Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

VA Announces Industry Innovation Competition Winners

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The Department of Veterans Affairs today announced 13 new awards in the agency's 2010 Industry Innovation Competition. The new projects will give VA an opportunity to evaluate new ways to enhance care and benefits for Veterans.

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‘I love my work’

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Alaskan Crucelina "Cris" Vrabel embraces her work with a strong devotion. An operating room nurse with 44 years of experience, Vrabel works in the much-lauded Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage, 16 miles from her home in Eagle River. When asked how she's stood the pressure for 40-plus years on the job, Vrabel replies simply, "I love my work."

But her work in medical facilities doesn't stop there. A Navy veteran, she especially enjoys working with fellow vets - so much that in her downtime she volunteers to care for them not only at her workplace but at a nearby VA hospital.

Vrabel's dedication to veterans health care was recognized by The American Legion's Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission during the organization's 2011 Washington Conference when she was presented the division's Outstanding Volunteer Hospital Worker of the Year award. And once she steps away from nursing she plans to spend her retirement years doing more volunteer work.

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System Worth Saving visits approaching

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The American Legion's System Worth Saving Task Force is begins its 2011-2012 visits to the Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities next week with a four-day visit to Massachusetts.

The System Worth Saving program is The American Legion's primary health care evaluation tool to assess the quality and timeliness of VA health care. Reports from these site visits are compiled into a publication that is given to the president, members of Congress, VA officials and American Legion members to illustrate any best practices or challenges veterans face with their VA health care. For a copy of the 2011 report, click here.

There were some enhancements made to the program in 2011-2012. Rather than having a single publication for distribution annually, there will be two reports drafted and distributed per year and each of those reports will focus on one VA quality of care affecting veterans. The focus for the next six months will be the delivery of VA medical care to veterans who reside in rural areas. One out of every three veterans enrolled in VA lives in a rural area. Rural veterans face the same challenges that other veterans experience in addition to increased difficulty in obtaining their VA health-care benefits information about enrollment, VA outreach and benefits assistance and the length of travel and distance to VA medical center facilities.

The System Worth Saving Task Force will be visiting several VA facilities (see below). During the visits, System Worth Saving Task Force members and American Legion Field Service representatives from the Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division will be interviewing or visiting Veteran Integrated Service Network (VISN) directors, VISN Rural Health consultants, Health Resource centers, Project Access Received Closer to Home sites, VA medical centers and Community-Based Outpatient Clinics.

Letters of invitation are being sent to members of Congress whose district falls under the jurisdiction of the VA medical center facility. Additionally, letters of invitation are being sent to American Legion department headquarters to department commanders, adjutants, VA&R Commission members, department service officers, past national commanders and National Executive Committeeman to encourage them to join these visits to provide invaluable insight into issues encountered by veterans living in rural areas.

A survey for veterans residing in rural areas has been developed. To complete the survey, please contact the Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Copies of the survey are available electronically, by fax or by mail. The task force will also be hosting roundtables/focus group in the states to solicit feedback from veterans living in rural areas on successes or concerns with their health care. If you are a veteran living in a rural area, we encourage you to participate in our survey as well as letting your department adjutant know that you are interested in attending the roundtable/focus group discussion in your state.

The System Worth Saving report and findings on rural health will be released in May 2012 and can be found one here or here. For more information on the System Worth Saving program, please contact Jacob Gadd, deputy director for Healthcare by This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or by phone at (202) 861-2700.

2011-2012 System Worth Saving Site Visits

Nov. 7-10 - Bedford, Mass. (VISN 1, RHC); Martha's Vineyard CBOC & Focus Group
Nov. 28-Dec. 1 - Kansas City, Mo. (VISN 15); Pratt, Kan. (ARCH site)
Dec. 11-13 - White River Junction, Vt. VAMC (RHC); Colchester, Vt. (CBOC)
Dec. 12-15 - Glendale, Colo. (VISN HQ); Denver VAMC; Fort Collins (RHC); Cheyenne, Wyo. (VAMC, Roundtable)
Dec. 13-16 - Phoenix (VAMC); Mesa, Ariz. (VISN HQ, RHC, Roundtable)
Jan. 2-4 - Popular Bluff, Mo. (VAMC, RHC, Focus Group); Sikeston, Mo. (CBOC)
Jan. 8-11 - New Hampshire (VAMC); Tilton, N.H. (CBOC); Conway, N.H. (CBOC)
Jan. 9-12 - Salt Lake City (HRC); Nephi, Utah (CBOC); Pocatello, Idaho (CBOC)
Jan. 16-19 - Albuquerque, N.M. (VAMC); Farmington, N.M. (CBOC)
Feb. 6-8 - Marion, Ill. (VAMC); Mt. Vernon, Ill. (CBOC); Effingham, Ill. (CBOC)
Feb. 6-9 - Montana (VAMC); Anaconda, Mont. (CBOC); Billings, Mont. (ARCH site)
Feb. 7-9 - Prescott, Ariz. (VAMC); Lake Havasu, Ariz, (CBOC); Flagstaff, Ariz. (ARCH Site)

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Blue Star Banner shows appreciation

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It's an American tradition to display a Blue Star Service Banner in the window of a home when a loved one is proudly serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. As Americans support troops deployed overseas in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Blue Star Service Banner is a reminder that war touches every neighborhood.

The American Legion is a strong support of the Blue Star Banner program, providing banners to military families across the nation following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Banners are available for purchase through the Legion's Emblem Sales. American Legion by posts, districts and departments also are encouraged to conduct Blue Star Banner programs in their own communities.

This year's Indiana Blue Star Salute raised $11,000 for The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund, which provides college assistance for the children of military personnel who lost their lives on duty since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Legion's Public Relations Division has created a guide to conducting a Blue Star Service Banner program in your community.  For more information, contact The American Legion Public Relations Office at (317) 630-1253.

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VA Urges Breast Cancer Awareness

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The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is recognizing Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October by asking all female Veterans to talk with their health care providers about appropriate breast cancer screenings, such as regular mammograms.

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