Article from Community Impact: Casey Joyce Post 4380 Commander Marty Nell is in need of dental work. From inside the Plano Veterans of Foreign Wars post, however, the VFW member and former Marine does not expect to be seen by a dentist until at least February. For Nell, the experience can be summed into one word: frustrating. “I think the biggest thing about [the Veterans Affairs Office] is being able to get into it. It’s not like [making] an appointment with your doctor,” he said. “At the VA, you call to make an appointment and it’s 30 days, at least 30 days, before you can get in.” Nell is one of many veterans throughout Collin County traveling to the Dallas VA Medical Center in south Dallas for treatment. Like Nell, many have expressed concern over travel expenses and extended appointment wait times. To help offset the volume of patients seen daily at the Dallas center and other area facilities, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced in October the location for its new community-based outpatient clinic in Plano. The center will be located in vacant office space at 3804 W. 15th St., across from Medical Center of Plano. The clinic is expected to open in May and will serve veterans in Collin and surrounding counties. It is expected to provide primary care, mental health care, telemedicine, laboratory and X-ray services. The VA expects the clinic to serve nearly 6,000 veterans each year and will be staffed by at least five physicians, five registered nurses and five licensed vocational nurses as well as a phlebotomist to perform various blood testing services, pharmacist and social workers. The workload will be closely monitored each year to identify the need for further expansion of specialty care services, according to the VA. Johnson, R-Plano, said the facility is the result of his efforts to address the needs of the region’s growing veteran population. “I’ve been working on getting a local VA clinic in Collin County for several years now, and the new Plano VA clinic is finally becoming reality for two big reasons,” Johnson said. “There is a very real need in the community for a conveniently located veterans clinic. This is becoming a reality because of the hard work and determination from local champions [and] folks like Jeff Milligan, VA North Texas Health Care System director.”   VA improvements The VA North Texas Health Care System is the federal department’s second-largest health care system. Currently, Collin County veterans must travel to the Sam Rayburn Memorial Veterans Center in Bonham in Fannin County or the Dallas hospital for specialized medical services. The health care system also has outpatient clinics in Fort Worth, Denton and Greenville. A national audit of the VA in 2014 revealed internal manipulations in tracking patient wait times. According to the Nov. 17, 2014, Department of Veterans Affairs Performance and Accountability Report, the audit also revealed the use of obsolete scheduling software. In response to the audit’s findings, the VA suspended the use of the 14-day wait time standard and emphasized the importance of customer service and veteran feedback, according to the report. The VA also launched an initiative to address the extended wait times by adding staff to improve response to demand, and is in the process of updating its scheduling software. While the Plano clinic will specialize in outpatient services and preventative care, those in need of specialty care can receive treatment closer to home with the VA’s Choice Program. The program, which was signed into law in July, works with local non-VA physician groups and hospitals with the goal of offsetting the VA’s demand for services. “The VA works with community providers to ensure veterans receive timely care,” said Froylan Garza, public affairs officer for VA North Texas. “Veterans can certainly request to be seen close to home, and the VA will work to accommodate [that request]if that specialty care is not available within 30 days of the veteran’s clinically indicated date or if that veteran lives 40 miles from a VA point of access under the Choice Program.” Word of mouth In addition to medical services, veterans also depend on local VFWs for guidance when it comes to finding and receiving the help they need. VFWs assign service officers to help new veterans enroll in the health care system and file for benefits. Army veteran and Casey Joyce Post 4380 member Reggie Guiterrez spends his days off driving veterans to their medical appointments in south Dallas. He also schedules appointments in-person for other veterans, something he learned is much more effective than trying to navigate the VA’s automated telephone line. Guiterrez said he learned what he knows about the VA from the older veterans he met at the hospital over the years. “Your disability at the VA is really what counts,” he said. “If you’re 20 percent [disabled], you’ll be the last person they see.” The Plano post consists of 400 members