Tag Archives: veterans

Returning Vets: GI Bill Failing Them

Returning Veterans:

GI Bill Earns Dunce Cap 

GI Bill earns dunce capGI Bill earns Dunce Cap 

 I found this story in today’s @issue section of the Atlanta Journal- Constitution.   The author is Ellis Henican who is a columnist for Newsday.   He makes a point that returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan arrive to an ugly surprise – the highly touted education they were promised is still limping along essentially at World War II rates of funding compared to actual costs of an education.   The GI Bill is failing them and failing us for the promises we make for our heroes that go off to war.

He says what too many of us have been saying for it not to be true:  Our members of Congress from both parties are constantly saying how much they support our troops, yet once again, they shortchange our warriors when they come home.    Read the excerpts and then go back to the link above and read the entire article:

Returning Vets find GI Bill earns dunce cap

by Ellis Henican 

Newsday

Published on: 11/30/07

They’re coming home, the lucky ones are, pulling their lives back together after harrowing times in the war zone.   And the GI Bill is there to help them, same as it was for “the greatest generation,” who returned to civilian society after World War II.

Um, well, not exactly.

American vets now coming back from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are facing an ugly surprise — and I don’t just mean the iffy health care at their local VA hospital. The educational benefits that sounded so alluring in those upbeat recruiting ads? They don’t come close to covering the real costs of college.

“Four hundred dollars? Are you kidding?” Army Reserve Spc. Sheila Pion said of her monthly stipend. “Just my textbooks cost $410.”

A seven-year reservist back home in Long Island City, N.Y., and attending John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Pion served at an Army hospital in Kuwait, tending to wounded soldiers. “It was important duty,” said Pion, 24. “I was happy to do it. But the whole point of me joining the military was to pay for my education. And the educational benefits are nothing like they lead you to believe.”

(…)

Under today’s GI Bill, regular-service combat vets get $1,101 a month, far less for fighting members of the National Guard and Reserve. No one’s going to Harvard or Columbia on that kind of money. And even to qualify, today’s soldiers are required to deposit $100 a month into their own education fund, months or years before they ever get a nickel back.

“A combat tax,” the troops have starting calling these paycheck deductions.

(…)  Read the rest at the link, please.

 “Supporting the troops”

should be more than just a slogan!

______________________________________________________

Note:  After posting this an hour or so ago, I came across this related information. 

Did you know that the “No Child Left Behind” act now carries a provision that requires primary schools (your child’s high school for example) to provide detailed contact information for every child in the school to military recruiters?

Military recruiters can blitz youngsters with uninvited phone calls to their homes and on-campus pitches replete with video war games. This is all possible under a little noted part of the law that requires schools to provide the names, addresses (campus addresses, too) and phone numbers of students or risk losing federal aid. The law provides an option to block the hard-sell recruitment – but only if parents demand in writing that the school deny this information to the military.

It is in the recruitment of lower middle class students, focused on minority blacks and Hispanics, where the education card is pushed hardest in order to meet the recruitment goals to fill the ranks of our military.  These are the kids most likely to see an educational opportunity as a blessing and also the most unlikely to realize that it will not be enough to get them a real education.  It is these recruits that are in most need that later find the GI Bill failing them most dramatically.

Oldtimer

 

Barack Obama: Veterans/Poverty Headlines and Video

Barack and Veterans Issues

Ok, I’m not trying to influence any votes here, nor run off any readers.  It’s just that I’m impressed with what I’ve heard said by Senator Obama regarding homelessness and veterans and what the press and veterans advocates have said.  I don’t know if you have seen them.   He does have the advantage of being a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committe.   I acknowledge that there are other important issues than veterans and homelessness to consider in a campaign, but that is what we are about here, so that is my focus.

I do have an couple of links to the Clinton side.  There is an equal-time segment at the bottom that will give you a look see between the top two Democratic candidates on veterans issues.   I may come back with more of this and feature a Republican or two later.  We will see how this plays out with my readers first.  Are you interested in politics?

BarackObamadotcom  (Video) Dinner with Barack Obama:  Four grassroots donors talk to Barack Obama about veterans and poverty during dinner.

I’ve mentioned Obama and Veterans in a previous post where he discusses his plan to improve veterans care and help get the homeless veterans off the streets as reported by a wire service.

Here are a few more headlines and links on this subject:

SEN. OBAMA: VETERANS ADMINISTRATION DENIED HEALTH CARE SERVICES TO NEARLY 9,000 ILLINOIS VETERANS IN 2005

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) today announced that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) denied health care to 8,944 Illinois veterans last year as part of a Bush Administration cost-cutting policy begun in 2003. Nationally, more than 260,000 veterans were denied access to VA hospitals, clinics and medications in Fiscal
Year 2005

Clinton v. Obama, Veterans Version

The tit-for-tat between Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama has expanded to new territory:   veterans benefits.

This week, the “Commission on Care of America’s Wounded Warriors” issued recommendations for improving treatment for veterans who return injured from the front. Clinton and Obama responded the way members of Congress often do to government reports – with legislative language.  

(…)  explains different positions

Obama, McCaskill sponsor bill on care for veterans

Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) are sponsoring legislation to improve the lives of recovering veterans at Walter Reed, while Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), a cosponsor of the Obama-McCaskill legislation, said that he would explore ways to direct new funds to Walter Reed and make immediate improvements to its veteran housing.

