WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today it will begin awarding more than $400 million in grants under the Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program (SSVF) to 266 non-profit organizations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on Oct. 1 of this year. SSVF funding provides thousands of low-income Veteran families around the nation with access to case management and other assistance to rapidly re-house Veterans who become homeless or prevent Veterans from becoming homeless. “Helping Veterans exit homelessness and remain in stable housing is more important now than ever,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “The Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program remains a vital resource to ensure that every Veteran has a safe and stable place to call home, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.” In fiscal year (FY) 2019, SSVF served 105,156 individuals, including 70,524 Veterans and 20,608 children. As a result of these and other efforts, Veteran homelessness has been cut in half since 2010’s launch of the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. Since then, VA’s homelessness programs and targeted housing vouchers provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development have placed hundreds of thousands of Veterans and their family members into permanent housing or helped to prevent them from being homeless. This year’s grant recipients competed for funding under a Notice of Fund Availability published Dec. 5, 2019. The funding will support SSVF services in fiscal year 2021 which begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, 2021. Visit VA homeless SSVF to view the list of 2020 grantees and to learn more about the program.
WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), along with the Departments of Energy (DOE) and Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the formation of the COVID-19 Insights Partnership, an initiative to coordinate and share health data as well as research and expertise to aid in the fight against COVID-19. The COVID-19 Insights Partnership creates a framework for VA and HHS to utilize DOE’s world-leading high-performance computing (HPC) and artificial intelligence resources to conduct COVID-19 research and analyze health data that would otherwise not be possible. “Veterans served this country by putting on the uniform and protecting American interests overseas and now their health data will help in the fight against COVID-19 here at home,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “President Trump is marshalling all the resources he has available in the federal government to fight the virus and Veterans should be proud of the role they’re playing.” “The Department of Energy is proud to be a member of the COVID-19 Insights Partnership,” said Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette. “Our nation’s understanding of COVID-19 has already benefitted greatly from our world-leading high-performance computing and artificial intelligence resources and we look forward to continuing our coordination across federal departments and agencies in the fight against this virus.” “This unprecedented data and computing partnership is the latest addition to President Trump’s whole-of-government effort against COVID-19,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “The volume and quality of the data HHS has on COVID-19 has advanced by leaps and bounds in recent months. The Department of Energy’s world-class resources will help us derive new insights from the data we gather to help patients and protect our country.” Research and analysis conducted by the COVID-19 Insights Partnership will focus on vaccine and therapeutic development and outcomes, virology and other critical scientific topics to understand COVID-19 better. HHS and VA will provide additional updates and information on research projects as it becomes available. Summit, the United States’ fastest supercomputer, located at DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is accelerating COVID-19 research by running large scale, complex analyses on a vast amount of health data. Summit’s unmatched capacity to analyze massive integrated datasets and divine insights will help researchers identify and advance potential treatments and enhance outcomes for COVID-19 patients with unprecedented speed. The partnership expands upon recent efforts by the Trump Administration to leverage cutting-edge technologies in the fight against COVID-19, such as the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, which provides researchers worldwide with HPC resources and expertise from leading industry, Federal Government, and academia partners to accelerate the COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutic research.