from Collin County and beyond, representing veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm, the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War. The post was named after Army Ranger James Casey Joyce, a Plano native who was killed in action in Somalia in 1993. The average age of VFW members seems to have decreased over the past 15 years from the 60-70 age range to late 40s and early 50s, Post Quartermaster Tim Dowding said. The post, like many others in the area, has introduced a wider range of live music and family-friendly events to cater to younger veterans. “The Vietnam veterans are probably the most prevalent. We’re the World War II veterans [of this generation], if you will,” Dowding said. “We’re getting older.” Local need Zach Migura, Collin County Veteran Services appointed official, is also president of the Veterans County Service Officers Association of Texas. As an appointed official for Collin County, Migura helps local veterans file disability claims and assists them in finding other services offered by area nonprofit organizations. The county office also conducts community outreach events and makes house calls and nursing home visits to veterans who are unable to travel. “There are a lot of transportation issues with veterans in Collin County who have to drive to Dallas, Bonham and Denton [for treatment],” Migura said. “The primary care is good, and I think [the Plano clinic] will have some mental health [services], but that’s not full-service.” To help address Collin County’s needs, leaders of the local veteran community meet each month at the Plano American Legion. The Collin County Veterans Coalition welcome representatives from the VA, nonprofit organizations and congressional offices to discuss issues, such as mental health, disability claims and other veteran-related topics. “Our goal is to make the whole process as efficient as possible,” Migura said. “We try to do everything, but sometimes just [helping veterans] understand their benefits is the most difficult [aspect of the experience].”      
As reported on The “Care in the Community” program includes the Veterans Choice Program and the VA-Department of Defense partnership with Fort Benning Martin Army Community Hospital (BMACH). A resource sharing agreement with the BMACH allows veterans in the CAVHCS service area to have access to 18 specialty clinics such as dermatology, neurology, urology and gynecology. The opening of the new Montgomery VA outpatient clinic on Chantilly Parkway on December 7th will further expand access to care for local veterans. "We'll have primary care, mental health services, radiology, pharmacy. We'll have optometry services, lab services, women’s health care. We'll have additional space out there which will allows to increase our primary care teams by two which will increase our capacity for 2500 primary care patients,” Solt added. It will also have the only 3-D mammography machine in Montgomery. The opening of the new clinic will also allow for expansion at the current Montgomery location in radiology, laboratory services, occupational and physical therapy and the emergency department. Last year, problems were revealed at CAVHCS, including falsified information on medical records, hundreds of X-rays that went unread, and attempts to cover up long wait times for patient appointments. The system includes the Montgomery and Tuskegee medical centers and several community-based outpatient clinics in Monroeville, Dothan, Fort Rucker, and Columbus, GA. It serves nearly 45,000 veterans. Congresswoman Martha Roby is optimistic about the progress made so far, but says more widespread changes are still needed. She wants to make sure what happened in Central Alabama, Phoenix and other places never happens again. On Tuesday, Roby appeared before the Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health to present her bill, The Failing VA Medical Center Recovery Act. It would require top VA officials to intervene at the worst performing VA medical centers by deploying a “rapid response team” of managers and medical professionals to turn them around. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs would be directly accountable.  Rep. Roby is also working to bridge the gap between the VA and the local medical community to ensure that there is a strong network of community providers where veterans can access care quickly and without driving long distances. Interim Director Solt says reform efforts are ongoing in the Central Alabama facilities. A Veterans Voice Advisory Committee has been formed. Veterans from across the region serve on the committee. They report and make recommendations within the governance structure to the medical governing body to help spark healthcare improvements and solve problems.  “I would say that our efforts are an important part of how we're rebuilding trust with our veterans,” Solt added.  Copyright 2015 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.
