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 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
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