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Veterans Benefits Information

DHS shares small business opportunities

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) focused on its support for small businesses during The American Legion's Small Business Training Program that was held in Minneapolis for National Convention.

Dan Sturdivant of DHS' Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) explained how the office functioned to support veteran-owned small businesses. He also discussed the department's mentor-protégé program that matches prime contractors with small businesses to develop strong working relationships.

Sturdivant said DHS has prime contracting and subcontracting opportunities for small businesses, including those owned by veterans, women and service-disabled veterans. He told prospective vendors at the workshop that DHS buys products and services for eight major activities:
1. Customs and border protection
2. DHS headquarters
3. Federal Emergency Management Agency
4. Federal Law Enforcement Training Center
5. Immigration and customs enforcement
6. Transportation and Security Administration
7. U.S. Coast Guard
8. U.S. Secret Service

A forecast of contracting opportunities is available at DHS' small business website, along with a listing of subcontracting opportunities with large prime contractors. Sturdivant said that OSDBU's outreach program includes small business specialists for each major buying activity, as well as its mentor-protégé program.

Large businesses with good standing in the federal marketplace serve as mentors for small businesses - protégés - that seek contracts with federal agencies such as DHS.

"This kind of program really helps to motivate prime contractors to assist veteran-owned businesses in getting more federal contracting dollars," said Joe Sharpe, economic director of The American Legion. "It also improves the overall performance of contractors and subcontractors working for DHS."

The mentor-protégé program, Sharpe said, helps DHS to expand its base of qualified small businesses to contract with, and will help the department achieve the overall goals of its small business programs.

In addition to DHS, the Legion's Small Business Training Program included presentations by representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Small Business Administration, Department of Treasury, General Services Administration and the Veterans Institute for Procurement.

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Veterans seen as vital to jobs bill

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WASHINGTON (Sept. 8, 2011) – Pressing Congress to pass the American Jobs Act, which aims to reduce unemployment and stimulate U.S. productivity, President Barack Obama told a joint session of Congress Thursday evening to look to the nation’s veterans, who have fought with their lives to defend our country. “The last thing they should have to do is fight for a job when they come home,” he said.

The president’s words in a Thursday evening address to the nation echoed what he said Aug. 30 at the 93rd National Convention of The American Legion in Minneapolis when he announced a plan to offer tax credits to companies that hire veterans. There, he told about 10,000 Legionnaires and their families that he was calling on every state “to pass legislation that makes it easier for our veterans to get the credentials and the jobs for which they are so clearly qualified. This needs to happen, and it needs to happen now.”

American Legion National Commander Fang A. Wong said the president’s plan to get more Americans back to work falls in line with the Legion’s ongoing efforts to reduce veteran unemployment, especially among those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Far too many of our young veterans are returning home to find they can’t get back into the workforce – is that a proper way for our country to reward these men and women who have served us so well overseas?” Wong said.

According to a Joint Economic Commission report to Congress last June, the unemployment rate for male veterans aged 18 to 24 stood at 27 percent.

“We sponsor more than 100 job fairs per year for servicemembers and veterans,” Wong said. “We press federal agencies to hire more veterans. We show veteran-owned small businesses how to get more federal contracting dollars. So The American Legion heartily welcomes the jobs plan initiatives pertaining to veterans announced by President Obama, especially since it reinforces the White House’s commitment to get more veterans employed.”

In the address, Obama said the American Jobs Act will “provide a jolt” to an economy that is now stalled. He pinpointed education, transportation and small business as areas that can make an impact in the recovery. He told lawmakers that the measure will make it easier for small businesses to procure federal contracts. The American Legion is now working with the government to improve compliance with a federal law mandating that no less than 3 percent of federal contracts be awarded to businesses owned by service-disabled veterans. Obama also spoke of the power the GI Bill poses to stimulate the economy, as it did after World War II. “Millions of returning heroes, including my grandfather, had the opportunity to go to school because of the GI Bill. Where would we be if they hadn’t had that chance?”

