(VAntage Point) Businesses come in all shapes and sizes, and while many provide varied services in different industries, many also share one similar view: they want to hire Veterans. This is what I know, but as the founder of Bridge My Return (BMR), a free, military hiring platform, I asked several of our employer partners why they hire Veterans. And then I talked to Veterans themselves about what this means to them. Here’s what I found out from these Veteran Voices in the Workplace. As an employer, why does hiring Veterans matter to you? “The thing my mind keeps focusing on is the skills we are looking for in a solid new hire. So many of them are most commonly met with a Veteran status. Intangibles like honor and integrity are vital as we are doing work in people’s homes or businesses. Customer service and a willingness to help others are on the top of the list. Compassion and empathy… and I could go on and on.” Chris Kushmaul, disabled Veteran, franchise owner, Restoration 1 “Veterans are highly capable of learning and working under pressure, which is all too common during the peak season for our business. Plus, Veterans have worked next to individuals of all races, genders, ethnic backgrounds, religions, and physical capabilities throughout their military careers. They usually bring that same sensitivity to the civilian workplace.” Teresa Fiduccia, manager of Recruitment and Retention at American Residential Services (ARS). “NewDay USA is a leading VA mortgage company. We see the practicality of hiring Veterans. Nobody knows the unique challenges Veterans face to buying a home better than Veterans themselves.” Rear Admiral Tom Lynch, executive chairman, NewDay USA. “Former military leaders bring leadership, focus, loyalty and self-discipline to their practice, and these are the most common characteristics of successful financial representatives. They are passionate about helping people achieve financial security with integrity and character, and that’s at the core of what we do.” Billye Survis, Northwestern Mutual. Similar to Northwestern Mutual Financial, technology start-up Origin8 is building its business with a sturdy Veteran foundation. “Our advocate role requires skills such as social perceptiveness, building rapport, service orientation, discipline, enthusiasm and active learning,” says co-founder Mike Corey, a Vietnam Veteran. “We’re not looking for industry experience; rather, we seek employees who possess these traits and we see them in Veterans. We’re excited to add hundreds of Veterans to our team – working virtually in an environment of community and security.” Blackstone – and the portfolio of 200 companies in which they have invested – take pride in the 90,000+ Veterans, spouses and caregivers they’ve hired to date. “Our ongoing commitment to hiring, developing and retaining these individuals is rooted in our firm’s appreciation of their service to our country and in the adaptability, ingenuity, determination and resilience they demonstrate on a daily basis in the private sector, from front-line operational roles to C-level leadership positions.” Jason Santamaria, managing director Blackstone and Marine Corps Veteran. As a Veteran, what does it mean to join an organization with an honest commitment to hiring and retaining military talent? “After a career serving in the infantry, I struggled with finding the right fit after I transitioned to civilian life. I didn’t know it then, but now realize I was searching for that familiar feeling of camaraderie and pride. Organizations led by or supported by actual Veterans understand that and allow it to strengthen their business.” Gabe Arreola, operations manager at Restoration 1. “When I see our efforts and actions – both large and small – those feelings of inclusion and belonging I had in the Army come back to life. Like others, I am encouraged to offer my thoughts and it’s so uplifting when I see them put in motion.” Joshua Will, division recruiter at ARS. “We say ‘Ship, Shipmate, Self.’ At the core, it means we put our customers and teammates ahead of ourselves.” Alexander Lee Hess, NewDay USA. “I could get behind a company that has the same morals, convictions, duty and honor that I do, and that meant a lot to me.” Pete Martinez, financial representative, Northwestern Mutual. “The Veteran community here at Blackstone was supportive throughout the entire recruiting process and was a major factor in my decision to join the team. Since joining, Blackstone has also supported my non-profit mobile app, ReferVets.org, which helps connect Veterans with companies like Blackstone who understand the value of our Veteran community.” Kevin Kennedy, SVP in Cybersecurity, Blackstone. Bridge My Return is a series of stories We believe we are a series of stories. The interconnected lives of Veterans, military-ready employers and Veteran support organizations comprise and reflect a collaborative adventure. We’re your bridge to career, community and character. We invite you to join Bridge My Return in this adventure. To get started, click here. Website: www.bridgemyreturn.com Contact us: email@example.com Also feel free to check out this video that summarizes our mission. (1) Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company (NM) and its subsidiaries. NM and its subsidiaries are in Milwaukee, WI. Northwestern Mutual financial representatives are independent contractors whose income is based solely on production. The sharing of any non-VA information does not constitute an endorsement of products and services on the part of VA.
