Showing posts with label Ret. General Eric Shinseki. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ret. General Eric Shinseki. Show all posts

Friday, May 30, 2014

Shinseki leaving solves nothing

How many times does this have to happen before Congress takes responsibility for what they got paid to do but refused to do? If they actually believe veterans have no clue what has been going on for decades then members of congress deserve what they get when veterans expose the decades of suffering they have had to go through.

How many more crisis reports do we have to get all upset about before veterans, all veterans, matter enough to fix the VA?
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigns
Stars and Stripes
By Jon Harper and Travis J. Tritten
Published: May 30, 2014

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Friday accepted the resignation of Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

The move comes two days after the inspector general found VA officials throughout the system had been aware of records falsified to hide long delays before veterans could receive care.

Earlier Friday, Shinseki said senior leadership at the Phoenix VA will be fired and executive pay bonuses frozen as punishment for systemic scheduling abuses in the nationwide health care system.

The moves were among a series of initiatives, also including the removal of wait times in employee evaluations and support of legislation that removes administrative roadblocks to firing executives, unveiled by Shinseki during a rare public appearance amid increasing calls for his resignation.

Congress has called for firings and bold moves by VA leadership. On Friday, Shinseki offered an apology for what he called a “systemic totally unacceptable lack of integrity” in his department.

“I can’t explain the lack of integrity among some of the leaders of our health care facilities. This is something I rarely encountered in 38 years in uniform,” Shinseki said. “So, I will not defend it because it is indefensible. But I can take responsibility for it, and I do.”
read more here
Shinseki had support of many vet groups until end
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — He's one of them — a disabled veteran who lost part of his right foot to a mine in Vietnam, a soldier who riled his superiors in the Bush years by telling Congress the U.S. needed more troops in Iraq than the administration wanted.

That bond is why veterans groups overwhelmingly endorsed Eric Shinseki as Veterans Affairs secretary in 2009. And it's part of the reason many continued to support him until his resignation Friday in the firestorm surrounding lengthy waits for veterans to get care at VA hospitals and reports that employees had tried to cover them up.

"I extend an apology to the people whom I care most deeply about — that's the veterans of this great country — to their families and loved ones," Shinseki told advocates for homeless veterans Friday before giving President Barack Obama his resignation.

Support for Shinseki among vets groups was not universal. The American Legion led the call for his resignation.

"It is not the solution, yet it is a beginning," National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger said.

By all accounts, the VA is difficult to manage. Consider the numbers: 9 million veterans get health care from the VA and nearly 4 million receive compensation for injuries and illnesses incurred from their service. The department runs 150 hospitals and more than 800 outpatient clinics.

Shinseki, 71, served longer than any other VA secretary since 1989, when the agency became a cabinet-level department. President George W. Bush had three VA secretaries and one acting secretary during two terms. Shinseki's longevity gave him ownership of — and responsibility for — for the VA's myriad problems, many exacerbated by the needs of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
read more here

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Rolling heads at VA not right answer

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
May 6, 2014

The headlines are about rolling heads at the VA again. Seems that while that may be the fasted answer to the ongoing suffering of our veterans, it isn't the right answer. How about instead of rolling heads folks actually start using them? After all, none of this is new.

Two northwest Wis. VA clinics close over funding problems
Two recently opened Minneapolis VA clinics in western Wisconsin were abruptly shut down this week by the company under contract to run them. Kentucky-based Corporate Health and Wellness says it lost hundreds of thousands of dollars opening the clinics. It blames the closings on a lack of additional funding from the VA.

St. Paul, Minn. — The two clinics that sit idle now opened to much fanfare this summer and fall. The VA said, and local veterans agreed, the facilities in Hayward and in Rice Lake would make it much easier for area vets to get basic health care. No longer would they have to travel long distances to VA facilities in places like Duluth-Superior or the Twin Cities.

But without warning, the clinics closed this week.

VA spokesman Ralph Heussner says the locked doors are an unexpected disappointment.

"It's an inconvenience and we apologize for that," says Heussner. "The reason we set the clinics in those communities is to provide service so the veterans would not have to travel long distances."

When did this happen? December 11, 2007.

This also came out in December 2007.
House Committee Slams VA On Veteran Suicides
Many times during the hearing, both legislators and VA officials stated that "the exact numbers should not matter" in a discussion of veteran suicide; that one suicide is one too many. Still, a lot of time was spent arguing over just how prevalent the problem is.

The hearing was prompted in part by a CBS news story in November on suicides in the veteran population that put last year’s number of veteran suicides at over 6,000. VA officials refuted that number, questioning its validity. But a VA Inspector General report released in May of 2007 found that as many as 5,000 veterans commit suicide a year—nearly 1,000 of whom are receiving VA care at the time.

29 Patients at Marion VA died because of substandard and questionable care
The hospital in Marion, Ill., initially drew scrutiny over deaths connected to a single surgeon, but two federal reports found fault with five other doctors.

The hospital undertook many surgeries that its staffing or lack of proper surgical expertise made it ill-equipped to handle, and hospital administrators were too slow to respond once problems surfaced, said Dr. Michael Kussman, U.S. veterans affairs undersecretary for health.

"I can't tell you how angry we all are and how frustrated we all are. Nothing angers me more than when we don't do the right thing," Kussman told reporters during a conference call after releasing findings of the VA's investigation and summarizing a separate inspector general's probe.

The VA will help affected families file administrative claims under the VA's disability compensation program, he said. Families also could sue.

...........The VA investigation found that at least nine deaths between October 2006 and March last year were "directly attributable" to substandard care at the Marion hospital, which serves veterans from southern Illinois, southwestern Indiana and western Kentucky.

Kussman declined to identify those cases by patient or doctor, though Rep. Jerry Costello, an Illinois Democrat, said those nine deaths were linked to two surgeons he did not name.

Of an additional 34 cases the VA investigated, 10 patients who died received questionable care that complicated their health, Kussman said. Investigators could not determine whether the care actually caused the deaths.

That report came out in January of 2008. We could keep going on this since it has happened over and over again. It never seems to change. It also never seems to dawn on any member of congress to fix it all the way. We're seeing more and more problems repeated while members of congress scratch their heads and other parts of their anatomy, service groups come out swinging demanding action and heads to roll, however, what do they do in between the breaking news and the next big crisis?

Veterans are not a political issue but they should be a priority no matter what party is in charge of the mess or blamed because it didn't get fixed fast enough. President Clinton left over 400,000 for President Bush and he left over 800,000 for President Obama. How many will this President leave for the next one in the chair? The answer depends on what congress decides is worthy of the lives risked for the sake of the nation.

Getting rid of Nicholson didn't work. Replacing heads of the VA has done little good but that is what the American Legion is calling for as a solution to the issues you were just reminded of. They want Shinseki to pay for what was created a long time ago.
"It's a story of poor oversight and failed leadership," said American Legion Cmdr. Daniel Dellinger, who also hailed the former Army chief of staff's decorated military record. "This is the most difficult thing I've ever had to do."

Other major veterans groups did not make the same demand for a leadership change, but all expressed growing outrage over allegations that many veterans have been harmed -- and some have died -- because of delays in cancer screening tests and other types of medical care.
As you can see, nothing got fixed before because people forget they need to make sure that veterans are taken care of 365 days a year for the rest of their lives.

