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VA OIG – Spring, 2017 – The Semiannual Report to Congress summarizes the results of OIG oversight, provides statistical information, and lists all reports issued October 1, 2016–March 31, 2017. During this reporting period, OIG audits, investigations, inspections, evaluations, and other reviews identified over $974 million in monetary benefits for a return of $14 for every dollar invested in OIG oversight. During this reporting period, OIG issued 115 reports and work products on VA programs and operations, made 273 recommendations, and conducted investigations that led to 150 arrests. https://www.va.gov/oig/pubs/sars/VAOIG-SAR-2017-1.pdf
Statement Of Nicholas Dahl, Deputy Assistant Inspector General For Audits And Evaluations, Office Of Inspector General, Department Of Veterans Affairs, Before The Subcommittee On Oversight And Investigations, Committee On Veterans’ Affairs, United States House Of Representatives, Hearing On VA Financial Management, May 24, 2017https://www.va.gov/oig/pubs/statements/VAOIG-statement-20170524-dahl.pdf
A Variety of Veterans News from a Variety of Sources
Experts Discuss How Brain Injury Affects Communication Skills: How a service member communicates with others can change after a traumatic brain injury (TBI). “People with TBI speak better than they communicate,” said Linda Picon, Department of Veterans Affairs senior consultant and liaison for TBI at the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. Picon and Inbal Eshel, Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center senior principal scientist, are a duo with more than 35 years of experience studying and treating TBI patients. They shared with us how TBI can cause communication disorders.
Stars and Stripes Brussels-bound Trump armed with demands for NATO. When President Donald Trump arrives at NATO headquarters on Thursday, allies will be under intense pressure to live up to demands from an American administration that has threatened to make the thorny issue of increased allied defense spending a condition for guaranteeing U.S. commitment to 68-year-old military pact.
The Hill: Trump lays out $1T infrastructure vision in budget request. President Trump laid out his vision for a $1 trillion infrastructure package in his budget request on Tuesday, offering the first real glimpse of the highly anticipated plan. The White House spending proposal includes a brand new section that would “provide an infrastructure plan to support $1 trillion in private/public infrastructure investment” — one of Trump’s chief campaign promises.
The Washington Post (AP): Agency-by-agency look at Trump’s budget. Highlight: The budget proposes a $4.3 billion increase in discretionary spending, mostly to pay for medical care at more than 1,200 VA facilities nationwide serving about 9 million enrolled veterans. That’s a 5.8 percent increase as the Department of Veterans Affairs expands its network to include more private health providers.
DefenseOne Trump’s Military Buildup Won’t Begin Until 2019. Don’t expect to see President Donald Trump’s promised military buildup kick into gear until 2019, senior Pentagon officials said Tuesday, hours after delivering their 2018 request to Capitol Hill.
Stars and Stripes Army: $8 billion budget increase in 2018 to fund anti-ISIS operations, modernization. President Donald Trump’s administration has requested $166.1 billion for the Army in its proposed budget for fiscal year 2018, which if passed would represent the second consecutive year of increased funding to the service to restore forces and equipment used in operations against the Islamic State and to ramp up U.S. presence in Europe.
Defense News Army’s $166B budget boosts global operations. The U.S. Army is stretched across the globe conducting missions to include destroying the Islamic State group, supporting Afghan Security Forces and deterring North Korea and Russia, and it needs $166 billion in fiscal 2018 to continue those operations.
Military Times: Trump’s big VA budget request comes with proposed trims to Veterans benefits. The White House’s proposed $186.5 billion budget for Department of Veterans Affairs operations next year includes more than $13 billion for medical care outside VA and $3.6 billion in savings from benefits trims. The proposal, officially released Tuesday and now facing months of scrutiny on Capitol Hill, represents another sizable boost for the department, which over the last decade has seen annual increases while other government agencies have faced funding reductions.
Stars and Stripes: Trump’s budget calls for cutes to VA benefits programs as tradeoff for extending Choice. President Donald Trump’s budget released Tuesday proposes cutting monthly stipends to some disabled, unemployed veterans and reducing veterans’ cost-of-living adjustments as offsets to continue a program that allows veterans to seek care outside the Department of Veterans Affairs. The $186.5 billion budget calls for $2.9 billion in new spending in fiscal 2018, which begins Oct. 1, to fund the Veterans Choice Program…
The Hill: Money can’t buy VA reform. If recent experience has taught us anything, it’s that more money will not fix the VA. The department’s budget increased by 71 percent under former President Barack Obama — from $97.7 billion in 2009 to $167.5 billion in 2016. Trump’s proposed budget would continue this upward trajectory, with the VA’s discretionary budget growing by another 6 percent next year under the administration’s plan.
