Services  for Older Veterans; a new training initiative referred to as “Veteran Training” which offers free online courses that were designed specifically for Veterans, Service Members, and their families. These courses teach skills and tools to help users enhance different aspects of their lives, and VHA Mental health and Veterans Benefits Administration Collaborations.

 

On March 19, 2015, VA&R staff met with representatives from the RAND Corporation in reference to work they have been contracted to assist the MITRE Corporation in response to subsection 201 of Public Law 113-146, the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (“Choice Act”).   Subsection 201 requires that the Secretary enters into a contracts with a private sector entity or entities to conduct an independent assessment of the hospital care, medical services, and other health care furnished in medical facilities of the Department.  On October 21, 2014, VA announced it had awarded the MITRE Corporation; a not-for profit company that operates to support the independent assessments of VA health care processes that were required by law.  The meeting focus was on sections  A, B, and C of the law, which MITRE has partnered with RAND to conduct. Section A covers current and projected demographics and unique health care needs of the patient population served by the Department.  Section B covers current and projected health care capabilities and resources of the Department, and Section C covers the authorities and mechanisms under which the Secretary may furnish hospital care, medical services, and  other health care at non-department facilities, including whether the Secretary should have the authority to furnish such care and services at such facilities through the completion of episodes of care.

The meeting last approximately 1 hour in which staff explained The American Legion position on the Veterans Choice Act, how VA issues with VA contract care laws, regulations and policies, and the future of the VA.

 

Claims Unit

National headquarters staff attended the VBC in Philadelphia this week. Over 50 attended a town hall event  at Post 810 on March 16th to discuss concerns around Philadelphia VA services. The VBC was conducted at the Philadelphia VAMC; 237 people attended the event. 

 

Military Evaluation Board/Physical Evaluation Board (MEB/PEB)

Gerardo Avila, Washington D.C. Capital Region Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) Physical Evaluation Board (PEB) & Army/Air Force Discharge Upgrade Representative submitted 2 Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) claims (VA21-526EZ), 2 applications to the Army Discharge Review Board (DoD 293) and 1 application to the Board for Corrections of Military Records (DoD 149).  He also provided assistance to 27 service members/Veterans by answering questions on the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES), the Discharge Upgrade Board and the Board for Correction of Military Records.

 

Board of Veterans Appeals Unit (BVA)

During the week ending March 13, 2015 the Board of Veterans’ Appeals reached dispositions on 177 American Legion represented appeals.  Of those dispositions 79.6% of the denials were overturned with outcomes favorable to the veteran.  In 45 cases, the Board granted benefits outright after considering The American Legion’s arguments. In 96 cases, The American Legion was able to point out errors in the development of the veteran’s claims which mandated corrective action under the law.  Of the total number of dispositions, 27 (15.3%) were outright denials.

 

Also during this period, the American Legion Appeals Unit reviewed, prepared written Informal Hearing Presentations (IHP), and/or orally argued 121 veteran’s appeals. These claims included originals, remands, as well as specialty cases (Advance on Docket, Independent Medical Opinions, Court Remands, etc.). The unit handled telephone inquiries and provided consultations with veterans, VSO’s, and Congressional Offices. The administrative team fielded 231 phone inquiries during this period. The appeals representatives conducted three (3) Central Office Hearings. 

 

During this week, we present the following excerpt from an appeal for DIC successfully argued by Bill Wertman:

 

“For the past several years, the widow couldn’t afford holiday presents for the grand kids and now she stands to get a pay award of $265,730.85, retroactive from 2006”.

 

Insurance, Pension and Debt Management

The VA&R VA Insurance unit reviewed and processed 89 applications for new insurance coverage, of which 4 were for Supplemental insurance for totally disabled veterans in the Service-Disabled insurance program, along with 57 disability and settlement claims on other veteran’s VA policies. Further case development included 28 phone calls with veterans, family members and VSOs, 65 further insurance inquiries or transactions, and 55 veteran insureds were contacted by mail on their policies, insurance options and action deadlines. There were also 37 direct contacts with VA personnel in regards to correcting or having additional actions taken on veteran’s accounts.

The Philadelphia VA&R Pension unit processed 20 new claims for Veterans or Death pensions, along with reviewing and preparing 282 case actions for support of on-going pension benefits. Casework included processing 204 additional transactions and case inquiries to VA , performing 17 audits of Rating reviews and 38 phone contacts with claimants and VSOs with 15 waiver claims and 15 personal contacts.