Monday, March 25, 2013

VA Backlog of claims is not new

VA Backlog of claims is not new
by Kathie Costos
Wounded Times Blog
March 25, 2013

Am I happy with the backlog of claims? No because I know what it is like when they have to wait for the VA to get to them and have their claims approved. I know because it took the VA six years to approve my husband's claim. Six years? Yes. Six years of waiting, fighting, suffering and doubting they would ever honor his claim. What made it worse was when he came home he had the same attitude his Dad did. The VA is for guys that can't work and had their legs blown off." So for years, he refused to even consider filing a claim. Every time the mail came from the VA with another letter telling us his claim was denied was like a knife in his back. Hope was slipping away with each bill we couldn't pay and one of them was for his treatment at the VA because he had received care for a "non-service connected" illness. The non-service connected illness was PTSD caused by his service to this country in a war zone.

Even with all of this, while most are slamming the VA for the backlog of claims, I will not.

The headlines for the last couple of years have all been about the backlog but there is so much more to this than the press will talk about and that is a great injustice to all of our veterans.

This quote is at the bottom of my emails.
"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, is directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated" -- George Washington
Are they living up to it? No but listen to Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki then read the rest of the story CNN didn't talk about.
March 24th, 2013
Secy. Shinseki to CNN: "No veteran should have to wait for claims as they are today. We have a fix for this, we're open for business, and we will end the backlog in 2015."

Veterans in the last four years, Candy, have joined us in unprecedented numbers. There are 800 more veterans enrolled today than were enrolled four years ago in health care. 940,000 more veterans enrolled for benefits than there were four years ago. So, the fact is that veterans are coming to us, and they are being enrolled. We produce a million claims decisions each year going out the door and have for the last three years. And so, when we talk about an inventory of claims today, of about 875,000 claims, of which about 600,000 are backlogged. Just the amount of work we put out the door indicates that this is not a static number. There are going to be a few who are complex enough to go longer than we’d like, but there is a lot of work being done.
read more here

When my husband's claim was filed, George H.W. Bush was President and Anthony Principi was Secretary of Veterans Affairs. It was 1993. Bill Clinton took over as Commander-in-Chief and Jesse Brown took over as head of Veterans Affairs. He was replaced by Hershel Gober until 1998 and he was replaced by Togo West when the letter finally came saying my husband's claim had been approved for 50% and we would receive a pro-rated check going back to when he filed the claim in 1993. By the time he finally received 100% disability, George W. Bush had replaced Clinton and Anthony Principi was back as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Three Presidents since he filed his claim but Richard Nixon was President when he was sent to Vietnam. Gerald Ford was in the chair as Vietnam veterans came home vilified and ignored, told to get over it as they tried to do that and it was not until Jimmy Ford had come and gone and Ronald Reagan came into office in 1981 that true research had begun on PTSD.
The National Center for PTSD was created in 1989 within the Department of Veterans Affairs in response to a Congressional mandate (PL 98-528) to address the needs of Veterans and other trauma survivors with PTSD. The Center was developed with the ultimate purpose to improve the well-being, status, and understanding of Veterans in American society. The mandate called for a center of excellence that would set the agenda for research and education on PTSD without direct responsibility for patient care. Convinced that no single VA site could adequately serve this unique mission, VA established the Center as a consortium of five divisions. The Center currently consists of seven VA academic centers of excellence across the U.S., with headquarters in White River Junction, VT. Other divisions are located in Boston, MA; West Haven, CT; Palo Alto, CA; and Honolulu, HI.

That is how long the VA has been working on PTSD. But you have to be aware that far too many Vietnam Veterans had their PTSD claims rejected until 2010
Under the new rules a veteran need show only that he or she served in a war and performed a job during which events could have happened that could cause the disorder.

"... for years, many veterans with PTSD who have tried to seek benefits -- veterans of today's wars and earlier wars -- have often found themselves stymied. They've been required to produce evidence proving that a specific event caused their PTSD. And that practice has kept the vast majority of those with PTSD who served in non-combat roles, but who still waged war, from getting the care they need," Obama said.

"Well, I don't think our troops on the battlefield should have to take notes to keep for a claims application. And I've met enough veterans to know that you don't have to engage in a firefight to endure the trauma of war. So we're changing the way things are done."
The price was estimated to be $5 billion.

So the VA had Vietnam veterans, joining Gulf War veterans, joining Afghanistan veterans, joining Iraq veterans standing in line for what their service to this country caused. That is how we ended up in this massive backlog but again, it wasn't the first time claims waiting had reached the close to a million mark.
Veterans Benefits Administration and the Board of Veterans Appeals at VA, was 803,000 on Jan. 5, 2009. The backlog hit 915,000 on May 4, 2009, a staggering 14-percent increase in four months."

Are we living up to what George Washington said? No but as you can see, we haven't done that in a very, very long time. It would serve veterans better if reporters actually addressed what has been going on all these years so that we don't keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Floridian Appointed to VA Committee on Women Veterans

Floridian Appointed to VA Committee on Women Veterans
NOVEMBER 30, 2012

WASHINGTON – Five new members have been appointed to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee on Women Veterans, an expert panel that advises VA on issues and programs affecting women veterans. Larri Gerson, an Air Force veteran who serves as a claims examiner for the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs and webmaster for the National Association of State Women Veterans Coordinators, was among those selected. She is the former state women-veterans coordinator for the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

“VA relies on the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans to provide insight on key issues that impact the women veteran population. The Committee’s recommendations provide guidance that direct VA’s efforts to identify and address the diverse needs of women veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “VA welcomes the newest members.”

Established in 1983, the committee makes recommendations to the Secretary for administrative and legislative changes. In addition to Gerson, the new committee members, who are appointed to two-year terms, are: Gina Chandler, Bryant, Ark.; Mary Morin, Raymond, N.H.; Charlotte S. Smith, Farmington, N.M.; and Mary Westmoreland, Bronxville, N.Y..

“Women serving in the military continue to demonstrate their dedication in defense of our great Nation,” Shinseki added. “VA remains committed to providing women veterans with equitable, quality benefits and services that appropriately meet their needs.”
read more here

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Remarks by Secretary Eric K. Shinseki

It would have been really great if there was coverage of Secretary Shinseki's speech during the DNC convention but I couldn't find anything. What I did find was the speech he gave to the American Legion. I bet it was basically the same. This is pretty interesting since you don't hear much about any of this on the news.
Remarks by Secretary Eric K. Shinseki
The American Legion, 94th Annual Convention
Indianapolis, Indiana
August 28, 2012

Commander Wong, I'm honored to be here. Thank you for that generous introduction. We all owe the American Legion our gratitude for its unwavering devotion to all Veterans, not just its members, through its many civic initiatives and community projects that make things better for Veterans, their families, and our communities. Let me further acknowledge:

General Kelly and General Kicklighter;

Your National Adjutant, Dan Wheeler; Peter Gaytan, Executive Director; Kris Nelson, Auxiliary President; Jim Roberts, Commander, Sons of the American Legion; other members of the Legion's leadership and your families;

Other distinguished guests, especially Neil McKinnon and Gordon Moore, Canada, and General Chin, the Republic of China;

Fellow Veterans; VA colleagues; ladies and gentlemen:
For 93 years now, the American Legion has been the strong and consistent voice, advocating for Veterans healthcare and benefits, especially for Veterans education, which is your legacy for millions of Veteran students as a result of the original GI Bill of Rights. You have been the voice for generations of Americans who have come home from war. Nothing speaks as eloquently of your commitment to them as your Heroes to Hometown initiative, supporting the most severely wounded soldiers, and helping them and their families cope with the aftermath of battle. From Boys State and Boys Nation, to American Legion baseball, to scouting and volunteer projects, your community support initiatives have nurtured our best hopes and ideals as a Nation.

