Newswatch

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

WEDNESDAY

T-Mobile launches wireless plan for military: $100 for four lines

USA TODAY — On the battlefield where all four major U.S. wireless providers go at one another awfully hard, T-Mobile is reaching out to servicemen and women and their families with the most aggressive pricing plan in its history. That would be the T-Mobile One Military family plan announced Wednesday and commencing April 22. The first line under this new monthly offering will cost $55, or $15 off the $70 consumers normally pay under the regular T-Mobile One plan. A second line goes for $25 per month. And lines three through six cost $10 each. Thus, a family of six would pay all in $120 each month, or a family of four $100.

VA CIOVeterans Affairs’ chief information officer resigns

STARS AND STRIPES — The chief information officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs resigned Tuesday, prompting questions about what will happen with the agency’s planned modernization efforts. Scott Blackburn, the VA’s acting chief information officer, posted a farewell letter on Twitter on Tuesday morning. VA Spokesman Curt Cashour confirmed Blackburn resigned from the agency, effective Tuesday.

Dem senator: Trump VA pick vows not to privatize vets care

ABC NEWS — President Donald Trump’s pick to be Veterans Affairs secretary is promising not to privatize the agency, a key Democratic senator said Tuesday, taking a stance on a politically charged issue that his predecessor says led to his firing. The confirmation hearing of Ronny Jackson, Trump’s White House doctor and a Navy rear admiral chosen to speed up improvements to the VA, is scheduled for next week. On Tuesday, he met privately with Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, as a part of visits this week to assure lawmakers he could effectively lead the government’s second-largest department.

Disabled veterans WCFeds join forces to help disabled vets with student loan debt

MILITARY TIMES — The Department of Education and Department of Veterans Affairs are teaming up to help disabled veterans get their student loan debt dismissed. The two agencies announced a data sharing agreement this week, in which they will cross-check the VA’s records of veterans with a total and permanent service-connected disability against the Education Department’s database of student loan borrowers. When there’s a match, the Education Department will mail the veteran an application for Total and Permanent Disability Discharge, or TPD, which applies to federal student loans.

VA updates and improves assistance program for transitioning service members

LAKE COUNTY NEWS — As part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs ongoing efforts to help transitioning service members navigate and understand VA’s various benefits, the agency recently updated VA’s briefing portion of the Transition Assistance Program – an interagency initiative authorized as a voluntary program in 1991 under the National Defense Authorization Act and made mandatory under the VOW to Hire Heroes Act in 2011 to help service members adjust to civilian life. The new VA briefing is designed to be more collaborative and stimulating, helping service members make informed decisions about their health care, employment, housing and other benefits.

US Army veteran and cameraAn Army veteran confronts his own trauma with a camera

NEW YORK TIMES — It was a cold, sunny day last spring when retired U.S. Army Specialist Michael McCoy visited the war memorial in Cumberland, Md., to look for the name of Pfc. Albert M. Nelson. Mr. McCoy, who grew up in West Baltimore, and Mr. Nelson, who was from West Philadelphia, became close friends in 2006 just before Mr. McCoy’s second of two yearlong deployments to Iraq. Mr. Nelson was a bit of a joker and, at 31, a few years older than the other soldiers. He was a big brother figure, well liked, especially by Mr. McCoy.

White House Chief of Staff contradicts White House claim on VA shakeup

PRO PUBLICA — White House chief of staff John Kelly contradicted the White House’s claims about David Shulkin’s departure as secretary of veterans affairs, a discrepancy that could lead to legal challenges of decisions made by Shulkin’s interim successor. In a private meeting last week with major veterans groups, Kelly repeatedly said that the decision to remove Shulkin was President Donald Trump’s, according to several people who were present or briefed on the meeting. The White House has insisted that Shulkin resigned, disputing his assertion, in media appearances, that he was fired.

West LA parkingSafe parking program for homeless veterans is launching in West L.A.

SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE — Homeless veterans who live in their cars will soon be able to park overnight on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ West Los Angeles campus, City Councilman Mike Bonin has announced. The pilot program will provide the veterans an assigned spot where they may sleep safely, as well as access to social services and eventually housing, Bonin’s office said Friday. The program on the sprawling campus will launch in the next two weeks and is being run by the nonprofit group Safe Parking L.A. It initially will serve 10 vehicles, but could later accommodate dozens more, Safe Parking L.A.’s executive director, Dr. Scott Sale, said in a statement provided by the councilman’s office.

Four-hour drive for a colonoscopy? What VA privatization warnings ignore

USA TODAY — When 55-year-old Coast Guard veteran David McCray needed a colonoscopy, the Department of Veterans Affairs told him he would have to drive two hours each way from his home to a VA hospital in Denver — even though multiple private-sector options are closer, as is an Air Force hospital. He said the VA told him he and his wife could drive to the Denver VA in the evening, stay in the emergency room overnight, then he could get the test the following morning and his wife could drive him home afterward.

