Celebrate Veterans Day 2014

Events and ceremonies honoring America’s Veterans happen November 11, 2014, throughout the U.S. and around the world. Please read more for some of the events, images and stories we’ve highlighted on via Storify.

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A Veterans Day message from VA Sec. Bob McDonald

In a message to America’s Veterans, VA employees, Veterans service organizations and others, Bob McDonald talks about his first 100 days as VA secretary and his vision for fulfilling the Department’s mission.  In his message, McDonald outlines the capabilities and recent advancements at VA, and welcomes collaboration of partners, employees and the public on VA’s transformation.

You can also read the secretary’s message to employees on VAntage Point, where he outlines changes within the organization and how to submit ideas for change.



In message to employees, Sec. McDonald outlines the way ahead to improve VA

Sec. Robert McDonald speaks with patients at the Phoenix VA Medical Center #ICARE

Sec. Bob McDonald speaks with patients in the Phoenix.

In the last few months as your Secretary, I have met and heard from Veterans and family members about how we can better serve Veterans.  I’ve also traveled to VA facilities across the country and have had the extraordinary opportunity to meet with you, the men and women who work on the front lines and behind the scenes to care for and serve Veterans every day.  These opportunities have informed my thinking as we work to plan for the future of the Department.

Already, more than 2,000 VA employees at 20 facilities serving 1.4 million Veterans have shared their perspectives on how we can improve this Department, and have provided insightful and thoughtful feedback about how VA should be organized to better serve Veterans. It is clear that our shared mission is important to you and your colleagues.  It’s also clear that you share my goal of making VA easier to navigate for Veterans. I am grateful for your contributions, and your support in this endeavor.

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Honoring Vets in your hometown

Vietnam Veterans participate in the Pittsburgh Veterans Day parade. VA photos by Glenn Hangard, 2011.

Vietnam Veterans participate in the Pittsburgh Veterans Day parade. VA photo by Glenn Hangard, 2011.

On Veterans Day, we take time to celebrate the service, sacrifice and achievements of almost 22 million Americans who served our nation in uniform – at home and abroad – during times of both war and peace.

We also pay tribute to those who served in the generations that preceded ours and who are no longer with us.

You can honor Veterans of today, and the past, at local events in your community.

HonoringVets_thunder_clap_V2If you attend an event, share your photos using #HonoringVets and we may share them. If you’re not able to attend an event, you can still participate online.  Join VA in #HonoringVets by joining our Thunderclap and sharing a message of gratitude via social media.

You can also follow VA’s social media accounts throughout the day on Veterans Day for photos and stories from Veterans Day activities nationwide.  Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or find a summary of events on our Storify page.




VA to hosts annual National Veterans Small Business Engagement

VOSB From Dec. 9 to Dec. 11, the Department of Veterans Affairs will host its annual National Veterans Small Business Engagement (NVSBE) at the Georgia World Congress Center, located at 285 Andrew Young International Blvd., NW, Atlanta, Ga., 30313.

This three-day event attracts thousands of Veteran-owned small businesses to connect with federal agencies, commercial corporations, prime contractors and other partners to foster success. With greater opportunities for direct access and exposure to contracting and program specialists, NVSBE welcomes Veterans to make the connections necessary to succeed in today’s competitive contracting environment.

“As a three-time past attendee, I believe the single greatest benefit for our company is the convenience and efficiency of an agency-wide effort,” said Martha Weekly of FFE, Inc., a service-disabled Veteran-owned small business.

VOSB 2“It is invaluable to have face-to-face meetings, and that is difficult to execute nationwide for a small company. It has been helpful for me to connect with not only VA personnel, but potential teaming partners as well. I believe that it is a good value, both in time and dollars spent,” she said.

This year’s NVSBE theme – Access – provides attendees an unprecedented level of engagement that helps small businesses, particularly Veterans, compete for and win[HG1]  business.

Own a business, but not a Veteran? No problem. The small business engagement is open to all businesses. The NVSBE agenda includes networking roundtables, business opportunity sessions, and lunch with decision makers and potential customers.

To register, or to get more information, visit www.nvsbe.com.


