Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

Legion Baseball prepared Melvin and Snitker for success

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Two former American Legion Baseball players, Bob Melvin and Brian Snitker, were named the Baseball Writers' Association of America's Managers of the Year Award on Tuesday.

Both Melvin, manager of the Oakland A’s, and Snitker, skipper for the Atlanta Braves, spoke with The American Legion and praised their experiences playing Legion Baseball, crediting the organization with aiding in their successes.

"American Legion for me was probably the time that maybe [a career in baseball] was the way I was going," said Melvin, a three-time Manager of the Year.

Melvin led his Post 375 squad from Palo Alto, Calif., to an American Legion World Series berth in 1980 and was the recipient of the James F. Daniel Jr. Memorial Sportsmanship Award, which is presented to a player who participates in the Legion World Series and best embodies the principles of good sportsmanship.

"It was a great experience ... it gave me a platform to be seen ... it had a big part of my development as a player and developing me and gave me start on a professional career. I owe a lot to American Legion Baseball,” said Snitker, who played Legion Baseball in Macon, Ill.

The pair of managers oversaw the greatest win increases in Major League Baseball this year, with the A’s going from 75 wins in 2017 to 97 wins and a playoff spot in 2018 (+22). The Braves increased from 72 to 90 wins (+18) and cruised to a divisional title.

This is the third straight year in which a former American Legion player earned the American League Manager of the Year award, as Paul Molitor won it in 2017 and Terry Francona took it home in 2016.

Molitor, from Minnesota, was the 1996 American Legion Baseball Graduate of the Year. Francona played Legion Baseball in Pennsylvania.

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Search for missing continues in California wildfires

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National Guard troops continue to search for missing people in the aftermath of the deadliest wildfire in California history.

At least 56 people died and more than 8,800 homes were destroyed in Paradise, Calif., and some 130 people are still missing. Three others have died in separate fires in southern California.

In an Associated Press story, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said it would take years to rebuild Paradise, a town of about 27,000 in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. “The infrastructure is basically a total rebuild at this point,” Long said. “You’re not going to be able to rebuild Paradise the way it was.”

Incoming Department of California Adjutant Paul Brown said in an email that Post 259 Commander Matt Ellis told him that the post in Paradise is still standing.

Ellis told Brown he intends to turn the post into an emergency reconnection center when residents are able to return to the area. Thousands have evacuated to Chico, with many forced to set up camp in a Walmart parking lot because shelters are at capacity.

The National Emergency Fund is available for American Legion and Sons of The American Legion members who have been impacted by the wildfires, as well as Legion posts. The NEF provides up to $3,000 for Legion and SAL members with an active membership who have been displaced due to damages to their primary residence, and up to $10,000 for posts that have been damaged by a natural disaster and whose programs and activities within the community are impacted. To apply for an NEF grant, please visit Donations to the NEF can also be made at that link, and printable donation forms are also available.

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A pain in the brain may be a migraine

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For sufferers of migraines, the term “bad headache” doesn’t come close to describing their experience. The pounding, pulsing ache can take over the entire head. Migraines can be relentless, affecting vision and balance, coursing to the stomach and beyond, and lasting for days or weeks if untreated.

“A higher percentage of women than men suffer from migraines,” said Briana Todd, clinical psychologist, Psychological Health Center of Excellence. “Research suggests women experience them approximately two to three times more frequently.”

According to National Institute of Health National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, researchers believe migraines result from fundamental neurological abnormalities caused by genetic mutations at work in the brain. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kent Werner, who recently served as chief of the neurology clinic at Ft. Belvoir Community Hospital, said migraines are caused when a circuit in the brain fires when it should not.

“The location of the pain is likely dependent on which circuit is active, but sometimes the active circuitry spreads, like a fire, to other nerve centers that control balance, nausea, sensitivity to light, hearing, and balance and vertigo,” said Werner. “It’s quite an interesting disease and the range of presentations is broad.”

The National Institutes of Health reports 18 percent of all adult women in the U.S. suffer from migraines. According to Todd, many migraines in women are related to a drop in estrogen levels, particularly around a woman’s menstrual cycle. It’s just one of the triggers and warning signs that may precede a migraine.

“Tracking triggers is a key component of managing migraines,” said Todd. “Many times people feel as though they are coming out of nowhere.”

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, triggers may include aged cheese and meats, alcohol, monosodium glutamate or MSG, citrus fruits, chocolate, spicy foods, or foods or drinks containing aspartame. Caffeine can also be a trigger, although acute treatment of headaches with caffeine is sometimes effective.

Todd said there are many strategies to managing migraines, such as avoiding or limiting the triggers and promoting relaxation.

“A trigger in one person may not be a trigger for another,” said Werner. “Disruption of sleep and elevated stress are known to increase migraines, and those triggers run rampant in the military.”

Todd said triggers are personalized for each individual, and in the case of a women’s menstrual cycle impacting migraines, there are things the woman can do around that time, such as adjust lifestyle factors.

Werner agrees simple lifestyle changes can reduce the frequency of migraines. For example, he said the NIH has linked exercise to reductions in migraines. In addition, regular, adequate sleep (seven to eight hours a night) leads to fewer headaches. Managing anxiety and stress can also significantly reduce migraines. Some service members have found success with acupuncture, acupressure, and diet change, said Werner.

Conventional approaches can also help. Werner typically starts his patients with supplements, such as vitamin B-2, magnesium, or coenzyme q10. These are available over the counter and have been effective for some participants in clinical trials.

However, if lifestyle changes and the other approaches described are ineffective, medications are available. Werner said some women have found success controling migraines with birth control pills. In addition, several over-the-counter medications have proved effective as a timed strategy just before menstruation.

Prescription blood pressure and anti-seizure drugs can be prescribed by a primary care provider. In addition, Botox injections or other medications have been used, and last year, Werner said, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first medication developed specifically to prevent migraines.

If the pain associated with a migraine persists and interferes with your daily routine, Werner suggests you go to urgent care or the emergency room. A primary care doctor can also refer service members to a neurology specialist for further tests.

“Doctors are actively pursuing novel therapies and testing them in clinical trials, which is important to keep in mind,” Werner said. “We do not stop until we help you find the treatment that is right for you.”

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Missing From Top Colleges: Veterans

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But several universities are now promising to do better.

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VA rates 70 percent of its nursing homes as failures

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The national commanders of the nation’s two largest veterans organizations are demanding that Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie bring immediate attention to his nursing home program that currently has 70 percent of its 132 homes receiving failing grades by the VA’s own rating system.

The call by Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. National Commander B.J. Lawrence and American Legion National Commander Brett Reistad is in response to a series of scathing articles by two USA Today and Boston Globe reporters who documented substandard and negligent care at the VA nursing home in Brockton, Mass., which is one of 45 nursing homes that received the VA’s lowest rating of one star. Forty-seven homes received two stars, 16 homes three stars, and 15 homes four stars. Only nine nursing homes received the VA’s top five-star rating.

“While much of the media’s attention has been on the proper implementation of VA health-care legislation, we cannot forget about 46,000 mostly senior veterans who reside in these nursing homes,” said the two national commanders, who collectively speak for more than 4.6 million members and their auxiliaries.

“The media reports about sub-par care, patient neglect and safety violations at VA nursing homes are more than just disturbing,” said the Legion’s national commander. “Legionnaires, our friends in the VFW, and anybody who respects veterans should be angered by this,” said Reistad. “These people should not be viewed as forgotten patients in a home. These are people who in the prime of their lives risked their lives, and made enormous sacrifices on behalf of our country. America’s veterans deserve better. We not only expect VA to fix these problems immediately, but we want transparency. Those who sleep on the job and ignore the best interests of their patients need to find a different employer.”

Echoing his counterpart, the VFW national commander said, “These veterans earned the right to receive high quality care in a fully-staffed and well-managed facility. Their families deserve to know that their loved ones — their heroes — are not being abandoned or abused, and America needs to be reassured that the VA is honoring our nation’s promise to those who have borne the battle,” said Lawrence. “The VA must improve its delivery of quality care at these facilities. It must recruit and retain only the best health care professionals and support staff, and it must hold all employees accountable for their actions or inactions. It is not a right but a privilege to work for America’s veterans, and anything less is unacceptable.”

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Did you know?

A veteran’s family must request a United States flag.

A flag is provided at no cost to drape the casket or accompany the urn of a deceased veteran. Generally, the flag is given to the next of kin. Only one flag may be provided per veteran. Upon the request of the family, an “Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes” (VA Form 21-2008) must be submitted along with a copy of the veteran’s discharge papers. Flags may be obtained from VA regional offices and most U.S. Post Offices.