Newswatch

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

 

THURSDAY

VA Secretary to Senate: New health care access standards won’t mean outsourcing

MILITARY.COM — Facing concerns over the implementation of the new Mission Act, which consolidates the Department of Veterans Affairs’ seven private health care programs into a Community Care Network, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie on Tuesday sought to reassure senators that the department is not looking to outsource most of its medical care. Testifying before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Tuesday, Wilkie said the department’s proposed access standards for private care — which will greatly increase the number of veterans eligible for outside medical services — do not mean more veterans will seek that care.

Dr. Richard StoneNo delay for new veterans community care rules, despite concerns from advocates

MILITARY TIMES — Veterans “choice” is happening in 10 weeks, unless critics can find a way to stop it. Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie this week expressed his confidence that new community care standards expanding veterans access to private-sector physicians will be in place on schedule this June, regardless of ongoing concerns over the changes. “The statute is very clear, the timelines are very clear,” he told reporters after a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on Tuesday. “The regulations are in place. I can’t see them changing unless Congress steps in between now and June 6.”

Peninsula couple helps veterans recover through fishing, hunting trips

KPIX CBS 5 — A Peninsula couple is helping disabled military veterans get back to living their lives by organizing hunting and fishing trips and hosting the vets for free. At Collins Lake near Marysville, almost 20 veterans boarded fishing boats recently, thanks to the Purple Heart Anglers. Randy Houston founded the nonprofit in 2008, with the support of his wife Deborah, to host disabled military veterans on free daytrips.

Homeless veteransLocal nonprofit to host Santa Rosa fundraiser for homeless veterans

THE COMMUNITY VOICE — On Saturday, April 13, eleven ballroom dance teams—local “stars” paired with professional dancers—will compete before a live audience at the 4th Annual Dancing with the Stars and Stripes fundraiser at Sonoma Country Day School’s Jackson Theater in Santa Rosa. Proceeds from the event will benefit Veterans Resource Centers of America (“VRC”), an established nonprofit that serves homeless and at-risk veterans in California, Arizona and Nevada. To purchase tickets, vote for your favorite dance team, or get more information including sponsorship opportunities and raffle prizes, visit the event website at http://www.dancingwiththestarsandstripes.org.

13-year-old on a mission to honor veterans nationwide

KCRA SACRAMENTO — Preston Sharp, 13, is on a mission to honor veterans across the country. The California native started placing flags and flowers on graves when he was 10, after visiting his grandfather’s grave. Since then, he’s honored more than 210,000 veterans across 28 states.

Superintendent and veteransVallejo Purple Heart vet awarded high school diploma at 78

VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD — Manuel “Manny” Concepcion of Vallejo was attending high school in Hayward in 1960, when he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, and then time sort of got away from him and he never received his diploma. Until this week, that is. The 78-year-old Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart medal recipient was among five local vets presented with overdue high school diplomas at an Operation Recognition event at the Solano County Office of Education in Fairfield on Monday. The timing of this event could hardly be better, with National Vietnam War Veterans Day being March 29, Retired U.S. Army Col. and veterans advocate Nestor Aliga said.

Tribute to Vietnam War veterans goes on display in Windsor

PRESS DEMOCRAT — As a traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial took shape Friday on a broad green soccer field in Windsor, J. Stephania Ryan waited patiently to carry the synthetic granite panel bearing her father’s name. Dwight M. Durham, an Army Ranger sergeant with the 75th Infantry Regiment, was killed while leading a team of six men on patrol in Tay Nihn Province on April 10, 1969. He was 19 years old and belonged to a long-range reconnaissance patrol making forays deep into enemy territory.

L.A. sparks launch campaign to aid military women

LA SENTINEL — The Los Angeles Sparks partnered with the L.A.  County Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA), The L.A. County Department of Mental Health, and California Mental Health Services Authority to create the “Spark The True You” campaign, a year-long initiative to help women who serve in the military. To kick off the historic initiative, the organizations hosted a Women Veteran’s Summit on Friday.

WEDNESDAY

PATH Metro VillasSupportive housing development opens in East Hollywood

NBC LA — The first phase of a supportive housing development for individuals who previously experienced homelessness opened Tuesday in East Hollywood. “Homelessness is the humanitarian crisis of our time, and we will only end it by building as much supportive housing as we can, as quickly as we can,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said at the grand opening of PATH Metro Villas. “We will overcome this challenge — project by project, and door by door — and days like this remind us what’s possible when everyone works together.”

Lincoln Theater announces new leadership

NAPA VALLEY REGISTER — Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater has appointed Bob Hurley and Michael Madden as co-chairs of the theater’s board of directors. “Bob and Michael have worked with the theater for many years in a variety of capacities, so we are excited that they have stepped into this role,” said Patricia Moskowite, general manager of Lincoln Theater. “Both Bob and Michael bring a wealth of professional skills, passion, and commitment to our mission of fostering the cultural and artistic well-being of the Napa Valley community. We look forward to great things from our board of directors under their leadership.”

Housing for familiesHomes 4 Families welcomes Antelope Valley leaders to their “neighborhood”

CISION PRWEB — Homes 4 Families, a nonprofit that empowers low-income veterans and their families to enter the middle class by providing them with affordable housing and holistic services that build resiliency, self-sufficiency and economic growth, held Welcome to the “Neighborhood” today in the Antelope Valley. This event introduced community leaders of the Antelope Valley to Homes 4 Families’ newest project, a 56-home Veteran Enriched Neighborhood being built in the City of Palmdale. Attendees enjoyed a lunch while they learned about the project and programs being offered to low-income veterans, in partnership with The California Department of Veterans Affairs and the City of Palmdale.

California Treasurer Announces Sale of $843 Million in Taxable General Obligation Bonds to Fund Certain Voter-Approved Projects – Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century of 2008 – $600 Million

SIERRA SUN TIMES — California State Treasurer Fiona Ma announced the results of Tuesday’s competitively bid sale of approximately $843 million of State of California Federally Taxable Various Purpose General Obligation (GO) Bonds. “Today’s bonds will provide funding for sixteen different bond acts approved from 2002-2018,” said State Treasurer Fiona Ma. “As State Treasurer, I am responsible under state law for the sale of bonds in accordance with bond acts approved by the voters of the State of California.”

Atkins graveA family of both blood and Army sees their fallen receive the nation’s highest honor

ARMY TIMES — A 22-year-old man who has heard for more than a decade of his soldier father’s bravery, leadership, sacrifice and love for his family and fellow soldiers will receive the nation’s highest honor for battlefield valor Wednesday. The posthumous Medal of Honor presentation to Trevor Oliver, son of the late Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, marks what his family and brothers in arms see as fitting for a man they saw show his character long before he sacrificed his life to save his soldiers on June 1, 2007.

Homelessness, private healthcare and more: VA Secretary Robert Wilkie on the issues that impact veterans in SoCal

KPCC — The VA has some new projects coming down the pipeline in the next few months, including the Mission Act, which will change how veterans will access private healthcare. Some critics have expressed concerns that the Act is a form of privatization which will sap resources from the VA — but current Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie doesn’t see it that way.

Bob Dole promotedPromoted at 95: Congress makes Bob Dole an Army colonel

STARS AND STRIPES — Former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas has been promoted from captain to colonel for his service in the Army during World War II. The Wichita Eagle reports both chambers of the U.S. Congress have unanimously passed a bill promoting the 95-year-old Dole. He earned two Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars for valor for his service in the war. Dole was an infantry lieutenant in 1945 when he was wounded by German machine gun fire, which left him with limited use of his right arm.