Barack Obama Honors Sacrifice of America’s Veterans

Barack Obama has a record of helping the heroes who defend our nation today and the veterans who fought in years past. As a grandson of a World War II veteran who went to college on the G.I. Bill and a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, Obama has successfully reached out to Republicans and Democrats to pass laws to combat homelessness among veterans, improve care for troops recovering from injuries, ease the transition of new veterans into society, and make the disability benefits process more equitable.

Veterans Issues  From Obama’s website

Homeless Veterans

Every year, 400,000 veterans across the country, including an estimated 38,000 in Chicago, spend some time living on the streets. Senator Obama has been a leader in fighting homelessness among veterans. He authored the Sheltering All Veterans Everywhere Act (SAVE Act) to strengthen and expand federal homeless veteran programs that serve over 100,000 homeless veterans annually. During the debate on the Fiscal Year 2007 budget, Senator Obama passed an amendment to increase funding for homeless veterans programs by $40 million. These funds would benefit programs that provide food, clothing, mental health and substance abuse counseling, and employment and housing assistance to homeless veterans.

Working with Senators Akaka and Craig, Senator Obama passed legislation in December 2006 to provide comprehensive services and affordable housing options to veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Housing and Urban Development and nonprofit organizations. This legislation was signed into law and is modeled on parts of the SAVE Act and the Homes for Heroes Act, a measure that Senator Obama had previously authored.

Benefits Disparities

The Bush Administration’s approach to handling veterans’ health care ignores the reality of increasing demands on the VA, and the additional burden placed on veterans. The Administration has established a means test for VA health care eligibility, and it has banned hundreds of thousands of veterans – some who make as little as $30,000 a year – from enrolling in the system. These changes affect both older and younger veterans, and Senator Obama has opposed them, fighting instead for greater funding for veterans’ health care.

Greater Funding for Veterans Health Care

In January 2007, Senator Obama reintroduced the Lane Evans Veterans Health and Benefits Improvement Act to improve the VA’s planning process to avoid budget shortfalls in the future. The bill requires the VA and the Department of Defense to work together and share data so that we know precisely how many troops will be returning home and entering the VA system.

Food for Recovering Soldiers

Senator Obama introduced an amendment that became law providing food services to wounded veterans receiving physical therapy or rehabilitation services at military hospitals. Previously, service members receiving physical therapy or rehabilitation services in a medical hospital for more than 90 days were required to pay for their meals.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
 

Senator Obama fought a VA proposal that would have required a reexamination of all Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) cases in which full benefits were granted. He and Senator Durbin passed an amendment that became law preventing the VA from conducting a review of cases, without first providing Congress with a complete report regarding the implementation of such review. In November 2005, the VA announced that it was abandoning its planned review.

Senator Obama passed an amendment to ensure that all service members returning from Iraq are properly screened for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). TBI is being called the signature injury of the Iraq war. The blast from improvised explosive devices can jar the brain, causing bruising or permanent damage. Concussions can have huge health effects including slowed thinking, headaches, memory loss, sleep disturbance, attention and concentration deficits, and irritability.

Easing the Transition to the VA

Senator Obama passed an amendment that became law requiring the Department of Defense (DOD) to report to Congress on the delayed development of an electronic medical records system compatible with the VA’s electronic medical records system. DOD’s delay in developing such a system has created obstacles for service members transitioning into the VA health care system.

Part of the Lane Evans Veterans Health and Benefits Improvement Act, which Senator Obama reintroduced in January 2007, would help veterans transition from the DOD health system to the VA system by extending the window in which new veterans can get mental health care from two years to five years. The Lane Evans bill also would improve transition services for members of the National Guard and Reserves.

For Equal Time’s sake:

Compare Senator Obama’s site with Senator Clinton’s site, both on Veterans Issues.

Oldtimer

Veteran Job Opportunities Continued

Veteran Job Preference 

 Jobs Available Now

I recently posted two articles on the Labor Department featuring information on Job Discrimination/Preference issues and on Job opportunities through “Hire Vets First“.    In the continuing interest in helping our veteran heroes  who may be out of a job or thinking of finding a better one, or relocating, I’m extending the series on Jobs by featuring a few more sites dedicated to assisting our veterans, including homeless veterans, in finding jobs.

One is  VetJobs.com  Logo of Vetjobs which supplies employment assistance and a job search facility.  I highly recommend that you do the work of reviewing and using the employment assistance page before you jump into doing the job search (it is ok to peek at the job search, but if you don’t do the preparation, you have vastly reduced chances). 

When you reach the job search portion notice that there is an “Age of Jobs” window.  If you don’t select the age of jobs (say posted in last 7 days) then you may get some pretty stale ones.   You can do a keyword search or by type of job (or all)  and select the state (or all).  If it comes up blank, expand to earlier dates, nearby states, or all jobs.

Another is USAJobS USA JOBSwhich has a Veterans’ Employment Resource Center .  Once again, I recommend you start here.  Do the 2 step process, and also look at the “additional veterans’ resources” on the same page before you go to the job search.    These are all government jobs.

When you reach the job search portion, notice the keywords portion which you can leave blank for all jobs or put in words like “management” to get all management jobs.   Again, you can select the age of the posting from 24 hours, 3 days etc.  There is another useful window where you can select a zip code that you are interested in and also select how many miles you are willing to travel.    You can get back to the resource center mentioned above by clicking on the veteran’s tab.

Homeland securtiy needs help, so try their USAJOBS Homeland Security page.

Active Duty family Members looking for a job?  Try DoD’s Military Assistance Program designed for spouses and other members of active duty military.  It seems this site has quite a few active duty readers, so I’ve found this for them.

