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Take a look at the latest veteran news from California and beyond. 

 

THURSDAY

Law and moneySpecial courts for veterans languish

THE MARSHALL PROJECT — Eric Gonzalez says he doesn’t remember getting pulled over, nor does he remember evading his arrest in Fullerton, California. The only thing he knows is that he woke up very hungover and faced up to nine years in prison for assaulting a police officer, along with five other charges. Gonzalez, however, was on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps when he was arrested in 2012, and thus eligible for an alternative: a veterans treatment court that helps service members charged with misdemeanors and some felonies avoid incarceration, if the crime is related to a mental health issue or drug dependency.

VA says it made a ‘mistake’ using gender-neutral motto

STARS AND STRIPES — The Department of Veterans Affairs made a mistake — not a policy change — Tuesday when it published a gender-neutral version of its motto on official event programs, an agency spokesman said. The altered motto was published in the back of programs provided at VA headquarters in Washington during the launch of a new benefits appeals process. It read, “To care for those ‘who shall have borne the battle’ and for their families and survivors,” and was attributed to President Abraham Lincoln.

College for veteransVeterans groups ask VA secretary to keep GI benefits out of the hands of predatory colleges

WASHINGTON POST — More than two dozen advocacy groups are calling on Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie to intensify monitoring of college programs that enroll veterans after an audit found lax oversight could result in $2.3 billion in tuition benefits going to predatory schools during the next five years. Education funding earned by men and women who serve in the U.S. military has become a stable source of revenue for many colleges. But advocates say that some schools — especially for-profit colleges — have failed to provide high-quality education and that the federal government has shirked its responsibility to act.

Wave of elderly veterans creates financial worries for VA’s nursing home services

MILITARY TIMES — More than one million veterans will be eligible for taxpayer-funded nursing home services within the next five years, according to the latest estimates from federal administrators trying to balance the costs of institutional care with alternative options allowing those individuals to stay in their homes. Already, the annual costs of nursing home care have risen to almost $6 billion, Veterans Affairs officials told lawmakers at a congressional hearing last week. By 2024, that number could top $10 billion, a significant portion of the department’s overall budget.

Badges United FoundationMilitary training helped these veterans launch small businesses

REBOOT CAMP | MILITARY TIMES — Having trouble finding an employer who understands your military skill set? Why not be your own boss? That strategy seems to be working for the veterans who showed off their small businesses Tuesday in southeast Washington, D.C., during Bunker Labs’ third-annual Muster Across America Tour.

From homeless to Deloitte: Free program puts vets on path to lucrative tech jobs

MILITARY TIMES — When Daniel Moss got a job offer from Deloitte, he thought it was too good to be true. Moss, an ex-Navy air traffic controller, had struggled re-adjusting to civilian life after his almost-six-year military stint. Upon returning to his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, he enrolled at Wright State University but couldn’t find steady employment. His wife ended up divorcing him, and he spent two years homeless, sleeping in his college library and showering at the gym.

As VA staff vacancies rise, union leaders blast administration officials for ‘setting us up to fail’

MILITARY TIMES — Federal union officials accused Veterans Affairs officials of undermining their own health care system by not filling thousands of open department health positions while they push new rules covering more medical appointments at private-sector hospitals. But VA officials dismissed the criticism as unfounded, since the department completed more appointments than ever before last fiscal year and has kept staff vacancy rates under comparable industry standards.

Mike BartellFormerly homeless veteran gets help, now gives back

NBC Bay Area — To witness 70-year-old Mike Bartell smiling, laughing, and caring for others while volunteering for the San Francisco Marin Food Bank, is to see a man who looks like he’s had a lifetime of experience spreading joy. Bartell, however, is quick to point out that if you were to ask anyone who knew him at an earlier age, they would tell a different tale. “They wouldn’t believe it,” Bartell said. “That grumpy old person … what happened to him?”

WEDNESDAY

Critic of waste at Veterans Affairs now faces questions about his travel costs

THE NEW YORK TIMES — A top adviser at the Department of Veterans Affairs, who was an outspoken critic of wasteful practices there before he joined the department, has come under fire for billing the government for the cost of commuting between the department’s headquarters in Washington and his home in California. The adviser, Darin Selnick, who is spearheading a controversial plan to shift billions of dollars from government-run veterans’ hospitals to private health care providers, spent more than $13,000 on his bicoastal commute in three months, including airfare, hotel stays and other outlays, according to expense reports published by the nonprofit news organization ProPublica.

Betsy Devos -Betsy DeVos vs. student veterans

THE NEW YORK TIMES — The Department of Education secretary has been uniquely brazen, and unpatriotic, in her deregulation campaign. It’s time that she answered for her actions. As the political makeup of the 116th Congress begins to congeal, the question of what, if anything, this divided government can do together looms. Although there is faint hope of cooperation on most issues, if there is something that could unite President Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Mitch McConnell, it should be their promises to protect America’s veterans.

Honor Flight San Diego says goodbye to beloved family member

ABC 10 NEWS — This week the Honor Flight family is saying goodbye to beloved family member Arthur Smith, a World War II Veteran and the inspiration behind San Diego’s Honor Flight chapter. Back in 2009, Arthur and his son Dave went to Washington D.C. with the Honor Flight Network. Shortly after, Dave created a hub in San Diego to give Southern California veterans the same experience.

Gary Sinese in BaghdadGary Sinise isn’t just Lt. Dan — he’s a real-life inspiration to veterans

NEW YORK POST — It wasn’t long after “Forrest Gump” hit theaters in 1994 that Gary Sinise knew it wasn’t going to be just another movie. A few weeks after its June release, the actor walked out of his Pasadena home to retrieve the newspaper. There on the speed bump in front of his house that once read “bump,” someone had painted a “g” over the “b” so that it now read “gump.”

Sailor in V-J Day Times Square kiss photo to be laid to rest

NAVY TIMES — Funeral arrangements for the sailor photographed kissing a woman in Times Square at the end of World War II have been scheduled. George Mendonsa’s daughter says her father died Sunday after he fell and had a seizure at the assisted living facility in Middletown, Rhode Island, where he had lived with his wife of 70 years. He was 95. According to his obituary, his funeral will be held Friday at St. Mary’s Church in Newport.

Linda Chapa LaViaPritzker names second Veterans Affairs director in two weeks

CHICAGO CBS — Gov. J.B. Pritzker has appointed a state lawmaker as director of the state’s Veterans Affairs department after his first choice stepped down. The Democrat on Friday named state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia. The former Army officer was named in place of Army Lt. Col. Jaime Martinez. Pritzker tabbed Martinez for the job Jan. 31 . The governor’s office did not say why Martinez withdrew from consideration.

Veterans deserve reproductive health services

SEATTLE TIMES — Americans have heard many stories and seen considerable documentation of the brain, spinal and other wartime injuries suffered by America’s military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. Less-known is that the U.S. government callously interferes with these wounded veterans’ chance to have children. A 27-year-old law blocks the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs from providing some reproductive health services – such as in vitro fertilization – to veterans even though those same services are available to active-duty military.

Woman Veteran overcomes obstalceNew bill aims to provide women equitable VA care

CONNECTING VETS — During the American Revolution, one woman was itching to get into the fight, so she disguised herself as a man so she could serve in the Continental Army. Now, a bill carrying her name is aimed directly at addressing the gender gap in VA care. The Deborah Sampson Act was recently reintroduced by Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont) and John Boozman (R-Ark.), which would expand the counselors for women veterans at VA hospitals nationwide, improve infant care for mothers by increasing the number of days of maternity care allowed, and increase the number of gender-specific health care providers.

Veterans Journal: Website pays tribute to service of African-American soldiers

PROVIDENCE JOURNAL — As part of observing Black History Month and saluting black military patriots, the American Veterans Center website (https://bit.ly/2MKh1Mu) has collected and assembled numerous stories of many overlooked patriots. You can learn about these individuals important to our military history by listening to brief audio clips on the website paying tribute to our nation’s African-American heroes, from the American Revolution through the modern era. The following summarizes part of what you will see and hear.

Veterans HousingVeterans Transition Center to hold event for tiny house planning, design in Marina

MONTEREY HERALD — A plan to expand on the Veterans Transition Center’s housing for homeless veterans and their families has been in the works for some time and is evolving to include a tiny house village, along with other housing, under its master plan. A gathering is planned to inform the public about the tiny houses and open a dialogue about its impacts. “We want to demonstrate in the master plan that building can be done with best practices in planning, development and design,” said Thomas Rettenwender, a consulting architect and educator.

The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel raises $1.5 million in support of veterans

CISION PR WEB — Continuing to reinforce the resort’s commitment to supporting worthy causes, The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel is pleased to announce that through the net proceeds from multiple Yappy Hour seasons and The Diamond Ball Gala, $1.5 million has been donated to The Veterans Initiative of Canine Companions for Independence, a non-profit that provides assistance dogs for veterans with disabilities. Since establishing the partnership in 2013, the resort has raised the incredible amount through the hotel’s popular Yappy Hour series, a monthly canine and companion cocktail party (returning May 16, 2019), and The Diamond Ball, an evening gala with live and silent auctions that took place from 2014 to 2016. In 2018, the property raised over $90,000 for Canine Companions, helping achieve the $1.5 million total donation in only a short six years.

AARP Foundation announces $1.2 million in grants to help victims of California wildfires

CISION PR NEWSWIRE — AARP Foundation today announced the grant recipients of its fundraising campaign for the victims of the California wildfires. With matching funds from AARP and AARP Foundation, the grants will provide $1.2 million to help people impacted by the fires’ destruction. “When a disaster strikes, few are more vulnerable than older adults,” said Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president, AARP Foundation. “We are grateful to all who contributed so generously to our relief fund, which will help older adults to recover and rebuild.”

TUESDAY

VA’s new appeal process promises to be quicker. But will it be better?

MILITARY TIMES — A friend called Army veteran Ryan Gallucci last year, worried just before a scheduled court date to appeal a Department of Veterans Affairs decision to deny him part of his disability payouts. “He told me he couldn’t remember what he had appealed, because the process had taken so long,” said Gallucci, deputy director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ benefits programs. “In a lot of these cases, we’re seeing cases returned because they need updated medical exams, because the process has taken so long those records are outdated. “At least now, things should move quicker.”

Terry Hill - RAG founder3-D printing parts? Helping veterans? Serving the community? All in a day’s work for Terry Hill

FORBES — US Army combat veteran Terry Hill gained valuable exposure to 3-D printing – also known as additive manufacturing (AM) – in his first post-service job with a global aerospace company, leading their robotic welding and AM efforts. When the AM portion of his job was discontinued, despite his own strong belief in the potential of the technology, Hill decided to launch his own company with a two-pronged purpose: to leverage 3-D printing as the basis for his business, and to help out his fellow military veterans in any way possible. Hill is no stranger to challenges. He spent 13 years in the U.S. Army as an Engineer and UH-60 Black Hawk medical evacuation aviator, commanding officer, maintenance test pilot, and research pilot.

VA launches collaborative training initiative to improve customer service for veteran claims and appeals

LAKE COUNTY NEWS — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it recently launched a new customer service training initiative for employees to improve VA’s claims and appeals process. VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals and the Veterans Benefits Administration Compensation Services, or CS, are developing small-video training modules to focus on medically complex disabilities that often go to appeals, and in July 2018, started gathering information from both organizations’ training and quality assurance elements to focus on challenges with knee-disability ratings, since these evaluations can be complicated for both claims and appeals.

Women in the militaryWe want to hear from women who served in the military

NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE — We’re asking servicewomen and veterans to share their experiences in the military for a coming story. Tell us about your accomplishments, the challenges you faced, a fact about women in the military that would surprise most people or one unforgettable story you’ll never forget from your time in the service.

11 years in jail for ex-Veterans Affairs official in disabled vet fraud scheme

WTOP — A former U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs official has been sentenced 11 years in prison for a $2 million bribery scheme involving a program for disabled military veterans. James King, 63, of Baltimore, previously pleaded guilty to one count of honest services and money wire fraud, one count of bribery of a public official and one count of falsifying records to obstruct an investigation, authorities said in a news release. King was sentenced Friday to serve 132 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and to pay $155,000 in restitution to Veterans Affairs.

5800_alameda-viewMore vet housing dedicated by dignitaries in Palo Alto

PATCH PALO ALTO — A new Fisher House in the Bay Area was dedicated today by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Dave Coker, President of Fisher House Foundation, and Thomas J. Fitzgerald III, Director of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. This is the second Fisher House at the Palo Alto medical complex, a Level One Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center that provides intensive specialized and comprehensive rehabilitation care for military and veterans. This home will provide lodging for an additional 20 families of veterans and military at no cost, allowing them to be close to their loved ones at the most stressful time – during their hospitalization at VA Palo Alto Health Care System. This will bring the total number of available nights of lodging at Palo Alto to 40 a night. Savings to military and veterans’ families will be more than $3.387 million a year.

Vets housing rights bill introduced by Calif. Senator Hill

PATCH SAN CARLOS — California Senator Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, has introduced a bill designed to give new life to legislative efforts to end housing discrimination against veterans and military personnel. Senate Bill 222 ensures that veterans and military personnel are not discriminated against in housing. It also intends to ensure they won’t be denied housing because of how they pay their rent. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act includes veterans and military personnel as a protected class regarding employment discrimination but does not include them in the provision providing protection from housing discrimination.

FRIDAY

CongressVets groups recommend VA budget increase to handle expansion of private care

STARS AND STRIPES — As the Department of Veterans Affairs works toward expanding its use of private-sector doctors, three veterans groups proposed this week that the White House and Congress approve a budget for private care in 2020 that’s nearly double what was appropriated for 2019. The Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and Paralyzed Veterans of America suggested a community care budget of more than $18 billion – up from the $9.4 billion appropriated for fiscal year 2019, which ends Sept. 30. Without an increase in funding, the groups are concerned money for private care could be stripped from the VA health care system.

The VA is paying for a top official’s cross-country commute

PRO PUBLICA — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs paid $13,000 over a three-month period for a senior official’s biweekly commute to Washington from his home in California, according to expense reports obtained by ProPublica. The official, Darin Selnick, is a senior adviser to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie and has played a key role in developing the administration’s controversial new rules on referring veterans to private doctors. The proposal, announced last month, has drawn opposition from some lawmakers and veterans groups.

Dept. of Veterans Affairs building - NextGovOnline health applications increased 50 percent after VA.gov relaunch

NEXTGOV — By the time Marcy Jacobs came in with the champagne, the moment to celebrate had already passed. The Veterans Affairs Department main website, which she and her team had spent the last nine months thoroughly redesigning, was live, and the process had gone off without a hitch. “It was so anticlimactic,” said Jacobs, who leads the U.S. Digital Service branch at Veterans Affairs. “There was no drama, there were no fireworks. It was the quietest launch you never heard about.”

VA preparing to launch major overhaul of claims appeals process

STARS AND STRIPES — Hundreds of thousands of veterans, some of them trapped indefinitely in a complex system of trying to obtain benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, will get new options next week promised to deliver decisions in days or months, instead of years. The VA is set to implement a new process Tuesday for veterans to appeal their claims for VA disability compensation – a system devised by the VA, veterans organizations and lawmakers and approved by Congress in 2017. Under the current system, veterans wait three to seven years to reconcile their appeals. The new one could get veterans through the process in as little as 125 days, VA officials vowed.

6888th_documentary1Women of U.S. Army’s only all-black WWII unit highlighted in new documentary

CONNECTINGVETS.COM — The historic story of the U.S. Army’s first and only all-black, all-female WWII unit got a lot of attention last year when a monument at Fort Leavenworth was erected in their honor.  And now, the contributions of these ground breaking women are being told in a new motion picture. Jim Theres, an Army veteran, and producer of the film “The Hello Girls” (which told the story of the 223 American women sent to France as an integral part of the WWI war effort) was showing his documentary at the 2018 Association of the Army Convention when he was approached about the women of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion.

VA’s Rapid Appeals Modernization Program to end ahead of implementation of new veteran appeals law

VA.GOV — oday, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it will discontinue the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP), which provided eligible Veterans with early resolutions to their appealed claims, ahead of full implementation of the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 that takes effect Feb. 19, 2019.  VA will not accept RAMP elections from Veterans with a legacy appeal after Feb. 15, 2019; however, RAMP claims pending on or after Feb. 15 will continue to be processed until the inventory is complete.

James McCueA D-Day veteran faced an unattended burial. 500 strangers showed up to honor his service

TASK & PURPOSE — D-Day veteran James McCue died a hero. About 500 strangers made sure of it. “It’s beautiful,” Army Sgt. Pete Rooney said of the crowd that gathered in the cold and stood on the snow Thursday during McCue’s burial. “I wish it happened for every veteran’s funeral.” Rooney, who lost his legs when a roadside bomb exploded in Iraq in 2007, wheeled himself over and placed one hand on the casket and gave McCue a final salute. He was among the crowd of people who came to Bellevue Cemetery in Lawrence to honor a man they had never met.