WASHINGTON — Veterans seeking care at VA medical centers are waiting for more than doctor’s appointments. A report by the Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General released Monday said a growing number of veterans are waiting for home health care – even after being approved for the services. Until recently, veterans at the VA medical center in Washington, D.C., were not told they faced delays of more than a year for in-home care. The report found that the number of veterans waiting for home health services increased at 27 facilities from 1,721 in September 2014 to 2,566 in March 2015. More than half of those waiting were at five facilities: Los Angeles; Beckley, W. Va.; Richmond, Va.; Puget Sound, Wash.; and White City, Ore. The delays came to light after the Inspector General’s office investigated the case of an unnamed veteran at the Washington, D.C., facility who had been promised a home nursing aide in October 2013. He was still waiting when he died seven months later. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., requested the investigation, and aides said her office was still reviewing the report. It’s the latest black eye for the VA, which has been under fire since a scandal in veterans’ health care was revealed more than 18 months ago, with patients dying while lingering on secret wait lists at the Phoenix VA Medical Center. Many lawmakers have grown impatient with the slow pace of departmental reforms. According to the IG report, the veteran had suffered several strokes. He was unable to dress, bathe, use the toilet, shop or prepare meals by himself. But he did not meet the requirements for priority care – like suicidal patients or those with serious illnesses -- so he was placed on the wait list, the report said. The veteran’s social worker wrote in his medical record that the family was informed that a home health aide was approved and that the social worker “will continue to assist as needed.” But there was no documentation in the record that any follow-up assistance had been offered. In fact, though the man died in April 2014, his record was not updated until July, when his wife told a facility social worker of his death. Staff members told investigators that they “verbally communicated to most patients and families … the approval of (homemaker/home health aide), but did not tell patients or families that the patient’s names would be placed on an (electronic wait list) and there would be wait times.” “Omitting this information did not allow patients and family members to understand fully the situation and options, or adequately communicate the same to other health care staff,” the investigation concluded. At the time the veteran was placed on the wait list in October 2013, the delay was more than a year long at the DC facility. There were 584 veterans on that list by December 2013, up from 148 in 2010. The budget for home health care had also been climbing. In fiscal year 2010, the facility had a budget of $1.3 million for home health services, climbing to 375 patients and a $2.8 million budget in 2012. The budget was up to $6.7 million by fiscal year 2014 as the numbers neared 600. That’s when the regional leadership, apparently recognizing that the need was outpacing the budget, added $2 million in funding specifically for home and community based care at the DC facility. The funding made a difference. By early 2015, the wait list at the DC facility was eliminated, the report said. Because facility leaders are authorized to decide how money to allocate for each of their programs, the report said, home care was competing for funds. Staff members told investigators that leaders at the facilities were allowed to ask for more but felt pressure to work within their budgets. It was only when regional leaders intervened that the wait times dropped. Requests for a response from the DC facility were not answered. In a response included within the report, the facility promised greater oversight of its home care services and said senior social workers would ensure that mandated contacts with veterans receiving home care are made. Twitter: @diannacahn
Come and learn from living historians about what holidays were like during WWII; enjoy holiday treats made from ration recipes, and an American Girl tea centered around the Molly McIntire character. This event will run Saturday, November 28 from 10 am until 4 pm and Sunday, November 29 from 10 am until 4 pm at Brunswick Railroad Museum, 40 W. Potomac Street, Brunswick, MD 21716. For more information call (301) 834-7100 or visit   Here are a couple facts to about WWII and holiday time: During World War II Christmas trees were in short supply because of a lack of manpower to cut the trees down and a shortage of railroad space to ship the trees to market. Americans rushed to buy American-made artificial trees. In 1941, a five-foot Christmas tree could be purchased for 75 cents. The shortage of materials—like aluminum and tin—used to produce ornaments led many people to make their own ornaments at home. Magazines contained patterns for ornaments made out of non-priority war materials, like paper, string, and natural objects, such as pinecones or nuts. Electric bubble lights were created during the 1940s and remain popular even today. To give their Christmas tree a snow-covered effect, people mixed a box of Lux soap powder with two cups of water and brushed the concoction on the branches of their tree. Fewer men at home resulted in fewer men available to dress up and play Santa Claus. Women served as substitute Santas at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City and at other department stores throughout the United States. “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “White Christmas” were both written during the 1940s and quickly gained popularity with the war-weary, but optimistic, population. Travel during the holidays was limited for most families due to the rationing of tires and gasoline. Americans saved up their food ration stamps to provide extra food for a fine holiday meal. Many Americans threw their German blown-glass ornaments and exotic Japanese ornaments in the trash as soon as the war began. Shortly after the war, Corning Glass Company in New York began massproducing Christmas tree balls using machines designed to produce light bulbs. Corning could make more ornaments in a single minute than a German cottage glass blower could make in a whole day.