Military Job Assistance

Be sure to run your cursor over the block labeled “Center Programs Menu” on this page for a set of links to various features of MAP.

Here is another useful link Career One Stop Logo

This link takes you a map where you can click on a state and be directed to that state’s Labor Department or Job Locator.  The site, called America’s Job Bank is no longer in operation, but the map is still there and the Labor Department or other link that it takes you to is current and operational.   Notice before you make a map selection there are links at the bottom right for veterans in case you wish to stay with that route.

Finally (for today’s post) try Corporate Gray logo 

This site does require you to register.  I don’t know the consequences to that.   You can register on most of the other sites as an option (recommeded), but this one requires registration to participate in the job search.

We link employers with transitioning and former military personnel through our Corporate Gray Series of military-to-civilian career transition books, Corporate Gray Job Fairs, and Corporate Gray Online

They list a number of job fairs on the front page.

Happy Thanksgiving.  I hope you and yours are having (or had) a great Thanksgiving feast and really have a lot to be thankful for.

Anyone that has links to other useful sites are welcome to include them in the comment section and I’ll check them out.  I’m not above editing to add or remove links in this post.  I’m  not interested in posting single job opportunities though (not enough room) , so please limit your links to those with state or national searches that remain current.

Oldtimer. 

  

Hire Vets First

Banner for Hire Vets First

Hire Vets First – VETS

I hope that all veterans that need jobs or considering changing jobs know about this site on your nearby internet:  Veterans’ Employment & Training Service (VETS).

It is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor.  “Veterans Succeeding in the 21st Century Workforce”.

The mission statement for VETS is to provide veterans and transitioning service members with the resources and services to succeed in the 21st century workforce by maximizing their employment opportunities, protecting their employment rights and meeting labor-market demands with qualified veterans today.

Down the left side of the page are boxes of clickable information for 

Service providers

What grants are available?
2007 HVRP Urban and Non-Urban SGA
What are the requirements for priority of service?

Veterans, Service Members and Families

What is Veterans Preference?
USERRA Questions?
Where can I find help with employment?
What should I know about licensing and certification? 
 

Employers

How do I find qualified veterans?
What does USERRA require?
What is required of Federal contractors?

Down the right side of the page are clickable links to Transition Assistance Program (TAP) Information and other valuable resources.  If I were a veteran looking for help in preparing for a job, I would start down the right hand column and click every line and at least scan what they have to offer, then sign up.  Everything from how to get your documents, how to prepare a resume, how to convert your military experience into civilian readable lingo, how to convert your rank into comparable rank in a civilian organization, how to determine what jobs you may be qualified for, how to schedule interviews, what to wear, what to bring, what to say, how to conduct yourself, and where to find listings for both federal and civilian jobs that give veterans preference.

Here is what Department of Labor says about the TAP program:

The Transition Assistance Program (TAP) workshops have provided job-search assistance to well over one million separating and retiring military members and their spouses since 1990. Studies have indicated those who attend TAP workshops find employment sooner than those not participating.

 The Departments of Defense, Labor, Veteran Affairs and Transportation are dedicated to providing you with these important workshops for years to come. TAP workshops are conducted by professionally trained facilitators. Participants will learn how to write effective resumes and cover letters, proper interviewing techniques, and the most current methods for successful job searches. The workshops further provide labor market conditions, assessing your individual skills and competencies, information regarding licensing and certification requirements for certain career fields and up-to-date information regarding your veteran benefits. Information addressing the special needs of disabled veterans is also available

If you are out of a job with time on your hands, what do you have to lose?  There is enormous resource information here.   The manual can be downloaded and viewed on line – all 184 pages of it.   Check it out!

Use the site above to decide what documents you need to get for your portfoleo and begin building a resume now.  Enroll in the TAP program through VETS.  Keep looking for a job with whatever you have, but if you want top dollar and want the very best chance of beating the other guy out, plan out a strategy and build a resume as a special project.  It will make a difference, but don’t stop looking/trying just because you have not completed this program.   Look for a job, work on the program, and if you have not been placed yet or are not satisfied with what you took, finish the program and apply again.  You will be better prepared and better accepted. 

There are some Special Programs you could be interested in – look at the very bottom of the right hand column and find

Helments to Hardhats  

Troops 2 Truckers  

Troops to Teachers  

(These links here are shortcuts to the programs, the logos were added from the sites by me)

Next:  Job listing site for current employment opportunities for veterans

Oldtimer

Veterans Should Know This About Job Discrimination.

Veterans should already know this about job discrimination

But in case you don’t, I’m going to tell you anyway.  If you ever are in need of a job,  or trying to return to a job after military service (and all this applys to homeless veterans as well), or you are disabled and your employer is not accomodating that disablement, you may not know about some programs designed specifically to help you find a new job or return to a job after service.  The first of these is USERRA.

USERRA

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA)  covers virtually every individual in the country who serves in or has served in the uniformed services and applies to all employers in the public and private sectors, including (but not limited to)Federal employers.

 

The law seeks to ensure that those who serve their country can retain their civilian employment and benefits, and can seek employment that is free from discrimination because of their service (public or private employment) . USERRA also provides special protection for disabled veterans, requiring employers to make reasonable efforts to accommodate the disability.

 

Basically this law gives veterans certain rights to return to their old jobs if they leave for military service.    Veterans are also protected from civilian/private (non federal) employees denying new employement just becasue of your military service (such as an employer just will not hire former military for some reason).  