V Day with veterans: Indian American Rep. Ami Bera visits veterans in Sacramento County for Valentine’s Day

AMERICAN BAZAAR — It’s that day of the year again when people across the world go an extra mile to show their love for those they care about. On this Valentine’s Day, Indian American Congressman Ami Bera continued his tradition of taking out time to show love and appreciation for the veterans in Sacramento County. “Far too many veterans go without the support they have earned,” the California Democrat said, speaking about the need of this gesture. “That’s why for the past several years my staff and I have delivered Valentine’s Day cards from area schoolchildren to veterans who are receiving care at the Mather VA hospital.”

Valentines for livermore vetsHarley owners make valentines for veterans in Livermore hospital

PATCH LIVERMORE — Twenty members of the Oakland Harley Owners Group recently gathered together in Union City to make 100 Valentine’s Day cards for veterans in the hospital in Livermore. Union City resident and Harley rider Linda Bustinduy shared a photo of the sweet cards, which were packaged with warm hats. Bustinduy said the group meets annually to make the cards.

THURSDAY

Burn Pits - NYT -Covering the lives of veterans, revered but often forgotten

NEW YORK TIMES — Times Insider explains who we are and what we do, and delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how our journalism comes together. How was it that I had never heard of burn pits? Certainly these open-air trash fires, which were everywhere in Iraq and Afghanistan during the conflicts in those countries, had been written about, been the subject of lawsuits and been blamed for sickening scores, if not hundreds of veterans, of those wars. Yet somehow, I had managed to miss the story — like much of the nation, I suspect.

Former Air Force officer calls Washington’s approach to veteran health care ‘short-sighted’

THE HILL — Washington is often disconnected from the veterans communities, and that division can lead to ineffective policies, former Air Force officer Michael Haynie told Hill.TV. “The extent to which we have conversations in D.C. about the social, economic, wellness concerns of this community without connecting those conversations back to the communities in which veterans are going to live, work, raise families I think is pretty short-sighted,” Haynie told Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball and Shermichael Singleton this week on “Rising.”

American Legion - West LAWest Los Angeles VA may finally be on track to help homeless veterans

LEGION.ORG — More than three years after settling a lawsuit over the misuse of its West Los Angeles campus, VA may finally be on track to provide housing, mental health treatment and other assistance to at least 1,200 homeless and disabled veterans on the 387-acre site. However, 490 units of housing won’t be ready next year as the settlement dictated. “We knew the VA would have some struggles executing this,” says Chanin Nuntavong, director of The American Legion’s Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation (VA&R) Division. “This is a drastic improvement where they were before,” he says, referring to the last site visit by representatives from The American Legion’s Washington, D.C., office in 2017.

‘Mom, you’re too much’: Veteran women become the new face of PTSD

WTSP 10 NEWS — When you picture the face of a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, do you think of a woman? You probably should. Women are the fastest growing group of veterans to ask for help after leaving the service. They are mothers, sisters and daughters fighting a new battle every day. Nitza Rivera is a retired master sergeant who served 23 years in the Army.

Vets Center ResourcesLibrary has resources for veterans

HALF MOON BAY REVIEW — For many veterans, accessing health care can prove challenging. With that in mind, the grand opening of the Veterans Resource Center at the Half Moon Bay Library took place last Saturday. San Mateo County Veterans Services and the Veterans Administration’s medical mobile van joined veterans at the event. The medical mobile van was parked outside the library from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. That is where medical professionals provided on-site examinations, consultations and referrals.

AmpSurf to award $15,000 in competitive grants to disabled veterans

KSBY SAN LUIS OBISPO — The Association of Amputee Surfers and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will award disabled veterans $15,000 in competitive grants to compete in an adaptive surfing contest this year. AmpSurf is giving out 10 sponsorship. Those who participate say it’s a great way to stay active and overcome challenges.

WEDNESDAY

He has a Purple Heart, but the VA wouldn’t call him a veteran

WALL STREET JOURNAL — The Department of Veterans Affairs often moves at a glacial pace. Stories of delayed disability claims and long wait lists for treatment are legion. What has gone unnoticed, however, is that thousands of former U.S. service members wait an average of four years before they can even get in the long lines for benefits or health care. What’s the holdup? Service members with less-than-honorable discharges must wait for the VA to decide formally whether they are veterans.

Housing for familiesMore than half who took survey are dissatisfied with military privatized housing

MILITARY TIMES — More than half of military families who responded to a survey about their privatized housing reported having a negative experience, according to a new report released on the eve of a hearing where lawmakers will scrutinize the condition of military housing. Some families reported living with problems such as black mold, lead paint, lead in their water, faulty wiring, poor water quality, pesticides, and a wide variety of vermin, bugs and other animals such as bats, skunks, squirrels and snakes in their homes, according to a preliminary analysis of the survey data, reported by the Military Family Advisory Network.

A Florida school’s answer to campus shootings? Combat veterans with semiautomatic rifles and Glocks.

WASHINGTON POST — In the post-Parkland shooting era, Florida law now requires each school to have a “safe-school officer” to protect students from potential shooters. One school in Manatee County has implemented a particularly aggressive solution. Manatee School for the Arts, located in Manatee County, Fla., has hired two combat veterans to serve as “guardians” for the school, each equipped with a Kel-Tec semiautomatic rifle, a Glock handgun and a protective plate carrier.

Amazon and MilitaryNo experience? No problem! Vets can jump-start careers in IT with this new, free program

REBOOT CAMP | MILITARY TIMES — Many veterans face a frustrating catch-22 upon exiting the military: Most jobs require experience, but it’s almost impossible to get experience without a job. That’s where a program like Apprenti comes in. It removes the burden of experience and education by immediately placing qualifying veterans in relatively well-paying technology apprenticeships, where they will learn the skills required to succeed in the industry.

Lawmaker proposes income tax exemption for retired military

FOX 5 SAN DIEGO — An Orange County lawmaker announced Wednesday that he has re-introduced a bill to exempt military retirement pay from state income tax collection, citing a study by the San Diego Military Advisory Council showing that California’s military retiree population is decreasing. “We want Pendleton Marines, San Diego sailors, Fort Irwin soldiers and Edwards airmen to stay in California when they retire from their service,” said Assemblyman Bill Brough, R-San Juan Capistrano. “Our tax laws steer veterans to other states. California is missing out on highly skilled leaders that can have second careers in our communities.”

LaMalfa, Panetta introduce legislation to honor families of vets

GRASS VALLEY UNION — Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) and Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) issued a statement after introducing the Honoring Veterans’ Families Act, to allow the spouse of a veteran to be included on the veteran’s grave marker upon their death, according to a release. Due to a flaw in current law, the Department of Veterans Affairs cannot include almost any information about the spouse of a veteran on a VA-provided tombstone at a non-VA cemetery.

TUESDAY

Burnpits - NYTCongress poised to help veterans exposed to ‘burn pit’ toxins over decades of war

NEW YORK TIMES — Everywhere he went in Iraq during his yearlong deployment, Ryne Robinson saw the burning trash pits. Sometimes, like in Ramadi, they were as large as a municipal dump, filled with abandoned or destroyed military vehicles, synthetic piping and discarded combat meals. Sometimes he tossed garbage on them himself. “The smell was horrendous,” said Mr. Robinson, who was in Iraq from 2006 to 2007.

Apple’s deal with the VA is a big step toward giving patients control over their own health information

CNBC — Apple announced Monday that it’s working with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to bring health records to the iPhone. That means that vets receiving their care from the VA will be able to see medical information like allergies, immunizations, labs and procedures directly on their iPhones with just a few clicks.

Immigration fenceShould deported veterans be allowed to come back to America?

MILITARY TIMES — A pair of House lawmakers has reintroduced legislation that would ease the path to citizenship for immigrants who served in the Armed Forces but were later deported because of criminal activity. The “Repatriate Our Patriots Act” would also block federal officials from forcing those veteran immigrants out of the country, ensuring that they receive legal permanent residency after serving their criminal sentences.

California veterans may get to adopt shelter pets for free

CBS SACRAMENTO — Animal shelters in California may start waiving adoption fees for all Veterans. Senate Bill 245 would ban public shelters from charging fees for dogs, cats, or other animals if the person adopting the pet has a valid ID or Driver’s License with the word “Veteran” printed on it. In order to qualify for that license or ID a person must apply and verify his or her veteran’s status, plus pay a fee.

Zach SkilesNo veteran left behind: How an ex-Marine is saving lives back home

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR — Zach Skiles arrived at The Pathway Home in 2010 knowing he needed help yet convinced he had his problems under control. The residential treatment program, located in northern California’s Napa Valley, provided intensive therapy to Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans coping with mental trauma. There they began the long journey back from war. Seven years earlier, as a 20-year-old Marine, Mr. Skiles had taken part in the US invasion of Iraq. During his nine-month tour, four of his closest friends died, two of whom he saw killed in action. After his discharge in 2004, he drifted between jobs and school in San Francisco and Los Angeles, straining to prove to others – and himself – that he had left Iraq behind.

WWII vet celebrates 100th birthday with ‘Today’ hosts

NBC LOS ANGELES — One of the oldest living WWII veterans in the U.S., who’s also a San Diegan, celebrated his 100th birthday Monday and got a cake and a special serenade from the hosts of “Today.” Al Roker, Craig Melvin, Hoda Kotb, Savannah Guthrie and Jenna Bush Hager were presenting the show from outside their New York City studio and found Sidney Walton on the side of the set watching along with family.

Native American veteransWe salute the Native American warriors who go wherever they’re needed to honor US military veterans

TASK & PURPOSE | YAKIMA HERALD-REPUBLIC — On a cold February afternoon, a handful of pallbearers pulled the casket of Frankie Reye Alexander from a hearse and placed it over his final resting place at Tahoma Cemetery. A traditional song, “Soldier Boy,” echoed from a pair of Yakamas who sang to the beat of a deerskin drum. About 20 members of the Yakama Warriors Association stood at attention under a gray sky as they gave Alexander his final salute. Seven Warriors raised their rifles and fired three shots. Other Warriors formed a color guard, and one handed a folded United States flag to a member of Alexander’s family. Alexander, a Yakama, faced combat in Vietnam and later became a Seattle police officer before returning to the Yakama reservation. He died Jan. 12 at age 73.

CSU, Chico honored for service to veterans

RED BLUFF DAILY NEWS — California State University, Chico continues to provide a helpful and welcoming environment for its military student veterans. In a listing of 2019-20 Military-Friendly Schools by the organization Military Friendly, the University was listed in the large public schools category as a “designated location,” meaning CSU, Chico is “deemed Military Friendly based on survey results.”

Child care for vetsVets could soon get free child care during medical treatment

MILITARY TIMES — The Veterans Affairs Department could soon provide free child care for veterans undergoing treatment for mental health and other medical issues — a move some lawmakers hope will make it easier for veterans to get help. The House of Representatives passed a bill Friday that seeks to make permanent an existing pilot program rolled out in 2011. At the time, a VA survey found that more than 10 percent of veterans had to cancel or reschedule VA appointments because they lacked child care, and one-third said they were interested in child care services.

Military caregivers file lawsuit, saying VA improperly revoked benefits

MILITARY.COM — Four spouses and two fiancées of veterans eligible for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ family caregiver program have filed a lawsuit against the VA for denying or improperly revoking their benefits. In a suit filed Jan. 22 in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the plaintiffs, led by Florida resident Zamantha Tapia, fiancée of Army veteran Cesar Silva, allege that the VA did not follow the laws and regulations governing the department’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program, which provides compensation and health benefits to those who provide care for seriously injured post-9/11 veterans.

MONDAY

Sec. Wilkie NYTHouse Democrats, newly empowered, turn their investigations on Veterans Affairs

NEW YORK TIMES — The new Democratic leadership of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee said Friday that it would investigate the influence exerted by three members of President Trump’s Florida beach club on the Department of Veterans Affairs. The move was viewed as an early, and powerful, indication that the committee, which has always been known as among the most bipartisan on Capitol Hill, could adopt a harder edge under the new Congress as empowered Democrats move to scrutinize the administration.

VA continues to fail male victims of military sexual trauma

THE HILL — The problem of sexual harassment and assault in the United States military has been widely reported, often — though not always — framed as predominantly women’s issue. However, more than half of survivors are men (though a higher percent of military women are assaulted, the total number of men is higher since men make up 85 percent of the total force). How do these men fare if they subsequently develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of being harassed or assaulted and file a claim with VA? Unfortunately, the data appears to show that they are being systematically discriminated against by the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), despite overall improvements to the claims processing system going back several years.

Walter JonesRep. Walter Jones, a military advocate who later opposed Iraq War, dies at age 76

MILITARY TIMES — North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones, a conservative lawmaker turned anti-war advocate, died Sunday at age 76 after a series of serious health issues in recent months. Jones’ congressional website confirmed his passing. “Congressman Jones was a man of the people,” the statement said. “With a kind heart and the courage of his convictions, he dedicated his life to serving his Savior and to standing up for Americans who needed a voice. He was a champion for our men and women in uniform and their families, always mindful of their service and sacrifice.

New state veterans secretary is first female to serve in that role in Wisconsin

MILKWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL — The slogan “It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure” was designed to lure people to join the U.S. Navy. And for Mary Kolar, it worked. In 1980, Kolar was about to graduate with a degree in marketing from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and was thinking about her future. Her father, who died when she was 2, had served in the Navy. Her two older brothers were in the Navy and though she had talked to an Army recruiter while still in high school, the Wilton native ultimately decided on the Navy.

Iphone medical infoApple will partner with Veterans Affairs to make medical information more accessible to U.S. veterans

FORTUNE — Apple is expanding its move into the health care industry, thanks to a new partnership. The tech company announced Monday that it will partner with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to make health records available to veterans through the iPhone Health app. Veterans will soon be able to access medical information from participating institutions directly on their phones. Health data stored on the app will include allergies, conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, procedures, and vitals.

House passes bill to offer free child care at VA facilities nationwide

STARS AND STRIPES — The House easily passed legislation Friday to provide free child care for some veterans at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities nationwide. The Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act, H.R. 840, would make permanent a pilot program the VA began in 2011 to provide child care for veterans who need the VA for intensive medical and mental health care, such as cancer treatment or care for post-traumatic stress disorder. Because the program expires after one year, Congress had to reauthorize it each year since 2011.

After the donation: Caliber collision, Allstate step up to help Army veteran

AUTOBODY NEWS — Some deserving people receive donated cars to make their lives a little easier, while others use them to get better jobs and improve their situations. For Eboni Strader, a disabled U.S. Army veteran and single mother of two children, her new vehicle has allowed her to continue receiving critical medical treatment, take her children to school, continue her education and work with the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet), which serves veterans throughout the entire state.

FRIDAY

Mar-a-Lago estateHouse panel opens investigation into Trump’s VA ‘shadow rulers’

MILITARY TIMES — The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee is launching an investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s country club friends had undue influence over Veterans Affairs Department policies or violated any laws. In a letter to VA officials Friday, committee Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif., said the department needs to turn over dozens of documents by the end of the month to clarify the role of “these individuals who have not served in the U.S. military nor U.S. government, and are not accountable to veterans and the American people.”

Military tax tips: New tax law is (mostly) good news

MILITARY TIMES — If it’s February, it must be time to think about ….. taxes. The deadline for filing federal income tax returns is April 15. If you live in Maine or Massachusetts, you have until April 17 to file. “The good news is that most of our service members should see a substantial reduction in their overall federal taxes for 2018, even if their itemized deductions are either suspended or capped because of changes in the tax code,” said Army Lt. Col. David Dulaney, executive director of the Armed Forces Tax Council.

va-motto-plaque-1800Support for making VA motto gender-neutral may be fading

MILITARY.COM — An annual membership survey from the organization Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) showed that less than half of surveyed members support a more gender-neutral version of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ iconic motto: “To care for him care who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.” The survey, released last week, of about 4,600 IAVA members showed that 46 percent either “strongly” or “somewhat” supported changing the motto taken from Abraham Lincoln’s majestic Second Inaugural Address.

Veterans organization’s outgoing and incoming leaders reflect on future of veterans advocacy

WBUR — Paul Rieckhoff came home from the Iraq War and started Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, which has become the largest organization for veterans of those wars. Rieckhoff is stepping down as IAVA’s leader later this month. Here & Now’s Robin Young talks with Rieckhoff and Jeremy Butler, who is set to replace Rieckhoff as IAVA CEO.

Wilkie and VA leadersVA says it has never been more cooperative with Congress. So why can’t lawmakers get the answers they want?

MILITARY TIMES — Veterans Affairs officials issued a formal announcement this week that they are “providing a new and unprecedented level of transparency to lawmakers in Congress.” Democratic lawmakers are asking if that’s the case, why are they still struggling to get answers on a host of department policy issues. VA officials and congressional critics have been locked in an escalating fight this week over whether VA leadership has been forthcoming on series of recent requests, with an emphasis on the new community care rules which could dramatically expand the number of veterans receiving taxpayer-funded health care from private-sector doctors.

This Marine went from the ballet to the battlefield — and back again

REBOOT CAMP — What do ballet slippers and combat boots have in common? Not much, if you ask most people. But for Román Baca, the two go hand in hand. After leaving the Marine Corps, the Iraq veteran returned to his first career as a dancer — an unconventional trajectory either way you look at it. But he’s found a way to meld the two worlds the way only someone who’s lived both lives can do — by starting a dance company and choreographing ballets about war.

