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KODIAK, Alaska (July 29, 2015) – Nearly a dozen wounded veterans will travel to remote Kodiak, Alaska Friday, July 31 through Saturday, August 8 for an excursion that includes fishing, bear-watching, and hiking. The gathering will mark the tenth year Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has brought injured veterans together for camaraderie and healing in Kodiak. WWP believes connecting injured service members with each other helps veterans realize they are not alone. The trip is offered to injured service members through WWP’s Alumni program, one of 20 programs provided to injured veterans – free of charge. “Wounded veterans get constant time with each other on fishing boats, in nature, eating meals -- it is a great opportunity to forge friendships, as well as grow their support structure for life,” said Ryan Kules, WWP National Alumni Director. “The warriors have a great time on the water and have an opportunity to forget about the stresses they face in thie everyday lives.”  These excursions started ten years ago when Peter Malley, A Vietnam War veteran, decided he wanted to support WWP. “I wanted to be physically involved in some way to show our support,” Malley said. “Since I had a boat, I thought fishing would be a great way to thank our returning wounded, but would also be a way to challenge some of those severely wounded.” Malley and other volunteers host and feed wounded veterans during the nine day excursion. They also guide participants on ocean and river fishing trips, ATV rides, and sightseeing. “I believe that the challenges of fishing on the ocean, along with the friendships and bonds made by each wounded warrior while experiencing something new and different gives the warriors added confidence to face everyday challenges when they return home,” Malley said. All fishing gear, bait, and tackle are provided during the trip. WWP also purchases fishing licenses for every warrior in attendance. Additionally, the veterans will be shipped processed and frozen fish from the trip, free of charge. To learn about the WWP Alumni Program, or any of the programs and services provided by WWP, contact the Resource Center at 888.WWP.ALUM (997.2586) or email resourcecenter@woundedwarriorproject.org.    Contact: Rob Louis – Public Relations Specialist Email: rlouis@woundedwarriorproject.org Phone: 904.627.0432 About Wounded Warrior Project The mission of Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) is to honor and empower Wounded Warriors. WWP’s purpose is to raise awareness and to enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members, to help injured servicemen and women aid and assist each other, and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet their needs. WWP is a national, nonpartisan organization headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida. To get involved and learn more, visit woundedwarriorproject.org.
Biedrzycki calls ‘service to others’ VFW’s most important mission   KANSAS CITY, Mo. (July 22, 2015) — The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) concluded its 116th National Convention by electing Pittsburgh-native John A. Biedrzycki Jr. as its new national commander. Biedrzycki served in the U. S. Army from 1967-1970. He served in Korea with the 7th Infantry Division, and his decorations include Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and Korean Defense Medal. He is a VFW Legacy Life Member and served in elected and appointed positions at the Post, County, District and Department (state) levels prior to his elections to national office. He has been a member of the VFW for 46 years, having first joined the VFW at Post 418 in McKees Rocks, Pa., in 1969. In his acceptance speech the VFW’s new leader called on the organization’s nearly 1.4 million members to recommit themselves in service to others, which was one of the primary reasons his organization’s founders formed in 1899, and formerly merged here in Pittsburgh in 1914. He also urged everyone to consider how much poorer the country would have been had the VFW never existed. "If not for the VFW, who in our communities will help organize and participate in patriotic salutes to our nation and remember those who serve or fell?" he asked. "If not for the VFW, who will help America’s veterans and troops navigate the complex VA claims system, or ensure their individual needs are properly taken care of? And if not for the VFW, who will give a collective voice on Capitol Hill against all the noise generated by 30,000 registered lobbyists who, other than lip service, don’t have the best interest of veterans, service members and families first on their agendas?" While addressing convention delegates, Biedrzycki had high praise for the work being done by VFW members in communities across America. He cited several examples of projects and programs that well-illustrate the VFW’s mission to stand up for veterans, service members and their families. A retired high school history teacher, Biedrzycki