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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We remember.

National September 11 Memorial & Museum, photo courtesy National September 11 Memorial & Museum -

National September 11 Memorial & Museum, photo courtesy National September 11 Memorial & Museum –

Each of us has our story. On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I could have been standing in the lobby of 7 World Trade Center, next to a work colleague who was there when the first plane hit the towers. A few days earlier, I was pulled from that trip to New York, with instructions to travel on the 12th or 13th.  I wasn’t there as the planes struck, and the follow up trip never happened.

Instead, I was in Washington, D.C., at my desk at Secret Service headquarters when the terrorists attacked. We watched on TV the news of planes crashing in New York, Washington, Pennsylvania. We watched as one tower fell. Then another.  And then 7 World Trade. The Secret Service had offices in building 7. Our people, many of them friends, were among some of the first responders on site, and among those evacuating with so many other New Yorkers.

Federal offices in D.C. were closed down, but I stayed at work. Our office was busy not only responding to the media about the safety of the president and other protectees, but we were busy accounting for our employees assigned to New York. I drove home late that night, greeted as I crossed the 14th Street Bridge southbound by the smell of burning fuel and the sight of flames and water hoses still leaping high from the Pentagon. For the first time, I let myself break down and cry.  In the years since, I have continued to shed tears on this anniversary for those who died, thinking of the friends and family they left behind.

The Secret Service lost one employee that day, Master Special Officer Craig J. Miller.  From what we know, Craig, an Army Veteran of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and Bronze Star recipient, used his military and Secret Service emergency response training and went into the towers. He died trying to help others get out.
– Megan Moloney

I was the managing editor of a small daily newspaper on 9/11 and I remember it starting as a rather a slow news day locally, so I asked my team to scour the AP wire and find a story to fill the last open space on the front page of the paper while I stepped out to meet with my friend Rose.

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Accelerated learning programs offer alternative education and training opportunity for Veterans

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson, former Congressman Chet Edwards (right) and Rosye Cloud (left) from the Veterans Benefits Administration were among the participants in the accelerated learning programs roundtable.

Today, the White House and VA  hosted a roundtable that brought together leaders in government, education and industry to discuss how accelerated learning programs can help our nation’s Veterans. The discussion is part of the White House’s Skills and Demand-Driven Training Initiative.

VA is exploring accelerated learning programs as a potential alternative or supplement to traditional education that results in career competitive skills and employment opportunities for Veterans. In this first phase of exploration, VA is focusing on information technology programs, due to the high growth, in-demand nature of the IT industry. In conjunction with the roundtable, VA will release a full report later this year that provides an overview of its preliminary research on IT programs.

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National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic: Day Three

National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic

Laura Ortiz gets her strength and purpose from three words: faith, humility and service. These words, and a tireless drive, helped her get through one of the most traumatic chapters of her life.

Six years ago, Laura lost her right leg in an accident. While she wasn’t exactly sure how her disability would affect her, her purpose in life and core values never faltered.

“I felt a total jolt of energy,” she said. “At the moment when I saw my leg, and I knew it wasn’t going to be a part of me anymore, I just surrendered to the idea that I would still be able to live a fulfilling life with the help of advances in technology and prosthetics.”

The fitness-conscious Veteran purchased a stability ball and worked hard on her own rehabilitation. She researched as much as she could about her “new reality” and tried her best to reach out to other amputees that shared her athletic aspirations.

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It’s Bob calling: VA Secretary takes recruiting personally

Sec. Bob McDonald takes recruiting personally, telling reporters how he is reaching out to medical students and retiring military members and asking them to work at VA.

“We need tens of thousands of new doctors, new nurses, new clinicians,” VA Secretary Bob McDonald told reporters Monday at news conference.

McDonald recently launched a national recruiting campaign, and is leading the charge by speaking directly with medical students, military medical professionals and others who can bring their experience to work at VA.

“What I have heard from our doctors and nurses is there’s no better patient than the Veteran. We have to get that inspiring story out,” McDonald said.

Sec. McDonald shared a story from a recent flight of a retired Air Force Veteran whose daughter is now a student at the Uniformed Services University and was hesitant to consider working for VA.

“I said, ‘Give me her phone number,’” McDonald recounted. “I called her three times.”  The student arranged for McDonald to recruit from her medical school. “I think we’re pretty close to convincing her that the VA is a great place to work.”

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National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic: Day Two

Veteran Rodney Blanton stands on his board on his first try!

Veteran Rodney Blanton stands on his board on his first try!

Editor’s Note: VAntage Point is reporting from the 2014 National Veterans Sports Clinic, Sept. 7-12. This is the second in a series of blogs from the event.

Rodney Blanton was fresh home from a deployment to Afghanistan with the Air National Guard in 2011, when his life was changed by a reckless truck driver. The domino effect of twisted vehicles ended with Rodney and his motorcycle strewn across five lanes of Texas highway.

He said he died twice on the operating table, but somehow was able to pull through. After 12 days in a coma, Rodney woke up to the realization that his left leg had been amputated. However, it wasn’t the fact that something was missing that drove him during the seven months it took to learn to walk again – it was the fact that he was still alive.

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The Road to Veterans Day 2014

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has an important mission: caring for Veterans and their families, and VA has strong institutional values – mission-critical ideals that must influence day-to-day behavior and performance: Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence.

Secretary Bob McDonald outlines the "Road to Veterans Day"

Secretary Bob McDonald outlines the “Road to Veterans Day”

To better fulfill our mission and to improve our service those who have ‘borne the battle,’ their families, and survivors, VA has developed The Road to Veterans Day 2014—a series of strategies and actions that will enable the Department to:

  • Rebuild trust with Veterans and the American people;
  • Improve service delivery; and
  • Set the course for long-term excellence and reform.

Through these strategies, VA will work to fulfill the expectations of Veterans, our workforce and other stakeholders while instituting the operational efficiencies, the cost savings and productivity improvements, and the service innovations needed to succeed with a single metric in mind – Veterans’ outcomes.

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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


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 »