Secretary McDonald announces the start of a national recruitment effort to bring needed medical professionals to VA

Recruitment of Additional Medical Providers Will Increase Access to Care

Speaking to a crowd of medical students, residents and faculty at Duke University’s School of Medicine, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald today launched a recruiting initiative aimed at bringing the best and brightest health professionals to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) which will ultimately expand access to care for Veterans.

“At VA, we have the most inspiring mission and the greatest clients of any healthcare system in the world. That’s exactly the message I’m going to share as I speak with health care professionals and students about the value of serving at VA,” said Secretary McDonald. “We have taken action to get Veterans off of wait lists and into clinics in the short-term, but in the long-term, in order to provide timely access to care, we need to build capacity by hiring more clinicians. We need the best doctors and nurses serving Veterans, and that is why I will be out recruiting, leveraging the existing relationships and affiliations VA has with many academic institutions, and talking directly to medical professionals about joining us to fulfill our exceptional mission of caring for those who ‘shall have borne the battle.’”

VA is taking multiple steps to expand capacity at our facilities, to provide Veterans the timely care they have earned and deserve.  In addition to Secretary McDonald’s direct messages to clinicians and clinicians-in-training, these steps include:

  • Collaborating on a new nursing academic partnership (VA Nursing Academic Partnerships or VANAP) focused on psychiatric and mental health care to build stronger, mutually beneficial relationships between nursing schools and VA facilities.
  • Partnering with the Department of Defense Health Affairs, Army, Navy, and Air Force to improve recruitment of recently or soon to be discharged health care professionals. VHA is already taking advantage of known separations of military health care workers.
  • Expanding of a pilot program to bring combat medics and corpsmen in to VA facilities as clinicians
  • Improving the credentialing process for VA and DoD health care providers which will involve sharing credentials to speed up the process.
  • Expanding of the loan repayment program, as included in the recently passed Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act
  • Considering options to revise pay tables to offer more competitive salaries for VA providers, in comparison to their academic and private practice colleagues. Read More »

The National Center for PTSD celebrates 25 years of leadership in research and education

On Aug. 29, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) celebrates its 25th anniversary. For the past 25 years, the Center has been the leader in research and education helping those who are living with PTSD. The anniversary comes as organizations across the country recognize the importance of mental health this September during Suicide Prevention Month.

The proposal for creating a National Center for PTSD arose from the growing mental health needs of Vietnam Veterans, as well as the American Psychiatric Association officially recognizing PTSD diagnosis in 1980.  In 1984, Congress directed VA to form a National Center for PTSD “to carry out and promote the training of health care and related personnel in, and research into, the causes and diagnosis of PTSD and the treatment of Veterans for PTSD.”

VA established the Center in 1989 as a center of excellence that would set the agenda for research and education on PTSD. Although initially organized as a consortium of five divisions, the Center now consists of seven divisions across the United States, with headquarters in White River Junction, Vt.  Other divisions are located in Boston, Mass., West Haven, Conn., Palo Alto, Cailf., and Honolulu, Hawaii. Each contributes to the overall Center mission through specific areas of focus.

The Center has become the leader in online PTSD continuing education and technology-based education and resources for trauma survivors.  In 2011, the Center partnered with the Department of Defense for the first publically-available VA mobile app – the award-winning PTSD Coach.

The Center has become the leader in online PTSD continuing education and technology-based education and resources for trauma survivors. In 2011, the Center partnered with the Department of Defense for the first publically-available VA mobile app – the award-winning PTSD Coach.

“When we started, PTSD was a controversial diagnosis,” said Dr. Matthew Friedman, the Center’s senior advisor and its executive director from 1989 through 2013. “Our research and educational initiatives helped establish the scientific basis for PTSD, and disseminated that information globally.”

From the beginning, the Center’s initiatives have been making a critical difference in the understanding, assessment and treatment of PTSD.

Assessment and diagnosis. The Center’s first meeting in 1989 launched the development of the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale, the CAPS, which became the gold standard for assessing PTSD. Since then, we have developed other leading assessment measures for trauma and PTSD for use at VA, the Department of Defense and around the world. These assessment measures have advanced the clinical care of Veterans living with PTSD by ensuring accurate diagnosis and assessment.

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VA Releases New Version of the GI Bill® Comparison Tool as Students Return to School


GI Bill Comparison Tool

Last February, I introduced VA’s GI Bill® Comparison Tool as a new resource Veterans and their beneficiaries could use to find information online about the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The public response went beyond our expectations. Since launch the tool has received nearly 350,000 site visits and was featured by the Second Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, on NBC’s “Today Show.”

After the segment aired we had the highest traffic since the initial launch week of the tool. The response is a testament to how eager students are for helpful information about schools. This was a great step in making students informed consumers first and GI Bill users second.

I’m pleased to announce that we’re still improving the tool and there’s plenty more to come. As I wrote before:
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Improving the mental health needs of Servicemembers, Veterans and their families

In remarks to Veterans attending the 96th annual American Legion National Convention today, the president announced executive actions that will allow the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense to improve the mental health services they provide to Veterans, Servicemembers and their families.


President Obama addresses the American Legion’s 96th National Convention. (Photo by Reynaldo Leal, VA)

The 19 actions build upon the president’s 2012 executive order , which afforded VA the ability to hire 1,600 mental health professionals, expand the capacity of the Veterans Crisis Line and enhance its partnerships with community mental health providers.