NASA - Marine VetNext stop on Marine vet’s space odyssey: Astronaut Hall of Fame

MARINE TIMES — James Buchli’s path from Fargo to space was anything but meteoric. The first native North Dakotan to fly in space brought a wide-ranging resume to his application to be part of NASA’s first space shuttle class in 1978. It included a stint aboard a submarine while in the Naval Academy, a 13-month deployment in the Vietnam War as a platoon commander in the Marine Corps and thousands of hours flying fighter planes. All that gave him an edge when he was among 8,000 applicants for 35 slots in that first class, Buchli said.

Nisei veterans to host exhibit featuring photography from Japanese internment

MAUI NOW — The Nisei Veterans Memorial Center will host the exclusive Hawai’i premiere of a free exhibit featuring the work of renowned photographer Toyo Miyatake. The exhibit, called “TOYO: Behind the Glass Eye,” will run from Feb. 16 to June 14 at the NVMC Education Center in Kahului.  Miyatake was a Japanese photographer whose work received numerous awards and was featured in prestigious exhibitions, including the 1926 London International Photography Exhibition. He was born in Japan but moved to the US with his family when he was a teenager. While in the US he developed a passion for photography and opened the Toyo Miyatake studio. In 1942, he was forced into the Manzanar internment camp in California with his wife and four children.

Money - Army Emergency reliefMore help for soldiers in need: Medical equipment, dental costs, child safety, spouse immigration fees

MILITARY TIMES — Soldiers may now qualify for more help with family members’ dental expenses, medical equipment and device costs, and with foreign-born spouses’ passport and immigration fees ― three examples of six expansions in financial help available through Army Emergency Relief. The changes, approved by Army Emergency Relief’s board of managers, were effective Jan. 1. They were based on feedback from soldiers, spouses, leaders, installation AER officers and others, said AER chief of assistance Charles Durr, a retired Army command sergeant major.

Jamboree to celebrate 10th anniversary of first Mental Health Services Act (MHSA)-funded housing development in California

BENZINGA — Diamond Apartment Homes, a Permanent Supportive Housing development in Anaheim, CA, saves taxpayers millions and increases stability as a “diamond in the rough” for formerly homeless individuals (living with mental health diagnosis) and their families.

As temperatures drop, some feel fortunate west county homeless shelter finally open

VC STAR — At 9 p.m., it’s lights out at a west county regional homeless shelter in Oxnard. That’s when the Marine veteran goes to bed. When the shelter opened last week ahead of storms, Moyer finally got to sleep at night on a blow-up mattress in a heated room. When he was sleeping outside, covered by cardboard behind a building, it got too cold. “The cold wakes you up,” Moyer said. “That’s why you see homeless people sleeping in the day because you have to move around at night.”

THURSDAY

Phyllis_SeleskaDeath rates, bedsores, ER wait times: Where every VA hospital lags or leads other medical care

USA TODAY — When 66-year-old Navy veteran Phyllis Seleska arrived at the emergency room at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Loma Linda, California, in August 2017, the waiting room was crowded with dozens of veterans, some in wheelchairs lined up to the entrance. Seleska was suffering throbbing pain after shattering her wrist but received no medication and had to wait more than seven hours to see a doctor, records show. By then, the orthopedics staff had gone home. So a nurse strapped a Velcro splint on her wrist and told her to come back in the morning.

Federal watchdog initiates investigation into VA dog testing

STARS AND STRIPES — The controversy surrounding the continued use of dogs in medical experiments at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities heated up again this week when the agency’s inspector general announced it would initiate an investigation into the practice. Five House members urged the VA Inspector General in December to find how many VA studies continued to use dogs following the approval of a new law last year that sought to prevent them.

Sad-soldier-Shutterstock‘Parking lot suicides’ at VA hospitals prompt calls for better training, prevention efforts

WASHINGTON POST — Alissa Harrington took an audible breath as she slid open a closet door deep in her home office. This is where she displays what’s too painful, too raw to keep out in the open. Framed photos of her younger brother, Justin Miller, a 33-year-old Marine Corps trumpet player and Iraq veteran. Blood-spattered safety glasses recovered from the snow-covered Nissan Frontier truck where his body was found. A phone filled with the last text messages from his father: “We love you. We miss you. Come home.”

New VA rules on access to outside care leave many unknowns

STARS AND STRIPES — The number of veterans eligible for health care services in their communities, using networks of private-sector providers contracted by the Department of Veterans Affairs, is expected to jump this summer when regulations setting new access standards for community care become final. Veteran service organizations and congressional committees with oversight responsibilities for VA contend that the bare-bone details released last week raise many more questions than they answer.

Moving companyHousing, relocation, access to health care are top concerns for military families in survey

MILITARY TIMES — New survey results underline several issues that were brought to the forefront last year for troops and families: some dissatisfaction with housing, stressful relocations, and problems with access to health care. More than 10,000 family members, service members and veterans responded to the 2018 annual Blue Star Families’ Military Family Lifestyle Survey.

VA evicts groups that help vets; Dog park, baseball stadium, prep school athletic fields, upscale store parking stay

JUDICIAL WATCH — The Los Angeles Veterans Affairs (VA) facility that illegally rents its sprawling grounds to institutions that don’t serve veterans just evicted several groups dedicated to veterans, including a nonprofit that for decades has comforted dying vets and another that helps those who are disabled. While the VA gave the volunteer organizations the boot without offering an explanation, it continues housing a parking lot for nearby upscale shops, a university baseball stadium, a dog park for the professional dog walkers of affluent residents, and athletic fields for a fancy prep school.

ProstheticHow 3D printers are cutting down surgery times and helping vets get mobility back at VA hospitals

NAVY TIMES — Some doctors use printers to produce patient records or referrals. Others use them to replicate human organs. That’s what Dr. Beth Ripley is doing at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System in Washington. Granted, replicas are more plastic than tissue and don’t function like the real thing — at least not yet. But in a growing number of VA hospitals using 3D printing technology, life-size replicas of human anatomy are helping surgeons cut down on operating times by as much as two hours, lowering costs and potentially helping patients heal faster.

National veterans group applauds VA for staying true to intent of law, expanding options for veterans

UNION LEADER — The VA publicly released on Jan. 30 its draft standards for the new community care program mandated by the VA MISSION Act. In a release commending the VA, Concerned Veterans for America Executive Director Dan Caldwell said the proposed standards would help give vets “more control over their health care” and help make the VA “more veteran-centric.” Endorsed by more than 30 veteran service organizations, the VA MISSION Act was signed into law by President Donald Trump in June 2018.

TrumpTrump said he fixed the Veterans Administration — but veterans are still killing themselves in VA parking lots

RAW STORY — President Donald Trump pledged to fix the Department of Veterans Affairs and the VA. He signed a bill that would open up private care for veterans and celebrated his success. It’s been nearly a year and veterans are still killing themselves while sitting in VA parking lots, the Washington Post reported. “We won’t forget what happened to our great vets,” Trump tweeted last year before Democrats took over Congress. “Choice is vital, but the program needs work & is running out of $. Congress must fix Choice Program by Memorial Day so vets can get the care they deserve. I will sign immediately!”

VA policy shifts funding from veterans hospitals, allow California’s 1.7M vets to seek more private care options

DESERT SUN — Bill Miller, a retired Air Force officer, sometimes has to travel more than an hour from his Palm Desert home to the VA medical center in Loma Linda for doctor’s appointments. For basic care, such as blood work or routine physicals, veterans like Miller can go to the VA outpatient clinic in Palm Desert, but any form of specialty care requires significant travel and time. Commuting intermittently to Loma Linda isn’t too difficult for Miller, he said, but many veterans, including those who struggle with disabilities, lack access to transportation or need to see doctors on a recurring basis, face difficulty accessing the services they’re entitled to. Miller said the lack of nearby appointments made care particularly difficult for veterans who need routine appointments for terminal illnesses or mental health.

WEDNESDAY

Vietnam Veteran AwardedVietnam veteran awarded Silver Star 51 years after heroically leading rescue of ambushed convoy

TASK & PURPOSE —  retired officer whose leadership helped save soldiers and Marines pinned down by North Vietnamese fighters in 1967 received the third-highest award for valor on Friday for his heroism more than five decades ago. Retired Maj. Edward Wright, who served with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, was presented with the Silver Star 51 years after his heroic actions during the Vietnam War. The Lima Company platoon leader is credited with leading a 30-man reaction force against North Vietnamese fighters on Aug. 21, 1967, to save an Army convoy and other Marines after his own company commander’s team was ambushed.

An American flag that led US troops to Normandy on D-Day is finally coming home after 75 years

TASK & PURPOSE — A rare D-Day flag that flew on a U.S. Navy ship leading the allied advance at the beaches of Normandy nearly 75 years ago will be returned to America after going on display in the Netherlands on Monday. The 48-star “Normandy” flag was on the U.S. Navy’s LCC 60, one of just three advanced fleet vessels directing troops onto Utah Beach in German-occupied France on June 6, 1944.

soldiersVeterans are freer to choose

WALL STREET JOURNAL — The Trump Administration last week announced new rules that will help veterans receive health care faster and closer to home. One question is why anyone would oppose this plan. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie announced new rules for when a veteran can seek care outside the VA system, which he thinks will “revolutionize VA health care as we know it.” The rules are an outgrowth of the VA Mission Act, which last year directed the agency to come up with new standards for private care.

Lawmakers want full military honors at Arlington for MOH recipients, POWs

STARS AND STRIPES — A bipartisan group of lawmakers is trying again to ensure all Medal of Honor recipients and prisoners of war are given full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. Legislation introduced in the House on Wednesday would grant them a military band and horse-drawn caisson – honors now reserved only for officers and servicemembers killed in action. “Valor knows no rank,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, said in a statement. “Providing full military honors is the least we can do for our prisoners of war and Medal of Honor recipients. This bill will rightfully recognize and honor their courageous service and sacrifices.”

Google VetsGoogle talks up vets in Super Bowl ad. Does it walk the walk?

NPR — With great fanfare during the Super Bowl, a Google ad touted a job search tool for America’s veterans, calling them “the 7 percent that keep the rest of us safe.” Google drew praise for lending a hand to those who served. But veterans say that tool may not help them find the high-paying jobs they hope for. And Google remains tight-lipped on its own hiring of people who served in the military.

To help veterans in crisis, VA counselors are riding along with police

TPR — Charlotte Blackwell’s Los Angeles living room is tidy and inviting, with a floral couch and pretty antique mirrors. But just a couple months ago, it was piled high with trash. “I’ve had this furniture reupholstered now, but this whole room was filled with just junk, junk, junk,” she said. Her 36-year-old son, Jermaine Petit, was in the throes of schizophrenia and drug addiction. Blackwell pleaded with him to stop coming home with garbage.

Military Transgender LawsuitCalifornia National Guard to transgender troops: ‘Nobody’s going to kick you out’

SACRAMENTO BEE — One of the highest-ranking officers in the California National Guard told lawmakers on Tuesday that the state is not removing transgender soldiers and airmen from its ranks despite efforts by the Trump administration to bar transgender people from the Armed Forces. “As long as you fight, we don’t care what gender you identify as,” said Maj. Gen. Matthew Beevers, the assistant adjutant general for the California National Guard.

Veterans in Congress attack Trump’s case for withdrawing troops from Syria and Afghanistan

TASK & PURPOSE — Top defense officials could not hide the daylight between the Pentagon and President Donald Trump on Wednesday as they faced withering questions from veterans in Congress about the president’s plans to withdraw from Syria and eventually Afghanistan. The tense House Armed Services Committee hearing reached its climax during an exchange between Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Owen West, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict.

stethescope and military uniformTravis Air Force Base to host career fair for active military, vets

VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD — An abundance of career opportunities for service members and veterans will be on display Friday at Travis Air Force Base for the Career & Education Fair. Various employers and educators will be on the grounds of Travis AFB for the base’s Airman & Family Readiness Center to let servicemen and women, veterans and their families to know about the many careers available. Local and statewide agencies and businesses expected to have booths available include the city of Vacaville, Pawsh Place, Travis Credit Union, Recology, California Correctional Health Care Services, California department of Parks & Recreation, CAL FIRE, California Highway Patrol, Solano County and the Sacramento Kings. Other national agencies and brands that will have representatives on-site will be the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Frito-Lay and Serena & Lily.

San Francisco VA Health Care System enrolls 5,000 veterans in historic research program

LAKE COUNTY NEWS — The San Francisco VA Health Care System enrolled its 5,000th volunteer research participant on Jan. 31 in the national VA Million Veteran Program, or MVP, which is building a genetic database to help research and develop new treatments for veterans and non-veterans alike. “This is a momentous occasion at the San Francisco VA and represents a remarkable collaboration between the research service and our clinical laboratory staff,” said Dr. Mary Whooley, site principal investigator for MVP at the San Francisco VA Health Care System. “We invite all veteran employees and patients to join us in this historic endeavor by enrolling in MVP. It’s quick and simple.”

Homeless veteran in OceansideOceanside homeless committee takes first steps toward finding solutions

THE COAST  NEWS — The first Homelessness Ad-Hoc Committee focused on the current state of homelessness in the city and outlined its goals at its first public hearing on Jan. 30. The committee consists of housing commissioners including Housing Commissioner Michelle Gomez; Linda Walshaw, who will serve as the vice chairperson of the Housing Commission; former City Treasurer Rafe Edward Trickey Jr. and Eileen Costa.

Anchor Loans partners with Homes 4 Families to construct an Enriched Neighborhood® Home for a local veteran

CISION NEWSWIRE — Anchor Loans, the nation’s leading provider of financing to fix-and-flip entrepreneurs, contributed $8,000 and hundreds of volunteer hours to Homes 4 Families (H4F) in a local TEAMbuild, constructing a new home for a veteran and his family in a 78-home Enriched Neighborhood® in Santa Clarita, California. H4F developed the Enriched Neighborhood® model to move low-income families up the economic ladder with full-equity affordable homeownership and wraparound support services that empower families to become resilient and self-sufficient.

VA San Fran researchStudy: Veteran care a unique challenge to non-VA primary care

AAFP — With fewer than half of U.S. military veterans receiving care in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) system, primary care physicians outside the VA may have “great uncertainty” about how best to address veterans’ needs. That’s the conclusion of a study published in Family Practice (academic.oup.com) titled “Caring for veterans in U.S. civilian primary care: qualitative interviews with primary care providers.”

TUESDAY

Department of Veterans AffairsLawmakers issue bipartisan call for more transparency from VA

STARS AND STRIPES — Republicans and Democrats in Congress asked Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie on Monday to work with them more closely and openly as the agency implements sweeping reforms in coming months. In a letter, leaders of the veterans affairs and appropriations committees urged Wilkie for a “more collaborative relationship with Congress in the near-term.” Since he was confirmed in July, Wilkie’s team at the VA has provided briefings that were “somewhat limited in scope and details,” they wrote.

Embattled VA health care system may merge with Pentagon’s

BLOOMBERG GOVERNMENT — he Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs may be considering merging parts of their two health care programs in a move that could alter how about 19 million military personnel, retirees, dependents and veterans receive care. In an announcement released Jan. 31, the Defense Health Agency said that an initiative known as DOD VA Health Care Staffing Services has reached the “strategy development stage.” The effort is designed to merge the delivery of health care using facilities run by both agencies to serve the two populations of beneficiaries in a combined fashion, according to veterans’ advocates.

Google for VeteransGoogle’s Super Bowl commercial highlights new job search engine for veterans

FOX 17 TV (MI) — A commercial airing during Sunday night’s Super Bowl highlighted a new feature by Google. The 60-second ad showcased a new feature that helps connect veterans with jobs using their experience in the service. The commercial explains that veterans can search for jobs on Google by typing in “jobs for veterans” followed by their military occupational specialty code. From there, Google filters relevant jobs that uses transferable skills.

Senators skeptical over long-term VA health records overhaul

MILITARY TIMES — Veterans Affairs officials on Tuesday offered optimistic updates on the $16 billion, 10-year overhaul of department medical records to wary lawmakers who warned that the massive project could quickly become a “disaster” if leadership isn’t careful.

VA Health Care Long Term OptionsVeterans raising awareness for women’s heart disease

WJON — February is American Heart Month, and the Women Veterans Program at the St. Cloud VA is joining the effort to raise awareness and provide education about heart disease and stroke among women veterans. According to the American Heart Association, one in three women die every year from cardiovascular disease and stroke – about one woman every 80 seconds. The St. Cloud VA is inviting all women veterans to wear red on Friday to kick-off awareness month.

Veterans being kicked out of transitional housing facility

THE FRESNO BEE — More than a dozen military veterans have been given a 30-day notice to leave a transitional housing facility in Des Moines. Station KCCI reports that a Department of Veterans Affairs official dropped off the notice at the 180 Degrees facility last week, but VA officials have declined to discuss the issue.

Higgins joins Brownley in introducing legislation to expand child care program to improve veterans’ access to health care

NIAGARA FRONTIER PUBLICATIONS — Democrat Congressman Brian Higgins joined Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) in introducing the Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act. This is legislation that would make permanent the VA’s child care pilot program and expand it so that veterans across the nation who are primary caretakers have a convenient, cost-free option for child care when they have VA medical appointments. “Treating our veterans right means removing barriers to quality care,” Higgins said. “This bill gives parents and grandparents, who have severed this nation, access to child care during their health and mental health appointments. We’ve seen the success of this model in Western New York since 2011 and I am proud to work with Congresswoman Brownley to extend this service on a permanent basis to all of our veterans.”

