Bill to Extend Veterans Choice Program Approved

on Sunday, 23 April 2017.

A presidential order extended the Veterans Choice Act on Wednesday to set the stage for a push in Congress to expand the program and allow more access to private care for veterans.

Signed in an Oval Office ceremony, the bill continues the Choice program, which was to expire on Aug. 7, and allows for the expenditure of the remaining $950 million in the program.

The Choice Card program allowed Vets facing lengthy wait times at Veterans Administration facilities or living more than 40 miles from the nearest VA to seek care in the private sector. Those already in the program will not need to re-apply under the bill signed by Trump, VA officials said.

(Republished) Remarkable Impact of Yoga Breathing for Trauma

on Thursday, 01 June 2017. Posted in News

"Military guys doing yoga and meditation?"

Emma Seppala 

I've been asked in disbelief. It's true that when they first arrived to participate in my study (a yoga-based breathing program offered by a small non-profit organization), the young, tattoo-covered, hard-drinking, motorcycle-driving all-American Midwestern men didn't look like your typical yoga devotees. But their words after the study said it all: "Thank you for giving me my life back" and "I feel like I've been dead since I returned from Iraq and I feel like I'm alive again." Our surprisingly positive findings revealed the power that lies in breath for providing relief from even the most deep-seated forms of anxiety.

As many of us know, there is an unspoken epidemic that is taking 22 lives a day in the U.S.

Who is impacted? Those who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in protection of others: Veterans.

How? Suicide.

Why? War trauma.

Average age? 25.

Peer Support Specialists Help Heal America's Veterans

on Tuesday, 02 December 2014.

baren flag
In April 2012, Berg was the battalion guide for the change of command ceremony at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan. He was in Security Platoon, General Support Motor Transport (company), 1st Maintenance Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, 1st Marine Division. This was about a year after coming out of the U.S. Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment and returning to duty.

Healing Our Warriors

on Tuesday, 13 December 2016.

Veterans Anthony Anderson (L) and Tom Voss decided to walk 2,700 miles from Wisconsin to California to try to sort out some of the issues they faced—including PTSD and moral injury—after being in combat situations in Iraq. (Almost Sunrise)

Veterans Anthony Anderson (L) and Tom Voss decided to walk 2,700 miles from Wisconsin to California to try to sort out some of the issues they faced—including PTSD and moral injury—after being in combat situations in Iraq. (Almost Sunrise)

Tom Voss’s unit fired a warning shot, but the truck kept speeding towards them. So they shot to kill. It was Iraq more than 10 years ago, and that’s what they were trained to do.

“I ran up to the passenger’s side and smashed the window open. The guy had two sucking chest wounds,” said Voss, who was a sniper on an 11-month deployment in Iraq in 2004–2005.

Voss said his platoon sergeant slowly walked up while they were frantically trying to save the man’s life and said, “Are we done here?”

On another day, they were alerted to a body on the roadside. “This man was tortured: He had his nose cut off, all his fingers were cut off, his toes were cut off while he was still alive,” Voss said. “He was involved with helping us. That’s what he was killed for.”

Vietnam: The War That Killed Trust

on Tuesday, 10 January 2017.

The legacy of the war still shapes America, even if most of us are too young to remember it.

Vietnam '67
Karl Marlantes

In the early spring of 1967, I was in the middle of a heated 2 a.m. hallway discussion with fellow students at Yale about the Vietnam War. I was from a small town in Oregon, and I had already joined the Marine Corps Reserve. My friends were mostly from East Coast prep schools. One said that Lyndon B. Johnson was lying to us about the war. I blurted out, “But … but an American president wouldn’t lie to Americans!” They all burst out laughing.

When I told that story to my children, they all burst out laughing, too. Of course presidents lie. All politicians lie. God, Dad, what planet are you from?

Before the Vietnam War, most Americans were like me. After the Vietnam War, most Americans are like my children.

America didn’t just lose the war, and the lives of 58,000 young men and women; Vietnam changed us as a country. In many ways, for the worse: It made us cynical and distrustful of our institutions, especially of government. For many people, it eroded the notion, once nearly universal, that part of being an American was serving your country.

Memories at The Wall: Remembering Vietnam Veterans

on Tuesday, 30 May 2017.

vietnam-memorial-mementos-baseball-glove-620.jpg

The granite wall, and the names etched in it, elicit a wide range of responses. Some stand in silence; others pray, or offer a final salute. Many visitors to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., feel compelled to leave offerings of love or gratitude or remembrance ... a pair of boots, photographs, letters, even a last cigarette.

Each evening National Park Service rangers collect the items and send them to a massive warehouse in Maryland filled to the rafters with objects left since 1982.

Ranger Janet Folkerts catalogs the items and keeps them in pristine condition. She doesn't know the total number of objects left.

"We have a guess of 400,000. We never will fully know until we have everything cataloged, which we don't have yet," she told CBS News correspondent Chip Reid.

Free Bikes for Jobs and Job Interviews

on Wednesday, 16 August 2017.

Lake County Bike ProjectArmy veteran Regina Crump was able to secure new bicycles for her sons, Djion Curry, 14, and Gary Poyser, 8.

When bicycles belonging to the sons of Army veteran Regina Crump were stolen a few months ago, she said she couldn't afford to buy them new ones.

But this month, her sons Djion Curry, 14, and Gary Poyser, 8, were pedaling around their Waukegan neighborhood.

 

VA extends deadline for seeking Gulf War illness benefits to 2021

on Friday, 21 October 2016.

In February 1991, an armored vehicle passes through a breached sand berm separating Saudi   Arabia from Iraq, paving the way for advancing allied troops during the Gulf War. WAYNE J. BEGASSE/STARS AND STRIPES

WASHINGTON – For the next five years, veterans will have an easier time seeking benefits for illnesses linked to service in the Gulf War because of an extension issued Monday by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Since 1994, the VA has automatically presumed a connection from Gulf War service, which included a toxic environment of oil fires and chemical weapons, to an increased risk for several illnesses. The connection enables veterans to receive a disability rating and benefits more quickly.

But the presumed connection and the ability to seek benefits was set to expire at the end of this year, after being extended four times previously. Effective Monday, the VA extended it a fifth time, to Dec. 31, 2021.

Bankruptcy Becomes an Option for Some Borrowers Burdened by Student Loans

on Thursday, 29 December 2016.

Argument that focuses on legal definition of student loan is at crux of efforts to discharge debt

Some who owe on student loans are arguing in bankruptcy court that their debt wasn’t made for an ‘educational benefit.’ Above, the entrance to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York in lower Manhattan, N.Y.

By SARAH CHANEY

Borrowers are beginning to win battles to erase some student loans in bankruptcy court, overcoming stiff obstacles that have generally blocked that path except in extreme cases of financial hardship.

Since March, several bankruptcy courts have allowed borrowers to cancel private student loans with a new legal argument that relies on vague wording about the legal definition of a student loan.

Bankruptcy law says that, without proving extreme hardship, a borrower can’t discharge a loan made for an “educational benefit.” This language has opened a window to cancel loans for students who argue their loans falls outside this category of debt. Such reasoning has been applied to loans obtained to attend schools without accreditation or to study for a bar exam.

The argument applies only to a slice of the private student-loan market, which makes up less than 10% of the more than $1.3 trillion in outstanding student debt. The federal government dominates the student-loan market and isn’t as vulnerable in bankruptcy proceedings.

Changes to MST-Related PTSD Claims Processing Means More help for Veterans

on Sunday, 02 July 2017. Posted in News

Image of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) poster

Women are disproportionately likely to have experienced sexual harassment and/or assault during their military service. This trauma, referred to by VA as military sexual trauma (MST), can result in conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as a cascading impact on all aspects of life. (Click here for more information on military sexual trauma and treatments available for resulting conditions from VA.)

Due to increased awareness of this problem and the challenges of providing corroborating evidence in many cases, VA has taken a number of steps over the years to better serve MST survivors applying for disability compensation for conditions caused by MST, beginning with relaxing evidentiary standards in 2002. Because events involving sexual trauma are not always officially reported, VA looks for “markers” (i.e., signs, events or circumstances) that provide an indication the traumatic event happened, which include but are not limited to records from rape crisis or mental health counseling centers, tests for pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, statements from family members or roommates, transfer requests, deterioration in work performance, episodes of depression or anxiety without an identifiable cause and relationship issues – a longer list is available here.

In response to an identified gap in the percent of claims granted for PTSD caused by MST compared to other causes, such as combat-related PTSD, additional changes were made. These include conducting special training for VA regional office personnel who process MST-related claims beginning in 2011 and offering specialized training to medical examiners who provide input on these cases in 2012.

How effective have those efforts been? The table below shows the percent of PTSD issues granted for MST-related and non-MST related claims. In FY11, there is a substantial gap: 59.5% of non-MST related PTSD claims were granted, compared to only 35.6% of MST-related PTSD claims, a nearly 24 point gap. Three years later, in FY14, the gap had shrunk to less than six points, with grant rates of 54.1% and 48.5% respectively. So far this fiscal year, the gap is only around one point, with grant rates of 54.6% for non-MST related claims and 53.4% for MST-related claims.

Impact of Changes to MST-Related PTSD Claims Processing

The dramatic narrowing of the gap, from over 20 points six years ago to virtually indistinguishable today, shows the success of those efforts. The Veterans Benefits Administration and the Center for Women Veterans will continue to analyze data to sustain these improvements in equitable decision-making.

For help with disability compensation related to MST, read more here and contact the MST coordinator at your local Veterans Benefits Administration Regional Office.