Valley man helps California veterans with disabilities receive special proclamation

ABC 30 — Ed Crane’s main gig is helping connect people with disabilities to dogs with special abilities. Crane lives with epilepsy and a pair of his own dogs. He started My Assistance Dog to help people like himself find the assistance they need, and through it, he’s met quite a few veterans. And recently, some of them asked for a different kind of help.  “They said, ‘Hey Ed, you live in California. We’re wondering if you would take the time and reach out in California and get a proclamation recognizing this day and honoring our veterans?'” Crane said.  “We want to educate people about the sacrifices made by many of our veterans who around the world who in action lost, suffered terrible injuries that resulted in loss of vision,” he said.

Robert Wilkie smilingVA secretary denies reports he’s looking for another job

STARS AND STRIPES — Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie pushed back Tuesday against reports that he launched an internal campaign to become the next secretary of defense. “I’m very happy at VA,” Wilkie said. “I’m not planning on leaving anytime soon.” His comments were directed to reporters following his testimony Tuesday morning to the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

TUESDAY

Tianna TienMilitary service helps Barstow Marine ‘pay back’ America for saving her family

VICTORVILLE DAILY PRESS — Master Sergeant Tianna Tien gave the keynote address at an event in support of International Women’s Day held at the Veterans Home of California Barstow on March 8. Tien, S6 Communications chief, Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, began her address by explaining to the women and men veterans and their spouses that there are currently more than 200,000 women serving in the active-duty military. That is from the humble beginnings of less than 22, 000 women who served in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War I after first being allowed to enlist in 1914.

VA secretary recommends DOJ not challenge ruling on ‘blue water’ benefits

STARS AND STRIPES — Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie recommended the Justice Department not contest a federal court ruling that could extend benefits to Vietnam veterans who served on ships offshore during the war, he announced Tuesday. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled 9-2 in January that “blue water” Navy veterans are eligible for benefits related to the chemical herbicide Agent Orange. The decision could pave the way for disability compensation for tens of thousands of veterans who served aboard aircraft carriers, destroyers and other ships but had been deemed ineligible for the same disability benefits as those who served on the ground and inland waterways.

Ships - Vietnam eraVA recommends dropping legal challenge over ‘blue water’ Navy veterans benefits

MILITARY TIMES — Veterans Affairs leaders will not recommend appealing a federal court ruling to award disability benefits to thousands of Vietnam veterans who claim exposure to cancer-causing chemical defoliants during ship deployments off that country’s coastline, officials confirmed Tuesday. During an appearance before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said he will not ask the Department of Justice to continue to fight the legal issue. Federal officials have until late April to appeal the decision, issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in January.

VA to offer new ketamine-based nasal spray for depression

MILITARY.COM — The newest FDA-approved medication to treat severe depression, a nasal spray based on the anesthetic (and misused hallucinogenic party drug) ketamine, will soon be available to veterans treated within the Department of Veterans Affairs. In a move that may help thousands of former service members with depression that has not improved with other treatments, VA officials announced March 19 that the department’s doctors are now authorized to prescribe Spravato, the brand name for esketamine, a molecular variation of ketamine. The treatment will be available to veterans based on a physician’s assessment and will be administered only to patients who have tried at least two antidepressant medications and continue to have symptoms of major depressive disorder. Read more about the new offering on Military.com.

multicultural prisoners standing near prison bars in prison cellThis state is helping vets in prison get their VA disability benefits

REBOOT CAMP | MILITARY TIMES — It can be difficult for veterans who end up in prison to receive the care and benefits that their counterparts on the outside get. That’s less of an issue now for veteran prisoners in Michigan, who can take advantage of the state’s Incarcerated Veterans Program to ensure they get the information and benefits they need. “We’re just trying to show these men that no matter what they did, their service to their country has been appreciated,” said Tom Winn, warden of the Saginaw Correctional Facility in Saginaw County, Mich.

Tuition AssistanceFederal watchdog: VA leadership failures are to blame for GI Bill payment issues

STARS AND STRIPES — A lack of accountable leadership was to blame for errors that led to thousands of veterans who receive GI Bill benefits getting late or incorrect payments last year, a federal watchdog agency said. The Department of Veterans Affairs didn’t have a designated official overseeing the project to implement portions of the new Forever GI Bill, VA Inspector General Michael Missal wrote in a report released Wednesday. The leadership gaps resulted in “unclear communication,” as well as “inadequately defined expectations, roles and responsibilities,” the report reads.

Idaho continues the push to create a national highway to honor heroes

NAVY TIMES — Gov. Brad Little has signed legislation to designate a roadway crossing the southern part of the state as the Idaho Medal of Honor Highway. Little signed the bill earlier this month but held a special ceremony Monday — National Medal of Honor Day — to mark the event involving U.S. Highway 20. Idaho’s portion of the highway is part of a larger plan to have the entire highway that begins in Newport, Oregon, and ends in Boston, Massachusetts, receive the designation.

Syndication: IndianapolisBill proposed to extend newborn healthcare for veterans’ children

CONNECTING VETS — Women eligible for maternity care through the Department of Veterans Affairs can expect newborn healthcare for the first week after birth, but a new bipartisan push would extend care for another week.  Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) introduced the Newborn Care Improvement Act last week to help support veterans as they begin to start families.  “Our brave service members and their families sacrifice so much for our country when they enlist, and it’s our duty to support them when they return home,” said Klobuchar, who is also seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

Heart disease a growing threat to U.S. veterans

US NEWS & WORLD REPORT — More U.S. veterans are at increased risk for heart disease, a looming public health problem, researchers say. They analyzed data from more than 153,000 people who took part in the National Health Interview Survey, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Vets between the ages of 35 and 70 reported significantly more heart conditions than non-veterans, the data showed. After age 70, non-veterans reported more, but the study’s author suspects that might be because fewer vets survived into old age due to heart disease.

Robert Wilkie - fingerManagement, not money, will make or break VA modernization, lawmakers say

NEXT GOV — The Veterans Affairs Department is still on track to debut its new and improved electronic health record system early next year, but the timelines for other modernization efforts are more uncertain, officials told Congress. As the agency moves forward with multiple IT overhauls, lawmakers warned officials not to repeat the mismanagement that’s historically derailed their tech initiatives.

MONDAY

Mare IslandCalifornia military cemetery fixes move forward

STARS AND STRIPES — The Mare Island Cemetery problem is being attacked from two sides; with those working to save the deteriorating military graveyard hoping that between both efforts, it can be brought up to snuff and maintained that way into the future. The more immediate attack is an IRT – Innovative Readiness Training Program project — to correct some of the site’s issues. This was applied for and approved, and “a few weekend ago, (Rep. Mike) Thompson, IRT reps from the Pentagon and several military historians met to discuss the progress of moving forward,” said retired U.S. Army Colonel Nestor Aliga, who has been working to save the cemetery nearly from the start of the two-year-old effort.

