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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. 
Innovative Program Helps Returning Veterans   Transition into Careers in Healthcare   (Chicago – June 24, 2015) – Returning veterans in Illinois interested in pursuing a career in healthcare should be sure to visit the Veterans Healthcare Pathways Initiative (VHCP) website at http://vethealthcarejobs.org/. The site is designed to help returning veterans with healthcare-related military experience transition into long-term careers in healthcare, Pamela Tate, CEO and president of the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) announced today. Also, CAEL is working with a network of colleges and universities to promote best practices in serving student veterans who enroll in healthcare programs. The initiative was created by CAEL, with support from the Michael Reese Health Trust and in collaboration with the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and the Illinois Department of Employment Security. It provides a suite of tools to help returning veterans identify, develop and implement career pathways that ultimately lead them to a new career in the healthcare field.  In discussing the initiative, Tate said, “As the armed services continue its largest draw down in decades, Illinois veterans are returning home with valuable skills. Their military training counts and these skills should be leveraged to help them transition into the workforce. Our initiative builds the bridge between their experience and the civilian degrees and credentials they’ll need to find gainful entry into the healthcare workforce. The VHCP Initiative helps them learn about careers in the healthcare industry and how the knowledge and experience they bring from their military service can help them move more quickly into meaningful careers.”  The IDVA estimates that 35,000 new veterans will return to Illinois between 2013 and 2017, and currently Illinois has the 10th largest veteran population in the United States.  The website provides information on different careers in the healthcare industry and general information about returning to college in Illinois. They will also learn about tools such as Prior Learning Assessment (PLA). PLA is a term used by colleges and universities to designate learning gained outside of a traditional college classroom. Through it, veterans can earn credit for their military experience saving both time and money.   Added Tate, “One aspect of the initiative is exploring ways to accelerate pathways to credentials for those veterans who gained college level learning through their service. Military to civilian PLA saves student veterans tuition dollars and time otherwise spent in the classroom.” Ryan Burkhart joined the Marines after high school and served in the elite Marine Security Guard and was stationed in Austria and Canada. After leaving the Marines, he returned to Kentucky and enrolled at Northern Kentucky University (NKU). The university’s faculty and staff assisted Ryan in how to turn what he learned from his military experience into academic credit. NKU reviewed Ryan’s military transcript using American Council on Education (ACE) credit recommendations and accepted 30 credits toward graduation. It helped him earn his degree in organizational leadership that much faster.   Maria Rahming was a Hospital Corpsman and a Surgical Technologist in the Navy who is currently attending DePaul University for Nursing. “I’ve already been working for 20 years and I didn’t want to start all over.  Luckily, since I was already in healthcare a lot of it is transferable into college credit,\" she said.    Concluded Tate, “Through this initiative returning veterans with healthcare experience can easily access all the tools they need to begin a prosperous and rewarding career quickly in civilian healthcare. We are very excited about this work and hope that those who have served our nation so selflessly find it valuable.”     The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization based in Chicago, Illinois that assists adults with their educational endeavors, finding practical ways to help them earn college credit for learning acquired through life and work experiences toward the completion of a postsecondary degree. CAEL works with the public sector, private sector industries, and higher education institutions to ensure that adult students receive the most efficient training and education to occupy a meaningful professional place in a 21st-century economy. Since 1974, CAEL has assisted colleges and universities to develop programs that evaluate adults’ non-collegiate learning for college credit. CAEL is the recognized national expert on a method known as portfolio assessment, and its Ten Standards for Assessing Learning are used by colleges and universities, as well as accrediting organizations, across the country. More information is available at www.cael.org. Follow CAEL on Twitter at www.twitter.com/CAELnews or like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CAELnews.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald said his department's goal of cutting the number of homeless veterans to zero by next January is less important than making sure that number doesn't rise again in years to come. "The important thing is not just to get to zero, but to stay at zero," he said. "How do we build a system that is so capable, that as a homeless veteran moves from Chicago to Los Angeles in the winter, we have the ability to touch them immediately?" On Wednesday, McDonald addressed about 600 community organizers at the annual National Coalition for Homeless Veterans conference, charging them to keep up the progress thus far as his department's self-imposed deadline approaches. From 2010 to 2013, the number of homeless veterans nationwide dropped more than one-third to about 50,000 individuals, and VA officials expect that number to dip even further when the 2014 estimates are released later this summer. Meanwhile, VA funding for homeless assistance and prevention programs has jumped from about $2.4 billion in fiscal 2008 to nearly $7 billion for fiscal 2016, providing resources that advocates say were nearly nonexistent a decade ago. Despite the positive trends, the effort to end veterans homelessness will need dramatic strides in coming months to come close to the lofty goal of zero veterans on the streets at the end of 2015.