That Nation has been at war for much of the last decade, and the repeated deployments of the men and women in our formations have created issues that don't show up right away. More are surviving catastrophic injuries, but higher survival rates also mean more complex casualties: the compounding effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and multiple amputations—five quadruple amputees from this war—with the added complications of blindness and deafness and genito-urinary injuries. It takes a superb, disciplined fighting force to handle this kind of strain. The men and women who wear our Nation's uniforms today are magnificent, and the Legion's support of them has been equally magnificent.

The President is unable to be here today, but has asked me to report to you on the state of your VA, how things looked three-and-half years ago, what changes have been made to care for this current generation of Veterans and every generation that preceded it, and where VA is headed in the future.

In 2009, of the over 23 million living Veterans in this country, only 7.4 million of them were enrolled in VA healthcare and only three million were receiving compensation and pension benefits. We had an outreach problem; many didn't know about VA. We had an access problem, even if they knew about us, some couldn't get in. And even then, we had been carrying a backlog in compensation claims for decades.

Over the past three-and-a-half years, VA has decided 2.9 million Veterans' claims and will likely break a million claims again this year. That will mean that we will have processed nearly four million claims through the end of this year. So when people talk about the 580,000 compensation claims, which are backlogged today, they aren't talking about claims that were here three-and-a-half years ago—not two years ago—and for the most part, not even a year ago. The backlog is real, but no one is standing at parade rest. This is a dynamic process, and as we pushed 2.9 million claims out the door, 3.5 million claims came in.

Three-and-a-half years ago, we were also still grappling with some unresolved issues from past wars—the Gulf War, over 20 years ago, and the Vietnam War, nearly 50 years ago now. We didn't take care of business when we should have decades ago, and some Veterans were dying without benefits.

Three-and-a-half years ago, an estimated 107,000 Veterans were homeless in this rich and powerful country. The President has said, "[We won't] be satisfied until every Veteran who has fought for America has a home in America." Homelessness has been a Veterans' issue for decades. The economic downturn of 2008 threatened to send it spiraling out of control. In spite of all this, the President was resolute, clear, and unwavering: it is immoral for anyone who has defended this country to be homeless in America.

Well, that was the landscape in 2009. After consulting with key stakeholders, including the American Legion, we settled on three key priorities, which remain unchanged today:

A commitment to increase Veterans access to VA benefits and services;

A commitment to eliminate the backlog in compensation claims—in 2015;

And a commitment to end Veteran homelessness—also in 2015.

Delivering on these priorities required a closer, more collaborative working relationship with DoD. Very little of what we do in VA originates in VA; most of what we work on originates in DoD. So, the seamless transition of Servicemembers departing military service is crucial to increasing access, eliminating the backlog, and ending the shame of Veterans' homelessness. Warm handoffs of transitioning Servicemembers require the synergy of both departments.

Secretaries of Defense Bob Gates and Leon Panetta, and I have personally met nine times in the last 18 months on issues such as these. Secretary Panetta and I will meet a tenth time in mid-September. A month ago, he and I testified, for the first time together, before a joint hearing of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Veterans Affairs Committee. Among our accomplishments, we have committed both of our departments to a single, common, joint, integrated electronic health record (IEHR)—open in architecture, non-proprietary in design. We expect initial operating capability in 2014 and full operating capability in 2017. We intend that this transition from DoD to VA will be seamless and productive for all Veterans.

So DoD/VA collaboration was priority one. Priority two was fixing VA's budget process. Creating change requires stable, predictable budgets; if we want to go faster, those budgets will have to be robust.

In 2009, the VA budget totaled $99.8 billion. Congressionally enhanced, it was a good budget. In 2010, the President increased that budget from $99.8 billion to $127.2 billion—an almost 30 percent increase in a single year. Importantly, the President's 2013 budget request, currently before the Congress, is for $140.3 billion—a 40 percent increase since 2009.

I was once asked, "Mr. Secretary, what do you value?" It was an impromptu question. And before I could respond, I was told: "Don't answer that. Show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value." By that standard, this 40 percent increase in VA's budget tells you what the President values. He understands our obligation to Veterans, and he has provided the robust funding needed to better care for them today and, simultaneously, to transform this department for its 21st century responsibilities.

Now, what have we put into motion at VA in the past three-and-half years? First, to increase access, we have added 57 new community-based outpatient clinics, 20 more mobile health clinics, and a fifth polytrauma center in San Antonio, Texas. We have three new hospitals under construction: Denver, Orlando, and New Orleans. We just opened a spectacular, state-of-the-art VA medical center in Las Vegas three weeks ago—the first new VA hospital in 17 years. As President Obama remarked recently, "We keep our promises."

We have also invested heavily in new telehealth-telemedicine initiatives to overcome the tyranny of distance. Enhanced IT technologies also make it easier for Veterans to make appointments, access medical specialists, retrieve their medical records, and find out about available benefits and services, all without driving.

Besides initiatives like these to increase access, we also made decisions to take care of some longstanding issues:

For Vietnam Veterans, we granted presumption of service connection for three new Agent-Orange–related conditions: Parkinson's disease, hairy cell and other chronic b-cell leukemias, and ischemic heart disease. It's been 45 years. It was time.

For Gulf War Veterans, we granted presumption of service connection for nine diseases associated with Gulf War Illness. It's been over 20 years. It was time.

Finally, PTSD. For all combat Veterans with verifiable PTSD—World War II, Korea, Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Operation Desert Storm, Iraq, Afghanistan, among others—we granted the presumption of service connection. PTSD is as old as warfare itself. It was time.

These three decisions alone have dramatically expanded access to VA for nearly a million Veterans. Now, making these decisions is step one; step two is dealing with the increase in compensation claims that will result. Growth in the number of claims and the backlog was predictable, and we indicated, when we made these decisions, that we were going to take that on. It was the right thing to do—for Vietnam Veterans, for Gulf War Veterans, and for combat Veterans of all wars. And, we will do it again, whenever the opportunity to better serve Veterans presents itself. Let's not back away from such decisions because we didn't want the backlog to grow. Let's keep our priorities straight here.

VA has spent the past two years developing a new automation tool called VBMS, a paperless Veterans Benefits Management System. It's being piloted at two regional offices for over a year now. We'll have VBMS up and running at 16 regional offices by the end of the year, and at all 56 regional offices by the end of 2013.

VBMS is key to VA's automating this massive numbers process that saw us take in 3.5 million claims, while producing 2.9 million claims decisions over the past three-and-half years. We are still receiving paper from DoD. VBMS is here and about to be fielded. In 2014, we will expect DoD to begin providing all transition documentation in electrons. That's how we will dominate the large numbers in claims. The President's budgets provide us the resources needed to end the backlog in 2015.

In 2009, I observed that Veterans lead the Nation in homelessness, depression, substance abuse, suicides, and they rank right up there in joblessness, as well. We've had a full-court press on to rescue Veterans from the streets. As I indicated earlier, the estimated number of homeless Veterans in this country in 2009 was 107,000. By 2011, in spite of the extended economic downturn, that estimate had dropped to 67,500. When HUD, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, announces its 2012 estimate of homeless Veterans, we expect that the number will be below 60,000, keeping us on track to break 35,000 in 2013, and ending the "rescue phase" of Veterans' homelessness in 2015.

The "prevention phase" of Veteran homelessness is ongoing and will continue indefinitely, requiring VA to focus its significant capabilities on keeping at-risk Veterans and families from slipping into that downward spiral that ends in homelessness.

For example, we have roughly 800,000 Veterans and eligible family members in training and education today—in universities, colleges, community colleges, tech schools, and in the trades. They must graduate; anyone who flunks out in this economy is at high risk of homelessness. Prevention. Stay in school; complete your studies. So my one-word speech to student Veterans, as I did at Boise State University last month, is "Graduate! Graduate! If I sound like your dad, I am. I'm paying most of your bills. So, graduate!"