House CommitteeGovernor makes appointment to Veterans of California in Yountville

NAPA VALLEY REGISTER — Gov. Jerry Brown announced Friday that he had appointed Jay S. Caddell, 54, of La Mesa, as the skilled nursing facility administrator at the Veterans Home of California, Yountville. Caddell has been administrator at Mount Miguel Covenant Village in Spring Valley  in San Diego County, since 2007. He has worked in the health care industry since 1986.

Veterans say marijuana eases their pain. Why won’t Jeff Sessions and VA help them get it?

USA TODAY — The American public’s perception of veterans is well reflected in the bipartisanship Congress has shown in enhancing veterans benefits over the past decade, as a generation of war fighters returned from Iraq and Afghanistan and reintegrated into society.

VetsVeterans are worried Trump is poised to dismantle the VA for good

VICE — Ever since Donald Trump fired Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin late last month, veterans groups have been on high alert. Ostensibly, Trump ousted Shulkin because a February report found he’d used about $4,000 in public money for personal expenses—bringing his wife on a European trip with him—and improperly accepted a gift of Wimbledon tickets last July. But Scott Pruitt and Ben Carson have committed greater indiscretions and still have their jobs, so an alternative narrative has emerged: Shulkin was ousted because he didn’t support the privatization of the VA. With Shulkin out, many fear, conservative forces in the Trump administration and at the VA will now push hard to privatize veterans’ healthcare, something most major veterans group in the US oppose.

Archdeacon: Chris Borland still making impact in football

DAYTON DAILY NEWS — There are times when Chris Borland does the unexpected. That was the case just over three years ago when he suddenly walked away from a million-dollar NFL contract and the cusp of football greatness after a much trumpeted rookie season as a hard-hitting linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers. And that’s what happened again early Friday morning when he called from Boulder, Colorado where he was taking part in the week-long Conference on World Affairs.

Slow recovery underway at Yountville veterans campus after deadly shooting

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT — Two weeks ago, the Veterans Home of California in Yountville marked its 134th anniversary with a gathering of more than 100 former U.S. military personnel who call the facility home. Josh Kiser, a spokesman for the Veterans Home, thought the crowd seemed larger than in years past. It has been five weeks now since a troubled former Army infantryman walked into a building where he had once lived on the sprawling Napa County campus and shot to death three mental health clinicians before killing himself.

Rector ReservoirSpring rains end threat of shortfall at Rector Reservoir near Yountville

NAPA VALLEY REGISTER — Less than two months after falling levels at a Yountville-area reservoir triggered talk of possible water purchases to make up deficits, water levels have recovered, according to state officials. Water at Rector Reservoir reached the 373.2-foot spillway April 8 and has remained there since, June Iljana, spokesperson for the state Department of Veterans Affairs, reported Tuesday. The CalVet-owned facility above Rector Creek supplies more than 800 residents of the nearby Veterans Home of California, as well as about 3,000 residents in the town of Yountville.

New affordable housing project breaks ground in Encanto

NBC SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Housing Commission broke ground Saturday on a new development project in Encanto that will provide affordable housing to low-income families and homeless veterans. The new development, Encanto Village, will have 65 apartments designated as affordable housing. The units are available to families making 60 percent or less of the median income for the San Diego metropolitan area, which is around $58,000 for a family of four.

TUESDAY

Yountville HomeVeterans find sense of peace again after Pathway Home shooting

FOX 40 NEWS — Just over a month has passed since the lives of Christine Loeber, Dr. Jennifer Gonzales and Dr. Jennifer Golick were lost in a shooting at the Pathway Home in Yountville. Veterans say despite their background and expertise fighting in wars, the incident was something that really scared them. They said they’ve never felt threatened in terms of safety and they still haven’t since. Now, everything has started to go back to normal.

Secretary nominee opposed to privatizing VA, senator says

MILITARY TIMES — The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s top Democrat said President Donald Trump’s pick to take over Veterans Affairs promised not to privatize the department, but the nominee hasn’t fully discussed the issue with the commander in chief yet. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, met with White House physician Ronny Jackson on Tuesday morning in advance of his expected confirmation hearing next week. Tester said he has not yet made up his mind whether to support the nominee, but said the two had a productive discussion about the challenges facing VA.

Medal of Honor recipient Wesley Fox laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery

TASK & PURPOSE — Medal of Honor recipient Marine Col. Wesley Fox was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery almost a half-century after the heroism that earned him the military’s highest award, the Marine Corps announced on Tuesday. Fox, who died at the age of 86 on November 4 of last year, served in the Marine Corps for nearly 43 years, during which he managed to hold every enlisted rank with the exception of Sergeant Major and every officer rank except General.

Navy Adm. Ronny JacksonVA secretary nominee Jackson tells senator he won’t privatize the agency

STARS AND STRIPES — President Donald Trump’s nominee for Department of Veterans Affairs secretary told a leading senator Tuesday that he does not want to privatize the agency. Following his first meeting with Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the White House physician and VA secretary nominee, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said Jackson’s views on private-sector medical care fell in line with the views of former VA Secretary David Shulkin.