(VFW Magazine) KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Veterans of Foreign Wars is proud to announce its 2020 “Uniting to Combat Hunger” campaign has raised more than 1 million meals for veterans and military families in need, transcending its original goal of 500,000. VFW Quartermaster General Debra Anderson and Ed Sandrick, director of Humana’s Strategic Alliances and Veteran Channel, made the special announcement live Monday during the VFW’s #StillServing Celebration, a virtual, weeklong event to bring awareness, respect and gratitude to veterans who remain committed to a life of service after their time in the military ends. Originally established in March of 2018, “Uniting to Combat Hunger” is a collaborative campaign from the VFW and Humana designed to help to raise awareness and fight food insecurity in the veteran and military communities. Defined as the lack of access to enough nutritionally adequate foods to live an active, healthy life, food insecurity contributes to poor health, lower productivity and higher medical costs. This societal issue impacts one in nine Americans, and 25% of Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans. Initially planned as a national food drive, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced this year’s “Uniting to Combat Hunger” campaign to drastically shift its focus to raising donations in support of local VA food pantries that were struggling to keep up with the increasing needs of the veteran and military families in their communities. “When we set our goal of 500,000 meals, we never could have anticipated the increased struggles the COVID-19 pandemic would bring,” said VFW National Commander William “Doc” Schmitz. “As more and more military and veteran families struggled to put food on the table, shifting our focus to supporting local VA food pantries just made sense. The efforts and dedication of VFW members, Humana representatives and VA employees across the country are perfect examples of how we are #StillServing.” “It’s an honor to support veteran and military families during this unprecedented time, as no one should be food insecure,” said Ed Sandrick, Humana Director of Strategic Alliances and Veteran Channel. “Through the ‘Uniting To Combat Hunger’ campaign, we’re proud to help feed those who have sacrificed so much for our country and we’re thrilled to more than double our goal in collaboration with dedicated partners like the VFW.” For more information on how you can help the VFW and Humana address food insecurity, visit vfw.org/UTCH.
(The American Legion) By 1943, The American Legion’s blood-donation program was institutionalized in multiple cities across the country, fulfilling needs locally and in support of military personnel at war. Following deadly race riots of June 1943 in Detroit, the American Legion Civilian Defense Blood Bank there was credited for acting quickly and effectively amid the bedlam. “Much of this blood plasma was delivered while rioting was at its height,” explained George C. Dollar, chairman of the American Legion Civilian Defense Blood Bank in Detroit. “It was delivered through streets filled with overturned cars; through flying missiles and showers of glass from broken windows, and through the picket lines. Because we were driving our white emergency unit cars of The American Legion Civilian Blood Bank unit, we were permitted to proceed without being attacked by the rioters or stopped by the police.” Area hospitals called on the bank for 512 units of plasma, most of which was reportedly used to treat citizens who had gotten caught up in the rioting that claimed 31 lives and injured hundreds of others. Detroit-area American Legion posts had established the blood bank at Henry Ford Hospital in March 1941 for “the purpose of serving veterans, indigent and emergency cases,” according to an article in the September 1943 American Legion Magazine. More than 2,500 Legionnaires and American Legion Auxiliary members regularly donated to the bank to keep it well stocked in case of emergency. Similar American Legion blood banks were operated in Boise, Idaho, and Brooklyn, N.Y., serving the civilian and military communities there. In other cities, including Detroit, The American Legion worked as the primary blood-distribution hub for local medical institutions and emergency services.
WASHINGTON —The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it is partnering with MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger to improve and ensure Veterans have reliable access to food. VA and MAZON will work together to distribute information to Veterans to increase awareness about the risks associated with food insecurity and share the benefits of programs like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). “Veterans must have consistent and reliable access to healthy foods in order to thrive,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “By raising awareness of the problem of Veterans’ food insecurity and executing solutions, this partnership will lead to more Veterans having more food on the table.” MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger is a national advocacy organization working to end hunger among people of all faiths in the United States and Israel. The organization works to raise awareness about community and government resources to encourage the anti-hunger community to effectively address emerging issues. “VA and MAZON will use various tactics to help Veterans facing food insecurity access available food assistance resources, like trainings for VA staff to help them better recognize and respond to Veteran food insecurity, ” said MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger President and CEO Abby J. Leibman. “These tactics include exploring the creation of a VA pilot program on SNAP outreach for Veterans that can be replicated and scaled up and formalizing target goals for Veteran SNAP eligibility screenings and application assistance.” This partnership is managed by the Veterans Health Administration’s Nutrition and Food Services office and was facilitated by the VHA Office of Community Engagement (OCE). Partnerships supported by OCE, such as this one, support VHA’s commitment to delivering patient-driven health care. Visit VA health partnerships and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger for more information.