WASHINGTON — Veterans who were previously denied service connection for an herbicide related presumptive condition due to lack of in-country Vietnam service will have their claims automatically readjudicated by VA. The department began readjudicating claims in April for Veterans who served in the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam War but were denied for one or more herbicide related conditions, on the basis that military service was not performed on the landmass of the Republic of Vietnam or on its inland waterways. “Readjudication means VA will review the evidence of record and provide replacement decisions in the cases of Veterans who were previously denied service connection benefits,” said Acting VA Under Secretary for Benefits Thomas Murphy. “We have the proper resources in place to meet the needs of our Veteran community and will ensure all eligible Veterans’ and their survivors’ claims are examined thoroughly and fairly.” The review also applies to eligible survivors of deceased Vietnam-era Veterans and is part of the Veterans Benefits Administration’s implementation of the Nov. 5, 2020, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California order in Nehmer vs. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, requiring VA to readjudicate previously denied claims. VA will determine if benefits for qualifying disabilities can now be paid retroactively to the date of previously denied claims. The court’s decision requires automatic readjudication in such cases without requiring a new claim, and potentially paying benefits to the survivors or estates of deceased beneficiaries. More information is available regarding VA disability benefits based on Agent Orange exposure.
(Stars and Stripes) WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea commended the actions Friday of Col. Ralph Puckett Jr., a Korean War veteran who was awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House. Before awarding Puckett the medal Friday, Biden described him as “true American hero” for whom the recognition was long overdue. “Korea is sometimes called the forgotten war, but those men who were there under then-lieutenant Puckett’s command never forgot his bravery,” Biden said. “They never forgot he was right by their side every minute of it.” Puckett, 94, earned the medal for actions he took more than 70 years ago, in November 1950. As a young first lieutenant in the Korean War, Puckett commanded the Eighth Army Ranger Company during a mission to seize “Hill 205” and defend it against a series of assaults by the Chinese. He risked his life multiple times to draw enemy fire, call for artillery strikes, check the perimeter and deliver ammunition to his soldiers. He was wounded three times during the attack by a hand grenade and mortar rounds. Two of his soldiers carried him off the hill as the company evacuated, despite Puckett’s orders for them to leave him behind. Moon, who visited Washington this week to show the strength of the alliance between the two countries, thanked Puckett and all American veterans who fought in the Korean War for helping bring about democracy in South Korea. “Earlier, Col. Puckett told me that when he was in Korea, it was absolutely destroyed. That was true,” Moon said. “But from the ashes of the Korean War, we rose. We came back, and that was thanks to the Korean War veterans who fought for Korea’s peace and freedom.” Biden and Moon said they believed the event marked the first time a foreign leader had ever attended a Medal of Honor ceremony. As Moon approached Puckett to shake his hand, Puckett embraced the South Korean leader in a hug. President Joe Biden presents the Medal of Honor to retired U.S. Army Col. Ralph Puckett, in the East Room of the White House, Friday, May 21, 2021.ALEX BRANDON/AP Puckett was brought into the East Room of the White House in a wheelchair, but as he stood to receive the Medal of Honor, he pushed aside the walker that was set in front of him. After the medal was placed around his neck, Biden welcomed Puckett’s family to the stage, as well as Master Sgt. Merle Simpson, a Ranger who had served under Puckett in the battle of Hill 205. “I understand that your first response to us hosting this event was to ask, ‘Why all the fuss? Can’t they just mail it to me?’” Biden said. “Col. Puckett, your lifetime of service to our nation deserves a little bit of fuss.” Puckett earned a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions at Hill 205. More than 50 years later, Col. John Locke, a retired Ranger, spearheaded the effort to upgrade Puckett’s Distinguished Service Cross to a Medal of Honor. Locke came across information about the battle of Hill 205 while writing a book about the history of the Army Rangers. Locke believed that the number of times Puckett risked his life during the battle should’ve earned him the country’s highest military honor. With the assistance