The VA&R Pension offices in St. Paul and Milwaukee processed 166 new claims for Veteran’s pensions and Death pensions, and presented supporting casework material on 147 claims already in progress, while also processing 164 inquiries and pension transactions, and 136 rating review audits with 2 Appeals. Phone contacts with claimants and VSOs amounted to 86 calls handled for the week ending March 18, 2015.

 

Benefits Delivered at Discharge (BDD)

The Western BDD Office reviewed 22 BDD claims with 215 issues. Each claim required reviewing the rating, C&P examination, and Service Treatment Records. Additional research was required on some cases. The BDD office also received 21 phone calls from Veterans and Department Service Officers throughout the country requesting the status of claims or had questions concerning a rating. The office provided an update to the status of the claim or provided options concerning the rating. One Veteran visited the office. The office received and reviewed 37 pieces of VA correspondence.

 

Louis J. Celli Jr., Director

Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation (VA&R) Division

(202) 263-2983  

Week Ending  3/20/2015  

 

NATIONAL VETERANS EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION COMMISSION

 

TOPIC 1: ECONOMY

Unemployment rates for U.S. military veterans fell last year, but joblessness among their ranks remains higher than the civilian population, a government report showed on Wednesday, March 18. The unemployment rate among veterans who joined the military after September 11, 2001, fell to an average of 7.2 percent last year from 9 percent in 2013, the Department of Labor said in the report. While the jobless rate has declined from a post-recession peak of 12 percent in 2011, it remains about 1 percentage point above the rate for the civilian population.

 

The Obama administration and the U.S. Congress have pushed forward an array of measures, including tax credits for companies employing veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars but more work needs to be done, considering there is a 17.3 percent unemployment rate among male veterans in the 18-24 age group. While it's good to see a slight improvement in overall veteran unemployment rates, young, Post-9/11 veterans are still unemployed at a rate almost 50 percent greater than their peers.

 

Research by Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago economists in 2013 found that veterans deployed overseas for prolonged periods struggled to find work because of the traumas of war, as well as training that did not readily translate into the civilian world. Among Post-9/11 military veterans, women continued to bear the brunt of high unemployment, with an 8.5 percent jobless rate last year - down from 9.6 percent in 2013. Unemployment was highest among the 25-44 age group.

 

While the unemployment rate for men fell to 6.9 percent from 8.8 percent in 2013, it was still above the 6.2 percent rate for the civilian population. The unemployment rate for male veterans aged 25 to 34 was 7.5 percent. For male veterans 35 and older, the unemployment rate was below 6 percent last year, according to the report. Employed Post-9/11 veterans tended to have similar job profiles to the civilian population, though a higher proportion worked in the public sector last year.

 

HOUSEHOLD DATA
Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted

[Numbers in thousands]

Employment status, veteran status, and period of service

Total

Men

Women

FEB
2014

FEB
2015

FEB
2014

FEB
2015

FEB
2014

FEB
2015

 

Gulf War-era II veterans

 

Unemployed

223

190

183

174

40

17

Unemployment rate

9.2

6.7

9.0

7.2

9.9

4.0

National unemployment rate is 5.5 percent (February 2015). Gulf War II veterans unemployment rate is 7.9 percent.[1]  Currently, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II women veterans is 4.0 percent (down from 6.2 percent in January).

 

TOPIC 2: MEETINGS

 

On Tuesday, March 17, the National Veterans Employment & Education Division participated as a technical advisor to the Department of Transportation meeting with the transportation industry to discuss gaps and barriers to hiring for truck and bus drivers. The following organizations were in attendance alongside The American Legion:

 

  • YRC Freight

  • < >

    Conway Trucking

  • Solar Transport

  • Fast Port

  • Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA)

  • < >

    The unemployment rate for male veterans declined to 5.2 percent in 2014. The rate for female veterans edged down to 6.0 percent. (See table A.)

  • Among the 573,000 unemployed veterans in 2014, 59 percent were age 45 and over. Thirty-seven percent were age 25 to 44, and 4 percent were age 18 to 24. (See table 2A.)

  • Veterans with a service-connected disability had an unemployment rate of 5.9 percent in August 2014, the same rate as for veterans with no disability. (See table 7.)

  • Nearly 1 in 3 employed veterans with a service-connected disability worked in the public sector in August 2014, compared with nearly 1 in 5 veterans with no disability. (See table 8.)

