National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic: Day One

Editor’s Note: VAntage Point is reporting from the 2014 National Veterans Sports Clinic, Sept. 7-12. This is the first a series of blogs from the event. Veterans from across the United States arrived in San Diego and at Naval Base …

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National recruitment effort seeks to bring medical professionals to VA

National VA Recruitment Effort

In an effort to increase access to care, VA Secretary Bob McDonald recently launched a national recruitment campaign designed to bring needed medical professionals into the VA.

“At VA, we have the most inspiring mission and the greatest clients of any healthcare system in the world. That’s exactly the message I’m going to share as I speak with health care professionals and students about the value of serving at VA,” said Secretary McDonald. “We have taken action to get Veterans off of wait lists and into clinics in the short-term, but in the long-term, in order to provide timely access to care, we need to build capacity by hiring more clinicians.”

See more of what Secretary McDonald recently had to say to medical school students and staff:

“We need the best doctors and nurses serving Veterans, and that is why I will be out recruiting, leveraging the existing relationships and affiliations VA has with many academic institutions, and talking directly to medical professionals about joining us to fulfill our exceptional mission of caring for those who ‘shall have borne the battle,’” McDonald said.

Meet one of the doctors currently working at VA, Navy Veteran Dr. Chan Park.

Read more about the national recruiting effort here. Find out more about working at VA at http://www.vacareers.va.gov/.

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Veteran unemployment decreases; Gulf War II Veteran above national average despite decreases

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

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 decreased 1.9 percent since August 2013.

August 2013 – August 2014 Unemployment Rolling Average

Compared to last month, Veteran unemployment rates decreased by .4 percent and non-Veteran unemployment rates decreased by .1 percent. Gulf War II Veteran unemployment rates decreased by 1.1 percent, a sharp decline likely attributed to the school season. Read More »

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VA Rallies Community Support for Veterans During Suicide Prevention Month

One small act could save the life of a Veteran or Servicemember in crisis – that’s the inspiration behind “The Power of 1” campaign.  The campaign launches this September during Suicide Prevention Month and is a joint project coordinated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

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“The campaign emphasizes the effect that just one person, one conversation, or one act can have on the life of a Veteran or Servicemember by offering hope and opening the door to support,” said Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy, Interim Under Secretary for Health.  “It also is designed to spread the word about VA and DoD mental health resources and suicide prevention efforts.”

A new public service announcement, “The Power of 1,” reinforces this message by focusing on the small, everyday actions that can play a pivotal role in improving a Veteran’s life.  In addition, a Suicide Prevention Month Web page, VeteransCrisisLine.net/ThePowerof1, offers interactive tools to learn more about the Veterans Crisis Line and how small acts make a difference. Read More »

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VA Insurance Program celebrates 100 years of protecting those who serve

Today marks an important milestone for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Life Insurance program. On this day 100 years ago, Congress passed the War Risk Insurance Act that later became the catalyst for what is now known as VA life insurance protection.

Most Servicemembers and Veterans are familiar with Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) which covers approximately 97 percent of active-duty Servicemembers, members of the National Guard, and Reservists.  SGLI was created in 1965 to meet the need of our Vietnam-era Servicemembers, but it has expanded significantly since.  In 1974, it added Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI); in1998, it provided an accelerated benefit option giving terminally-ill SGLI, Family Group Life Insurance (FSGLI) and VGLI policyholders access to the death benefits of their policies while they are still alive; in 2001, it provided Family Group Life Insurance (FSGLI), and in 2005, it expanded to include Traumatic Injury Protection Insurance (TSGLI).

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Secretary McDonald announces the start of a national recruitment effort to bring needed medical professionals to VA

Recruitment of Additional Medical Providers Will Increase Access to Care

Speaking to a crowd of medical students, residents and faculty at Duke University’s School of Medicine, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald today launched a recruiting initiative aimed at bringing the best and brightest health professionals to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) which will ultimately expand access to care for Veterans.

“At VA, we have the most inspiring mission and the greatest clients of any healthcare system in the world. That’s exactly the message I’m going to share as I speak with health care professionals and students about the value of serving at VA,” said Secretary McDonald. “We have taken action to get Veterans off of wait lists and into clinics in the short-term, but in the long-term, in order to provide timely access to care, we need to build capacity by hiring more clinicians. We need the best doctors and nurses serving Veterans, and that is why I will be out recruiting, leveraging the existing relationships and affiliations VA has with many academic institutions, and talking directly to medical professionals about joining us to fulfill our exceptional mission of caring for those who ‘shall have borne the battle.’”

VA is taking multiple steps to expand capacity at our facilities, to provide Veterans the timely care they have earned and deserve.  In addition to Secretary McDonald’s direct messages to clinicians and clinicians-in-training, these steps include:

  • Collaborating on a new nursing academic partnership (VA Nursing Academic Partnerships or VANAP) focused on psychiatric and mental health care to build stronger, mutually beneficial relationships between nursing schools and VA facilities.
  • Partnering with the Department of Defense Health Affairs, Army, Navy, and Air Force to improve recruitment of recently or soon to be discharged health care professionals. VHA is already taking advantage of known separations of military health care workers.
  • Expanding of a pilot program to bring combat medics and corpsmen in to VA facilities as clinicians
  • Improving the credentialing process for VA and DoD health care providers which will involve sharing credentials to speed up the process.
  • Expanding of the loan repayment program, as included in the recently passed Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act
  • Considering options to revise pay tables to offer more competitive salaries for VA providers, in comparison to their academic and private practice colleagues. Read More »
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The National Center for PTSD celebrates 25 years of leadership in research and education

On Aug. 29, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) celebrates its 25th anniversary. For the past 25 years, the Center has been the leader in research and education helping those who are living with PTSD. The anniversary comes as organizations across the country recognize the importance of mental health this September during Suicide Prevention Month.