also stressed that "freedom isn’t free" – something America tends to forget. "The success of America was built on the service and sacrifice of many Americans, but our continued freedom falls squarely on the shoulders of those who wear the uniform. Everyone in the VFW understands that," he remarked. During his tenure he will log thousands of miles within the U.S. and internationally to promote the VFW, veterans’ issues, and quality of life initiatives for active-duty, Reserve and Guard members, and all their families. Also elected were Senior Vice Commander-in-Chief Brian J. Duffy of Louisville, Ky., and Junior Vice Commander-in-Chief Keith E. Harman of Delphos, Ohio. Biedrzycki will lead under the theme Loyalty, Honor and Service for the ensuing year; values that have long-guided the VFW and its new national commander alike. Watch his acceptance by clicking here  
From the American Legion Magazine:  Commander Michael D. Helm\'s article advocating to keep benefits in line with the cost of living: Chances are that if you spent 20 years or more in the military, you either saw combat or directly supported those who did. The commitment required of those who make a career defending the United States is like no other. That is why The American Legion adamantly opposes any plan to reduce or diminish the retirement benefits given to those who have rendered such service.   To be fair, some of the recommendations of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission would be of benefit to many veterans. For instance, the commission wants to increase collaboration between DoD and VA and expand eligibility for Space Available Travel to include dependents of deployed servicemembers. The commission also envisions a matching Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) that would benefit the majority of servicemembers who serve fewer than 20 years.   Still, it appears as if the cost of these new benefits will be borne mostly by career staff noncommissioned officers and officers, who would see their pensions cut by 20 percent. As Rob Callahan has pointed out at www.taskandpurpose.com, if a one-term enlistee separated at 22 and his TSP earned 8 percent annually, he would have less than $30,000 at 65. You can imagine how meager that amount would seem in another 43 years.   Callahan also calculates that under the proposed system a retiring E-7 with a spouse and three kids would be below the poverty threshold if the family had to depend solely on retirement income.   This comes on the heels of a law that will cut cost-of-living allowances for future retirees. To quell well-deserved criticism of that action, lawmakers \"grandfathered\" the cuts so they wouldn’t affect those serving up to that point. But this sends the wrong message. It says to potential recruits that their service will not be valued as much as that of previous generations.   Those who have served for two decades or more have typically had to change geographic locations every two or three years, uproot their children from their schools and friends, expect their spouses to quit and change jobs, endure long separations from their families, and risk life and limb in combat zones. And unlike civilians, they could go to jail for disrespecting a superior or failing to show up for work.   I recognize that 401(k) plans are very common in the private sector. But if you make military benefits too similar to the private sector, don’t be surprised if the best and brightest choose that.   These are just proposals and not yet law. When the commission released its recommendations on Jan. 29, it stated, \"Our all-volunteer force is without peer. This fact has been proven during the last 42 years and decisively reinforced during the last 13 years of war. It is our obligation to ensure the services have the proper resources to support our servicemembers.\"   On that point, at least, the Legion wholeheartedly agrees.   - See more at: Go to the American Legion Website to see more  
The following are headlines from the American Legion.  When you click these news items you will go onto their website.    Legion defends McCain's military record July 20, 2015 National Commander Michael Helm speaks out on critiscism of Sen. John McCain's service as a Vietnam POW. Read story - 0 comments   Boys Nation delegates pay respects, honor heroes July 20, 2015 Delegates honor those killed in Chattanooga, hear of sacrifices of servicemembers killed at Pearl Harbor, in Vietnam War. Read story - 0 comments   Boys Nation participants hit the ground running July 18, 2015 Participants hear from speakers, conduct first round of elections since arriving Friday afternoon. Read story - 0 comments   Legion: Slashing veterans Unemployability benefit wrong July 17, 2015 Legion's Ian de Planque to House Veterans Affairs' Committee: 'Walking back compensation from those who have been injured in service will always be wrong.' Read story - 3 comments   Legion participates in career fair at Camp Pendleton July 17, 2015 National Headquarters staff, Department