Retiree News 

8/20/2009 

VA creating 28 new vet centers

WASHINGTON (AFRNS) -- Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced today that combat veterans will receive readjustment counseling and other assistance in 28 additional communities across the country where the Department of Veterans Affairs will establish vet centers in 2010.

"VA is committed to providing high-quality outreach and readjustment counseling to all combat veterans," Secretary Shinseki said.  "These 28 new vet centers will address the growing need for those services."

The community-based vet centers -- already in all 50 states -- are a key component of VA's mental health program, providing veterans with mental health screening and post-traumatic stress disorder counseling.

The existing 232 centers conduct community outreach offering counseling on employment, family issues and education to combat veterans and family members. Staffs also offer bereavement counseling for families of servicemembers killed on active duty and counseling for veterans who were sexually harassed on active duty.

Vet center services are earned through service in a combat zone or area of hostility and are provided at no cost to veterans or their families.

They are staffed by small multidisciplinary teams, which may include social workers, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, master's-level counselors and outreach specialists. More than 70 percent of vet center employees are veterans themselves, a majority of whom served in combat zones.

The vet center program was established in 1979 by Congress, recognizing that many Vietnam veterans were still having readjustment problems. In 2008, the vet venter program provided more than 1.1 million visits to over 167,000 veterans, including over 53,000 visits by more than 14,500 veteran families. More information about vet centers can be found at www.vetcenter.va.gov/index.asp. 

Communities receiving new VA vet centers include:

American Samoa

Arizona -- Mohave and Yuma Counties

California -- San Luis Obispo County

 Delaware -- Sussex County

Florida -- Marion, Lake, Collier, Okaloosa and Bay Counties

Georgia -- Muscogee and Richmond Counties

Hawaii -- Western Oahu

Indiana -- St. Joseph County

Louisiana -- Rapides Parish

Michigan -- Grand Traverse County, also serving Wexford County

Missouri -- Boone County

Montana -- Cascade and Flathead Counties

Ohio -- Stark County

Oregon -- Deschutes County

Pennsylvania -- Lancaster County

South Carolina -- Horry County

Texas -- Jefferson and Taylor Counties

Utah -- Washington County

Washington -- Walla Walla County, also serving Umatilla County, Oregon

Wisconsin -- LaCrosse County, also serving Monroe County. (Courtesy of VA)


House Resolution Offers Support for Army Community Covenant


AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., recently sent a letter to Rep Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., in support of H.Con. Res. 170 (Supporting the Goals and Ideals of the Army Community Covenant). The Army Community Covenant is a formal commitment of support by states and local communities to Soldiers and their Families - active, Guard and Reserve. The Army Community Covenant is designed to develop and foster effective state and community partnerships with the Army working to improve Soldier and Family quality of life, while at their current duty stations and as they transfer from state to state.

Rep. Whitfield’s proposed resolution would do three things: 

(1) Supports and encourages Community Covenant signing ceremonies between local communities and the Armed Forces throughout the United States;

(2) Encourages Americans to participate in or develop programs and services to support members of the Armed Forces and their families in their communities, especially during and after military deployments; and

(3) Resolves to take all necessary steps to support members of the Armed Forces and their families.

Gen. Sullivan’s letter said, in part, “This important program recognizes the contributions of all service members and their families in this time of war and encourages communities across
America to support the brave men and women who serve in our military.” “The goal of Community Covenant is to reach every corner of America by creating a Congressional Resolution that encourages every community to host their own Covenant signing ceremony and take steps to increase their support for our troops and their families.” “Since the initial Community Covenant signing ceremony in Columbus, Ga., in 2008, over 170 communities across America have conducted similar ceremonies.  Almost 400 mayors and over half the governors in the country have participated in such a ceremony.  Another 100 ceremonies are being planned.  Thousands have benefited from the many community-led programs that show support for our troops and their families.” H. Con. Res 170 has been referred to the House Armed Services Committee for action.


