Memorial honoring disabled Veterans dedicated in DC

Dedication of the American Veterans Disabled for Life MemorialOn Sunday, October 5, 2014, the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C.

The dedication ceremony included remarks from President Barack Obama, VA Secretary Bob McDonald, former Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell, and Gary Sinise, who is the national spokesman for the Disabled Veterans Life Memorial Foundation.

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VA continues enrollment system analysis to seek improved data

VA ICAREOn August 17, 2014, I blogged in response to media reports alleging the mishandling of VA enrollment applications. In the short time since my first blog, the staff at the Health Eligibility Center (HEC) in Atlanta, GA, has continued the important task of analyzing our Enrollment System to identify potential issues and to improve the delivery of this critical service to America’s Veterans.

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. It is important that we openly discuss how we intend to improve.

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VA, partners provide education benefits for surviving spouses, children of fallen servicemembers

While hundreds of millions of dollars in private scholarships and education benefits exist for families of fallen military service members, many of these families struggle because they do not know these benefits exist.

Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors also known as TAPS, recently stood up their new Military Survivor Education Support Services Program in an effort to provide one-on-one counseling to bereaved military families who may be eligible for education benefits.

VA is one of several partners in this program committed to informing military families of their earned benefits.

TAPS founder Bonnie Carroll (right) and Malia Fry (middle) present VA Senior Advisor for Veterans employment Royse Cloud with an award recognizing VA for its contribution to education for military survivors.

TAPS founder Bonnie Carroll (right) and Malia Fry (middle) present VA Senior Advisor for Veterans employment Rosye Cloud with an award recognizing VA for its contribution to education for military survivors.

“I think it is very important to note that government can’t do this alone,” said Rosye Cloud, senior advisor for Veteran employment at Veteran Affairs.  “We are going to work together to ensure that every surviving spouse and child understands all of the benefits their parent or spouse earned for them.”

VA has a tradition of supporting private-public partnerships. The Fry Scholarship was founded by Malia Fry, the surviving spouse of U.S. Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry. Due to her tireless effort and many supporting partners, the scholarship was made law. It amended the Post-9/11 GI Bill (chapter 33) to include the children of service members who die in the line of duty after Sept. 10, 2001. Read More »

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Update on VA’s scheduling software system

VA Secretary Bob McDonald learns more about VA’s scheduling system from Michael Logie, Medical Support Assistant at the Phoenix VA Medical Center.

VA Secretary Bob McDonald learns more about VA’s scheduling system from Michael Logie, a medical support assistant at the Phoenix VA Medical Center. (REYNALDO LEAL/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

We know how important it is to get a modern scheduling system in the hands of our employees so they can better meet the needs of Veterans in getting access to care they deserve. We have tried to be as open and transparent about this effort as possible. To continue that openness, I wanted to take a moment to provide an update to the timeline laid out in our recent press release and correct the record on an important aspect of the deployment plan.

On Sept. 17, VA posted a Scheduling Performance Work Statement and business requirements documentation for industry review and comment. We did this so that we could receive industry feedback on our requirements (in addition to feedback already received through constant engagement with vendors over the last year or so), and also identify any inconsistencies or errors.

The comments were due on Sept. 26, and we’re going through an extensive amount of industry feedback at this time.

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VA employee one of the top-10 most influential women in health IT

Last year, VA launched several pilots of secure mobile applications to help Veterans, caregivers and VA clinical teams provide unprecedented opportunities and become active partners in health care through mobile technology. The driving force behind those initiatives is VA’s co-director of Connected Health, Kathleen L. Frisbee, MPH, Ph.D., who was recently named as one of the Top-10 influential women in health IT by FierceHealthIT  for 2014.

kfrisbee

Kathleen L. Frisbee  was recently named as one of the Top-10 influential women in health IT by FierceHealthIT for 2014.

With more than 25 years in health IT leadership roles across VA, Frisbee’s work to bring health technology to Veterans is impressive. FierceHealthIT recognized Frisbee specifically for leading VA’s Mobile Health initiative, where she oversees the development of mobile health apps for Veterans and providers, and for shaping the vision of how VA can use mobile technology in the future. Frisbee was integral in the establishment of the initiative and execution of the field tests, such as the Family Caregiver Pilot.

“These tools increase access to health care and further demonstrate VA’s commitment to improving the Veteran and caregiver experience,” Frisbee said during the launch of the pilot program that provided iPads to more than 1,000 caregivers of seriously injured Post-9/11 Veterans. The mobile devices featured a suite of apps that allow Veterans and caregivers to access and share information about health conditions and treatment options directly with health care providers, creating closer partnerships. Read More »

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H-PACT: enhances relationships, fights homelessness and saves lives

Marshall’s Success Story

My name is Michael Marshall. I am a 49-year-old U.S. Air Force Veteran who has been diagnosed with PTSD. I had a promising career with the Air Force until an unfortunate incident occurred, one in which I was too embarrassed to ever speak of again. So I self-medicated. That proved to be the beginning of a series of extremely bad choices and a downward spiral that eventually lead me to prison. I went on to using and selling all types of drugs for the next 20 years of my life.

