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FREMONT — A former congressman who is biking and walking from Michigan to Washington D.C. stopped in Fremont on Wednesday on his trip to help support veterans and ask their state representatives to improve their health benefits. Kerry Bentivolio, 64, of Milford, Mich., who served his country during conflicts in Vietnam and Iraq, decided to make the 570-mile trip to Washington in hopes of waking up the American people and Congress to the urgent needs of veterans in the country. “I saw it firsthand when I was in the service. A fellow soldier died in a stateside military medical holding unit I was in and nobody noticed for four days,” Bentivolio said. “More than 300,000 American military veterans likely died while waiting for healthcare, and nearly twice as many are still waiting, according to a new Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general report.” Bentivolio, who served as congressman from 2013 through January 2015, said talking about the issue has not gotten the veterans any closer to getting the aid they need. It is time for action, he said. “We have a lot of World War II veterans who are dying at 80 or 90 years old, but we have Vietnam veterans who can’t make it past 70 years old. We have Marines that were stationed in Camp LaJune in the ’50s and ’60s and they found out all that water was contaminated,” Bentivolio said. “Congress said they were going to take care of these guys but they’re not.” While at home in Michigan, Bentivolio said he realized he could not sit at home and do nothing while veterans were not given an opportunity to receive the care they need. “I started walking, and next thing I know I’m 21 miles from home and I said ‘I will walk to Washington (D.C.),’” he said. While on the trip to D.C., which Bentivolio said he hopes to reach in 30 days, he is talking to people he meets along the way and urging them to speak to their congressmen and women to spark change. “Hopefully we’re going to have a lot of people gather and it’s is going to snowball,” Bentivolio said. In Fremont on his sixth day of travel, Bentivolio said he tries to walk between 15 and 20 miles and bike another 25 to 30. Heading east, Bentivolio will pass through Clyde and Norwalk before heading for the Akron area, where he will meet with Rolling Thunder, an advocacy group for prisoners of war and service members who are missing in action. “I’ve just went 120 miles so a lot of that aggression has drained from my body. Every day in the morning, I wake up angry as hell because we’re more worried about 80,000 refugees coming from the Middle East and all these illegal aliens and we’re going to take care of them and give them food stamps,” Bentivolio said. “We can’t even take care of veterans who served our country. I’m just fed up.” Bentivolio wants to put his former House colleagues to task by asking for solutions to help veterans. “Everybody’s lives matter. We have to put our priorities right. Take care of the veterans and soldiers. If you can’t do that, don’t bother asking us to serve anymore,” Bentivolio said. More soldiers are dying from self-inflicted (wounds) or suicide than on the battlefield. It’s time to kick butt and take names.” Donations can be made to Bentivolio’s walk at kerryfights4me@paypal.com For more information, head to justiceforveterans.com. To learn more click here.
WASHINGTON – Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald today announced the awarding of up to $8 million in grants to eligible recipients with experience managing largescale adaptive sports programs for disabled Veterans and disabled Servicemembers of the Armed Forces. The grant recipients may use these funds for planning, developing, managing and implementing adaptive sports programs. The VA is awarding the Grants to national governing bodies, which prepare high-level athletes for Paralympic competition; Veterans service organizations; city and regional municipalities; and other community groups to provide a wide range of adaptive sports opportunities for eligible Veterans and Servicemembers.  The Grants will support sports ranging from rowing, cycling and skiing to golf, fly fishing and equestrian sports. “Adaptive sports help Veterans heal both physically and emotionally,” said Secretary McDonald. “We are proud to partner with organizations nationwide to provide these rehabilitative opportunities for America’s Veterans.” VA will distribute the grants to 89 national, regional and community programs serving all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam. Approximately 10,000 Veterans and Servicemembers are expected to benefit. Information about the awardees and details of the program may be found at www.va.gov/adaptivesports.    
After serving seven years in the Army in the logistics field, Matthew Lloyd attended school, cared for family members and set a goal of finding a stable job that would lead to financial security and benefits for him and his son. He reached out to his Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Counselor for assistance and was referred to Tim Snyder, a Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program specialist at IowaWORKS. DVOP assists veterans with service-connected disabilities, to develop interview skills and build resumes. The Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service provides resources for veterans, transitioning service members and program providers at more than 2,500 American Job Centers, such as IowaWORKS, nationwide. Over the next several months, they worked on re-writing his resume to focus on the leadership skills he had developed in the Army and his diverse experience. They also used tools available at One-Stop programs such as IowaWORKS—including computer-based courses on dressing for success, interview techniques, etiquette and writing a federal job resume. Lloyd has obtained the National Career Readiness Certificate. “The courses and guidance from the staff at IowaWORKS really helped me to develop confidence in my job skills,” Lloyd said. When a job opportunity became available with the Burlington, Iowa, Social Security Office, Lloyd was one of several veterans who applied. About six weeks after beginning the interview process, he was offered a position as a Social Security Administration Service Representative and is celebrating his first anniversary on the job, Sept. 8. “I really like the position. You are working with different clients each day and you are making a difference for them. I enjoy knowing that I am helping people,” Lloyd said. “I assist customers on the phone, those who walk in and even answer mail from people.” Lloyd says the staff at IowaWORKS and the Veterans Administration Vocational Rehabilitation office really worked as a team to prepare him for this job opportunity. “They helped me to see that the experience I had working in the Army prepared me for a diverse environment working with our customers at the Social Security Administration,” Lloyd said. “Most importantly they helped me find ways to cope with my disability and helped me improve my job skills.” Having a permanent job with employee benefits such as medical insurance has made a difference for this veteran and his son. “I am helping people each day and that is a great feeling,” Lloyd said. Learn more about services available to veterans. Editor’s note: The “DOL Working for You” series highlights the Labor Department’s programs in action. View other blog posts in the series here. Rhonda Burke is a public affairs specialist for the department in Chicago.
