VA Acting Secretary: We Have Taken Recommended Actions to Improve Patient Care in Phoenix

WASHINGTON – Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D. Gibson today told members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has taken action on the four recommendations made in the Interim Report of the Office of Inspector General for the Phoenix VA Health Care System. The final report of the IG has not been published.

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Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson

“We have taken actions on all of the recommendations in the Inspector General’s interim report on Phoenix which was released in May,” Gibson said. “The Inspector General confirmed we have systemic issues when it comes to patient scheduling and access, and we are working to address this serious issue.  We have identified Veterans on wait lists at Phoenix, including those identified by the IG in their interim report, and have reached out to immediately begin scheduling appointments.  We have reviewed wait lists nationwide, including the New Enrollee Appointment Request (NEAR) list, and not only are we reaching out to contact those Veterans to get them into clinics, but we have posted the information online so Veterans can review our progress.

Acting Secretary Gibson visited the VA health care system in Phoenix on June 5 as the first of his 13 medical center visits in the past seven weeks.

Below is the text of Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) four interim recommendations, along with the actions VA has taken to implement each:

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Protect your skin during the hot summer months

uv-billboardIt’s getting easier to go outside and enjoy the sunshine. Why? Because researchers have learned so much about the importance of regularly protecting our skin.

Even using sunscreen is now more commonplace than using “suntan lotion.”

Several studies link skin cancer to overexposure to the sun, and support the need to regularly protect our skin. Now, more and more people opt for sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. What’s more, researchers are telling us that sun exposure may be linked to eye problems, a weakened immune system, age spots, wrinkles and other skin issues. Read More »

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Acting VA Secretary addresses 115th National VFW Convention

Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson spoke at the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention on Tuesday, July 22. This is the 115th National VFW convention and hosts hundreds of Veterans from all over the country.

Watch his remarks in the video above or read the text of his remarks below.

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VA unveils new grant program to provide adaptive sports for disabled Veterans

When I left the Army, it felt like I was leaving behind a part of myself. It’s a feeling that many Veterans experience as they transition from military to civilian life. Thankfully, VA was there to point me in the right direction and keep me on track with GI Bill benefits and health care at the Washington, D.C. VA Medical Center.

The transition can be tough for anyone, but even more so for those who have suffered a traumatic injury, life-changing illness or disease. Let me start by saying this: there is no single road map for recovery. Your best recovery may come from various angles and various methods. The sooner you embrace that idea, the quicker you may recover.

Another equally important point is that your recovery requires your involvement. It won’t just happen to you. And for those of you who are ready for a challenge, ready to fully engage your rehabilitation and move forward with your life, I’ve got something for you.

9787162646_58169c6544_bVA recently announced the availability of up to $8 million in grant funding to provide adaptive sports opportunities for disabled Veterans in their communities. The details of this new program were laid out in the Federal Register, July 1, 2014, and can be viewed under the “Grant Program” tab: http://www.va.gov/adaptivesports/. The deadline for submitting grant proposals is Aug. 11, 2014.

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High school senior to swim across Lake Erie to benefit Veterans

Thanking a Veteran means something different to everyone. Some express their gratitude with a simple “Thank You” or a handshake. Others may volunteer at their local Veteran Affairs Medical Center. Not many show their appreciation by swimming across one of the Great Lakes.

Norman Stark is a soon-to-be high school senior who lives in Erie, Pennsylvania. The seventeen-year-old runs cross country, plays lacrosse and competes in triathlons, but has focused on swimming for the past ten months.

“Last May, I had a dream where I couldn’t wake up but I was continuously swimming. I went downstairs and told my Mom that I wanted to swim across Lake Erie. She thought I was insane,” he said.Norman

Norman is the fifth oldest of eight children in the Stark family. It’s safe to say that Norman’s mother Beata has heard it all.

“When he first told us about his dream we said forget about it, but now he has taught us that anything is possible,” Beata said.

Norman didn’t waste any time. He immediately called his mentor, Josh Heynes, who also happens to hold the record for the fastest swim across the 24.3 mile course across the lake. Josh started training Norman in August.

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Family caregivers of Veterans can count on VA for support and community

caregiverFor even the most organized people, unexpected health concerns can turn their life upside down. For those who find themselves in the role of the family caregiver caring for our nation’s Veterans, support is available from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Debra knows. Her son, a young Marine, was severely injured in a motorcycle accident. With a spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury, he would need 24/7 health care. After getting the news, Debra took a deep breath, grieved the loss of who her son had been, then accepted and loved who he had become. Read More »

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New Regulations Automate Burial Payments for Veterans’ Survivors

An estimated 62,000 Surviving Spouses Benefit from Regulation Changes

New burial regulations effective today will now allow VA to automatically pay  the maximum amount allowable under law to most eligible surviving spouses more quickly and efficiently, without the need for a written application.

Under former regulations, VA paid burial benefits on a reimbursement basis, which required survivors to submit receipts for relatively small one-time payments that VA generally paid at the maximum amount permitted by law.

“VA is committed to improving the speed and ease of delivery of monetary burial benefits to Veterans’ survivors during their time of need,” said Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson.  “The recent changes allow VA to help these survivors bear the cost of funerals by changing regulations to get them the benefits more quickly.”

Read the full press release here.

For more information on monetary burial benefits, visit http://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/claims-special-burial.asp.

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Veteran unemployment increases, overall better than non-Veterans; Gulf War II women Veterans doing worse than non-Veteran women

The June 2014 unemployment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that Veterans are, as a whole, doing slightly better than non-Veterans despite increases in unemployment.

The 12 month rolling averages show that Veterans and non-Veterans overall are doing better than they were a year ago. Gulf War II Veteran unemployment has consistently decreased since February 2014.

June 2013 - June 2014 Unemployment Rolling Average

June 2013 – June 2014 Unemployment Rolling Average

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Alexandria – not Arlington – was first national cemetery

The first cemetery for federal soldiers and the first burial ground for U.S. Colored Troops was the small national cemetery in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. Watch the video to learn more!

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National cemetery lays 15 Veterans to rest

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With the help of the Missing in America Project, the remains of 15 Veterans were interred at Salisbury National Cemetery, Salisbury, North Carolina, with full military honors, June 14, 2014.

The Rowan County Honor Guard and the North Carolina National Guard escorted the remains during what was the cemetery’s first Missing in America ceremony, with the theme:  “Gone, but not forgotten.”

The 15 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines served during World War II, Vietnam and Korea –all received full military honors during the ceremony.

Click here to view the Flickr gallery of the event.

Those 15 Veterans were:

  • Technician 5th Grade James Robert Liverman Jr., 1919-1996, U.S. Army, World War II
  • Yeoman 2nd Class Donald William Newman, 1921-2012, U.S. Navy, World War II
  • Motor Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class, Petty Officer Frederick William Tims Jr.,
    1922-2012, U.S. Navy, World War II
  • Spc. 4th Class Terry Wayne Oaks, 1958-2010, U.S. Army
  • Spc. 4th Class Fars Ruble Strickland, 1938-2012, U.S. Army
  • Cpl. Lonnie Cecil Wilborn, 1929-2012, U.S. Army, Korea
  • Pfc. Harry Lee Battle Jr., 1948-2008, U.S. Army, Vietnam
  • Pfc. James D. Boone Jr., 1927-2011, U.S. Army, World War II
  • Pfc. Leroy Lightfoot, 1924-2005, U.S. Army, World War II
  • Pfc. Emanuel Dion Robertson, 1960-2009, U.S. Army
  • Seaman Apprentice Walter Eugene Visage, 1938-2008, U.S. Navy
  • Pfc. and Seaman Apprentice Phillip Diaz, 1956-2012, U.S. Army and U.S. Navy
  • Pvt. Valerie Jean Nobles, 1954-1999, U.S. Marine Corps
  • Pvt. William Tony Plemmons, 1923-2007, U.S. Army, World War II
  • Airman Michael Jay Zimmerman, 1954-2004, U.S. Air Force, Vietnam
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