HEALTH AND WELLNESS
Salt Lake Veterans Affairs enlists vets for huge medical research project (Salt Lake Tribune, UT) — Begun last year in Boston, the Million Veteran Program has so far enlisted more than 20,000 veterans to donate their DNA and release their VA medical records to researchers. The VA in Salt Lake City is one of 40 hospitals participating so far and has enrolled more than 300 veterans since fall; the program hopes to have 50 participating hospitals by summer.
Veterans Affairs Black Hills Health Care System to hold women’s retreat (RapidCityJournal.com, SD) — The specialized Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Outpatient Treatment Program (PCT) of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Black Hills Health Care System is hosting its semi-annual women’s retreat April 27, 28, 29, 2012, beginning at 12 p.m. on April 27. The retreat is for women veterans of all eras diagnosed with PTSD and family members of male veterans diagnosed with PTSD.
Homeless vet population falling, but for how long? (USA Today) — According to the Congressional Research Service, homeless veterans numbered nearly 196,000 in fiscal 2006. Advocates say the homeless vet population is always undercounted. About 1.5 million veterans are at risk of ending up on the streets because of poverty and other problems, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. Administration officials are optimistic the number of homeless vets will continue to decline, but funding for that effort is already being cut. For instance, a $500 million-a-year program enacted as part of the 2009 economic stimulus law will be replaced later this year by a similar program that will get $286 million this year.
Parsippany group helps build homes for homeless veterans (Daily Record.com, NJ) — With the federal government’s approval, a Parsippany-based community service agency is working with a private developer to build 63 apartments and townhouses exclusively for former servicemen and women now living on New Jersey’s streets. Community Hope also runs what it calls the state’s largest temporary shelter for veterans, the 95-bed “Hope for Veterans” facility on the Lyons campus. Veterans can stay there for up to two years, receiving critical care and support as they prepare to move off the streets into permanent housing, Ahmet said. “That two-year tenure has been very critical to really enabling veterans to overcome homelessness,” she said. “If you have PTSD and other mental health issues … you are not going to put your life back together overnight.”
Homeless Female Vets Double In Population, Seek Employment Help (HuffingtonPost.com) — Using “limited VA data,” the Government Accountability Office report suggests that the number of homeless veteran women has risen from 1,380 in 2006 to 3,328 in 2010. The study acknowledges the fact that the number of women veterans has doubled from 4 percent of all veterans in 1990 to 8 percent today. “While the VA is taking steps–such as launching an outreach campaign–to end homelessness among all veterans, it does not have sufficient data about the population and needs of women veterans to plan effectively for increases in their numbers as servicemembers return from Iraq and Afghanistan,” the report states. “Women veterans are so high-functioning,” Marshall said. “We’re built to get things done.”
Veterans Center: College benefits available for vets, relatives (Visalia Times-Delta, CA) —
This week, I would like to tell you about the California College Fee Waiver Program, an education benefit available to the spouses and children of U.S. veterans through the California Department of Veterans Affairs. Once certain eligibility criteria are met, dependents can get their tuition and other fees waived when attending any California community college, California State University or University of California campus.
Diversity board focuses on veteran enrollment (The Brown Daily Herald, RI) — In recognition of the underrepresentation of student veterans among University undergraduates in recent decades, the Diversity Advisory Board is spearheading efforts to attract more veterans and provide them guidance to thrive in a college environment. The advisory board announced plans to increase the enrollment of undergraduate student veterans and create an organized support system to aid incoming student veterans as they transition from military to civilian life in their annual report released last November.
Veterans Court: ‘It’s Not a Free Ride’ (StillwaterPatch.com, MN) — For veterans who find themselves embattled in the Washington County criminal justice system, help has arrived. Washington County Attorney Pete Orput, a Vietnam combat veteran, launched a new Veterans Court diversion program on Monday that is designed to address the underlying psychological issues that have led an increasing number of combat veterans into run-ins with the law.