By CAITLIN M. KENNEY | STARS AND STRIPES WASHINGTON — More than 30 sailors have suffered minor injuries from the fire that broke out Sunday and firefighters continue battle aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard at Naval Base San Diego, Calif. As of Monday morning, 34 sailors and 23 civilians have been treated for minor injuries, said Lt. Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman, a spokeswoman with Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Of the 17 sailors who were hospitalized Sunday, five sailors have remained in the medical facility for observation and are in stable condition. So far, minor injuries include heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation, according to Schwegman. A fire was reported aboard the amphibious assault ship at about 8:30 a.m. Sunday while it was moored at the pier, said Mike Raney, a spokesman for Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. The cause of the fire is still under investigation and the origin of an explosion that also occurred on the ship Sunday is still unknown, The Associated Press reported. Firefighting operations continued aboard the ship through the night and two helicopters with water buckets were brought in to help, according to the Navy. At the time of the fire about 160 sailors were on the ship, which was undergoing maintenance, according to Raney. The ship typically has a crew of about 1,000. Adm. Mike Gilday, chief of naval operations, called the fire “a terrible tragedy.” "We are grateful for the quick and immediate response of local, base, and shipboard firefighters aboard USS Bonhomme Richard. Our thoughts and prayers are with our [Bonhomme Richard] sailors, their families, and our emergency responders who continue to fight the fire. Godspeed," he said in a statement. Two nearby ships, the USS Fitzgerald and the USS Russell, had to move away from the pier Sunday afternoon because of the fire. The USS Fitzgerald had just arrived in San Diego July 2, according to U.S. Naval Institute News, after undergoing more than two years of restoration and modernization following the deadly 2017 collision that killed seven sailors. Photo Credit: CHRISTINA ROSS/U.S. NAVY
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced its commitment to extend debt relief to Veterans adversely impacted by COVID-19 to the end of 2020 by suspending certain debt collection actions. The department recognizes Veterans and beneficiaries are still being greatly impacted by the coronavirus prompting the extension of financial relief. “Veterans and their families should be focused on their health and safety during the pandemic,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “VA is taking action to give those with pending debts greater flexibility during these challenging times.” VA is suspending all actions on Veteran debts under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Treasury Department. This includes the suspension of collection action or extending repayment terms on preexisting VA debts, whichever the Veteran prefers. For benefit debts, Veterans should contact the VA Debt Management Center at 1-800-827-0648. For health care debts, Veterans should contact the Health Resource Center at 1-866-400-1238 or https://www.pay.govfor payments.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is rolling out a new system in July for Veterans and eligible beneficiaries to submit and track transportation reimbursement claims using VA’s secure web-based portal, Access VA. The Beneficiary Travel Self-Service System (BTSSS), which is accessible 24/7, 365 days a year, will simplify how eligible Veterans and beneficiaries claim mileage reimbursement for travel to and from both VA health care or VA authorized non-VA health care service locations. “VA is working diligently to find new ways to innovate and simplify how we serve Veterans and their beneficiaries,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Streamlining the Beneficiary Travel Self-Service System will help our Veterans get their travel reimbursements more securely and efficiently.” BTSSS enables Veterans and caregivers to submit claims for reimbursement of costs from a personally owned vehicle, common carrier, meals and/or lodging, and other travel related expenses such as tolls, parking and luggage. The national implementation across Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN) will run in phases through November. The first phase will start in July and includes VA Salt Lake City Health Care System, Kansas City VA Medical Center, Bay Pines VA Health Care System, Bay Pines, FL and Minneapolis VA Health Care System. The implementation will continue in phases beginning on the following dates: September 8: VISN’s 1, 9, 12, 17, 21, 22 October 5: VISN’s 2, 6, 10, 15, 20 November 2: VISN’s 4, 5, 7, 8, 16, 19, 23 As BTSSS goes live, the use of kiosks will be discontinued however, in person claims and hard-copy submissions are still available. For more information on BTSSS and eligibility, visit the VA Travel Pay Reimbursement webpage.