 

Veterans that are disabled have a further advantage in requiring employers to make reasonable efforts to accommodate the disability.  Veterans applying for federal jobs have a special preference (points) assigned that give them an advantage over non veterans when applying for those jobs.

 

Are you covered by the Law?

Click here to find out if you are covered under this law:   Answer the questions and determine if you are covered. Some of these are service related by particular years. 

Do you think you have been discriminated against?

If you think you have been discrimated against, click here: eLaws USERRA Advisor – Discrimination read what it says, then press “continue” and you will find a series of questions that will lead you to an answer as to whether you have a case.

 If you appear to have a valid basis for filing a complaint, how do you file a claim?

Before filing a complaint, you should discuss your concerns with your supervisor and/or the Federal agency personnel office that took the action. Anyone you choose, including an official of a veterans’ service organization, may help you at any time. If you are unable to resolve the matter with the agency, you should:

  • contact your local State Employment Service office and speak to a Veterans’ Employment Representative or a Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program Specialist. He or she will make sure your information is complete and forward your complaint to the DOL State representative for the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS);

or

  • file a written complaint directly with a DOL Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) Office. Please review the instructions on how to file a complaint form . You will find a link to the form on the instructions page.   This involves downloading a form 1010 available at the instructions link above..

What are your remedies?

Remedies to a claimant under the law may flow from two different processes. The first is the administrative route (handled by the United States Department of Labor, VETS). The second is the litigation route (handled by the U.S. Attorney General or the Office of Special Counsel). Remedies may differ depending on which route is chosen.

Remedies available through the administrative route can include:

  • Return to a job
  • Back pay
  • Lost benefits
  • Corrected personnel files
  • Lost promotional opportunities
  • Retroactive seniority
  • Pension adjustments
  • Restored vacation

The courts can require the employer to comply with the law and restore all compensation referred to above. Where violation is considered willful the court may double any amount due as liquidated damages. The court may NOT, however, impose any punitive damages under USERRA.

There is a lot more to this topic. What I’ve tried to do above is muddle through some of the links and find some shortcuts.  You should go to the USERRA Advisor home page for the full scoop.

I will cover another of these programs designed to help veterans in need of a job tomorrow.

 

Oldtimer

Wounded warriors battle with VA – Story and Videos

Wounded Warriors Battle With VA

I watched a horrifying story on CNN last night.  I missed it on regular programming, checked the programming guide and waited for the midnight repeat.   The CNN title of the story was:

Broken Government: Waging War on the VA

It repeats tonight, Sunday night (Nov 18) at 8 Eastern, so if you get a chance, please check your schedule.   It is a powerful indictment of the VA’s handling of disability claims.  It is the story of 3 wounded veterans trying to get justice and only able to do it by virtually going to war again to fight for their rights.

One of the wounded warriors and a really heartbreaking story was Ty Ziegel, 25 years old who had been severely injured by a suicide bomber, “sent back to the states to die”, but lived.  Despite losing nearly half of his skull and a large portion of his brain, penetrating shrapnel and bone fragments in his brain, with both ears, nose and lips burned off and impossible to replace,  loss of an eye and resulting enormous disfiguration, the VA listed him as having “10% head trauma”.  10% head trauma.  In addition the damage to the left lobe of his brain,  loss of an eye and jaw fracture as haveing 0% trauma.  0% for loss of 1/4 of his brain, loss of an eye? He also lost one arm at the elbow, and two fingers and a thumb from his other hand, plus numerous other injuries for which the bulk of his small disability payment was granted.    Far below the poverty line disability for a man disfigured and totally disabled.

Ty Ziegel before and after

Ty Ziegel, before and after.   CNN News photo

(Click on the picture or here to see the video).  These videos are short promo clips about 2 minutes long and I don’t know how long they will keep them up on their site.  Go to  CNN and see the real thing.  Click here for part 2

Another veteran, Garrett Anderson received a roadside bomb injury that sent shrapanel into his head and body, and he lost an arm while driving a truck in a convoy.  The VA initially rejected his claim, saying that it was “not service connected”.   He was also suffering from what he thought was PTSD.  In Garrett’s case the letter stating that there were “shrapnel wounds all over his body, not service connected” had the signature cut out of the letter with a knife.  Apparently the signer was not proud of his decision and knew it was wrong.  

Garrett Anderson

Garrett Anderson.  Click on the picture or here for the video clip.

In Ziegel’s case, within 48 hours of taping an interview with CNN, the VA changed his disability to 100%.  In Anderson’s case, his wife took a sneak peak at his case file while a nurse was out of he room and she discovered they had  him listed in their files a suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), but had failed to tell him or give him any disability credit for it.   He went to Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois who turned up the pressure on the VA and subsequently has been awarded disability for TBI.

The third story was about Tammy Duckworth who lost both legs and had severe injuries to one arm and her body.   She later ran for Congress with the hope of improving things for disabled veterans.  She lost but has been appointed by the Governor of Illinois to be the Director of the IL Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Click here for the CNN news promo clip for her story.  Go to the link with Tammy’s name above and click on “veteran’s issues” to get a flavor of what she has learned about the Va while she was in their care and her run for Congress.

Our wounded warriors, our heroes, should not have to fight for our country, then fight for their life and still have to fight for their benefits!

Oldtimer

 

GAO Testimony – DOD and VA

Transition Field Unit staffingGAO Testimony – DOD and VA

This is a troubling situation.  We have our kids off at war and they become severely injured, physically and mentally.   Our country has pulled out all stops to provide the best possible care for them and still we have problems.  Due to the protective gear and terrific and speedy medical care, thankfully more and more are surviving.  This shift in the severity and long term recovery needs requires major adjustments in our programs for treatment and rehabitation, for our benefits and compensation programs.  The cause and effect has driven the case loads and delays out of sight at the expense of our wounded heroes.