of California Legionnaires speak with servicemembers and veterans at DoD’s Hiring Heroes event. Read story - 0 comments   National commander sends message of sympathy to Chattanooga victims July 17, 2015 National Commander Helm: 'Anytime our military is targeted it is an attack on all of us.' Read story - 1 comment   Legion's youth air rifle championship begins July 21 July 16, 2015 The top 15 individuals in both the sporter and precision category will compete in the Legion’s Junior 3-Position Air Rifle National Championship in Colorado. Read story - 1 comment   Follow the national convention on social media July 16, 2015 Keep updated on the 2015 National Convention in Baltimore via the Legion's Facebook and Twitter presence, and via our mobile app. Read story - 0 comments   Convention centennial workshop set for Aug. 31 July 15, 2015 A 100th Anniversary Workshop will be held during the 97th National Convention in Baltimore. Read story - 0 comments   Posts, departments finding success with pistol raffles July 15, 2015 Selling chances on The American Legion Centennial Pistol has proven to be quite the fundraiser for Legion posts, departments and more across the country. Read story - 2 comments   China: 'Battle Ready' in the Not-So Pacific July 15, 2015 China's goal: to control the resource-rich South and East China Seas, carve out a Chinese sphere of influence, and shove the United States out of the Western Pacific. Read story - 1 comment   Legion reaffirms support for women veterans legislation July 15, 2015 American Legion Legislative Director Ian de Planque: Women veterans needs to be asked, 'How can VA serve you to thank you for your service?’ Read story - 0 comments   The pros and cons of borrowing from yourself Nearly a third of Americans have at some point borrowed from their retirement plan at work, according to a recent TIAA-CREF survey. Read story - 0 comments   Boys Nation Class of 2015 arrives in D.C. Friday July 14, 2015 The 98 young men from 49 states will spend a week learning about the structure and function of federal government. Read story - 2 comments   Legion: Internal VA report 'extremely disturbing' July 14, 2015 National Commander Helm: Report of more than 200,000 veterans dying while waiting for VA care ‘mind-boggling.' Read story - 3 comments
VA Urges Congress to Act And Transfer Funds for Veterans’ Care The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today urged Congress to act expeditiously and approve its pending request for fiscal year 2015 budget flexibility. The request, formally transmitted on June 23, seeks the transfer of funds from the Choice Program to continue VA\'s efforts to increase Veterans\' access to care and life-saving pharmaceuticals. “It is essential that Congress pass legislation to provide the requested budget flexibility by the end of July 2015,” Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson wrote. “This is necessary to replenish critical operations funding that VA had to reallocate from other medical services programs to sustain Care in the Community, after those funds were depleted. If these program funds are not restored, VA will face shutting down hospital operations during August 2015. The letter and full text of the documents submitted to Congress today are available for download here:  Signed letter to Congress Putting Veterans First: Legislative Request Draft Legislation Choice Act Obligations Care in Community Overview Hepatitis C Treatment Summary  Nationally, VA completed more than 56.2 million appointments between June 1, 2014, and May 31, 2015 – 2.6 million more appointments than were completed during the same time period in 2013-2014. VA also made more than three million authorizations for outside care.
Innovative Program Helps Returning Veterans   Transition into Careers in Healthcare   (Chicago – June 24, 2015) – Returning veterans in Illinois interested in pursuing a career in healthcare should be sure to visit the Veterans Healthcare Pathways Initiative (VHCP) website at http://vethealthcarejobs.org/. The site is designed to help returning veterans with healthcare-related military experience transition into long-term careers in healthcare, Pamela Tate, CEO and president of the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) announced today. Also, CAEL is working with a network of colleges and universities to promote best practices in serving student veterans who enroll in healthcare programs. The initiative was created by CAEL, with support from the Michael Reese Health Trust and in collaboration with the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and the Illinois Department of Employment Security. It provides a suite of tools to help returning veterans identify, develop and implement career pathways that ultimately lead them to a new career in the healthcare field.  