VA guarantees its 21 millionth home loan

houseVA announced this month that it has guaranteed 21 million home loans since the home loan guaranty program was established in 1944 as part of the original Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the “GI Bill.” This achievement comes during the year-long commemoration of 70 years of the “GI Bill,” which established a wide range of benefits for Veterans returning from World War II, including low-cost home loans, education and vocational training.

“This vital program offers Veterans, Servicemembers and their families the keys to homeownership and is truly a testament to our nation’s commitment to enhancing the lives of those who served our country,” said Allison A. Hickey, VA’s Under Secretary for Benefits. “Twenty-one million home loans guaranteed, with the last one million guaranteed in just two years, is just one example of how VA employees are privileged to continue to serve and give back to our Veterans through the GI Bill.”

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National Veterans Creative Arts Festival begins today

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Veterans began checking yesterday for this years National Veterans Creative Arts Festival in Wisconsin.

More than 100 Veterans from across the country are in Milwaukee today through Sunday for the 2014 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival.

Robert Cooper, from Martinsburg, West Virginia, tunes a folk harp for a rehearsal which culiminate with on Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014 with a stage performance at Milwaukee Theatre.

Robert Cooper, from Martinsburg, W.Va.,, tunes a folk harp for a rehearsal which culminates with on Sunday  with a stage performance at Milwaukee Theater.

The Festival, presented by VA and the American Legion Auxiliary, showcases the artistic achievements of Veterans from across the country who placed first in national art, music, dance, drama and creative writing division competitions. The Veterans will participate in workshops, rehearsals and artistic interaction sessions, culminating in an art exhibit and stage show performance, open to the public.

Among many other therapeutic benefits, the Festival encourages artistic expression to help Veterans dealing with PTSD and other psychological issues.  More than 3,500 Veterans participated  in regional competitions which culminate in the annual national event. Read More »

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Veteran learns to thrive after war and tragedy

Like many Veterans, Brandon brought the war home: Combat had changed him. This proud son of Wisconsin’s Ho-Chunk Nation, whose family members include the tribal chief and a Vietnam combat Veteran, needed help.

Encouraged by loved ones, he sought care at the Minneapolis VA — and by using his VA benefits to receive treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and get an education, this young Marine Veteran built a new life and career, producing Native American music.

Hear and share Brandon’s story.

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Veterans Affairs’ Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery one of the most scenic

R5Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery was recently listed as one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world in an article appearing in both Smithsonian Magazine and Travel and Leisure.

Situated in San Diego County on the Fort Rosecrans Military reservation, the cemetery is located approximately 10 miles west of San Diego, overlooking the bay and the city. It became a National Cemetery on Oct. 5, 1934. The decision to make the post cemetery part of the national system came, in part, due to changes in legislation that greatly increased the number of persons eligible for burial in a national cemetery. Grave space in San Francisco National Cemetery then grew increasingly limited. In addition, southern California was experiencing a phenomenal population growth during this period, and there was a definitive need for more burial sites.

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VA is critical to medicine and Veterans

Sec. Bob McDonald visits Phoenix and Las Vegas VAMC

Sec. Bob McDonald

During preparation for my confirmation as secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA), I was repeatedly asked, “Why doesn’t VA just hand out vouchers allowing veterans to get care wherever they want?” For a department recovering from serious issues involving health care access and scheduling of appointments, that was a legitimate question.

After nine weeks at VA, travel to 31 VA facilities in 15 cities, discussions with hundreds of veterans and VA clinicians, meetings with 75 Members of Congress, two hearings before the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs committees and dozens of meetings with Veterans Service Organizations and other stakeholders, I can answer that question.

Veterans need VA, and many more Americans benefit from VA.

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Every day,  VA doctors see approximately 240,000 patients.

Almost 9 million veterans are enrolled to receive health care from VA — a unique, fully-integrated health care system, the largest in the nation. The VA stands atop a critical triad of support — three pillars that enable holistic health care for our patients: research, leading to advances in medical care; training that’s essential to build and maintain proficiency of care; and delivery of clinical care to help those in need.

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VA and Veterans service organizations eye telehealth to improve access

VA  representatives  and Veteran Service Organizations met today to explore the  health care delivery capabilities offered by telehealth to help improve access to care for Veterans.

Sec. Bob McDonald visits Phoenix and Las Vegas VAMC“Today’s demonstration is an important part of our ongoing conversation with our VSO partners in developing the tools that ensure Veterans have access to the quality care and services they have earned,” said VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald. “Telehealth is rapidly becoming an attractive option, especially for Veterans who do not have a VA health care facility close to home.” In Fiscal year 2014 VA telehealth services served over 690,000 Veterans in over 2 million virtual visits.

The event also included a presentation of the new Clinical Video Telehealth (CVT) scheduling software, which will help streamline how VA employees schedule telehealth appointments and  resources. The CVT scheduling software was rolled out last month as schedulers began training to use the new program.

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VA’s TeleHealth Director, Dr. Shawn Norman, explains the differences between the new Clinical Video Telehealth (CVT) scheduling software and the dated system it replaced. VA Photo by Robert Turtil

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VA to accept Fry Scholarship applications beginning November 3

VA will begin accepting applications by mail beginning Nov. 3 for the Fry Scholarship under newly expanded eligibility criteria that includes surviving spouses. The addition is the latest in a series of VA actions taking in accordance with the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (“Choice Act”).

Part of the Choice Act expanded the Fry Scholarship to include the surviving spouses of Servicemembers who died in the line of duty after Sept. 10, 2001. Prior to this expansion, only children of those who died in the line of duty were eligible for this benefit.

“We can never fully repay the debt we owe to these families who have lost a loved one,” said VA Secretary Robert McDonald. “It is a privilege to provide educational benefits that will make a positive difference in their lives.”

TAPS founder Bonnie Carroll (right) and Malia Fry (middle) present VA Senior Advisor for Veterans employment Royse Cloud with an award recognizing VA for its contribution to education for military survivors.

TAPS founder Bonnie Carroll (right) and Malia Fry (middle) present VA Senior Advisor for Veterans employment Rosye Cloud with an award recognizing VA for its contribution to education for military survivors.

The Fry Scholarship was created to honor Sergeant John David Fry, 28, of Lorena, Texas.

Sergeant Fry had one week left in his tour in Iraq in 2006, when he volunteered to continue working for seven more hours disarming explosive devices, despite having already sustained an injury to his hand. He made the ultimate sacrifice on March 8, 2006, in Anbar province, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated. He left behind a widow and three young children.

The Fry Scholarship will entitle eligible spouses to up to 36 months of the full, 100-percent level of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which includes a tuition-and-fee payment, a monthly housing allowance and stipend for books and supplies. Some spouses currently eligible for or already receiving benefits under the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) program may now be eligible for the Fry Scholarship. All surviving spouses eligible for DEA and the Fry Scholarship must make an irrevocable election for terms beginning on or after January 1, 2015.

VA will identify surviving spouses eligible for both programs and send them a letter with comparative information on the benefits available and instructions on how make an election. Information about these two programs is available on VA’s website and the GI Bill website www.benefits.va.gov/gibill. The VA call center (888-GIBILL-1) also will be able to help individuals understand the differences between the two programs.

Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors also known as TAPS offers Military Survivor Education Support Services Program in an effort to provide one-on-one counseling to bereaved military families who may be eligible for education benefits.

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SSVF Changes the Future of a Homeless Vet

By DaVaughn Phillips

In a region still recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, employment and housing can be difficult to come by for many Veterans. New Orleans has a high incidence of Veteran homelessness compared to other cities of its size. According to the 2013 Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 11 percent of the city’s homeless individuals are Veterans.

Outreach workers from Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans, the local affiliate of a national human service charity, first located “Mr. H.” living in the library at Loyola University. The 28-year-old Veteran was close to giving up hope on achieving a brighter future for himself and his six children.

Mr. H. (left) with his case manager, DaVaughn Phillips

Mr. H. (left) with his case manager, DaVaughn Phillips

As a case manager, my mission is to advocate for Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) clients, building relationships with individuals and organizations in the city that can connect them with the resources and opportunities they need to get back on their feet. Being able to draw from those networks is vital to finding employment and housing for people like Mr. H. It’s this type of collaboration that is helping to end Veteran homelessness in New Orleans. According to the Interagency Council on Homelessness, Veteran homelessness in New Orleans has decreased by more than 40 percent in the past year alone.

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Meaningful careers for military and Veteran spouses

When it came time to select a keynote speaker to kick off our Career Summit day of professional development, it was a no brainer. Rosye Cloud, the Senior Advisor for Veteran Employment (Veterans Benefits Administration) just gets it. We wish everyone in our community could have been there to hear her insights and lessons learned, but if you missed seeing her in person, you can still read more from her in the most recent issue of NMSN digital magazine. Here are some highlights from her keynote:Supporting the education and career goals of military spouses is essential to maintaining economic competitiveness of military and veteran families in our  All-Volunteer Force (AVF). Events such as the Military Spouse Career Summit help connect American employers to a skilled and ready talent pipeline. Read More »
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Veteran Combat Call Center: If you call, we can help

The VA Combat Call Center, located outside of Denver, Colo., is a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week referral service for Veterans, family members and anyone looking to help a Veteran. We also field calls from active-duty members and their family members seeking counseling services with Vet Centers across the country.

If they call, we can help.

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