The good news is that that there is a scramble going on to correct these problems as soon as possible. There are people in high places capable of fixing the problem that have a heart for our heroes and are working very hard to fix the problems.  There are people in our VA and in militray trauma centers that are just as frustrated as we are.  There is a continuum of care mentality for our soldiers starting at the battlefield and continuing through our VA system. There are programs under development to reduce the time required to make determinations before our heroes get the treatment and benefits they need.

The bad news is there are still more than 150,000 cases more than 6 months old among the pending 600,000 cases in the VBA system, and we have no idea how old these cases really are.  The GAO found that new programs designed to correct the problems are not yet fully off the ground and there are severe staffing problems in key places, both on the active duty side and the veteran side of the picture. It appears to me that some of it is due to needing to move physicians from one program to staff another, leaving both under staffed. 

(Download Here)

What the GAO found

Warrior Transition Unit

Challenges have emerged for staffing the Warrior Transition Unit in which servicemembers are assigned to three key staff – a physician care manager, a nurse care manager, and a squad leader. For example, as of mid-September 2007, over half the U.S. Warrior Transition Units had significant shortfalls in one or more of these critical positions. In addition the number of recovery coordinators and how many servicemembers each would serve have yet to be determined.

Transition Field Unit staffing

This table shows that in actuality we have only 35% perminent staffing for these teams.  More than 450 of the existing staff (19%) have been borrowed from elsewhere, likely reducing the staff, already short, in othere facilities.   The table below shows where those with less than 50% staffing are located. 

 Staffing problem locations

PTSD and TBI 

Three independent review groups examining the deficiencies found at Walter Reed identified a range of complex problems associated with DOD and VA’s screening, diagnosis, and treatment of TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and PTSD, signature injuries of recent conflicts. Both conditions are sometimes referred to as “invisible injuries” because outwardly the individual’s appearance is just as it was before the injury or onset of symptoms. In terms of mild TBI, there may be no observable head injury and symptoms may overlap with those associated with PTSD. With respect to PTSD, there is no objective diagnostic test and its symptoms can sometimes be associated with other psychological conditions (e.g., depression).

TBI and PTSD chart
 
This table outlines what is being implimented (or planned) for handling TBI and PTSD better.   However, according to Army officials and the Independent Review Group report, obtaining qualified health professionals, such as clinical psychologists, is a challenge, which is due to competition with private sector salaries and difficulty recruiting for certain geographical locations. 

Data Sharing

In addition, the Dole-Shalala Commission noted that while VA is considered a leader in PTSD research and treatment, knowledge generated through research and clinical experience is not systematically disseminated to all DOD and VA providers of care.

Data Sharing

This table shows the efforts being taken to improve the data sharing between organizations. 

Disability Evaluations

As GAO and others have previously reported, providing timely and consistent disability decisions is a challenge for both DOD and VA. To address identified concerns, the Army has taken steps to streamline its disability evaluation process and reduce bottlenecks.   To address identified concerns, the Army has taken steps to streamline its disability evaluation process and reduce bottlenecks. The Army has also developed and conducted the first certification training for evaluation board liaisons who help servicemembers navigate the system. To address more systemic concerns, the Senior Oversight Committee is planning to pilot a joint disability evaluation system. Pilot options may incorporate variations of three key elements:

(1) a single, comprehensive medical examination;

(2) a single disability rating done by VA; and

(3) a DOD-level evaluation board for adjudicating servicemembers’ fitness for duty.

DOD and VA officials hoped to begin the pilot in August 2007, but postponed implementation in order to further review options and address open questions, including those related to proposed legislation.

Fixing these long-standing and complex problems as expeditiously as possible is critical to ensuring high-quality care for returning servicemembers, and success will ultimately depend on sustained attention, systematic oversight by DOD and VA, and sufficient resources.

You are invited to download and read the entire report here:  GAO Report (pdf – 32 pages)

Oldtimer

REFORM NEEDED: Brain-injured vets getting lost in the VA

REFORM NEEDED:

Brain-injured vets getting lost in the VA

I found this in the Opinion Section of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.  It dovetails with an article I was already writing and  nicelly illustrates the enormous problem of finding enough doctors and specialists to adequately care for our heroes that need treatment NOW.  I’ve decided to post it now and follow up with just released GAO testimony relating to the problem which will appear in my next post.  “Stay tuned.”  

Oldtimer

By Kevin Ferris
Philadelphia Inquirer

Published on: 11/12/07

Allen McQuarrie is looking for a few good doctors.  He wants them to volunteer their time and talents to their local Veterans Administration hospital.  Nothing against the quality of the folks already working there. The problem is. there simply aren’t enough doctors and specialists to go around for diagnosis and treatment — or to guide vets through the bureaucratic maze.

Worse, one of the current conflict’s signature wounds — brain injuries — makes it difficult for some vets to juggle the appointments, record-keeping and other demands the VA puts on them.

“We’re doing a wonderful job of getting the wounded off the battlefield and into a hospital in Germany and then back here,” McQuarrie says. “But continuing care once they’re out of the military is what needs systemic change.”

McQuarrie learned of the system’s shortcomings because of his son Doug, a 21-year veteran of the Navy SEALs who has back and brain injuries sustained in combat and training.

