This week’s stories in VA News:
Hosts: Jeanette Mendy and Darrin Pope
Excutive Producer: Ken McKinnon
Run Time: 14:47
Hosts: Jeanette Mendy and Darrin Pope
Excutive Producer: Ken McKinnon
Run Time: 14:47
Sharing information on services for Veterans was the primary focus of the VA Services Showcase held VHA National Conference Center in Arlington, Va. on Wednesday, Jan. 29. Representatives from VA program offices, support services and Veteran-related organizations participated in the event, which gave attendees a chance to interact and share resources with each other.
VA is working to let Veterans know that there are a wide range of programs and services, and a dedicated workforce –many of whom are Veterans themselves – ready to help them navigate all the possibilities.
Below we highlight some of the programs present at the showcase – just a few of the many services VA offers. If you are looking for a specific VA program or service, please post it in the comments and we will do our best to connect you with the best place to start.
On Wednesday night, Jan. 29, hundreds of volunteers walked the streets of Washington, D.C., in search of the city’s homeless. The goal was to find and count as many of them as possible in order to get a snapshot – a “point-in-time” count – of the current homeless population.
The yearly outreach effort, conducted by HUD and VA, takes place in more than 3,000 communities across the nation. It’s just one way VA reaches out to homeless Veterans. Last year, in 2013, there were an estimated 57,849 homeless Veterans on that single night in January in the United States, an 8 percent decline since 2012 and a 24 percent decline since 2010.
I accompanied some of the volunteers, including HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, across Capitol Hill and other D.C. neighborhoods as they met and got information from the city’s homeless.
VA is committed to ending Veterans’ homelessness in 2015. No one who has served our country should ever go without a safe, stable place to call home.
Explore www.va.gov/homeless to learn about VA’s programs for Veterans and to find out what you, your neighbors, and your community can do to help Veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless.
Last night, after years of pain and rehabilitation, Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg sat with the first lady as President Obama delivered the State of the Union address in Washington, D.C. His father and caretaker, Craig, was next to him in the House gallery when the president began to talk about Cory’s injuries and long road to recovery.
“Cory is here tonight. And like the Army he loves, like the America he serves, Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg never gives up, and he does not quit,” said President Obama.
What followed was a moment that united all in attendance and Americans watching at home. As Cory stood up from his seat with the help of his father, the House chamber erupted with applause. The smile, thumbs-up and a wave from the soldier to the commander in chief was not only endearing – it was a shining glimpse into how far Cory had come.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for him,” said Craig earlier on Tuesday as he and Cory visited VA headquarters to meet with Secretary Eric Shinseki. “There is a lot going on in America today, and if Cory’s story can add some inspiration to people’s lives … that’s what it’s all about.”
The Winter Haven homeless stand down Jan. 25 at the D.C. VA Medical Center assisted hundreds of area veterans with clothes and medical checkups, but also provided the opportunity to meet with potential employers.
“These people are trainable,” Brian Hawkins, D.C. VAMC director said. “If they weren’t, they wouldn’t have been able to serve our country.”
The line of Veterans and their families at the Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center started forming early on Saturday, Jan. 25, for the 16th Winterhaven stand down.
The frigid weather outside the facility only made the yearly outreach effort for homeless Veterans that much more important for local volunteers and VA employees, and that much more critical for the Veterans attending.
“It’s nice to know people are concerned,” said U.S. Army Veteran Elijah Parker, “but unfortunately — for me — it’s necessary.”
Parker, who has attended the D.C. area stand down on three previous occasions, said he braved the cold temperatures to attend the job fair housed on the first floor of the facility. He used to work construction before becoming unemployed, and while he did look forward to the free clothes and medical check-ups, talking to employers was a priority for him.
“I need a job, and I think there might be something good coming out of this,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll get that job, but there are some organizations here that I wouldn’t have talked to before.”
Brian Hawkins, director of the D.C. VA Medical Center, understands the need for more than a handout among the Veterans he serves. According to him, not only was this year’s stand down more successful in the number of Veterans it touched, but it also brought in more community partners to support Veterans for the long run.
“A stand down means nothing if I bring people in, and I just give them clothes and a haircut for today,” Hawkins said. “It’s about sustaining lives… so we bring employers in too. This year we had triple the amount of employers as we did the year before.”
Start your engines, folks: The 2014 tax filing season’s green flag waves for taxpayers on Jan. 31. Gather your W-2s, 1099s, K-1s, 1098s and any cancelled checks or receipts you might need, take a deep breath, and dive into tax filing fun!
