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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is pleased to announce that 136 service members and veterans have been selected as 2016 fall semester recipients of the VFW’s “Sport Clips Help A Hero Scholarship.” Together, these student veterans will receive a combined $631,892 in aid, setting a new program record for assistance provided.   Through the VFW’s long-standing relationship with Sport Clips Haircuts, the Help A Hero Scholarship program was enacted nearly four years ago to provide service members and veterans with the financial assistance needed to complete their educational goals without incurring excessive student loan debt. With the continued rising costs of education, military education benefits often run out or fall short of covering the full costs of a college education which leaves many student veterans without a degree. The Help A Hero Scholarship provides student veterans with the chance to achieve their education goals by filling those gaps. To date, the Help A Hero program has awarded more than $2.4 million in financial aid and has provided scholarships to 580 service members and veterans. Scholarship recipient Timothy Gamber explains, “Being a full time student and parent along with my physical limitations has brought a financial burden to myself. The VA only covers so much of the costs of college and I have a family to consider in all of my expenses. Student loans are … a hole that I am trying to avoid digging deeper into. This scholarship will allow me to pay for a semester’s worth of quality education and get me closer to my goal of a degree. It will allow me to put more financially toward the betterment of my family.” Help A Hero scholarships are awarded exclusively to service members and veterans twice a year and help cover the cost of tuition and fees. Scholarship applications are currently being accepted for the 2017 spring semester. Click here to see a complete list of the 2016 fall recipients.
Military.com and Monster are conducting their annual Veteran Talent Index survey. The Index provides a snapshot of the veteran hiring landscape and identifies issues facing veterans who are looking for work and employers who are eager to hire veterans. The annual report includes a comprehensive analysis of transitioning military service members, veterans and their employers. The three indices include: the Veteran Career Confidence Index; the Veteran Job Search Activity Index; and the Employer Veteran Hiring Index. To take the survey, go to http://surveymeonline.com/vti_summer2016_seeker/cgi-bin/ciwweb.pl?hid_studyname=VTI_Summer2016_Seeker&TAG=part3. Information on last year's Index is available at http://www.monster.com/about/veterans-talent-index.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- The Wounded Warrior Project's new CEO says he expects layoffs at the veterans charity scrutinized for its spending. Michael Linnington took over the Jacksonville-based nonprofit in July. In an interview with The Florida Times-Union (http://bit.ly/2b2HPsf ), Linnington said layoffs and cuts to funding for smaller veterans groups are expected as part of a restructuring. The charity employs 600 people. Allegations from employees, veterans and charity watchdogs about its wasteful spending were reported in January by The New York Times and CBS News. Linnington said details about the restructuring will be announced in September, but employees know some jobs and some executives' salaries will be cut. Linnington said his salary is $280,000. The newspaper reports that's $193,000 less than the previous CEO's salary, according to the most recent tax documents available.
Newswise — Striking a nerve with the American public unlike any previous Veterans Administration (VA) policy change, the VA’s proposed rule to improve veterans’ access to timely, quality healthcare through increased use of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) spurred an overwhelming response during the public comment period on the rule, said Juan Quintana, DNP, MHS, CRNA, president of the 49,000-member American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA). Weighing in on the VA’s proposal to allow APRNs, including Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs), to practice to the full scope of their education, training and abilities in the VA health system, veterans and other interested Americans submitted an unprecedented 167,000+ letters to the VA during the 60-day comment period that concluded on July 25. In addition, veterans’ organizations, public interest groups, healthcare associations, government agencies, and other stakeholders have expressed their support for the rule through other forums, including a congressional hearing. “Making full use of highly qualified, highly educated CRNAs and other APRNs who already work in the VA would reduce the long wait times for care experienced by many military vets, a problem that has plagued the administration for years,” said Quintana, who is a veteran himself. “We urge the VA to promptly finalize and implement the rule so that veterans no longer have to wait for the high quality care that they deserve and have earned.” While it is likely to take the VA months to sift through the record-shattering volume of letters it received, a preliminary analysis of the comments is possible by searching phrases such as “veteran support” or “veteran oppose” on the regulations.gov website. Adding to the discussion, numerous veterans service organizations have also weighed in on the issue on behalf of their members. 1. The 167,000+ comments were more than 25 times the total number of comments received by the agency on all other regulatory proposals since 2006, when electronic submission of comments was first implemented. 2. Leading veterans’ service organizations collectively representing more than 1 million veterans have supported the proposed rule, including:Military Officers Association of America (390,000 members), AMVETS (250,000 members), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America(200,000 members), Air Force Sergeants Association (100,000 members), Vietnam Veterans of America (75,000 members), and Paralyzed Veterans of America (60,000 members). On its website, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of American bills itself as “The voice for 2.5 million post-9/11 veterans.” AMVETS, which opposed the rule early in the comment period, quickly changed direction and became a supporter of the VA’s proposal to grant full practice authority for APRNs.3. AARP, whose membership includes more than 3.7 million veteran households, supports the rule. 4. The American Hospital Association (AHA), which lists more than 130 VA hospitals among its members, supports the rule. 5. The professional staff of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) came out in support of the rule. 6. A search of the regulations.gov database of letters to the VA after the comment period closed revealed the following numbers: 86,381 lettersused the phrase “veteran support,” nearly three times more than the 31,802 letters that used the phrase “veteran oppose.” 7. The idea of using APRNs to the full scope of their practice reflects the way the Department of Defense (DoD) already ensures top-notch care for active-duty personnel in all military service branches. APRNs, including CRNAs, nurse practitioners, nurse-midwives, and clinical nurse specialists, are granted full practice authority under the DoD system. “The outpouring of support for the VA’s proposal to grant full practice authority to CRNAs and other APRNs has been staggering,” said Quintana. “Much like the preponderance of research data that confirm the quality and safety of care provided by CRNAs, the preponderance of facts shows that veterans’ organizations, AARP, the AHA and FTC, and thousands of veterans and citizens are in favor of the VA’s proposed solution to dangerously long wait times for healthcare endured by our military heroes. “It is unfortunate that some physician groups were so desperate at the end of the comment period that they sent waves of form letters opposing the rule in a vain attempt to pad the final tally to their advantage. These efforts still came up short,” Quintana said. “It’s well known that in the final count these types of impersonal letters get lumped together and viewed as a singular response from a special interest group, rather than as a unique or sincere comment about the issue at hand.” About the American Association of Nurse AnesthetistsFounded in 1931 and located in Park Ridge, Ill., the AANA is the professional organization for more than 49,000 nurse anesthetists across the United States. As anesthesia specialists, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) safely provide approximately 40 million anesthetics to patients each year for surgical, obstetrical, pain management, and trauma stabilization services. CRNAs deliver essential healthcare in thousands of communities and are able to prevent gaps in access to anesthesia services, especially in rural, inner-city, and other medically underserved areas of the country. They are highly valued in today’s healthcare environment because they deliver the same safe, high-quality anesthesia care as other anesthesia professionals but at a lower cost, helping to control rising healthcare costs. Additional information about the AANA and CRNAs is available at www.aana.com and www.aana.com/future-today.
Newswise — CHICAGO -- Older military veterans frequently show improvements in pain intensity over time. However, opioids, some mental health conditions and certain pain diagnoses are associated with lower likelihood of improvement, according to research reported in The Journal of Pain. The aging veteran population is at especially high risk for persistent pain. Unfortunately, little is known about factors linked with positive and negative outcomes over time. Further, older adults have the highest prevalence of long-term use of pain medications, including opioids. Researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs Center to Improve Veterans Involvement in Care and Oregon Health & Science University sought to identify clinical and demographic factors associated with changes in pain scores over time in a national cohort of veterans 65 and older with chronic pain. They hypothesized that older age and comorbid mental health disorders would be associated with less improvement in pain conditions over time. The study examined a database of some 13,000 veterans receiving treatment in the VA system who had elevated numeric rating pain scores and had not been prescribed opioids. They measured the percentage decrease over 12 months in average pain intensity scores and the time to sustained improvement. Results showed that nearly two-thirds of these patients met criteria for sustained improvement during the 12-month follow up period. A key finding was initiation of opioid therapy was associated with lower likelihood for sustained improvement. Other factors associated with poor improvement were service-connected disability and mental health problems, chronic low back pain, neuropathy and fibromyalgia/myofascial pain diagnoses. “We found that older veterans often show improvements in pain intensity over time, and that opioid prescriptions, mental health conditions and certain pain diagnoses are associated with lower likelihood of improvement,” said Steven K. Dobscha, MD, lead author and professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health and Sciences University. “Further, the oldest group of veterans within the sample demonstrated the most improvements in pain intensity. This supports prior research indicating that as age increases, patterns and perceptions of pain may change and suggests that many older people with pain adjust and cope better over time.” Although two-thirds of the sample experienced pain improvement over time, a substantial minority of veterans did not show reductions in pain intensity, and some had exacerbated pain. Dobscha said the study findings call for further evaluation of pain outcomes in older adults and that in particular there is a need for more research to study relationship between prescription opioids and treatment outcomes over time. About the American Pain Society Based in Chicago, the American Pain Society (APS) is a multidisciplinary community that brings together a diverse group of scientists, clinicians and other professionals to increase the knowledge of pain and transform public policy and clinical practice to reduce pain-related suffering. APS is the professional home for investigators involved in all aspects of pain research including basic, translational, clinical and health services research to obtain the support and inspiration they need to flourish professionally. APS strongly advocates expansion of high quality pain research to help advance science to achieve effective and responsible pain relief. For more information on APS, visitwww.americanpainsociety.org. ###
Newswise — In work that aims to protect soldiers from biological and chemical threats, a team of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists has created a material that is highly breathable yet protective from biological agents. This material is the first key component of futuristic smart uniforms that also will respond to and protect from environmental chemical hazards. The research appears in the July 27 edition of the journal, Advanced Materials. High breathability is a critical requirement for protective clothing to prevent heat-stress and exhaustion when military personnel are engaged in missions in contaminated environments. Current protective military uniforms are based on heavyweight full-barrier protection or permeable adsorptive protective garments that cannot meet the critical demand of simultaneous high comfort and protection, and provide a passive rather than active response to an environmental threat. The LLNL team fabricated flexible polymeric membranes with aligned carbon nanotube (CNT) channels as moisture conductive pores. The size of these pores (less than 5 nanometers, nm) is 5,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. “We demonstrated that these membranes provide rates of water vapor transport that surpass those of commercial breathable fabrics like GoreTex, even though the CNT pores are only a few nanometers wide,” said Ngoc Bui, the lead author of the paper. To provide high breathability, the new composite material takes advantage of the unique transport properties of carbon nanotube pores. By quantifying the membrane permeability to water vapor, the team found for the first time that, when a concentration gradient is used as driving force, CNT nanochannels can sustain gas-transport rates exceeding that of a well-known diffusion theory by more than one order of magnitude. These membranes also provide protection from biological agents due to their very small pore size, which are less than 5 nanometers (nm) wide. Biological threats like bacteria or viruses are much larger and typically more than 10-nm in size. Performed tests demonstrated that the CNT membranes repelled Dengue virus from aqueous solutions during filtration tests. This confirms that LLNL-developed CNT membranes provide effective protection from biological threats by size exclusion rather than by merely preventing wetting. Furthermore, the results show that CNT pores combine high breathability and bio-protection in a single functional material. However, chemical agents are much smaller in size and require the membrane pores to be able to react to block the threat. To encode the membrane with a smart and dynamic response to small chemical hazards, LLNL scientists and collaborators are surface modifying these prototype carbon nanotube membranes with chemical-threat-responsive functional groups. These functional groups will sense and block the threat like gatekeepers on the pore entrance. A second response scheme also is in development - similar to how a living skin peels off when challenged with dangerous external factors, the fabric will exfoliate upon reaction with the chemical agent. “The material will be like a smart second skin that responds to the environment,” said Kuang Jen Wu, leader of the LLNL Biosecurity & Bionanosciences Group. “In this way, the fabric will be able to block chemical agents such as sulfur mustard (blister agent), GD and VX nerve agents, toxins such as staphylococcal enterotoxin and biological spores such as anthrax.” Current work is directed toward designing this multifunctional material to undergo a rapid transition from the breathable state to the protective state. “These responsive membranes are expected to be particularly effective in mitigating a physiological burden because a less breathable but protective state can be actuated locally and only when needed,” said Francesco Fornasiero, LLNL’s principal investigator of the project. The new uniforms could be deployed in the field in less than 10 years. “The goal of this science and technology program is to develop a focused, innovative technological solution for future chemical biological defense protective clothing,” said Tracee Whitfield, the DTRA science and technology manager for the Dynamic Multifunctional Material for a Second Skin Program. “Swatch-level evaluations will occur in early 2018 to demonstrate the concept of ‘second skin’, a major milestone that is a key step in the maturation of this technology.” The work is funded by the Chemical and Biological Technologies Department of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) in the “Dynamic Multifunctional Materials for a Second Skin D[MS]2” program, and by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program. Other researchers contributing to this work include Eric Meshot, José Pena, Sangil Kim and Phillip Gibson (Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center).   ‘Second Skin’ Military Uniform Technology
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) today announced the number of veterans experiencing homelessness in the United States has been cut nearly in half since 2010.  The data revealed a 17-percent decrease in veteran homelessness between January 2015 and January 2016—quadruple the previous year’s annual decline—and a 47-percent decrease since 2010. Through HUD’s annual Point-in-Time (PIT) estimate of America’s homeless population, communities across the country reported that fewer than 40,000 veterans were experiencing homelessness on a given night in January 2016. The January 2016 estimate found just over 13,000 unsheltered homeless veterans living on their streets, a 56-percent decrease since 2010. View local estimates of veteran homelessness. This significant progress is a result of the partnership among HUD, VA, USICH, and other federal, state and local partners. These critical partnerships were sparked by the 2010 launch of Opening Doors, the first-ever strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. The initiative’s success among veterans can also be attributed to the effectiveness of the HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program, which combines HUD rental assistance with case management and clinical services provided by the VA. Since 2008, more than 85,000 vouchers have been awarded and more than 114,000 homeless veterans have been served through the HUD-VASH program. “We have an absolute duty to ensure those who’ve worn our nation’s uniform have a place to call home,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro.  “While we’ve made remarkable progress toward ending veteran homelessness, we still have work to do to make certain we answer the call of our veterans just as they answered the call of our nation.” “The dramatic decline in Veteran homelessness is the result of the Obama administration’s investments in permanent supportive housing solutions such as HUD-VASH and Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) programs, extensive community partnerships, coordinated data and outreach, and other proven strategies that put Veterans first,” said VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald. “Although this achievement is noteworthy, we will not rest until every Veteran in need is permanently housed.” “Together, we are proving that it is possible to solve one of the most complex challenges our country faces,” saidMatthew Doherty, Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. “This progress should give us confidence that when we find new ways to work together and when we set bold goals and hold ourselves accountable, nothing is unsolvable.” In 2014, First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness with the goal of accelerating progress toward the ambitious national goal of ending veteran homelessness. More than 880 mayors, governors, and other local officials have joined the challenge and committed to ending veteran homelessness in their communities. To date, 27 communities and two states have effectively ended veteran homelessness, serving as models for others across the nation. HUD and VA have a wide range of programs that prevent and end homelessness among veterans, including health care, housing solutions, job training and education. In FY 2015, these programs helped more than 157,000 people—including 99,000 veterans and 34,000 children—secure or remain in permanent housing. Since 2010, more than 360,000 veterans and their families have been permanently housed, rapidly rehoused or prevented from becoming homeless through programs administered by HUD and VA. More information about VA’s homeless programs is available at www.va.gov/homeless. More information about HUD’s programs is available here or by calling the HUDVET National Hotline at (877) 424-3838. Veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless should contact their local VA Medical Center and ask to speak to a homeless coordinator or call 1-877-4AID-VET.   ###
The American Legion’s Operation Comfort Warriors (OCW) program donated more than $5,000 worth of comfort items and necessities to the voluntary service office at the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial VA Medical Center in Walla Walla, Wash. The grant from the Legion, delivered during a recent System Worth Saving site visit, afforded an opportunity for the medical center to receive clothing, entertainment items, necessities, two color laser printers and art supplies. The items will go directly to residents and patients participating in several programs at the VA medical center, including the Red Badge Project, the substance abuse rehabilitation program, and homeless veterans and family members who reside in former officers’ quarters on the medical center’s campus. OCW Coordinator Bruce Drake worked with local community agencies to procure the items, which included a rocking chair and other furniture for a family who recently moved into a home renovated by Catholic Charities of Walla Walla. “I’m glad we were able to get a great deal and provide the things this mother needed to be able to rock her child to sleep,” he said. “Our wars are winding down and our injured troops are leaving their military care centers and will now be treated at VA hospitals for the rest of their lives. As veterans, it is important for us to reach out to them." While Drake and other Legionnaires from the Department of Washington shopped for items, local residents were inspired by the Legionnaires and provided additional donations. Past Department of Washington Commander Larry Watson said he was impressed by how the community continues to rally behind the veteran population and the medical center. “(Recently) the community got together and decided they wanted to help out. They opened homes throughout the town for veterans, helped them get jobs, and taught them vital skills like wood working,” he said. Walla Walla VAMC Director Brian Westfield expressed appreciation to the Legion for providing the much needed items, especially while the facility is affected by budget constraints after the looming possibility of hospital closure hung in the balance for several years. “We can’t do our jobs without the support of The American Legion and their volunteers," Westfield said. "Everything that has been accomplished would not have been possible without help from our veterans service organizations." Grants issued by OCW, a program created by the Legion to assist veterans who are overcoming mental and physical wounds, are essential in rural areas like Walla Walla, Drake noted. He added that he would like to see more donations granted in Washington state. “Every year, veterans are working hard to donate more and more to the program. In turn, I feel I have to work twice as hard to write even more grants to aid our ill or injured veterans,” he said. TAGS:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama is touting strides in reducing homelessness among military veterans as his administration reaches the halfway point in building a massive database on veterans' health. Overall veteran homelessness has been cut nearly in half, by 47 percent, although that's still short of Obama's long-held goal of getting it to zero by 2015. Credit also goes to first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden's wife, Jill, for using their initiative on military families to challenge mayors and county officials nationwide to end veterans' homelessness, the White House says. A half-million veterans have voluntarily given blood samples and health data for a long-term government research program that seeks to enroll 1 million veterans as part of an Obama initiative to make "precision medicine," or tailored treatment, a reality. Those two milestones are being announced Monday when Obama addresses the annual convention of the Disabled American Veterans in Atlanta, the White House said. The appearance before the service organization is a valedictory address by Obama, who ends his eight years in the White House in January. In a preview of his comments, the