As reported on On the eve of Veterans Day, the Senate passed a bill with language to grant “honorary” veteran status to as many as 200,000 Reserve and National Guard retirees — those not deemed veterans now because they lack a qualifying period of active service under federal orders. The House is expected to adopt similar language soon, either by passing a standalone bill from Rep. Tim Walz, D-Min., the Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Retirees Act (HR 1384), or by mirroring Senate action, that is, adding language to give these retirees veteran status as part of a larger catchall bill of veteran initiatives. Both the Senate-approved language and the House bill would make clear that bestowing veterans’ status on this category of retiree would not in any way expand their benefits beyond what federal law now allows. How states view them for state-provided benefits already varies state-to-state. The Senate approach, as set down in Section 701 of the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act (S 1203), seeks to avoid benefit creep from the status change by directing no change to Title 38 of the U.S. Code, the statute that defines all federal veterans’ benefit and individual eligibility. So if the House accepts the Senate language, Guard and Reserve retirees who seek proof that they are veterans won’t find the words in Title 38 itself but instead in its legal “notes” that help explain vet benefit laws. That, at least, is how the general counsel for the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee explained to staff this more cautious approach to granting veteran status to Guard and Reserve retirees who lack active duty time. The House bill, however, would amend Title 38 but with a few added lines of “clarifying” language that the honored retiree “shall not be entitled to any benefit by reason of this section.” Impacted retirees are those who left service without a DD-214 or Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. Though they had 20 or more “good” years of drill points earned on weekends and through annual training, they were never called to active duty. The cautious approach taken in modifying veteran status here reflects a deep worry held by some lawmakers that Reserve and Guard retirees, once given veterans status and as Congress turns over, will press to win more benefits and, in time, the same benefits as other veterans. Organizations advocating for these retirees have vowed not to lobby for such changes. The intent, they insist, is only to properly honor the contribution career Guard and Reserve personnel make toward defending the nation. Many of these retirees report being surprised to learn they aren’t legally veterans. “I bet there weren’t ten people in America who [knew] these guys weren’t veterans,” said Walz in an interview to discuss progress on his bill. Guard and Reserve members without active duty still do earn some veterans benefits, which might explain why so many are surprised they lack veteran status, said Bob Norton, deputy director of government relations for Military Officers Association of America. Many are eligible for VA home loans, Reserve Montgomery GI Bill and, if entitled to retired pay, also burial in a VA or national cemetery. Military associations and vet organizations have locked arms in supporting the change. Aleks Morosky, deputy legislative director for Veterans of Foreign Wars, told a House subcommittee in June that many retirees now denied vet status supported “deployments of active duty comrades” by ensuring their own units were ready when called. They are entitled to retired pay, TRICARE and other benefits and deserve the recognition still denied them by “the letter of the law,” Morosky testified. But at the same hearing, David R. McLenachen, acting deputy under secretary for VA disability assistance, argued that extending veteran status to all reserve retirees will “confuse” the traditional definition of veteran. Though reserve components “admirably served this country and in recent years have played an important role in our nation’s overseas conflicts,” McLenachen said, the VA opposes extending “veteran status to those who never performed active military, naval or air service, the very circumstance [that] qualifies an individual as a veteran.” The House will pass his bill, Walz said confidently. It did so in previous years with only the Senate blocked the change. Only weeks ago, Senate armed service committee conferees, in negotiating final details of the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill, rejected a back-door attempt by Walz and House colleagues to enact his bill language as part of that critical legislation. But Sen. John Boozman, R-Ariz., who had introduced a companion bill in the Senate, joined with a few colleagues to find the compromise that would satisfy Senate opponents: allowing honorary veteran status without codifying the change in the veteran benefit statute. Walz doesn’t think that’s necessary to protect against benefit creep. “We have written this thing with the best lawyers to get it as tight as possible,” he said of his bill. “It truly is what I say,” a show of “respect for those people who get their 20 years.” Lack of veteran status, he said, is a frustration for these retirees. “I have older friends who fall into this and they’re embarrassed. I’ve seen some of them, when they are called veterans, they find they need to do the honorable thing [and say] no, they’re retired Army but not veterans.” Walz is a retired Army National Guard command sergeant major. He also served overseas in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and is a veteran. Many retirees who aren’t veterans, he said, would have had more opportunity to deploy if they had served in a different era. “I had some of the best soldiers, the most honorable people, the best trainers. They would have gone anywhere their country asked, and I am sure would have served heroically. They trained us! Then they didn’t get deployed and now they have gone to this category, and I feel for them.” The Senate vote, Norton said, is “a very nice win after years of pushing” by retirees, military associations and veteran groups. The House now only has to pass the Walz bill, again, or toss it into an omnibus bill of vet initiatives, and then be ready to reconcile its language with the more cautious approach the Senate embraced. To comment, write Military Update, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA, 20120 or email: or Twitter: @Military_Update