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Veteran unemployment rate remains lower than the national average

The October 2014 unemployment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that Veterans as a whole are doing better than non-Veterans. Gulf War II Veteran unemployment rate increased slightly this month, but is still 2.8 percent lower than this time last year.

Veteran unemployment

Veteran unemployment












The 12-month rolling averages show that Veterans and non-Veterans overall are doing better than they were a year ago. Compared to last month, Veteran unemployment rates increased by one percent and non-Veteran unemployment rates decreased by .3 percent.

Analyze the data yourself at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/resources/unemployment/ Read More »

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#HonoringVets Graphic Design Contest

Recently we asked Veterans through our social media channels to come up with a Veterans Day graphic that we could use to honor the nations Veterans. Below are the top submissions. Look for them to appear on Twitter and Facebook between now and Veterans Day.

Allan McClintic U.S. Army 1969 - 1970 from Phoenixville, Pennslyvania. It is the first painting I have done since 1974 as a tribute to a friend.

Allan McClintic U.S. Army 1969 – 1970 from Phoenixville, Pennslyvania. It is the first painting I have done since 1974 as a tribute to a friend.

Mr. Kurt Schleicher and Travis Horn U.S. Army Airborne Infantryman 1990-1994

Mr. Kurt Schleicher and Travis Horn U.S. Army Airborne Infantryman 1990-1994

Pete Saxon, U.S. Navy Vietnam Veteran 1969-1973

Pete Saxon, U.S. Navy Vietnam Veteran 1969-1973

Laisa Leao, active duty U.S. Navy

Laisa Leao, active duty U.S. Navy

Katie Gray

Katie Gray

John Gariano from Ocala, Florida. U.S. Marine Corps 1962-1966

John Gariano from Ocala, Florida.
U.S. Marine Corps 1962-1966

Jenna Henson, wife of an active duty Airman.

Jenna Henson, wife of an active duty Airman.

Brad Rachford, Independence KY, U.S. Marine Corps, Gulf War Era. Help raise awareness for Homelessness Veterans.

Brad Rachford, Independence KY, U.S. Marine Corps, Gulf War Era. Help raise awareness for Homelessness Veterans.


Centennial aged valor: First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing

Medal of Honor The Medal of Honor was awarded today to a soldier for actions that took place more than a century ago. The average Civil War Medal of Honor recipient was 24.53 years old and waited an average of 20.56 years to be awarded the Medal of Honor from the time of their battle action.  First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing was 22 years old and has waited the longest in history to receive the Medal of Honor.

1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing

1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing

Cushing was a Union officer that rallied the men in his charge to battle during the desperate campaign offensives for the North and the South. The Battle of Gettysburg had tipping point implications for both sides. Had the Confederate forces prevailed, they would have threatened Washington, D.C. located 85 miles to the south.

His citation reads:

First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions while serving as commanding officer of Battery A, 4th United States Artillery, Artillery Brigade, 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac. Cushing distinguished himself during combat operations against an armed enemy in the vicinity of Cemetery Ridge, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 3, 1863. Read More »

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“Road to Veterans Day” Sets Conditions for Long-Term Reform at VA


The “Road to Veterans Day” initiative, announced on Sept. 8 by Secretary Bob McDonald, has resulted in significant progress for Veterans over the past three months. During that time, VA has taken deliberate actions to improve service delivery for Veterans, rebuild trust, increase accountability and transparency and put the department on the path to long-term excellence and reform.

Sec. Bob McDonald visits Phoenix and Las Vegas VAMC“Over the past three months, we’ve been taking a hard look at ourselves, listening to Veterans, employees, Veterans organizations, unions, members of Congress, and our other partners. Their insights are shaping our work to chart the path for the future,” said McDonald, who has traveled extensively during his first few months in office, visiting 41 VA facilities in 21 cities while also making 11 recruiting visits to medical schools.   “While more work remains, our dedicated employees are making progress to better serve Veterans.”

