News

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced Veteran trust in VA reached 80% in April, reflecting a 19% increase since January 2017.  Each quarter Veterans Signals (VSignals), VA’s customer experience feedback program, randomly surveys approximately 257,000 Veterans with recent interactions VA-wide with claims, appeals, health care, memorials and other services to rate their overall trust in VA.  This VA-wide trust survey compliments the previously reported Veteran trust survey focused specifically on VA outpatient health care only which reached 90% for the first time on April 12. The monthly average of Veteran trust in VA outpatient health care increased to 90.1% for the month of May.  “These survey results show VA is listening to the voice of the Veteran and taking decisive actions,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Customer feedback continues to drive improvements in the way VA provides care and services.”  The VA-wide quarterly trust survey also asks Veterans to rate VA’s ease of use, effectiveness and its staff’s ability to provide an empathetic experience. The most recent VA-wide survey saw a 2% increase in effectiveness to 78%, a 3% increase in ease of use to 75% and a 3% increase in empathy to 77%.  VSignals currently has 35 wide-ranging surveys in use across VA and the feedback gained from the more than 5 million surveys received since January 2017 are used in real-time to resolve concerns, answer questions, record compliments and share recommendations. VA began measuring Veteran trust in the second quarter of fiscal year 2016.  Since 2017, VSignals has referred more than 2,755 Veterans to the Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255 and Press 1) or the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans (1-877-424-3838) as needed or requested.  In June 2019, VA was designated as Lead Agency Partner for the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goal on Improving Customer Experience with Federal Services. 
WASHINGTON — U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) national cemeteries will resume committal services starting June 9 in all but two VA national cemeteries.  VA national cemeteries will contact families who were unable to hold a committal service due to the COVID-19 pandemic to arrange memorial services for their loved ones beginning in July.   "During the last 10 weeks VA national cemeteries have continued performing our essential mission — to inter Veterans and eligible family members," said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. "We believe we have a robust set of measures in place that will allow us to conduct committal and memorial services while protecting the health and safety of Veterans, their families and our team members who serve them."  While VA is eager to resume normal operations, the department’s national cemeteries have remained open for interments and visitation throughout the pandemic. However, as a matter of health and safety, committal services and military funeral honors have been deferred since March 23.  Interments scheduled on or after June 9, will be offered the option of a committal service at the time of interment. At Calverton and Long Island national cemeteries, that option will be available starting June 22, provided state and local guidance permit.  Military funeral honors, customarily provided by the Department of Defense and volunteer honor guards, will be based on local availability.    VA national cemeteries will continue adherence to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by limiting the number of individuals attending committal services, practicing physical distancing between individuals not from the same household, ensuring all attendees and employees wear face coverings, encouraging frequent use of hand sanitizer and asking sick individuals to stay home. The number of permitted attendees will vary based on state and local guidelines for gathering sizes provided the facility can accommodate increased attendees while maintaining physical distancing. Families may continue to choose direct interment and opt for a memorial service later when all restrictions have been lifted.   Memorial services for Veterans and eligible family members who were interred without a committal service between March 23 and June 8 will commence in July.   For more information, visit the National Cemetery Adminstration (NCA). Media should contact NCA Public Affairs chief Les' Melnyk at Les.Melnyk@VA.gov. To make burial arrangements at any VA national cemetery contact the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at (800) 535-1117. 
The deliveries are a huge help to families experiencing unprecedented hardship right now VFW Post 7356 in Parkville, Missouri, is making sure food gets to families at Fort Leavenworth, a nearby U.S. Army installation just across the state line in Kansas. “The donation drive was a suggestion brought up during one of our Zoom meetings by Roger Capote, a retired chaplain’s assistant and member of our Post, shortly after the start of stay-at-home orders in and around our county,” said Post Commander Joseph Wolfgeher. “From there, several of us began the collection of non-perishable items to be taken to the Chaplain’s Pantry over at Fort Leavenworth.” The Post delivers dry and canned goods to the pantry approximately every two weeks. The pantry’s shelves have been emptied at times during the COVID-19 crisis and the deliveries are a huge help to families experiencing unprecedented hardship right now. Post Senior Vice Commander and Events Coordinator Hank Cartagena has served with the Military Police unit at Fort Leavenworth, so this mission is close to his heart. He’s coordinating with Jessica Reyes, who is active duty at the Fort, on collecting and delivering donated items. “The donations are coming from within our communities as well as through the Platte County Commissioner and other friends,” Wolfgeher said. “Roger, Hank and Jessica truly are key components to the success of the donation drive that has helped over 40 families at Fort Leavenworth. Especially during the time of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, it’s an honor to have these comrades as a part of Post 7356.” The Post’s efforts to help their fellow service members are valued by their community and were recently featured on a local news broadcast.
