News

As Americans are managing life with the Coronavirus, the travel industry is continuing to come back.  Hotels and travel destinations in many parts of the country are open in anticipation of travelers ready to throw off their cabin fever and venture out.  Your plans may be for a weekend get away to a cozy bed and breakfast, or perhaps a fishing trip to catch that “big one” that won’t get away this time. Maybe it’s a camping trip full of hiking adventures with stunning vistas, or possibly you would rather walk through America’s glorious past by taking in all the amenities offered in any of hundreds of museums?  How about a week’s stay at a ranch out west?  Whatever your travel desires are, your options are plentiful and, more importantly, clean, safe and following all CDC guidelines for Coronavirus.  Each week we will list state by state travel options we recommend to help make your vacation choices easy. ALASKA: Why Knot Adventures - Fairbanks. Fishing, sightseeing tours, river rafting, etc. ARIZONA: Keepers of the Wild – Valentine. Nature park near the Grand Canyon. CALIFORNIA: Castle Air Museum - Atwater. Stafford RV Park - Eureka. RV, Camping, Cabins. FLORIDA: Four Star Condo Services – Panama City. HAWAII: USS Bowfinn Sumbarine Museum & Park – Honolulu. IOWA: Scenic View Ranch – Monona (Yellow River). LOUISIANA: Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park – Robert.  RV, Camping and Cabins. Berry Creek Cabins – Bogalusa.  Cabins, fishing, water activities. MAINE: Clary Lake Bed & Breakfast – Jefferson. Blueberry Fields Bed & Breakfast – Washington. Pleasant Bay Bed & Breakfast – Addison. MICHIGAN: CoHooker/Lake Michigan Charters – Holland. Fishing. MINNESOTA: Hiawatha Beach Resort – Walker. MISSOURI: Titanic Museum – Branson. Pelican Point Luxury Rentals – Osage Beach. Shadrack Resort – Cape Fair.  Cabin rentals on Table Rock Lake. Ye Olde English Inn – Hollister.  Bed & Breakfast Inn. Hall of Fame Motel – Branson. Choices Concert Hall – Branson. Dining, dancing and live music. All Access Branson – Tickets to shows and attractions in Branson. NEW HAMPSHIRE: Lamie’s Inn – Hampton. Bed & Breakfast. SOUTH DAKOTA: Crazy Horse Memorial – Custer. TENNESSEE: Titanic Museum – Pigeon Forge. Norma Dan Motel – Pigeon Forge. Minutes from popular attractions. Veterans’ Museum – Halls. Floyd Garret’s Muscle Car Museum – Sevierville. TEXAS: Dixie Dude Ranch – Bandera. Bennett’s Camping Center - Granbury. RV Park and camping supplies. Museum of the Gulf Coast – Port Arthur. Wilder RV Resorts – Multiple RV Resorts in the Rio Grande Valley. UTAH: Bryce Canyon Pines Campground – Bryce. Motel, Cottages RV & tent camping. WISCONSIN: Wisconsin Maritime Museum – Manitowoc. Annie’s Campground – Gresham.  RV & tent sites, cabins. U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS: Bellavista Scott Hotel – St. Thomas. When you are ready to travel, we are here to help!  Keep checking back every week for more featured locations.  Our travel hosts are eager to see you and work with you to provide safe and clean facilities.
