Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

Bono reinforces support for disabled veterans, advocacy efforts

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When disabled veterans come home, the challenges they face can be enormous. Not only are they transitioning from the battlefield to being in garrison or at home, they’re also adjusting to a lifestyle that can involve assisted living conditions. Advocacy organizations such as the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) help make this transition easier.

At the PVA’s ‘Mission: ABLE’ 2016 Awards ceremony in Washington, DC, Defense Health Agency (DHA) director Navy Vice Adm. Raquel Bono expressed appreciation for the award recipients and the advocacy efforts on behalf of the PVA.

“I’m inspired when I look at what PVA is doing,” Bono said. “The recognition tonight is for all the sponsors, participants and supporters who believe even though a service member is severely injured in combat, they are indeed able. We know that in order to serve that service is above ourselves. At the DHA, we want to be able to take care of active duty military, their families and veterans. And that’s an extremely important mission.”

The ‘Mission: ABLE’ Awards recognize those who demonstrate extraordinary leadership and fight for expanded rights for the millions of courageous veterans, people with disabilities and Americans living with spinal cord injury or disease. The event coincides with September’s Spinal Cord Injury Awareness month.

“What PVA does for research, advocacy and employment for disabled veterans, has a direct application for how we shape our health care system,” said Bono. “Being here and celebrating the achievements of people who support those who sacrifice so much in defense of our nation is an easy decision. It reaffirms the direction of our mission at DHA and the Military Health System.”

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Chicago veterans voice concerns about local VA

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Chicago veterans voiced their opinions during a recent American Legion System Worth Saving town hall meeting led by Past National Commander Marty Conatser and Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Deputy Director Roscoe Butler. Attendees included local veterans, Department of Illinois leadership, state congressional staff, Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital staff, and Legion national staff from Washington, D.C.

Dr. Steven Braverman, newly appointed director of Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital, spent his first day on the job at the town hall meeting with local veterans discussing their concerns about the care and services received at the facility. Braverman, a physician and former Army medical center commander, brings nearly 30 years of experience caring for soldiers and other servicemembers to the Hines VA.

“My first priority is to learn about the organization and not take for granted that everything published on the Internet or the news is the absolute truth because there has been a lot of information that’s been negative in regards to Hines,” Braverman said. The hospital has had many documented challenges, but that’s nothing new for Braverman.

At the town hall meeting, he candidly described his time as the commander of the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center in Fort Hood, Texas, when one of his doctors fatally shot 13 people and injured more than 30 others in 2009. Of the many lessons he learned from that experience, he said one of the most vital was the importance of community partnerships. After the incident, he worked with local hospitals outside of Fort Hood to assist in providing mental health care to his military and civilian employees.

One of his goals as the new director is to establish relationships with community organizations, especially veterans groups, and collectively discuss how to improve the Hines VA and welcomed the questions and comments during the meeting.

Feedback from Chicago-area veterans at the town hall focused primarily on improving communication with patients regarding scheduling appointments and wait times for medical services. Harold Toney, commander of American Legion Post 915, described his experience waiting an entire day for an MRI and that he just wants the staff to keep him informed.

“They don’t care about the people that are waiting,” Toney said. “There’s no communication, no informing the patients when there is a problem. I can understand if there is a delay and they tell me, then I can make the decision to wait or make another appointment.”

Another veteran asked the Hines VA staff if the hospital will increase their number of physicians, and Braverman confirmed the organization facilitated an orientation for new employees that morning.

But not all comments regarding the hospital were negative. Bernie Darmetko of Legion Post 96 said he’s had a very positive experience at Hines VA and has helped other veterans enroll in the system as well.

Braverman is the first permanent director hired in nearly two years. Since October 2014, each director has served in an interim capacity and Braverman said he thinks he’ll be able to provide a long-term strategy for the organization with a permanent leadership group.

“By building a leadership team that is permanent, it takes away doubt from the employees that what they’re seeing is going to just be changed in a short period of time and they’re not having to play ping pong with the priorities of the hospital and priorities of the leadership,” he said.

Roscoe, who facilitated the town hall meeting, assured the veterans in attendance that he believes Braverman understands the issues veterans face and can make changes.