Last year, roughly 86,000 of our 1.3 million Veteran mortgage-holders defaulted on their home loans. VA intervened, working with their financial institutions, lowering payments, extending payment periods, and kept 73,000 of those Veterans and families in their homes. Prevention! We could say the same things about depression, substance abuse, and suicide ideation. You can't roll your sleeves up and wring your hands at the same time. We, in VA, have rolled our sleeves up.

Mental health: In 2005, at the height of operations in Iraq, we had 13,000 mental health professionals handling the healthcare needs of our Veterans. Today, that number is greater than 20,000, and we recently announced that we're hiring 1,600 more clinical staff to address the growth in mental health requirements spawned by a decade of tough, high risk, high stress, repetitive, combat deployments.

We know that when we diagnose and treat, people get better. Among the 8.6 million Veterans enrolled in VA healthcare, mental health treatment is up. At the same time, for Veterans receiving VA treatment, our suicide rates are down. Treatment works.

However, too many Veterans still leave the military with mental health issues we never find out about. Most Veterans who commit suicide—perhaps as many as two-out-of-three—were never enrolled in VA. So as good as we think we are, we can't help those we don't treat. Another reason increasing access and developing a seamless transition between DoD and VA is so important. These are magnificent young people, and we will not let them down.

One of our most successful outreach efforts is our Veterans' Crisis Line. DoD knows it as the Military Crisis Line—same number, same trained VA mental health professionals answering the phone, no cost to DoD. Since 2007, over 640,000 people have called in, including over 8,000 active-duty Servicemembers. We've made over 99,000 referrals for care and rescued over 23,000 from potential suicide. Younger Veterans are more comfortable with chatting and texting, so in 2009 we added on-line chat, and in 2011, a texting service. We will always find ways to reach out to Veterans in need

Good jobs are essential for Veterans, and we are proud to have partnered with the First Lady's "Joining Forces" initiative and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's "Hiring Our Heroes" campaign. The President challenged private companies to hire or train 100,000 Veterans and military spouses by the end of 2013. 2,100 companies have committed to 175,000 hires, and 125,000 Veterans and spouses have already been hired.

VA has held its own hiring fairs in Washington, DC, and Detroit in the first six months of this year. Over 12,000 Veterans showed up, and over 8,000 interviews were conducted, and more than 1,700 job offers were made on the spot. Job offers continue to flow.

We have also conducted two Veteran-owned small-business training expositions in the past 12 months—our opportunity to educate Veteran small business owners on our procurement requirements and allow the 3,500 who showed up to demonstrate their capabilities and improve their preparation of competitive proposals for government contracts. Bottom line: Veterans hire Veterans. So the more successful Veteran entrepreneurs we cultivate, the better the opportunities for Veterans employment.

So where are we headed? Next summer, here's what VA will report to this convention. Between 2009 and 2013:

We will have increased spinal cord injury funding by 28 percent. By the following year, 2014, that increase will likely be 36 percent.

We will have increased TBI funding by 38 percent. By 2014, that increase will likely be 51 percent.

We will have increased mental health funding by 39 percent. By 2014, that increase will likely be 45 percent.

We will have increased long-term care funding by 39 percent. By 2014, that increase will likely be 50 percent.

We will have increased prosthetics funding by 58 percent. By 2014, that increase will likely be 75 percent.

We will have increased women Veterans funding by 123 percent. By 2014, that increase will likely be 158 percent.

We will have increased OEF/OIF/OND funding by 124 percent. By 2014, that increase will likely be 161 percent.

Our Veterans Benefit Management System will be fully operational at most regional offices, and just 40 percent of claims will be older than 125 days. "Show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value." The President's budgets value what Veterans, their families, and our survivors have meant to this country.

In closing, a little bit of personal history. As a young battalion commander serving in Cold War Germany, I heard one of our senior generals declare in a Memorial Day speech: "I know that when I die, I will die a free man, on my feet, not on my knees, with my head up, not bowed." Then he pointed east and said, "And not far from here, there are people, a whole nation, who cannot say that and would not really understand the fundamental importance of those words."

Well, his words have stuck with me. I realized that I had been taking the privilege of my American citizenship a bit for granted. You see, those words are my legacy as well: "I know that when I die, I will die a free man, on my feet, not on my knees, with my head up, not bowed." And those words are your legacy also. And because we share that legacy, our children and grandchildren inherit it from us—they are able to make the same unequivocal statement. Only the free who cherish freedom and love liberty enough to fight for it can bequeath such a legacy to others. The oppressed cannot. And the free who are not willing to fight and die for it cannot. Only the free who cherish freedom and love liberty enough to fight for it can bequeath the gift of freedom to others, as our ancestors did for us, and as members of the Legion have for 93 years. Thank you for your service and for preserving my legacy as a free man.

God bless those who serve and have served our Nation in uniform. God bless our President. And may God continue to bless this wonderful country of ours.

Thank you.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Shineski proves why the VA claim backlog has grown

There is enough proof right here on this blog alone that the problems with the backlog of VA claims started a long time ago and got worse because the door was opened to a lot more veterans. You can start with this post. Overwhelmed VA didn't happen overnight and work your way back for the last five years. The problem is the President may set the agenda but in the end it is up to congress to fund it. If the money isn't there to hire enough employees to cover all the veterans finally turning to the VA, then look at congress. What was this administration supposed to do? Let veterans wait even longer for what they already paid for until congress decided to do something?

The men and women risked their lives serving this country so whatever they need because of it is a debt we owe them and not the other way around! Chaplain Kathie

Shinseki Defends Claims Backlog: 'Let it Grow'
Aug 28, 2012
by Bryant Jordan

In the cases of Vietnam and Gulf war illnesses, the VA is dealing with claims now because "we didn't take care of business when we should have," he said.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki defended his agency Tuesday attributing the growing backlog of claims in the VA system on the agency's decision to expand the pool of veterans eligible to issue disability claims.

In a departure from the rhetoric Shinseki has used before Congress, Shinseki said at the American Legion's National Convention that he's not afraid of the claims backlog that has grown to about 600,000 -- a sore point when Senators and Congressmen question him on Capitol Hill.

The VA secretary said he doesn't regret opening the opportunity to issue disability claims to nearly a million veterans of wars going back more than 60 years. He only wishes the decision had been made sooner to give the VA a head start.

"It was the right thing to do … And we will do it again whenever the opportunity to better serve veterans presents itself," he said. "Let's not back away from such decisions, either because we're afraid of, or don't want the backlog to grow – let it grow. We'll work on it. We'll get it down. But let's keep our priorities straight here.
It's about taking care of veterans." read more here

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Homeless veteran stands tall next to government officials

Homeless Jacksonville veteran tells his story after officials speak on the subject
Officials address the national problem Wednesday at the Clara White Mission.
Posted: August 15, 2012
By Matt Soergel

Ronnie Hellum’s eight years in the Army were the best days of his life.

He had structure. Purpose. An important job. A steady paycheck. People depended on him.

After getting out, he was adrift. And over the years he’s suffered many losses: His son, murdered at 17. His family. His freedom, after running afoul of the law. His job. And his health — he ended up profoundly depressed.

Two years ago he became homeless, sleeping under bridges, in bushes off the side of the road.

But on Wednesday, Hellum, 56, stood right next to some national and local leaders as they talked about the nation’s responsibility to help veterans who have ended up homeless.

U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, a retired Army general, came to the Clara White Mission in downtown Jacksonville. So did Mayor Alvin Brown and U.S. Reps Corrine Brown and Ander Crenshaw.
read more here

Thursday, August 2, 2012

VA chief asked to stop reprisals against doctor working on PTSD

VA chief asked to stop reprisals against doctor
12:32 AM, Aug 2, 2012
Written by
William H. McMichael
The News Journal

U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki needs to take “immediate action” to end what a union claims are continued reprisals against a Wilmington VA Medical Center psychologist who testified before Congress last fall about understaffing and questionable accounting.

The charges, levied by the American Federation of Government Employees, are this: Michelle Washington had her job performance appraisal lowered, job duties altered and job title changed as a result of her Nov. 30 appearance at a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing in Washington.

The Wilmington facility declines to publicly discuss Washington’s situation, citing employee privacy rights.

The union’s national secretary-treasurer wants a face-to-face discussion with Shinseki.
read more here

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

IAVA can't get a meeting with Department of Veterans Affairs?

Vets group disappointed with lack of VA meeting
By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Mar 27, 2012
A band of 26 members of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America expressed one disappointment about its trip to Washington, D.C. — and even a bit of insult — for a group that arranged hundreds of meetings with top government leaders.

“The one meeting we couldn’t get was at the VA,” said Paul Rieckhoff, a former Army officer who is founder and executive director the group “In fact, we haven’t been able to get a meeting more than 1,000 days, which seems very odd considering all of the issues facing veterans that we would like to discuss.”

A key issue IAVA is pushing during its visit — which has become an annual trip to talk about unemployment, education and healthcare — is a membership survey that found widespread employment problems, general dissatisfaction with how the VA is treating mental health and trauma from sexual assault, and concerns about whether the VA and Defense Department are doing enough to tell veterans about what help is available.
read more here


IAVA is the country's first and largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. With more than 200,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide, IAVA is building the next greatest generation with a three-pronged model based on advocacy, awareness, and assistance. IAVA programs empower our community online and offline, and include Smart Job Fairs, our signature New GI Bill calculator and Community of Veterans, a veterans only social network.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Statement from Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki

Statement from Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki

on the American Jobs Act

"Yesterday, the President sent the American Jobs Act to Congress for consideration. With the American Jobs Act, the President is again demonstrating unwavering support of Veterans and of business by putting forward an aggressive plan that will help create new jobs for Veterans and boost the American economy.

"By providing tax credits from $5,600 to $9,600 to encourage businesses to hire unemployed Veterans, the American Jobs Act not only helps put more Veterans back to work, it sends a message that a grateful Nation honors their service and sacrifice. Congress should pass this bill as soon as possible.

"As the President said in his address to Congress and the Nation, 'We ask these men and women to leave their careers, leave their families, and risk their lives to fight for our country. The last thing they should have to do is fight for a job when they come home.' We at VA could not agree more.

"Under the President's leadership, VA will continue to prepare the next generation of leaders by administering the new Post-9/11 GI Bill to over 558,000 Veterans and family members. In October, thanks to strong leadership from the President and Congress, VA will expand that GI Bill program to provide vocational training and other non-degree job skills for Veterans -- a tremendous opportunity to create more good-paying jobs for Veterans in a matter of months.

"The President also challenged the private sector to hire or train 100,000 unemployed Veterans or their spouses by the end of 2013. We at VA already employ over 100,000 Veterans, about 30 percent of our workforce. Our goal is to up that to 40 percent. VA joins the President in challenging the private sector to join us in this important effort to support Veterans."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

North Dakota Tribal leaders explain VA needs

Tribal leaders explain VA needs

By SARA KINCAID Bismarck Tribune
Posted: Tuesday, July 5, 2011

North Dakota tribal leaders want more Veterans Affairs services on the reservations.

They told Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki Tuesday that there is a need for housing, health care and access to other VA services on the reservations.

“We all have friends and relatives who have served,” said David Gipp, president of United Tribes Technical College.

Shinseki was at United Tribes Technical College Tuesday morning for a listening session with tribal leaders and American Indian veterans. He also visited the VA Outreach Clinic at Gateway Mall in Bismarck, and spoke with members of the tribes about what services are available.

The crowd in the Healing Room of the United Tribes Wellness Center provided examples of what Veterans Affairs has done right and where they could improve serving the population of veterans.

In some cases it was offering help for job training or creating culturally-relevant services, such as a sweat lodge. Former state senator, Richard Marcellais, recalled an outreach program by the Fargo-based VA office in Turtle Mountain.

Read more: Tribal leaders explain VA needs

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

PTSD? They have an app for that too!

A New Way to Serve Our Veterans

By Secretary Eric K. Shinseki , Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs

Some of the most important programs our department provides are mental health services. I am pleased to announce that VA and the Department of Defense (DoD) have launched the PTSD Coach – our first in a suite of jointly developed mobile smartphone applications (apps) for mental health.

When speaking with Veterans living with PTSD, we were told that they wanted and needed a convenient way to learn more about the services and resources available to them, as well as an app that could help them manage symptoms of PTSD at any given moment. The PTSD Coach is a cutting edge app which provides information and tools that Veterans and service members can use to cope with their PTSD symptoms any moment of the day—24/7.

This new tool is useful for anyone who is receiving treatment for PTSD. It is also an anonymous resource that will be important for Veterans and service members, who may not be in treatment now, but who may be seeking quick, accessible information about PTSD. It’s available now on iTunes and will be online soon for Android phones, as well. I recommend it for anyone, who wants to learn more about PTSD, and we’ll look forward to introducing additional apps over the course of the coming year. This is just one more way that VA and DoD are working together to provide 21st Century tools for the men and women who are serving, and have served, our great Nation.
A New Way to Serve Our Veterans

Thursday, September 23, 2010

VA defends Agent Orange, heart disease links

VA defends Agent Orange, heart disease links
By BEN EVANS (AP) – 1 hour ago

WASHINGTON — Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki on Thursday defended an expensive proposal to extend disability payments to Vietnam veterans who get heart disease, saying studies show a significant link between the ailment and the toxic defoliant Agent Orange.

Responding to concerns about the costs of a rapidly expanding program, Shinseki told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee that the law requires his agency to grant automatic benefits for diseases that are scientifically associated with Agent Orange. It leaves him no discretion to weigh costs or other considerations, he said, such as the fact that heart disease occurs commonly in men in their 60s and is strongly linked to smoking, poor diet and other factors.

Shinseki, a Vietnam veteran wounded in combat, said six of nine rigorous studies reviewed by the agency showed strong associations between the herbicide and heart disease. The evidence "more than satisfies" the law's requirements, he said.

read more here
VA defends Agent Orange, heart disease links

Sunday, September 19, 2010

VA Honors Veterans on POW/MIA National Recognition Day

VA Honors Veterans on POW/MIA National Recognition Day

Special Benefits Available to Former POWs

WASHINGTON (September 20, 2010)- Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K.
Shinseki wants former American prisoners of war (POWs) to be aware of
the benefits and services available to them as Americans across the
nation show respect and appreciation for this special group of men and
women during POW/MIA National Recognition Day.

"These Veterans made great sacrifices for their country in time of war,
and it is our Nation's turn to honor them by reinforcing to them the
full range of compensation, health care and benefits they have earned,"
said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has expanded policies to cover
increasing numbers of former prisoners of war.

Special benefits for former POWs include enrollment in medical care for
treatment at VA hospitals and clinics without copayments, as well as
disability compensation for injuries and diseases that are associated
with internment.

Former POWs are also generally entitled to a presumption of
service-connection for certain diseases, based on the length of
captivity and the severity of their conditions.

Free dental treatment for any dental condition is also available to
former POWs. These benefits are in addition to regular Veterans'
benefits and services to which they are already entitled.

A major benefit for survivors of former POWs include Dependency and
Indemnity Compensation (DIC), which is a monthly benefit which may be
payable to the surviving spouse, children and, in some cases, parents.

Currently, more than 15,000 POWs are receiving VA benefits for
service-connected injuries, diseases, or illnesses. VA is asking former
POWs not currently utilizing VA benefits to contact the agency at
1-800-827-1000 to find out if they may be eligible for disability
compensation and other services.

Veterans can also apply online at or contact their
coordinator for former POWs located at each VA regional office.

More information about VA services for former POWs is available at

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Agent Orange Update

Agent Orange Update

Shinseki to defend new Agent Orange rules

Veterans groups praised the Department of Veterans Affairs last year when officials announced they would add three new diseases to the list of "presumptive illnesses" connected to the use of the Vietnam-era defoliant Agent Orange. But senators concerned about the cost and precedent of such a change put a 60-day hold on money related to the change, and have asked the VA for more information on why Agent Orange claims should be expanded.

On Tuesday, in a speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said he's happy to defend the decision. "It was the right decision, and the President and I are proud to finally provide this group of Veterans the care and benefits they have long deserved."

The rules regarding the new recognized illnesses -- Parkinson’s Disease, Hairy Cell and other types of chronic, b-cell leukemia, and Ischemic Heart Disease — could open up veterans benefits to 250,000 more Vietnam-era veterans and cost the VA another $13.4 billion over the next 18 months.

Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., has publicly questioned whether scientific research supports including the three new diseases with other Agent Orange exposure conditions, and if the VA is unnecessarily committing billions in compensation payments for problems that are often simply the result of aging.

But Shinseki said he's "happy" to explain the rationale behind the move, and confident lawmakers will support the change. The hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee is set for Sept. 23.

Veterans-For-Change will continue to monitor closely the situation and report any new developments and we strongly urge you to call your Senators and Congressman toll free at 866-272-6622 and politely insist they support Secretary Shinseki’s decision and allow the rule to be finalized immediately.

If you’re able to make the call, please send an E-Mail to: and let us know their response.

Veterans-For-Change Needs Your Support

On behalf of Veterans-For-Change I’d like to request your help in supporting three very important programs we have.

Our first program is our Emergency Financial Assistance program which was developed to help Veterans and their families on a one time bases with utilities, rent, clothing, etc.

Our Second program is a small college tuition assistance program for the children of Veterans. We’d be awarding financial grant assistance of up to $200 to the top three competitors in an annual essay contest.

Our third program is an award program for Veterans, their spouse and children who are ill to due their service or by no fault of their own being family members of a Veteran. And it’s our special way of saying thank you for your service to our Country.

The Annual Fund provides funding to range of vital areas, including those names above and for operations, resources and potential new programs. These donations are critical to maintain the standing that Veterans-For-Change has held as well as make strong forward strides.

Our organization directors are dedicating their time, energy and enthusiasm to work for this cause, and all do this as a volunteer so 97% of every dollar goes back to the Veteran community.

We request your support by considering a donation to Veterans-For-Change.

If you decide to contribute, please send your donation to

Director of Annual Fund
Many of you know that over the past year or so we’ve done our level best to provide assistance to veterans and their families when in need. And as with most small non-profit groups, we’re no different and always have a need for financial assistance.

If you’re able to contribute $25, $50, $100 or more, please click HERE to be taken direct to the PayPal site!

For those who contribute $25, you will be given a Veterans-For-Change E-Mail address for one year. Those at the $50 level an E-Mail address for five years and those at the $100 level a lifetime E-Mail address. And I’d like to thank you all in advance for your continued support!

If everyone receiving this newsletter were to just donate a single $1 bill, we’d meet our goal and fast and would be able to continue to serve the some 5,000-9,000 veterans and widows per month! We could really use your support!

If you’re interested in advertising in our weekly newsletter, click HERE and send us an E-Mail for further details.

We’re also desperately looking for someone who has talent in the field of writing Grant Proposals which we can submit to corporations and grant foundations to assist in our operations and continued support to veterans and their families.

If you have such a talent and can donate your time and talents, please click HERE and send me an E-Mail.

We also have the chance to purchase a copy of the National Association Uniformed Services nationwide membership register for $125, and to join Starthmore’s Who’s Who for $49.95, both would give VFC opportunities to network with other veterans, veteran organizations, and thousands of fortune 500 and 1000 corporations and grant foundations to secure funding for continued operations of Veterans-For-Change. Your donations could open these doors for us.

If you’d prefer to send a check or money order, please send an E-Mail to: for instructions.

You can also help by book marking and visiting Newsvine frequently:

VFC earns money on every article a comment and vote that is posted. So visit frequently for things not always in the newsletter, comment and click on comment & vote.

Veterans-For-Change operates under National Faith Based Coalition Disabled Veterans Enterprises
Tax ID #84-1285120

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Secretary’s War on Homelessness

We can talk all we want about how bad it is for average Americans out of work, losing their homes and suffering in an economy that has left them behind the eight ball, but as bad as it is for us, we need to understand when it comes to our veterans, they were willing to die for us. We don't stand a chance of getting help if we allow them to suffer after they served this country.

We have problems with health insurance and the struggle to pay for care. They come home and then have to fight for care from the VA, when they wouldn't need it if they didn't serve.

We have problems in our own homes with relationships, our kids, bills, the list goes on, and so do they, but they have another problem too often fought in silence against PTSD.

When they end up homeless after all they did for the sake of this country, it is a testament of how shallow our words are when we say we support the troops or claims we are a grateful nation. Our veterans are a minority in this country. We have about 24 million veterans out of this nation of over 300 million, even less are combat veterans. If we can't take care of them, what does that say about the rest of us?

The Secretary’s War on Homelessness
Shinseki vows to get America’s veterans off the streets within five years. Even the homeless aren’t sure it can be done.
BY JAMES V. CARROLL - August 1, 2010

Three strangers approach a slender man curled up on the sidewalk. They ask his name. He squints into the early-morning sunshine.

"I'm Paul," he quietly replies, rising to his feet, his finger stuck between the pages of a hardbound book he's been reading. He offers his other hand. "And you gentlemen are ..."

Paul, the men soon learn, is a veteran, a former sergeant in the U.S. Air Force. He stands out among the others living on this particular Las Vegas side street. His clothing is clean, his hair neat, his face shaven, his fingernails dirt-free and trimmed. He is soft-spoken and articulate.

He appears to be here by some kind of mistake. Paul is one of hundreds of homeless veterans living and sleeping on the streets of Las Vegas, and one of the tens of thousands of former military men and women across America seeking shelter at night under bridges or in cardboard boxes, tents, sleeping bags or abandoned cars.

Recent VA surveys estimate that more than 100,000 U.S. military veterans are homeless on any given night - a situation VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has vowed, like no other Washington official before him, to correct. "The current estimate for 2010 is that 107,000 veterans remain homeless - a decrease of 18 percent from 2009, and down from 195,000 six years ago," Shinseki said at the 50th American Legion Washington Conference in March. "It's a start, but that's not good enough. We need a full-court press to keep driving those numbers down. It is unacceptable for a single veteran to spend the night on the streets of America."

Shinseki unveiled an ambitious plan last November to eradicate homelessness among veterans within five years. Speaking to more than 1,200 service providers at a VA summit in Washington, the secretary backed up his promise with a pledge to spend $3.2 billion during fiscal 2010 in a move toward fulfillment of the goal. Of that, $2.7 billion would be earmarked for medical services and $500 million for housing programs.
read more here
The Secretarys War on Homelessness

Sunday, May 16, 2010

There are some things they do that we can't put a price on

Friday I was at the Orlando VA with my husband. When I walked by the reception desk, there was this picture of General Eric K. Shinseki and a picture of President Obama. I smiled as I walked by and felt so much better than in years of going there or to other VA hospitals. The Orlando VA is the size of a hospital but it is just a clinic. The new hospital being built in Lake Nona isn't scheduled to open until 2012. Until then, the parking lot will still not have enough space even when the snow birds go back north, the waiting rooms will still be full and every eye I see in the halls will remind me of the price paid by so many.

It is all a reminder of how far the VA has come in such little time. It greatly saddens me when I hear veterans bash President Obama and claim Democrats are evil, yet had it not been for them taking control of congress in 2007, this would all be so much worse for our veterans. It's not that Republicans don't care but they had other things on their mind. I heard them and read their speeches about having two wars to pay for and used that as a reason to not fix the VA to take care of those they sent to Iraq and Afghanistan any better than they had taken care of older veterans still waiting for care.

President Obama was on the Veterans Committee when things started getting better, funding was increased and there was hope once more for our veterans. He knows there is so much more that needs to be done and I am one never reluctant to post on how much they still need to get right, but when it comes to "change" he promised in his campaign speeches, it is "change" I can believe in.

There is such a great need out there for them across the country. The VA needs us to help them take care of the men and women we claim to care so much about. Showing up for parades, visiting a cemetery or monument to their sacrifices is wonderful but as we try to raise funds to build more, there are living monuments to our freedom suffering and waiting for this nation to live up to the promises.

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in
the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on
to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds;
to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow,
and his orphan
--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just
and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.
President Lincoln

Or take these words seriously enough that we run out of excuses to not take care of our veterans. That we live up to the true worthiness of being a grateful nation toward them.

"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation." - George Washington

There needs to be people stepping up across the country to really take care of them. The VA can only do so much. We need to stop saying "let the VA do it" because between now and then, there are veterans suffering for their service. These men and women, no matter how severe their wounds are, still say they would serve again, do it all over again for the sake of those they served with. The bond built by combat surpasses all understanding of human nature because we see the situation with human eyes instead of loving ways. They loved each other and were willing to die for each other. How great is that in a time when so many others only think of themselves?

So what's our problem? They need us. Where are you? What are you doing? Joining any of the organizations trying to take care of them? Donating to any of the charities dedicated to veterans? Spending any time as a volunteer at a VA hospital? Volunteering any time to mow the law of an elderly veteran or helping one get to the VA when they cannot drive themselves? It's never enough to make us ever feel as if there is nothing more we can do when they did it all and still want to do more.

Shinseki Extols Value of Volunteerism

Volunteers "Priceless" to VA, Country

WASHINGTON (May 15, 2010) - Random acts of kindness are nice, but
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki told graduates at the
University of Maryland University College (UMUC) that the world needs
more "people who are regularly, habitually and deliberately kind."

"We can no more put a value on kindness than we can put a price on
heroism," Shinseki told nearly 1,300 graduates. "People who make caring for others a personal devotion, a part of their everyday lives, that's what's needed - people who are willing to serve the needs of others."

At the Department of Veterans Affairs, Shinseki noted, about 140,000
volunteers help Veterans at VA's hospitals, Vet Centers and cemeteries.
Conservatively, VA prices their time as worth $240 million, while the
volunteers also contribute more than $80 million yearly in gifts and

"There are some things they do that we can't put a price on. Not
everything can be reduced to a dollar value," Shinseki added. "What's
the price of a Thank you? How about an hour of patience? What's the
going rate for dignity and respect for a combat Veteran? Such values
cannot be calculated."

The VA Secretary noted that Veterans in the class of 2010 were the first
to take advantage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the largest improvement in
the traditional educational program since its inception in 1944.

"By time [the original GI Bill] ended in 1956, it had profoundly
transformed America economically, educationally and socially,
catapulting our economy to the world's largest and our nation to a
global leader and a victor in the Cold War," Shinseki said.

He saluted the UMUC staff for their programs tailored to the educational
needs of the men and women on active duty. About 60,000 of the school's
100,000 students are military personnel. The school operates on 130
military installations, including four in Iraq and four in Afghanistan.

"UMUC and the military have long shared a vital partnership in
education," said Shinseki, a retired Army four-star general. "Wherever
the Army went campaigning, UMUC went with us."

Friday, April 16, 2010

VA Uses Recovery Act Money to Repair Historic Monuments

Veterans monuments and cemeteries, very worthy "shovel ready" projects.

VA Uses Recovery Act Money to Repair Historic Monuments

WASHINGTON (April 16, 2010) - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
will use up to $4.4 million in funds from the American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act program to repair and preserve historic monuments and
memorials at VA-operated national cemeteries, soldiers' lots and other
facilities throughout the United States.

"The Recovery Act will help us preserve these historic memorials for
future generations," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K.
Shinseki. "In many cases, these irreplaceable historic structures will
receive long overdue repairs while keeping skilled American artisans
employed on projects important to our heritage."

Funds for the monument and memorial repairs are coming from more than
$1.4 billion in the Recovery Act allocated to VA.

Forty-nine monuments at 36 sites in 23 states will be repaired or
conserved under this program. These represent some of the oldest and
most significant memorials at VA cemeteries, and require treatments that
include cleaning, roof and step repairs, stone consolidation, joint
repointing, and painting or waxing of metals.

Cost estimates for individual projects range from less than $10,000 to
$510,000. The monuments and memorials included in this treatment
initiative were installed between 1842 and 1952, and most are associated
with the Civil War.

The most costly preservation project is the National Soldiers' Monument
at Dayton National Cemetery in Ohio. The Soldiers' Monument dominates
the landscape from atop a mound at the center of the cemetery. The
cornerstone was laid in 1873 and it was completed in 1877. This
dramatic structure is composed of a 30-foot marble column on a granite
base and topped with a soldier at parade rest.

At the corners of the base are four figures representing the infantry,
cavalry, artillery and Navy. President Rutherford B. Hayes delivered
the dedication address on Sept. 12, 1877, to a crowd of about 22,000.
This monument was severely vandalized in 1990, and the current
initiative will address problems associated with the repair.

The oldest monument among the 49 sites is Dade's Pyramids at St.
Augustine National Cemetery in Florida. The pyramids cover vaults that
contain the remains of 1,468 soldiers who died during the Second
Seminole War from 1835 to 1842. The three Dade's Pyramids are each six
feet tall and were constructed in 1842 of coquina stone. They were
dedicated at a ceremony that marked the end of the Florida Indian Wars.

The funds will also be used to repair and conserve three monumental
limestone entrance archways built around 1870 at national cemeteries in
Nashville and Chattanooga, Tenn., and Marietta, Ga. VA will also use
ARRA funds to conserve the soldiers' obelisk monuments at cemeteries
affiliated with the National Homes for Disabled Veteran Soldiers. Also
scheduled for repairs are 11 monuments funded by states where large
numbers of their troops were buried, five Confederate monuments, and a
memorial to President Zachary Taylor located near his tomb in
Louisville, Ky.

The Recovery Act, signed into law by President Obama on Feb. 17, 2009,
is an unprecedented effort to jumpstart the American economy, create and
save millions of jobs, and put a down payment on addressing
long-neglected challenges so our country can thrive in the 21st century.
In addition to repairs to monuments and memorials, America's national
cemeteries will receive an estimated:

* $25.9 million for national shrine projects to raise, realign,
and clean headstones or grave markers and repair sunken graves at
various locations across the country;

* $5.9 million for energy-related projects such as conserving
energy and water through the use of wind turbines, solar power and other

* $9.5 million to repair roads, buildings, and other cemetery
infrastructure at locations nationwide; and

* Nearly $6 million for equipment purchases for cemetery

VA operates 131 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico and 33
soldiers' lots and monument sites. More than three million Americans,
including Veterans of every war and conflict - from the Revolutionary
War to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan - are buried in VA's
national cemeteries on more than 19,000 acres of land.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Vietnam veterans are the face of what George Washington warned

Vietnam veterans are the face of what George Washington warned
Chaplain Kathie

If there's a generation of veterans that have had a tough row to hoe, it's the Vietnam generation," said Shinseki

I use this quote at the bottom of every email I send out.

"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation." - George Washington

We can use the word "appreciation" but few understand what it really means.


Main Entry: ap·pre·ci·a·tion
Pronunciation: \ə-ˌprē-shē-ˈā-shən, -ˌpri- also -ˌprē-sē-\
Function: noun
Date: 1604
1 a : judgment, evaluation; especially : a favorable critical estimate

b : sensitive awareness; especially : recognition of aesthetic values

c : an expression of admiration, approval, or gratitude

2 : increase in value

Some people think a simple "thank you" does it all. They get to say the words, then get on with their own lives. Doesn't matter much to them that the person they just thanked for their service may not have a place to sleep or call home. It doesn't matter he or she may have been followed home by ghosts combat conjured up. It doesn't matter if those ghosts turned into full blown PTSD invading every part of their lives and the lives of their families trying like hell to understand what the hell just happened to their family when their veteran came home with all the limbs they had when they left. After all, according to most, the loss of a limb or clear scars are suppose to be the only wounds they have to worry about. When it comes to PTSD or TBI, if they can't see it, it didn't happen.

Some people feel obligated to show up at the funerals for the fallen to show their appreciation but when they die after they've been home for a while, no one seems to care except for the families, still wondering what happened to make everything they depended on, found security with, evaporated after the welcome home party. Soldiers fallen because of combat but not during combat somehow don't seem to merit the same appreciation from us. We don't stop to think that had they not gone into combat in our name, they wouldn't have come home the way they did.

Some of us figure that if they should end up homeless with yet one more shattered family left behind, it's their own damn fault. We sure don't want a shelter for veterans in our neighborhood. That would be bad for the home values and would put an undesirable element where we raise our kids and mow the laws, never once thinking about the fact these men and women cared more about us when they decided to serve than we cared about them after we sent them to do it. Imagine being a combat veteran kicked as low as you can get after being willing to lay down your life of the sake of what this country asked only to hear someone say that they don't want you in their neighborhood. How would that make you feel? Would this look like a grateful nation to you? Would you feel appreciated by anyone anywhere?

While few veterans actually do bring themselves to file claims with the VA (it's like fighting a losing battle to get them to admit they need help) we can't even manage to take care of the ones seeking help. As bad as the backlog is right now imagine if more than the less than half seeking help actually found enough hope to go for it? Do you think they feel appreciated when they have to wait months and years for claims to be honored, treatment delivered to heal and their neglected suffering to matter? Oh, but then we would also have to address the fact of the less than adequate disability rating when they cannot work anymore but end up with a rating of 30% or less to live off of for the rest of their lives while supporting families.

With all of this, General Shinseki pointed out how Vietnam veterans have had the toughest "row to hoe" when it comes to their service being really appreciated. No one wants to take away the attention the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are getting but it shouldn't come down to pushing back one generation over letting in the new guys in line. They should all be taken care of since this is the same nation they all served and the same nation that owes them a debt.

When it comes to PTSD treatment, newer veterans get the funding from charity groups. Ed Shultz is supporting selling coffee so that part of the money goes to IAVA and PTSD treatment but Ed doesn't seem to understand that the IAVA is only for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, just as most of the other newer charities are interested in serving, yet again forgetting about the Vietnam veterans and the Gulf War veterans. Why does it ever have to come down to one generation over another when Washington seemed to understand that it's about every generation and leaving one behind reflects poorly on all others?

This is the part I find impossible to understand. Had it not been for the Vietnam veterans coming home with the same type of wound as other generations, fighting for all generations of veterans to be taken care of, treated and compensated for the wound of PTSD, the newer veterans would be still back in the dark ages they came home to. None of what we see today would have been possible without them but they are still in line waiting for real appreciation. The "let's have a parade" idea is nice but it doesn't pay their bills when PTSD has destroyed their careers and broke their family apart. The "let's put up a monument" is nice but does not house one single homeless veteran living on the streets as a monument to our past failures.

When it comes to the Vietnam veterans all you have to do is look at any service organization and see the work they do. Most of them are run by Vietnam veterans dedicated to taking care of all veterans, not just some. Take a look at businesses being run and more than likely you'll find a Vietnam veteran at the top of the food chain. Look at the accomplishments and dedication these men and women have and then ask yourself if we are anywhere close to being able to deliver the message "from a grateful nation" to them when we allow all that is going on to happen to them while we shake their hand and say "Thank you for your service."

Shinseki: US will fix broken VA disability system

The Associated Press
Monday, February 22, 2010; 6:46 AM

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio -- Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said he's making it a top priority this year to tackle the backlog of disability claims that has veterans waiting months - even years - to get financial compensation for their injuries.

Among those waiting for relief are sick Vietnam and Gulf War veterans to whom the former Army commander feels an allegiance and who have long felt ignored.

"I'm a kid out of the Vietnam era, I just have enough firsthand knowledge of folks walking around with lots of issues. If there's a generation of veterans that have had a tough row to hoe, it's the Vietnam generation," said Shinseki, 67, in an interview with The Associated Press as he traveled through snowcapped mountains in Ohio and West Virginia between meetings with veterans.

Shinseki, a former Army chief of staff who had part of a foot blown off when he was a young officer in Vietnam, was unapologetic about a decision he made in October to make it easier for potentially 200,000 sick Vietnam veterans who were exposed to the Agent Orange herbicide to receive service-connected compensation.
read more here
US will fix broken VA disability system

Thursday, January 14, 2010

VA, DoD Expand Ranks of Federal Recovery Coordinators

VA, DoD Expand Ranks of Federal Recovery Coordinators

Key Members of Team Helping Most Severely Wounded

WASHINGTON (Jan. 14, 2010)- Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K.
Shinseki announced the hiring of five new Federal Recovery Coordinators,
bringing to 20 the number of professionals coordinating care for the
most seriously injured service members.

"Our Federal Recovery Coordinators are key members of a team of health
care professionals, therapists, case managers and other specialists, who
make up VA's comprehensive care management system for returning service
members and their families," Shinseki said.

The new coordinators will be added to the following locations, with the
total number of coordinators in each location indicated in parenthesis:

* Eisenhower Army Medical Center, Ga. (3);

* San Antonio Military Medical Center, Texas, (4);

* Naval Medical Center, San Diego, Calif. (4);

* Tampa VA Medical Center (VAMC), Fla. (1);

* Bethesda, National Naval Medical Center, Md. (3);

* Walter Reed Army Medical Center, D.C. (3);

* Houston VAMC, Texas, (1); and

* Providence VAMC, R.I. (1).

The Federal Recovery Coordinators program was created in 2007 to assist
service members, Veterans and their families with access to care,
services and benefits provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs
(VA), Department of Defense (DoD), other federal agencies, states and
the private sector. Currently, the coordinators work with 419 of the
most seriously injured service members and Veterans. The program is
administered by VA and operated jointly with DoD.

The program's clients include service members and Veterans who are
receiving acute care at military treatment facilities; diagnosed with
specific injuries or conditions; considered at risk for psychological
complication; or likely to benefit from a recovery plan.