Doug McQuarrie has shuttled from the VA to civilian doctors, while trying to hold down a job and support his family in Virginia. The civilians say he needs immediate care, but the VA can’t see him for months — although he can call daily, hoping for a cancellation.

Allen McQuarrie has tried to help from his home in Doylestown, Pa., calling the VA but also seeking assistance from senators and representatives. In the process, he’s learned that Doug’s case isn’t unique — and that the VA desperately needs help.

Despairing and angry, he wrote to Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.): “It may be better for our men and women to come home dead than to suffer such painful and ultimately mortal deterioration.”

In the same letter, he asked for emergency legislation to encourage civilian doctors to “adopt” vets and provide the immediate neurological care many need. He suggested tax incentives and improved military insurance to help offset the volunteers’ costs.

McQuarrie’s hopes for a more responsive, faster-acting VA are shared by others including Congress’ Veterans Disability Benefits Commission.

One commission member, retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston, a Medal of Honor recipient, emphasizes three required changes.

Have a single review for disabilities. Now there are two.

Streamline the record-keeping process as vets move from care by the Defense Department to the VA.

Adopt the technology that will improve efficiency and speed up treatment.

And don’t worry about the costs.

(there is more to this story in the AJC – click on the link above and read the rest)

Now you have a flavor of the problem:  Not enough doctors to go around, too much paperwork, not enough technology – as viewed from the patient/family side of the problem.   Stay tuned for the recent GAO Testimony on the problem, coming up in my next post.

Oldtimer

Women Warriors

U.S. Department of

Veterans Affairs

Seal

 Women Veterans:  Past Present and Future

Revised and Updated

 May 2005

Robert E. Klein, Ph.D.,
Office of the Actuary
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy,
Assistant Secretary for Policy, Planning, and Preparedness

I thought we should give some thought on this Veterans Day weekend to our women warriors.   (Download Full 27 Page Document Here)

 The above document has been prepared by the VA and may be of interest to our women warriors and veterans.  All the bold print above and below are copied directly from the VA document.

     “Women are a vital part of the armed forces and the community of veterans. The study of women veterans begins with the history of women in the military and the changing role of women in the military.”

Brief Outline:

Women in the Military: A Historical perspective in Brief

The Population of Women Veterans

Age

Geographic Distribution

Race and Hispanic Origin

Marital Status

Socio-Economic Characteristics

Educational Attainment

Employment

Family Income

Use of VA Benefits

Compensation

Pension 

Educational Benefits, Vocational Rehabilitation, and Employment

VA Home Loan Guarnaty

VA Life Insturance

VA Burial Benefits

Health Care

 

A Final Thought :         “The important role of women in our nation’s defense and as part of the veteran population over the years cannot be over-stated nor covered adequately in these few short pages.  Their history is a glorious one and sadly one not always acknowledged or appreciated.  With time, however, has come deserved recognition, both for women in the military and for women as veterans.  And with their projected larger numbers, with full integration in all branches, including combat units, and with greater racial and ethnic diversity in the armed forces, women will change the face not only of our military, but of our veteran population as well.  Women will make up a larger share of the veteran population, add to its diversity, and require veteran services geared to their specific needs.  The debt owed to all our veterans and to women in particular demands nothing less than full attention and action.”

 The above document may be downloaded here

They are All Heroes

They Are Veterans

Oldtimer
 

Homeless Vets? Not Again!

Video from Life & Times

This story takes place in Los Angeles.  It is the story of homeless veterans helped by  New Directions, a non-profit organization that focuses on treatment on substance abuse.  It includes interviews with veterans with a form of  PTSD unique to Iraq and Afghanistan and also an extensive interview with the director of New Directions who explains that they receive $28.00 a day for each veteran but spend $60.00 a day to treat them – funds made up elsewhere.  So far they have treated over 5000 veterans.

The link takes you to the Life & Times blog site.  Read the reporter’s notes – they are important to the story.  Then watch the video.  Homeless Vets? Not Again!

 

Homeless Vets Title 

Click on the link above or on the screen to see video

 

Neighbors Vs Good Neighbors

Neighbors Vs Good Neighbors

I’ve always been taught to love my neighbors.   I do – I have no trouble loving anyone I meet whether through our church, within a business, on the street, or even on the net.  

I have to confess that I love some gooder than others (gooder is a good southern word, thank you).  Some are just fine people and they always exhibit good vibes whenever you speak to them.  Good Neighbors are also the first to pony up to help someone out.  Oh, they complain about this or that, but it is good naturedly and accompanied by a winning smile of acceptance.   

This is Veterans Day and I was prompted to think about the Good Neighbors that are in service to our country and particularly those that have already served – our veterans.  

What better neighbor can you have than one that served to keep us free?  What better neighbor can we have that unselfishly put themselves in harms way, under threat of being maimed and possibly death?   These are among the goodest neighbors we can hope to have.

I was impressed today at the little cafeteria where we ate after church, when so many men came in decorated with pins, flags, and name tags that their churches and synagogues had pinned on them so we would know that a good neighbor, a hero, was in our presence.   I managed to shake a few hands and express thanks.  Not enough for what they did for us.  Not nearly enough.

We have some Good Neighbors right here on the net.   Wanderingvet for example.  A homeless veteran that is about as fine a person as you can find even in his present situation.  A working veteran with not enough income or steady jobs to have a roof.   Go read some of his stories as he lives a life on the streets and sleeps on the hillsides.  It is a struggle but he hands out useful advice to other homeless on how to cope, useful advice to other veterans on how to get help.   Maybe one or two can help him.