IVF-photoVeterans: Senator Murray reintroduces comprehensive legislation to repeal VA’s outdated ban on IVF for veterans with Service-Connected injuries

SENATOR MURRY — Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, reintroduced comprehensive legislation that would, among other things, repeal the Department of Veterans Affairs’ decades-old ban on offering reproductive services such as IVF to veterans with service-connected injuries. Congressman Rick Larsen (WA-02) today introduced the companion bill in the U.S. House.

Army veteran adopts dog he served with in Afghanistan

MILITARY TIMES — n Indiana veteran recently adopted the bomb-sniffing dog he served with in Afghanistan, and he says the retired canine is settling in to a pampered life. Army veteran Joseph Steenbeke served nearly a year in Afghanistan with a Belgian Malinois named Tess, who rarely left his side. Steenbeke got only minutes to say goodbye to his canine partner when his tour ended in February 2013. Steenbeke then spent years trying to adopt the now 11-year-old dog, who went on to serve with the Connecticut National Guard before her retirement last week.

First Chinese-American WWII vets recognized with Congressional Gold Medal

THE EPOCH TIMES — Elsie Seetoo was 25-years-old when she joined the U.S. Army Nurse Corps in China to help the American forces in WWII. Last September, Seetoo celebrated her 100th birthday. In late January, the centenarian was one of five Chinese-American WWII veterans to be awarded with the Congressional Gold Medal during a ceremony held at the Department of Veteran Affairs in Washington D.C on Jan. 29.

Disable veteransDonated quilts to Habitat will help comfort disabled vets

TIMES-HERALD — Rosie the Riveter she’s not. Rosie the Quilter? Undoubtedly. Rosie Rockwood, whose labor of love has warmed the hearts and bodies of hundreds of souls through the years, presented six colorful quilts to Gretchen Shilts of Solano/Napa Habitat for Humanity at the Florence Douglas Center on Saturday. The full-sized quilts will find a home with a yet-earmarked disabled veteran and family selected for a new Habitat for Humanity home, Shilts said, joyfully accepting the donation at the end of the monthly Vallejo Piecemakers meeting.

Commentary: Action needed to address groundwater contamination at military installations

MILITARY TIMES — When a person steps up and makes the personal sacrifice to serve our country, the U.S. military promises to take care of them. This is central to the fundamental contract our country makes with the brave men and women who join our armed forces. The military also makes a similar commitment to the communities that embrace service members and the military’s mission. Unfortunately, too often we have fallen short of keeping our commitment to those serving, their families, and the communities that support them.

Register now: Animal Behavior College’s spring 2019 on-campus certified dog trainer program is open for enrollment

CISION — Animal Behavior College (ABC), a vocational school that educates professional pet groomers, cat trainers, dog trainers and veterinary assistants nationwide and in the 10 provinces of Canada, today announced it is accepting enrollment applications for its spring 2019 On-Campus Certified Dog Obedience Instructor Training Program. The five-month program, which begins on March 11, 2019, and concludes on August 9, 2019, is held at the school’s headquarters, located at 25104 Rye Canyon Loop, Santa Clarita, California. Enrollment is open to all military veterans, their spouses or dependent children as well as to any student who prefers a classroom environment as opposed to an online course.

American Legion Post 105 in Redwood City and Post 82 in San Mateo turn 100

THE DAILY JOURNAL — When San Mateo resident George Smith returned from serving in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, he wasn’t aware of the benefits available to him as a veteran. Smith said no one told him and his fellow veterans what they could access after their service, and it wasn’t until much later in his life that he learned about the resources for which he was eligible.

FRIDAY

3D Printer HealthExpanding 3-D-printing network aims to improve U.S. veterans’ healthcare

FORBES — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) grew its national integrated virtual 3D printing network from three hospitals in early 2017 to 20 at the close of 2018. The expanding network, which started at VA’s Puget Sound Health Care System, allows VA health care staff to share ideas, solve problems and pool resources on best practice uses of 3D printing to improve the health care of the nation’s over 20 million veterans.

New VA health care rules: Trump overreach or more choice for vets?

MILITARY TIMES — The fight over privatizing Veterans Affairs health care is about to escalate. On Wednesday, department officials released their first public draft of new rules regarding which veterans will be eligible for private-sector medical appointments covered by taxpayer funds. The rules amount to a massive expansion of those outside care options, potentially adding more than 1 million more patients to community care programs. Almost immediately, critics attacked the plan as an overreach by President Donald Trump’s administration to shift patients and funding from the federal veterans medical system to the private sector, in an attempt to undermine government backed health care. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif., has promised a public hearing on the issue in coming weeks.

CernerCerner lands another VA contract previously awarded to its biggest rival

BIZJOURNALS — Cerner Corp. has secured another substantial contract from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that once belonged to one of its biggest competitors. The VA recently terminated its $624 million 2015 contract with Epic Systems Corp. and Leidos Holdings Inc. (NYSE: LDOS) so that it could adopt Cerner’s patient scheduling system. It’s unclear how much the new contract for the North Kansas City-based health care IT company’s Millennium Scheduling package is worth.

VA announces broad suicide prevention partnership and safe firearm storage partnership

LAKE COUNTY NEWS — On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it has recently formalized two partnerships aimed at preventing veteran suicide. Effective January, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, or AFSP, began collaborating with VA to advance and improve the quality of life for Veterans to prevent suicides. Through this partnership, VA and AFSP have been exchanging research on suicide and prevention efforts. AFSP has also begun sharing VA suicide-prevention messaging. Effective last November, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, or NSSF, began working with VA to develop a program that will empower communities to engage in safe firearm-storage practices.

SurveySurvey: Riverside County veterans experiencing high emotional distress; not getting needed care

DESERT SUN — Suicidal thoughts run high among veterans living in Riverside County where a recent survey shows the majority are not accessing health care and other benefits to which they are entitled. “Veterans’ utilization of VA resources was found to be less than optimal with 35 percent, 37 percent and 42 percent never having used their VA health, educational and home mortgage benefits, respectively,” the study found.

THURSDAY

vamedcenter-pugetsoundseattleNew VA plan: Vets facing 30-minute drives, 20-day waits for appointments could get private-sector care instead

MILITARY TIMES — Veterans who live more than 30 minutes from a Veterans Affairs medical clinic or face a wait of more than 20 days for most health care appointments would be eligible for expanded private-sector medical options under new proposed guidelines unveiled by department officials on Wednesday. The new standards would replace the 40-mile, 30-day guidelines currently in place for most veterans and could dramatically expand the number of outside health care appointments that VA will have to fund in coming years.

Poor leadership set back VA data center consolidation efforts, watchdog says

NEXT GOV — The Veterans Affairs Department fell far short of data center consolidation requirements set by the Office of Management and Budget, according to an internal watchdog. The Veterans Affairs Inspector General found the agency never set cost savings goals for data center consolidation and failed to report potentially hundreds of centers to the Office of Management and Budget, both of which violate FITARA requirements. In a report published Wednesday, the IG also said department lacks a plan for optimizing data centers at existing facilities and meeting OMB consolidation requirements.

bluewatervets-navySupporters push for Blue Water Navy bill after court ruling

MILITARY.COM — A bipartisan push in Congress on a bill to get Agent Orange benefits for “Blue Water Navy” veterans of Vietnam gained traction Wednesday from a court ruling that went against opposition from the Department of Veterans Affairs. “I hope they’ve heard it loud and clear at the VA,” Thomas Snee, national executive director of the Fleet Reserve Association, said of the court ruling that could extend Agent Orange benefits and health care to an estimated 90,000 sailors who served off the coast of Vietnam.

AMVETS Executive Director responds to VA Secretary’s release of new VA access standards

AMVETS — “AMVETS is highly encouraged by the release of new standards that outline how veterans will access healthcare in the near future. This is major step forward following the signing of the VA Mission Act by the President Trump last spring. We have been working with VA Secretary Robert Wilkie and providers in both the VA and community since the passage of the law to idealize what a high quality and veteran-centric model of care looks like. That model can only work if it has appropriate, well defined access standards that are focused on the best medical interests of veterans above all else.

studentvetLawmaker vows to protect student loan forgiveness program for troops, others

REBOOT CAMP | MILITARY TIMES — A controversial Republican proposal from last Congress to eliminate a student loan forgiveness program for public servants, including military service members, may be off the table. Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill this week, the new chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., said the program isn’t going anywhere — “not if I have anything to do with it.”

Claims of sexual assault have increased at military academies, but reporting remains low

STARS AND STRIPES — Claims of sexual assaults at U.S. military service academies have increased by nearly 50 percent since 2016, according to a survey on sexual harassment and violence released Thursday. However, the rate of cadets and midshipmen reporting the incidents has stayed the same since last year. “I would tell you that there’s not been the change that we needed to see over time, and that’s why we’re so concerned. This is the second year where we’ve had no movement in the metrics in a way that we think is helpful for the population,” said Dr. Nate Galbreath, deputy director for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office at the Department of Defense. He spoke to reporters Thursday at the Pentagon before the release of the report.

transitionfrommilitaryMedal of Honor recipient’s top transition tips for vets

MILITARY.COM — Medal of Honor recipient Captain Florent Groberg knows a few things about overcoming adversity with Army grit. He also knows about getting out of the Army and transitioning to civilian life. While deployed to Asadabad, Afghanistan, in February of 2012, Groberg led a security detail by foot tasked with protecting high ranking officers. As his formation approached the provincial governor’s compound, Groberg noticed a man dressed in dark clothing flanking him on the left, walking backward, some 10 feet away. The man spun around and turned toward Groberg who simultaneously sprinted toward him and pushed him backward and farther from his detail. The suicide bomber detonated his bomb.

House veterans’ committee chairman promises ‘imminent’ hearing on new private-sector care rules

STARS AND STRIPES — The chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs plans to hold a hearing in the “imminent future” to analyze rules that the Department of Veterans Affairs publicly released Wednesday to expand veterans’ access to private doctors. Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., blasted the VA for creating the rules “in the dark of night” and announcing them without input from lawmakers and veterans organizations.

battleofhuecity5 Medal of Honor recipients who helped turn the tide of Vietnam’s brutal battle of Hue City

TASK & PURPOSE — At the end of January in 1968, the Viet Cong launched an offensive that turned the tide of the Vietnam War. The Tet Offensive began on January 30 as the North Vietnamese occupied the city of Hue. U.S. Marines spent nearly a month fighting a brutal urban battle to retake the city — which was 80% destroyed by the battle’s end, according to H.D.S. Greenway, a photographer embedded with the Marines during the war. An estimated 1,800 Americans lost their lives during the battle.

WEDNESDAY

blue water navy vets vaCourt rules VA must pay disability benefits to ‘blue water’ Vietnam veterans

MILITARY TIMES — A federal court ruled Tuesday that the Department of Veterans Affairs cannot deny disability benefits to thousands of Vietnam veterans who claim exposure to cancer-causing chemical defoliants simply because those vets served in the waters off the country’s coastline, and not inland. The ruling marks a major victory for so-called “blue water” Navy veterans who have fought the department for years over the denials. VA officials have said the existing scientific evidence doesn’t justify the presumption of toxic exposure for the group and have strongly opposed legislative efforts to overturn their decision.

VA unveils proposed new rules for expanding private-sector care

WASHINGTON POST — Unit cohesion. Readiness. Lethality. Efficiency. President Trump is not the first person to use such words to rationalize discrimination and oppose military integration. Yet by reversing former president Barack Obama’s opening of the armed services to transgender personnel, Trump stands alone as the first president to overturn the integration of a minority group into the military. This action, and Trump’s justification of it, make it abundantly clear, however, that this is not simply a military decision. It is direct attack on a minority group’s civil rights.

When federal employees can expect to get paid, post government shutdown

FEDERAL NEWS NETWORK — The federal workforce will attempt to regain some sense of normalcy as employees head back to work after the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. But the 35-day government shutdown was not normal, by any stretch of the imagination, as the Office of Personnel Management acknowledged in recent guidance issued Sunday. Agencies should be as flexible as possible as employees return to work, acting OPM Director Margaret Weichert wrote in the new memo.

iraq veteransIraq, Afghanistan vets are split on whether wars were ‘worth it’

MILITARY TIMES — Veterans who fought in recent wars hold conflicting views over the value of that fight, according to the latest membership survey from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. About 47 percent said U.S. involvement in the Iraq War was “worth it,” against 43 percent who said it was not. Opinions of the Afghanistan War were slightly higher, with 62 percent in favor and 28 percent opposed.

Veterans will have more access to private health care under new V.A. rules

NEW YORK TIMES — Veterans who live as little as a 30-minute drive from a Veterans Affairs health care facility will instead be able to choose private care, the most significant change in rules released Wednesday as part of the Trump administration’s effort to fix years-old problems with the health system.

code of vets founderCode of vets community rallies around struggling veterans

THE EPOCH TIMES — Gretchen Smith lost her father to the demons of war. He didn’t put a gun to his head, but rather used the bottle to drown out the images seared in his mind from Vietnam. Smith said her father, Sgt. Danny Smiley, went to the VA when he came home because he didn’t understand what was happening to him mentally and emotionally.

Rep. Garamendi introduces TRICARE Reserve Improvement Act for National Guardsmen, Reservists

LAKE COUNTY NEWS — On Monday, Congressman John Garamendi (D-Davis, Fairfield, Yuba City), who represents Travis Air Force base and Beale Air Force base in Congress, introduced the TRICARE Reserve Improvement Act, which extends TRICARE Reserve Select, or TRS, eligibility to all National Guardsmen and Reservists, regardless of their civilian occupation.  Garamendi co-authored the legislation with Congressman Trent Kelly (R-MS), and identical legislation was introduced in the Senate by Senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Joe Manchin (D-WV). TRICARE Reserve Select is a premium-based health insurance plan for National Guard and Armed Forces Reserve service members that provides a comparable level of care as their active duty counterparts, at an affordable cost.

caliber-collision-groupArmy veteran, single mother receives car donation, first in family to earn college degree

INLAND EMPIRE COMMUNITY NEWS — Without a car of her own, Army Veteran Melissa Hooper of Riverside has been juggling a full-time job with a full-time course load in her goal to set an example by becoming the first in her family to earn a college degree. Relief in in sight. Hooper and her four-year-old daughter received the priceless gift of independence and freedom when they were presented with keys to a newly refurbished car from Caliber Collision in San Bernardino and Encompass Insurance as a thank for her military service on Tuesday, Jan. 22.

TUESDAY

paul rieckhoff - iavaIAVA founder Rieckhoff stepping down from group’s top job

MILITARY TIMES — Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, will step away from his leadership role at the group next month, a massive shake-up for one of the most prominent national veterans advocacy groups. Rieckhoff said he’s making the move for personal reasons, including the birth of his second child. He is working on a new book, a new podcast and “other to-be-announced media projects” in the near future.

Marine suicides reach highest level in a decade despite end of large-scale combat operations

TASK & PURPOSE — Every Marine who takes his or her own life is more than a number, but the numbers tell a distressing story: the Marine Corps is losing the battle against suicide. A total of 75 Marines killed themselves in 2018: 57 active-duty Marines and 18 Marines in the Selected Reserves, according to data the Marine Corps provided to Task & Purpose. As CNN first reported, 2018 saw the highest number of active-duty Marine suicides since 2009.

wilkie at veterans caregivers conferenceVA secretary predicts controversy over upcoming change to private-sector care program

STARS AND STRIPES — Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie announced Monday that he will unveil new rules this week stipulating when veterans will be allowed to access private-sector medical care – a plan that he said would “revolutionize” the VA health system. The change is part of the VA Mission Act, a major reform bill that President Donald Trump has lauded as a means to give veterans more choice about where to receive health care. The law instructs the VA secretary to create the new rules for private-sector care, with the potential to shift billions of dollars for veterans’ care to private medical facilities.

Lawmakers want more VA research into medical marijuana, but lack agreement on path ahead

MILITARY TIMES — Lawmakers appear to have momentum for the idea of expanding Veterans Affairs’ research into the benefits of medical marijuana for veterans, but not agreement on the best way to get that done. Members of Congress unveiled dueling bills last week which they say would require department officials to drop their opposition to testing cannabis for a host of veterans’ ailments, including post-traumatic stress and chronic pain.

medical appointmentsContracting out our VA health care is not simple

THE HILL — The proposed shift of billions of dollars to private health-care providers by the Veterans administration is controversial, but opens up opportunities for improvement. The advocates for contracting out services compare the proposal to TRICARE, the Department of Defense (DoD) program. The TRICARE system came into effect many years ago with the drawdown of the military after the First Gulf War. Looking back, it has improved access to primary and general medical health-care, but the DoD has incurred increased costs from the private insurers.

