Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

VA's Veteran Canteen Service Helping Homeless Veterans

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The Department of Veterans Affairs is reaching out to homeless Veterans by providing free meals and spending money to eligible homeless Veterans.

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IOM: Burn pit evidence inconclusive

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Insufficient data on servicemembers' exposures to emissions from open-air burn pits for trash on military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan is one of the reasons why it is not possible to say whether these emissions could cause long-term health effects, according to a new Institute of Medicine report. High background levels of ambient pollution from other sources and lack of information on the quantities and composition of wastes burned in the pits also complicate interpretation of the data.

During deployment to a war zone, military personnel can be exposed to a variety of environmental hazards, many of which have been associated with long-term adverse health outcomes such as cancer and respiratory disease. Many veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have health problems that they worry are related to their exposure to burn pits on military bases. Special attention has been focused on the burn pit at Joint Base Balad (JBB), one of the largest U.S. military bases in Iraq and a central logistics hub.

Based on its analysis of raw data from air monitoring efforts at JBB conducted by the U.S. Department of Defense, the committee that wrote the report concluded that levels of most pollutants of concern at the base were not higher than levels measured at other polluted sites worldwide. Moreover, research on other populations exposed to complex mixtures of pollutants, primarily firefighters and workers at municipal waste incineration plants, has not indicated increased risk for long-term health consequences such as cancer, heart disease, and most respiratory illnesses among these groups.

Even so, the committee pointed out shortcomings in research and gaps in evidence that prevented them from drawing firm conclusions, and it recommended a path to overcome some of these limitations. Lack of information on the specific quantities and types of wastes burned and on other sources of background pollution when air samples were being collected meant it was difficult to correlate pit emissions, including smoke events, with potential health outcomes. Different types of wastes produce different combinations of chemical emissions with the possibility of different health outcomes in those exposed. Moreover, it is hard to determine whether surrogate populations such as firefighters experience exposures to pollutants and durations of exposures similar to those of servicemembers stationed at JBB.

The report recommends that a study be conducted to evaluate the health status of servicemembers from their time of deployment to JBB over many years to determine their incidence of chronic diseases, including cancers, that tend not to show up for decades. In addition, it recommends a tiered approach to gathering data to better characterize exposures to the complex mixture of burn pit emissions in light of the presence of other sources of pollutants in the ambient environment.

Given the variety of hazards and substances to which military personnel are exposed in the field, service in Iraq and Afghanistan in general - rather than exposure to burn pits only - might be associated with long-term health effects, the committee noted. A specific concern is the high ambient concentrations of particulate matter generated by both human activities and natural sources. Risks may be greater for those who are especially susceptible to health problems, including individuals with asthma or those who encountered high concentrations of substances or had prolonged exposures.

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Honoring Illinois' Fallen - United States and Illinois flags at half-staff from sunrise, Monday October 31 until sunset, Wednesday November 2 2011.

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The Department of Central Management Services has received notice from Governor Quinn’s Office that all persons or entities covered by the Illinois Flag Display Act are to fly the flags at half-staff on behalf of: Lance Corporal Jordan S. Bastean United States Marine Corps Hometown: Pekin, IllinoisPlease immediately lower the United States flags and the State flags at all buildings occupied by your agency’s personnel until:Sunset, Wednesday, November 2, 2011 If you have any questions regarding this matter, please contact Mike Claffey at (312) 814-3957 or via email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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Legionnaires to lobby Supercommittee

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On Nov. 2, 42 members of The American Legion will meet with members of the Joint Special Committee on Deficit Reduction - labeled the "Supercommittee" - to discuss the Legion's concerns over proposals to the committee that would negatively impact the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs budgets.

The Supercommittee is charged with identifying at least $1.2 trillion of savings in the federal budget before Nov. 23. The American Legion has been closely involved in this issue since the committee was created in early August.

"We've undertaken a two-part effort in helping to advocate for our nation's veterans and military," American Legion National Legislative Director Tim Tetz said. "Our national staff has been meeting with committee staff and members for the past two months."

Tetz said the Legion has also been working the issue at the grassroots level with its membership, arranging the trips of 42 Legionnaires to visit their senators and representatives Nov. 2 on Capitol Hill. "This is one last face-to-face meeting to encourage careful deliberation before the committee votes," said Tetz.

In early August, as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, the defense budget was cut by about $450 billion over the next decade, according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Among the 175,000-plus recommendations received by the Supercommittee were further reductions to the defense and veterans budgets. Even more cuts would be enacted if the committee fails to develop a plan to meet the $1.2 trillion reduction need. The Legion argues that such cuts would place America's national security at risk.

In response to this threat, The American Legion passed a resolution during its October National Executive Committee meetings, urging Congress and the White House to avoid further cuts to the defense budget.

"We certainly comprehend and appreciate the enormous financial challenges our country is facing today," American Legion National Commander Fang Wong said. "We also want Congress to understand that benefits for veterans and military families shouldn't be first in line when it comes to budget cuts.

"Our veterans community is willing to do its share to get America's economy rolling again. But other options exist to reduce our budget deficit, and we want Capitol Hill to take a closer look at them before cutting defense spending or veterans benefits."

When Legionnaires meet with Supercommittee members, Tetz said, "We won't be asking them for a hands-off policy on the defense budget. We are outlining some efficiencies that won't impact our veterans or national defense, and encouraging them to look elsewhere. Our nation's veterans have already earned their benefits."

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VA Dedicates Fifth Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center in San Antonio

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The Department of Veterans Affairs has dedicated a new Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center (PRC) at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS) in San Antonio. The state-of-the-art, $66 million inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation center will treat Veterans and active duty Servicemembers with multiple, traumatic injuries. This is VA's fifth polytrauma center nationwide.

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Did you know?

The issuance or replacement of military service medals, awards and decorations must be requested in writing.

Requests should be submitted in writing to the appropriate military service branch division of the NPRC. Standard form (SF 180), available through the VA, is recommended to submit your request. Generally, there is no charge for medal or award replacements. For more information, or for the mailing address of the military branch office to submit your request to, call 1-86-NARA-NARA (1-866-272-6272) or visit the NPRC website at