  • In 2014, the unemployment rate of veterans varied by state, ranging from 1.4 percent in North Dakota to 8.5 percent in Maryland. (See table 6A.)

     

    BLS Employment Situation of Veterans - 2014 - http://www.bls.gov/news.release/vet.nr0.htm

 

TOPIC 4: VETERAN HOMELESSNESS UPDATE

 

In a one-bedroom apartment near a bus stop in south Orlando, Army veteran Michael Bailey has found nirvana. Tidy but simple, his home has one overwhelmingly attractive quality. It's all his. "I've been here a year now, and I'm still tickled pink," said Bailey, 54, who spent 16 years homeless -- sleeping in shelters, cars and under bridges. Though he never saw combat, his four years in the military left him with a chronic hip problem and, eventually, severe pain that he medicated with drugs and alcohol. Struggling to work odd construction jobs, he said, "I thought I'd never make it back" to a normal life. Then he learned about the Department of Veterans Affairs "housing first" effort to help homeless servicemen and -women -- an effort that now counts more than 1,260 veterans in six Central Florida counties as success stories.

In a report being released on Friday, March 20, officials cite a 59 percent drop in veteran homelessness in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties since 2011, shortly after President Obama launched a nationwide initiative of ending veteran homelessness by 2015. The region still has a ways to go -- 300 other veterans in Central Florida were still homeless in January 2014 -- but the progress, officials say, is significant.

"This was a moral imperative of helping those who have served us and paid a price for our freedom," said Andrae Bailey, CEO of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness. "When it wasn't popular, when no one was talking about it, the VA quietly housed hundreds of people who will sleep in a bed with a roof over their head tonight." In 2011, the federal government adopted a "housing first" approach to helping the homeless, a radical departure from the prevailing school of thought. And for the first time, it not only provided housing vouchers for a home or apartment but also assigned each veteran a case manager who helps navigate landlord issues and links the veteran to healthcare and social services. "It has been really exciting," said Ken Mueller, coordinator for the Healthcare for Homeless Veterans program at the Orlando VA. "We have really focused on the chronically homeless, some of whom were not real successful in the traditional programs."

The older "treatment first" approach required veterans to complete all mental-health and substance-abuse programs before they could get into housing. "Housing first" requires only that they be eligible for other VA benefits -- though it continues to offer them treatment and counseling if they want it. Many, Mueller said, embrace the help later. The cost is roughly $20,000 per veteran per year, paid for by the federal government. Residents must be re-approved yearly, and 30 percent of whatever income they get -- whether from a job or disability payment -- goes toward their rent. Other programs can sometimes cover food and utilities, or the residents pay for those themselves. In all, advocates said, the cost is less than the emergency-room bills and police expense involved for people living on the streets. "When we can just go ahead and give them a roof over their head and a stable, secure place to sleep, it makes a big difference," Mueller said. "People are generally more successful in treatment when it's a choice instead of a mandate."

That model is what the regional homeless commission wants to see adopted for the nonveteran population. "We know it's working," said Shelley Lauten, a partner at the Orlando-based consulting company triSect, which prepared the report. "We know it has worked across the country -- New Orleans has essentially eliminated veteran homelessness -- and now we know it has worked here. This is a replicable model. We don't have to reinvent the wheel."

One of the advantages of the VA system, Lauten said, is that everyone who is helped goes through the same process, even though it involves the cooperation of two large federal agencies -- the VA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) -- the local housing authority, private landlords and nonprofit agencies that help provide furniture and other goods to the veterans. The other critical component, Lauten said, is the caseworker. That's because the chronically homeless tend to have physical and mental disabilities that limit their chances of getting and keeping a job. They have bad credit ratings and, often, criminal records that make landlords wary. But having a caseworker to intervene is often enough to sway those who are reluctant.

"You have to have someone who isn't just looking at a stack of cases," Lauten said. "You have to have someone who knows the individual, who can personally check in on that individual, who knows what that individual needs to be successful and can help him or her get it." For Bailey, that caseworker is "a godsend." Now eight years sober, he works part-time and rides a bike or the bus to his job. He has friends who keep him on track. And he has hope. "At one point, I had lost that," he said. "But I got it back."

 

 

 

Joseph C. Sharpe, Jr., Director

Veterans Employment & Education Division

202.861.2700 ext. 2989

Week Ending:  3/20/15

 

[1] U.S. Department of Labor. Economic News Release: Employment Situation Summary, January 2012. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t05.htm

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