Some States Still Silent on Tuition for new GI Bill


The Aug. 1, 2009 launch of the Post-9/11 GI Bill is expected to go smoothly but for one problem outside the control of the Veterans Affairs (VA) Department: The tuition and fee caps for some states will not be known. Among the many positives about the new veterans education benefits program is its promise to reimburse tuition and fees for eligible students up to a cap for every state that is based on the highest tuition and fees charged for undergraduate education at a four-year public college or university at the in-state rate. To set caps, VA is depending on state approving agencies to determine the highest tuition and fee rates and report the numbers. VA officials have found that some state agencies will not meet the Aug. 1 deadline to report their highest tuition and highest fees, leaving VA to find a stopgap solution. For states where a cap has not been established for the 2009-10 academic year, tuition and fee payments will be made based on the 2008-09 rates. Once 2009-10 caps are set for a state, retroactive payments will make up the difference. To find out more, click here: http://www.armytimes.com/benefits/education/military_gibill_tuitionrates_072909w/

Symposium Sets Top Five Issues for Wounded Warriors

The top issues for Wounded Warriors across the nation were discussed at the 5th annual Army Wounded Warrior Program Symposium in San Antonio, Texas, July 14-16, 2009. The annual AW2 symposium brings together representative Soldiers, veterans, spouses and children to spend a week engaging in intense focus-group discussions.

The top five issues addressed at the symposium were:

  • Concurrent receipt of retired and Veterans Affairs disability pay.
  • Comprehensive psych education for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic  Brain Injury (TBI
    Service members, family members and caregivers.
  • Veterans Affairs education for Army Wounded Warrior Program advocates.
  • Stipends for primary caregivers of ill/injured Servicemembers.
  • Community support coordinators in geographically dispersed areas.

A number of these issues will be addressed at the AUSA Military Family Forums. Also, AUSA has sent letters in support of Resolutions for these issues. To read the full article, click on the link: http://www.army.mil/-news/2009/07/22/24745-symposium-sets-top-five-issues-for-wounded-warriors/index.html


VA Chief Calls for More Compatibility with DoD

The secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs called for greater compatibility between automated systems of the VA and the Department of Defense, and pledged to shorten the time required for processing disability claims for Soldiers. Retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki spoke July 22, 2009, to more than 2,000 Army health-care professionals at the Army Medical Symposium in San Antonio, Texas, sponsored by U.S. Army Medical Command and the Association of the United States Army. Shinseki spoke of advances in electronic health records through the VA's VISTA or Veterans Health Information Systems Technology Architecture system, and the need to link it to DOD's AHLTA system. He said VISTA has led to greater access, higher quality, fewer errors and lower costs, and that making the DoD and VA systems compatible will help solve the backlog of disability cases. By creating an electronic health record, and electronic personel record the VA would be able to give veterans disability checks without making them wait six to 12 months. To read more about the Army Medical Symposium and the issue addressed,  go to: http://www.army.mil/-news/2009/07/28/25088-va-chief-calls-for-more-compatibility-with-dod/index.html


7-Eleven is Looking for a Few Good Vets

For those who have given so generously to their country by serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, 7-Eleven, Inc. wants to make it a little easier to reach the American dream of owning one’s own business.  Qualified veterans who become first-time 7-Eleven franchisees will receive a 10-percent discount on the initial franchise fee for the first 7-Eleven store they franchise.  This discount can range from $1,000 up to approximately $35,000, depending on the store.  For more information, please click on the following link:  http://franchise.7-eleven.com/index.php/events


Vets Affected By VA Errors to File Claims

More than 60 veterans are about to file claims with the VA. Among them are veterans who have tested positive for HIV and hepatitis and others who suffered emotional distress after the VA gave them initial positive test results for infections that turned out to be wrong. Roughly 10,000 affected former patients at VA hospitals in Murfreesboro, Tenn., Miami and Augusta, Ga., are also likely to seek compensation beyond the VA’s offer of free medical care. To read this article in its entirety, click here: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2009/07/ap_vet_care_072809/


Women Veterans Memorial in Financial Trouble

The Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation which maintains and operates the nation’s only major memorial to female veterans is hurting for cash and has launched a fundraising campaign it hopes will help maintain operations — and ultimately stave off closure. The memorial, located on a 4.2-acre site at the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery, is the only national memorial honoring what the foundation estimates are the 2½ million women who have served in the armed forces. Dedicated in 1997, it is visited by some 200,000 people each year, according to the foundation. Currently, the foundation is struggling to pay employee salaries, rent on the foundation’s offices and for items such as the foundation’s roughly $12,000 monthly electric bill. To visit the foundation’s website, go to: http://www.womensmemorial.org/index.html To read the entire article, click on the link: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2009/07/military_womensmemorial_fundraising_072909w/


New Belvoir Hospital to Help Replace Walter Reed

Under the Base Realignment and Closure Act of 2005, a new hospital will replace DeWitt Army Community Hospital and take over some of the services now offered at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.  The current Walter Reed facility is scheduled to close Sept. 15, 2011 as a new hospital expansion opens in Bethesda.  The new hospital at Ft. Belvoir, will be divided into five nature-themed sections- river, eagle, sunrise, oak and meadow.  To read more on the new hospital replacing DeWitt Army Community Hospital, please go to:  http://www.army.mil/-news/2009/07/27/24991-new-belvoir-hospital-to-help-replace-walter-reed/?ref=news-home-title0