In discussing the initiative, Tate said, “As the armed services continue its largest draw down in decades, Illinois veterans are returning home with valuable skills. Their military training counts and these skills should be leveraged to help them transition into the workforce. Our initiative builds the bridge between their experience and the civilian degrees and credentials they’ll need to find gainful entry into the healthcare workforce. The VHCP Initiative helps them learn about careers in the healthcare industry and how the knowledge and experience they bring from their military service can help them move more quickly into meaningful careers.”  The IDVA estimates that 35,000 new veterans will return to Illinois between 2013 and 2017, and currently Illinois has the 10th largest veteran population in the United States.  The website provides information on different careers in the healthcare industry and general information about returning to college in Illinois. They will also learn about tools such as Prior Learning Assessment (PLA). PLA is a term used by colleges and universities to designate learning gained outside of a traditional college classroom. Through it, veterans can earn credit for their military experience saving both time and money.   Added Tate, “One aspect of the initiative is exploring ways to accelerate pathways to credentials for those veterans who gained college level learning through their service. Military to civilian PLA saves student veterans tuition dollars and time otherwise spent in the classroom.” Ryan Burkhart joined the Marines after high school and served in the elite Marine Security Guard and was stationed in Austria and Canada. After leaving the Marines, he returned to Kentucky and enrolled at Northern Kentucky University (NKU). The university’s faculty and staff assisted Ryan in how to turn what he learned from his military experience into academic credit. NKU reviewed Ryan’s military transcript using American Council on Education (ACE) credit recommendations and accepted 30 credits toward graduation. It helped him earn his degree in organizational leadership that much faster.   Maria Rahming was a Hospital Corpsman and a Surgical Technologist in the Navy who is currently attending DePaul University for Nursing. “I’ve already been working for 20 years and I didn’t want to start all over.  Luckily, since I was already in healthcare a lot of it is transferable into college credit,\" she said.    Concluded Tate, “Through this initiative returning veterans with healthcare experience can easily access all the tools they need to begin a prosperous and rewarding career quickly in civilian healthcare. We are very excited about this work and hope that those who have served our nation so selflessly find it valuable.”     The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization based in Chicago, Illinois that assists adults with their educational endeavors, finding practical ways to help them earn college credit for learning acquired through life and work experiences toward the completion of a postsecondary degree. CAEL works with the public sector, private sector industries, and higher education institutions to ensure that adult students receive the most efficient training and education to occupy a meaningful professional place in a 21st-century economy. Since 1974, CAEL has assisted colleges and universities to develop programs that evaluate adults’ non-collegiate learning for college credit. CAEL is the recognized national expert on a method known as portfolio assessment, and its Ten Standards for Assessing Learning are used by colleges and universities, as well as accrediting organizations, across the country. More information is available at www.cael.org. Follow CAEL on Twitter at www.twitter.com/CAELnews or like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CAELnews.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald said his department's goal of cutting the number of homeless veterans to zero by next January is less important than making sure that number doesn't rise again in years to come. "The important thing is not just to get to zero, but to stay at zero," he said. "How do we build a system that is so capable, that as a homeless veteran moves from Chicago to Los Angeles in the winter, we have the ability to touch them immediately?" On Wednesday, McDonald addressed about 600 community organizers at the annual National Coalition for Homeless Veterans conference, charging them to keep up the progress thus far as his department's self-imposed deadline approaches. From 2010 to 2013, the number of homeless veterans nationwide dropped more than one-third to about 50,000 individuals, and VA officials expect that number to dip even further when the 2014 estimates are released later this summer. Meanwhile, VA funding for homeless assistance and prevention programs has jumped from about $2.4 billion in fiscal 2008 to nearly $7 billion for fiscal 2016, providing resources that advocates say were nearly nonexistent a decade ago. Despite the positive trends, the effort to end veterans homelessness will need dramatic strides in coming months to come close to the lofty goal of zero veterans on the streets at the end of 2015.