Associated Press House OKs revamp of VA appeals in bid to cut claims backlog. The House easily approved legislation Tuesday to cut the time it takes for the Department of Veterans Affairs to handle appeals from veterans unhappy with their disability payouts, an effort to reduce a rapidly growing claims backlog without adding billions in government costs.
The Washington Post (AP): House Oks revamp of VA appeals in bid to cut claims backlog. The House easily approved legislation Tuesday to cut the time it takes for the Department of Veterans Affairs to handle appeals from veterans unhappy with their disability payouts, an effort to reduce a rapidly growing claims backlog without adding billions in government costs. Currently, veterans could wait five years or more to resolve their appeals.
Stars and Stripes: House passes VA appeals bill and five other Veterans measures. The House unanimously passed legislation Tuesday aiming to shorten the amount of time veterans wait for earned benefits, a process that takes an average of six years when a veteran is forced to appeal a claim with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. But thousands of veterans are waiting much longer, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Washington Times:American Legion leans on Trump administration to loosen marijuana laws. The nation’s largest veterans’ group has requested a meeting at the White House to discuss rescheduling marijuana’s status as a federally controlled substance so medical researchers may legally study its potential to help vets suffering from conditions including traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
KTVN (CBS-2, Video): Veterans, the VA and Marijuana. Marijuana is now legal in Nevada, and a growing list of dispensaries and clinics are offering free services to veterans. We’ve heard from many of our viewers, concerned about losing their Veteran’s benefits for using something not approved by the federal government. “I’ve had several veterans that have approached me and said it saved their life,” says Shane Whitecloud, the outreach specialist at the Veterans Resource Center of America in Reno.
WTVT (FOX-13, Video): VA looks for ways to curb Veteran suicide crisis. The Department of Veterans Affairs says the suicide rate for veterans has surged in recent years, and VA Secretary David Shulkin is looking for ways to stop it. According to VA research, veterans have bene taking their own lives at a rate of around twenty per day. He statistics show most are younger than 50.
NPR (Audio): Los Angeles VA Campus Fails To Support Growing Number of Homeless Vets. Los Angeles has one of the nation’s worst rate of homeless veterans, but its Veterans Affairs campus doesn’t support many homeless vets. Instead it hosts parrots, gardens, a baseball stadium and other features. Soon, however, officials say the facility will begin building a new community of local homeless veterans.
New York Post: Fisher House Foundation breaking ground on VA residences. Veterans and active duty service members undergoing treatment in The Bronx will soon have a place to stay. The Fisher House Foundation is breaking ground on Thursday on two 16-unit residences on the grounds of the James J. Peters VA Medical Center. “We have to do this right; it’s New York City and it’s where we are,” says Fisher House Foundation Chief Executive Ken Fisher, who grew up in Riverdale.
Task and PurposeDeported To Mexico, US Veterans Are Stuck In A War South of the Boarder. It had only been a few weeks, maybe a month, since Jose Camacho had been relieved of his prison shackles and stepped off a U.S. immigration bus into the dusty streets of Ciudad Juárez to set about building a new life south of the border. That’s when an old friend showed up. Not a friend, really — someone he knew. A guy he’d met on the inside. “Let’s get a beer,” he suggested. Camacho didn’t drink anymore, and he told the guy so. But the guy was persistent. Squinting over the guy’s shoulder, Camacho could see someone else in the car, a man he didn’t know, but he…
Task and PurposeService Dogs and Other Lesser-Known VA Benefits. While 44 percent of all Veterans use at least one VA benefit, several lesser-known benefits could help Veterans live better, healthier lives. Here are three lesser-known VA benefits Veterans may be eligible to receive:
Air Force Veteran Encourages Rediscovering Memorial Days True Meaning: Memorial Day, a holiday to honor those who gave their lives for our country, has evolved into a day recognized primarily through parades, barbecues, drinks and discounts. Though U.S. service members today fight and die in multiple countries, and cemeteries across the country stand as monuments to lives lost at war, we’ve forgotten how to commemorate sacrifice. But I believe we can rediscover the meaning of this special day on May 29, thanks to the new #FlowerOnEveryGrave campaign. It’s not surprising that we’ve lost track of Memorial Day’s …
Military Times Trump budget trims payouts for vets, government retirees. President Donald Trump’s “taxpayer focused” budget for fiscal 2018 includes smaller cost-of-living adjustments for veterans benefits payouts and eliminating those adjustments for some federal civilian retirees altogether.