Another Good Neighbor is VA234 who is a disabled veteran in Ohio that started his blog while he was still homeless.  If you go back far enough and read forward you will get the real story of what it is like to struggle with life from the street side, negotiating toward a real place to live.

Another Good Neighbor is Patriot Guard of North Dakota These fine people show up at military funeral services when some of our not-so-good neighbors threaten protests.  You’ve heard of groups that come out and carry signs demonizing the soldier hero being brought home to rest and doing so at the expense of the grieving family and friends.  The Patriot Guards show up on motorcyles and reverently stand guard to make sure the services are not disturbed.   The North Dakota Patriot Guard is particulary close to my heart because they went to the rescue of a veteran that was about to be put out on the street and his home torn down.   They did far more than that.  You can find it in earlier posts.

Al and Perry, homeless veterans here in Marietta are Good Neighbors.  I’m sorry that I can’t give you a link to them because they still live in the woods.   Pat of Georgia Home Staging, her husband Scott, and several others in our church are especially Good Neighbors for coming to the aid of Al and Perry (and other homeless), taking food and clothing, bringing Al and Perry into our church, breaking bread with them over lunch each Sunday.    They are encouraging Al and Perry to get help through the VA by providing information and assistance to get it done.

The Golden Corral seems to be a Good Neighbor.  They don’t need a link, just go find one if you are a veteran, or have a meal there anyway because they are such Good Neighbors.  (They also helped us out with Habitat meals).  Monday, November 12 is this years “Military Appreciation Day” in which they will give any and all veterans that show up a free meal.   I learned that at another Good Neighbor, Homeless Family BlogI’m not sure he is a veteran, but he has a veteran’s heart and writes a good blog.   I know he was homeless at one time and allowed me to quote him several times.  

There are countless others that I don’t have links for that fall into the Good Neighbor category.  

The title of this article is “Neighbors vs Good Neighbors” so now I’m going to go over to the bad side, the simply neighbor side, to live up to the billing of Oldtimer Speaks Out.  I know I’m supposed to love my neighbor as myself, but I’m having a really hard time doing that with an internet neighbor.  This neighbor is one of the bad ones.  He wrote me today in response to a comment about medical care for our heroes and it nearly ruined my whole day: 

“They’re treating heroes – but why??? I’m (sic) don’t understand.”  

At first I thought it had to be a typo, (as in meaning to say “mistreating heroes”) but then I looked up the guy’s website and found it was a site that is anti-war, anti troops, a hate site.   Now it is not a stretch to see that some would be against the war, as I’m not thrilled about that myself.   But this group and this person is also against our troops.   Against our troops so much they want them to go untreated, to suffer, to even die.   It is this type of bad neighbor that would carry a sign and shout and disrupt a solumn funeral for a war hero while the family grieves nearby.  Thus the reason for such Good Neighbors as the Patriot Guard.

Yes, I do have compassion for this person for his bitterness.  But I’m not allowing him to post on this website.  It is the only one I’ve turned down so far.  He may be a neighbor, but God and I may have a conversation tonight about whether I should love him.   Anyway, I’ve hope that He would agree that I don’t have to let this neighbor over the threshold and enjoy the comforts of my home.  

To the bad neighbor that doesn’t know “why???”, I’ll answer your question anyway.  Because they more than deserve it.  They served their country to protect the hide of someone like yourself, for me, for all the other Good Neighbors that have already served, for your families and mine, to protect and serve – that is why.   Never mind how this war started, never mind whether you think it is unjustified … these patriotic young men and women stepped up to the plate when the plate was empty, stayed at the plate as the strikes went by and stand there now to hit the winning home run.   Ever ready to protect the bitter worthless souls such as yourself  that would deny them the comfort and aid of treatment.   

Another bad neighbor is the retailer’s gross use of Veteran’s Day to post advertizements such as I’ve seen so many of today.  “Come celebrate Veteran’s Day at our car lot”. “At our white sale”, “at our drugstore”.  No other mention of Veterans except as an excuse to shop them.  No flags, no parades, no contributions to veteran’s benefit.  Simply a gross excuse to ride on the back of a day meant to honor our heroes.   

To my Good Neighbors and Good Friends all over this web that are Veterans and Soldiers,  I hope this Veterans Day is a particularly good one for you!  And to the bad neighbors, I propose Grace and Peace to you as well and hope you soon see the light.

 Oldtimer

 

 

 

  

 

Veterans Benefits Administration Work Load Score Card

Veterans Benefits Administration Score Card

 VA Score Card Cases

As of Saturday, November 3, 2007

The VBA keeps a running Monday morning workload  scorecard which you can download, print or review.   The card reflects data only 2 days old.  Here is what they say about it:

The Monday Morning Reports are a compilation of work load indicators reported by Veterans Benefits Administration field offices. VBA’s Office of Performance Analysis and Integrity is responsible for compiling these spreadsheets. Questions or comments should be e-mailed to VBA’s Office of Field Operations, which is responsible for regional office management.

The Regional Offices are clustered according to organizational groupings called Areas. There are four Areas within the VBA field structure: Eastern, Southern, Central and Western. Reports are in Excel. You may download free viewer software to view the reports.

You can access their site with this link to the VBA Scorecard Index.  It has weekly lists for their workload every Monday from the current week all the way back to 1999!

The Scorecard shows cases pending for every city with a VBA field office in the US.    It also shows how many cases are over 6 months old. 

VA Score Card Cases

For example, on November 3, 2007, there were 404,561 rated cases pending of which 102,267 were older than 6 months (25.3%) and 178,267 non-rating cases of which 51,261 were older than 6 months( 28.8%).  The rated cases pending were about 6,000 more than this time last year.