As seen on the Huffington Post: link to full story at the bottom of the story -   WASHINGTON -- More than 238,000 of the 847,000 veterans in the pending backlog for health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs have already died, according to an internal VA document provided to The Huffington Post. Scott Davis, a program specialist at the VA\\\'s Health Eligibility Center in Atlanta and a past whistleblower on the VA\\\'s failings, provided HuffPost with an April 2015 report titled \\\"Analysis of Death Services,\\\" which reviews the accuracy of the VA\\\'s veteran death records. The report was conducted by staffers in the VA Health Eligibility Center and the VA Office of Analytics. Flip to page 13 and you\\\'ll see some stark numbers. As of April, there were 847,822 veterans listed as pending for enrollment in VA health care. Of those, 238,657 are now deceased, meaning they died after they applied for, but never got, health care. While the number is large -- representing nearly a third of those listed as pending -- some of the applicants may have died years ago. The VA has no mechanism to purge the list of dead applicants, and some of those applying, according to VA spokeswoman Walinda West, likely never completed the application, yet remain on the pending list anyway. West said the VA electronic health record system has been in place since 1985, suggesting some of the data may be decades old and some of those people may have gone on to use other insurance. About 81 percent of veterans who come to the VA \\\"have either Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare or some other private insurance,\\\" said West. \\\"Consequently, some in pending status may have decided to use other options instead of completing their eligibility application.\\\" Click here for full story
Donna Doremus, 47, previously pleaded guilty on information to counts of bribing a public official, conspiracy to defraud the United States and two counts of making and subscribing to false federal tax returns.     She was sentenced to serve 37 months by U.S. District Judge Mary Cooper in federal court in Trenton, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. She also agreed to forfeit $671,975 and must serve a year of supervised probation upon her release.     From 2007 to July 2012, Doremus admitted paying about $671,000 in bribes to a former VA supervisory engineer Jarod Machinga, 45, also of Hopewell, in order to obtain $6 million in construction contracts for her three companies. Click here for full story from Trentonian online.
Database Links Genetic, Clinical, Lifestyle and Military Exposure Information WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is announcing four new studies that will use genetic and other data from VA’s Million Veteran Program (MVP) to answer key questions on heart disease, kidney disease, and substance use—high-priority conditions affecting Veterans. MVP, which has enrolled more than 390,000 Veterans so far, has already become the nation’s largest database linking genetic, clinical, lifestyle and military exposure information.  Part of a beta test for data access, the newly funded studies are among the first to use MVP data to delve into pressing questions on Veterans’ health. MVP-based studies on PTSD, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are already underway. “MVP is making important discoveries that will impact healthcare for Veterans and all Americans,” said VA Secretary Bob McDonald. “We’re grateful to our Veteran partners, whose altruism has made this possible.” The new research, which will specifically include the understudied African American and Hispanic Veteran populations, ties into the broader national Precision Medicine Initiative announced by President Obama earlier this year. “There’s already been an impressive amount of data collected through MVP, and we’re continuing to engage more Veterans in the program and building its research infrastructure through studies like these,” said Dr. Timothy O’ Leary, VA’s chief research and development officer. The new studies, involving consortiums of VA researchers and university colleagues, will explore specific questions related to chronic illnesses common among Veterans. They will also help establish new methods for securely linking MVP data with other sources of health information, including non-VA sources such as the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS). The new studies include the following: Cardiovascular risk factors—Drs. Farooq Amin and Peter Wilson at the Atlanta VA Medical Center, and Dr. Kelly Cho at the Boston VA Health Care System, will lead an effort probing the genes that influence how obesity and lipid levels affect heart risk. Using MVP data, their team will also look at whether these genetic factors differ among African Americans and Hispanics. “These populations are extremely important in VA,” said Amin. Multi-substance use—Drs. Daniel Federman and Amy Justice at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, and Dr. Henry Kranzler at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, will examine the genetic risk factors for chronic use of alcohol, tobacco, and opioids—and the dangerous use of all three together. “MVP offers an unprecedented opportunity to advance this field,” said Federman. Pharmacogenomics of kidney disease—Dr. Adriana Hung at the VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System will focus on how genes affect the risk and progression of kidney disease. One goal is to examine how patients with diabetes—who often develop kidney problems—respond differently to the drug metformin, the standard first-line treatment for diabetes, based on their genetic profile. The project will also look at the genetics of hypertension, a major risk factor for kidney disease.  “Kidney disease is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in Veterans and we’re hoping to gain insights that will drive personalized medicine for this population,” said Hung. Metabolic conditions—Dr. Philip Tsao at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System and Dr. Kyong-Mi Chang at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, leading a team of researchers from five VA regions and two universities, will explore the role of genetics in obesity, diabetes, and abnormal lipid levels (namely, cholesterol and triglycerides), as drivers of heart disease. “This project will help us more thoroughly understand the underlying causes of cardiometabolic disease and develop new therapies that are safe, effective, and personalized,” said Tsao. “This is also a great opportunity to partner with our colleagues at Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania,” added Chang.   For more information about MVP and VA research in general, visit www.research.va.gov

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