As reported on FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii — For years, the widow and daughter of Staff Sgt. Donald Stewart were plagued by doubts about the airman’s 1979 funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. Stewart, a load master, went missing in action in 1965 when a C-123 transport aircraft crashed on a mountainside in Phu Yen, a coastal province in Vietnam between Danang and Ho Chi Minh City, then known as Saigon. Three other Americans and 81 South Vietnam soldiers were also onboard. “We didn’t hear a word for 14 years, and then in 1979, they called me from Randolph Air Force Base in Texas — about 10 o’clock at night — and told me that my husband’s remains had surfaced and we had to have a service in Arlington,” said Wandra Raynor, who was pregnant with their first daughter when Stewart, 28, went missing. The grave was to hold the remains of Stewart and the other three Americans who died in the crash, she said she was told. When Raynor pressed the caller about the remains, she said she was told they consisted of “two pieces of a leg bone and a jaw bone.” “I kept thinking, that doesn’t make up four people,” Raynor said. “It couldn’t be but three at the most. Or one or two.” Raynor and her daughter, Dona Stewart, went to the Arlington ceremony and then moved on with their lives. Still, uncertainty nagged at them. They laid their doubts to rest Nov. 6 during a visit to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in Hawaii where they held bone fragments proven by DNA testing to belong to Donald Stewart. They were the first family members to view their loved one’s remains in DPAA’s new science lab, which features a viewing room suspended two stories above an open-air courtyard, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. “It was wonderful to hold them,” Raynor said the following day. “It was very stressful on the drive there thinking about what you have to go through,” Stewart said. “But then they bring you to the family room, they show you the remains and give you time alone, and you can hold the bones. At that point, it was just a relief. I felt 100 pounds lighter.” They had carried the weight of the unknown for many years, which, by the turn of the millennium they say, had morphed into a series of strange dreams and visions. For Raynor, the dreams harkened back to one she had about a month before her husband died: She was looking down a tunnel at bamboo bars, surrounded outside by lush tropical greens. Stewart described a kind of out-of-body experience. “I kind of floated out of my body, and I was being shot at and running and there were some grass huts. And there were two people who took me inside,” she said. Although she never met her father, Stewart — along with a half-brother and a stepbrother — grew up amid unanswered questions. “We were always thinking when we were growing up, 'Is he alive? Is he being tortured?’ I’d hear my grandmother speak about it at the table. We just didn’t know,” she said. Eventually, the mother and daughter shared their dreams of the lost airmen and felt compelled to take a trip to Vietnam in 2007, spending a month learning what they could about the crash site. They hired a guide whose grandfather, serendipitously, had worked for the U.S. Air Force and knew where the plane went down. Stewart said they also found a man who, as a boy, was among the first to find the crash site. He had pulled a ring off the pilot’s hand and later sold it. The guide told them the trip up would be too arduous for them, so they supplied the hired search group with a disposable camera and sent them on the three-day roundtrip hike to the site. The searchers returned “visibly shaken” with boots, teeth and other artifacts from the plane, Stewart said. “Because nobody had ever gone up there except the Vietnamese.” “America had never been up there,” Raynor said. After returning to the U.S., they met with officials from the MIA accounting agency, then called the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command. The meeting included Johnie Webb, the agency’s liaison to families of missing servicemembers, who agreed that the accounting agency’s recovery experts needed to visit the site themselves. A team visited the site, which over 50 years had been significantly scavenged, around 2012-13, Webb — now DPAA’s deputy to the commander for legislative affairs and external relations — told Stars and Stripes. But no excavation work was done because the Defense Department had officially “accounted for” all four crewmembers in 1979, and priority for excavation goes to sites believed to hold unaccounted remains, Webb said. The Stewart crash site “would be at the bottom of the priority list,” he said. “At this point and time, nothing has been put forward that we should put a recovery team on that site,” he said. Unknown to Raynor and Stewart for a long time, however, was