3 tips to making your military service relevant in a civilian job interview

TASK & PURPOSE — Say you’re at a dinner party. Sitting next to you is a petrochemical engineer. When you ask what she does for her day-to-day job, she overwhelms you with names of substances you haven’t heard since high school chemistry, uses cryptic acronyms, and drones on and on. After about a minute, you’ve tuned her out and you’re thinking about dessert. The problem is, she didn’t give you anything to grab onto. When you’re not familiar with the world someone is describing with the words they use, it’s hard to care. That’s exactly what happens when you interview for a job and talk about your military service from a soldier’s perspective. Switch your mind around to figure out what makes sense in the interviewer’s world. You have to translate your experience into relevant civilian skills.

Headset for TBIWomen Veterans team up to bring awareness to diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injury

BLOGS.VA.GOV — Navy Veterans Bridget Dolan and Amanda Burrill, along with Army Veteran Elana Duffy, are among other Veterans who are sharing their experience with traumatic brain injury (TBI) at an upcoming #Not Alone Brain Injury Awareness event April 16 at VA’s Manhattan campus. The program will highlight these Veterans and members of New York VA Polytrauma/TBI team who treat them. Also, featured will be Monica Aksamit, who won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio, Brazil, as a member of the U.S. Fencing Team. Duffy, Dolan and Burrill share their stories to bring awareness to the event, in particular to women Veterans, where TBI has been less studied. Aksamit is committed to bringing attention to TBI, a signature injury of recent wars.

52 years of waiting: Eureka woman finds closure for brother shot down over Vietnam in 1966

TIMES STANDARD — The surviving brothers and sisters of Air Force Col. Roosevelt Hestle ‘Hess’ Jr., gathered for a burial service at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday. In June 2017, Hestle’s family was notified that human remains recovered from the crash site of a plane shot down during combat action over North Vietnam in 1966 had been positively identified as those of Hestle. Hestle’s sister, Marjorie Hill-Taylor, 88, of Eureka, who has spent nearly 52 years wondering what happened to her older brother, attended the ceremony.

Pathway Home VASlow recovery underway at Yountville veterans campus after deadly shooting

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT — Two weeks ago, the Veterans Home of California in Yountville marked its 134th anniversary with a gathering of more than 100 former U.S. military personnel who call the facility home. Josh Kiser, a spokesman for the Veterans Home, thought the crowd seemed larger than in years past. It has been five weeks now since a troubled former Army infantryman walked into a building where he had once lived on the sprawling Napa County campus and shot to death three mental health clinicians before killing himself.

Friday

VA denies accusations of restricting hiring at local facilities

GOV EXEC — The Veterans Affairs Department on Thursday pushed back against reports that it is restricting hiring at its local facilities nationwide, saying it has only tightened a freeze at its central office in Washington, D.C.

VA mottoFive myths about VA health care

WASHINGTON POST — Americans have been hearing for years that the health-care system run by the Department of Veterans Affairs is in crisis. In 2014 came charges that officials at the Phoenix VA and other facilities had altered or destroyed records to hide evidence of lengthy wait times for appointments. Most recently, David Shulkin, the former VA secretary who left amid a scandal over luxury travel expenses charged to taxpayers, contended that the president fired him for not moving quickly enough to privatize the system. In truth, misconceptions mar the debate about how veterans’ health care actually works.

She’s set to be the first black woman to serve as a Marine General

TASK & PURPOSE — In a history-making move, Col. Lorna Mahlock has been nominated to become the Marine Corps’ first female African-American general officer. Mahlock, 49, has served in the prestigious post of deputy director of plans, policies and operations since July 2017.  Her next assignment will be announced later if she is confirmed by the Senate, according to the Marine Corps. She was nominated on April 10 to get her first star.

Hector BarajasDeported Army veteran, pardoned by Jerry Brown, will become US citizen

FOX NEWS — A deported U.S. Army veteran from Los Angeles, who was pardoned for a crime by California Gov. Jerry Brown, was to be sworn in as an American citizen Friday. “I’m coming home, ma!” Hector Barajas said from Tijuana, Mexico, the Los Angeles Daily News reported. Barajas was a lawful permanent resident in 1992 as teenager. After high school, he enlisted in the Army and served in the 82nd Airbourne Division, the report said. He reportedly could have applied to become a naturalized citizen, but he incorrectly assumed that his military service made that automatic.

ParatroopersThe 82nd Airborne will induct 20 soldiers into its Hall of Fame. See who made the cut.

MILITARY TIMES — The 82nd Airborne Division on Thursday announced the inaugural class of the All American Hall of Fame. The 20 soldiers will be honored May 23 during the division’s All American Week. The 82nd Airborne’s senior leaders chose this first class of honorees based on nominations received from the division’s subordinate units. And the division will add up to five new members each year beginning in 2019.