Veterans surprise D.C. elementary school with makeover

WASHINGTON POST — When the children at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary in Southeast Washington left school on Friday, they had no idea what would happen there before their return on Monday. But on Saturday, 150 volunteers stormed into the empty building with the efficiency of a military platoon and got to work. They painted the drab brown linoleum-tiled stairwells red, blue and yellow. Drew clouds on the ceiling tiles of the library. Created murals. Planted flowers in front of the school. Left inspirational messages in the bathroom stalls. Built Ikea furniture to revamp the teacher’s lounge. The list goes on.

women's-military-history-week-story-v297-year-old veteran celebrates Women’s Military History Week

KRCR NEWS — It’s Women’s Military History Week in the United States, a time set aside every year to celebrate the women who help protect and serve our nation. Here in the Northstate, there is no shortage of military women to celebrate, including 97-year-old Redding resident Dorothy Picotte. We spoke with Picotte about what it was like to be a woman in the military in the 1940’s. “I didn’t think it was any different than a man. I worked side by side with them all the time,” Picotte said.

In California’s central valley combat veterans pair with horses to achieve inspiring results

GOLD RUSH CAM — As Norbie Lara turned down Happy Trails Riding Academy’s fence-lined driveway one spring day about two years ago, the first thing he noticed was a speed limit sign: “5 miles HappyMain600per hour.” “I live a pretty fast-paced life,” Lara said. “When I got down to that speed limit, it gave me an idea of what life could be like—a lot slower. I looked to my left and right, and there were a bunch of horses in the pastures.”

San Diego veterans mentoring Gold Star childerSan Diego veterans mentoring Gold Star children

760 KFMB — Active Valor, the combat veteran non-profit organization in San Diego, will host its fifth Valor Adventures of the year in Bonsall on Sunday at Rawhide Ranch.  The organization is dedicated to veterans and pairs them as mentors to children of fallen heroes, referred to as Gold Star Children. Cash Kasinger is six-years-old and lives in Oakdale in Northern California. His mentor is U.S. Marine veteran Sam Neuhauser.

Valley man helps California veterans with disabilities receive special proclamation

ABC NEWS 30 — Ed Crane’s main gig is helping connect people with disabilities to dogs with special abilities. Crane lives with epilepsy and a pair of his own dogs. He started My Assistance Dog to help people like himself find the assistance they need, and through it, he’s met quite a few veterans.  And recently, some of them asked for a different kind of help. “They said, ‘Hey Ed, you live in California. We’re wondering if you would take the time and reach out in California and get a proclamation recognizing this day and honoring our veterans?'” Crane said.

Chico VA ClinicHits and misses: Highlights, lowlights from the week’s news

CHICO ENTERPRISE RECORD — It would be difficult to count the number of veterans and families waiting for the expanded VA clinic to open in Chico. That should happen in July. On the outside, the project seems to have taken a long time, but when consideration is given to the kind of processes slated there, the technology needs, and the advance planning and strategies woven into the design, the investment in time is understandable. On the other hand, we know there are hundreds of veterans who have to turn to telemedicine for an out-of-town expert, have to hit the road for treatments, or have to pay more for private services. So there is anticipation.

Rep. Sherrill leads bipartisan letter to VA Secretary: Take better care of women veterans

SHERRILL HOUSE — Today Representative Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) led a bipartisan group of thirteen Members in writing to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie to “implement specific measures to track and prioritize both the cultural and physical transformation within Department of Veterans’ Affairs medical facilities to equitably serve women veterans.” As recently reported by the New York Times, women veterans face sexual harassment at VA facilities, and the care needs of women veterans are not adequately reflected in services readily available.

FRIDAY

Medical Care at VAThis proposed VA health care change could save you time — and save VA billions

MILITARY TIMES — Administration officials this year are re-upping a series of reforms to the veterans disability system they estimate would cut down on tens of thousands of unneeded medical exams and save billions of dollars. The moves, part of President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget unveiled earlier this month, call for revising rules regarding medical exams for veterans applying for benefits. The idea was discussed — though ultimately ignored — by Congress last year.

House bill could offer hope to veterans exposed to Agent Orange

KCEN TV — After five years of waiting on appeals with the Veterans Affairs office and seven cancer diagnoses, a new House bill may offer Copperas Cove resident and Vietnam veteran Richard Brown some hope. There is new hope for Brown and others stationed in Thailand during the Vietnam War with the introduction of HR Bill 299 by Representative Mark Takano, a Democrat from California.

Extreme sportsCan extreme sports and adrenaline help veterans with PTSD?

REBOOT CAMP | MILITARY TIMES — Brandon Webb was in a bad place in 2010. A severe case of back pain sent the former Navy SEAL to a VA hospital. After an MRI, he was told he should consider surgery and was prescribed what he felt were an excessive number of opioids. “They literally gave me a Costco-sized bottle of this s***,” Webb said. “I was like, ‘This is crazy.’ And that’s when I just flushed it down the toilet and was like, ‘There’s got to be a better way.’”

San Bernardino County veterans received most in federal benefits in state

SAN BERNARDINO SUN — Veterans in San Bernardino County were awarded more than $50 million in federal benefits last year — more than veterans living in other counties, according to a report from the California Association of County Veterans Services Officers. The staff of 25 working at the three San Bernardino County Veterans Affairs‘ offices see about 30,000 veterans and their families a year, assisting them with the paperwork they need in order to secure their benefits, from disability compensation claims to college tuition/fee waivers for the children of veterans.

Gary Sinese photoThe man behind ‘Lt. Dan’ is all patriotism, No politics

MILITARY.COM — Gary Sinise just published a new memoir called “Grateful American” and it’s every bit as modest as anyone who has followed his years of support for the veteran community would expect. Except Gary’s greatest talent shines through the humility with which he tells his story. To be sure, he’s an extraordinarily gifted actor who has had a storied career both in serious theater and popular movies and television. But his most profound gift is his empathy for men and women who serve their country.

Veterans demand congress end the forever wars

TRUTHOUT — As politicians and pundits opined on the 16-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq this week, organizer and veteran Perry O’Brien observed that people who were born after the 9/11 attacks and the beginning of the global war on terror are now old enough to join the military and deploy to Afghanistan, where fragile peace talks between with the Taliban continue. Blood is still spilling in Kandahar, the province in Afghanistan where O’Brien served as a medic during the early years of the Afghan war.

Phoenix Vets FacilityPhoenix facility boasts 91% success rate in helping veterans get back on their feet

FOX 10 PHOENIX — A transitional housing facility in Phoenix has now opened up its second location, after seeing so much success in getting homeless veterans back on their feet, working again and becoming independent. The James Walton House boasts a 91% success rate in getting veterans jobs and permanently off the streets. Its executive director says there are a lot of unique things about the place that makes it effective in getting veterans the help they need to turn their lives around, and it’s not just one thing.

Sonoma County health program for the homeless under state scrutiny for low enrollment

SANTA ROSA PRESS DEMOCRAT — A Sonoma County program aimed at providing wraparound health services to chronically homeless people is under scrutiny by the state after failing to meet enrollment requirements. The county’s behavioral health division was among 25 agencies selected two years ago to take part in the Whole Person Care pilot program, a federally funded initiative focused on helping the most vulnerable. As part of the program, the county was awarded $16 million over five years.