of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Locke succeeded in the pursuit after 18 years of appealing to Army boards. Puckett’s son, Thomas, said his dad was often reluctant throughout the years about whether to keep pursuing the medal. “There was definitely resistance on my dad’s part,” Thomas Puckett said. “He’s extremely modest. He was only convinced to continue by the fact that it wasn’t just for him, it was for his men. He said, ‘Well, in that case let’s keep trying.’” When speaking to reporters Thursday, Puckett credited his soldiers for earning the medal. “The people who earned that medal are the Eighth Army Rangers … who did more than I asked and did the best they could,” Puckett said. “I want them to know they’re the ones who did the job. They did the fighting, and they’re the ones who deserve the credit.” Puckett’s wife, Jean Martin, as well as their son, daughter and six grandchildren, attended the ceremony at the White House on Friday. Locke had kept the family updated over the past 18 years about his efforts to secure Puckett the Medal of Honor. During that time, they all hoped it would be decided while Puckett was still living. “My mom kept saying, ‘I just want to get him there and have him feel that medal around his neck,’” said his daughter, Martha Puckett Wilcoxon. “We were concerned due to his age and health that it might not happen soon enough.” On Thursday, Wilcoxon said she expected to be emotional at the ceremony, especially seeing her mother and father there together. The couple met just weeks after the battle of Hill 205 when Martin, a high school senior at the time, accompanied a friend to visit Puckett in the hospital at Fort Benning in Georgia. They were married exactly two years after the battle. The ceremony Friday marked what Wilcoxon described as one of the “final chapters of their military love life.” “I’ve watched my mother nurse my father back to health quite a few times,” Wilcoxson said. “I’ve seen her helping him get ready for this whole thing, and I think it’s very touching that they can share this together. It’s just a beautiful story.” Puckett served in the Army for 22 years, including combat service in the Vietnam War. He retired in 1971 but continued to volunteer as a speaker and mentor to countless Rangers throughout the decades. Puckett and his wife live in Columbus, Ga., near Fort Benning, and he still attends nearly every Ranger graduation and other Army events.
'I am the VFW because it allows me to give back to the community, and the VFW affords so many opportunities and ways in which this can be done' (VFW) Lt. Cmdr. Khalifah Glover is #StillServing by caring for COVID-19 patients and training others to provide medical assistance. She joined the U.S. Navy Reserves in 2011 and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2014-2015 as a critical care combat nurse working at a NATO hospital. She believes it prepared her to fight the virus. “When the pandemic hit New York City, within 24 hours of receiving the call of duty, I volunteered for the NYC Navy Medicine Support Team as a critical care nurse,” Glover stated. “I assumed the role of Intensive Care Unit Team Leader for the day shift at Bellevue Hospital, a Level 1 Trauma Center. This role required collaboration with and mentorship of six nurses.” From April 6 through June 1 of 2020, Glover provided 264 hours of direct patient care and oversaw more than 1,500 patient care hours that involved aspects of nursing care and interventions provided to 15 patients each day. She is now Assistant Officer in Charge of Operation Commanding Force 2021. “Operation Commanding Force is a Navy Reserve-led exercise with Army and Coast Guard participation,” said Glover. “The primary focus of this joint exercise is medical emergency care training to include casualty treatment and movement from point of injury through the entire continuum of care…Participation in this medical exercise will provide necessary training to ensure readiness for mobilization.” Glover is a Life member of VFW Post 416 in Williamsville, New York. She feels the VFW has strengthened her desire to live a life of service and is grateful for the chance to help others as a member. “The VFW is an organization for war veterans who have served and continue to serve our country. This is why I’m proud to say ‘I am the VFW,’” Glover said. “I am the VFW because it allows me to give back to the community, and the VFW affords so many opportunities and ways in which this can be done.” Glover knows not everyone would respond to the pandemic or other emergencies by volunteering to serve on the front lines, but she says she can’t help but do so. “I take pride in directly contributing to the success of the mission,” stated Glover. “I do it because it’s my calling and duty. It’s an honor to serve my country.” To find out more about the VFW's #StillServing campaign or to share your story, visit vfw.org/StillServing.
