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Veterans and active
military Newsletter


Merry Christmas:

I hope you had a peaceful and joyous Christmas. I ask that you remember our troops that could not be with their families this season and, more just as important, that you remember their families that will not have their loved ones with them to share this joyous season.

VA’s public health approach to suicide prevention:

VA’s Suicide Prevention Program recently released this video explaining how the organization is leveraging a public health approach to prevent Veteran suicide.

“We often receive questions about what exactly the public health approach is,” said Wendy Lakso, deputy director, partnerships, VA Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. “This video is designed to help answer that very question.”

The public health approach maintains the focus on high-risk individuals in health care settings while also emphasizing comprehensive, community-based engagement to identify and help individuals well before they may become at risk of harming themselves.

VA is a national leader in suicide prevention, but VA cannot confront the issue of suicide alone. Because many Veterans do not use VA services and benefits, VA must build effective networks of support, communication, and care across the communities where Veterans live and work every day.

“We are encouraging everyone to share this video with community partners, colleagues, peers, clinicians, families and friends,” Lakso said. “The better we communicate the importance of collaboration, the more lives we can save.”

This video is also available on YouTube here:

Significant problems in VA Caregiver program:

Family caregivers seeking help from the Department of Veterans Affairs encountered extended wait times and spotty aid from the agency, according to a new report from the VA’s Office of Inspector General.

The OIG investigation found that 65 percent of the more than 1,800 applicants between January and September 2017 were forced to wait longer than the required 45-day time frame to be approved for the program. Fifty-five percent of the applicants waited between three and six months for approval, while 14 percent waited even longer, according to the report released Thursday.

The problematic findings come as the VA ramps up resources to extend the program — which currently only applies to veterans who served after 9/11 — to veterans of all eras at a cost of $21.4 billion over the next five years.

As part of its investigation, the OIG also determined that support coordinators failed to consistently monitor the health of half of the 1,600 veterans it discharged from the program during that time. Inadequate staffing levels in the Veterans Health Administration contributed to the problems, the government watchdog concluded, as did a lack of administrative procedures.

We need to let our elected representatives know that we are aware of this problem and that action needs to be taken now in order for this type of problem to stop. This is one way for the federal government to save money and reduce the spiraling deficit.

After listening to veterans, VA put all its services on one website:

Wednesday, December 19,2018, night, the tech team at the Veterans Affairs Department launched their latest effort to improve the quality of services for former military personnel with the relaunch of

Not long after the U.S. Digital Service team at Veterans Affairs streamlined access to benefits information on, it became clear that the very existence of a separate site to host that information was a needless extra step for veterans.

In an effort to mold the experience of how veterans interact with VA services to be more in line with how those veterans would like it to work, the USDS team set about moving all those streamlined resources to a more central location. The revamped is the new single point portal for any and all veterans’ services. You may want to consider trying the website to see if it satisfies your needs; if not, contact the Department of Veteran Affairs and let them know your thoughts. I opened the new site and, to be honest, it looked pretty good but I did not spend a lot of time reviewing it.

Benefits for children of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange:

Many service officers who represent many service organizations are asked time and time again about benefits of children of veterans exposed to Agent Orange. Following is a brief summary to help you understand the qualifications:

The children of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange often suffer disabling health conditions. Many infants born in the 1960s and 70s following the Vietnam and Korean Wars suffered birth defects such as spina bifida due to their military parents’ exposure to the toxic herbicide.

To be eligible, the child must:

• be a biological child of a Vietnam or Korean War veteran;

• have a birth defect that resulted in a permanent physical or mental disability;

• have proof that their parent or parents served in Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962 to May 7, 1975;

• in/near the Korean demilitarized zone between Sept. 1, 1967 and Aug. 31, 1971; or

have been conceived after the veteran parent first entered Vietnam or Korean demilitarized zone.

Spina bifida is one of the most common cases of birth defects eligible for benefits. Other conditions covered by the VA include, but are not limited to: achondroplasia; cleft lip and cleft palate; congenital heart disease; congenital talipes equinovarus (clubfoot); esophageal and intestinal atresia; hallerman-Streiff syndrome; hip dysplasia; hirschprung’s disease (congenital megacolon); hydrocephalus due to aqueductal stenosis; hypospadias; imperforate anus; neural tube defects; poland syndrome; pyloric stenosis; syndactyly (fused digits); tracheoesophageal fistula; undescended testicle; and Williams syndrome.

Veterans Benefits and Transition Act:

On Dec. 20, 2018 Congress passed the package of veterans bills late Wednesday, known as the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act. The legislation garnered bipartisan support in both chambers. President Trump is expected to sign it into law in coming days, though the White House declined to comment.

The Veterans Benefits and Transition Act stops schools from hitting students with late fees, dropped classes and other punishments as a result of unpaid school bills caused by processing delays at the Department of Veterans Affairs. If schools don’t agree to the new rules, they won’t be allowed to keep enrolling students using the Post- 9/11 GI Bill.

Additionally, military spouses can now elect to use the same residence as their active-duty spouse for state and local voting purposes, regardless of when or where they got married and whether they are currently living in that state because of military orders. Under previous law, a spouse had to meet the residency requirements of a state on his or her own merit for the purposes of voting.

Also as part of this bill, deceased spouses and dependents of honorably-serving active-duty troops can now be buried and receive headstones in VA national cemeteries through Sept. 30, 2024. Eligible dependents buried in tribal veterans cemeteries will also receive VA recognition, including by adding headstones to unmarked graves.

Gary Sinise:

How many of you are aware of the fact that Gary Sinise paid, for more than 1,000 children of parents who died in combat for them to visit Disneyworld?


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