Local nonprofit to host fundraiser for homeless veterans

SONOMA WINDSOR TIMES — On Saturday, April 13, 2019, eleven ballroom dance teams—local “stars” paired with professional dancers—will compete before a live audience at the 4th annual Dancing with the Stars and Stripes fundraiser at Sonoma Country Day School’s Jackson Theater in Santa Rosa. Proceeds from the event will benefit Veterans Resource Centers of America (“VRC”), an established nonprofit that serves homeless and at-risk veterans in California, Arizona, and Nevada. To purchase tickets, vote for your favorite dance team, or get more information including sponsorship opportunities and raffle prizes, visit the event website at http://www.dancingwiththestarsandstripes.org.

THURSDAY

Veterans Crisis Response TeamVeterans helping veterans through crisis in California

WASHINGTON POST — The former Army soldier was slumped in the back seat of a sheriff’s department squad car when Shannon Teague and Tyrone “T-bone” Anderson arrived on the scene. A couple of hours earlier, high on meth, he’d been yelling “you will die” from the front porch of a transition house for homeless veterans. Teague made the introductions. Neither she nor Anderson wore a uniform, except for the patch on their jackets and the ID tags clipped to their shirts. “I’m a social worker, and this is my partner, T-bone,” she told the man. “We are from the VA. You’re not in trouble.”

Veterans hear about new Chico clinic, coming changes

CHICO ENTERPRISE RECORD — More details about the coming outpatient clinic in Chico, along with a chance to hear complaints from area veterans brought three officials from VA Northern California Health Care System in Sacramento to Chico Wednesday night. Services from urgent care to better phone trees were brought up by about a dozen speakers, who had both complaints and praise for veteran care they’d received. “It’s valuable to me to hear your comments, good or bad,” VA NorCal Director David Stockwell told the 50-ish who gathered at the Eagles Hall.

Home for sale - VetThe share of troops and vets buying homes with VA loans has more than doubled

REBOOT CAMP | MILITARY TIMES — Military members seem to be warming up to VA loans when buying their first homes, a new report shows. The share of service members using VA mortgage loans instead of conventional ones to purchase their first homes more than doubled from before the housing crisis hit to after the dust settled, according to a report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Only 30 percent of first-time military home-buyers used VA loans around 2006, with the majority instead relying on conventional real-estate options or other government-funded loans, the report indicated.

VA to offer new ketamine-based nasal spray to help combat depression

MILITARY.COM | TASK & PURPOSE — Editor’s Note: This article by Patricia Kime originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community. The newest FDA-approved medication to treat severe depression, a nasal spray based on the anesthetic (and misused hallucinogenic party drug) ketamine, will soon be available to veterans treated within the Department of Veterans Affairs. In a move that may help thousands of former service members with depression that has not improved with other treatments, VA officials announced Tuesday that the department’s doctors are now authorized to prescribe Spravato, the brand name for esketamine, a molecular variation of ketamine.

Rudy SalasAssemblymember Salas named Legislator of the Year by the American Legion

HANFORD SENTINEL — Today, Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) received the American Legion’s Leo P. Burke Legislator of the Year award for the 2018 legislative session. Salas was recognized for his leadership, support, and dedication to the veterans and service members of California. The Legislator of the Year is an annual award given by the American Legion to legislators who have gone the extra mile to support California’s veterans, military members, and their families. “It is an incredible honor and I am deeply humbled to receive the Leo P. Burke Legislator of the Year award from the American Legion” said Assemblymember Salas. “California is home to nearly 2 million veterans, it is our duty to serve and fight for the rights of veterans. I’ve been a proud partner fighting for veteran’s rights against discrimination, increased access to services and honoring our servicemembers past and present…

Hill works on behalf of veterans, military families

SCVNEWS.COM — U.S. Rep Katie Hill (D-Agua Dulce) continues her work on behalf of local veterans and military families through legislation and local events, while the White House threatens military funding cuts in California. Last week, Hill announced she was an original cosponsor of the Ensuring Safe Housing for Our Military Act. This bipartisan legislation increases accountability and oversight over private contractor-provided housing for military families, to address serious health, safety, and environmental problems.

WEDNESDAY

Veteran saluteShould veterans have to pay for VA’s benefits errors?

MILITARY TIMES — A group of Senate lawmakers is again arguing that if veterans are overpaid on benefits because of accounting errors, they shouldn’t be punished for the federal government’s mistakes. Legislation introduced Wednesday would require changes to how the Department of Veterans Affairs handles benefit corrections, including limiting the amount they can withhold from veterans’ future payouts to cover the debt.

Trump’s transgender ban in doubt after court rules Pentagon announcement came too soon

TASK & PURPOSE — It is unclear whether the Defense Department’s transgender ban will actually take effect on April 12 as planned. A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the Pentagon jumped the gun last week when it announced it will ban people with a medical diagnosis of “gender dysphoria” starting next month. The reason: plaintiffs who have filed a lawsuit challenging the transgender ban have until March 29 to request a rehearing. Until then, an injunction preventing the Pentagon from implementing the transgender ban remains in place, ruled Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Eisenhower and MOH recipientNavy to name destroyer after Medal of Honor recipient who fell on grenade to shield wounded Marine

TASK & PURPOSE — A Medal of Honor recipient from Michigan will have a guided-missile destroyer named after him, the United States Navy announced on Monday. The future Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, DDG 130, will be named in honor of Hospital Corpsman Master Chief William Charette, a native of Ludington, who fell on a grenade to shield a wounded Marine during a battle in North Korea on March 27, 1953.

Orgs band together to create veteran advocacy group

THE DAILY INDEPENDENT — Members of the newly formed California Defense Communities Alliance (CDCA) held a charter signing ceremony in the Governor’s Conference Room in Sacramento Tuesday during their inaugural meeting. More than a dozen nonprofit organizations formed the CDCA with the shared mission of supporting Department of Defense presence in communities throughout California while advocating on behalf of active duty and veterans in their communities. Organizations work together under the CDCA umbrella to advance collaboration and communication among the military, elected officials, and other community leaders to enhance an understanding of the many contributions Defense organizations make to California.

IRAQOn this anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, make a decision about the AUMF

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER — Today is the anniversary of the March 20, 2003 invasion of Iraq. That day added to what is now nearly 18 years of ongoing war. We deployed over 175,000 troops on that day, and doubled the number of wars we were engaged in.  We also set down a path committing the families of millions of servicemembers and veterans to bear the sacrifices required by these wars.

TUESDAY

Computer serviceCongressmen urge FBI to investigate bots targeting veterans with fake news

STARS AND STRIPES — Four congressmen urged the FBI on Tuesday to investigate “foreign entities” believed to be targeting servicemembers and veterans online with false information. Reps. Gil Cisneros, D-Calif., Don Bacon, R-Neb., Ted Lieu, D-Calif., and Greg Steube, R-Fla., wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray, asking for an investigation into “suspicious” social media accounts that could be impersonating veterans service organizations. “Online influence and psychological operations against trusted civilian community leaders like our nation’s veterans are novel threats that demand law enforcement attention,” they wrote.

The VA’s new private care program is going to be yet another tech nightmare, review finds

TASK & PURPOSE — As the Trump administration prepares to launch a controversial program to expand private medical care for veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs is developing a software tool to determine who’s eligible. But the tool is so flawed, according to an independent review obtained by ProPublica, that it threatens to disrupt the health care of about 75,000 veterans every day. “This degradation goes against the spirit of the Mission Act to improve the veterans experience and quality of care,” the review said, referring to the 2018 law that authorized the program to expand private care. The program is supposed to start in less than three months.