that the accounting agency’s lab in Hawaii had for decades been holding a trove of commingled remains retrieved from the wreckage in 1974 by Vietnamese soldiers. Those remains were transferred to a lab in Thailand, where large bone fragments believed to belong to Americans were removed, Webb said. In February 1979, the Graves Registration Office “approved those remains as the group remains of those four crewmembers, so no individual identifications, just group remains that represented the crew of that aircraft,” he said. The rest of the remains were shipped to the Hawaii lab, where they were stored until they began undergoing DNA testing from 1997-2011, Webb said. Stewart said she and her mother learned accidentally that the agency possessed the remains — a scholarly article made mention of them — and she sent a “nasty email” to the agency cajoling it to conduct DNA testing for her father. The lab identified Stewart’s remains in December 2014 using DNA samples from his brother. Webb said the Air Force had requested that the remains in Arlington be disinterred for DNA testing but “were not successful in getting approval” due to “the policy of the cemetery.” Raynor and Stewart requested that the new remains be added to the Arlington gravesite but could not receive permission. Instead, Donald Stewart was laid to rest Wednesday in a cemetery near Raleigh, N.C., the area where he grew up. Raynor and Stewart’s journey is the subject of a forthcoming documentary by filmmaker Steven C. Barber. Stewart said families of missing servicemembers end up struggling between finding closure or the truth. “They try to give people closure by having these group burials without even having the remains, but for us it was more than closure. It was about the truth,” Stewart said. “Because I was living with this guilt that maybe he is alive and waiting for us to come back — who knows what goes through your mind? “Until I could find the plane crash, I don’t know, I was looking for some kind of truth. Not closure, because I wasn’t going to get it until the remains were found.”
WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — The babies and toddlers of soldiers returning from deployment face the heightened risk of abuse in the six months after the parent's return home, a risk that increases among soldiers who deploy more frequently, according to a study scheduled for release Friday. The study will be published in the American Journal of Public Health. The abuse of soldiers' children exposes another, hidden cost from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that killed more than 5,300 U.S. troops and wounded more than 50,000. Research by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia looked at families of more than 112,000 soldiers whose children were 2 years old or younger for the period of 2001 to 2007, the peak of the Iraq War. Researchers examined Pentagon-substantiated instances of abuse by a soldier or another caregiver and from the diagnoses of medical personnel within the military's health care system. "This study is the first to reveal an increased risk when soldiers with young children return home from deployment," David Rubin, co-director of the hospital's PolicyLab and the report's senior author, said in a statement. "This really demonstrates that elevated stress when a soldier returns home can have real and potentially devastating consequences for some military families." Rubin said the study will help the Army and other services learn "when the signal [of stress] is the highest and the timing for intervention to help the returning soldiers." The Army said it will use the information to help serve soldiers and their families better. "While incidents of child abuse and neglect among military families are well below that of the general population, this study is another indicator of the stress deployments place on soldiers, family members and caregivers," said Karl Schneider, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs. "Since the end of the data collection period in 2007, the Army has enacted myriad programs to meet these kinds of challenges head on, and we will continue working to ensure services and support are available to soldiers, families and their children." The study focused on the first two years of a child's life because of the elevated risk for life-threatening child abuse among infants exceeds risk in all other age groups. In all, there were 4,367 victims from the families of 3,635 soldiers. The rate of substantiated abuse and neglect doubled during the second deployment compared with the first, the study found. For soldiers deployed twice, the highest rate of abuse and neglect occurred during the second deployment and was usually a caregiver other than the soldier. "The finding that in most cases, the perpetrators were not the soldiers thmselves reveals to us that the stress that plays out in military families during or after deployment impacts the entire family and is not simply a consequence of the soldier's experience and stress following deployment," said Christine Taylor, the study's lead author, a project manager the PolicyLab. Researchers had an ongoing interest in the topic, Rubin said, which coincided with the Army's interest in determining how to better serve its returning soldiers and families. A key finding was that mandatory reporting of child abuse by the Army to the Pentagon's Family Advocacy Program appears to have been largely ignored; 80 percent of the instances were not reported to the program. The program offers parenting instruction, child care and classes to ease a soldier's transition home. Those services may not be offered widely enough to meet the need, the study found.