The fake Facebook pages targeting Vietnam veterans

THE ATLANTIC — Earlier this week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised lawmakers that his platform would crack down on fake accounts and foreign influence. But at least two Facebook pages linked to websites operating out of Bulgaria are still targeting U.S. veterans of the Vietnam War, according to a letter obtained by The Atlantic that was sent to lawmakers by a nonprofit veteran’s organization. The U.S. military community is not a new or unusual target for foreign influence operations. A study published in October by the University of Oxford found that three websites linked to Russia—Veteranstoday.com, Veteransnewsnow.com and Southfront.org—engaged in “significant and persistent interactions” with veterans during the election, concluding in part that veterans are targeted because they tend to be “community leaders” trusted by the public.

Money and VeteranNew fund lets investors back companies that are ‘Best for Vets’

MILITARY TIMES — A new investment fund, based on Military Times’ Best for Vets Employers rankings, launches today and will allow investors to put their money behind the companies that do the most to support veterans, service members and military families. For years, government leaders, veterans service organizations and many of the nation’s most successful companies have said that the unique leadership skills and teamwork that veterans bring to the corporate world can benefit a company’s bottom line.

Thursday

Dept of Veterans AffairsVA Health Care: Actions Needed to Improve Oversight of Community-Based Outpatient Clinics

GAO — Community-based outpatient clinics are an increasingly important part of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health care system, providing millions of veterans with services like primary and mental health care. Most of them are operated by VA, but others are operated by contractors. We found weaknesses in VA’s oversight of community-based outpatient clinics, leading us to make four recommendations to help ensure veterans receive the same standard of care regardless of whether a clinic is operated by VA or by a contractor.

California may issue specialty license plates for veterans

CBS SACRAMENTO — Veterans might get their own California license plates soon. Senator Ted Gaines introduced Senate Bill 1357 to create the new specialty plate. It passed the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs Wednesday morning. The Veteran license plate would only be issued to those who served in the military. A current version, called the “Honorary Veterans” plate, is issued to current service members, veterans, their family members and military supporters.

Rickman and WarrenNewsletter, TV station heads allege meddling by Yountville Veterans Home

NAPA VALLEY REGISTER — A newsletter for residents of the Veterans Home of California has gone dormant after more than seven decades, and its editor is pointing the finger at overseers of the state-run retirement community in Yountville. The Observation Post, which began publishing shortly after World War II, has been on hiatus since January, according to editor John Rickman, who blamed the state Department of Veterans Affairs for what he called a pattern of suppressing controversial stories and delays in printing and shipment. “We’ve basically been robbed of our magazine,” Rickman, who has directed the Observation Post for 2 ½ years, said during a recent interview.

California trucking school charged in $4.3 million VA fraud

TRANSPORT TOPICS — Surely former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw had no way of knowing that a California truck driver training school he was featuring on his TV “news program” in 2014 was at the same time being investigated for bilking the Veterans Administration out of millions of dollars for students that never even intended to show up for classes.

Trump and Dr. ShulkinVeterans advocates honor fired VA secretary at private DC event

MILITARY TIMES — Leaders from the country’s largest veterans groups on Wednesday held a private event to honor fired Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, indicating a growing rift between the administration and some of the most prominent advocates for the veterans community. The event, held at the Disabled American Veterans headquarters in town, was a chance for the groups to thank Shulkin for his 13 months leading the department and praise his “bipartisan” approach to the job.

Close to Home: Providing care for the forgotten warriors

SANTA ROSA PRESS DEMOCRAT — While the anti-sexual violence movement has brought America’s understanding of the issue into the light of day, veterans are still left in the dark. In 2004, the Veterans Health Administration coined the term “military sexual trauma” to refer to experiences of sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that a veteran experienced during his or her military service. The term encompasses any psychological trauma resulting from a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature or sexual harassment that occurred while the veteran was serving on active duty, on active duty for training or during inactive duty training.

MedicineVet lawyers got desired ‘undiagnosed pain’ case to win on appeal

STARS AND STRIPES — Lawyers at the nonprofit National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) had been screening Board of Veterans’ Appeals decisions for years, looking for just the right case involving denial of disability compensation to a veteran suffering from chronic service-related pain but due to a condition that doctors couldn’t diagnose. The NVLSP needed such a case to challenge a 1999 precedent-setting ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims that found the Department of Veterans Affairs was not required to compensate a veteran for pain if physicians aren’t able to identify the cause.

VA study: Ending long-term opioid use doesn’t affect chronic pain

UPI — Ending long-term use of opioids made no major difference to pain experienced by patients with chronic issues, according to a Veterans Administration study. Researchers based their conclusions on the examination of the electronic health records of 600 patients with chronic pain issues in a national database maintained by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Wounded Warrior Project15 years later, Wounded Warrior Project still adding new members

MILITARY TIMES — Fifteen years after it was founded, seven years after official U.S. combat operations ended in Iraq and three years after the combat mission ended in Afghanistan, Wounded Warrior Project is still seeing a surge in new members. “We’re growing,” said Mike Linnington, CEO of the group. “Often all the needs of these wounded warriors don’t manifest themselves until years later. The need is growing as quickly as we can keep up.”