Thirty-one years ago, Harold Lee Davis, an Army Veteran, began serving Veterans by volunteering along with his wife Hilda, first at the Fort Howard VA Medical Center and then at the Loch Raven VA Medical Center. Today, he has a dual role as a representative for the Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks on the medical center’s VA Voluntary Service Committee and as a volunteer group leader. The VA Maryland Health Care System welcomes back volunteers. Davis has helped organize Christmas in July events, participated in National Salute to Veteran Patients Week, Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day recognition luncheons and lent himself to an array of other activities. He was the VA National Advisory Committee Male Volunteer of the Year for 2019. Pandemic disrupted volunteer activities Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the normal activities of thousands of VA volunteers like Davis and his wife have been disrupted since early spring. VA paused its volunteer program to protect patients, health care providers, and volunteers from the risk of exposure to COVID-19. The pandemic has kept Davis away from his volunteer duties since March. But it hasn’t stopped him from worrying about the Veterans and wondering if they are feeling isolated, lonely, and bored. He found himself considering how he could continue serving Veterans upon his return. “We’ve already missed this year’s Christmas in July event but we are researching all the necessary steps to implement a movie night for Veterans when volunteers are able to return,” he said. Welcome back volunteers — gradually Now, across the country, VA medical facilities are expanding services, including previously cancelled elective procedures and routine in-person appointments. Along with these services, we will begin welcoming back our volunteers carefully and gradually with several safeguards. Based on our critical needs, we’ve created new volunteer roles, adapted some, and continue to pause others. Other changes include virtual assignments at some locations and continuing the pause for students under 18. Checklist: what to do before volunteering Before showing up for work, volunteers should obtain approval and complete orientation and safety training. Like everyone at VA facilities, they need to wear a face covering and follow physical distancing guidelines while on duty. They also need to consent to health screenings, including temperature checks, prior to entering the facility. Volunteers interested in returning to work should contact their local Voluntary Service office to discuss current facility needs and their interests. To find your local office, visit https://www.volunteer.va.gov/directory/ and click “VOLUNTEER OR DONATE NOW.” Before showing up for work, volunteers should obtain approval and complete orientation and safety training. Leadership will bring back volunteers in phases, beginning with the most essential assignments. Volunteers should consider their own personal safety and comfort before returning to service. Volunteers at risk, please stay home Older people and people of any age who have serious health problems are at higher risk of developing serious symptoms of COVID-19. Those health problems include: heart or lung conditions, weakened immune systems, severe obesity and diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people at higher risk stay home when possible. They should also keep distance between themselves and others if COVID-19 is spreading in their community. We know how dedicated our volunteers are to their service and we look forward to their safe return as soon as possible. R. David Edwards is the chief of Public & Community Relations at the Baltimore VAMC; Dore Mobley is a communication specialist for VHA Internal Communications.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today it will begin awarding more than $400 million in grants under the Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program (SSVF) to 266 non-profit organizations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on Oct. 1 of this year.  SSVF funding provides thousands of low-income Veteran families around the nation with access to case management and other assistance to rapidly re-house Veterans who become homeless or prevent Veterans from becoming homeless.  “Helping Veterans exit homelessness and remain in stable housing is more important now than ever,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “The Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program remains a vital resource to ensure that every Veteran has a safe and stable place to call home, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.”  In fiscal year (FY) 2019, SSVF served 105,156 individuals, including 70,524 Veterans and 20,608 children. As a result of these and other efforts, Veteran homelessness has been cut in half since 2010’s launch of the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. Since then, VA’s homelessness programs and targeted housing vouchers provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development have placed hundreds of thousands of Veterans and their family members into permanent housing or helped to prevent them from being homeless.  This year’s grant recipients competed for funding under a Notice of Fund Availability published Dec. 5, 2019. The funding will support SSVF services in fiscal year 2021 which begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, 2021.  Visit VA homeless SSVF to view the list of 2020 grantees and to learn more about the program.
WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), along with the Departments of Energy (DOE) and Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the formation of the COVID-19 Insights Partnership, an initiative to coordinate and share health data as well as research and expertise to aid in the fight against COVID-19. The COVID-19 Insights Partnership creates a framework for VA and HHS to utilize DOE’s world-leading high-performance computing (HPC) and artificial intelligence resources to conduct COVID-19 research and analyze health data that would otherwise not be possible. “Veterans served this country by putting on the uniform and protecting American interests overseas and now their health data will help in the fight against COVID-19 here at home,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “President Trump is marshalling all the resources he has available in the federal government to fight the virus and Veterans should be proud of the role they’re playing.” “The Department of Energy is proud to be a member of the COVID-19 Insights Partnership,” said Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette. “Our nation’s understanding of COVID-19 has already benefitted greatly from our world-leading high-performance computing and artificial intelligence resources and we look forward to continuing our coordination across federal departments and agencies in the fight against this virus.” “This unprecedented data and computing partnership is the latest addition to President Trump’s whole-of-government effort against COVID-19,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “The volume and quality of the data HHS has on COVID-19 has advanced by leaps and bounds in recent months. The Department of Energy’s world-class resources will help us derive new insights from the data we gather to help patients and protect our country.” Research and analysis conducted by the COVID-19 Insights Partnership will focus on vaccine and therapeutic development and outcomes, virology and other critical scientific topics to understand COVID-19 better. HHS and VA will provide additional updates and information on research projects as it becomes available. Summit, the United States’ fastest supercomputer, located at DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is accelerating COVID-19 research by running large scale, complex analyses on a vast amount of health data. Summit’s unmatched capacity to analyze massive integrated datasets and divine insights will help researchers identify and advance potential treatments and enhance outcomes for COVID-19 patients with unprecedented speed. The partnership expands upon recent efforts by the Trump Administration to leverage cutting-edge technologies in the fight against COVID-19, such as the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, which provides researchers worldwide with HPC resources and expertise from leading industry, Federal Government, and academia partners to accelerate the COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutic research.
(VFW Magazine) KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Veterans of Foreign Wars is proud to announce its 2020 “Uniting to Combat Hunger” campaign has raised more than 1 million meals for veterans and military families in need, transcending its original goal of 500,000. VFW Quartermaster General Debra Anderson and Ed Sandrick, director of Humana’s Strategic Alliances and Veteran Channel, made the special announcement live Monday during the VFW’s #StillServing Celebration, a virtual, weeklong event to bring awareness, respect and gratitude to veterans who remain committed to a life of service after their time in the military ends. Originally established in March of 2018, “Uniting to Combat Hunger” is a collaborative campaign from the VFW and Humana designed to help to raise awareness and fight food insecurity in the veteran and military communities. Defined as the lack of access to enough nutritionally adequate foods to live an active, healthy life, food insecurity contributes to poor health, lower productivity and higher medical costs. This societal issue impacts one in nine Americans, and 25% of Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans. Initially planned as a national food drive, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced this year’s “Uniting to Combat Hunger” campaign to drastically shift its focus to raising donations in support of local VA food pantries that were struggling to keep up with the increasing needs of the veteran and military families in their communities. “When we set our goal of 500,000 meals, we never could have anticipated the increased struggles the COVID-19 pandemic would bring,” said VFW National Commander William “Doc” Schmitz. “As more and more military and veteran families struggled to put food on the table, shifting our focus to supporting local VA food pantries just made sense. The efforts and dedication of VFW members, Humana representatives and VA employees across the country are perfect examples of how we are #StillServing.” “It’s an honor to support veteran and military families during this unprecedented time, as no one should be food insecure,” said Ed Sandrick, Humana Director of Strategic Alliances and Veteran Channel. “Through the ‘Uniting To Combat Hunger’ campaign, we’re proud to help feed those who have sacrificed so much for our country and we’re thrilled to more than double our goal in collaboration with dedicated partners like the VFW.” For more information on how you can help the VFW and Humana address food insecurity, visit vfw.org/UTCH.