The chart extends downward for all the field offices a total of 64 lines below those shown here. 

The field office with the biggest backlog was in Houston with more than 19,000 cases and 30.9% backlog.  A few examples of  the worst percentage backlogs ranged from Detroit (38.4% rated, 49.2% non-rated), Jackson Miss (42.2% rated), Houston (30.9/34.8%), LA (30.6/29.0%) just to pick some busy places in each part of the country.

VA Score Card Claims

 The total Compensation and Pension (C&P) cases in the Work in Progress system ( WIPP)  was  647,479 of which 170,355 were over 6 months old.  Other information you may be interested in is

VA Score Card Appeals

All of this data is available on a week-to-week basis for each field office in the country.  It may be useful to look at your field office to see where you stand and how they are doing – otherwise, it is just numbers on their scorecard.

I hope this access link is useful to someone.  Click on any chart to get an update.  It is truly amazing how many veterans are being held up for treatment by this terrible backlog. 

6 Months and Waiting

Give Me a Break,

These are Our Heroes

 

(Score Card?  I give them an F)

 

Oldtimer

VA Stats at a Glance

VA Stats at a Glance

(As of 10-25-07)

VA Stats at a GlanceThe VA publishes what they call  “Stats at a Glance

They don’t say how often it is updated but it likely is monthly.  At least the one I found was updated on 10-25-2007,  just a few days ago.

If so, you can find and track current information on the statistics and demogrphics related to VA Benefits and Health Care Utilization in one easy to read, as they say, at a glance.

I wanted to post the entire paper and not just a thumbnail, but it is posted as a picture and the resolution was not sufficient for easy reading.

Most of the statistics are listed as of 9/30/07.   A few are as of FY 06 and FY 07.  I’m going to list a few of them here.  Click on the link above or on the thumbnail to see the latest data.

Veterans receiving VA Disability Compensation                2.8 million

Veterans rated 100% Disabled                                             249,904

Veterans receiving VA Pensions                                           303,242

 Spouses receiving VA DIC                                                     317,374 

Enrollees in VA Health Care                                                  7.9 million

Unique Patients                                                                       5.5 million

Veterans compensated for PTSD                                         299,672

Health Care Professionals rotating through VA (FYo6)   100,893

Total  number of Veterans                                                  23,532,000

Total Females  (7%)                                                                1,745,000

Number of WWII Veterans that die each day                           1,000

Number of veterans 65 or older (39%)                               9,177,000

By race:  White (non Hispanic)  80%   Hispanic 6%  Black (non Hispanic) 11% Other 4%

Number of VA Employees                                                        254,183

VA Funding   $ 80.2 Billion (not including VHA, VBA, NCA)

——————————————– 

Naturally I want to add a few stats of my own:  

Number of Heroes sleeping on the street every night:  195,000

(also check for similar data here

Number of Heroes homeless during the year (VA estimate)  400,000 

Percentage of all homeless males over 25 that are veterans 43%   (27% of all US males are veterans but 43% of the homeless males over 25 are veterans)

Amount allocated by VA to homeless veterans: $1.37 per day   (cup of coffee anyone?)

Grant money allocated by VA for homeless veterans  33 cents per day (Mints anyone?)

Overview of the homeless veteran problem 

Homeless Veterans are Heroes too!

Oldtimer

 

Video – The Soldier’s Heart – PTSD a Frontline Video Series

The Soldier’s Heart is a 60 minute PBS “Frontline” video series in four parts.  It is available for viewing online here on the PBS Frontline web site.

“Soldier’s heart”  or “nostalgia” are the names given for PTSD after the Cival War.  Later from various wars it became “shell shock”,”battle fatigue”, Post Vietnam Syndrome” and now commonly diagnosed as Post-Tramutic Stress Disorder or PTSD for Combat Trauma and there is a just-as-damaging subset called Military Sexual Trauma or MST. 

Click on the link above for the full introduction and production information from the PBS Frontline Series.    Click on any of the pictures below to watch any of the 4 segments of the video.  Each is 15 minutes long.  Visit the PBS site anyway to get insight and background.  It is interesting and informative reading.   If you have low speed internet, you will need to go to the PBS site link above.  The links below are all high-speed links.

PBS Frontline Homecoming

Homecoming
For three returning Iraq war veterans, it’s when they got home that the feelings, images, smells and nightmares of war began haunting them

The Impact of Combat

The Psychological Impact of Combat
Decades of records have tracked the psychological toll of war on those who fight it. Today, what happens to a soldier who admits to emotional distress and asks for help?

Needing Help

Needing Help
One young Marine, in a downward spiral, keeps his torment and pain bottled up. Another, showing symptoms of PTSD, joins a Camp Pendleton support group.

Need for Change

A Need for Change
A young Marine takes his own life. In January 2005, the military announces plans for better mental health screening of returning vets. Will it be enough?

This series from Frontline is astounding.  If you have not seen it before, please take the time to look at it now.  Visit them here for program notes, insights, background. and links to other videos and excellent programming.

Honor Our Troops

Honor Our Veterans

Help our Homeless Veterans

 

They Are All Heroes!

Oldtimer

Veteran’s Day – November 11, 2007

Veterans Day  

  November 11, 2007 

Veteran's Day Poster

Remember and Honor our Heroes!

For they are Heroes Forever

 

 

 

Click Here for More Information on Veterans

Want your own posters for Veterans Day?  Download and print them free.