VA: 12 veterans deaths may be linked to pathologist’s errors

40/29 NEWS — As many as 12 veterans may have died as a result of errors or misdiagnosis made by a now-fired pathologist at the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks, the VA announced in a press conference Monday, although it is uncertain what role the mistakes may have played. Dr. Robert Levy, a former pathologist, was fired after being accused of being impaired at work. … Levy’s licenses in California and Florida are still active.

bikesVA to host veteran sports clinic

MILITARY.COM — The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced that the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic will take place March 31 to April 5 in Snowmass, Colorado. The annual clinic, hosted by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and DAV (Disabled American Veterans), serves as a world leader in adaptive winter sports instruction for injured Veterans, and promotes sports therapy and rehabilitation through adaptive Alpine and Nordic skiing, rock climbing, sled hockey, scuba diving and other adaptive sports and activities. For more information, visit the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic website.

Winter sports camp for veterans with disabilities kicks off in California

SAMARITANMAG.COM — The 13th Annual Operation Mountain Freedom takes place Jan. 28 to Feb. 1 in Mammoth Lakes, California and will feature veterans with disabilities competing in sports such as alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, biathlon and snowboarding. Created for active duty military and veterans, the week-long camp encourages warriors with disabilities to face their challenges through sports. An athletic meet for active duty military and veterans with disabilities isn’t just helping these people face their challenges through sport, it’s also hoping to build bigger things for these wounded warriors.

MONDAY

va medical center stripesEDITORIAL: Helpful reforms are on the way at Veterans Affairs

WASHINGTON EXAMINER — “Privatization,” we noted two years ago, “is a classic scare-word among liberals.” We were pointing out that the Department of Veterans Affairs, after its disgraceful neglect of veterans was first revealed in a series of scandals earlier this decade, had no leg to stand on in arguing that VA patients should not be allowed to seek care from private healthcare providers. … At long last, the Trump administration is finally setting the stage to give veterans the flexibility they deserve. Trump, the last Congress, and Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie deserve credit for making this happen. The only unfortunate thing is that it had to take so long.

Veterans groups still left in the dark over how sweeping law will change VA

STARS AND STRIPES — Three veterans organizations called attention this week to the ongoing lack of transparency about a sweeping law, set to take effect in the summer, that will fundamentally alter the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system. Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Veterans of Foreign Wars gathered congressional staff members on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to unveil their policy priorities for 2019. In a break from their normal practice, the groups listed only one “critical” issue: ensuring the VA “fully and faithfully” implements the VA Mission Act.

Social Services at LACHave we turned the corner on women veteran unemployment?

CLEARANCE JOBS — Eight years ago, after the Great Recession, the unemployment level of veterans reached a level considered to be at the crisis level by economists and experts in the field of employment – 12.1%. After a steady seven-year decline, the latest 2018 unemployment rate for all veteran age groups came in at 3.5% – the first time it has dropped below 4% for veterans, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For the most current veterans – known as the Post 9/11 group – it was a little higher at 3.8%. This number is noteworthy, as it is considered by economists as being at the “fully employed” level. It is also important because it is on par with the nation’s non-veteran unemployment rate of 3.7%.

Veterans trained to help survivors of Military Sexual Trauma

KXNET.COM — Military Sexual Trauma is defined as any unwanted sexual activity, including gendered bullying or harassment, experienced during military service. At the American Legion Mid-Winter Conference, veterans are learning about Military Sexual Trauma and how to help other veterans through it. “That’s really the purpose of training like this is not only to just have a couple resources, but to have a community of resources that are educated and ready to help them once they are ready to say, “Hey, I was a survivor of sexual violence. Please help me,”” says Calie Lindseth, Women’s Veteran’s Coordinator for the ND Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

Man ordered to pay $1 fine in scheme to bilk veterans out of pensions

STARS AND STRIPES — A man accused of misleading veterans to turn over much of their military retirement or disability benefits has been ordered to stop engaging in the illegal scheme of pension poaching. But he’ll only have to pay a $1 fine and cooperate in an ongoing investigation.

Platinum Eagle: Sniper RangeHeart Healthy: Veteran looks forward to new milestones after TAVR procedure

NEW HAMPSHIRE UNION LEADER — At 95 years old, Francis Smith had the chance of a lifetime – to take part in a World War II Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. Only problem was, he couldn’t walk the 100 yards required to go on the trip. … Honor Flight Network helps transport veterans and their guests to Washington, D.C. so they can visit and reflect at various memorials. According to their website, honorflight.org, top priority goes to World War II survivors. An estimated 640 of them die each day.

What happens when a veteran dies and no one claims the body?

KVUE ABC — Joseph Walker was a veteran who served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. Although he served from September 1964 to September 1968, no family and no friends were able to claim his body, thus it appeared no one planned to attend his funeral on Monday. While his story has now been heard across the nation and is sure to bring in a large crowd Monday, many have begun to wonder what happens when no one is available to claim the body of a fallen veteran.

department of veterans affairsTennessee will open first prison housing units for military veterans

NASHVILLE TENNESSEAN — The Tennessee Department of Corrections will open military veterans-only housing units at three prisons in February, state Department of Veterans Services Commissioner Courtney Rogers said Friday. These are Tennessee’s first housing units dedicated exclusively to veterans. “Veterans will be put together to get into a more common structure. It’s veterans, they’re going to get through this together,” said Rogers, newly appointed by Gov. Bill Lee to lead veteran services.

Virginia International Tattoo will honor women in the military this year

DAILY PRESS — In 2014, Lauran Glover became the first female officer to command the U.S. Army Drill Team known as The Old Guard. One year later that acclaimed team gave a performance at the Virginia International Tattoo that is still talked about today. This year Glover — now a 30-year-old lieutenant — will return to the annual event, scheduled for April 25-29 at Scope Arena in Norfolk, as a special honored guest. The theme, announced by the Virginia Arts Festival at a news conference Friday morning, will be “Courage and Commitment — A Salute to Women in the Military.”

fema-drc ventura countyWomen in military service experience similar challenges to male counterparts

THE POST ATHENS — Only 13 cadets of the 53 enrolled in the Air Force ROTC program at Ohio University are women, but that doesn’t make them any less respected than their male equivalents. Regardless of the gender bias women may still face in the service today, many positive changes for women in the military have been made in the past several decades. Today, there are newly accessible jobs, specialties and skills that women are able to accomplish just as efficiently as men in the same position.

VA capacity for genomics research grows as Million Veteran Program nears 750,000 enrollees

GENOME WEB — By the end of this week, the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ Million Veteran Program will have enrolled 730,000 people into the research program, nearly three-fourths of the way to meeting its recruitment goal of 1 million military service members. The genetic data generated within this program is fueling studies on diseases of importance to the veteran population and proving to be a rich resource for studying multi-ethnic populations. As novel findings emerge from these efforts, the VA is also contemplating how some of these learnings may be communicated to the participants.

soldiersU.S. Army Veteran shares experience on kayaking down Grand Canyon

WBAY ACTION NEWS — After an explosion took his eye sight, while serving in the U.S. Army, one veteran is paddling forward in a positive way. Steve Baskis is all smiles after accomplishing his goal of kayaking the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. “You don’t feel disabled,” Baskis said. “You feel more able bodied. You know, don’t diss my ability. That’s what I like to say.”

A veteran’s story: Choctaw courage

THE CITIZEN — During the summer of 2009, he moved from his farm in Amelia County, Va., to live near his daughter in Henrico County. A decorated WWII veteran, the 90-year-old man gained national attention when the homeowner’s association of Sussex Square ordered him to remove a 21-foot flagpole he had erected to fly the American flag. He awoke every morning at 6 a.m. to hoist Old Glory, saluted the flag, and every evening at 5 p.m. he took it down. The old veteran stood his ground and refused to take down the flag. His name was Van T. Barfoot.

FRIDAY

With Trump’s deal to end the shutdown, the Coast Guard is closer to getting paid again

STARS AND STRIPES — President Donald Trump on Friday announced he would agree to a three-week temporary funding bill to end the shutdown and reopen the government, setting into motion plans to pay Coast Guard members and other federal workers again. The move, approved by the Senate on Friday, would end the longest government shutdown in history, which reached its 35th day. The temporary measure, known as a continuing resolution, would fund the government until Feb. 15.

law and moneyMillions of GI Bill dollars are going to questionable schools — and it could soon be billions: VA watchdog

REBOOT CAMP — Millions of dollars have gone toward educating student veterans at ineligible, delinquent schools, due to inadequate oversight by state-based agencies in charge of approving school programs for GI Bill funds, a recent audit by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General found. Because of a lack of “effective controls to ensure the proper review, approval and monitoring of programs” at these agencies and the VA, investigators write that the VA “could not provide reasonable assurance” that students using the Post-9/11 GI Bill to pay for school received a quality education.

For veterans working in US federal prisons, PTSD and government shutdown is a ‘disaster waiting to happen’

CNN — Let’s call him Sam. That’s not his name, but he doesn’t want to share his real one for fear of retaliation. He’s one of the thousands of Americans who proudly served their country in Iraq and Afghanistan — two tours, in Sam’s case — only to return home with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. “In my first deployment, we lost 19 guys, including five of my closest friends,” Sam said. “My company commander was killed in an IED attack. In my second deployment, I lost one of my soldiers to a vehicle [attack], and then a week after we returned home, one of my soldiers committed suicide.”

homeless counts mtRedding census gathers data on homeless population

ACTION NEWS NOW (VIDEO) — There’s a census happening in Redding to gather data from the city’s homeless population. … We also want to get to know who is out there out there on the streets and why are they out there on the street.” Participants are asked about their race, gender, veteran status and how long they have been homeless. Additionally, they are asked if their homelessness was caused by a recent natural disaster.

California’s servicemember protections expanded for student loans

JDSUPRA — With the start of the new year, California has expanded protections for military servicemembers with student loans. Student loans incurred by a protected servicemember before entry into service have an interest rate cap of 6 percent during the period of service plus one year thereafter. Additionally, student borrowers can obtain a deferment on their payment obligations for 180 days or the period of active duty plus 60 days. California’s law AB-3212 amends the California Military & Veterans Code providing these protections.

disabled vietnam vetWhy does the bankruptcy code discriminate against disabled veterans?

THE HILL — When a person files for bankruptcy, it’s a sad day. Although the bankruptcy code was enacted to give a “fresh start to the honest but unfortunate debtor” and a single point of contact for creditors (and to keep our economy going), admitting that your debts are out of control is difficult. So why would Congress make it harder for disabled veterans who need bankruptcy protection?

Families open up their hearts – and their homes – to serve veterans

CBS NEWS — Watching Bill Sutton, you wouldn’t know the 53-year-old combat vet couldn’t walk when he got to where he lives now. The double amputee said he’ll be running soon because instead of going into a home, he found a home. Many veterans who served our country are now in need of someone to serve them. Nearly 38,000 veterans are homeless and more than 82,000 are in nursing homes. Some American families are stepping in to help, and opening up their homes as part of an innovative Department of Veterans Affairs program.

Mr Murphy - Stars and StripesAs it applies to veterans, it is time for pay-go to go

THE HILL — Last year, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act bill was one for the few substantive legislative initiatives to pass the House of Representatives unanimously. Although the bill died in the Senate, 98 Senators were willing to allow unanimous consent. The stumbling block, as it has been in previous years was the offset requirements of the pay-as-you-go. Pay-go, enacted in 2010, requires increases in new benefits be offset by a corresponding decrease in other benefits. In other words, restoring the presumption of herbicide exposure to Navy veterans who served in the bays, harbors and territorial sea of Vietnam required a reduction of benefits or a corresponding funding increase.

Encanto Marine veteran feels pain of continued government shutdown

NBC 4 — An Encanto Marine veteran has continued to feel the consequences of the ongoing government shutdown as it reached day 33 Wednesday. In Hector Loya’s modest home, the fridge is sparse, bills are piling up, and the high chair is empty. But Loya is not homeless, not unemployed, and hasn’t suffered a tragedy that’s set him back. … Loya is a correctional officer at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) downtown, which means he – deemed essential – must work without pay during the shutdown.

dogs helping vetsArmy vet and military working dog to reunite five years after service in Afghanistan

STARS AND STRIPES — More than five years of doubt ended Wednesday for U.S. Army veteran Joseph Steenbeke, who’s longed to adopt the dog who’d been his bomb-sniffing partner and emotional helper while the two were deployed in Afghanistan. He got a call. Tess, a Belgian Malinois whose ID number is tattooed on Steenbeke’s arm, would be his. U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski rang Steenbeke’s cellphone to deliver the news.

Missing Purple Heart returning to veteran’s family after a 20-year mystery detour

STARS AND STRIPES — After a 20-year search, a Purple Heart is coming home. Thursday, at a ceremony at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5921 in Morton, the family of late Army soldier Coy Bartelmay will regain his Purple Heart, awarded in 1971 when he lost a leg in the Vietnam War. While recuperating at home, he died later that year outside Morton in a car crash, and the citation later vanished. But it’s headed back to the right place, thanks to a long and remarkable hunt by a 92-year-old World War II vet in Cleveland and a TV reporter there.

carr fireVietnam veteran loses trailer home in Carr Fire, one man works to help him start over

KRCR NEWS — 78- year old Walter Sutton, a Vietnam veteran lost his trailer home he was living in on Keswick Road when the Carr Fire swept through neighborhoods in Shasta County. Chuck Roberson, the property owner where Walter had his trailer knew he had to do something to help him. “I kind of have adopted him as my adopted grandfather,” Roberson said of Sutton. “To see the smile on his face, knowing he has a place to live is what makes it worth it to me.”

New law will help veteran entrepreneurs

THE AMERICAN LEGION — Veteran entrepreneurs will benefit from a new law aimed at helping them grow their small businesses, create jobs and expand economic opportunity. The Veterans Small Business Enhancement Act was signed into law by President Trump earlier this month. The legislation adds veterans to the list of eligible recipients for federal surplus personal property, such as office equipment and furniture to specialized apparatuses including scientific devices and heavy machinery. Veteran small business owners now join women and minority small business owners and veterans service organizations (VSOs) as eligible recipients for federal surplus personal property.

trans rightsCalifornia Attorney General says our fight moves forward to protect transgender Americans serving in the military

SIERRA SUN TIMES — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra yesterday issued the following statement after the United States Supreme Court lifted the nationwide Xavier Becerra California attorney general injunction halting President Trump’s ban of transgender Americans serving in the military. The state of California, Equality California, and transgender individuals challenged the ban and successfully secured the court injunction in the case Stockman v. Trump. As a result of today’s decision, transgender individuals who wish to serve in the military will be unprotected from the Trump Administration’s discriminatory policies while this litigation continues. The case was originally filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to defend the rights of transgender individuals seeking to join, or currently serving in, the U.S. military.

THURSDAY

congressVeterans groups still left in the dark over how sweeping law will change VA

STARS AND STRIPES — Three veterans organizations called attention this week to the ongoing lack of transparency about a sweeping law, set to take effect in the summer, that will fundamentally alter the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system. Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Veterans of Foreign Wars gathered congressional staff members on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to unveil their policy priorities for 2019. In a break from their normal practice, the groups listed only one “critical” issue: ensuring the VA “fully and faithfully” implements the VA Mission Act.

Schools are struggling to meet TA rules, but DoD isn’t punishing them. Here’s why.

REBOOT CAMP | MILITARY TIMES — Schools are still struggling to meet Defense Department requirements related to tuition assistance, but DoD officials said they will work with colleges and universities to correct the mistakes, rather than punish them. As part of a new review process, which is in its second year, DoD analyzed 250 schools, looking into whether they are following rules related to advertising, financial issues, accreditation and opportunities after students graduate.

chairman of the houseBipartisan group of lawmakers push VA to research marijuana

STARS AND STRIPES — A group of Republicans and Democrats in the House introduced a bill Tuesday that would clarify the Department of Veterans Affairs has the authority to study medical marijuana and incite the agency to initiate research. The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act stops short of mandating the VA research marijuana, but the bill makes clear the VA can study it – a fact recently muddled by former VA Secretary David Shulkin. It would also require VA leaders to report regularly to Congress about their progress on marijuana research.

Military cemetery in Vallejo falls further into disrepair amid shutdown

KPIX5 CBS — The federal government shutdown has thrown a lot of people’s lives into chaos, but in Vallejo, it is also affecting some whose lives ended more than a century ago. The Mare Island Naval Cemetery is the oldest military graveyard on the West Coast, established before the Civil War. The cemetery is the resting place of more than 800 veterans dating back to the war of 1812 and even contains the remains of Anna Key, the daughter of “Star Spangled Banner” songwriter Francis Scott Key.

toxic chemicalsToxic chemicals poisoned the drinking water at military bases. Now congress is doing something about it

TASK & PURPOSE — Hoping to push for clean-up and to hold polluters accountable, members of Congress created a task force Wednesday to help constituents nationwide who have contended with drinking water contaminated by chemicals used on military bases. The House members forming the task force have dealt with the problem individually in their districts, from Pennsylvania to Michigan. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R., Bucks) is a co-chair and Rep. Madeleine Dean (D., Montgomery) is a member; The two represent Bucks and Montgomery County towns where tens of thousands have been affected by tainted drinking water.

Editorial: Proposal to offer private health care to veterans is worth an experiment

THE BUFFALO NEWS — The Department of Veterans Affairs is planning to shift billions of dollars in health care costs from the government’s veterans’ hospitals to private providers. It’s an obvious idea that is well worth pursuing, at least as a test. Given the poor job VA hospitals have done, in Buffalo and elsewhere, over the past several years, this is a change that could make a difference in the quality of care delivered to the country’s veterans. The trick will be to make the change without hurting veterans, including those who remain in VA care, or harming the general public by overwhelming hospitals in the private sector.