(The American Legion) By 1943, The American Legion’s blood-donation program was institutionalized in multiple cities across the country, fulfilling needs locally and in support of military personnel at war. Following deadly race riots of June 1943 in Detroit, the American Legion Civilian Defense Blood Bank there was credited for acting quickly and effectively amid the bedlam. “Much of this blood plasma was delivered while rioting was at its height,” explained George C. Dollar, chairman of the American Legion Civilian Defense Blood Bank in Detroit. “It was delivered through streets filled with overturned cars; through flying missiles and showers of glass from broken windows, and through the picket lines. Because we were driving our white emergency unit cars of The American Legion Civilian Blood Bank unit, we were permitted to proceed without being attacked by the rioters or stopped by the police.” Area hospitals called on the bank for 512 units of plasma, most of which was reportedly used to treat citizens who had gotten caught up in the rioting that claimed 31 lives and injured hundreds of others. Detroit-area American Legion posts had established the blood bank at Henry Ford Hospital in March 1941 for “the purpose of serving veterans, indigent and emergency cases,” according to an article in the September 1943 American Legion Magazine. More than 2,500 Legionnaires and American Legion Auxiliary members regularly donated to the bank to keep it well stocked in case of emergency. Similar American Legion blood banks were operated in Boise, Idaho, and Brooklyn, N.Y., serving the civilian and military communities there. In other cities, including Detroit, The American Legion worked as the primary blood-distribution hub for local medical institutions and emergency services.
WASHINGTON —The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it is partnering with MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger to improve and ensure Veterans have reliable access to food. VA and MAZON will work together to distribute information to Veterans to increase awareness about the risks associated with food insecurity and share the benefits of programs like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). “Veterans must have consistent and reliable access to healthy foods in order to thrive,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “By raising awareness of the problem of Veterans’ food insecurity and executing solutions, this partnership will lead to more Veterans having more food on the table.” MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger is a national advocacy organization working to end hunger among people of all faiths in the United States and Israel. The organization works to raise awareness about community and government resources to encourage the anti-hunger community to effectively address emerging issues. “VA and MAZON will use various tactics to help Veterans facing food insecurity access available food assistance resources, like trainings for VA staff to help them better recognize and respond to Veteran food insecurity, ” said MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger President and CEO Abby J. Leibman. “These tactics include exploring the creation of a VA pilot program on SNAP outreach for Veterans that can be replicated and scaled up and formalizing target goals for Veteran SNAP eligibility screenings and application assistance.” This partnership is managed by the Veterans Health Administration’s Nutrition and Food Services office and was facilitated by the VHA Office of Community Engagement (OCE). Partnerships supported by OCE, such as this one, support VHA’s commitment to delivering patient-driven health care. Visit VA health partnerships and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger for more information.
By CAITLIN M. KENNEY | STARS AND STRIPES WASHINGTON — More than 30 sailors have suffered minor injuries from the fire that broke out Sunday and firefighters continue battle aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard at Naval Base San Diego, Calif. As of Monday morning, 34 sailors and 23 civilians have been treated for minor injuries, said Lt. Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman, a spokeswoman with Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Of the 17 sailors who were hospitalized Sunday, five sailors have remained in the medical facility for observation and are in stable condition. So far, minor injuries include heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation, according to Schwegman. A fire was reported aboard the amphibious assault ship at about 8:30 a.m. Sunday while it was moored at the pier, said Mike Raney, a spokesman for Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.   The cause of the fire is still under investigation and the origin of an explosion that also occurred on the ship Sunday is still unknown, The Associated Press reported. Firefighting operations continued aboard the ship through the night and two helicopters with water buckets were brought in to help, according to the Navy. At the time of the fire about 160 sailors were on the ship, which was undergoing maintenance, according to Raney. The ship typically has a crew of about 1,000. Adm. Mike Gilday, chief of naval operations, called the fire “a terrible tragedy.” "We are grateful for the quick and immediate response of local, base, and shipboard firefighters aboard USS Bonhomme Richard. Our thoughts and prayers are with our [Bonhomme Richard] sailors, their families, and our emergency responders who continue to fight the fire. Godspeed," he said in a statement. Two nearby ships, the USS Fitzgerald and the USS Russell, had to move away from the pier Sunday afternoon because of the fire. The USS Fitzgerald had just arrived in San Diego July 2, according to U.S. Naval Institute News, after undergoing more than two years of restoration and modernization following the deadly 2017 collision that killed seven sailors. Photo Credit: CHRISTINA ROSS/U.S. NAVY
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced its commitment to extend debt relief to Veterans adversely impacted by COVID-19 to the end of 2020 by suspending certain debt collection actions. The department recognizes Veterans and beneficiaries are still being greatly impacted by the coronavirus prompting the extension of financial relief. “Veterans and their families should be focused on their health and safety during the pandemic,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “VA is taking action to give those with pending debts greater flexibility during these challenging times.” VA is suspending all actions on Veteran debts under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Treasury Department. This includes the suspension of collection action or extending repayment terms on preexisting VA debts, whichever the Veteran prefers. For benefit debts, Veterans should contact the VA Debt Management Center at 1-800-827-0648. For health care debts, Veterans should contact the Health Resource Center at 1-866-400-1238 or https://www.pay.govfor payments.