Veterans Affairs sued over same-sex marriage policy (Politico.com) — A federal lawsuit was filed Wednesday challenging the Veterans Affairs Department for refusing to recognize legally married gay and lesbian military couples and denying them the same family benefits as their heterosexual colleagues. With the repeal last year of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell allowing gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military, activists have now turned their focus to gaining full benefits for legally married same-sex active duty and veteran service members and their families.
All veterans deserve ID card (Concord Monitor, NH) — In November 2011, 2nd District Rep. Charlie Bass introduced a bill to authorize the secretary of defense and the secretary of homeland security to issue, at no cost to the government, a military service identification card. The Military Service Identification Card bill (HR 3293) was referred to the Committee on Armed Services. In September 2011, two other lawmakers introduced a bill to direct the secretary of veterans affairs to issue, upon request, veteran identification cards. The Veterans ID Card Act (HR2985) was referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and a Subcommittee on Oversight and Legislation. This act had 48 co-sponsors in the House. The American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Fleet Reserve Association endorsed it. That’s the good news. The bad news is that these types of bills usually die in committees or subcommittees. Veterans should continue to request military service identification cards.
Live Veteran Declared Deceased 4 Times By Government (WFTV.com, FL) — A Brevard County Veteran is alive and well. But 4 times now the government decided he’s dead, then cancelled his veteran’s benefits. It’s not the first time. Four times in the past two years the agency sent a letter to the estate of Jerry Miller Because he’s deceased the VA checks would stop. The same notification went to Social Security. “It isn’t funny to me. I got a mortgage payment to make I could lose my house, ” said Jerry.
VA: Buying medications outside of contracts was just an effort to help veterans (The Washington Post) — The Department of Veterans Affairs’ purchase of $1.2 billion in pharmaceuticals since 2004 in violation of federal law and regulations was the result of “a team failure” at the department, VA Deputy Secretary W. Scott Gould told the House Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday. The VA reported that about 96 percent of the $30 billion it spent on pharmaceutical products since 2004 through a prime vendor contract with health care giant McKesson complied with all laws and regulations. However, 4 percent was purchased using an “open market” clause allowed under the contract.
Discharge documents critical to benefits, difficult to change (The Leaf Chronicle, TN) — At their time of separation from active duty, every service member receives an official discharge document known as a DD-Form 214. A wealth of information is contained in this document, but among the most important is the character of discharge, which is the determining factor in whether a veteran is entitled to any benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs
Getting a discharge upgraded is neither easy nor is it automatic. Anyone can apply for an upgrade, but they must convince the board that their discharge was “inequitable” or “improper.”
Some parents can now be buried alongside vets (ArmyTimes.com) — The Veterans Affairs Department has announced new burial rules to make parents of some deceased veterans eligible for interment in national veterans cemeteries. The policy, announced Tuesday in a notice in the Federal Register, implements the Corey Shea Act, passed by Congress in 2010 as part of a comprehensive veterans benefits bill that allows parents to be buried alongside a service member who had no surviving spouse or children at the time of death. No more than two parents could be buried alongside a veteran, meaning plots could not be used for two parents plus an adoptive stepparent, for example.
COMMUNITIES IN ACTION
Veterans Share Stories at Iraq War Parade in Mo. (ABCNews.com) — Veterans who attended the nation’s first major Iraq War parade Saturday in St. Louis said they appreciated the welcome home, even though some expected to be redeployed to Afghanistan or elsewhere in the coming months.
The Antithesis of Charity: Investing in Our Future by Keeping Our Promise to Veterans (HuffingtonPost.com) — According to MSNBC, the total cost of training a service member in today’s military can range from $44,887 (Marine Infantryman) to $19 million (F-16 fighter pilot), these costs do not take into factor leadership and technical training that a service member receives as they progress in their military career. As a taxpayer it is critical for us to leverage this investment not only benefit of our military, but for our larger society as well. We should be clamoring to integrate these heroes into our communities and industries. To not leverage our returning veterans’ talents would be self-defeating and a crime against our future children who are in desperate need of leadership and heroes.