WEDNESDAY

combat vetsNew session means more turnover for House Veterans’ Affairs Committee

MILITARY TIMES — The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee will start its work this session with more than half of its members new to the panel, a significant turnover that veterans advocates have said leaves them with plenty of education work along with their lobbying goals. But committee leaders are downplaying concerns about the numerous new faces, noting that the number of veterans on the panel will increase this year, featuring even more younger veterans than in the past.

How to get increased disability compensation

MILITARY.COM — Did you know that you can have your VA disability compensation benefit increased by the Department of Veterans Affairs? Many types of medical conditions get worse over time. If you are getting disability benefits from the VA, you have the right to request that your rating be increased if your medical condition gets worse or causes your health to deteriorate. Before you file for an increase in your disability rating, make sure you know what you can expect from the VA, and be prepared for both the best and worst outcomes you might face after requesting a disability rating increase.

Medal of Honor recipient Charles Kettles dies at 89

MILITARY.COM — When a brigade of U.S. troops was ambushed by the North Vietnamese Army in the Song Tra Cau riverbed on the morning of May 15, 1967, Lt. Charles Kettles volunteered to lead the rescue, and he refused, again and again, to back down when faced with a barrage of gunfire. His aircraft badly damaged, left spilling fuel, and his gunner was severely injured during the treacherous operation. But he helicoptered in and out of the battlefield four times, saving the lives of 44 soldiers in a death-defying emergency operation that would become a legendary tale of bravery in the Vietnam War.

workplace cultureCivilian Life 101: Here’s what you need to know before you take off that uniform

MILITARY TIMES — When you arrive at a new duty station in the military, you know where to go for information on housing, health care and your child’s new school. Often, those resources are all under one roof, said Beth Kubala, a senior director at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. “It’s very different when you transition and you relocate to Hometown USA,” she said. That’s just one of example of how military and civilian life are as different as apples and oranges.

20 veterans complete suicide each day, VA offering help

WXPR — On average, 20 veterans complete suicide every day. That is 7,300 Veteran deaths a year due to suicide, which is more than double the nearly 3,000 deaths on September 11, 2001. A VA spokesperson says suicide prevention among veterans continues to be VA’s top clinical concern. Public Affairs Officer Brad Nelson of the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain says, 14 of those 20 veterans who complete suicide every day are not seeking care in the VA health care system.

trans rightsSupreme Court rules in favor of Trump transgender ban

STARS AND STRIPES — The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled in favor of a controversial Trump administration ban of transgender personnel in the military, allowing the measure to stay in place pending several lawsuits to fight the move. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said recently that a lower court judge erred in blocking the policy, also known as the “Mattis Plan,” which was named for former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis who drafted its specifics. The policy originated from a proposal in 2017 by President Donald Trump.

More sailors, airmen and Marines are using TA [tuition assistance] — but fewer soldiers

MILITARY TIMES — After charting some large drops in recent years, usage of the military tuition assistance education benefit appears to be holding steady across most military branches — but not the Army — Defense Department data indicates. The biggest drops in the TA program over recent years have come in the Army. That trend shows no sign of letting up. The Army recorded about 82,000 TA users in fiscal 2018, according to information provided by Dawn Bilodeau, chief of Voluntary Education for DoD, during a military education conference in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday.

Marine vet Adam Driver gets his first Oscar nomination for ‘BlacKkKlansman’

MILITARY.COM — Things are rocking these days for Marine veteran Adam Driver. He knows the ending of Star Wars because he’s filmed his scenes as Kylo Ren for the upcoming “Episode IX,” sure to be the biggest movie of all time. He’s got new movies this year with Jim Jarmusch and Noah Baumbach, the noted indie directors who have given him some of his best roles. And now, he’s a Best Supporting Actor nominee for “BlacKkKlansman.”

cvfaConservative-leaning vets group, facing Democrat-led House, switches strategy in efforts to reform VA

STARS AND STRIPES — A conservative-leaning veterans group that gained influence under President Donald Trump’s administration announced its new strategy Tuesday to protect its reform efforts of the Department of Veterans Affairs now that Democrats control the House. Concerned Veterans for America, an advocacy group funded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, has pushed for an aggressive expansion of veterans’ health care into the private sector, as well as a faster process to fire VA workers. The group made strides on both issues since the beginning of 2017, with Trump touting them as major successes for veterans. Now, they’re concerned the policy initiatives could be undone.

VA, DAV to co-host National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic

VA.GOV — Today the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic will take place March 31 to April 5 in Snowmass, Colorado. The annual clinic, hosted by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and DAV (Disabled American Veterans), serves as a world leader in adaptive winter sports instruction for injured Veterans, and promotes sports therapy and rehabilitation through adaptive Alpine and Nordic skiing, rock climbing, sled hockey, scuba diving and other adaptive sports and activities. “Adaptive sports therapy gives freedom to those heroes who have fought for our freedom,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said. “This clinic empowers Veterans to move past perceived limitations, reach their own personal victories and prove the impossible is possible.”

veterans saluteRecovery program for women veterans expands after moving to Waco

KXXV — A program that helps treat women who have suffered trauma is now housed at the Doris Miller Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Waco. The Women’s Recovery in Supportive Environment or RISE will treat victims of military sexual trauma and combat trauma. It will also help those with substance use disorders and vocational rehabilitation needs.

Oxford American Legion Post memorializes the ‘Four Chaplains’

THE OAKLAND PRESS (MI) — American Legion Post 108 will memorialize the “Four Chaplains” during a presentation from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27, at 130 E. Drahner Road, Oxford. The “Four Chaplains” died to save the U.S. Army members and civilian workers when the troop’s ship SS Dorchester sank during World War II on Feb. 3, 1943. The ship was en route to Greenland when it was hit by a torpedo from the German submarine U-223. According to the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation, the chaplains helped the soldiers board the lifeboats and, when there were no more lifejackets on the ship, they removed their own and gave them to the frightened young men.

veteran suicide helpForefront, UWT receive Boeing grants for veteran career services, suicide prevention

UW NEWS — With veterans’ mental health issues gaining increasing attention nationwide, Boeing has awarded a $205,000 grant to Forefront Suicide Prevention at the University of Washington. The award will help support Forefront’s Safer Homes, Suicide Aware campaign, expand veteran-specific outreach that addresses the needs of Washington veterans, their family members, and the providers and institutions that serve them.

Korean vet recalls 98 percent casualty in company

TAHLEQUAH DAILY PRESS — Tahlequah resident Bill Heytz, 78, served in the U.S. Army for 7-1/2 years. Originally from California, he and his father began moving around after his mother died when he was 8 years old. They went between California, Arkansas and Oklahoma a few times over the years. “I spent three years in the fifth grade, because I couldn’t stay in one place long enough to pass. On my 16th birthday, I quit school half way through eighth grade. I got tired of moving back and forth, and asked if he would sign for me to join and he did,” said Heytz. “I got my GED in the military.”

hero busStand Down returns

KERN VALLEY SUN — It is exciting to be among the hustle and bustle of a Veterans Stand Down event, and the one held at the Kern River Veterans/Senior Center in Lake Isabella on January 19 was no exception. These resource fairs and social events act as a one0stop shop to connect military veterans with benefits while at the same time offering camaraderie, food, and entertainment.

Military veteran entrepreneurs celebrate completion of startups program powered by Bunker Labs/WeWork

BUSINESS WIRE — Since last fall, eight veterans and one military spouse, all company Founders, have participated in a unique startup accelerator program, gaining professional development experiences with ecosystem partners to grow their businesses. As part of a nationwide Veterans-In-Residence initiative, WeWork has hosted the Bunker Labs cohort in downtown San Francisco. … “Per the SBA and U.S. Census Bureau, there are 2.52 million U.S. businesses that are majority-owned by military veterans,” shared Erik Casarez, cohort member and Bunker Labs City Lead. “These businesses create $1.14 trillion in revenues annually – a massive contribution to our national economy. 252,377 veteran-owned businesses are in California. I’m proud to be one of the ambitious entrepreneurs hosted in San Francisco.”

TUESDAY

world war ii veteran hatVA’s benefits appeals process will see a dramatic changeover next month

MILITARY TIMES — Veterans rejected for disability benefits will have a new slate of appeals options starting next month, when federal officials will put in place an overhaul the review process with hopes of dramatically cutting down on wait times for the complicated cases. Last week, Department of Veterans Affairs officials announced they will implement new appeals modernization rules starting Feb. 19. Work on the effort has been underway for more than 18 months, since lawmakers passed sweeping reform legislation on the topic in August 2017.

Unclaimed veterans buried with honor and dignity, thanks to strangers

MILITARY.COM — When the flags were removed from the caskets and folded with military precision, there were no family members there to receive them. So the banners were passed, hand-to-hand, through the crowd. Some mourners wept as they clutched the flags briefly. Others kissed them. But the three veterans laid to rest on a rainy Memphis morning were strangers to most of those who gathered to honor their memory.

artist concept calvetren palmdaleProgram lets veterans get their own homes

ANTELOPE VALLEY PRESS — The houses are not yet built, but the nonprofit Homes 4 Families is accepting applications from qualified veterans for the 56-home community planned at Division Street and Avenue R. Low-income U.S. veterans of any age, any service branch and any era can qualify for the two- and three-bedroom homes with low- or no-interest loans. Home­owners will pay no more than 30% of their monthly income towards their mortgage, taxes, insurance and homeowners association dues. … The project is a joint effort with Homes 4 Families, the city and the California Department of Veterans Affairs.

CalVet publishes resources available for those affected by the government shutdown

SIERRA SUN TIMES — The partial federal government shutdown is now the longest ever, and it is affecting many veterans and their families in California. CalVet is sharing resources to assist federal workers during this shutdown. EDD provides assistance to furloughed employees.

richard-stone-1500VA official: No ‘secret plan’ to privatize health care under Mission Act

MILITARY.COM — The head of the Veterans Health Administration said Thursday that there is no “secret plan” to privatize Department of Veterans Affairs health care under the Mission Act, which expands community-care options and has repeatedly been championed by President Donald Trump. “There is no such plan,” said Dr. Richard Stone, executive in charge of the VHA and its system of more than 170 medical centers and 1,000 clinics nationwide.

It’s time to stop stereotyping veterans

THE HILL — Most of us are taught from an early age that stereotypes, typically defined as an over-generalized belief about a group or class of people, are bad. We are taught not to assume that all members of the same race, ethnicity group, or gender or the same. We are taught that thinking otherwise is indicative of an uncouth prejudice more suited for a bygone period in our nation’s history. … America’s veteran population is diverse. Of the 20.4 million veterans in the U.S., nearly two million are women. The population of Hispanic and African-American veterans is on the rise. A sizable percentage, 39 percent, to be exact, have served in a combat zone.

stealth destroyer mohNavy ‘stealth’ destroyer named for Medal of Honor recipient to be commissioned

MILITARY.COM — The second of three Zumwalt-class so-called stealth destroyers built at Bath Iron Works will be commissioned Saturday in its homeport of San Diego. The DDG 1001, the future USS Michael Monsoor, will be commissioned at 10 a.m. at Naval Air Station North Island, according to a release from the Navy. Monsoor’s mother, Sally Monsoor, will serve as the ship’s sponsor. The ship honors Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor, a Navy SEAL who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in Ramadi, Iraq, on Sept. 29, 2006.

UCLA and Brentwood School accused of shortchanging veterans at West L.A. facility

LOS ANGELES TIMES — UCLA and the Brentwood School are under fire from advocates who say that neither institution is providing the veteran services they agreed to under their leases on the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ West L.A. property. UCLA, whose Jackie Robinson baseball stadium sits on the sprawling, 388-acre federal land tract, promised veterans a legal clinic, a family welfare center and game tickets. The Brentwood School pledged to share its 22-acre athletic complex on the property with veterans and to give their children 150 scholarships to its summer day camp.

blue water billVA renews opposition to Agent Orange benefits for blue water Navy vets

MILITARY.COM — The Department of Veterans Affairs shows no signs of backing off opposition to extending Agent Orange health care and benefits to “Blue Water Navy” Vietnam veterans, setting up another major battle this year with veterans groups and overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate. The VA still lacks “sufficient evidence” to prove a presumptive link between service off the coast of Vietnam and the illnesses caused by the widespread use of the defoliant Agent Orange, Paul Lawrence, the VA’s undersecretary and head of the Veterans Benefits Administration, said Thursday.

The VA wants to use DeepMind’s AI to prevent kidney disease

WIRED.COM — The human body is frail and people end up in intensive care units for all kinds of reasons. Whatever brings them there, more than half of adults admitted to an ICU end up sharing the same potentially life-threatening condition: kidney damage known as acute kidney injury. The Veterans Administration thinks artificial intelligence could reduce the toll. In a project that drew on roughly 700,000 medical records from US veterans, the agency worked with Google parent Alphabet’s DeepMind unit to create software that attempts to predict which patients are likely to develop AKI.

honoring veteransNonprofit veterans group receives grants

REGISTER PAJARONIAN — Vets 4 Vets, a Santa Cruz County nonprofit supporting local veterans, received two grants that will assist in providing services to veterans in need. The organizations awarding these grants are Community Foundation Santa Cruz County and Progressive Insurance through their Progressive Keys to Progress Program.

VA partners with CaringBridge to connect service members, veterans and caregivers with loved ones

LAKE COUNTY NEWS — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it has partnered with CaringBridge, a global nonprofit social network, to aid in veterans’ connection and communication with their support communities. CaringBridge provides free, secure, personal Web sites – as a dedicated platform – to assist family and friends in communicating with loved ones during any type of health journey.

oregon department of veterans affairsBrown celebrates historic signing between Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs and CTUIR

MY COLUMBIA BASIN — The Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs (ODVA) and Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) at the Oregon State Capitol this week that will enable the tribal government to establish its first-ever tribal veteran service office. … The tribal veteran service will operate just like a county veteran service office, providing direct services to tribal veterans under ODVA’s power of attorney. Like all county veteran service officers, the tribal veteran representatives (TVRs) will be trained and certified through ODVA.

Homeless Navy veteran gets new lease on life due to 2 officers, Hollywood star

KCAL 9 — Nidani Batako thought he would die on the streets. In three days he will get on a plane and return to his native Togo — thanks to two caring police officers and “NCIS” star Maria Bello. Adrianna Weingold reports.

medical recordsTo be successful, new VA CIO must listen, do research and be humble

FEDERAL NEWS NETWORK — The Senate confirmed James Gfrerer as the Department of Veterans Affairs’ assistant secretary and chief information officer just 17 days ago. Like most political appointees, he likely has been working at VA since he was nominated back in July. But now his real work begins by figuring out how to manage 8,000 IT employees, another 8,000 contractors, hundreds of systems and an IT budget of almost $5 billion. And Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), ranking member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, wants to make sure Gfrerer knows lawmakers are watching.

New House Armed Services committee sees an influx of veterans, women

MILITARY TIMES — This year’s House Armed Services Committee will feature more veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than ever before, and also boasts its largest contingent of female veterans crafting defense policy. Democrats are adding 16 new members to the influential military panel, which in coming weeks will begin work on the annual defense authorization bill that sets the tone for military priorities and spending.

1_vcqbz2a1k7cdtapfr2ki8aVA mental health care expanded to other than honorably discharged

THE SAULT NEWS — On average, 20 veterans complete suicide every day. That is 7,300 veteran deaths a year due to suicide, which is more than double the 2,996 deaths on September 11, 2001. Suicide prevention among veterans continues to be VA’s top clinical concern. However, 14 of those 20 veterans who complete suicide every day are not seeking care in the VA health system. Some of those veterans may not have been eligible for VA care due to their discharge from the military under other than honorable circumstances; yet it is these very veterans that research demonstrates are at elevated risk for suicide.

The new Agent Orange controversy: How American justice turned its back on poisoned GWOT veterans

THE NEWS REP — Following a fierce legal battle inside and outside courtrooms that lasted a decade, veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars lost their final chance to receive compensation for illnesses caused by toxic smoke while serving overseas. The group of veterans had sued the military contractor KBR, Inc. for running huge burn pits, which burned tires and medical waste, near to military installations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those burn pits created clouds of toxic smoke.

National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC) announces launch of new streamlined certification program and alignment of fees to encourage Veteran Business certification

NVBDC — NVBDC, the leading national certification body for Service Disabled and Veteran Owned Businesses of all sizes continues its growth and upgrades to its certification process. “We know firsthand what it takes for our fellow Veteran Business Owners to get certified.  Most of the Officers of the NVBDC are also business owners and all of us have gone through the NVBDC certification program. We ask for a lot of records to prove that the Veteran has operational control and authority over their company in addition to proving that they are in fact a Veteran according to federal law. Our objective is to make the process as easy to follow and as smooth as we can possibly make it,” said Brigadier General Richard Miller, Vice President, NVBDC.

FRIDAY

VA renews opposition to Agent Orange benefits for blue water Navy vets

MILITARY.COM — The Department of Veterans Affairs shows no signs of backing off opposition to extending Agent Orange health care and benefits to “Blue Water Navy” Vietnam veterans, setting up another major battle this year with veterans groups and overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate. The VA still lacks “sufficient evidence” to prove a presumptive link between service off the coast of Vietnam and the illnesses caused by the widespread use of the defoliant Agent Orange, Paul Lawrence, the VA’s undersecretary and head of the Veterans Benefits Administration, said Thursday.

trump signs veteran billsTrump recently signed two veterans bills into law. Here’s how they’ll affect you.

AIR FORCE TIMES — On its way out the door, the 115th Congress passed a pair of bills aimed at improving education and other aspects of the transition from military to civilian life. Now that President Trump’s signature has made them law, here’s what the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act and the Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act mean for veterans and military families.

The question no one is asking about privatizing the VA

TASK & PURPOSE — The Trump administration wants to shift billions of dollars from government-run veterans’ hospitals to private health care providers. That’s true even though earlier this year the administration vehemently denied it would privatize any part of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The privatization of essential government services is nothing new, of course. Over the years, countries have privatized dozens of services and activities that were once the sole domain of governments, such as the provision of electricity and water, road operations and prisons and even health care, with the ostensible aim of making them more efficient.

wwii vet birthday cardsDaughter’s plea draws 50,000 birthday cards for World War II veteran

NAVY TIMES — When Sue Morse requested on Facebook that friends send her father well-wishes for his Dec. 30 birthday, she expected maybe 160 cards. At 96, World War II veteran and Purple Heart medal recipient Duane Sherman has survived most of his friends. As of Jan. 9, Sherman received more than 50,000 letters at his home in Fullerton, California, the Orange County Register reported Friday.

Congressman Walter B. Jones introduces legislation while out with illness

WITN.COM — Congressman Walter B. Jones (NC-3) has introduced legislation that would reduce the administrative burdens on grieving military family members and ensure they receive the benefits they are entitled to as quickly as possible. Jones is currently recovering from a broken hip and an undisclosed illness. But his offices says the bill – H.R. 464 – was introduced in the House this month and has been referred to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs for action. … H.R. 464 would improve the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefit for survivors of certain totally disabled veterans.

flag inside backpackBisexual veterans and soldiers at higher risk for PTSD

SFGN — New research indicates bisexual veterans and soldiers may be at a higher risk for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression than their peers. University of Southern California doctoral student Katie McNamara conducted the research, saying previous researchers studied lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as one group, according to MedicalXpress. When she studied them separately, McNamara found bisexual veterans are 2.5 times more likely to suffer severe depression than straight veterans.

In Focus: Biggest obstacles facing female veterans – Military Sexual Trauma

SPECTRUM NEWS IN FOCUS — National Veterans Foundation Women Veteran Outreach Director Mary Ann Mayer is interviewed about the problem of Military Sexual Trauma that 1 in 4 women Veterans struggle with. Nearly one-fourth of female of soldiers are sexually assaulted in the military, according to the National Veterans Foundation. Why survivors struggle to get help plus the other issues that haunt women vets when they return to civilian life.

Seth MoultonVeterans service organizations issue The Independent Budget Policy Agenda for the 116th Congress

THE VIRGINIA PILOT — Today, DAV, Paralyzed Veterans of America and Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States released The Independent Budget Veterans Agenda for the 116th Congress which contains policy recommendations to ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs remains fully-funded and capable of carrying out its mission to serve veterans and their families both now and in the future. The Independent Budget is a roadmap for the 116th Congress, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Administration to navigate critical veteran issues. It includes detailed recommendations in the areas of benefits, health care, infrastructure, education, employment, training and memorial concerns facing veterans and their families. For over 30 years, the three partnering organizations have co-authored The Independent Budget.

VA partners with DHS to expand veteran suicide prevention efforts

LAKE COUNTY NEWS — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced its partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, to bolster veteran suicide prevention initiatives. VA and DHS, the third-largest federal employer of Veterans in the U.S., with Veterans representing approximately 28 percent of its workforce, share the goals of improving veterans’ health and well-being and increasing Veterans’ access to mental health services and support where needed. The two agencies will work together to spread awareness of mental health and VA suicide prevention resources among DHS veteran employees and to explore innovative ways to enroll DHS-employed veterans in VA care.

joshua treeMarine veteran leads shutdown cleanup efforts at Joshua Tree National Park

MILITARY.COM — In this high desert enclave, Marine Corps veteran Rand Abbott is a well-known man of action. He’s a paraplegic rock climber; a vocal lightning rod at town hall meetings; and a tireless promoter for the desert landscape and its resident creatures. So it came as little surprise to friends two weeks ago when he volunteered to clean restrooms and remove trash that was littering Joshua Tree National Park due to a partial government shutdown over funding for President Trump’s border wall.

He built a $24 million T-shirt empire. Now he’s building a village for homeless vets

TASK & PURPOSE — In the city of Savannah, Georgia, an Army veteran and entrepreneur has a plan to end veteran homelessness in his community. It starts with building a village of tiny homes. “The idea that any of us could be homeless at any given point in time, just one paycheck away, it resonates,” Tyler Merritt, a former Apache pilot and special operations air mission commander, told Task & Purpose.

News Digest: Veteran support event, Jewish music showcase & help the homeless

PLEASONTON WEEKLY — The Pleasanton Public Library next Thursday (Jan. 24) will host an outreach event to help connect local military veterans to services available to them. The VA Palo Alto Rural Health Mobile Medical Outreach Team and Alameda County’s veteran service officer will be on-hand to facilitate free examinations, consultations and referrals for veterans, along with other veteran benefits information.

homeless veterans11-year-old’s gift connects homeless with resources

SPECTRUM NEWS 1 — An 11-year-old girl from Manhattan Beach is helping the homeless by sharing small pieces of comfort. t all started with a short conversation Skye Fenton, and her family had with a homeless veteran in her community. “He was telling us about how he was in the war and he was writing a book,” Fenton said. The young girl said it was an eye-opening experience that made her want to give back. “It’s really sad that these people are actually homeless and that’s why we are trying to help,” Fenton said.

Dysfunctional Veterans isn’t just funny, it saves veterans lives

CONNECTING VETS — Whether it’s a meme about the Air Force or the uselessness of PT belts or jokes about POGs, chances are you’ve smiled while reading a post on the Dysfunctional Veterans Facebook page. What you might not know is the veteran behind this dark-humored online community is on a mission to help homeless veterans.

THURSDAY

Report cites concerns with VA security staff, says former secretary used his driver to chauffeur his wife

MILITARY TIMES — Security officials charged with protecting the Veterans Affairs secretary were careless with travel information, collected false overtime payments and improperly acted as a chauffeur for one secretary’s wife, according to a report from the department’s inspector general released Thursday. The review dates back to 2015 and offers a host of concerns with management and operations at VA’s Executive Protection Division. It blasts leaders for “an informal and deficient threat assessment process” and lists equipment problems going unaddressed for several years.

secretary shulkin -Former VA secretary Shulkin violated ethics rules, allowed security staff to chauffeur his wife, IG report finds

STARS AND STRIPES — Former Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin broke federal statutes and ethics rules when he allowed his personal security detail to transport his wife without him, an investigation by the VA Office of Inspector General found. Shulkin, who President Donald Trump fired by tweet in March 2018, had been warned not to allow his wife, Merle Bari, to be driven by security detail without him in the vehicle. Regardless, his personal driver transported her – in some instances leaving official events where Shulkin was present to pick her up.

Veterans underrepresented at top U.S. colleges

EDUCATION DIVE — Veterans using GI Bill benefits are overrepresented at private, for-profit colleges and underrepresented in public, four-year and high-graduation rate institutions, a recent report from Ithaka S+R found. Only 10% of veterans using their education benefits attend high-graduation rate institutions, compared to 21% of the general student population. At the same time, about two-thirds (65%) of veterans were enrolled in colleges with graduation rates under 50%, while only about half (51%) of all students were.

dav job fairRivCo job fair to pair recruiters with active, ex-military

PATCH — Recruiters from the public and private sectors will be conducting interviews and possibly making tentative employment offers during a job fair for veterans Thursday at the Riverside Municipal Auditorium. The four-hour event is slated to begin at 11 a.m. and will involve 30 entities, according to Loveland, Ohio-based RecruitMilitary, which is sponsoring the fair.

Fifteen veterans graduate from Veteran’s Court Program

WMFD.COM — Fifteen veterans received a certificate, a coin, and a fresh start Wednesday afternoon when they graduated from the Veteran’s Court Program. Since 2009 the Veteran’s Court Program has been assisting veterans in getting their lives back on track after service, addiction, or other circumstances. It is a voluntary program that provides supervision of offenders that involves regular hearings with the judge, home visits, curfew checks, drug tests, and communication with treatment providers. One year of treatment is required, and it is broken up into four phases corresponding to individual development. The program was the first of its kind in Ohio, and only the third in the United States.

gi bill processing delaysHomeless Army veteran reduced to tears when Navy vet hands him keys to his new car

THE EPOCH TIMES — Life is full of surprises, some good, some not so good, and some just awesome. This one is in the “awesome” box. Walter Stoller, an older army veteran, had been homeless until Ryan Jacobsen, 46, a retired Navy vet from Wauconda, who works as a case manager for the non-profit organization TLS Veterans, found Stoller a place to live in Rockford with another homeless vet. TLS Veterans stands for Transforming Lives through Service to Veterans.

Jose Ovalle, WW2 veteran, was a part of US history few are aware of

NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER — A few days before Christmas, my wife and I attended a funeral Mass for her uncle, José Ovalle. The Mass was in Merced, California, where José lived with his wife, Barbara, who is aunt and godmother to my wife, Ellen. José was 94 at his death. He and Barbara had 11 children over their marriage, with 40 grandchildren and more than 20 great-grandchildren.

A Latino Marine veteran was detained for deportation. Then ICE realized he was a citizen.

WASHINGTON POST — Richard Kessler, an immigration lawyer in Grand Rapids, Mich., said he was surprised when a woman he had worked with called to tell him that her son, a 27-year-old Marine veteran with mental-health issues, was being held in an immigration facility, apparently awaiting a possible deportation. Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, whose service as a lance corporal and tank crewman included time in Afghanistan, was born in the Michigan city of 200,000. Kessler said he didn’t understand what was going on.

stephen-sotomayor.jpgSotomayor joins city’s team

THE HEALDSBURG TRIBUNE — New housing administrator has history of work with homeless. The issues of affordable housing and homelessness go hand in hand. At least that’s how Stephen Sotomayor, Healdsburg’s new housing administrator, explains it. Sotomayor has worked extensively in California on both issues, and is acclimating himself to the specific needs of the city. After leaving the U.S. Army at the rank of captain, he worked in Fresno and in Los Angeles on housing and homelessness in a variety of ways.

WEDNESDAY

shutdown imageVeterans groups avoid politics and call for shutdown to end

ABC NEWS — The country’s major veterans groups came together Tuesday to call for an end to the government shutdown as union leaders separately clashed with the Veterans Affairs secretary over the partial government shutdown’s impact on military veterans. “We have real lives being affected by the shutdown,” Veterans of Foreign Wars head B.J. Lawrence said at a press conference. “We have veterans and Coast Guard members that are having difficulties paying their mortgages, putting food on the table, paying their car payments. Enough’s enough, it’s got to end.”

VA chief slams union reps for playing the ‘veteran as victim’ card

TASK & PURPOSE — Robert Wilkie has had it with people stereotyping veterans as victims — or at least that’s the framing of a recent letter the Veterans Affairs secretary fired off to the American Federation of Government Employees on Monday, the largest union of federal employees in the United States.

American Legion - Remembering Fallen fm CalifSix veterans’ groups unite, rip shutdown: ‘Get your act together’

USA TODAY — Several prominent veterans’ groups held a rare, joint news conference Tuesday calling for an end to the government shutdown, saying tens of thousands of veterans in the federal workforce are facing increasingly difficult financial hardships as they continue to go without pay.

Union to VA chief: Disparaging veterans suffering from shutdown is despicable

CISION — Leaders with the American Federation of Government Employees are calling out Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie for disparaging a disabled combat veteran who shared his firsthand accounts of veterans who are suffering extreme financial hardships under this unprecedented government shutdown. In a letter to Secretary Wilkie, AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. denounced the secretary for attacking the integrity of union member Edward Canales, a 100 percent disabled veteran and federal correctional officer at the Bureau of Prisons.

WWII soldiers get their medalsCongress’s new female vets will oversee the US military’s massive budget

QUARTZ DAILY BRIEF — A powerful Congressional committee charged with overseeing the Pentagon’s vast $700 billion annual budget is now stacked with female military veterans, after the landmark 2018 elections brought a wave of women to Congress. The House Armed Services Committee named 16 new Democratic members, according to a Jan. 15 email from committee chair Adam Smith of Washington state.

Pioneer among female World War II pilots dies at 96

MILITARY TIMES — A member of a pioneering group of women who flew military planes in the United States during World War II has died. Millicent Young of Colorado Springs, a member of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs, died Saturday of complications related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, her son Bill Young told The Gazette. She was 96.

Navajo Code Talkers.PNGNavajo code talker Alfred K. Newman dies at 94

MARINE TIMES — A Navajo code talker who used his native language to outsmart the Japanese in World War II has died in New Mexico at age 94. Navajo Nation officials say Alfred K. Newman died Sunday at a nursing home in Bloomfield. Newman was among hundreds of Navajos who served in the Marine Corps, using a code based on their native language to help keep communications secure.

Veterans Housing Development Corporation launches new website

CISION — Veterans Housing Development Corporation (“VHDC”), a nonprofit focused on the critical need for affordable housing for military veterans, announced today the launch of a new website where clients, supporters, and other interested parties can learn more about VHDC and the important development and advocacy work the organization is doing on behalf of the veteran community.

va health centerVA renews pledge vets’ health care won’t be privatized

MILITARY.COM — The Department of Veterans Affairs pushed back Monday at a New York Times report suggesting that expanded community-care options under the VA Mission Act would lead to the “privatization” of VA health care and the eventual shutdown of some VA medical centers. “Privatization is a myth and to suggest otherwise is completely false and a red herring designed to distract and avoid honest debate on the real issues surrounding veterans’ health care,” Curt Cashour, a VA spokesman, said in a statement.

Democratic veterans picked for House Armed Services Committee

THE WASHINGTON TIMES — The House Armed Services Committee is adding 16 new Democratic members, one more sign of the shift in power brought on by November’s midterm elections. New committee Chairman Adam Smith of Washington state announced the new additions Tuesday afternoon, saying in a statement, “I look forward to working with all of you to improve our country’s national security and support our men and women in uniform.”

learn the signs of crisisVA eyeing new partnership with states to help prevent veterans suicide

MILITARY TIMES — Veterans Affairs officials in coming weeks will roll out new partnerships with at least seven states to focus attention and resources on preventing veterans suicide, re-upping a successful tool from their earlier campaigns to end veterans homelessness.

Public land sought for one-stop veterans center

GUAM DAILY POST — During the campaign trail, Sen. Jose “Pedo” Terlaje heard many of Guam’s military veterans who called for a one-stop center to address their many needs. On Tuesday, Terlaje requested that the Chamorro Land Trust Commission as well as the Department of Land Management search for a parcel of public land for a one-stop regional veterans center. Once that parcel of land is identified, Terlaje will work with various stakeholders to secure funds through public-private partnerships or a combination of local and federal funds to have this regional center built, the senator stated in a press release.

Testimony from VAWhat do veterans’ advocates want from lawmakers in 2019?

WSKG | NPR — The common theme at the state and federal levels is seeking more support for mental health services, especially for suicide prevention. “What we know is we have a number of veterans , particularly here in New York State, who come back home. These are young men and women who served in Iraq and in Afghanistan and, very often, as they readjust to civilian life they are dealing with mental health issues and mental health needs,” Ortt said. “Sometimes, a clinical setting isn’t the setting that they need. The Joseph P. Dwyer Program is a non-clinical setting.”

Panetta offers hours for vets’ services Jan. 16 and Jan. 23

SANTA CRUZ SENTINEL — Rep. Jimmy Panetta announced January dates for staff mobile office hours for veterans’ services in Santa Cruz and Capitola. Mobile office hours are an opportunity for veterans living on the central coast of California to meet with Congressional staff members.

Community backs veteran who refused chemo to live his last days in his favorite chair

THE EPOCH TIMES — Living alone in a bare apartment, and with a diagnosis of cancer, life can indeed seem lonely and tough. Ron Hyde, an Air Force veteran in El Cajon, California, faced this scenario for real. The vet had been enduring chemotherapy but made the tough decision to stop the treatment, and he had nowhere to turn.

TUESDAY

Shutdown Payday MassachusettsVet groups plead: ‘If you say you support veterans, then you need to support ending the shutdown’

REBOOT CAMP — Veterans advocates are pleading with congressional and White House leaders to find an end to the government shutdown, no matter what it takes. “They can and must do better for our country,” Veterans of Foreign Wars National Commander B.J. Lawrence said at a Capitol Hill rally Tuesday afternoon. “Lives are being affected by this shutdown. “We have Coast Guard members securing the border and protecting us on a daily basis, but in the background they’re worried about making (mortgage) payments and putting food on the table … The American people expect better.”