 It’s no secret that it can be tough for transitioning service members and veterans to convert the skills they learned in the military into civilian credentials. From newspaper editorials to late night comedians, the nation has looked at the challenge facing an Army medic who wants to become a civilian paramedic and said, “This is wrong!  Something must be done!” What’s more, it’s also tough for veterans and military spouses to use the civilian credentials they’ve earned in one state when they move to another. In the 21st century, such parochial challenges are aggravating and cry out for resolution. So why aren’t they solved already? Here’s the reality: occupational licensing, credentialing and certifications have long been the jurisdiction of the states and their various licensing, credentialing, and certification boards.  These boards oversee professions in a self-regulating manner, and between states there is little uniformity in the qualifications and in how they are divided between boards.  One state may have 30 boards, while another may have 300. This is where we come in. The Labor Department, using the authority granted to us by Congress in the 2011 VOW Act, has been working with states to recognize skills gained during military service, and also to harmonize qualifications among states to assist military and veteran families as they move to other states. Specifically, the VOW Act of 2011 required us to carry out a demonstration project on credentialing to help service members transition seamlessly from active duty to civilian employment. Our project, carried out through a contract with the National Governors’ Association, is designed to the engage governors of six states in accelerating credentialing and licensing for veterans, and to reduce or eliminate barriers to credentials, certifications or licenses for veterans in those states. It also involves exploring accelerated career pathways for service members and veterans in certain high-demand civilian occupations. We hope that other states will be able to apply the lessons learned and best practices that are developed through this project. Additionally, under the VOW Act, we funded a study of the equivalencies between the skills of 68 military occupational specialties that covered 57 percent of all enlisted service members and the qualifications required for related civilian jobs. As a result, we were able to create a more robust military-to-civilian skills crosswalk for those 68 occupations. The Labor Department will continue to do our part to identify and lift up best practices for states and to promote better understanding military training by civilian employers.  And it is even more important for states − who ultimately hold the power to create their licensing, credentialing and certification boards − to push those boards to adopt these best practices so that no veteran, transitioning service member or military spouse is left in a position where a missing piece of paper is keeping them from using their skills to earn a living and to contribute to the nation’s economy. As Secretary Perez has said, “America works best when we field a full team.” Our veterans have the skills and the desire to play; it’s up to the rest of us to make sure they are in the game. Terry Gerton is the deputy assistant secretary for policy at the Labor Department’s  Veterans’ Employment and Training Service.
According to a report in the Journal Gazzettee (AP), Indiana has a large number of veterans who are returning home as the Army thins its ranks and winds down overseas engagements, placing more demand on a network of veterans' services that is already stretched thin.Unfortunately for Hoosiers coming home, local veterans' advocates says Indiana lags far behind other states when it comes to getting services to those in need.And as the number of veterans grows, so too will the need for services that help them make the transition back to civilian life, in areas from job training to medical care and counseling.A 2014 report by the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs found the state was deficient in 21 ways both large and small that hamper the delivery of services.Veterans Affairs secretary Eric Shinseki ultimately resigned, and Frost says the Army is making strides to take care of returning soldiers.James Brown, Pence's director of the state office of veterans' affairs, disputed Bauerle's criticism.Since taking office, he said, Pence backed a measure to certify county veterans' workers, which allows them to file claims on veterans' behalf.Bauerle pointed to the report, written by an outside evaluator, which found the state VA office does little outreach, delivers inconsistent service, has a workflow "heavily based on the movement of paper" and faces "barriers to efficiently serving the veteran population statewide."    
