Engaging. Not a word which many Veterans typically use to describe their relationship with the Department of Veterans Affairs. A more common word associated with VA and its interaction with Vets? Adversarial.

It’s disappointing, but that’s the reality. For too many Veterans (and families), communicating with VA can be such a hassle that it affects the Department’s ability to carry out its mission of providing benefits and services to America’s former service members. If Veterans and VA are talking past each other—or not talking to each other at all, then two things happen: Vets don’t know what they’re entitled to or how to get it, and VA doesn’t know what needs Veterans have.

At VAntage Point, the official blog of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, that same old way of communicating (or not communicating) goes out the window. Here, VA employees will provide Veterans with a wealth of information. We will talk about things you might not have been aware of and we’ll break down and explain processes which might have bewildered you. But it doesn’t end there. If you’re a student on the GI Bill, a Vietnam Vet, a VA employee, the spouse of a VA patient, or anything else, you’ll have the opportunity to contribute. We’ve opened the comments section of each of our front-page posts and we have a special section for “Guest Posts” where you can submit your own writing for publication.

For us at VA, this is just a start. It’s the beginning of a new relationship between the Department and those we serve—where we strive to get the right information to the right Veteran at the right time. And we hope you’ll join us in making it happen.

Meet the Team:


Heintz Melissa 23Melissa Heintz

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

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.


GaryHicksGary Hicks

Senior Writer
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

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

Multi-media storyteller | Podcast host
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

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. 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.


Megan MoloneyMegan Moloney

Director of Digital Media Engagement
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Megan joined VA in May 2013 as the Director of Digital Media Engagement. Megan has overseen a wide range of media and public relations activities at several federal agencies. Among those assignments, she served as press secretary to Adm. Thad Allen on the Deepwater Horizon response, and as a public affairs specialist at the U.S. Secret Service. She holds degrees from Miami University (BS, Mass Communications) and Johns Hopkins University (MA, Management). A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Megan is married to an Army Veteran, and is the daughter and granddaughter of Army and Navy Veterans who served in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

BenBen Pekkanen

Video Producer
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Ben is a video producer on the Digital Media Engagement team and leads production on VA’s video news magazine, The American Veteran. With a background in film production, Ben worked for more than a decade as grip and electric in New Orleans’ feature film market. Transitioning to television, he worked as a video editor and technical director, before joining VA in 2008. Ben holds degrees from Tulane University (BA, Media Arts) and University of Maryland (MFA, English).


Picture of Dominique RamirezDominique Ramirez

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

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 myVA blogs. 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.


Pool Pass 2014 Jen PicJennifer Sardam

Staff Writer
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

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.


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.