(VAntage Point) Military OneSource is a website that provides various tools and resources for Veterans, service members, their families, military academy cadets and designated Department of Defense expeditionary civilians. The resources they provide are free and vetted by the Department of Defense. Their mission is to be a single place for service members to be able to find guidance or help with any issue they may have. Some of these resources include assistance with these categories: Confidential help The military life cycle Family and relationships Moving and housing Financial and legal issues Education and employment Health and wellness Recreation, travel, and shopping National Guard Service providers and leaders COVID-19 Each of these categories has their own page with links to available resources for them. They also provide information on service members who are new to the military, transitioning back from deployment, and the benefits available to Veterans, service members, eligible DOD employees and their families. The confidential help that Military OneSource offers allows service members to seek the assistance they need while protecting their identity. They offer a 24 hour hotline that members can reach out to for language translation, non-medical counseling, tax consultation, financial counseling, health and wellness coaching and family life counseling. This hotline is for both personal and military assistance. In addition to confidential help, Military OneSource provides articles, training, a digital library and links to the variety of resources they provide. Each type of resource they provide (i.e. military life cycle, moving and housing, etc.) has a phone number, as well as face to face and online chat for specialized consultation. Additionally, there is a TTY/TDD service for the hearing impaired. The page for each resource has a list of articles and links to the relevant resources available. You can find information about how to contact Military OneSource either confidentially or otherwise here. The articles for each resource’s web page provides information about the benefits specifically available to them, answers to common issues and problems, resources for general assistance and relevant, helpful information. The web pages further categorizes the articles for subtopics, so everything is easily accessed and found. Long Description Training resources Military OneSource offers a variety of free training sources. They offer webinars, podcasts, videos, how-to articles and more. Some topics of training include personal finance, relocation courses, personal accountability, job hunting for spouses but also many other topics. The training they provide covers topics that help military members with issues they may have as a service member as well as outside of the military. To learn more about the resources available, you can visit their training resources page here. The Military OneSource’s digital library provides eBooks, audiobooks, reference books and databases that cover every topic. Their digital library provides both resources for members but, also, is available for recreation as well, all for free. The library offers resources for children and teens, including learning tools, online tutors, recommendations for age specific readings, supplemental learning and studying materials for school. There is also access to Tutor.com, including 24/7 access for children and adults at all levels of education and studying needs. For adults, there is a list of resources for recreational learning, higher education and learning new skills for employment or in general. You can access the digital library here. The resources available on Military OneSource extend beyond what has been mentioned. Through their directory, they provide information about the resources for what is available on any given military installation. Additionally, there is information about disaster relief, retirement programs, benefits and much more. Military OneSource is a comprehensive website for resources, aiming at being a single location for Veterans, service members and their families to find what resources are available to them. To learn what resources are available to you and your family, visit Military OneSource here. *The sharing of any non-VA information does not constitute an endorsement of products and services on part of the VA. Contributors Writer: John Byrne Editor: Kelly Dooley Graphics: Sarah Kowalewski
WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Veterans Health Administration (VHA) celebrates its 75-year milestone anniversary during National Volunteer Week, April 18–24. In 1946, VA established the Department of Medicine and Surgery (DM&S), the organization that would later become the Veterans Health Administration and provide health care to Veterans as a core mission. VA Voluntary Service (VAVS) was one of the foundational programs created in the newly established DM&S which is marking 1 billion hours volunteers have given of their time in service to Veterans at VA facilities. “Volunteers are a priceless asset and our Veterans greatly appreciate what they do and have done for three quarters of a century,” said Center for Development and Civic Engagement Director Sabrina Clark. “VA volunteerism is a tradition that has created opportunities for volunteers to serve Veterans, even during a global pandemic.” At the beginning of VHA’s COVID-19 response, VAVS adapted its program to meet the needs of Veterans. Although in-person volunteer engagements were limited, VAVS designed new virtual assignments and galvanized volunteers and organizations to donate items, such has handmade masks, personal protective equipment , smart tablets for Veterans to stay in touch with loved ones, and even meals for frontline workers. Where many believed volunteer operations to be suspended, VAVS continued its mission to involve the American public in civic engagement activities on behalf of the nation’s Veterans. They saw approximately 46,000 volunteers on the rolls during 2020, contributing more than 4.4 million hours of service, and $108 million in gifts and donations; resulting in a value-added resource of approximately $227 million to VA, Veterans, families and caregivers. To learn more about available volunteer opportunities and join the mission to honor the sacrifice and service of America's Veterans, contact VA Voluntary Service.