“I believe if he’s up to the challenge and you’re willing to work with him, he can move mountains. It’s not the end of the process here tonight; I hear from him a commitment to work with you,” Roscoe said.

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Healthy aging starts sooner than you think

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FALLS CHURCH, Va. — While it may not seem like something young people should be concerned about, staying healthy in old age starts with being healthy at a younger age.

“By investing time and effort into quality diet and exercise habits, we will prevent future geriatric patients from being as sick and debilitated as they could be,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Brande Harris, an Internal Medicine physician with a geriatric fellowship with the 59th Medical Operations Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio. She added that heart disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are three ailments that take a huge toll on the body as it ages.

Harris said people should look at what they’re doing now to stay healthy, like “maintaining an exercise regimen... Get physically fit and stay physically fit year-to-year.”

She added a healthy diet includes staying away from the fad diets.  “Just adhere to clean foods made at home as opposed to [fast food] on your way into work,” she recommended.

Harris encourages a good diet and exercise no matter what, but there are other factors that play into a healthy lifestyle for the older population. Continued education, for example, can be protective against the onset of dementia.

 “One of the problems older adults have is they become more sedentary and quit having as much social engagement. Being socially engaged with friends and work help keeps the brain functioning well and adaptable to the environment,” said Harris.

The older generation is also more susceptible to falls because their vision decreases as they get older and it’s important to be aware of that.

“If they have cataracts they can get those cleared up,” she said. “Pick up rugs, move cords for electronic stuff to the edge of the room. If their gait is unbalanced or unstable, use a cane or walker appropriately.”

Preventive medicine is important for geriatrics. Harris said once people reach their 70s and 80s a lot of the preventive medicine practices they had been doing, like colonoscopies, go away, but vaccinations are still very important. Pneumonia, influenza, and shingles are vaccinations they should keep up with.

“The tetanus shot is being packaged with whooping cough because it’s making a comeback with geriatric patients,” Harris said. “Most of our older adults were immunized from whooping cough by having the disease and surviving it. We’re finding people who had the disease or the vaccinations are waning immunization, so they need boosters to maintain immunity to that.”

Different forms of dementia, like Alzheimer’s disease, can also be debilitating for older adults. People in their 70s should really think about getting a power of attorney, giving someone they trust the authority to help make decisions should it be needed.

“The best time to make this decision is now when the brain is working fine,” Harris said. “The worst time is when you’re too sick and you don’t understand the information you’re being told, and that time could come.”

Even if you haven’t reached that older age where these are things you should be worrying about, you might have someone in your life that has. There are many things you can do to help them.

Harris said, “If I were going to be helping one of my grandparents age successfully and be healthy, I’d make sure doctor appointments were kept. Make sure they get their vaccinations taken care of at the appropriate time.”

She added that keeping a sleep schedule is really important for the elderly and something families can help with, too.

Harris said the Alzheimer’s Association is a great resource because it’s a national organization that can connect people with support they need when diagnosed with dementia. She also said if you’re elderly and live near a city there are senior centers with social activities, and she often encourages her patients to get involved.

Older adults should continue to advance their health literacy as they age, and remember that diet and exercise are key to healthy aging. 

Disclaimer: Re-published content may have been edited for length and clarity. Read original post.

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Soldiers perform Medical evacuation training

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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Army Reserve medics and active duty helicopter pilots worked together to practice loading and transporting patients. 

Soldiers with the 7th Mission Support Command, Medical Support Unit-Europe conducted medical evacuation orientation and training with the 1st Armored Division's Combat Aviation recently on Daenner Kaserne. The training was designed to improve efficiency, create realistic training and familiarization with the safe use of Army MEDEVAC UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters during the MSU-E's annual training exercise. 

Army 1st Lt. Daniel Clark, an operations officer with the MSU-E, 7th MSC said, "Today we had a aviation MEDEVAC unit come down and we basically practiced the interaction and the handoff techniques."

In the morning there was an aircrew safety orientation and familiarization brief to the MSU-E Soldiers followed by cold-load training.