As Americans start to get a handle on managing life with the Coronavirus, and the states are opening up, the travel industry is slowly beginning to come back.  Hotels and travel destinations are reopening in anticipation of travelers ready to throw off their cabin fever and venture out.  Various studies and surveys from the likes of The Points Guy, Deloitte and RENTCafé.com have recently indicated that 31% to 42% of Americans are beginning to feel more comfortable and ready to vacation away from home and willing to fly to get to domestic and international locales. Your plans may be for a weekend get away to a cozy bed and breakfast, or perhaps a fishing trip to catch that “big one” that won’t get away this time. Maybe it’s a camping trip full of hiking adventures with stunning vistas, or possibly you would rather walk through America’s glorious past by taking in all the amenities offered in any of hundreds of museums?  How about a week’s stay at a ranch out west?  Whatever your travel desires are, your options are plentiful and, more importantly, clean, safe and following all CDC guidelines for Coronavirus.  Each week we will feature travel options to help make your vacation choices easy. Resorts, Inns and Bed & Breakfasts: Want a getaway location with grounds to explore and activities to enjoy?  Balsam Beach Resort in Bemidji, Minnesota, is open and ready for your visit! Bed and Breakfast offer the quiet getaways, and yet you’ll find plenty to do nearby.  Step back in time at Tuxedo Park Bed & Breakfast in St. Louis, Missouri and enjoy luxurious comfort.  Located near all the major medical university hospitals, healthcare professionals will find this the perfect home away from home.  If Pennsylvania is calling you, Felicity Farms Bed and Breakfast in Beaver, provides classic and modern comforts and historic downtown Pittsburg is close by.  Traveling further east? At Mayanuk Chambers Guest House in Philadelphia, enjoy fine homemade pastries and know that you will be treated “better than family.”  If east coast travel is in your sights, head to Lewes, Delaware and stay at the Savannah Inn for a peaceful coastal escape. If you’re looking for fun in the sun, in Kissimmee, Florida, Amber Inn & Suites offers spacious rooms and suites loaded with amenities. Travel over to San Marcos, Texas and stay the elegant Crystal River Inn where you will find 12 luxurious rooms in three buildings that surround a rose garden, fountains and beautiful old trees. RV Resorts & cabins: If the great outdoors are calling, the campground and RV resorts are…wide open! From the lush Pacific Northwest, to the wide open spaces of Texas, our featured facilities have all the sought after amenities. Arkansas: Hot Springs National Park KOA Oregon: Crown Villa RV Resort - Bend Minnesota: Eagle Cliff Campground – Lanesboro Texas: Triple Creek RV Music Park - Woodville, Holiday Trav-L-Park - Del Rio Washington: Mt. St. Helens RV - Castle Rock West Virginia: Germany Valley Overlook Cabins - Riverton When you are ready to travel, we are here to help!  Keep checking back every week for more featured locations.  Our travel hosts are eager to see you and work with you to provide safe and clean facilities.