Faith Groups Reach Out to Provide Services to Military Veterans and Families

Minnesota, one of only a handful of states that do not have an active military base has pioneered programs to provide support for military families.  A new partnership between the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs and Lutheran Social Services (LSS) is called Minnesota Service CORE, the acronym refers to the services offered: Case management, Outreach, Referral to other service, and Education.  There is no cost for services provided to veterans and their immediate family members, and no requirement for any relationship with the Lutheran Church.  For more information about Minnesota Service CORE, please go to the following link:  http://www.minnpost.com/community_voices/2009/07/22/10406/faith_groups_reach_out_to_provide_services_to_military_veterans_and_families


Online or Over Video, TRICARE Reaches Out With Expanded Behavioral Health Care Services

With the introduction of two new programs, time and distance will no longer be obstacles for active duty families seeking behavioral health care.  The Web-based TRICARE Assistance Program (TRIAP) and telemental health program use evolving telecommunication technologies to bring counseling assistance and behavioral health care closer to the people who need it most. Both programs are scheduled for launch Aug. 1, 2009
From the security of their homes, or anywhere else for that matter, beneficiaries with a computer, Webcam and the associated software can speak “face-to-face” with a licensed counselor over the Internet at any time of the day or night. Eligible beneficiaries can link to their regional contractor’s TRIAP site and get more information about the program at http://www.tricare.mil/TRIAP.  TRICARE’s telemental health services use medically-supervised, secure audio-visual conferencing to link beneficiaries with offsite providers. Available to all TRICARE beneficiaries in the
United States, telemental health care will fall under TRICARE’s telemedicine coverage. To find out more information, go to: http://www.tricare.mil/pressroom/news.aspx?fid=546

Report Sees Agent Orange Link to More Illnesses

According to a report written by a 14-member committee, charged by the Institute of Medicine with determining whether certain medical conditions were caused by exposure to herbicides used to clear stretches of jungle.  Though not conclusive, the results are an important first step for veterans groups working to get the government to help pay for treatment of illnesses they believe have roots on the battlefield.  An expert panel reported that two more diseases may be linked to exposure to Agent Orange, a defoliant used by the American military during the Vietnam War.  People exposed to the chemical appear, at least tentatively, to be more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease and ischemic heart disease.  To read this article in full, please go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/25/health/research/25orange.html?_r=4 For the Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2008, go to: http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12662&page=1


Military Star Card Gas Discount to Increase by 60 Percent

Beginning August 8, pumps currently programmed to reflect a discount of three cents a gallon for drivers who pay with a Military Star Card will jump to five cents a gallon.  In addition to the everyday nickel discount, AAFES will periodically be offering increased savings opportunities at specified times throughout the year.  To find out more about AAFES offering increased savings opportunities, please follow the link to:  http://www.aafes.com/pa/default.asp



'Clip' the Excess from Your Grocery Bill

Although most customers know they can redeem coupons at commissaries, not many are aware that in addition to downloading them from the DeCA Web site, they can also pick them up at the store entrances and checkout counters, collect them from displays on store aisles, and use coupons that are attached to products.  Thousands of coupons are redeemed at commissaries throughout the United States and overseas, daily and translate into significant savings for military families.  To download coupons and read this article in full, please go to:  http://www.commissaries.com

Office Announces New Wounded Warrior Site

The Chief Human Capital Office celebrates its first birthday this month. To celebrate, the Office is proud to announce the launch of its new website. The website will provide regularly updated information on our efforts in support of Wounded Warriors, recruitment, retention, and civilian and military leader development opportunities. Job opportunities from the three services will be posted as well. Informative articles will also be included in the near future


Autism Newsletters Available

The Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Va., and Naval Medical Center San Diego are pilot sites for a new e-mail based communication service for military families that have a member with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Hospital-specific and Department of Defense (DoD) "need-to-know" information is included in the e-mails along with local and national resources. TRICARE encourages beneficiaries in the pilot program areas who have children with autism spectrum disorders to subscribe to this e-mail service for Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, and for Naval Medical Center San Diego. For more information about TRICARE programs for beneficiaries with autism spectrum disorders, visit the TRICARE Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) webpage and select the link for TRICARE's Autism Services Demonstration.