Veterans news update for Oct. 1

Veterans news update for Oct. 1

Veterans news updateVA awards $207 million in grants to combat veteran homelessness (Washington Examiner)
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald announced $207 million in grants to Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, to be put toward helping an additional 70,000 homeless and at-risk Veterans and their families. This award of funds is added to the $300 million awarded in August. Through the homeless SSVF program, VA committed more than $1 billion in fiscal year 2014 to strengthen programs that prevent and end homelessness among Veterans. VA provides a range of services to homeless Veterans, including health care, housing, job training, and education.

Service members not eligible for medals in ISIS campaign (The Hill)
The troops President Obama has deployed to Iraq are not eligible for certain medals because the U.S. has not officially designated their efforts a military campaign. The more than 1,600 troops who are serving as “advisers” cannot receive the Iraq Campaign Medal, which is reserved for troops deployed between March 19, 2003, and Dec. 31, 2011, defense officials say. Nor are they eligible for the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary or Service medals, which are only awarded to troops supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, originating with the 2001 Afghanistan War.  Veterans groups are upset over the exclusions, arguing the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL) should be treated as an extension of previous military campaigns.

Most Veterans Return to Los Angeles Unprepared for Civilian Life (USC Social Work)
“The State of the American Veteran: The Los Angeles County Veterans Study” by the USC School of Social Work’s Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families outlines the findings of a survey conducted fall 2013 of more than 1,350 veterans living in Los Angeles County. More than two-thirds of all surveyed veterans reported difficulties adjusting to civilian life, and specifically 69 percent of post-9/11 veterans indicated they needed time to figure out what they would do after the military. About 40 percent of veterans left the military unsure of where they would be living. Many left active duty with untreated physical and mental health issues, which was higher among post-9/11 veterans. Among the most recent veteran population, one-third had made a plan to commit suicide but did not seek help, compared to 24 percent of pre-9/11 veterans.

Housing vouchers to aid Washington state’s homeless veterans (Seattle Times)
Washington state will gain 335 federal housing vouchers for homeless veterans, with nearly 161 allocated to the King County and Seattle housing authorities, according to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. Some of the vouchers cover rent in private housing; others enable veterans to move into specific housing units. The veterans will also receive case-management services from the VA.

JBLM plans to give Vietnam veterans the homecoming they deserved decades ago (Tacoma News-Tribune)
The Army wants to hundreds of Vietnam veterans a different kind of homecoming next week at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. It’s opening the base to Vietnam veterans of all service branches for a “welcome home” celebration intended to let them know that the military appreciates the sacrifices they made in uniform. “Our generation wants to thank them for the incredible contributions they made to our nation during war,” said Brig. Gen. Kurt Ryan, whose 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command is doing the legwork organizing the event. “We have an opportunity to maybe get them the welcome home they may not have been afforded in 1975,” said Ryan, whose dad is among the Vietnam veterans planning to attend the celebration.

VA donates $8 million to adaptive sports for veterans (
The Department of Veterans Affairs has awarded nearly $8 million in grants that will provide adaptive sports opportunities for disabled veterans and service members of the Armed Forces. Funding will allow organizations to plan, manage and implement new sporting programs. It will provide recreational therapists, sporting equipment, training and additional operational needs to members.

Timelapse: Construction of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial (Washington Post)
The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, built adjacent to the U.S. Botanic Garden and within view of the Capitol building is set to open Oct. 5, 2014.

Investigators: Houston VA employee caught altering claims status (
Investigators say a worker at the VA Regional Office in Houston manipulated the status of veterans’ disability claims. According to a report released Tuesday, that made unfinished claims appear completed. In some cases, investigators say the employee canceled the veteran’s claim entirely. The VA says if the altered data had gone undetected it could have resulted in veterans never receiving a ruling on their claims. In all, the Office of Inspector General says 174 claims were involved.

House is a gift of freedom to a gravely wounded marine (
Joshua Benjamin Kerns dreamed as a boy of becoming a U.S. Marine. He dreamed too of living someday in a log cabin along the Ararat River. As it turned out, the realization of the first dream led to the fulfillment of the second. But it took a nightmare to get there. On April 7, 2011, J.B. Kerns, a combat engineer, and fellow Marines moved into the notoriously dangerous Ladar Bazaar in Afghanistan to attempt to clear it of improvised explosive devices. A soldier near Kerns stepped on a pressure plate and triggered an IED. Kerns suffered grievous wounds.  Now back home, the Building for America’s Bravest program that built Kerns a house. The program is a partnership of the Gary Sinise Foundation and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.  The foundations work together to build smart homes for catastrophically wounded veterans like Kerns, those who have lost three limbs or four.

Minneapolis VA studying alternatives to paid medications (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
The Minneapolis VA Health Care System will participate in two major research projects focusing on non-drug approaches to pain. The Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center has become a site for studying chronic pain and the effectiveness of alternatives to traditional pain medications. The Department of Veterans Affairs nationwide struggles with the burgeoning use of pain medications for vets. A June 2014 report showed a high rate of chronic pain — 44 percent — among members of the U.S. military after combat deployment, compared with 26 percent in the general public.

VA CIO: New scheduling software will be fielded in 2017, not 2020 (Nextgov)
The Department of Veterans Affairs plans to field a new, commercial patient scheduling system by 2017, not 2020 as it said in contract documents released Sept. 17. Stephen Warren, VA’s chief information officer, told Nextgov in an email a prominent, half-page chart in draft contracting documents for the agency’s medical appointment scheduling system did not accurately portray its goal to field the system two years after the award of the contract.

War veterans with PTSD get an assist from yoga (The Fiscal Times)
It’s no secret that yoga can aid mental well-being. What is more, it can help soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to new research. Some of the most damaging consequences of seeing combat can happen in the mind. Of the 2.3 million American veterans who returned from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, up to 20 percent go on to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point. In a report published by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, at least 22 American veterans take their lives every day. In a new study published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, researchers say that yoga can be used to bring better mental balance. Yoga has previously been shown as valuable in reducing the stress of university students, and depression, anxiety, alcoholism and PTSD in tsunami survivors, as well as helping cancer patients.