White House says Obama will argue that getting ex-military members the health care and benefits they've earned is a national promise that "can't be broken." He also will recap how he has tried to help former military members, moving beyond headline-grabbing scandals over lengthy wait-times for veterans seeking medical care that led to the firing of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. Care for America's veterans is a top issue in the presidential campaign, with the nearly 21 million veterans in the U.S. making up a critical voting bloc. Republican Donald Trump has repeatedly blasted the VA under Obama; Democrat Hillary Clinton has been less harsh. Both candidates promise to overhaul the department, including its health care delivery. Trump has proposed allowing veterans eligible for VA health care to take their ID cards to any doctor or facility that accepts Medicare to get immediate care. Clinton would make changes to the existing system. Despite the problems and bad publicity, demand for VA health care continues to grow, increasing 13 percent in the past year, said DAV Executive Director Garry Augustine. "We know that even though the access is a problem, health care in the VA is very good," Augustine said in an interview. The health care side "remains to be fixed," Augustine said, and noted the recent conclusion by a congressionally mandated commission that the department continues to have "profound deficiencies" in delivering health care to millions of veterans. VA already has been making changes in line with the commission's recommendations. Augustine said he'd like veterans to be allowed to seek outside care from an approved system of private doctors who know how to treat veterans. Augustine also expressed concern, shared by the White House, over a backlog of appeals. While a backlog of disability claims that neared 610,000 in 2013 has been whittled to below 80,000, more than 450,000 appeals are pending. Veterans wait an average of three years for a decision, which the White House called "unacceptable." Overall, though, Augustine said veterans appreciate the support they have received from Obama. He cited increased spending on veterans, expanded and better health care for female veterans, tax credits for hiring veterans and strides toward reducing veterans' homelessness, among other issues. --- BY DARLENE SUPERVILLEASSOCIATED PRESS Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report.
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- Veterans' organizations have reached out to help a Korean War-era veteran who authorities say was held hostage in a motel room for four years by a man who stole his benefit checks. Groups in New York, Ohio and Virginia have offered assistance to David McLellan, an 81-year-old Navy veteran and retired auto plant worker, said Highlands police Detective Joseph Cornetta. Last week, police arrested 43-year-old Perry Coniglio at the motel where both men lived and charged him with grand larceny, menacing and endangering the welfare of an incompetent person. Coniglio used "brute force and intimidation" to get McLellan to hand over monthly Ford Motor Co. pension and Social Security checks totaling several thousand dollars, police said. He also is accused of selling McLellan's vehicle and keeping the proceeds after telling the buyers that he was the older man's guardian. Coniglio remained in the county jail on $15,000 bail Monday. Messages seeking comment on the accusations against him were left for his Legal Aid Society attorney. Police said the thefts began soon after McLellan, who has no known relatives, moved out of his condemned house in nearby Fort Montgomery in 2012 and rented a room at the U.S. Academy Motel in Highlands, about 50 miles north of New York City. McLellan was already showing signs of dementia when he moved, the detective said, and Coniglio "immediately sized up the victim" upon renting a room next door to him. When police raided the $200-a-week motel on July 19, they asked McLellan how long he had been living there. His response: "About four days." "He said that to me over and over again," Cornetta said. The detective said the initial investigation began earlier this month as a financial crimes probe after someone tipped him off that McLellan's monthly benefits checks were being stolen. When someone provided video showing the older man being threatened by a stick-wielding Coniglio outside his room, officers working out of the town police station located next door to the motel arrested him, Cornetta said. McClellan's room was dirty and cluttered, and he likely hadn't bathed in months when police arrested Coniglio, Cornetta said. Initial reports said McLellan was a Marine Corps veteran, but Cornetta said he served in the Navy as a corpsman, or medic, in the early 1950s. As a corpsman McLellan would have served with Marine units. McLellan remained hospitalized Monday and is now under the care of Orange County Veterans Services, Cornetta said. Veterans groups wishing to help McLellan are being referred to the agency. A county spokesman said state law prevents him from commenting on what services McLellan is receiving. But he said typical services in such circumstances could include food, shelter and counseling. Former Marine Augustino von Hassell of New York City said he was seeking to help McLellan and hopes eventually "to find him a place where he can live in dignity." "All I'm trying to do is help a fellow veteran any way I can," von Hassel said.   BY CHRIS CAROLAASSOCIATED PRESS