"It was great," said Army Staff Sgt. Jessie Turner, flight medic with the 1st Armored Division's Combat Aviation Brigade. "I feel like we reinforced skills that we both had."

The afternoon session was more intense with hot-load litter training, hoist operations with short flights above and around the landing zone. This allowed the MSU-E Soldiers to understand how to keep patients stable during on load and off load from a MEDEVAC helicopter. 

Turner said they trained with specialized litters, which are used to load patients into their aircraft when they are unable to land due to the terrain. 

It is important for Soldiers to know what to expect when a MEDEVAC helicopter arrives and how to approach the helicopters, load patients aboard and how to interact with their crew chief and flight medic in order to do ground handoffs. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Chlosta)It is important for Soldiers to know what to expect when a MEDEVAC helicopter arrives and how to approach the helicopters, load patients aboard and how to interact with their crew chief and flight medic in order to do ground handoffs. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Chlosta)


Clark said it was important for his Soldiers to know what to expect when a MEDEVAC helicopter arrives and, "how to approach the helicopters, how to load patients on and how to interact with their crew chief and flight medic in order to do ground handoffs and make the real life scenarios work when we really have to."

"Our medics were really excited to work with a flight medic and learn the other side of being a medic," Clark said. 

"Today we practiced a few techniques incorporating a Blackhawk helicopter platform," said Army Spc. John Duncan, a medic with the MSU-E, 7th MSC. "First of which was loading a patient onto a litter and the second of which was actually loading a litter onto the helicopter." 

After that, the training involved hoist operations during which members of the crew dropped from the helicopter and picked up a simulated casualty from the ground.

"It was very exciting," said Duncan. "I think it gave a lot of insight into how the operation typically works and what some of our capabilities are with that platform as well." 

A major concern for medics when transporting patients is not to cause further injury, said Duncan, "and understanding what happens in the last phase of care when you're transporting somebody." 

The training gave some insight as to how patients are transported and how they are loaded, he said. It also gave the medics some considerations as they hand patients off to the flight crew. 

"It was a good review of our Soldier skills, some of our basic Soldier skills, such as radio operation and then the liter carries," said Duncan. "It tied everything together into a more cohesive, real training exercise. 

Disclaimer: Re-published content may have been edited for length and clarity. Read original post.

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Chairman Miller, Acting Ranking Member Takano, HVAC Members Ask DOJ to Investigate VA Officials for Perjury

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Today, Chairman Miller, Acting Ranking Member Takano and members of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs wrote to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, asking the Department of Justice to conduct an investigation into whether former VA construction chief Glenn Haggstrom and other VA officials may have committed perjury in their statements to Congress regarding cost overruns at the replacement Denver VA medical center. Additionally, Chairman Miller and Acting Ranking Member Takano made the below statements. “It is an absolute fact that numerous VA officials repeatedly misled Congress regarding cost overruns related to the replacement Denver VA medical center – the biggest construction failure in VA history. Now it’s up to the Department of Justice to do its job and ensure that justice is served. That’s why we’re calling on Attorney General Lynch to examine the overwhelming amount of damning evidence in this case and determine whether perjury charges are warranted.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs “The OIG’s report makes two things clear. First, the significant delays and cost overruns at the Greater Colorado VA construction project were entirely avoidable and resulted from leadership failures at the highest levels of the VA. Second, Glenn Haggstrom and other senior VA officials involved in the project likely misrepresented or withheld information in testimony provided to the Committee.  “Honest and forthright testimony is critical for this Committee to understand and address the challenges facing the VA and veterans. Any witness who deliberately misleads Congress must be held accountable and I hope the Department of Justice conducts a thorough investigation into the statements made by VA officials responsible for the failed Colorado project. If they indeed lied in their testimony they not only broke the law, they betrayed the trust of America's veterans.” – Rep. Mark Takano, Acting Ranking Member, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs   Related Chairman Miller, Acting Ranking Member Takano Letter to AG Lynch VA Construction Exec Who Earned Bonuses Despite $2 Billion in Cost Overruns ‘Steps Down.’ But Can Still Get His Pension. The Unfinished VA Hospital That's More Than $1 Billion Over Budget

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