As reported on WASHINGTON — Nearly 30,000 post-9/11 combat veterans – some of whom have been waiting for years – are still without Department of Veterans Affairs health benefits due to a technicality more than three months after a whistleblower brought the issue to light. VA officials apologized but say they do not have the authority to automatically enroll the veterans, even though they filled out the proper paperwork and are guaranteed at least five years of enhanced care by law. At issue is an optional means test, which the veterans in question did not fill out. The free care they are guaranteed by a 2008 law does not require them to fill out the means test, but without that information, their applications are automatically placed into “pending” status. When VA program specialist Scott Davis first reported the issue in August, 35,000 combat veterans were on the pending list, half of whom had waited five years or more to be enrolled. The VA did not start reaching out to the veterans until Davis publically reported the problem, and now says there are about 29,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in pending status. Benita Miller, director of the VA’s Health Eligibility Center, said the VA had enrolled 9,000 servicemembers since August. (Roughly 3,000 new veterans applied in that time.) Miller said her office is continuing to reach out to veterans by telephone and by mail. The department has apologized for the problem but also said the system is working as designed and that the vets need to specifically opt out of the means test to move forward, to show that they accept the potential of co-pays. VA Secretary Bob McDonald has repeated the assertion that he does not have the authority to change a veterans enrollment status. Davis, who handles the enrollment applications, refutes the VA claim that the department cannot automatically enroll the veterans and says they have in fact done just that in the past. “Those combat veterans are clearly applying for health care; we have always just enrolled the people without asking questions,” he said. McDonald “has a moral, legal and ethical responsibility to enroll these veterans.” When asked by a Stars and Stripes reporter whether VA lawyers had specifically given guidance that the department could not enroll the veterans, Miller demurred. “We didn’t have the guidance to make an agreement to enroll them in VA health care,” she said in a phone interview with Stars and Stripes. The House Committee on Veterans Affairs requested that the VA provide information by Friday about the combat veterans on the pending list, including the list of veterans who may have died while their enrollments were still pending, but they did not receive the information, according to a committee official. “The law hasn’t required a means test from recent combat veterans since 2008, yet VA still hasn’t come up with an efficient way to enroll these veterans in its health care system without one,” committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller said in a statement. “This is either blatant incompetence or cold-hearted indifference.” Benita Miller said her team was still compiling the data and did not have statistics on the number of veterans who may have died while awaiting enrollment. Davis said VA’s reluctance to automatically enroll the veterans could be about potentially being responsible for tens of millions of dollars in compensation owed to veterans for the delayed benefits. VA officials would not comment on what kind of compensation, if any, veterans might be owed.
