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.
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.
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
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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
“….To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan.”
These words from President Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address guide the mission of today’s VA.
Over the last two months, VA’s secretary, Bob McDonald, has been traveling throughout the U.S. listening to Veterans and discussing with them the issues that VA is facing.
“The problems we face are serious,” Sec. McDonald acknowledges. “The President, Congress, Veterans service organizations, taxpayers, and VA’s rank and file all understand the need for immediate reforms to achieve three non-negotiable goals—goals we set for ourselves more than two months ago on our ‘Road to Veterans Day.’”
Earlier this fall, the Veterans Health Administration released its Blueprint for Excellence, an important step in VA’s transformation.
“This blueprint is critical to achieving part three of our Road to Veterans Day initiative—setting a course for long-term excellence and reform,” Sec. McDonald told the annual meeting of the Institute of Medicine. “It is VA’s template to re-establish the department’s preeminence and leadership in American healthcare.”
Each year, VA hosts the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival and each year, the Festival co-presenter, American Legion Auxiliary (ALA), provides support that is absolutely vital to the success of the event. Recently, the ALA received a much-deserved honor to highlight their many years of supporting Veterans through art therapies.
The Americans for the Arts presented the ALA with the prestigious Outstanding Contribution to the Arts Award for the Auxiliary’s important work in helping Veterans heal through the arts, most notably through the ALA’s 14-year co-sponsorship of the annual National Veterans Creative Arts Festival.
Founded in 2010, Team Red White & Blue has more than 50,000 members with chapters in 120 cities across the country. Surprisingly, Team RWB accomplished this amazing growth without a physical facility, not even an administrative office, but that is changing.
They recently opened Firebase Tampa in Tampa, Florida.
Blayne Smith, U.S. Army Veteran and Team RWB executive director noted that the facility will amplify the organization’s community impact and better serve Veterans.
“We have this building in Tampa, but we decided we wanted to give it back to the community,” he said. “The firebase is built on three major themes, knowledge, empowerment and inspiration. We invite Veterans, their families and members of the community in here every day.”
The national non-profit organization enriches the lives of Veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activities. Team RWB’s activities include running, walking, cross fit, yoga, team relay races, social activities and volunteering.
Members often wear the group’s symbol, a stretched eagle on t-shirts, hats and even tattoos. Yes, there are several members who have Team RWB tattoos.
But that shouldn’t be surprising to any Team RWB member. Read More
VA announced this month that it has guaranteed 21 million home loans since the home loan guaranty program was established in 1944 as part of the original Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the “GI Bill.” This achievement comes during the year-long commemoration of 70 years of the “GI Bill,” which established a wide range of benefits for Veterans returning from World War II, including low-cost home loans, education and vocational training.
“This vital program offers Veterans, Servicemembers and their families the keys to homeownership and is truly a testament to our nation’s commitment to enhancing the lives of those who served our country,” said Allison A. Hickey, VA’s Under Secretary for Benefits. “Twenty-one million home loans guaranteed, with the last one million guaranteed in just two years, is just one example of how VA employees are privileged to continue to serve and give back to our Veterans through the GI Bill.”
More than 100 Veterans from across the country are in Milwaukee today through Sunday for the 2014 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival.
The Festival, presented by VA and the American Legion Auxiliary, showcases the artistic achievements of Veterans from across the country who placed first in national art, music, dance, drama and creative writing division competitions. The Veterans will participate in workshops, rehearsals and artistic interaction sessions, culminating in an art exhibit and stage show performance, open to the public.
Among many other therapeutic benefits, the Festival encourages artistic expression to help Veterans dealing with PTSD and other psychological issues. More than 3,500 Veterans participated in regional competitions which culminate in the annual national event. Read More
Like many Veterans, Brandon brought the war home: Combat had changed him. This proud son of Wisconsin’s Ho-Chunk Nation, whose family members include the tribal chief and a Vietnam combat Veteran, needed help.
Encouraged by loved ones, he sought care at the Minneapolis VA — and by using his VA benefits to receive treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and get an education, this young Marine Veteran built a new life and career, producing Native American music.
Hear and share Brandon’s story.