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During several award ceremonies that are to be held across the country in the month July, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) intends on honoring the exemplary facilities, the employees and the civilian providers working to address Veteran homelessness.   This is a new move, different from the usual looking for those who are not delivering, more like always looking for the bad and never appreciating the good. In a statement that was released by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs David J. Shulkin, earlier this week, the strong VA community has made tremendous efforts in dealing with the Veteran homelessness. So far the success of the projects has been supported the hard work, innovation and dedication of thousands of VA employees and civilian partners.  The Secretary’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Service for Homeless Veterans appreciated the top achievers in the following three categories: The VA Employees Julie E. Irwin, Homeless Care line manager, Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 2 (Bronx, N.Y.) Michael Wehrer, supervisor, Homeless Care Team, Erie VA Medical Center (Erie, Penn.) Kristen Weese, program manager, Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program, Western New York Health Care System (Buffalo, N.Y.) The VA Organizations Domiciliary Service — VA Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, Calif. Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System, Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program, New Orleans Albany Stratton VA Medical Center, Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program, Albany. The Community Organizations John E. Ratka, executive director, Veterans Northeast Outreach Center, Haverhill, Mass. Family Endeavors, Fayetteville, N.C. Ivory Mathews, executive director, The Greenville Housing Authority, Greenville, N.C. Team AMVETS, Garden Grove, Calif. Project Community Connections, Inc., Atlanta Virginia Veteran and Family Support Program, Richmond, Va.  
After a few years, American Legion Post 326 in Austin, Texas, they have managed to offer college scholarships worth $44,000 to almost two dozen of honorably discharged veterans. The Veterans Scholarship Program was initiated in 2013, and the first scholarships were two worth $2,000, were awarded veterans who were attending Texas State University in San Marcos. The additional unintended benefit of the scholarship program is that it has offered the post a good opportunity to create an avenue for The American Legion to meet and interact with new generation of veterans. This has resulted in many of the beneficiaries joining the post. One of the scholarship beneficiaries is Rebecca Larson, who is currently working on her doctorate in astronomy. After serving for six years in the Air Force, Larson left the force to join her family in San Jose, Calif. She used this chance to pursue a degree in entrepreneurship with a minor in studio art using her GI Bill. Two years down the line her family moved to them and she had to transfer to the University of Texas. The only challenge was that she could not transfer her credits to the university's business school and was forced to change her major to astronomy (only to realize that the course required two years of prerequisite physics.) Her determination to finish her degree made her to look for alternative funding sources and stumbled upon the Onion Creek post and it’s Veterans Scholarship Program.  Larson was lucky and was awarded a scholarship in 2015, which she accepted at a post dinner. It was her first experience with any veterans’ organization. Larson is just one example of the beneficiaries of the scholarship. Many young veterans have now a chance to continue with their studies and hence increase their chances of getting employed in the private sector. The VA department has encouraged such programs since they offer immediate solution to the school funding challenges faced by many veterans who decide to go back to school and pursue professional careers, and also creating a long term solutions to other programs that always arise when a veteran cannot be able to earn his income.
Charles E. Schmidt (an American Legion National Commander) will be joining his fellow Vietnam War veterans during the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital's 8th annual “Run to Home Base” fundraiser to be held on the 15th of July, at Boston’s legendary Fenway Park. The Vietnam veterans will be honored during a ceremony, before starting the Red Sox game against the New York Yankees. Proceeds that will be got from the 9k run and 5k walk, will benefit the Home Base program. This is a program initiated by the Red Sox Foundation and it’s dedicated to healing invisible wounds for post-9/11 veterans and their families through clinical care, wellness, education and research. The Run to Home Base will hold a pre-game ceremony to honor Vietnam veterans at 7:15 am. Schmidt, (who is a retired Air Force veteran), served in Vietnam 50 years ago. In his speech Schmidt said he will always be grateful and whenever he gets an opportunity he will thank the men and women who served in the military. He will always be there to welcome the veterans back home. Apart from that he said he will constantly advocate for the rights of the veterans, he also thanked American Legion for the continuous support that they have offered to the veterans. It’s about serving the people who served us. Vietnam War veterans will also have the opportunity to share their personal experiences with a film crew from the 2017 Vietnam Veteran Oral History Project. The crew has also scheduled some interviews with the veterans that will be done at the Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall from 17th July to 21st July. The objective of this historical project is to utilize the footage and use it as a tool to have records of the event, and will be kept on file. The file will be later shared with the Library of Congress Veterans History project. Participants will be given a complimentary footage of their interview. To take part in the History Project, you can contact Andrew Ringlee at andrew.j.ringlee.civ@mail.mil or call (515) 441-1519. Information about the Run to Home Base can be found at www.runtohomebase.org. Although the pre-game ceremony for the Red Sox game is already filled to capacity, Vietnam veterans who wish to participate can be placed on a waiting list by emailing redsoxfoundation@redsox.com or calling (617) 226-6012.
Last Monday 40 House lawmakers gave their consent , support and  signed onto a letter, which criticized the Department of Veterans Affairs for the slow reimbursements to the private-sector doctors, which according to them are harming their veteran constituents’ credit reports. Currently there are thousands of veterans who have enrolled in the Veterans Choice Program. The programs gives the veterans (patients) to seek for external medical services which is financed by the VA department. According to the letter, late payments by the Department has seen the medical bills of the VA patients being sent to debt collectors.  When a timely payment is not made, according to the letter. The situation so far “has generated negative consequences for the veterans’ financial standing, through no fault of their own,” the letter reads. “[T]he long-term damage to credit scores could be severe. At a minimum, this increases the costs of credit and could make it more difficult, if not impossible, for veterans to secure credit for life essentials such as a car or housing.” Issues with disbursing payments to the non-VA medical care providers has been a longtime plague in the VA department ever since the Veterans Choice Program was created back in 2014. From the year the program began to the 18th of May this year, the VA department has received many calls (the exact number being 57,228 calls) from veterans seeking help after the VA’s delayed payments affected their credit reports, the letter states. When consulted the VA officials, said that what might have contributed to the problem would be the short implementation period given for the program. Congress had given the VA department only 90 days to implement the plan. In what might be described as a weak attempt to streamline the reimbursements to the concerned private doctors, Congress joined forces with the VA Secretary David Shulkin. They went ahead and passed a legislation earlier on this year that made the VA the primary payer under the Veterans Choice Program, instead of soliciting services from third-party contractors to clear the debts. Even when those changes were made, according to the letter, the problem has not yet been addressed and solved. It is still remain concerned with the negative credit reporting is continuing. The letter was sent to Shulkin and the team was led by Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill., Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif., and Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Texas.
After retiring U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jared Bullock had a difficult time taking care of simple everyday tasks in his home, this is after he lost both his right arm and right leg to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan back in 2013. Simple tasks like moving from his wheel chair to the bathroom was difficult not to mention his home was not designed to accommodate a wheelchair so navigating thorough some of the doors was even more difficult. On the 28th of June this year, the Gary Sinise Foundation decided to hold a dedication of a specially adapted, three-bedroom smart home that was specifically built for Bullock, his wife, Jessica, and their son, Aidan. The charity was established by Gary Sinise, who is an actor, and is best known for his portrayal of Lt. Dan in the 1994 film "Forrest Gump". The foundation donates such homes to wounded veterans through its R.I.S.E. program (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment). Bullock who has to wear a prosthetic leg still needs to use a wheelchair at home. His new crib is fully equipped with "smart pads" on the walls, which allow Bullock to control the security system and lights.  All of the kitchen appliances in the house can be easily and safely accessed from a wheelchair. The shower is very spacious with enough room for Bullock to wheel in and transfer using a bench and handles. Representatives of the program's donors — including the Marcus Foundation Inc., the Home Depot Foundation, Semper Fi Fund, and Larry and Phyllis Castrale — were among those present during the dedication ceremony. Present also in the ceremony were a number of building partners who had donated materials. Bullock and his twin brother had enlisted in the Army together after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He served for two tours in Iraq, and after he trained for the U.S. Army Special Forces, he was deployed to Afghanistan in October 2013. One month later, Bullock ran over an IUD while driving an ATV on routine patrol. He lost his right arm above the elbow and his right leg above the knee and underwent a total of 30 surgeries. Bullock, who is an award-winning bodybuilder, has garnered over 60,000 followers on Instagram. He noted that his favorite room in the whole house is the gym facility. Bullock also said that he is currently searching for commercial property and plans on opening a gym in Southern Illinois.      
Most of the veterans in the country know of only the basic health care and education benefits that are available to them through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): which are Tricare and the GI Bill.­­­ Indeed these two benefits alone can be considered to be substantial, however there are other numerous programs that help offer many more benefits to the veterans and their families. This undiscovered benefits are also available within the health care and education programs. Just like the two major benefits, these benefits are meant to improve the lives of the veterans and at the same time ease their financial burden of medical care or other expenses. Here are the 10 veterans benefits most veterans don’t know exist:   The Long-term Care: it’s known to be expensive, however most of the time you will find it necessary. Even though, through the Aid and Attendance program, majority of the veterans qualify to get financial support that is meant to cover expenses of nursing homes, assisted living programs and other long-term care options. Aging couples (both veterans) can receive even up to $25,020 annually, the amount caters for a large portion of the long-term care costs. While the surviving spouses of the veterans qualify to receiving as much as $13,560 annually. The Caregiver Support: If any one volunteers to look after an ailing Veteran at home, the VA Department provides a caregiver support program. The program does not entail monetary support to the volunteers but then they offer a free support line together with a caregiver support coordinator to assist the caregiver navigate military benefits and the stress of care giving. The Death Benefits: when a veteran passes on, the remaining family members have few unique benefits that are made available to them. The family can request for a U.S. flag to be draped over the casket of the deceased and a Presidential Memorial Certificate to honor the deceased loved ones service to the country. Apart from that the Department of Veterans Affairs also offers free headstones or grave markers. The Certification Programs: Apart from getting credits that the veteran can use to get a college degree, the GI Bill provides up to $2,000 financial support to cover the educational cost or any other vocational training programs that a veteran might decide to take part in. It’s the best benefit for veterans who want to change careers or pick a career that doesn’t need college qualification. The Transferring GI Bill Credits: the unused credits through the GI Bill might be transferred to the living spouses and dependents of the veterans. There are some service limits that are required in order to transfer the benefits. The Free Tax Preparation: the veterans and their family members have access to free tax preparation services. These services can be accessed through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance offices on the military bases. The individuals working in the offices will have expertise in working with the complicated nature of military-related tax issues. The Life Insurance: getting the common life insurance is a big challenge to many veterans, especially those who have injuries that they got during their time of service. However, through the Servicemembers’ and Veterans’ Group Life Insurance program, veterans can qualify for a life insurance cover up to $400,000. The program also has very competitive premium rates. The Mortgage Help: the other challenging issue that affect like 90% of the veterans in the country is paying their mortgage payments. Well veterans can check if they are eligible for repayment assistance through the Department of Veterans Affairs. The options that are available for help are: special repayment plans, loan forbearance and loan modification programs. The other benefits are available for veterans who have VA loans and for the homeless veterans. The VA Foreclosures: the VA department keeps a recorded list of homes that are serviced by VA loans and have gone into foreclosures. Veterans can look up at the list of the VA acquired properties and then buy the houses at a discounted rate. Well you don’t need to be a veteran to check the properties however all properties qualify for VA financing. The American Corporate Partners: this program connects veterans to the top companies hence improve their networking. This helps the veterans in securing jobs after their time of service, especially in the private industry. The veterans can also receive mentorship sessions and additional career development services.
President Donald Trump gave an Independence Day address that honored the American veterans — many of the veterans came from the Washington, D.C. area. They attended the “Celebrate Freedom Rally” at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The President said during the event that “America is a land rich with heroes,” which also included wounded warriors who are patients at the Walter Reed Medical Center. During his speech, President Trump personally saluted World War II veteran Harry Miller for his lifelong service and wounded warrior Luis Avila. Miller had enlisted in the reserves at the age of 15, even though he was not old enough to serve. He fought in Europe and in The Battle of the Bulge. Avila, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was on a fifth deployment when he was wounded, losing his leg, during an intelligence reconnaissance mission. “We all bleed the same red blood,” said Trump, promising an adoring crowd that America would “win again.”  The Choirs performed “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and other hymns and debuted a song with the lyrics “make America great again” (which happens to be Trump’s campaign slogan) during the event. Some of the famous lines from the President’s speech were: Since the signing of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago, America always affirmed that liberty comes from our creator. Our rights are given to us by God, and no earthly force can ever take those rights away. That is why my administration is transferring power out of Washington and returning that power back where it belongs to the people. Our religious liberty is enshrined in the very first amendment in the Bill of Rights. The American founders invoked our creator four times in the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Franklin reminded his colleagues at the Constitutional Convention to begin by bowing their heads in prayer. Inscribed on our currency are the words: ‘In God We Trust. Evangelical mega church First Baptist Dallas was the one who sponsored the whole event. First Baptist Pastor Robert Jeffress, who is a strong supporter of President Trump, said in a statement: that the President is indeed one of the greatest patriots that America has seen in the modern era, and among the few presidents who love the sacrifice and services that those who were in the forces did. The overwhelming support that Trump received from evangelical voters propelled him to victory in 2016 general elections.  