OK, maybe it’s not always fun, but it can be made easier if you’re able to get assistance when you need it. Being a Veteran or an active-duty Servicemember means you have options for assistance, too.
First, check out the Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs. The page has information on how to qualify for these programs, and links to online search pages so that you can find help near you.
Qualified Veterans and active-duty military can also get free federal and state tax preparation and filing assistance, both online and in person, by MyFreeTaxes.com. This is the only free online tax preparation and filing service available in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., that allows users to file both a federal and state return, no matter where they live. To use this service, qualifying families must earn $58,000 or less.
Veterans Day celebrations occur all over this great nation and on American installations worldwide.
They often include parades, assemblies and guest speakers who share their stories of service – defending the Constitution in places like Germany, the Pacific, Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, Panama, Southwest Asia and on other posts, camps and stations around the world.
Flyers, programs and photographs are plastered on walls and bulletin boards, and even sent electronically across the Internet to bring attention to one of the most important days in American history.
The National Veterans Day poster, which was first developed in 1978, is one constant that remains.
Each year, more than 20,000 copies are distributed globally. The poster also graces the cover of the official program for the Veterans Day Celebration at Arlington National Cemetery; it establishes the theme for the ceremony and is a popular memento from recognizing the event.
Annually, the Veterans Day National Committee sponsors a contest to find the finalist for the National Veterans Day poster. For the first few years, local Veterans Affairs employees comprised the bulk of the submissions, but soon after, the committee cast a wider net to encourage greater interest in the competition and gain a broader variety of entries.
We’ve received submissions from industry, academia, Veterans and family members, and elementary and middle school children among others, all vying for the chance to have their poster selected.
In all, the committee receives more than 120 submissions each year, and each poster is as unique as its creator.
The one resounding theme is that each poster captures the valor, courage, selfless service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, those who make up less than one percent of our nation.
Do you have an idea for the 2014 National Veterans Day poster? If so, the Veterans Day National Committee wants your submissions. For more information, contact Veterans Day National Committee point of contact, Micheal Migliara, at (202) 461-5386 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hosts: Jose Llamas and Lydia Valdez
Excutive Producer: Ken McKinnon
Run Time: 13:42
The Library of Congress is famous for cataloging some of Americas’ greatest historical treasures. From every piece of copy written material to more notable additions like the Gettysburg Address and Thomas Jefferson’s Library, the breadth of documents, films, books and photos housed at the Washington D.C. landmark and support facilities is staggering.
So it should come as no surprise that the Library of Congress, through its American Folklife Center, is committed to capturing the legacy of the American Veteran.
The Veterans History Project focuses on preserving the accounts of Veterans’ lives and experiences. Created by Congress in 2000, the project resulted from a growing concern that personal experiences of American WWII Veterans were not being preserved.
“People who have made sacrifices for our country need to tell us what it means,” said Dr. Betsy Peterson, the director of the American Folklife Center, which oversees the Veteran History Project.
Peterson is adamant that the telling of history cannot be only from the top down, but must also be from the bottom up. An experienced oral historian, she strives to capture the full American story. It’s clear that the Veteran History Project has a special meaning to her and those who work on the project.
“History is much more than facts and dates,” Peterson said. ”It’s people.”
Every year, five to six thousand Veterans submit their oral history, and some even donate their personal collections of correspondences, diaries and memorabilia. The Veterans History Project reviews and preserves these items to ensure that our nation’s future generations will have firsthand accounts of what happened from the people who actually made the history.
The project is based in Washington, D.C., but is widely dependent upon volunteers across the country. According to Veterans History Project director Bob Patrick, one of the challenges faced by Veterans who wants to participate is finding an interviewer to record his or her story.
Patrick recommends visiting or talking to a local Veteran service organization, VA medical center, Vet Center, Veteran student organization or even a high school media class. All that is required is an interviewer who will listen, record and submit the documents. The Veterans History Project has a field kit and instructions that make the process simple.
Patrick also offers some advice to Veterans who are considering submitting to the project.
“Veterans should first spend some time reflecting, but then talk freely,” he said.
He said Veterans don’t need to know the exact details of their service to participate. Instead, they can simply focus on what their service meant to them back then and what it means to them now.
Veterans of any age or era can participate; the question of when to submit a story depends on the individual, because every Veteran processes his or her experiences differently and at their own pace.
If you are interested in contributing your oral history or volunteering to be an interviewer, please visit http://www.loc.gov/vets/vets-home.html.