‘The veterans who fought for the very freedom to demonstrate deserve better and we condemn those who determined the memorial was worth vandalizing’ WASHINGTON – In the wake of the nationwide protests centered around the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) stands in solidarity for equality, however, condemns the vandalism of the World War II Memorial and other memorials near the National Mall. “Equality is the cornerstone of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and must be in our great nation,” said VFW National Commander William “Doc” Schmitz. “Bigotry and unequal treatment has zero place in this world.”  Unfortunately, the “sacred” World War II Memorial was vandalized May 31 during protests in Washington.  “The VFW believes in peaceful, organized demonstrations. That is the right of every American,” said Schmitz. “However, we are extremely saddened and angered to find that our sacred World War II Memorial was defaced. The veterans who fought for the very freedom to demonstrate deserve better and we condemn those who determined the memorial was worth vandalizing.”  
WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) began a national four-year study on the impact of COVID-19 on Veterans to help address critical questions about the disease. Known as EPIC3 (Epidemiology, Immunology and Clinical Characteristics of COVID-19), researchers will study data and biospecimens, such as throat swabs and blood, to learn how the virus that causes COVID-19 has affected Veterans. “By analyzing data on COVID-19 risk factors, progression, outcomes and immunity, this VA research promises to significantly advance the fight against the disease,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “The study will complement a similar effort by the Department of Defense (DOD).” The effort is led by VA’s Cooperative Studies Program (CSP) and coordinated by VA’s Seattle Epidemiologic Research and Information Center. CSP epidemiology centers in Durham, North Carolina; West Haven, Connecticut and Boston are also contributing to the four-year study. The study involves Veterans infected with COVID-19 and those who have recovered or who may be at risk but have not been infected by the virus. They are volunteers who are inpatients, outpatients and residents in VA’s Community Living Centers. Each cohort consists of hundreds of Veterans. A similar study is being conducted by the Department of Defense (DOD) involving active-duty service members. At the end of their respective studies, VA and DOD researchers plan to compare findings from the two study groups. To learn more about VA research, visit research.va.gov.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today the Gary Sinise Foundation has committed to providing up to 20,000 meals to VA health care and frontline workers.        VA’s Voluntary Service is working with the Gary Sinise Foundation Emergency COVID-19 Combat Service to identify the more than 80 VA medical facilities across the nation that will receive the meals over the coming weeks. “Donations like this mean a lot to our VA staff as they are on the front lines of caring for our nation’s Veterans every day,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “We are very appreciative of this donation during the COVID-19 pandemic.” “The donated meals will come from restaurants near these facilities, stimulating local economies and helping communities,” said Chief Operating Officer of the Gary Sinise Foundation Elizabeth Fields. “Up to 250 meals will be donated to each facility depending on size and need.” Since April 1, the Emergency COVID-19 Combat Service has been helping to meet the urgent needs of Veterans, first responders, military, health care workers and all of those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic through serving meals, providing personal protective equipment and donating decontamination equipment across the country.
(VAntage Point) The Operation Deep Dive suicide prevention study examines the factors and potential causes involved in suicide and non-natural deaths among Veterans. The project specifically studies the community environment impact, an area that has been absent from past research. America’s Warrior Partnership leads the study with researchers from the University of Alabama and support from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. Operation Deep Dive conducts studies in 14 communities nationwide. By the study’s completion in 2021, researchers aim to have a methodology that any community can implement to identify the unique risk factors of suicide within their area. Currently, the researchers investigate the lives of Veterans lost to suicide or non-natural causes within the last 12 months. They are doing this by interviewing those who knew the Veteran best: their friends, family and co-workers. These “deep dive” interviews examine the last 6-12 months of the Veteran’s life. Researchers determine how each Veteran was engaged within their community and identify the gaps in services that needed to be filled in order to better support Veterans in the future. Join the Fight Operation Deep Dive needs your help. If you know a Veteran who has died by suicide or non-natural causes in the last 12 months, please consider joining the fight as an interview participant. Losing a loved one to suicide can be a traumatic experience, but by participating in one of these interviews, your insight will contribute greatly to the formation of a proactive approach to preserving the life of service members and Veterans in the future. Researchers seek interviewees 18 years or older and located within one of the communities listed below. The Veteran that an interviewee knew must’ve also lived in that same community prior to their death. The list: Atlanta, Ga. Upstate, S.C. Panhandle, Fla. Orange County, Calif. Southern Ala. Syracuse, N.Y. Houston, Texas Twin Cities, Minn. Charlotte, N.C. Las Vegas, Nev. Phoenix, Ariz. Tristate Ohio Coastal South Carolina Indianapolis, Ind. Non-natural causes of death include overdose, asphyxiation, accidental gunshot, drowning, suicide by law enforcement, and high-speed single drive accidents. If you would like additional information about being a participant, please visit the Operation Deep Dive web page.