VA caregiversVA’s caregiver program losing top official at a critical moment

MILITARY TIMES — The Veterans Affairs Caregiver Support Program is about to lose its top official as concerns mount about delays to a planned expansion of the benefit later this year. Department officials confirmed Tuesday that Meg Kabat, director of the program, will leave that post on April 3 “to pursue private-sector employment opportunities.” The move leaves another key leadership void at the department, although VA staff downplayed those concerns.

VA on path to cure 100,000 veterans of hepatitis C

LAKE COUNTY NEWS — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced it is on track to eliminate the hepatitis C virus, or HCV, in as few as two months, in all veterans willing and able to be treated. As of March 3, nearly 116,000 veterans started all-oral hepatitis C medications in VA, of which 96,654 veterans completed treatment and have been cured. “As the largest single provider of HCV care in the U.S., this is terrific news because it means we are within striking range of eliminating hepatitis C among veterans under the care of the veterans Health Administration,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Diagnosing, treating and curing hepatitis C virus infection among veterans has been a significant priority for VA.” HCV infection can lead to advanced liver disease, or ALD, liver cancer and death.

Amanda Burrill‘Facing Stigma’ with Amanda Burrill

MEDIUM — “My mom escaped Saigon three days before the city fell and immigrated to the U.S. She was a refugee in Guam before making her way to California, then eventually Maine where I was born and raised. I was well aware my dad had served and that my mom was granted asylum and always felt patriotic and in some ways indebted to serve myself. I took an ROTC scholarship to Boston University, selected a duty station and after graduation, was commissioned.”

Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency wins national award for Incarcerated Veterans Program

THE OAKLAND PRESS — For the third time in its six-year history, the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency won a national award for connecting veterans with benefits they earned during military service, this time for its Incarcerated Veterans Program. The 2019 Abraham Lincoln Pillars of Excellence Award, from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, recognized Michigan’s first-in-the-nation initiative that ensures incarcerated veterans receive the same measure of advocacy as other veterans.

MONDAY

Veterans and softwareVA’s private care program headed for tech trouble, review finds

PROPUBLICA — As the Trump administration prepares to launch a controversial program to expand private medical care for veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs is developing a software tool to determine who’s eligible. But the tool is so flawed, according to an independent review obtained by ProPublica, that it threatens to disrupt the health care of about 75,000 veterans every day.

2019 Suicide Prevention ConferenceVA and DoD announce call for abstracts for joint suicide prevention conference

VA BLOG — The health and well-being of our nation’s service members and Veterans is a top priority for VA and the U.S. Department of Defense which is why we have partnered to host and organize the nation’s only conference dedicated to addressing suicide within the service member and Veteran community. The 2019 VA/DoD Suicide Prevention Conference will take place Aug. 26–29 at a location to be determined. Guided by the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide and Department of Defense Strategy for Suicide Prevention, VA and DoD care teams, leaders, allies and subject matter experts from across the country will convene to share comprehensive and public health-based strategies to prevent suicide nationwide.

Embattled Trump appointee resigns from Department of Veterans Affairs

CNN — The top communications official at the Department of Veterans Affairs, John Ullyot, announced his resignation Thursday, according to an internal email obtained by CNN and a statement from Secretary Robert Wilkie. Ullyot will officially leave his post as the assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs in early April and will be “announcing an exciting new position shortly,” according to the email.

LA Softball fieldThis nonprofit helps vets — by organizing projects for those vets to help others

REBOOT CAMP | MILITARY TIMES — The journey to a city’s revitalization can start by building a single bench. That’s the ethos of The Mission Continues, a nonprofit dedicated to giving veterans an opportunity to help under-served communities nationwide. “What we hear from veterans is that this felt like all the best parts of a military deployment,” said Mary Beth Bruggeman, The Mission Continues’ vice president of program strategy. “We capture that intense sense of focus and common mission. We put them side by side with new comrades who have a shared sense of community impact.”

VA releases health care inspection reports and staffing data for its 134 community living centers

VA BLOG — Today, VA began publicly posting, for the first time, health care inspection reports and staffing data for its nursing home system, which is composed of 134 community living centers (CLCs). The health care inspection reports, which cover April 2018 to present, are available here: https://www.va.gov/QUALITYOFCARE/apps/aspire/clcsurvey.aspx. In the future, VA will post the reports annually. The health care inspection reports show that, in comparison with non-VA facilities rated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), VA has a lower number of low-performing facilities (VA: 17.2 percent, non-VA: 19.7 percent) and a higher number of higher-performing facilities (VA: 17.2 percent, non-VA: 10.8 percent).

Nestor Aliga: Mitigating suicides

VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD — An open letter to President Donald Trump: Please issue an Executive Order “To mitigate Servicemember (SM) and Veteran (Vet) suicides by fully utilizing safety net services from the Departments of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Veterans Affairs (VA), and other federal agencies.” Like you, I am sickened by the 20.6 per day deaths by suicide among our service members and veterans. Worse, only six — or 29 percent — had recently used VA resources. Here’s two game-changing suggestions.

Sonoma County veterans helpSonoma County veterans deliver $5,000 check for Camp Fire survivors

CHICO ENTERPRISE-RECORD — Veterans from Sonoma County delivered a $5,000 check and a truckload of donations on Monday afternoon to benefit veterans affected by the Camp Fire. They knew what was needed because they have been through it, too, with the Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa in October 2017. Joe Cholewa, a Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 223 in Santa Rosa board member, said that literally tons of donations poured in immediately after the Tubbs Fire — so much that some of it was stored and then given to Camp Fire victims. Cholewa was one of the visiting veterans who brought the check and truck full of everything from clothes and food to blankets and heaters.

Celebrities help build homes for veterans in SCV with Homes 4 Families

SCV NEWS — Homes 4 Families hosted its third Celebs4Vets Build at the Veteran Enriched Neighborhood off Soledad Canyon Road in Santa Clarita on Saturday. The Los Angeles-based nonprofit empowers low-income veterans and their families to enter the middle class by providing them with affordable housing and holistic services that build resiliency, self-sufficiency and economic growth.

FRIDAY

Army tattooTurn scars into tattoos that tell a story

MILITARY TIMES — I used to try hard to forget what it felt like to fear dying. The sounds of helicopters hovering above and “incoming fire” alarms wailing as our unit took cover. While routine, these sounds were never easy to get accustomed to no matter how many times we’d reacted to them. That was life on combat deployment though. Nowhere to hide from danger. Like trying to run from an earthquake or take cover in the path of a category F5 tornado.

Arlene Marguerite Haupt

NAPA VALLEY REGISTER — Arlene Marguerite Wieken Haupt was born March 4, 1934 to Roy and Marguerite (Nebbitt) Wieken in St. Paul, Minnesota. She was the 5th child born into the family but only the second to survive. She was welcomed by her 9 year old sister, Muriel Josephine, and was followed 2 years later by her brother Warren Edmund. After college (U of M) in 1956, she ventured west to California & roomed with two college friends who were living in La Jolla (San Diego) California.

MOH recipientThis soldier’s son will receive his Medal of Honor this month

ARMY TIMES — President Trump is upgrading a fallen soldier’s Distinguished Service Cross to the military’s highest valor award at a White House ceremony on March 27, according to a Tuesday release. Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins’ son Trevor will accept the award on his father’s behalf, the release said. “Staff Sergeant Atkins’ heroic actions, at the cost of his life, saved the lives of three of his teammates,” according to the release, when he tried to thwart a suicide bomb while deployed to Iraq in 2007.

About 21,000 troops booted so far under ‘deploy or get out’ policy

MILITARY TIMES — About 21,000 nondeployable troops have been forced out of the ranks since the Defense Department’s “deploy or get out” policy began last summer, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan announced on Thursday. “A key element of strengthening our military and increasing lethality is ensuring our warfighters achieve established physical, mental and security vetting standards,” he told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing on the fiscal 2020 budget request. “War is unforgiving, and our mission demands we remain a standards-based organization.”

HealthPentagon pushes for weaker standards on chemicals contaminating drinking water

THE NEW YORK TIMES — Facing billions of dollars in cleanup costs, the Pentagon is pushing the Trump administration to adopt a weaker standard for groundwater pollution caused by chemicals that have commonly been used at military bases and that contaminate drinking water consumed by millions of Americans. The Pentagon’s position pits it against the Environmental Protection Agency, which is seeking White House signoff for standards that would most likely require expensive cleanup programs at scores of military bases, as well as at NASA launch sites, airports and some manufacturing facilities.

This VA report touts ‘positive outcomes’ from its suicide prevention programs — but veteran suicide rates haven’t slowed

MILITARY TIMES — A Department of Veterans Affairs analysis of its suicide prevention programs touted mostly “positive outcomes” of the efforts even though they didn’t translate into fewer veterans dying by their own hand. Now, as the White House launches a new year-long effort to find solutions to the problem, outside advocates want to make sure that bureaucrats aren’t going to repeat the same mistakes in how they look for those answers.

John Hannon Veterans mental health improvementNew legislation seeks to provide staff, funding, research to help prevent veteran suicides

STARS AND STRIPES — Legislation introduced in the Senate this week aims to tackle the nation’s veteran suicide epidemic by boosting funding, mental health staff, alternative therapies and research at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill, introduced by Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., has 18 parts that range from creating incentives to entice more mental health providers to work at the VA to researching the possibility that living at high altitudes increases suicide risk.

THURSDAY

Women veterans honored at LPC

THE INDEPENDENT — The Las Positas College (LPC) Veterans First Program featured keynote speakers US Marine Corps. Veteran, Rachel Ballew, US Air Force Veteran, Graciela Tiscareño-Sato, and US Navy Veteran, Lindsey Sin, as well as a female student veteran Q & A panel discussion for its seventh annual “Honoring Women Veterans” event. “We are proud to honor the special contributions made by women in the military by presenting this event during Women’s History Month,” said Veterans First Coordinator, Todd Steffan.

Dogs helping vetsLocal program connects veterans, first responders with highly trained service dogs

KSBY — VIDEO | Some Central Coast veterans and first responders with PTSD are receiving support through the New Life K9s service dog organization. The organization shared details about their program during a special presentation at the Santa Maria Public Library on Wednesday. The dogs start their service dog training at the California Men’s Colony. After about two years, they can be paired with a veteran or first responder.

Lawmakers renew push for contractor back pay, an expansion of veterans’ benefits and more

GOVERNMENT EXECUTIVE — A bipartisan group of lawmakers has not given up on providing back pay to federal contractors impacted by the 35-day partial government shutdown earlier this year, and hopes such a measure will be attached to an upcoming spending bill.

Veteran food‘The invisible folks’: Spouses behind vets with PTSD

NBCNEWS.COM — The suicide rates among veterans are astounding: 22 die by suicide daily. And behind the scenes are the spouses and family members who often get little support in their own battle to care for their loved ones. “Family members can too often become the invisible folks, the forgotten ones,” Keith Hotle, chief program officer of Stop Soldier Suicide, told Know Your Value. “The same way that it would be if someone were chronically ill, it becomes the focus of your world. Everything else, including you, takes a back seat.”

DoD and VA to host closed-door conference on burn pits

MILITARY.COM — Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs officials are meeting this week in Arlington, Virginia, for a two-day symposium on burn pits and airborne pollutants but, as with previous Joint VA/DoD Airborne Hazard Symposia, the meeting is closed to the public and press.

cccvcsignNo flags, only fresh flowers for niche vases at veterans cemetery in Seaside

MONTEREY HERALD — The California Central Coast Veterans Cemetery has a strict policy on what can be placed in the tiny vases on the face of columbaria niches and it only includes fresh flowers. That means no artificial flowers, no trinkets and no flags, U.S. or otherwise. At least one person has inquired with the office of Congressman Jimmy Panetta on that regulation, specifically about barring flags. “We are a veteran cemetery, and as such, we follow the federal veteran cemetery guidelines,” said Kristi Whitney, Veterans Cemetery staff services manager.

This local program helps vets prepare their taxes — for free

MILITARY TIMES | REBOOT CAMP — Do you hate doing your taxes and think of them as a confusing slog? Or are you an expert who others turn to for help every tax season? Either way, this southern California-based program is looking for vets like you. The Veteran Peer-to-Peer EITC Campaign, located in the greater Los Angeles area, offers veterans help preparing their tax returns. Who’s helping? Fellow veterans — who also happen to be trained tax preparers.

Homeless veteran in OceansideVentura County’s homeless population increased 28 percent, rising rents and fires linked

VC STAR — The homeless population counted on a day in January shows Ventura County’s total jumped by over 28 percent in 2019, compared to the previous year. That means at least 1,669 people in Ventura County spent the night of Jan. 21 on the streets, under freeway/bridge underpasses, in vehicles, in illegal encampments, in abandoned buildings, in shelters and at other places, compared to 1,299 in 2018.

Temecula event seeks to give Vietnam veterans their overdue ‘hero’s welcome’

THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE — It has been about 50 years since Frank Romano and Rod Fink were on the battlefields during the Vietnam War, but it has taken that long for many of the emotional wounds and scars to be resolved — at least partially. Romano, who served in the Army, and Fink, a Navy corpsman assigned to the Marines, are helping Temecula Valley VFW Post 4089 honor other veterans on the inaugural Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day on Saturday, March 30, at Temecula City Hall.

New Life K9s links veterans, first responders suffering from PTSD with service dogs

SANTA MARIA TIMES — For the past year, retired San Luis Obispo Police Officer Greg Gallo always has Eddie by his side. Since getting the service dog — a 3-year-old yellow Labrador retriever — he has managed to keep symptoms of his post-traumatic stress disorder under control. After retiring from the police force due to a neck injury, the 14-year veteran said he began experiencing flashbacks, nightmares, depression and intense anxiety.

WEDNESDAY

San Joaquin County supervisors take step toward aiding homeless veterans

STOCKTON RECORD NET — Among the hundreds of homeless men, women and children in San Joaquin County is a subset of about 140 individuals, 90 percent of them men, who live either in shelters or on the streets. Tuesday morning, the county took a small first step toward alleviating the problem. After hearing a presentation from Continuum of Care Director Adam Cheshire and other homeless and veteran advocates, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a two-year lease of 4.57 acres of county land adjacent to San Joaquin General Hospital to the county’s Housing Authority… The Housing Authority will be seeking $4 million in state Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention (VHHP) Act funds, and $15.2 million in low-income housing tax credits.

Blue Water Navy Vets appealVeterans groups appeal to Trump over benefits for Blue Water Navy veterans

STARS AND STRIPES — Ten national veterans organizations pleaded with President Donald Trump on Tuesday, asking him to direct the Justice Department not to appeal a recent federal court decision that could extend benefits to thousands of Vietnam War veterans. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled 9-2 in January that “Blue Water” Navy veterans, those who served aboard ships offshore during the war, are eligible for benefits to treat illnesses linked to exposure to the chemical herbicide Agent Orange.

VA’s record-high 2020 spending request illustrates future, broader budget battles

FEDERAL NEWS NETWORK — The coming debates in Congress over the budget at the Department of Veterans Affairs will illustrate just how tough it might be for lawmakers and the White House to strike a spending deal this year. For both Congress and the White House, two sticking points will likely drive future budget debates at the VA and other departments: the administration’s plans to freeze discretionary spending for non-defense agencies at the Budget Control Act caps — and potentially controversial funding priorities. And for VA, these two issues are very much intertwined.

New Pentagon policy will bar most transgender people from serving

TASK & PURPOSE — The U.S. Defense Department signed a memo on Tuesday that would enforce limitations on transgender people serving in the military, a policy that has been the subject of court challenges. The policy will take effect on April 12 and will bar most transgender individuals from serving if they require hormone treatments or transition surgery. The memo, signed by David Norquist, currently the No. 2 official at the Pentagon, will allow service secretaries to issue waivers on a case-by-case basis.

Secretary Wilkie White House Press BriefingVA chief Robert Wilkie has pushed to be the next Pentagon chief

SF GATE — Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie, whose career has long gravitated to military matters, has promoted himself to the White House to be President Trump’s next secretary of defense, according to people familiar with his efforts. His internal campaign comes as Trump has yet to formally nominate a candidate to replace Jim Mattis, the retired Marine general who quit last December over differences with the president. Mattis’s deputy, former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan, has been auditioning for the role as acting secretary since early January.

If your school needs a new veterans center, Uncle Sam might chip in

REBOOT CAMP | MILITARY TIMES — What could you do with $500,000? Some schools across the country may soon be able to put that much cash toward building or improving student veterans centers on their campuses if a new bipartisan bill, introduced in the House of Representatives Monday, becomes law. “The brave men and women who sacrifice so much for our freedom deserve opportunities to succeed when they reenter civilian life,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., said in a statement. “Veteran Student Centers will give student veterans the support they need on their path to a new career.”

Groundbreaking test for PTSD developed

SCIENCE DAILY — A cutting-edge blood test discovered by Indiana University School of Medicine researchers could help more accurately diagnose military veterans and other people experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, and potentially provide more precise treatments and prevention. A study led by psychiatry professor Alexander Niculescu, MD, PhD, and published this week in the high-impact SpringerNature journal Molecular Psychiatry, tracked more than 250 veterans in over 600 visits at the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis to identify molecules in the blood that can help track stress intensity. According to Niculescu’s findings, the blood test can accurately identify people who are at risk of stress disorders or are experiencing them severely.

Cannabis for PTSDMedical marijuana bill widening options for military veterans revived with bipartisan support

WASHINGTON TIMES — Veterans would have greater access to medical marijuana under a bipartisan-supported proposal reintroduced in the House of Representatives recently, and more than a dozen members of Congress have already backed the bill’s latest version. Filed Friday, H.R. 1647, would “authorize Department of Veterans Affairs health care providers to provide recommendations and opinions to veterans regarding participation in State marijuana programs,” according to its language.

New, free transition program helps vets find their mission after service

REBOOT CAMP | MILITARY TIMES — When a friend asked Jeff McDonald to visit a new camp aimed at helping veterans transition to civilian life, the call could not have come at a better time. Though McDonald left the Marine Corps after a dozen years of service, including Desert Storm, in 1995, the Corps stayed with him afterward and again took center stage when his son Chris joined and shipped off to combat in Iraq.

Fresno City Hall MemorialPlans for a veterans memorial at city hall in Fresno

YOUR CENTRAL VALLEY — Veterans from all branches of the military are now being honored for giving the ultimate sacrifice.  District 6 council member, Garry Bredefeld, partnered with fellow council member Esmeralda Soria, and Mayor Lee Brand to come up with a blueprint of what the proposed Veteran’s Memorial will look like.  “There is nothing we don’t enjoy as a freedom that doesn’t come from the sacrifices of every person who has put on that uniform.”

VA Palo Alto to hold Seaside town hall

MONTEREY HERALD — The Veterans Administration Palo Alto Health Care System is presenting its quarterly Veterans Town Hall meeting, presenting an opportunity for veterans in the area to give feedback and ask questions about the VA or the care received at the local clinic. The Monterey Bay Town Hall will be held March 20 from 3 to 4 p.m. at the American Legion Post 591, 1000 Playa Avenue in Seaside. Veterans will be able to learn what is new in the Veterans Administration and ask questions directly to executive leadership. Staff will be on hand to help with specific questions such as billing claims or eligibility for services.

TUESDAY

Corey Foster NYTTreated like a ‘Piece of meat’: Female veterans endure harassment at the V.A.

NEW YORK TIMES — Corey Foster spent her Army career caring for wounded troops, both as a flight medic in the Iraq war and at Walter Reed hospital, so she looked forward to one of the most celebrated benefits of military service — health care for life from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Then she walked through the door at a V.A. medical center in Temple, Tex. “You felt like you were a piece of meat,” said Ms. Foster, 34, who retired as a sergeant. “Standing in line at the registration desk, I was getting comments from the male patients behind me, looking me up and down. It was a major source of discomfort.”

Retiring judge calls VA appeals system a ‘tragedy’

STARS AND STRIPES — The retiring chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims told lawmakers Tuesday that the Department of Veterans Affairs appeals system is “ancient” and “inefficient” and in need of drastic change. While testifying before a House Appropriations subcommittee, Chief Judge Robert Davis said the pressure on VA employees to get through a large backlog of benefits claims leads to poor decision-making and a high number of appeals. Davis, a Navy veteran, has held a seat on the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims for nearly 15 years. The court, often referred to as “Veterans Court,” provides veterans an impartial review of decisions made by the VA Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

Army soldier and flagWith historic number of women in uniform, the vet community is about to change

MILITARY.COM — When former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted the ban on women in combat roles in 2013, he gave the military two years to complete integration. In 2015, two women successfully completed Army Ranger School, leading to a Pentagon decision calling for combat specialties to be opened to women. The following year, one of those women — Army Capt. Kristen Griest — became the first female infantry officer in American history.

VA budget poised to grow for 3rd straight year

MILITARY.COM — The White House’s proposed fiscal 2020 budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs would increase funding for the third straight year — $220 billion in total spending to support consolidation of the VA’s private health programs, modernize its technology infrastructure and expand the national cemetery system. It’s an increase of nearly 11 percent from last year’s $198.6 billion total VA budget proposal. The VA’s proposed $97 billion discretionary budget would be $8 billion more than President Donald Trump sought in the fiscal 2019 budget. According to the White House, the increases would largely go toward implementing key legislative initiatives, including the VA Mission Act — the law that supports consolidating the department’s private medical care programs — and expansion of a VA program that provides compensation and health care to the caregivers of injured veterans.

Dale CookIwo Jima survivor, decorated veteran Dale Cook is remembered

EAST BAY TIMES — Dale Cook lived and breathed the Marine Corps, his home office a virtual museum of military history books, artifacts and awards. As one of a dwindling number of survivors of the Battle of Iwo Jima, the 92-year-old was a frequent speaker at veterans events and gave a talk only days before he passed away at his home on Feb. 28. The Purple Heart recipient and former newspaper reporter, a native of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, was former president of the national 4th Marine Division Association of World War II veterans and a member of many veterans groups in Northern California. He also was president of the Joe Rosenthal chapter of the U.S. Marines Corps Combat Correspondents’ Association, named after the Associated Press and later San Francisco Chronicle photographer who took the iconic flag-raising photo at Iwo Jima, credited with boosting soldiers’ morale.

State to investigate alleged mistreatment at Huntsville VA retirement home

WAFF 48 — Two former employees of the Floyd E. “Tut” Fann State Veterans home said they have seen gross mistreatment of veterans and bed bugs at the facility. They claim to have seen evidence of staff negligence, disinterest in feeding the veterans properly, and an inadequate response to a Scabies outbreak. Both individuals reached out to WAFF 48 News independently. They requested to remain anonymous, citing concerns over future job prospects.

Gary Sinese TIMEFirst, Gary Sinise played a soldier. Now he spends his life giving back to them

TIME — Nearly 25 years ago, Gary Sinise played the role of Lt. Dan Taylor — a platoon leader who loses his legs in the Vietnam War in the movie Forrest Gump. Since then, Sinise has dedicated his life to giving back to people who didn’t just strap on combat boots in movies, but did so in actual war zones. During a recent sit-down interview with TIME, Sinise explained that supporting military members and veterans is not a partisan matter. Instead, it’s an American one.

Six crucial job search tips — from vets, for vets

REBOOT CAMP | MILITARY TIMES — Ever thought your military experience made you the perfect candidate for a job, only to apply and get nothing but radio silence on the other end? Trust me, you’re not the first veteran to go through that, and you won’t be the last. Here are some tips to help you make it through the job-search process without losing your mind, courtesy of five veterans who have been there.

VA struggles to unlock the reasons behind high suicide rates among older veterans

NPR — Much of the focus by the Veterans Health Administration has been on the growing number of younger veterans who commit suicide. However, statistics show that the suicide rate for elderly veterans is higher than that of non-veterans of the same age. Robert Neilson was drafted in 1961. He spent two years in the Army just before the Vietnam War. Three years ago, the 76-year-old came into the VA Hospital in San Diego after contemplating suicide.

EfficiencyVA’s agile shift toward efficiency

GOVERNMENT CIO — The Department of Veterans Affairs has adopted Agile and DevOps practices and introduced an application interface (API) marketplace to create better software products and deliver them faster to improve service to veterans, VA officials said on a panel at the 2019 HIMSS Conference in Orlando, Florida. Steps to Cultivate an Agile Culture: Committed to improving work culture and its products, the VA Office of Information Technology (OIT) has been guiding its activities and actions toward the products and needs of its users: the veterans who must access their health data and information via online platforms like VA.gov.

MONDAY

Wilkie at Minnesota VA Health Care SystemTrump wants a huge increase in VA spending, but some vet groups are still unhappy. Here’s why.

MILITARY TIMES — President Donald Trump is proposing another big increase in Veterans Affairs spending for fiscal 2020 — but also reintroducing a controversial cost-savings measure that veterans groups have long opposed. The increased VA spending — up to $216 billion, an increase of $19 billion or 9.5 percent from fiscal 2019 — comes as a host of non-defense programs face steep cuts in the budget proposal. The Departments of Transportation, Education, Energy and State all face double-digit funding cuts under the president’s plan, which is already facing fierce opposition from Democrats in Congress.

World War II veteran not slowing down on mission to visit all 50 states at age 100

WASHINGTON TIMES — World War II veteran Sidney Walton, 100, has at least one more major mission on his hands: visiting all 50 states. A “No Regrets” tour is underway for the military hero born Feb. 11, 1919, in New York. The reason for Mr. Walton’s trek is simple — he once missed a chance to speak with Civil War veterans before they all passed away and doesn’t want others to make the same mistake with the dwindling population of World War II veterans. Mr. Walton enlisted in the Army in 1941, nine months before Pearl Harbor, and spent time in China, Burma, and India during his service.

08atwar-servicewomen-top-superJumbo40 stories from women about life in the military

NEW YORK TIMES — Across the armed services, women made up 16 percent of the active-duty military as of 2017 — by branch, that number ranged from 8.4 percent within the Marine Corps to nearly 20 percent within the Air Force. Their representation is small and growing only marginally — in 2007, women in uniform made up 14.4 percent of the force — and their stories tend to be ignored in favor of legacies left by men who have shaped the narrative of service to country. Despite being overlooked, servicewomen are forging new career paths for themselves and the next generation as they enter jobs that were once closed to them. Consider pioneers like Capt. Rosemary Mariner, who was one of the first female Navy pilots in the 1970s and the first woman to lead a naval aviation squadron. She died in January from ovarian cancer, and her memory was honored last month with a flyover using all-female pilots. Or First Lt. Marina A.

Pentagon set to block some transgender people from joining the military

TASK & PURPOSE — Editor’s Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com a leading source of news for the military and veteran community. This story has been updated with additional information from a Pentagon spokesman. All transgender people will not be barred from enlisting as first stated on Friday. Those diagnosed with gender dysphoria will be banned. The Pentagon will enforce President Donald Trump’s controversial policy that will bar certain transgender people from joining the military, a Defense Department spokesman said Friday, following a new court decision.

Rebecca LipeMilitary doctors told them it was just “female problems.” Weeks later, they were in the hospital.

BUZZFEED NEWS — They didn’t want to complain — being a woman in the US military, the last thing you want to be seen as is weak — but the sharp abdominal pain was becoming debilitating. Military doctors dismissed it as “female problems,” period cramps. It was “normal,” they were told. It was said or implied that they were overreacting. They were given painkillers and birth control, and told to report back to duty. Those orders landed six of the more than a dozen female service members interviewed by BuzzFeed News in the hospital, fighting for their lives. One was in the ER a few weeks later with a “baseball-sized cyst,” bleeding internally. Another underwent an experimental, highly invasive, and botched surgery by a military doctor. Several had hysterectomies. All now live with infertility; chronic, debilitating pain; and sky-high medical bills. It wasn’t period cramps.

County Lines: Santa Maria library to host service dogs presentation; Poet, writer Echeverria to host workshop in Los Alamos

SANTA MARIA TIMES — The Santa Maria Public Library will host a presentation from the service dog organization, New Life K9s, from 1 to 2 p.m. Wednesday in Shepard Hall. Based in San Luis Obispo, New Life K9s connects veterans or first responders who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with highly educated service dogs. New Life K9s also trains select puppies to become service dogs. Their service dogs are placed with veterans or first responders free of charge.

Chico Clinic constructionSummer opening projected for Chico VA clinic

CHICOER — The Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic under construction off Bruce Road will open this summer, with new services available to veterans and their families. Additionally, a town hall meeting is planned later this month for veterans to hear more about the outpatient clinic. The meeting will be 5-6:30 p.m. March 20 at the Eagles Hall, 1940 Mulberry St. Veterans and their families will have an opportunity to ask questions about the services and other topics at the clinic. Other veteran-related questions will be taken too, according to a press release from the VA Northern California Health Care System.

 

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