Conservative-leaning vets group, facing Democrat-led House, switches strategy in efforts to reform VA

STARS AND STRIPES — A conservative-leaning veterans group that gained influence under President Donald Trump’s administration announced its new strategy Tuesday to protect its reform efforts of the Department of Veterans Affairs now that Democrats control the House. Concerned Veterans for America, an advocacy group funded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, has pushed for an aggressive expansion of veterans’ health care into the private sector, as well as a faster process to fire VA workers. The group made strides on both issues since the beginning of 2017, with Trump touting them as major successes for veterans. Now, they’re concerned the policy initiatives could be undone.

Furloughed feds won’t be RIFed if government shutdown extends past 30 days, OMB says

FEDERAL NEWS NETWORK — Agencies won’t need to consider targeted layoffs, otherwise known as reductions-in-force (RIFs), if the current partial government shutdown continues for another few days. While federal statute typically instructs agencies to RIF targeted groups of employees who have been placed on furlough status for 30 days or more, the regulations don’t apply to emergency furlough situations, the Office of Management and Budget confirmed Tuesday.

american legion assistance programHere are some options for financial help if your paycheck is shut down

MILITARY TIMES — Some charities, banks and credit unions are stepping up to help certain Coast Guard members and other federal workers who are on the verge of financial straits because of the partial government shutdown, which means a missed Jan. 15 paycheck. While the Defense Department is not part of the shutdown, and Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy service members are being paid, as well as DoD civilians, the Coast Guard is not part of DoD, and is affected. An unknown number of military spouses and veterans also work for various other federal agencies that are part of the shutdown, and won’t receive paychecks.

Air Force legend, Medal of Honor recipient, Joe Jackson dies at 95

MILITARY TIMES — Retired Air Force Col. Joe M. Jackson, a Medal of Honor recipient, veteran of three wars and Air Force legend, has died. The 95-year-old Jackson passed away over the weekend, according to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein, who made the announcement Monday morning. His death leaves James P. Fleming as the only other living Air Force Medal of Honor recipient, according to Military Times Hall of Valor Curator Doug Sterner.

dept. of vets affairsTrump’s under-the-radar push to dismantle veterans health care

THE PROSPECT — Last June, President Trump signed the VA Mission Act, commonly considered the biggest overhaul of veterans’ health care in a generation. Mission was designed to replace the hastily enacted Veterans Choice Program of 2014, which has made it easier for veterans to get care in the private sector if they lack fast or easy access to care inside the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Choice was a temporary program, one that would offer supplementary private care to veterans while Congress bolstered the VA’s capacity. Yet this work has not happened. Instead, Mission is making permanent the privatizing principles set forth in Choice.

Supreme Court rejects appeal from veterans in burn pit lawsuit against KBR, Halliburton

MILITARY TIMES — The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal in which veterans sought to hold private companies responsible for their use of open-air burn pits that have been linked to scores of often fatal illnesses, from cancers to neurological damage. The high court let stand an appellate court ruling that decided more than 60 separate lawsuits could not move forward.

The Department of Veterans Affairs selects Go Energistics to perform IOT&A services for the Redding outpatient clinic

CISION — Go Energistics (GoE) is pleased to announce it has been selected to provide initial outfitting, transition and activation services (IOT&A) for the Redding Outpatient Clinic, through a partnership with VA Northern California Health Care System (VANCHCS). GoE is excited to join forces with the VANCHCS in its mission to deliver state-of-the-art facilities that improve and expand access to health care services for Veterans across Northern California.

Veteran Suicide helpVeterans face challenges getting effective mental health support

WKSU 89.7 — An estimated one-point-nine million U.S. veterans are now receiving mental health services. But studies commissioned by Congress and the Department of Defense (NIH, 2017), (National Academies of Science, Engineering & Medicine, 2018), and (VA, 20180), say that may be half the number who should be.

Daughter’s Facebook plea draws 50,000 birthday cards for Southern California veteran

PRESS DEMOCRAT — When Sue Morse requested on Facebook that friends send her father well-wishes for his Dec. 30 birthday, she expected maybe 160 cards. At 96, World War II veteran and Purple Heart medal recipient Duane Sherman has survived most of his friends. As of Jan. 9, Sherman received more than 50,000 letters at his home in Fullerton, California, the Orange County Register reported Friday.

Veteran non-profit using fitness to help local vets

23ABC NEWS — A local veteran created a non-profit geared toward getting veterans active, in-shape and channeling their energy and aggression in a positive way. Saturday Ike Johnson, founder of L.E.A.N. 4 VETS, hosted a fitness fundraiser to raise money for local veterans.

CBO suggests raising Tricare fees, cutting veteran benefits to slash deficit

MILITARY.COM — With the federal deficit expected to top $1 trillion this year, the Congressional Budget Office in December published a list of options for reducing the imbalance over the next 10 years, including three suggestions on Tricare and six that address veterans benefits. In its Options for Reducing the Deficit: 2019 to 2028, the CBO laid out 121 opportunities for curtailing spending and raising revenue. These include raising Tricare enrollment fees for military retirees, instituting enrollment fees for Tricare for Life and reducing veterans benefits.

MONDAY

robert wilkie - usdva secretaryWilkie: ‘Insulting’ to suggest shutdown could cause veteran suicides

MILITARY.COM — Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie called on a federal union Monday to apologize for a chapter president’s suggestion that veterans affected by the partial government shutdown might resort to suicide. “The notion that most veterans are so fragile from their service that the slightest hint of hardship can push them to the brink of mental breakdown or even self-harm is preposterous,” Wilkie said in his letter to J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees.

Veterans Affairs seeks greater access to private care

SFGATE.COM — The Department of Veterans Affairs is preparing to shift billions of dollars from government-run veterans’ hospitals to private health care providers, setting the stage for the biggest transformation of the veterans’ medical system in a generation. Under proposed guidelines, it would be easier for veterans to receive care in privately run hospitals and have the government pay for it. Veterans would also be allowed access to a system of proposed walk-in clinics, which would serve as a bridge between VA emergency rooms and private providers, and would require co-pays.

women veterans (back)Women and minority veterans are thriving in the civilian workforce

MILITARY TIMES — Women veterans were employed at higher rates than their male counterparts in 2018, federal data show. And it’s not just women. A military background also boosted the civilian job prospects for racial minorities that have historically had a harder time finding work. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show the annual unemployment rate for women veterans was 3 percent last year — the lowest unemployment rate on record for this group in the 21st century — while male veterans had an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent.

Vet unemployment hit an all-time low in 2018. Mission accomplished?

REBOOT CAMP — Eight years ago, in the wake of the Great Recession, unemployment rates for the latest generation of veterans had spiked to crisis levels. Leaders across federal and state governments, some of America’s most well-known companies and veterans service organizations sprang into action. They formed veteran hiring coalitions, marshaled resources to help post-9/11 veterans, conducted academic research, passed new rules and legislation, and instituted vet recruiting quotas and goals.

Washington DC closures.PNGIs the government shutdown affecting the VA?

ABC 27 | WTXL — As the government shutdown continues, many Americans are concerned, but what about veterans, will they be affected? With more than 20 million veterans in the United States, the government shutdown can be a scary thing especially for those who use services from the Veterans Administration. “The vets you know ask me once a week, ‘hey is this going to affect us’ and not to my knowledge and again we at Leon County continue to work every day,” said Ben Bradwell, Veteran Service Manager in Leon County.

Michael M. Ego Gold Medal to honor Chinese-American WWII veterans

CONNECTING VETS.COM — President Donald Trump signed into law the Chinese-American World War II Veteran Congressional Gold Medal Act on Dec. 20, after the act had passed unanimously on Sept. 12, by the U.S. Senate (S.1050) and unanimously on Dec. 12, by the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 2358). Educating the populace about American history is an ongoing process. Asians in America is one topic that has received limited attention — in school textbooks, in classroom discussions, etc. Thus, there has arisen misinformation, stereotypes and biases about Asians in America.

Wife of two-time Purple Heart veteran, waiting for his return after he was found in L.A.

KRCR TV — A 90-year-old, two-time Purple Heart recipient and former peace officer who was reported missing in Redding has been found more than 500 miles away in the Los Angeles area. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputies say Robert McIntosh, known as “Bob” was found in the City of Commerce around 6:30 Thursday night after he left his home Wednesday and did not return. His family says Bob suffers from dementia.

franklin davisViral photo shows homeless Vietnam vet, Franklin Davis, sweeping the Vietnam Veterans Memorial during shutdown

INQUISITR — Franklin Davis has cancer and diabetes, and is kicked out of the Washington, D.C., homeless shelter where he stays at 8 a.m. each morning. This week, the Vietnam veteran has been heading to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial park, cleaning up the trash that has accumulated during the ongoing government shutdown. The homeless veteran gained some viral fame this week after CNN published a picture of him cleaning the park on a cold and wintry day. The picture was shared on Reddit and reached the top of the front page, attracting plenty of praise for the quiet sacrifices from Davis.

Veteran’s border wall fundraiser falls apart as GoFundMe says $20M will be refunded

ABC NEWS — Turns out an Air Force veteran is having just as much trouble funding a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico as President Donald Trump. GoFundMe said on Friday it will refund over $20 million in donations to a campaign started by veteran Brian Kolfage last year after he changed course on where the money would be donated. The campaign earned a massive amount of attention — and just as many donations.

georgia state capitolMilitary veterans warned of benefit scam

TRIBLIVE — Veterans’ Affairs officials are cautioning military veterans to be aware of private contractors offering to process claims for them following the announcement that an Allegheny County woman was fined $10,000 for falsely holding herself out as an accredited veteran’s services agent. … Matt Zamosky, director of the Westmoreland County Department of Veterans Affairs, said veterans with questions about benefits should always talk with a veterans’ services officer. Such officers are typically located at county and state offices as well as through veteran’s organizations. “We’re not allowed to take money from veterans. We’re not on commission and at least you will get the full story from us,” Zamosky said.

Senator John Hoeven speaks with VFW about the future for America’s veterans

KFYR TV — The V-F-W received an update from Senator John Hoeven on what’s coming up next for America’s veterans. The V-A Mission Act was passed recently. Senator Hoeven says the bill will make health care more accessible for veterans. He is watching to make sure it gets implemented properly.

Volunteers to count homeless in Taft

TAFT MIDWAY DRILLER — Volunteers will be contacting and counting people living in the streets, alleys and ditches in Taft at the end of the month as part of the Kern County Point-in-Time Homeless Census. The census will take place from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Jan. 30 for unsheltered homeless. People staying in shelters in Kern County will be counted the night before. … The homeless veteran count was down 11 percent in 2018, Janssen. “If we see an 11 percent decrease in veterans, we know our veterans program is working.

Camp Fire profile: Dennis Hanko, Army veteran, trucker, extrovert

CHICO ENTERPRISE-RECORD — An Army veteran with a knack for meeting people, Dennis Hanko had a well-honed sense of adventure. His travels brought the Fremont native overseas and all over the U.S. — and finally to Paradise, where Hanko died in the Camp Fire on Nov. 8. He was 56.

FRIDAY

SONY DSCDespite decline, US military veteran homelessness persists in California

THE DEFENSE POST — California has 12.3 percent of the United States population but 28 percent of it homeless veterans – 10,836 people as of 2018. That number is more than triple the number of homeless veterans in Florida, which, at 2,543 people, has the second highest number in the country. Yet the number of homeless veterans has dropped by 5.4 percent since 2017, according to a November 1 statement by U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie. According to HUD’s estimates, there were 37,878 homeless veterans in the United States in 2018. Despite the overall decline, the numbers are still high in California. Is this by virtue of the state’s population – estimated at 39.5 million – or are other factors at play?

San Diego patients to see reform in military health system

NBC SAN DIEGO — More than 300,000 local military health system patients will benefit from reforms starting in 2020 when the Defense Health Agency (DHA) takes over two San Diego hospitals.  What used to be three divided health care systems — Army Medicine, Navy Medicine and Air Force Medicine — will be combined under the management of the DHA starting on Oct. 1, 2020, with the goal to streamline patient care.

alex sawinMeet 2018′s Student Veteran of the Year and the secret to her success: 4-year-old Isabelle

REBOOT CAMP — Some might see going to school full-time with a small child at home as a challenge. Alexandria Sawin sees it as an asset. The Air Force veteran and self-described “nerd” said she learned many valuable life skills during her seven years on active duty that have carried over into her role as a college student and former president of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas student veterans’ organization. But it’s her 4-year-old daughter, Isabelle, that has reinforced the time management skills and patience she’s needed to be successful at both – even if it meant getting up at 5 a.m. to get her fed and ready for the day before she made the 40-minute commute to campus.

USS Indianapolis survivors recount harrowing battle for survival in new documentary

NAVY TIMES — “You’d hear shipmates screaming for help — you really couldn’t tell where the screaming was coming from.” The horrors recounted by survivors of the July 30, 1945, sinking of World War II heavy cruiser Indianapolis are the subject of a new PBS documentary. It was recently screened with both those surviving sailors and the crew members’s of a littoral combat ship that will bear the famous warship’s name, once it’s commissioned.

gary sinese movieNew Gary Sinise film will donate big portion of profits to veterans groups

NTD — The movie “Sgt. Will Gardner,” which opens in theaters on Jan. 11, has announced that a portion of its proceeds will go to some very deserving veterans organizations. The film stars Max Martini, who also writes and directs the movie, as a struggling Iraq War veteran who hopes to reunite with his young son. Actor Gary Sinise, who has been heavily involved in veterans outreach over the years, also has a role in the film.

THURSDAY

mark takano chairman of committee on veteran affairsTakano takes helm of VA committee, inspired by ‘positive force’ of incoming House members

STARS AND STRIPES — When Congressman Mark Takano took the stage over the weekend at a student veterans convention in Orlando, Fla., it marked his first public address as chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs — a position that will enable him to set priorities in Congress for veterans for the next two years. Takano, 58, stood in front of some 2,000 people, many of them in their 20s and 30s and using their GI Bill benefits to earn degrees. They convened for the Student Veterans of America National Convention, an annual event designed to educate and inspire a generation of veterans preparing to enter the workforce.

America’s veterans said to be disproportionately affected by government shutdown

ABC NEWS — As the partial government shutdown continues for a third week, veterans groups are sounding the alarm because of what they say is the disproportionate impact on America’s veterans and a growing fear that financial uncertainty could lead to self-harm. An estimated one-third of the federal workforce is made up of veterans, according to the Office of Personnel Management, meaning that more than 250,000 veterans are not currently receiving paychecks.

iran flagUS Navy veteran imprisoned in Iran, 1st arrest of Trump era

NAVY TIMES — Iran confirmed Wednesday it is holding U.S. Navy veteran Michael R. White at a prison in the country, making him the first American known to be detained under President Donald Trump’s administration. White’s detention adds new pressure to the rising tension between Iran and the U.S., which under Trump has pursued a maximalist campaign against Tehran that includes pulling out of its nuclear deal with world powers.

House launches renewed push for ‘Blue Water Navy’ bill

MILITARY.COM — House lawmakers have reintroduced the “Blue Water Navy” bill to expand Department of Veterans Affairs Agent Orange health care and disability benefits to about 90,000 sailors who served off the coasts of Vietnam during the war. A similar bill failed last Congress when Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, blocked a Senate vote in December in the face of overwhelming bipartisan support for the legislation.

medical recordsDoctors hope ‘precision medicine’ program with veterans could change how we treat patients

CAPITAL PUBLIC RADIO — On its face, it might seem Dr. Fred Meyers at the UC Davis School of Medicine is looking at one very specific problem. He’s studying soldiers with complex trauma, such as a serious burn combined with a head injury. But he says the method he’s using — called precision medicine — could ultimately change the way doctors nationwide treat both military and civilian patients. Take the example of the burned and concussed soldier. Meyers says burn protocol calls for IV fluid, but treating a head injury requires limiting fluids, which creates a dilemma for doctors.

Oldest Pearl Harbor veteran remembered at patriotic funeral

NEWSDAY — Last month, Poway, California, said goodbye in grand and patriotic fashion to its most famous citizen, Ray Chavez, who until his death Nov. 21 at age 106, was the nation’s oldest surviving Pearl Harbor veteran. After a 90-minute funeral Mass on Dec. 13 at St. Michael’s Catholic Church on Pomerado Road, the funeral cortège led by dozens of motorcycles rolled slowly underneath an enormous American flag hanging from a Poway Fire ladder truck and past hundreds of Poway schoolchildren waving miniature flags.

veteran food3rd annual Veterans Stand Down will be Feb. 7-10

VALLEY CENTER ROADRUNNER — When Marine Gunnery Sergeant Matt Foster was in the service during the second Iraq War, he was known for taking care of the men and women who were under his command.  “Gunny” Foster (as they say in Marine parlance) recalls: “My Marines would ask me for help and I could help them easily with things that they might have to wait for hours if they went off to do it themselves—especially if someone made them wait for hours.” He could show up and he outranked all the guys who he would be dealing with and they were quick to process his requests.  He was happy to do things like that and to tell his Marines, “Here’s your problem. It’s fixed. The look on their faces was my drug of choice,” he recalls.  He helped the guys in the shop who worked for him. “They knew I had their back.”

 

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