Veterans can be proud of themselves on the 4th of July. Independence Day is partly due to the sacrifice they've given to create freedom. However, those who served in conflicts and wars have to deal with the loud explosion-like sounds that come from fireworks. According to Dr. Kathleen Chard, director of the Cincinnati VA Trauma Recovery Center and associate chief of staff for research, said veterans can prepare themselves.  "One of the best things veterans can do is to tell themselves to expect loud noises at any time. It may also be helpful to plan errands for earlier in the day when fewer people are likely to be out setting off fireworks," she said. "If the veteran is very unsettled by fireworks, it might be a good idea to mention it to some of their neighbors, so they can plan to set off their fireworks at a set time or at someone else's house." The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that between 11% and 20% of veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan deal with PTSD. The VA says as many as 30% of Vietnam War veterans have PTSD in their lifetimes.
Five employees who work in the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System hospital in Oakland have been placed on paid leave pending an investigation into allegations that they harassed a fellow employee, the VA said today. The Pittsburgh VA employee told a supervisor on Thursday that fellow employees had been harassing him in his work area for the prior week, the VA said. To read the full story click here
The American Legion is planning a town hall meeting April 20 in Memphis to discuss the quality and timeliness of Department of Veterans Affairs health care and the delivery of benefits to local veterans. The Legion will also set up a Veterans Benefits Center to help veterans enroll in VA health care, schedule VA medical appointments, file VA disability or pension benefits claims, and get information on GI Bill education benefits. The town hall meeting, scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., will be at American Legion Post 53 on 400 Legion Rd. in West Memphis, Ark. Local veterans, especially those currently receiving VA medical treatment, are encouraged to attend. The event is free and open to the public and members of other veterans service organizations. The Veterans Benefits Center will be at the Whitehaven Community Center on 4318 Graceland in Memphis, April 21-23. Operating hours are noon to 7 p.m. on the 21st, and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the 22nd and 23rd. The American Legion is conducting town hall meetings and Veterans Benefits Centers across the country as part of its national program to improve VA health care and help veterans get the benefits they have earned through military service. To date, the Legion has helped veterans recover well over $1 million in retroactive benefits. - See more at: http://www.legion.org/veteranshealthcare/226807/legion-reaching-out-vets-memphis-area#sthash.Fut70E8x.dpuf
(WASHINGTON, DC) - “Vietnam Veterans of America has joined four other veterans service organizations as a co-plaintiff to The American Legion et. al. v. McDonald in an effort to stop the implementation of a new rule eliminating most informal VA claims and limiting the types of claims the VA will adjudicate,” announced John Rowan, VVA National President. “Informal claims account for approximately half of all claims the VA receives,” said Rowan. “The new rule, which went into effect March 25, eradicates the decades-old right of a veteran to write a letter to the VA, seeking a specific VA benefit and having the VA consider that letter as an informal claim. "The new rule also prevents the VA from considering claims that are supported by the evidence in the VA record but have not been specifically claimed by the veteran.” The new rule changes, which require claims to be submitted on the VA’s standardized forms, will impose barriers for all those without access to those forms, as well as those without the medical and legal knowledge needed to fill them out correctly. "While the VA has promoted this rule change as being more efficient and therefore favorable to the veteran, in fact, this rule change over-formalizes the veterans claims process, making it more adversarial than ever before. "We will not stand by silently as our government places further obstacles in front of our injured and disabled veterans and their families, undermining our nation’s pledge to care for those who have borne the battle and their families," said Rowan. Prior to March 25, under the informal VA claims system, any benefits awarded would be paid back to the date that the VA had received a notice from the veteran, signaling his or her intent to file. Under the new rule changes, however, the clock for an effective date for benefits starts only when a veteran files the standardized VA paperwork. The suit, which seeks to have the Department of Veterans Affairs’ new rule declared unlawful by the courts, was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals on March 20 and was entered into the court’s docket on March 26. The other co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the American Legion, AMVETS, The Military Order of the Purple Heart, and the National Veterans Legal Services Program. Vietnam Veterans of America (www.vva.org) is the nation's only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated to the needs* of Vietnam-era veterans and their families. VVA's founding principle is “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”