Story from Washington Post; full link of the complete story at the bottom “We have proposed disciplinary action against 300 individuals for manipulating scheduling.” —Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald, speech at National Press Club, Nov. 6, 2015 During his speech at the National Press Club, McDonald bemoaned the lack of fact-checking of numbers that are used in relation to veterans issues: “I just wish that there would be more fact-checking on some of the numbers that are used, because there are a lot of myths out there,” he said. We at The Fact Checker agree. In fact, we have fact-checked many claims to debunk myths and set the record straight on veterans issues. We even awarded McDonald himself Four Pinocchios for his claim in February 2015 that 60 people were fired for manipulating veterans’ wait-time data. (The actual number, at the time, was eight. VA later reported that the correct figure was actually three, as of early August 2015.) In a speech about the state of VA, McDonald said the agency has made progress but has “a lot more to do.” He noted a series of improvements he made, such as replacing members of his leadership team, the increasing number of people being fired across the agency for a variety of performance problems, and adding new standards into performance review plans. Then he said 300 people now have had disciplinary actions proposed for manipulating scheduling. That doesn’t jibe with the facts we uncovered in an Aug. 6, 2015, fact-check when we looked into the number of proposed and completed disciplinary actions against VA employees over wait-time data manipulation — which was 15, as reported by the VA. So we fact-checked McDonald’s figures on wait-time manipulation disciplinary actions — again. And we found that McDonald got his figures wrong — again. The Facts McDonald, of course, is referring to the wait-time manipulation scandal that led to his appointment in 2014 to lead the largest non-military Cabinet agency. His predecessor, Eric Shinseki, resigned amid whistleblower allegations that employees at the Phoenix VA were manipulating patient wait-time data, leading to delays in access to health care and contributing to patient deaths. The VA Office of Inspector General later confirmed the allegations and found a systemic, years-long problem. VA provides weekly updates to the House and Senate veterans affairs committees about proposed and completed employee disciplinary actions taken since June 3, 2014, “on any basis related to patient scheduling, record manipulation, appointment delays, and/or patient deaths.” The parameters of the report are offenses categorized by the VA Office of Accountability Review as “Data Manipulation,” “Delay in Care,” “Failure of Oversight,” “Falsifying of Scheduling Data” or “Falsifying Records.” Full story click here  
  SAN DIEGO ( & AP) — Jan Scruggs knew as a young Army infantryman returning from Vietnam that his fellow veterans and his entire country needed a place to go to heal. More than three decades later, the man who led efforts to build the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, said it's now time such a wall be built for post-9/11 combat veterans, even though service members are still dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. "A lot of these veterans were hurt physically. There are high rates of PTSD, just like among Vietnam veterans, and if we wait until the war on terror is over, they will never see it happen," he said. Building a wall on the National Mall will require action from Congress to overturn the 1986 Commemorative Works Act, which stipulates that work cannot begin until 10 years after a war has ended. Scruggs said the law was enacted to prevent too many memorials from being built too quickly and to allow time for history to judge a conflict's significance. Scruggs said the law is out of touch with today's conflicts, which do not have clear-cut endings. He pointed to the recent death of Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, the U.S. soldier fatally wounded in a hostage rescue mission in Iraq last month. "It's not about the conflict," he said. "It's about the service of the veterans and people willing to give their lives for their country." Retired Rear Adm. George Worthington, a Navy SEAL who served in Vietnam, agreed. "Whatever memorial they build, it has to be cognizant of the fact that this isn't an end game. The war on terror is going to be an issue in the next several presidential elections, I'm afraid," he said. "They need to build a temple, maybe a pyramid, something that will last thousands of years, or maybe just put a stake in the national mall for future building rights." Still, work on a memorial must get started since it will take years to get done, said Worthington, whose son is an active-duty SEAL.   The Korean War Memorial was built in 1995 and the World War II Memorial in 2004. A World War I Memorial is slated to be built near the White House in 2018, marking a century after that war ended. A Gulf War Memorial is also in the works. Scruggs headed up a team of veterans in the late 1970s to build the memorial despite strong opposition at the time. His team raised $8.4 million and pushed through legislation. Since the Vietnam war memorial wall was dedicated in 1982, wives, children, veterans, peace activists, politicians and presidents have gone there to mourn, reflect and share their pain. Afghanistan veteran Andrew Brennan, a former Army captain, said he was awed by its impact, and has organized the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation, Inc., with other young veterans to take up the calling of building a wall for 9/11 warriors. "I look at the Vietnam veterans and they really jelled around their memorial after it went up," the West Point graduate said. "It was a very conflicted conflict in the hearts and minds of Americans, and the same can be said about the global war on terror, but the memorial gave everyone a focal point. I want that for my era of veterans, to kind of have our own place to heal."