American Legion By Alan W. Dowd Just 16 months old, the U.S. Space Force is contributing daily to the nation’s defense, coming into its own as an independent military branch, and gaining some friends in high places. Gaining support Let’s start with those friends. After some initial speculation – and a political push from some quarters – that President Joe Biden might ground the Space Force, the White House in February announced its full support for the fledgling branch, which was born with strong bipartisan backing during the Trump administration. Gen. John Raymond, chief of space operations and Space Force commander, said the president’s support makes it “clear that this is not a political issue" but one of national security. That presidential vote of confidence is crucial as the Space Force builds itself into what America needs it to be: a branch dedicated to ensuring U.S. access to space and freedom of movement through space, defending U.S. interests and assets in space, deterring hostile activity against those interests and assets, and, if necessary, defeating hostile forces on the ultimate high ground. Biden is not alone. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin views space as “an arena of great power competition.” He notes that the “central role space plays in supporting other services in their warfighting role continues to grow.” And he wants to ensure that the Space Force is “improving the readiness of forces across all domains to protect and secure our homeland and U.S. interests abroad” and “advancing the development and employment of spacepower for the nation.” Maturing into independence As it advances the development and employment of spacepower, the Space Force itself is rapidly developing and taking on the burdens – and trappings – of an independent branch. From its first day on duty in December 2019, the Space Force has been tracking satellites, supporting military launches and operating the U.S. constellation of GPS satellites, upon which most Americans depend for the everyday stuff of modern life. In January 2020, Iran launched more than a dozen missiles at U.S. bases in Iraq. The missiles wrought lots of destruction, but they didn’t kill a single American. The reason: Space Force space warning squadrons were operating cutting-edge satellites capable of tracking missile launches and relaying crucial real-time data to troops in the line of fire. “Members of the U.S. Space Force detected those missiles at launch and provided early warning to our forces,” as Space Force Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. David Thompson reported. In March 2020, the Space Force activated and began manning the new Counter Communications System – a ground-based system designed to jam enemy satellite signals during hostilities. In May 2020, Raymond signed an order shifting Operation Olympic Defender from Strategic Command to Space Command. Led by the United States and Britain, Olympic Defender is an international partnership “intended to optimize space operations ... enhance resilience ... synchronize U.S. efforts with some of its closest allies ... strengthen allies’ abilities to deter hostile acts in space, strengthen deterrence against hostile actors, and reduce the spread of debris orbiting the earth,” as the Pentagon explains. Japan, Spain, France, Italy, Australia, Canada and New Zealand are expected to participate in Olympic Defender. In August 2020, the Space Force published a “spacepower doctrine” that details “why spacepower is vital for our nation, how military spacepower is employed, who military space forces are and what military space forces value.” The precedent-setting document parallels the Pentagon’s landpower, seapower and airpower doctrines. By the fall of 2020, the Space Force had stood up an orbital warfare unit, which is tasked with operating the super-secret X-37B unmanned spaceplane. Last December, the Space Force gained a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And that same month, Space Force personnel were given an official name to be used alongside soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen: “guardians.” Contributing to national defense That’s an apt name for Space Force personnel, as underscored by the guardians’ work in protecting U.S. troops in Iraq from Iranian missiles. Although that incident is the highest profile example of the Space Force’s missile-launch detection mission, U.S. guardians are carrying out this missile-warning role dozens of times each month. In 2020, they detected and tracked at least 1,000 missile launches. That role underscores that space-based operations and assets are an essential part of earth-based operations. Raymond calls space “a huge force multiplier.” Indeed, no branch is more closely associated with terra firma than the Army. Yet as the Lexington Institute’s Loren Thompson points out, an Army armored brigade “contains over 2,000 pieces of equipment that rely