On last Sunday, President Trump was on TV and lamented about “the disaster stories” of how veterans still have to wait for several months to health care services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The President noted that some veterans had to wait even up to 9 months to get an appointment while the condition they have is very serious. Some illness can be cured if handled in time, but then by the time they get to see the doctor it’s already in its terminal stage. The president was speaking during an interview on Fox & Friends Sunday. But for Kelly Gregory, who is an Air Force veteran currently suffering from breast cancer which is in stage 4, the cancer has even spread to her spine, her losing access to treatment through Medicaid would be suicidal. Gregory is one of 1.75 million veterans in the country who totally depend on the Medicaid for their health insurance. Last week, Gregory teamed up with other veterans from around Tennessee, and they called on their elected officials who are in the Senate to reject the proposed Republican health care legislation (this new legislation suggests significant cuts to Medicaid) Gregory told the Tennessean, that if the bill is passed she will die. Last  Friday, President Trump, who had campaigned on a promise to overhaul the troubled BA Department, signed the Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act into law — and promised to make it much easier for the whistleblowers to report cases of misconduct that occur within the agency and hence making it easy to fire employees who are not delivering and are  problematic. “We must fulfill our duty to the nation’s veterans,” the President said during last Friday’s signing ceremony for the first of many pieces of legislation he aims to pass regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, for the many veterans in the country who are not qualified for any form of health insurance through the VA department, Trump’s act to restore faith in the VA agency was well covered by significant cuts to Medicaid included in the Senate health care bill that was unveiled last month Approximately one in the 10 U.S. veterans depend on Medicaid for both their physical and mental health care coverage. In addition to the veterans receiving treatment for physical injuries and medical illnesses, proposed cuts also put veterans suffering from PTSD and other mental health issues at significant risk. The retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Castellaw was one of the veterans from Tennessee who opposed the suggested Senate bill last week. Castellaw described the bill to the Tennessean, as a dishonor to those who have served the nation in the service.
The Secretary of Veterans Affairs David J. Shulkin, M.D. has unveiled what is described as the world’s most advanced commercial prosthetic — the Life Under Kinetic Evolution (LUKE) arm. The veterans will be the first to receive this new technology. The LUKE arm was unveiled during the VA’s visit to the VA New York Harbor Health Care System’s Manhattan campus. The event included other important activities like the demonstration of the technology, which was offered to the first Veteran amputees. The LUKE project is an eight year project between the VA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and industry. The LUKE Arm has gone through 8 years of testing and research. It holds the potential of bringing significant benefit to Veterans and many others with upper-extremity amputations. Compared to the less-advanced prosthetics, the whole LUKE arm can move as a single unit. This means there is reduced labor-intensive process, which involves controlling one joint at a time. Apart from that the LUKE arm also features the first ever commercially available powered shoulder, with up to 10 powered degrees of freedom. This means that the arm will be able to give veterans with amputed arms to be able to perform variety of activities that are one and two handed. The person using the arm can perform simple tasks like drinking from a glass, picking up small pieces of food to eat, cooking or gift-wrapping presents.     Secretary Shulkin noted that there was no commercial market for that kind of technology. He noted that because of the small size of the patient population, the private sectors cannot focus in production of such technological devices. For this reason the VA placed a lot of research efforts into the project – efforts that cannot be replicated by the private sector. Fred Downs and Artie McAuley were the first Veterans to receive the LUKE arm. McAuley described the LUKE arm as a great tool especially for those who have under gone high level. While Fred Downs commented that the technology has improved his ability to perform his daily activities. In the fiscal year of 2016, the VA offered medical care to almost 90,000 Veterans with different levels of amputations, and more than 20,000 of whom had upper-limb involvement.  
In case you did not know Kevin Haynes was once in the military, then you will probably realize this when you spot the figure the two flags that are always flying from his front porch: one is an American flag while the other is a U.S. Marine Corps flag. The flags tell the story of a veteran who still appreciates his days in the military. The story which is not narrated by the flags is that of a 33 year old ex-soldier who was once a High Point man. The man who is not just a veteran, but a combat veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or (PTSD). On front yard of his home, where is he lives with his wife there is a sign "Combat Veteran Lives Here,"  "Please Be Courteous with Fireworks." The sign which is red, white and blue in color stands as reminder of Haynes condition on the compound of his home on W. Westwood Avenue. The sign is supposed to remind their neighbors and any passers-by that on the 4th of July, the day can be a difficult holiday for veterans suffering from PTSD. As Haynes says the sign is not meant to hinder any one from celebrating the holiday but then it’s intended to make sure that the neighbors know that as they celebrate the day, there are veterans out there who have PTSD and the fireworks might trigger them. Kevin and his wife Jennifer try to encourage those with neighbors with PTSD not to set off any fireworks without first notifying the veteran about when and where you plan to set off the fireworks. Apart from that they discourage the setting off of fireworks at odd hours, like late at night. The loud and unexpected noises like the sounds got from fireworks are very common triggers for many combat veterans who are suffering from PTSD, this is because the noises tends to remind them of gunfire or explosions that they experienced on the battlefield. This is the case that affects many veterans with the condition like Haynes. Haynes served in the Marine from 2003 to 2013, and during that time he made 3 tours of duty (one in Iraq and two in Afghanistan). Haynes who was a combat engineer, and he specialized in areas like demolitions, explosives and land-mine warfare. Kevin learned about the sign, "Combat Veteran Lives Here", from a fellow veteran who also suffers from PTSD. He then immediately went to the sign-maker's website, www.militarywithptsd.org, and ordered one for himself. The idea behind the whole sign thing is not to limit anyone's holiday fun, but rather to raise awareness of PTSD and the impact it has on veterans.