The Department of Veterans Affairs, which runs a massive system of hospitals and clinics that cared for 5.8 million veterans last year, is doing less, not more, to identify what went wrong during adverse events to make sure it doesn not happen again. A report out late Friday from the Government Accountability Office found that the number of investigations of adverse events — the formal term for medical errors —  plunged 18 percent from fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2014. The National Center for Patient Safety, the office in the Veterans Health Administration responsible for monitoring investigations of medical errors, "has limited awareness of what hospitals are doing to address the root causes of adverse events, " the report concluded.  The examinations shrank just as medical errors grew 7 percent over these years, a jump that roughly coincided with 14 percent growth in the number of veterans getting medical care through VA's system. A report out late Friday from the Government Accountability Office found that the number of investigations of adverse events — the formal term for medical errors — plunged 18 percent from fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2014. Source: USA Today (see summary then full story link below) Click here for full story from USA Today
Veteran ID cards can be quite a headache for most veterans, mostly because until recently they did not exist. President Barack Obama signed the bill from U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan that will allow veterans across the country to get a special, government issued identification card.  In the past veterans have had no easy means for proving their military status without providing documents that risk their identity and leaving them more exposed for identity theft. The veteran ID card will allow veterans to provide proof of their military status without exposing personal information like social security numbers, military service records, etc. The bill moved quickly through the House by a vote of 402-0 and the Senate by unanimous consent. The administration was not thrilled by the bill, an administration official said that veterans can get their status noted on ID cards issued by their state governments. But a new card issued by the VA could create confusion.  "Every veteran - past, present, and future - will now be able to prove their military service without the added risk of identity theft," Buchanan said in a statement. "It's the least we can do for the brave men and women in uniform who put it all on the line for us."  
Six years ago our country set out to end veteran homeless across our Nation. State to State the Joining Forces initiative began and local communities began to embrace homeless veterans by organizing resources for homes, apartments, and even some communities made micro homes through out their town for homeless residents, including homeless veterans. Today veteran homelessness is down 33 percent.  "In 2009, the Administration set an ambitious plan to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. We have made substantial progress toward this goal - as of January 2014, overall veteran homelessness is down 33 percent since 2010, and we have achieved a 42 percent decrease in unsheltered veteran homelessness." said First Lady Michelle Obama, in support of the Joining Forces initiative, addresses the 2014 National Conference on Ending Homelessness, in Washington, D.C., July 31, 2014.  "Through unprecidented partnerships with federal and local partners, we have greatly increased access to permanent housing, a full range of health care including primary care, specialty care and mental health care; employment; and benefits for homeless and at risk for homeless veterans and their families. As a result of these investments, in fiscal year 2013 alone, VA provided services to more than 240,000 homeless or at-risk veterans in Veterans Health Administration's homeless programs." she added. This initiative, launched by the First Lady, has involved over 250 mayors, governors, and county executives not to mention volunteers across the Nation and HUD funding. There is still a lot of work to do, however, the inititative has so far been successful.    *Official White House Photo Featured Above by Chuck Kennedy Author: Amanda McCuen/veteransview.com
U.S. Senator John McCain (Republican - Arizona) has introduced a new phase of the Veterans Access, Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act. This legislation has laid the ground work for veterans across the U.S. to have more control over their VA Benefits. This legislation has made it possible for veterans who live more than 40 miles from VA medical services to choose their own local medical services. Senator John McCain announced on August 5, 2015 that this option would now be extended to all veterans. Here are Senator John McCain’s comments on August 5, 2015: “Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the Veterans Access, Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act being signed into law – a bipartisan bill that I am proud to have sponsored that begins to address the grave scandal of denied and delayed care of our nation’s veterans, which began in Phoenix before spreading nationwide. In the wake of the scandal, I hosted a town hall where the families of some of those veterans recounted the unanswered phone calls and ignored messages, endless wait times, and mountains of bureaucratic red tape at the VA while their loved ones suffered from ultimately fatal conditions. “I am proud to have worked to pass bipartisan legislation to begin to right these wrongs, which included some of the most significant reforms to the VA in decades. The new VA Choice Card is the major reform initiative in the legislation. Under this provision, for the first time in history, veterans who live far from a VA medical facility or can’t make an appointment in a reasonable timeframe are provided the ability to receive the Choice Card and use it to see the doctor of their choice. Unfortunately, the VA has been slow and reluctant to implement this program since the law’s enactment. It has failed to adequately distribute and educate qualified veterans about the Choice Card, restricted some veterans’ eligibility to receive it, and tried to move critical funds away from the program altogether. “Today I am introducing the Permanent VA Choice Card Act to make the current three-year pilot program for the VA Choice Card permanent, removing the 40-mile limit and making all veterans eligible. This would help remove uncertainty from within the VA, among providers, and especially among our veterans, while sending a strong signal to all Americans that this program is here to stay.   “More than a year after the VA scandal first came to light and a year since VA reform legislation was signed into law, wait times are still too long and veterans are still not getting the care they have earned and deserve. I urge my colleagues to support the Permanent VA Choice Card Act and make sure that no veteran is ever again denied the care they so desperately need.” Author: Amanda McCuen/veteransview.com
Frederick Winter, a 100 year old Veteran from Michigan became the oldest man in the history of the National Senior Games to complete the 100-meter dash, finishing the race at the Minneapolis competition in 42.38 seconds. Winter, who also competed in the 100-meter dash at the Michigan Senior Olympics in 2014, turned 100 on June 1. Winter served 25 years in the Navy, including in the Battle of Okinawa during World War II, according to the West Michigan Sports Commission. He worked his way up to Chief Petty Officer after starting as a deck scrubber. He began competing in senior races when he turned 70, racing on the track for the first time since high school.