on space assets to function.” The same applies to the Air Force and Navy. “Air superiority depends on space superiority,” says Air Force Maj. Gen. Alex Grynkewich. Adds the New America Foundation’s Peter Singer, “The loss of space would mean naval battles would in many ways be like the game of Battleship, where the two sides would struggle to even find each other.” Plus, the Space Force is protecting countless out-of-sight, out-of-mind assets that the American people depend on for everyday life. Of the 2,218 operational satellites in orbit, 1,007 are owned and operated by U.S. firms, government agencies or military units. An attack on those satellites would cripple America’s satellite-dependent economy and render America’s citizenry blind, deaf, silenced, hungry and cut off from the world. The Space Force exists to prevent that terrifying possibility. As Lt. Gen. David Buck observes, “Space is critical to the American way of life.” Yet most Americans – having lowered their gaze from the heavens to their hand-held devices – are oblivious to how much they depend on space for communications (via those very hand-held devices), commerce, air and ground transport, emergency services, and security. All of that helps explain why Raymond argues that “the Space Force has a strong and daily connection with nearly every American.” From whom or what are Raymond’s guardians protecting us? Austin warns that “Chinese and Russian space activities present serious and growing threats to U.S. national security interests.” A U.S. government report notes that Beijing “views space as a critical U.S. military and economic vulnerability.” With an eye on exploiting that vulnerability, China has created a Strategic Support Force responsible for operations “involving satellite-on-satellite attacks,” according to RAND. Recent Pentagon reports add that China has “the most rapidly maturing space program in the world," is developing doctrines geared toward “destroying, damaging and interfering” with enemy satellites, and is acquiring technologies to accelerate “counter-space capabilities,” including lasers, satellite jammers and anti-satellite (ASAT) weaponry. China has conducted at least three ASAT tests in recent years. Russia, which stood up an Aero-Space Forces command in 2015, is conducting ASAT tests far more frequently than China. Moscow’s April 2020 ASAT test is believed to be its ninth test of a “direct ascent” ASAT in recent years. In July 2020, Russia tested a satellite-borne kill vehicle. This follows a similar test in 2017, when Russia deployed a satellite that “launched a high-speed projectile into space,” as Raymond revealed last year. In addition, the Russian military has deployed satellites capable of “rendezvous and proximity operations” – military parlance for maneuvering around other satellites to monitor, disrupt and/or disable them. In February 2020, Raymond reported that two Russian satellites were shadowing a U.S. Keyhole satellite in what he called “unusual and disturbing” behavior. China and Russia also deploy directed-energy weapons that can blind or damage U.S. satellite systems, Raymond adds. And the two authoritarian nations just announced plans to co-build a lunar base. Because of the weapons systems, doctrines and actions of China and Russia, access to space, and the freedom to maneuver in space, "can no longer be treated as a given,” Raymond explains. Freedom of maneuver in space doesn’t happen magically or organically. As with freedom of the seas, it depends on responsible powers deterring bad actors and enforcing norms of behavior. And that depends on some type of military force. “If you look back in history, every domain of warfare has a service that’s attached to it,” Raymond points out. Put another way, the emergence of the Space Force – like the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force – was inevitable. The Space Force is developing personnel, units, systems, tools, procedures, and practices to transfer and apply those norms of behavior to space. The United States is not alone in this important mission, as underscored by the broadening participation in Olympic Defender and a number of other recent developments. For example, NATO has recognized space as an operational domain of warfare. Britain recently created a space command. Japan has a new defense unit focused on space. And France has carved out a space-defense command within the French air force. “If space was once a new frontier to be crossed,” French Defense Minister Florence Parly concludes, “it is now a new front that we have to defend.” The main mission of the Space Force and its free world partners is not to wage war in the heavens, but to keep some semblance of peace. “Although space is a warfighting domain,” Raymond observes, “our goal is to actually deter a conflict from extending into space. The best way I know how to do that is to be prepared to fight and win if deterrence were to fail."
WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough established a 120-day task force April 1 to conduct a whole-of-VA review and to design and implement a holistic and integrated VA mission on inclusion, diversity, equity and access. VA strives to provide quality care and services to all Veterans regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender and sexual identity but a 2019 Government Accountability Office report reveals that Veterans from underserved communities continue to face barriers to accessing VA health services. “Systemic barriers that underserved communities face many times negatively impact Veterans,” said McDonough. “In order to overcome many of these barriers, VA must tap into its vast diversity and use it as a major source of strength. The implementation of this task force will help the department become the inclusive, diverse, equitable and accessible team our Veterans, their families, survivors and caregivers deserve.” The task force is charged with providing concrete and actionable recommendations addressing inclusion, diversity, equity and access to the secretary no later than July 31, and will focus on five objectives: Ensure execution of requirements outlined in Executive Order 13985 and any other subsequent and relevant Executive Orders. Examine and develop VA’s strategic mission, goals and objectives on inclusion, diversity, equity and access. Conduct a whole-of-VA review of policies, programming, training and strategic communications for workforce and Veterans’ initiatives. Identify opportunities to leverage data to inform and operationalize inclusion, diversity, equity and access. Develop institutional access points for underserved communities to establish strategic partnerships with VA. Led by the Chair, Deputy Chief of Staff and White House Liaison Chris Diaz — additional members of the task force include: Assistant Under Secretary for Health and Clinical Services Kameron Matthews M.D. Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Field Operations Cheryl Rawls. Deputy Chief Veterans Experience Officer Barbara Morton. Executive Director for Investigations/Acting Deputy Executive Director Hansel Cordeiro. Executive Director of the National Center for Organizational Development Maureen Marks, Ph.D. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Melissa Bryant. Senior Advisor to the Secretary and Veteran Service Organizations Liaison Ray Kelley. Acting Executive Director for the Center for Minority Veterans Dennis May. Acting Executive Director for the Center for Women Veterans Elizabeth Estabrooks. Chief of Staff at the Office of Enterprise Integration Shana Love-Holmon. Clinical Implementation Lead for PRIDE Tiffany Lange, Psy.D. Executive Director for the Center for Innovation Ryan Vega, M.D. Executive Director for Human Capital Management Lisa Thomas, Ph.D. Special Counsel Tahmika Ruth Jackson, JD, LL.M. Director of the Office of Tribal Government Relations Stephanie Birdwell. Special Assistant to the Secretary and Deputy White House Liaison James Anderson (facilitator). The task force recommendations will aim to eliminate barriers so that all veterans have equal treatment and experiences when interacting with VA. More to follow at the conclusion of the 120-day period.