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today the launching of a digital COVID-19 screening tool to streamline Veteran access to medical care during the coronavirus pandemic. The tool, designed with Veteran and staff input, enables the screening of more than 10,000 people each day. Veterans, their caregivers and VA health care employees can use this tool on their mobile phones before entering facilities. It takes less than a minute to complete and helps reduce wait times, lowers exposure risk and eases patient stress. It also helps Veterans gain confidence with increased digital interactions as part of their VA health care experience. “This screening tool emphasizes the ongoing importance of VA’s investment in digital modernization, as it went from initial concept to national availability in less than two weeks,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “In addition to providing a broad range of innovations and improvements that significantly benefit the Veterans we serve; our culture of innovation allows us to respond quickly to urgent and evolving needs.” To protect patients and staff, VA screens everyone for coronavirus symptoms and exposure each time they enter a health facility. VA staff uses the information received to direct people to either enter the building or go to a designated area for additional screening. Veterans, caregivers and staff can use the tool by texting the word “SCREEN” to 53079 or scan a dedicated QR code with their mobile phone to get a link to the tool. They then answer a series of simple questions and share their results at the VA facility entrance. For more about VA efforts to meet Veteran and staff needs during the coronavirus pandemic, visit VA.gov coronavirus FAQs and VA’s public health response.
Veterans at risk of or experiencing homelessness can now stay connected with their health care providers, case managers, and loved ones thanks to a nonprofit organization’s collaboration with VA. America’s Adopt A Solider has worked with VA since 2010 on a multitude of services and support for Homeless and at-risk Veterans. The non-profit’s newest program keeps Veterans connected with VA care providers via a laptop and mobile phone donation program. Some Veterans often lack the resources needed to remain connected with VA services and family members. And the need for telecommunication donations to promote connectivity with care providers became evident as many states across the country enacted stay-at-home orders due to the pandemic. Mobile phone and laptop donations so far America’s Adopt A Soldier has already provided VA with hundreds of smartphones and laptops, procured through public and corporate donations from Verizon and AT&T. These donations have been shipped to Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 21, which includes the Northern California Bay Area (San Francisco VAHCS, Palo Alto VAHCS, and Northern California VAHCS) and the Southern Nevada VAHCS. The laptops and smartphones will go to Veterans currently in the Housing and Urban Development – VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH), Grant and Per Diem transitional housing, and Health Care for the Homeless Contract Residential Services programs. As additional donations arrive from corporations and other organizations, America’s Adopt A Soldier will work with VA to identify additional VISNs in need. “Having this Veteran population shelter in place without the technology to keep them connected, might result in catastrophic impacts and immeasurable setbacks to their treatment,” said Mary Keeser, founder and chair of America’s Adopt A Soldier and a former U.S. Army officer. “Many of these Veterans have worked so hard to get on a path forward. With VA by their side creating the correct treatment plan, we reached out to assist the staff – who also recognized this challenge – in providing the required technology. We are humbled to be able to help provide this technology.” Assists with social distancing Keeser’s organization used active duty military and Veterans to update and reconfigure donated laptops to make sure they were ready for use once distributed. The laptops allow Veterans to stay in contact with their VA caseworkers, family, and friends while also maintaining CDC guidelines for social distancing. All devices are equipped with Windows 10 and can be used at Wi-Fi hot spots. The organization receives donations and support from several large organizations, including Microsoft, AT&T, and Envistacom. “Veterans can use the technology to access treatment plans and medical support, conduct job searches, continue their education, and of course, stay in touch with their social networks,” said Keeser. “A lot of our Veterans depend on those social connections with other Veterans and military organizations.” VA remains committed to securing safe and stable housing for Veterans and helping them stay connected during these uncertain times. Donations from America’s Adopt A Soldier organization facilitate Veterans’ continued progress in their treatment plans and increase their ability to comply with safe distancing guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. More Information Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness should contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838). Anyone wishing to make a donation should visit https://www.americasadoptasoldier.org/makeadonation.html. Businesses and corporations interested in partnerships and resource donations can contact Mary Keeser at email@example.com.