To improve service delivery, VA has prioritized efforts to accelerate Veterans off of wait lists and into clinics through the Accelerated Care Initiative begun by Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson this summer.  Through this initiative, VA medical centers have increased access to care inside and outside of VA, added more clinic hours and work days, deployed mobile medical units, and shared their best practices from VA’s high-performing facilities throughout the organization.  Significant improvements have resulted nationally:

  • Completed 1.2 million more appointments in the past four months than in the same period last year. In total, VA medical centers have completed over 19 million Veteran appointments from June to Oct. 1, 2014.
  • Reducing the national new patient primary care wait time by 18 percent.
  • Completing 98 percent of appointments within 30 days of the Veterans’ preferred date, or the date determined to be medically necessary by a physician.
  • Authorizing 1.1 million non-VA care authorizations, a 46.6 percent increase over the same period last year.

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An open letter to America’s Veterans from Secretary Bob McDonald

Sec. Bob McDonald visits Phoenix and Las Vegas VAMC

Bob McDonald

At the Department of Veterans Affairs, we have one of the most noble and inspiring missions in Government. I accepted this job and joined this mission to better serve you—our Veterans—and improve the delivery of the care and benefits you have earned. It is our privilege to serve you, and I have made clear that as we move forward as a Department, we will judge the success of all our efforts against a single metric—the outcomes we provide for Veterans.

The Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA), enacted less than three months ago, goes a long way toward enabling VA to meet the demand for Veterans health care in the short-term. VA has put considerable focus and attention on ensuring the law is implemented seamlessly, without confusion, and without creating hardships for Veterans. This legislation provides authorities, funding and other tools to better serve Veterans in the short-term. We are appreciative of this temporary measure to improve access while we build capacity within the VA system to better serve those who rely on us for health care.

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Choice Cards will allow Veterans to receive care outside of VA based on the distance of their residence from a VA care facility, or when wait times for VA health care exceeds the standards under the new law.

From June 1 to Sept. 30, 2014, VA completed more than 19 million Veteran appointments in our facilities and made nearly 1.1 million authorizations for Veterans to receive care in the private sector and other non-VA health facilities — a 46.6 percent increase over the same period in 2013. This was all done under existing programs prior to the passage of VACAA, and sets the stage for strengthening existing partnerships between VA and the private sector. We have much we can share with one another to the benefit of Veterans.

VA has signed contracts with two private health care companies to help VA administer the Veterans Choice Program under VACAA. The Choice Program is a new, temporary benefit allowing some Veterans to receive health care in their communities rather than waiting for a VA appointment or traveling to a VA facility. It does not impact your existing VA health care or any other VA benefit you may be receiving. We will begin implementing this benefit on Nov. 5, as required by law. A call center is now operational to answer your questions and verify your eligibility for this program.

As part of this new program, we are issuing a Veterans Choice Card to every Veteran who is potentially eligible for the new, temporary health benefit. The Choice Card allows Veterans to elect to receive care outside of VA when they qualify for the new program based on the distance of their residence from a VA care facility, or when wait times for VA health care exceed the standards established in law. The Choice Card does not replace the identification card you already use to access other VA benefits; please do not throw away that identification card.

Secretary McDonald

Secretary McDonald asks Veterans what can be done to make their VA better during one of his many site visits across the country.

The Choice Card will be issued in three phases. The first group of Choice Cards along with a letter explaining eligibility for this program is currently being sent to Veterans who may live more than 40 miles from a VA facility. The next group of Choice Cards and letters will be sent shortly thereafter to those Veterans who are currently waiting for an appointment longer than 30-days from their preferred date or the date determined to be medically necessary by their physician.

The final group of Choice Cards and letters will be sent between December 2014 and January 2015 to the remainder of all Veterans enrolled for VA health care who may be eligible for the Choice Program in the future.

We are continuing to work with our partners—Congress, Veterans Service Organizations, and others—to get the information about this health program out to Veterans in as many ways as possible. Please visit our Web site at www.va.gov/opa/choiceact where we have provided helpful information on Choice Program eligibility. We will work with our partners to keep you informed as we improve our delivery of high-quality, timely care.

Thank you for your service and sacrifice.

Robert A. McDonald