Earlier in the day, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee passed the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act (known as the VOW Act), sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida. The bill would improve transition counseling for servicemembers leaving active duty, and also help veterans to obtain licenses or certificates for skills they learned in the military.

“Military training and experience needs to be recognized by civilian employers. This is an issue The American Legion has taken to the White House and Congress many times,” Wong said. “Now we are seeing some results – in the president’s new initiatives to get more veterans hired, and in the VOWS Act that is making its way to a vote on the House floor.

“We have got to convince the private sector to recognize the full value of military service. Taxpayers invest a lot of money in their training. Such a huge investment must not be wasted,” Wong said.

The American Legion has been pushing Congress and the private sector for wider recognition of military skills and experience. The Legion’s Economic Division is planning to host a conference early next year on licensing and certification issues for veterans.

Telling Congress that “we are tougher than the times we live in,” Obama echoed his Aug. 5 speech at the Washington Navy Yard. Before a largely military audience, he outlined four proposals to reduce the jobless rate among Post-9/11 veterans, including tax credits for firms that hire veterans who are unemployed or have service-connected disabilities.

“The president has challenged the private sector to hire or train 100,000 jobless veterans by the end of 2013,” Wong said. “We join the president’s call to action, but would like to up the ante. The American Legion is challenging America to bring veterans unemployment below the 5-percent mark before Election Day of 2012. Hiring veterans is one of the best ways to honor their service.”

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Inspection of the VA Regional Office, Seattle, Washington (9/8/2011)

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The inspection evaluated how well the Seattle VARO accomplishes its mission. VARO staff were generally effective in processing post-traumatic stress disorder and herbicide-related claims, correcting errors identified by the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Systematic Technical Accuracy Review program, and Systematic Analyses of Operations were timely and complete. However, the VARO lacked effective controls and accuracy in processing some disability claims. Inaccuracies in processing temporary 100 percent disability evaluations resulted from human error, not scheduling required future medical reexaminations. Inadequate training resulted errors in processing traumatic brain injury claims. Overall, staff did not accurately process 34 (28 percent) of the 120 disability claims reviewed. VARO management did not have mechanisms in place for Veterans Service Center staff to accurately establish dates of claim or timely process Notices of Disagreement for appealed claims within the Veterans Benefits Administration’s 7-day standard. In addition, management directives lacked procedures for ensuring proper mail handling. We recommended the VARO Director develop and implement a plan to assess the effectiveness and adequacy of RVSR training related to processing traumatic brain injury claims. Also, stronger controls are needed over establishing dates of claim, processing Notices of Disagreement, and handling claims-related mail. Additionally, staff need training on how to use the Control of Veterans Records System to manage mail.

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Anna Veterans’ Home to host car, truck and motorcycle show to benefit home’s residents

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ANNA, Ill. – Illinois Veterans’ Home at Anna will be hosting its 1st Annual Car, Truck & Motorcycle Show this Sunday, September 11, 2011 to benefit the home’s residents.

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Combined Assessment Program Review of the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center Jackson, Mississippi (9/8/2011)

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The purpose of the review was to evaluate selected operations, focusing on patient care administration and quality management (QM). During the review, OIG provided crime awareness briefings to 307 employees. This review focused on eight operational activities. The facility complied with selected standards in the following three activities: (1) enteral nutrition safety, (2) medication management, and (3) physician credentialing and privileging. The facility’s reported accomplishments were a program to proactively track patient fluoroscopy exposure and a shortened preoperative testing protocol. OIG made recommendations for improvement in the following five activities: (1) management of workplace violence, (2) registered nurse competencies, (3) QM, (4) coordination of care, and (5) environment of care.

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Did you know?

Military Funeral Honors ceremonies must be scheduled in advance.

The law requires that every eligible veteran receive a military funeral honors ceremony, which includes the folding and presentation of the United States flag and the playing of “taps,” upon the family’s request. This Department of Defense program calls for the funeral director to request military funeral honors on behalf of the veteran’s family.