The Hill Pence pledges to “rebuild” military . Vice President Mike Pence pledged to “rebuild” the military while marking Armed Forces Day Saturday. “We will rebuild our military, restore the arsenal of democracy and we will, once again as a nation, give our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guard the resources and training you deserve to accomplish your mission and come home safe,” he said.
Military.com F-35 Stealth Fighters Coming to Miramar Sooner than Expected. Miramar Marine Corps Air Station will begin converting its jet squadrons to the stealthy F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, triggering major construction projects in the coming months, Lt. Gen. Jon “Dog” Davis told San Diego’s military and business leaders on Wednesday.
Stars and Stripes Navy’s hardest-punching but aging warship has no replacement in sight. No Navy surface ship throws a harder punch than the Bunker Hill, a cruiser armed with a high-tech battery of missile tubes and advanced sensors that probe for faraway targets to destroy. The Bunker Hill is slated to deploy this autumn alongside the Roosevelt, and then its lifespan wanes. The Navy plans to decommission the Ticonderoga-class cruiser in 2019, mothballing it after 33 years of service.
Stars and Stripes Boeing blamed for maintenance errors on Air Force One. The Air Force is blaming Boeing mechanics for accidental contamination of the oxygen system aboard one of the modified Boeing 747 planes known as Air Force One used for presidential travel.
News Chief: The VA’s need for some tough love. In early May, new VA Secretary David Shulkin told a House subcommittee that he planned to shutter more than 1,100 facilities the agency operates. Why? Well, according to the Associated Press, 431 of them are vacant, while another 735 are considered “underutilized.” It’s unclear why the VA clung to these buildings after the agency no longer needed them, especially since most of the vacant sites are buildings more than 90 years old.
Manchester Ink Link: Manchester VA Medical Center nurses recognized for extraordinary dedicating to Veterans. At Manchester VA echoes of thank you were heard throughout the facility along with smiles and hugs from Veteran patients who wanted to share their appreciation for our nursing professionals. “The Nurses at Manchester VAMC always make me feel welcomed and have genuine concern for my welfare. Their compassion has a positive impact on my life in general that goes beyond health care,” was shared by a Veteran patient.
Lancaster Online: Care at Lebanon VA hospital is top-notch. This letter is to publicly acknowledge and praise the excellent medical care I received for many years on a consistent basis from the Lebanon Veterans Affairs Medical Center. I cannot imagine how the quality of care and the attention I received could possibly be any better.
Reading Eagle (Video): At long last, some Veterans reach out for mental health care. Veterans who suffer from psychological trauma often avoid the mental health care that could help them, a problem that occurs for a number of reasons. Some fear that during counseling they’ll be forced to share memories they’re trying to forget, said Karen Madrigal, a clinical social worker with the Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Spring Township.
Temple Daily Telegram: VA puts focus on research. The research mission is a pillar of the larger VA organization, said Christopher Sandles, director of the Central Texas Veterans Health System. The goal is to improve the veteran’s health and wellbeing; to add to basic translational, clinical health services and rehabilitative research; to apply scientific knowledge to develop individualized care to veterans; to attract, train and retain the highest caliber investigators and nurture their development as leaders; and to ensure a culture of professionalism.
Community Idea Stations (Audio): McGuire VA Center Performs Its First vBlock Weight Loss Device for Overweight Veterans. McGuire VA Center has just implanted its first device to help veterans lose weight, and there are more than one million of them who could have the procedure done at little or no cost to them. It is called the vBlock neurometabolic therapy implant. “It looks sort of like a hockey puck”, said Dr. James Maher, “We usually put it over the ribs on the left side, it goes underneath the skin.”
Boston Herald: VA can’t leave injured Vets hanging, Reprehensive says heroes getting shortchanged care. U.S. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch said the Veterans Affairs is needlessly leaving vets hanging with low disability payments for brain injuries while figuring out what’s wrong with them. Following a meeting with top Boston VA brass in Jamaica Plain yesterday, Lynch said he called for more coordination between VA staff that diagnoses and treats vets, and those who determine and administer their benefits.