Army veteran deported 14 years ago prepares to return to US

FOX5 SAN DIEGO — A U.S. Army veteran is returning home after being deported 14 years ago. Hector Barajas will be sworn in as a U.S. Citizen on Friday. FOX 5 caught up with him Wednesday as he prepares to cross the border. Barajas found out last month he would be attending his own naturalization ceremony and has been preparing ever since but says he won’t be packing up and leaving so quickly.

VA med center DCSupply issues delay procedures at DC VA hospital after officials claimed they stopped

STARS AND STRIPES — Department of Veterans Affairs documents detail seven canceled procedures caused by supply shortages in February and March at the VA hospital in Washington, contrary to the agency’s claims that the last one was in January. The documents, newly obtained by Stars and Stripes, outline seven instances of procedures being delayed or postponed because of supply shortages at the agency’s flagship hospital – four in February and three in March.

Former House speaker reverses course on medical marijuana, citing positive benefits for vets

MILITARY TIMES — Former House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday said he has shifted his stance on medical marijuana in part because of the potential positive effects it could have for suffering veterans. Boehner, who said he was opposed to medical marijuana legalization during his time in office, this week was appointed to the board of advisers for Acreage Holdings, one of the country’s largest cannabis cultivation and dispensing firms. In a statement, he called for “a shift in federal marijuana policy” and said his views on the issue have “evolved” in recent years.

Local veterans and actors alike take center stage in La Jolla Playhouse’s ‘What Happens Next’

NBC SAN DIEGO — San Diego veterans are among the cast of actors telling their stories (and the stories of their fellow veterans) in a new La Jolla Playhouse-commissioned play, playing at the Challenged Athletes Foundation this month as part of the theater’s Without Walls series.  The play, written by Naomi Iizuka, head of the UC San Diego MFA Playwriting Program, follows an idealistic but inexperienced acting coach after she gets paired with a group of veterans as part of a drama therapy program. The piece is in association with Cornerstone Theater Company, a theater company that casts half actors and half community members.

Thanking troopsVeterans charity takes warriors on atmospheric adventure

PR NEWSWIRE — Warriors recently took to the skies for a breathtaking view of the California countryside from 4,000 feet up. They bonded with one another on a hot air balloon ride with Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP). Hot air ballooning was the first successful human-carrying flight technology that allowed man to see Earth’s beauty from above while experiencing a healing freedom of spirit.

WEDNESDAY

Ronny L. JacksonSenate Republicans express concerns about Trump’s choice to lead Veterans Affairs

WASHINGTON POST — Ronny L. Jackson, President Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, is facing mounting skepticism from Senate Republicans over whether he has the management experience to lead the nation’s second-largest bureaucracy. The comments from several GOP senators, particularly those with influence on veterans’ issues, signal Jackson will have to work overtime to persuade not just Democrats but Trump’s own party that he is qualified to oversee the beleaguered agency. That challenge comes at a time when Senate Republicans are already juggling other controversial nominations that will consume much of the political oxygen on Capitol Hill.

Veterans cemetery could be getting new monument

ACTION NEWS NOW — Memorials and monuments are a way we can honor our nations veterans. A new design concept will be presented to the Northern California Veterans Cemetery for a new monument. The cemetery in Igo is the resting place for many military members from all branches of the military in the north state. There are monuments dedicated to the United States Air Force veterans, and to those who have served in the Korean War. Wednesday afternoon the Monuments and Memorials Committee of the Cemetery will consider a new design by the United States Marines.

VA Northern CaliforniaTrump says veterans wait too long for health care. VA’s 33,000 vacancies might have something to do with that.

WASHINGTON POST — The Department of Veterans Affairs, facing intense scrutiny amid reports of widespread dysfunction and a push by the Trump administration to outsource more medical care, has tens of thousands of full- and part-time vacancies nationwide, according to data compiled by veterans advocates, lawmakers and federal unions. Most urgently, the agency’s health-care network needs thousands of primary care physicians, mental-health providers, physical therapists, social workers — even janitorial staff, Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.), ranking Democrat of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, told The Washington Post in an interview. Of equal concern, he said, VA lacks enough human resources personnel to vet candidates and make the hires.

Vets groups and lawmakers say they’re against it — but what does ‘privatization’ of Veterans Affairs really mean?

MILITARY TIMES — When confirmation hearings for the next Veterans Affairs secretary begin in a few weeks, privatization of the department will be the main focus of most lawmakers’ questions. Nearly everyone in the veterans community and on Capitol Hill is against privatizing VA — and nearly everyone has a different definition of what privatization is. Last week, VA officials released a statement titled “Debunking the VA Privatization Myth,” which insists “there is no effort underway to privatize VA,” 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.”

Border PatrolAmid challenges and controversy, California agrees to send National Guard to southern border

STARS AND STRIPES — California on Wednesday joined the plan to deploy National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, as federal and state officials face challenges in boosting security to stop illegal immigration. With more than 2,000 National Guard troops now pledged in the coming weeks from all four southern border states, officials will face significant costs and work to coordinate a comprehensive plan to assist patrols along the border.

Veterans Affairs on course to top agency health IT spending

MILITARY TIMES — The Department of Veterans Affairs is on course to be the top agency for government health IT spending in the next five years, according to a new market forecast from DelTek. The Department of Health and Human Services currently leads in IT spend, but the completed deployment of the Affordable Care Act insurance marketplace will curtail some of that spending just as the VA begins to ramp up.

Women Veterans PTSD istockRecognizing women veterans with PTSD: A small but growing population

NURSING ADVANCE WEB — There are an estimated 200,000 women currently serving in active duty in the armed forces and this number is expected to grow. In fact, the women veterans population is expected to increase from 9% to 17% by 2043.1 The prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among women veterans has been increasing throughout the years due to the dynamic change of women’s roles in the armed forces. In the 1700s, women took on supportive roles such as cooks, nurses, laundresses, and seamstresses. Since the lifting of the ban of women participating in direct combat by the Department of Defense in 2013, women are now more prominent on the front lines with their male comrades in active duty and direct combat roles.

Prince Harry launches veteran event a month before Meghan Markle royal wedding

ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT — Prince Harry certainly is keeping busy ahead of his May 19 royal wedding to Meghan Markle! On Wednesday, the 33-year-old royal made an appearance at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London, England, to launch the “Walk of America.” The groom to be was all smiles as he greeted veterans while wearing a gray suit jacket and dark dress pants that matched his tie. Harry was clearly at ease as he laughed and shook hands with those who have served.

Global War on Terror memorialNew leader takes over effort to establish Global War on Terror memorial

STARS AND STRIPES — The nonprofit behind the effort to establish a national memorial dedicated to the Global War on Terror got a new director Monday after the group’s founder left in mid-March. Michael “Rod” Rodriguez, an Army Special Forces veteran, will now lead the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation through the yearslong, multistep process to raise funds for the memorial, select a site, design and construct it. Andrew Brennan, who founded the nonprofit, conceived the idea for the memorial in 2014 and shepherded legislation through Congress to allow for its construction. President Donald Trump signed the bill in August.

Voucher awards program designed to aid veterans

OAKDALE LEADER — In a continued effort to end veteran homelessness, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have announced $43 million to 325 local public housing agencies (PHAs) across the country to provide a permanent home to more than 5,200 veterans experiencing homelessness. The supportive housing assistance is provided through the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program, which combines rental assistance from HUD with case management and clinical services provided by VA.

12th annual Honor A Hero, Hire A Vet Job and Resource Fair

BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN — The Bakersfield Employment Development Department (EDD) in partnership with the America’s Job Center of California invites the community to attend the 12th annual “Honor a Hero, Hire a Vet” Job and Resource Fair, on Thursday, April 12th from 8 a.m.-noon.  This event will be held at the Bakersfield Marriott in the Convention Center, located at 801 Truxtun Ave. Anyone looking for work is encouraged to attend. Open to all job seekers, veterans, National Guards, and Reservists returning from active duty. It is not required to be a Veteran to attend.

Mission District HousingCalifornia projects come online, underway for homeless vets

HOUSING FINANCE — A wave of new affordable housing developments targeting homeless veterans has celebrated grand openings or is breaking ground this spring to help address the growing issue in California. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in its 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress in December, just under 30% of all veterans experiencing homelessness, 11,472 on a single night in January 2017, were in California. From 2016 to 2017, the state saw a rise of 1,860 homeless veterans, the largest increase in the nation.

VA partners with the Library of Congress to promote the ‘Braille and Talking Book Program’ for Veterans

VA.GOV — VA recently partnered with the Library of Congress to promote the Braille and Talking Book Program for Veterans. The program which is administered by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and sponsored by the Library of Congress is already being used at many VA facilities across the country. Through a national network of cooperating libraries, the program offers books in a number of formats: Braille, audio, mailed to your door, or instantly downloadable.

RPE-L-VETVILLAGE-0330.TLPa.jpg 3-28-2018New March Air Reserve Base village offers a haven for homeless veterans

RIVERSIDE PRESS-ENTERPRISE — There’s a Superman poster on the wall just inside Mark Rodriguez’s studio apartment at March Veterans Village. A mirror covers the superhero’s face. Rodriguez stepped in front of the mirror and smiled. “Homelessness has been a problem for me for a long, long time,” he said. “I haven’t had a place to call home.” Now he does. Rodriguez, 62, an Army veteran who enlisted near the end of the Vietnam War, is one of 107 veterans who have moved into a new 138-unit housing complex on March Air Reserve Base near Moreno Valley.

Napa fishing trip planned for military veterans, active service members and first responders

NAPA VALLEY REGISTER — The Northern California chapter of Heroes on the Water is planning a kayak fishing trip at Lake Berryessa on April 20 for veterans, active duty service members and first responders. The chapter hosts 10 to 12 events annually throughout Northern California. Kayak fishing events are free, with participants provided breakfast, lunch, fishing rods, kayaks and a group fishing license.

TUESDAY

Breaking ground in Rancho CordovaMore housing to come for Sacramento-area homeless veterans

FOX 40 — A few years ago, Army veteran George Thomas was homeless, living on the streets and sleeping in his car while he says he used drugs and hungout with drug users. Then one Friday night he prayed for a change. That following Monday he says his prayer was answered. “I got a call saying my application was accepted at the Mather Veterans Village,” Thomas told FOX40. Thomas is one of 50 homeless veterans who now call the Mather Veterans Village in Rancho Cordova home, and next year more will join him and his neighbors.

VA secretary nominee brushes off criticism over inexperience

MILITARY TIMES — President Donald Trump’s pick to take over the Department of Veterans Affairs downplayed his management inexperience in his first public interview since his nomination, saying his time in the military has honed his leadership skills. Dr. Ronny Jackson, who has served as White House physician since 2006, told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal of Texas, his hometown newspaper, that he has heard the criticism concerning his ability to take over the nearly $200 billion department with 385,000-plus employees. But he remains undeterred.

VA Interim Dr. Ronny JacksonTrump’s VA pick faces a dilemma most troops would love to have

TASK & PURPOSE — I’m about to suggest something that would’ve been unthinkable to me as an E-3: Put yourself in the admiral’s shoes. You’re 23 years into a terrific career as a naval physician. For 12 of that, you’ve been the president’s doctor, administering checkups to three very different POTUSes — high-stakes business, sure, but you’ve been doing it longer than most service members do anything.

Larry Connell is out as director of DC VA hospital

STARS AND STRIPES — The director of the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Washington was reassigned Monday amid ongoing problems at the hospital and an investigation into whether his appointment broke federal protocols. Retired Army Col. Larry Connell took over the hospital in April 2017, following a scathing report from the VA Inspector General’s Office about widespread, systematic failures that put veterans at risk. Former VA Secretary David Shulkin fired then-director Brian Hawkins and tapped Connell to reform the facility.

Veteran PTSDVet unemployment up in March

MILITARY TIMES — As the national unemployment rate remained unchanged for the sixth month in a row, the percentage of veterans without jobs ticked upward in March, the latest federal figures show. The unemployment rate among post-9/11 veterans grew to 5 percent last month — up from 3.3 percent in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For veterans of all eras, the unemployment rate rose from 3.5 to 4.1 percent, slightly higher than the nonveteran rate of 4 percent.

Vallejo, Napa, Solano, Vacaville, getting thousands in federal veterans housing vouchers

VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD — Vallejo, Vacaville, Solano County and the City of Napa are among a slew of California entities getting thousands of dollars in veteran’s housing vouchers from the federal government, United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officials announced. The Vallejo Housing Authority is getting 15 vouchers worth $132,309, while The Vacaville Housing Authority gets 10 vouchers worth $84,123 and 15 vouchers worth $115,566 are earmarked for the Solano County Housing Authority, according to the announcement.

Rishi SharmaThis 20-year-old wants to interview every WWII combat veteran he can before it’s too late

CNN — Ever since he was little, Rishi Sharma has enjoyed learning about the Second World War. Now he’s taken his passion a big step further. The 20-year-old from Agoura, California, is on a mission, and he’s got a time crunch. He’s trying to interview as many living World War II combat veterans as he can, to document their stories before they are lost forever.

5 job search tips you haven’t heard 100 times … and 2 that you probably have

MILITARY TIMES — Write a good resume. Go to job fairs. Network. Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard it all before, right? Well did you know how interviewing is like poker? How Google and Facebook can be critical aides – or, in some cases, obstacles – to landing that great civilian job after you transition out of the military? We asked veteran employment experts to share some job search advice that you might not have already heard more times than you can count. Representatives from the Department of Labor, the American Legion, Hire Our Heroes and Veterans of Foreign Wars weighed in.

CHP report showed security gaps at Yountville Veterans Home before killings

SACRAMENTO BEE — The state-run veterans home where a former soldier murdered three women last month had security shortcomings that the California Highway Patrol identified in 2010, according to a report obtained by The Sacramento Bee. It’s unclear whether any of the recommendations in the 22-page report could have prevented Albert Wong from attacking the therapy program he once attended at the Yountville Veterans Home. The California Department of Veterans Affairs (Cal Vet) also won’t say which recommendations it adopted.

Homeless Vets work for a livingHomeless veterans work for a living

TASK & PURPOSE — In March of last year, I began a journey.  I decided to gather all possessions I had, tents, survival gear, first aid, cram them into a tiny car and drive the country in an effort to seek out homeless veterans in need.  I managed to cover 33 states in 9 months, feeding and clothing over 150 homeless veterans—and, sadly, nearly 350 homeless families.

Mission housing project invokes law to exchange review for affordable units

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE — A 130-unit family housing project proposed for the Mission District will be the first in San Francisco to take advantage of a new state law that allows developers to skip expensive and lengthy environmental review in exchange for building a certain amount of affordable apartments. Last week Mission Economic Development Agency, known as MEDA, and the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corp. submitted an application to invoke Senate Bill 35 at 681 Florida St., a site developer Nick Podell donated to the city as part of the community benefits package for his 195-unit, market rate development at 2000 Bryant St.

180306-A-RW508-002C-840x420Military and veteran suicides: Here’s why I fear it is going to get much worse

TASK & PURPOSE — From about 2003 to 2016 again and again we found ourselves going down the same green ramp to the same planes to the same landing strips on the other side of the world where people wanted to kill us and where life is as dangerous on Day 1 as on Day 364. But it’s also dangerous on Day 366 and Day 475 when you get back home and you don’t know how to act around your friends and family. You feel for your weapon and freak out that it’s not on your hip. You swerve around trash in the road and avoid WalMart like the plague.

Court ruling could extend disability benefits to thousands of injured veterans

MILITARY TIMES — Thousands of veterans previously denied disability benefits for pain issues related to their military service may now be eligible for that assistance, thanks to a federal court ruling this week. On Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overturned a 19-year-old precedent used in more than 11,000 VA claims denials that stated veterans had to have a clear medical diagnosis connected to their pain in order to be eligible for those disability payouts.

VA Medical CenterCommunication breakdown adds to VA woes

STARS AND STRIPES – Several hospitals in the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system have been the subject of scandal in the past year, ranging from unsanitary conditions in Washington to misconduct in Roseburg, Ore., and poor patient care in Manchester, N.H. Some lawmakers say they are concerned that the problems weren’t resolved by the VA because of deep-seated communication breakdowns between local hospitals, regional leaders and the central office in Washington. Are there more issues across the country that aren’t reaching the VA secretary’s office?

How a leading services firm is supporting its veterans, and wants to hire more

TASK & PURPOSE — A lot of veterans who’ve recently left the military have a difficult time maintaining their sense of purpose and mission outside of work. Wouldn’t it be great if you could work at a place that actually recognizes your background and gives you the resources to make a difference? That’s why you should check out RSM, a leading professional services firm that employees say feels more like a small business that is experiencing unprecedented growth and success. RSM is the leading provider of audit, tax and consulting services focused on the middle market in the U.S. and abroad.

Remains of US navigator shot down over Laos in 1968 return home

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS — The remains of an Air Force officer lost for almost 50 years after he was shot down over Southeast Asia finally came home Thursday to North Carolina, where he was greeted by his three children and a mile-long procession of roaring, flag-fluttering motorcycles. Col. Edgar F. Davis was the navigator aboard a RF-4C Phantom fighter-bomber aircraft shot down during a night photo-reconnaissance mission over Laos in September 1968. His remains were identified in late December.

Hannah-Beth-Jackson-225.jpgAMVETS names Jackson Legislator of Year for her work supporting veterans

NOOZHAWK — State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) will be recognized as AMVETS 2017 Legislator of the Year for her work supporting veterans in the criminal justice system. Jackson’s SB 725 (pre-trial diversion) was one of AMVETS’s top priority bills last year. “Veterans risk their lives in defense of our country. It is our responsibility to ensure that they receive the support and care that they need when they return home,” Jackson said.

Rep. Bill Flores honors local veterans for community contributions

THE EAGLE — U.S. Rep. Bill Flores presented 13 Bryan-College Station veterans with commendations Thursday in recognition for their outstanding service not just in uniform, but also in the community. For the past six years, Flores, R-Bryan, has presented the award to veterans in his district who have gone above and beyond in their humanitarian acts. “The tradition of awarding deserving veterans with this commendation is something that I look forward to each year,” Flores is quoted in a November press release in which he first announced this year’s award recipients.

ICE trying to deport veteran after Mattis promised protection

NYDAILYNEWS.COM — Immigration and Customs Enforcement has sought the removal of Chinese immigrant honorably discharged from the United States Army despite orders from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to prevent the deportation of non-citizen veterans. Xilong Zhu traveled to the United States in 2009 with the dreams of attending college and eventually enrolled at the University of Northern New Jersey — a front allegedly created by the Department of Homeland Security to uncover people handing out fraudulent student visas, the Washington Post reported.

Homeless veterans get new digs in Newport Beach: ‘Yeah, baby’

LA TIMES — Donald Gates’ exceptional stroke of luck four years ago quickly soured when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer just days after winning more than a half-million dollars in the lottery. Doctors gave him four to six months to live. So he went on a spending spree. He bought himself a tricked-out Cadillac and cars for his ex-wife, sister, children and grandkids. “I spent $150,000 in two days,” he said. “By the time I’m ready to die, I’m broke.”

For past Newswatch articles, please click here

%d bloggers like this: