VAntage Point is the official blog of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Here you will find stories from around VA and the Veteran community. These stories and blogs include coverage of health care, education benefits, VA careers, homelessness, recovery, mental health and messages from the Secretary.

Vantage Point is also the home of our daily #VeteranOfTheDay post, our Emmy® award-winning video series The American Veteran and our weekly Borne the Battle podcast.

Please, check out our posts, leave a comment with your thoughts, and share these important stories with your family and friends. You can view our social media policy here.  A reminder: inclusion of information about a program or service external to VA does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by VA or its employees.


Meet the Team:

Staff Writer | Host of The American Veteran
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs ~ Read stories

Melissa Heintz joined the VA’s Digital Media Engagement team as a public affairs specialist in October 2015. She grew up on an Army base in Japan before her family relocated to Hawaii. She holds a degree in Journalism/Mass Communications and Spanish from Seattle University. Melissa has served as a public affairs specialist with Navy Region Hawaii Fleet and Family Readiness and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. In December 2015, Melissa commissioned in the Rhode Island Air National Guard where she serves as a public affairs officer with the 143rd Airlift Wing.


Deputy Director
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs ~ Read stories

Gary Hicks is a public affairs specialist in VA’s Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs and serves as the editor of the Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors handbook, VAnguard magazine and other internal and external print communications products used throughout VA. Prior to joining OPIA, Gary worked for VA’s Center for Veterans Enterprise as a community liaison officer and small business specialist assisting Veteran entrepreneurs with starting and expanding small businesses. Prior to joining VA, he was the director of command information at the National Guard Bureau and served as the editor of the Army and Air National Guard’s flagship publication, The OnGuard. Gary began his public affairs career as an Army photojournalist, deploying to Bosnia-Herzegovina. After the deployment, he landed a job as a staff writer at a daily newspaper – eventually working his way up the ladder to become the youngest managing editor in the paper’s 111-year history as well as the parent company’s chain of 300 newspapers. He served on active duty in both the Army and the Air Force before joining VA in 2006. Gary’s wife is an Air Force Senior NCO stationed at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.


Timothy J. LawsonTimothy J. Lawson

Multimedia producer | Host of Borne the Battle
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs ~ Read stories

Timothy has been a member of VA’s Digital Media Engagement team since April 2016. His scope includes blog writing, video production, and launching VA’s first ever podcast, Borne the Battle. He graduated from American University’s School of Communications in 2016 with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. Tim is a Marine Corps Veteran having served as a Marine Security Guard and was posted at embassies in Algiers, Algeria; Moscow, Russia; and Lima, Peru.


BenBen Pekkanen

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs ~ Watch stories

Ben is a director, cinematographer and editor with an extensive background in commercial filmmaking and television production. He spent 10 years as IATSE grip and lighting in New Orleans feature film market before transitioning to television in 2004. Ben leads the Digital Media Engagement production team and produces VA’s Emmy® award-winning series The American Veteran. He holds degrees from Tulane University (BA, Media Arts) and University of Maryland (MFA, Creative Writing).


Picture of Dominique RamirezDominique Ramirez

New Media Technologist / Public Affairs Specialist
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs ~ Read stories

Dominique joined VA in 2013 and has supported a wide array of activities within the Office of Public Affairs. As a web developer, he helps manage pages across the VA.gov domain. He also manages the VAntage Point and VA Insider blogs. As the Intern Program Manager for the Digital Media Engagement team, Dominique leads a team that helps create content for VAntage Point, Facebook, Google+, Twitter and Instagram. Dominique has a Bachelors degree in Business Administration from the University of San Diego, and a Master of Science in Information Technology from Southern New Hampshire University. Prior to his work in the federal government, Dominique spent 10 years in the U.S. Navy.


Staff Writer
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs ~ Read stories

In 2012, Jennifer Sardam joined VA as a public affairs specialist, where she produces blog posts, speeches and various internal communications products. Prior to joining VA, she worked in support of the U.S. Marine Corps Systems Command (USMCSC), as a senior editor providing quality assurance of programmatic documentation, and spent six years as a media analyst in the Pentagon, with the Army’s Office of the Chief of Public Affairs (OCPA). She is a U.S. Army Veteran who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn, providing real-time media monitoring and analysis reports and briefs, and print and photojournalism coverage. She retired in 2014, from the Maryland Army National Guard’s 29th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, where she had served as senior editor for the unit.


Robert Turtil

Robert Turtil

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs ~ Read stories

Robert Turtil is a public affairs specialist who produces still photography for a full range of Veteran and government related programs, personalities and events. He contributes regularly to VA’s digital efforts provides oversight to VA’s Flickr page. He works closely with VA internal and external customers, producing or procuring photos for news releases, executive and congressional reports, intergovernmental initiatives, leadership presentations and outreach projects, recruitment, training programs and field facility projects.



Josh Tuscher

New Media Technologist
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

As VA’s New Media Technologist, Josh Tuscher serves as the team’s creative director and ensures the Department uses the most current communications platforms to engage with Veterans. Prior to joining VA, Josh worked as a graphic designer and web developer in the private sector. During that time, he served for eight years as an infantryman in the New Hampshire Army National Guard and Army Reserve. In 2004, Josh deployed to Balad, Iraq with the 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Regiment. After returning in 2005, Josh again mobilized—this time for duty in New Orleans assisting with relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina. While in Iraq, Josh kept extensive video footage, later contributing it to the combat documentary “The War Tapes” (for which he received a credit). The film went on to win “Best Documentary” at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival. Josh graduated in 2006 with a BFA from Keene State College.