The Washington Times (AP): Arkansas VA benefits office speeds up claims process. Arkansas veterans’ benefit claims are being processed 60 percent faster than four years ago thanks to the initiatives taken by the local Department of Veterans Affairs benefits branch, according to officials. The federal VA’s Little Rock Regional Benefit Office in North Little Rock now takes 97 days to process a new claim, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
KNPR (NPR-88.9): Veterans Village Homeless Effort Draws Interest of White House. Veterans Village, the private Las Vegas-based transitional housing program, caught the eye of the White House — again. Arnold Stalk, who founded and runs Veterans Village, met Friday in Washington with Trump administration officials about his work to assist homeless veterans. He detailed plans to convert an old apartment house near Fremont and 14th streets into an 88-bed assisted living complex.
Healthcare IT News: House takes up scheduling, prescription drug data sharing in two VA Bills. On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives is slated to consider a number of bills concerning the Department of Veterans Affairs, including two with healthcare information technology implications. The VA Scheduling Accountability Act requires that VA facilities certify compliance with scheduling rules. The health IT implications here concern scheduling systems, which is a significant consideration since the VA has been sharply criticized…
Today (Video): Operation Song is using country music to help Veterans find their rhythm. Doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs are helping some military veterans return from deployment with an unlikely prescription: country music. In this week’s Sunday Closer, NBC’s Kerry Sanders travels to Nashville to meet vets finding their new rhythm alongside two of country music’s biggest songwriters.
Miami Herald: No wonder military veterans flock to Florida. Florida reigns as a paradise for snowbirds. Beachside motels lure Canadians and spring-breakers. And according to personal-finance site WalletHub, Florida also is the best state for military retirees. WalletHub’s analysis compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia using 22 key indicators of retirement-friendliness toward veterans.
American Legion Post 328, Southfield, Michigan Listing of Current Events in and around the Metro Detroit Area for and about Veterans, for the period May 18 – June 3, 2017. http://www.legionpost328.org/events.html Sent in by our fellow Veteran Tim Wirkus. Thanks Tim!
Federal Business Council, Inc. (FBC) List of remaining Industry Outreach Events for CY 2017.
National Veteran Small Business Coalition (NVSBC) VETS-17, June 12 – 14, 2017, Norfolk Waterside Marriott in Norfolk VA. A great Business Development Conference created by Veterans for Veterans. Early Bird registration is now through March 31st. Pay now, save now! The Waterside Marriott in Norfolk, Virginia always sells out quickly. NSSBC does not have other hotels contracted, so if you want the convenience of staying at the Riverside Marriott, please consider booking ASAP. Go here for more scoop and to register: http://www.veterantrainingsymposium.com/Hope to see you folks there!
2017 Virginia Women Veterans Summit, June 22 – 23, 2017, Chesapeake, VA. This event brings together Veterans, employers, community leaders and government agencies from federal, state, and local levels to raise awareness about the services and benefits offered specifically for women veterans through expert presenters, panel discussion and exhibits. The conference will feature speakers such as Dorothy McAuliffe, First Lady of Virginia (Invited) and Deshauna Barber, Miss USA 2016, U.S. Army Reserve Captain and more! The Virginia Department of Veterans Services encourages women veterans who have, currently are, or will be transitioning into civilian life to register for this event. If you do not meet this qualification, kindly respect those who do by not registering for this event. Registration for this event is required. For details and to sign up, go here…
Non Commissioned Officers Association Annual Conference – July 11 -14, 2017. The Golden Nugget, Las Vegas, NV. Go here for more information and to register for this event: https://www.ncoaconference.org/
Mount Vernon Celebrates Purple Heart Day – Monday, August 7, 2017. You are cordially invited to celebrate National Purple Heart Day at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. It is our honor to have you join us as we commemorate the oldest military decoration in the United States at the beloved home of its founder. Here is information you might find helpful in planning your visit. http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=2313d2141f19dbc004908589e&id=04795fbcf8&e=
14th Annual Elite SDVOB National Conference, August 16 – 18, 2017, Orlando, FL. Convention website here: http://www.sdvobconference.com/ Go here for Hotel Information and Reservations: