On Oct. 17, President Barack Obama sent a letter to Federal employees welcoming them back to work and thanking them for their service. Read that letter here.
Employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs are working to resume normal operations as quickly as possible. Veterans Benefits Administration regional offices are re-opened their doors and resumed public contact services for Veterans Oct. 17.
“With the shutdown over, we are all very grateful that the Nov. 1 benefit checks will go out to approximately 5 million Veterans and other beneficiaries as scheduled,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We at VA are working quickly to resume normal operations in order to fulfill our solemn obligation – to ensure that Veterans receive the benefits and services they have earned through their service.”
Read more here: http://1.usa.gov/18qnwLt
This morning Sec. Eric Shinseki testified before the House Veterans Affairs Committee on the impact the government shutdown is having on Veterans, servicemembers and their families.
He explained how Congress’ failure to pass a budget and prevent a government shutdown could impede VA’s ability to pay disability and education benefits, and has already halted progress on the claims backlog, which had been reduced by over 30 percent in recent months.
“The momentum achieved over the past six months has now stalled with the government shutdown,” Shinseki said. He also pointed out that if the shutdown continues into late October and mandatory funding is exhausted, payments to more than 5.18 million beneficiaries may not be made as of Nov.1.
You can read Secretary Shinseki’s complete testimony here.
As you are likely aware, annual funding for the federal government expires Monday, Sept. 30. The President, the Secretary and his administration strongly believe that a lapse in appropriations should not occur.
There is enough time for Congress to prevent a lapse in appropriations, and the administration is willing to work with Congress to enact a short-term continuing resolution to fund critical government operations and allow Congress the time to complete the full year 2014 appropriations.
However, at this time, prudent management requires that the government plan for the possibility of a lapse and Office of Management and Budget is working with VA and other agencies to take appropriate action. This planning is consistent with what was done in previous instances where a potential lapse in appropriations was approaching.
In the event there is a lapse, VA has produced a 2-page information sheet, the Veterans Field Guide to Government Shutdown, which summarizes all of the services that will be available and those that will be impacted by a lapse in appropriations.
As the Veterans Health Administration is forward-funded, VA will still be able to provide some services. All VA medical facilities and clinics will remain fully operational including inpatient/outpatient care, prescriptions, surgery, dental treatment, extended care, mental health care, nursing home care, special health care services for women Veterans and Vet centers.
Additional services that will be available include:
- Military sexual trauma counseling
- Readjustment counseling services
- Veterans Crisis Line
- Insurance processing
- Home loan processing
- My HealtheVet – all services
- Education benefits claims will be processed
- Vocational rehabilitation payments will be processed
- Compensation and pension claims will be processed
- Acquisitions Logistics Center will accept and fill prosthetics supply orders
- Office of Small and Disadvantaged Small Businesses will be open
Payments to be made Oct. 1 include disability and compensation, and education benefits payments.
Interments in national cemeteries will continue, but may be on a reduced schedule. Contact the National Cemetery Administration’s scheduling office at 1-800-535-1117 for more information. Also, NCA will process applications for headstones, markers and medallions and will notify the Veterans Benefits Administration of deaths for benefit actions.
All VBA call centers, except for education, will be operational. View the graphic to the rightfor a list of all operational national phone numbers for VA services.
There are many VA services which will be impacted by a lapse in appropriations. Closed contact centers include the VBA Educational Call Center, the Inspector General Hotline, and Consumer Affairs contact phone and email.
For a full list of suspended national phone numbers, please see the guide. Also, congressional liaison Veterans queries are suspended and the human resources office will not process new job applications.
Finally, know that if there is a lapse, updates to all websites and social media channels will be intermittent. Keep the guide at hand in case you need to call for help, or have questions.
VA mental health-care professionals and responders work every day to help Vets with mental health issues – sometimes even talking them down when they are in crisis. Understanding what these dedicated men and women, many of them Veterans themselves, do on a daily basis makes it difficult to look at a simple tweet as a potential lifesaver.
You might ask how information can make a difference in a person’s life when everything around him or her seems to be falling apart. Since starting this job I’ve been asked that question several times in one form or another. While the question is legitimate, the fact remains that before Veterans can be asked to trust and visit a program they first have to know it exists.
It’s not always easy to find a correlation between a tweet or Facebook post and a Veteran calling the Veterans Crisis Line, but people are more connected through social media than ever before. Information may take time to turn into action, but getting it to Veterans and loved ones – who usually encourage their Vet to seek help – is our priority.
Throughout September, we joined others to focus on suicide prevention and mental health by getting the word out on programs like the crisis line. Thanks to dedicated followers and partners like American Legion, DAV and Joining Forces, this combined outreach effort for Suicide Prevention Month gives a lifeline toVeterans looking for assistance.
And the outreach continues beyond September. This year’s theme, “It Matters,” emphasizes the people, relationships and experiences that matter to Veterans and their loved ones, reinforcing their personal connections and giving their lives hope and meaning. To spark conversation about the difficult topics of suicide risk and prevention, VA unveiled the photo-sharing campaign, “Show Us What Matters,” inviting Veterans and their loved ones to upload photos of the special people in their lives.
So as we close out September, remember to keep reaching out to Veterans in crisis. Preventing Veteran suicides is a daily undertaking for thousands of VA mental health care professionals and our partners. Sharing and retweeting can seem as if it’s not enough when we lose Veterans every day, but getting information to those in need is worth it if even one person is saved.
The first war photographer was an anonymous American who took a number of daguerrotypes during the Mexican–American War, in 1847, of the occupation of Saltillo. Since then, countless images have been taken of conflicts throughout the world. These images have extensively documented all aspects of the world at war – the thick of battle, times of rest, the dead, dying and injured, the survivors and more.
The Corcoran Gallery of Art is currently hosting the exhibit, “WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath,” originally organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The exhibition, which runs through Sept. 29, brings together images by more than 200 photographers from 28 nations and covers conflicts from the past 165 years.
VA’s video team visited the Corcoran and interviewed Marine Veteran Norman T. Hatch, a WWII combat photographer who witnessed the flag raising at Iwo Jima; and Paul Roth, senior curator of photography and media arts at the Corcoran. You’ll find that story here.
For the past 12 years, 9/11 has been a time to reflect on what is important in our lives, hope for peace and acknowledge the fact that there are people in this world who want to do us harm.
It’s an emotional anniversary for those who were at Ground Zero, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania, and for the millions of Americans who watched the non-stop coverage on TV. While the initial shock of those terrorist acts has faded away for many of us, it is important to realize that it motivated an entire generation of Americans to answer the call to serve their country in the decade that followed.
There were several factors in my decision to join the Marine Corps, and although 9/11 was not as big of a reason as it was for some of my friends, it did play a role in my enlistment. Now, as I look at the young men and women who continue to serve in Afghanistan, I can’t help but notice that some of them were in kindergarten or first grade when I made my decision to be a Marine.
Yes, time has passed since 9/11 and with it many of our collective wounds have healed. But we still have an obligation to support those who continue fighting the battles that stem from that day with policy and practice that will show future enlistees how much this country values service.
VA takes this obligation seriously and its dedication to Post 9/11 Veterans like me is sincere and significant.
I saw VA’s evolution of care for PTSD and TBI throughout the years, and saw the stigma associated with asking for mental health care end in many ways. Like almost one million of my peers, I used the Post 9/11 GI Bill to get a degree and improve my life after war. I also used the five years of free medical services every OIF, OEF and OND Veteran receives from VA during the time it took me to graduate. Military service wasn’t always easy, and I sometimes wonder if the sacrifices were worth it, but as I look back on the last 12 years I can see how the country has grown in its appreciation of those who join the military.
Just as we will never forget the lives lost in New York City, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon, we should never forget those who rose to the challenge after the dust settled and made a commitment to keep the country safe and shift the battle zone abroad.
Whether you stormed the beaches of Normandy, flew helicopter missions over Vietnam, recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan, or just finished up your enlistment,VA wants to serve you.
From the original GI Bill, which helped cement the economic and social boom of the “Greatest Generation” after WWII, to the more than 8 million Veterans currently cared for at more than 1,800 VA facilities nationwide, VA is answering President Lincoln’s call to “care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.”
In its newest outreach effort, VA highlights the generations of families who served our military and are receiving care and benefits available to them.
Millions of Veterans have already taken advantage of what VA has to offer, but many have not. Visit va.gov/explore to learn more about VA benefits.
Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released Veteran unemployment data for the month of August. The unemployment rate for all Veterans was 6.2 percent last month—a decrease from 6.4 percent in July and still one percentage point below the national average of 7.3 percent. For post-9/11 Veterans, the rate bumped up to 10 percent in August, compared to 7.7 percent in July.
In the first graph, we see the monthly unemployment rate for all Veterans since January 2010. The long-term trend shows a clear decrease.
Because chunks of data are often better indicators of real movement, another way to view the trend is by looking at the moving (or rolling) average. Like the chart above, the chart below immediately below captures 12-month averages for the periods ending each month since January 2010. What it shows is a modest decline in the unemployment rate of Veterans over the long term. The current 12-month average unemployment rate for all Veterans stands at 6.7 percent—unchanged from last month and still the lowest 12-month average unemployment rate since 2009.
In college, I had a friend who committed suicide in a horrific way. We were shocked, and wondered why he had made such a drastic choice. We didn’t see it coming at all; we knew he was having trouble in his marriage and going to counseling, but our group had grown apart since he’d left school and gotten married. We couldn’t see his pain until he’d taken his life.
A year or so later, another college friend was threatening suicide. She was at a new school with no family support and she felt nobody could understand what she was going through. I could tell she was in pain, and when I asked, she told me she was considering suicide.
I knew I wasn’t equipped to deal with the situation, so I told our residential life coordinator who took the necessary steps to help her. She tried to overdose, but was found and received medical attention in time. At first, she was angry with me for telling; but in time she was grateful.
These were two friends in pain, with two very different outcomes. But what I learned was this: We can go to seminars and read brochures forever, but the bottom line is we won’t know if someone is considering suicide unless we truly get to know that person.
I originally wrote this while I was still in the Air Force, detailing how we need to help new Airmen become part of the Air Force Family, and take care of our people. I wrote of how supervisors needed to get to know their people so they would know if someone was having financial or emotional issues. They need to understand the signs of a person in crisis so they could help that Airman.
Now, I see the headlines like everyone else and know we need to work together to help our Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and many of those who long ago returned from Vietnam and Korea.
Those of you who have Veteran friends can help by being there for them. Make time to strengthen those relationships, because some of them might not have the same resources or outlook as you. If that is the case, know them well enough that you can see the warning signs and be strong enough to ask if they are thinking about hurting themselves – and help them find treatment.
If you’re a Veteran who’s gone through the difficulty of PTSD, a traumatic brain injury, or just readjusting to normal, everyday American life – be there for one of your Veteran friends. Let them know you understand the challenges and listen, offer advice. That opportunity to share may be what gives your friend the chance to unload some of his or her pain, and give you the opportunity to help them find help.
VA can come up with the resources and offer services, but when a life is on the line, it comes down to Veterans helping Veterans and friends supporting friends.
The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Support for deaf and hard of hearing individuals is available.