I come from a very close-knit family that goes to church faithfully and is very involved within the church. One day in a moment of clarity, I saw my family and myself deteriorating to the point of certain death. I had lost my brother and father to the disease of addiction, yet I self-medicated even more than them just to cover up how I really felt about what was going within me. I had gotten to the point where I found myself on the streets of Chicago, without a home for roughly 10 years. I found myself living in and out of abandoned houseAs Ajust to stay warm on winter nights. Read More »

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VA researchers receive coveted service award for ground-breaking work with paralyzed Veterans

For more than 25 years, Bill Bauman and Ann Spungen have worked together to make the lives of paralyzed Veterans better. Last night, their dedication to their patients at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx was recognized as the pair was awarded the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Science and Environment Medal.

The annual award ceremony, presented by the Partnership for Public Service in Washington, D.C., showcased the best and brightest employees the federal government has to offer.

Bauman and Spungen’s research focused on understanding the effects spinal cord injuries have on the human body. Eventually, they were able to attribute illnesses, like increased heart disease and asthma-like lung conditions, to high levels of paralysis. Once they were able to find the root causes of the conditions affecting their patients, Bauman and Spungen were able to create treatment plans for Veterans across VA’s healthcare system.

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Sec. Bob McDonald proposes pay increase for VA physicians and dentists

Sec. Bob McDonald (left) speaks with Dr. Chan Park (middle) and Dr. Atilio Barbeito about the Durham VAMC Simulation Center and how it helps physicians care for Veterans. (REYANLDO LEAL/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

Sec. Bob McDonald (left) speaks with Dr. Chan Park (middle) and Dr. Atilio Barbeito about the Durham VAMC Simulation Center and how it helps physicians care for Veterans. (REYANLDO LEAL/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

Due to a three-year federal pay freeze, the annual pay ranges for VA physicians and dentists haven’t increased since October 2009. That may soon change as VA and the Veterans Health Administration look to enhance clinical capacity and expand access to timely care for Veterans across the nation.

Pay increase graphic

Click here to enlarge image

Since compensation is an important part of attracting and retaining skilled medical professionals, Secretary Bob McDonald proposed an adjustment to the maximum rates of annual pay for VA physicians and dentists based on the skills and qualifications of the professional being recruited.

“At VA, we have a noble and inspiring mission – to serve Veterans, their survivors anddependents. There is no higher calling,” said VA Secretary Bob McDonald. “We are committed to hiring more medical professionals across the country to better serve Veterans and expand their access to timely, high-quality care.”

However, a pay increase in annual income of up to $35,000 is only one of the steps taken by Sec. McDonald and VHA. Additional initiatives include:

  • Collaborating on a new nursing academic partnership 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.
  • Expanding 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 that will involve sharing credentials to speed up the process.
  • Expanding the loan repayment program, as included in the recently passed Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act.

Click here to read more about the proposed increase in pay ranges. Information about working in VA health care can be found at www.vacareers.va.gov.

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Work at VA: Nurses with heart wanted

Nicki Fryar started working at the Durham VA Medical Center as a great way to expand her nursing skills. That was 24 years ago. What Nicki found was, as the years passed, her appreciation for what the medical center did for Veterans increased.

“As I grew to love working with [Veterans], I found it to be very humbling to come to work everyday to serve them,” she said.

In the video above, she recalls helping a homeless Veteran after he was treated at the medical center. The health care the Veteran received was only part of the overall help he needed, and so with the assistance of other offices and services, he was able to not only continue care, but was reunited with his family.

“It is the true sense of family,” she said as tears began to well up in her eyes, “It’s the true sense of caring. It’s the true sense for respecting [Veterans] for where [they] are in that point in time.”

Now, Nicki is the Nurse Manager of the Cardiovascular Catheterization Laboratory at the Durham VAMC and wants other nurses to consider working for the nation’s Veterans at VA.

Read more about the national recruiting effort for medical professionals here, and visit http://www.vacareers.va.gov/ to see how you can start your career at VA.

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National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic: Day Five

National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic

Cory Buckman was nervous when he found out he would be attending this year’s National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic in San Diego. His apprehension stemmed from his diagnosis of post-traumatic stress and the fact that, at 26-years-old, the OIF Veteran from Chicago would be the youngest participant at the clinic.

Back home, Cory’s anger and frustration with “civilians” tended to isolate him from gatherings and events. At the clinic, however, he quickly found the camaraderie he missed from his time in the U.S. Army and a new group of friends to break him out of his shell.

“I’ve gotten close with the [Veterans] from my team,” Cory said. “You know, I don’t know how to explain it – but it’s a bond I’ve formed that feels really good.”

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