We will get through this as we continue to work together and support those in need   We are experiencing unprecedented times in our present day. This widespread pandemic has caused much pain and suffering. Thousands are sick and too many have died.  States have issued stay-at-home orders. We are told to practice social distancing. There is a shortage of products at the stores that are open. Many businesses are closed, some permanently.   People have lost their jobs or their jobs are currently in jeopardy. Individuals are unable to see family and friends.  VFW Post and District Meetings have had to be cancelled or are being conducted electronically. Department Conventions have had to be canceled as well as our National Convention in Reno, Nevada. Who would have ever believed that we would experience all of this? Through it all, it has been difficult to remain positive. But we must try against all odds to do just that – be positive. And spread that positivity wherever you see it needed. How do we remain positive, you ask? Keep your mind active and do not dwell on today’s circumstances. Read the Bible, a poem or anything else you find uplifting. Pray. Meditate. Watch movies or read a book. Play board games or work on a jigsaw puzzle. And above all else, stay physically active. It is important to get regular exercise. Reach out to your fellow VFW members to check on them to see how they are doing. Call, text or email your member,s or use the old-fashioned way: Mail a card. Be sure to ask whether or not they have someone to look in on them and get things they may need. Pray with them. Share positive words. If you find you are still struggling during this difficult time, reach out to your chaplain, priest, pastor or rabbi for support and encouragement. We will get through this as we continue to work together and support those in need.
Pivot. Adapt. Teamwork. Resilient.  These are words that The Independence Fund is familiar with while working in the Veteran Service Organization world. But these are also words that have defined how our organization has dramatically shifted its operations to ensure we are meeting the immediate needs of our Nation’s most catastrophically wounded Veterans, their Caregivers, and their families during this new normal.  Independence@Home Pivot. Following the emergent needs we were seeing from our homebound Veterans that were especially hard-hit with isolation, we shifted our entire organization’s structure with our newest program, Independence@Home. We are assisting the hardest hit Veteran families with emergent costs like rent, utilities, childcare, transportation services, home WiFi, household cleaning and grocery and medical product delivery. Because of the demand we’ve seen for this program, we are expanding the program to beyond our participant database. We are now assisting additional Veterans with special circumstances with $100 gift cards to alleviate their financial struggles while expanding online resources.  Adapt. Since our adaptive athletes can no longer participate in group sports, we are partnering our adaptive athlete Veterans with retired athletes for 1-on-1 virtual workouts and consultations. We continue to look at new ways to restructure our existing programs.  Teamwork. The Independence Fund has expanded its mission of connectivity during isolation. Our in-person Operation RESILIENCY retreats reunite company-sized units that suffered high combat casualties and are susceptible to high Veteran Suicide rates. Because we cannot meet in–person, we are now hosting ongoing Zoom reunions with alumni. During virtual events with entire companies, we are providing updates on our organization, hearing from higher level leadership and licensed clinical social workers, and connecting our caseworker for individual issues. We are then providing smaller groups from those entire companies the resources to run their own, individualized reunions.   We polled our Caregivers to see what resources they needed right now to provide relief and respite. In additional to virtual “happy hour” chats, we have hosted an intro to photography course and are conducting online tutorials twice a week. Subjects will include makeup tips, how to sew face masks, and an introduction to belly dancing. We will also be providing job training seminars, including resume writing and how to navigate LinkedIn.  Independence Fund #RAH campaign asks Veterans and their families to share their coping tactics. With the success of our Caregiver and OpRES webinars, we are expanding these virtual chats to our Family program, offering up assistance with tutoring and hosting family game nights.  Resilient@Home Resiliency. What The Independence Fund is most proud of is how we have shown how resilient our organization and its catastrophically wounded Veterans are. We launched RESILIENT@Home, a campaign where people can share their coping tactics on how they are staying resilient at home with the hash tag #RAH while highlighting the difficulties catastrophically wounded Veterans and their Caregivers are experiencing. We’ve loved seeing people coming up with creative ways to stay sane, from turning their homes into a 9-hole putt-putt course to reorganizing their garages.  Together, we can all remain RESILIENT@Home as we navigate, adapt and pivot to these changing times.  Blog submitted as guest post by The Independence Fund. The sharing of any non-VA information does not constitute an endorsement of products and services on part of the VA.
American Legion National Commander James “Bill” Oxford called on the White House to extend federal orders to thousands of members of the National Guard whose current deployments in coronavirus relief efforts fall one day short of the 90-day period required to obtain many benefits including home loans, education and retirement. “Highly unfair and disturbing,” is how Oxford described the plan to award those deployed credit for 89 days of federal service. “I served many years in the North Carolina National Guard. I know the caliber of these outstanding men and women who leave their homes and literally risk their lives so communities across America can be safe during national emergencies. “The coronavirus pandemic has been devastating for many people. We would be far worse off if we did not have the National Guard setting up field hospitals, cleaning nursing homes and delivering emergency supplies. An 89-day deployment strongly suggests a decision based on accounting rather than what’s needed to truly respond to this emergency. The American Legion is calling for the president to fix this.”