The proposal for creating a National Center for PTSD arose from the growing mental health needs of Vietnam Veterans, as well as the American Psychiatric Association officially recognizing PTSD diagnosis in 1980.  In 1984, Congress directed VA to form a National Center for PTSD “to carry out and promote the training of health care and related personnel in, and research into, the causes and diagnosis of PTSD and the treatment of Veterans for PTSD.”

VA established the Center in 1989 as a center of excellence that would set the agenda for research and education on PTSD. Although initially organized as a consortium of five divisions, the Center now consists of seven divisions across the United States, with headquarters in White River Junction, Vt.  Other divisions are located in Boston, Mass., West Haven, Conn., Palo Alto, Cailf., and Honolulu, Hawaii. Each contributes to the overall Center mission through specific areas of focus.

The Center has become the leader in online PTSD continuing education and technology-based education and resources for trauma survivors.  In 2011, the Center partnered with the Department of Defense for the first publically-available VA mobile app – the award-winning PTSD Coach.

The Center has become the leader in online PTSD continuing education and technology-based education and resources for trauma survivors. In 2011, the Center partnered with the Department of Defense for the first publically-available VA mobile app – the award-winning PTSD Coach.

“When we started, PTSD was a controversial diagnosis,” said Dr. Matthew Friedman, the Center’s senior advisor and its executive director from 1989 through 2013. “Our research and educational initiatives helped establish the scientific basis for PTSD, and disseminated that information globally.”

From the beginning, the Center’s initiatives have been making a critical difference in the understanding, assessment and treatment of PTSD.

Assessment and diagnosis. The Center’s first meeting in 1989 launched the development of the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale, the CAPS, which became the gold standard for assessing PTSD. Since then, we have developed other leading assessment measures for trauma and PTSD for use at VA, the Department of Defense and around the world. These assessment measures have advanced the clinical care of Veterans living with PTSD by ensuring accurate diagnosis and assessment.

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VA Releases New Version of the GI Bill® Comparison Tool as Students Return to School

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GI Bill Comparison Tool

Last February, I introduced VA’s GI Bill® Comparison Tool as a new resource Veterans and their beneficiaries could use to find information online about the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The public response went beyond our expectations. Since launch the tool has received nearly 350,000 site visits and was featured by the Second Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, on NBC’s “Today Show.”

After the segment aired we had the highest traffic since the initial launch week of the tool. The response is a testament to how eager students are for helpful information about schools. This was a great step in making students informed consumers first and GI Bill users second.

I’m pleased to announce that we’re still improving the tool and there’s plenty more to come. As I wrote before:
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Improving the mental health needs of Servicemembers, Veterans and their families

In remarks to Veterans attending the 96th annual American Legion National Convention today, the president announced executive actions that will allow the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense to improve the mental health services they provide to Veterans, Servicemembers and their families.

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President Obama addresses the American Legion’s 96th National Convention. (Photo by Reynaldo Leal, VA)

The 19 actions build upon the president’s 2012 executive order , which afforded VA the ability to hire 1,600 mental health professionals, expand the capacity of the Veterans Crisis Line and enhance its partnerships with community mental health providers.

Three of the new actions will improve the continuity of care for Servicemembers transitioning from Tri-Care to VA care by:

  • automatically enrolling service members in the inTransition program;
  • allowing VA to continue to use medication prescribed by DoD mental health providers;
  • ensuring DoD and VA will work together to develop a single joint, comprehensive plan for service members transitioning from DoD to VA with multiple, complex, severe conditions such as traumatic brain injury, psychological trauma, or other cognitive, psychological or emotional disorders.

Read more about these actions via the White House website.

In his remarks, the president also announced that the administration is continuing to make significant progress toward reducing the number of veterans who suffer from homelessness. Data collected during the annual point-in-time count conducted in January 2014 shows there were 49,933 homeless veterans in America, a decline of 33 percent (or 24,837 people) since 2010. This includes a nearly 40 percent drop in the number of veterans sleeping on the street.

Watch some of the highlights from the 2014 American Legion national convention.

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VA Presents Facts Omitted from Recent Article on Enrollment System

Caring for our nation’s Veterans is the highest honor and privilege for the men and women who serve them at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Our mission is to provide timely access to earned health care and benefits for millions of Veterans. That is a responsibility that we do not take lightly.

Over the past several months, it has become clear that we have fallen short when it comes to timely access to care. Today, we are working hard with Veterans Service Organizations, Congress and others to take corrective actions, accelerate access and begin to rebuild trust with the Veterans who entrust us with their care. A third of VA’s employees are Veterans themselves and they come to work each day focused on making a difference.

It is important that we openly and willingly discuss our mistakes and how we intend to improve. As we acknowledge areas where more work is needed, we also need to set the record straight when our work is unfairly mischaracterized.

One such story alleged VA mishandled enrollment applications. While we have worked to make the enrollment process less complicated, it is an area VA has identified for improvement. As we move forward, our focus remains on enhancing the enrollment system to better serve Veterans. Read More »

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