VAntage Point Veterans would see improved infrastructure, more jobs and small business assistance in the proposed American Jobs Plan, VA Secretary Denis McDonough said April 15. Speaking during a White House press call, the secretary said the plan would give VA more resources to help Veterans. “It will ensure that we at VA have the resources we need to support Veterans and their families across three key areas,” he said. “We serve up to 9.5 million Vets, and we need the resources to modernize these facilities and deliver care.” While the median age of U.S. private sector hospitals is roughly 11 years, VA hospitals have a median age of 58 years. McDonough said 69% are older than 50 years. VA is the largest integrated health care system. The department operates more than 1,700 hospitals, clinics and other health care facilities, as well as more than 150 national cemeteries. “A lack of a modern infrastructure actually limits our ability to meet the evolving health care needs of Veterans,” he said. The plan calls for $3 billion to address immediate needs, making utility and building systems more energy efficient. The plan would also make VA facilities more accessible for disabled Veterans. Finally, the plan would provide upgrades to better serve women Veterans. The plan also calls for $15 billion to replace 10-15 outdated medical centers. The secretary said annual costs to fix facilities have nearly doubled from $11.6 billion in 2010 to $22 billion in 2020. He said VA needs extra money for modern facilities for Veteran care. “Investing in the health care infrastructure is about significantly expanding the breadth and depth of the medical services,” he said. Better jobs McDonough also said the plan would help give Veterans better jobs. He said Veterans deserve civilian jobs worthy of their service. About 200,000 service members transition from the military each year. He said the March 2021 Veteran unemployment rate was 4.5%, which is down from pandemic peak of 11.7%. “The jobs plan will ensure we’re creating good, quality jobs for Veterans, too,” he said. VRRAP applications opening McDonough also said Veterans will soon be able to apply for the Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program starting sometime between May 3-10. The program, known as VRRAP, was part of the American Rescue Plan. Eligible Veterans participating in VRRAP receive up to 12 months of tuition and fees. They also receive a monthly housing allowance based on Post-9/11 GI Bill rates. The program ends 21 months after enactment. It’s limited to a maximum of 17,250 participants and up to $386 million. To be eligible for VRRAP, a Veteran must meet the following criteria: At least 22 years of age and less than 67 years of age Not eligible for GI Bill or VR&E benefits Not enrolled in a Federal or State jobs program Unemployed due to COVID-19 pandemic Not receiving VA disability compensation because you are unable to work Not receiving unemployment compensation including enhanced benefits under the CARES Act Small business assistance The plan also included $5 billion in federal programs for small businesses, including Veteran-owned businesses. This money is for federal research as well as research and development that could lead to commercialization. About 2.5 million Veterans own a small business. Additionally, Veterans are 45% more likely to be self-employed than non-Veterans. “The American Jobs Plan will create a national network of federally funded small business incubators and innovation hubs to ensure that all Veterans, regardless of race or wealth, have a fair shot at starting and growing their own businesses,” he said. The investments are part of fulfilling President Joe Biden’s obligation to care for Veterans, said Terri Tanielian, special assistant to the president for Veterans Affairs. The plan will provide both short-term immediate and longer-term investments. “Veterans and their families have made enormous sacrifices for country, and we need to make sure that we are fulfilling our sacred obligation to serve them with health care, good jobs, business opportunities and more,” McDonough said. “The American Jobs Plan will help us do that.” More information Learn about the Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program at https://benefits.va.gov/gibill/vrrap.asp. Learn more about the American Jobs Plan at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/03/31/fact-sheet-the-american-jobs-plan/.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) published a notice in the Federal Register April 1, to solicit public feedback to guide implementation of the new VA Staff Sergeant Parker Gordon Fox Suicide Prevention Grant Program (SSG Fox SPGP). SSG Fox SPGP will be a $174 million, three-year grant program to provide resources to community organizations that serve Veterans at risk of suicide and support to their families across the U.S. Those resources are outlined in the grant program Congress established under the authority of the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019. “Suicide prevention is a top priority for VA and this grant program is part of our comprehensive public health approach to reach all Veterans through the use of results-oriented initiatives aimed at reducing suicide," said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “This congressionally-enacted grant program will allow us to work with local providers to offer Veterans the support they deserve. The information gathered from this initiative will allow us to better invest and share resources with community organizations to collaboratively reduce Veteran suicide.” The public notice requests feedback on distribution and selection of grants, development of measures and metrics for administering the grant program, training, and technical assistance to grant recipients and non-traditional and innovative approaches and treatment practices for suicide prevention services. It also seeks public comment on how grant recipients should determine suicide risk and refer Veterans at risk of suicide or other mental or behavioral health conditions to VA for care. In addition to soliciting public comments, VA will be hosting two virtual listening sessions in the coming months. A second Federal Register Notice with registration information and further details will be forthcoming in the coming weeks. The feedback from both notices will be used to provide recommendations for the SSG Fox SPGP. View the notice and submit comments at the Federal Register. The public comment period ends April 22, 2021. ### If you’re a Veteran having thoughts of suicide or you know one who is, contact the Veterans Crisis Line 24/7/365 days a year. Call?1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online at http://veteranscrisisline.net/Chat or text to 838255.