Three of the new actions will improve the continuity of care for Servicemembers transitioning from Tri-Care to VA care by:

  • automatically enrolling service members in the inTransition program;
  • allowing VA to continue to use medication prescribed by DoD mental health providers;
  • ensuring DoD and VA will work together to develop a single joint, comprehensive plan for service members transitioning from DoD to VA with multiple, complex, severe conditions such as traumatic brain injury, psychological trauma, or other cognitive, psychological or emotional disorders.

Read more about these actions via the White House website.

In his remarks, the president also announced that the administration is continuing to make significant progress toward reducing the number of veterans who suffer from homelessness. Data collected during the annual point-in-time count conducted in January 2014 shows there were 49,933 homeless veterans in America, a decline of 33 percent (or 24,837 people) since 2010. This includes a nearly 40 percent drop in the number of veterans sleeping on the street.


VA Presents Facts Omitted from Recent Article on Enrollment System

Caring for our nation’s Veterans is the highest honor and privilege for the men and women who serve them at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Our mission is to provide timely access to earned health care and benefits for millions of Veterans. That is a responsibility that we do not take lightly.

Over the past several months, it has become clear that we have fallen short when it comes to timely access to care. Today, we are working hard with Veterans Service Organizations, Congress and others to take corrective actions, accelerate access and begin to rebuild trust with the Veterans who entrust us with their care. A third of VA’s employees are Veterans themselves and they come to work each day focused on making a difference.

It is important that we openly and willingly discuss our mistakes and how we intend to improve. As we acknowledge areas where more work is needed, we also need to set the record straight when our work is unfairly mischaracterized.

One such story alleged VA mishandled enrollment applications. While we have worked to make the enrollment process less complicated, it is an area VA has identified for improvement. As we move forward, our focus remains on enhancing the enrollment system to better serve Veterans. Read More »


Aspiring Paralympic medalists get their start at the 2014 National Veteran Wheelchair Games

More than 500 disabled U.S. military Veterans are competing at the 34th National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Philadelphia, Pa., through Aug. 17. The event not only promotes physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle, but also aims to help Veterans realize they can adapt and overcome any challenge.


2014 National Veterans Wheelchair Games kickoff with a game of wheelchair rugby.

The National Veterans Wheelchair Games is a sports and rehabilitation program for military service Veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition due to spinal cord injuries, amputations or certain neurological problems.

The competition has been co-presented by the Veteran Affairs Adaptive Sports Program and Paralyzed Veterans of America since 1985. The yearly event enables a deep bond amongst the participants – they know exactly what the other is going through. This encourages lasting friendships and support networks. Read More »


Sec. Bob McDonald continues dialogue with Veterans

Secretary Bob McDonald continues his open dialogue with Veterans as he travels to Memphis today. While the trip is anchored by an address to Veterans at the AMVETS National Convention, McDonald will also visit several VA facilities including the Memphis VA Medical Center, a local Vet Center and the National Cemetery.

It’s all part of his ongoing efforts to learn as much as possible about the diverse issues facing Veterans and how the Department can better meet their needs. To that end, McDonald has instructed all VAMC directors to hold town-hall meetings by the end of September in order to get a clear picture of what is right, and what is wrong – focusing heavily on VA’s medical centers that serve a large number of Veterans.

“Coming face-to-face with reality isn’t a disaster,” he said to Veterans at the DAV National Convention last week. “I want to hear your stories. I want to know when we’re not serving you well.”

At the Phoenix VA Medical Center during his first trip as secretary, McDonald spoke with as many Veterans and employees as he could – often straying away from his planned tour to talk with Vets in waiting rooms. One Veteran in particular, waited patiently to tell McDonald about his positive VA experience and the care he received in Phoenix.

“The Phoenix story is about more than just a crisis in Veterans’ access,” the secretary said. “To be sure it’s a story of failed leadership, but it’s also a story of dedicated people, who have had the moral courage to stand up, and help serve us Veterans better.”

As he travels to meet with employees and Veterans, McDonald is emphasizing the importance of embracing VA’s core values: Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect and Excellence, known as I CARE. He said VA and its employees could never go wrong if they sincerely adopted these principles and viewed care and service through the eyes of Veterans.


VA News #582

Aug. 11 & 18, 2014

Hosts: Lena Jordi-Cruzval & Jose Llamas
Excutive Producer: Ken McKinnon
Run Time: 12:00

VA News is a weekly program designed to provide timely news and information about the Department of Veterans Affairs. The newscast is co-sponsored by the VHA Employee Education System and the Office of Public Affairs in partnership with other headquarters and field offices.

Conference looks to advance women’s health research within VA

VA’s Health Services Research and Development Service sponsored a conference titled, “Enhancing Partnerships for Research and Care of Women Veterans” July 31-Aug. 1 in D.C. The event brought together investigators pursuing research on women Veterans and women in the military with leaders in women’s health care delivery and policy within and outside VA to advance the state and impacts of women’s health research within VA. Attendees to the conference included policy leaders in VA women’s health and mental health services and other key program offices from VA as well as leaders from agencies outside VA including the Institute of Medicine, the Department of Health and Human Services’ office on women’s health, and the NIH office of research on women’s health.


VA announces new grants to help end Veterans’ homelessness

Initiative targets 115,000 homeless and at-risk Vets and families

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald today announced the award of approximately $300 million in grants that will help approximately 115,000 homeless and at-risk Veterans and their families. The grants will be distributed to 301 community agencies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

6760997621_bdb4b45838_bUnder the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, VA is awarding grants to private non-profit organizations and consumer cooperatives that provide services to very low-income Veteran families living in – or transitioning to – permanent housing. Those community organizations provide a range of services that promote housing stability among eligible very low income Veteran families (those making less than 50 percent of the area median income). The grants announced today will fund the fourth year of the SSVF program.

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