Guard To Receive
Army and Air National Guard members will receive injections of H1N1
influenza vaccine. The Defense Department announced Oct. 29 that it
has obtained enough doses to inoculate the entire Active and reserve
force. The Army Materiel Agency will begin shipping the vaccine to
states in November; timetables for administering the shots are yet
to be determined. In the meantime, Guard officials encourage members
who can obtain vaccinations through other means to do so.
November 6, 2009
VA Unveils Plan To
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki announced a plan Nov.
3 for his
agency to combine assets with the departments of Defense, Education,
Labor, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development to
end homelessness among veterans within five years. Working in
cooperation with local government and charitable agencies, the VA and
its federal partners plan to target the causes of homelessness –
substance abuse, depression, and lack of education.
estimated 131,000 veterans live on the streets, according to the VA.
Senate leader aims for MilCon-VA passage Tuesday
By Humberto Sanchez CongressDaily November 6, 2009
The Senate on Friday resumed work on the $133.9 billion fiscal 2010
Military Construction-VA Appropriations bill, which Senate Democratic
leaders hope to pass before Veterans Day.
That gives the Senate Monday and Tuesday to finish the measure before
recessing for the week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said
he hopes the Senate will be able to begin voting on amendments Monday
"In years past we have finished this bill in a couple of hours," Reid
said. He added that wrangling with Republicans has slowed the Senate's
progress on annual spending legislation this year.
The bill provides $109 billion for the Veterans Affairs Department,
including $53.2 billion in discretionary funding, $150 million above
Obama's request. Total medical care funding for the VA is $44.7 billion,
$4.2 billion over fiscal 2009.
The legislation also approves $23.2 billion for military construction
projects, $286 million more than Obama's request.
For the first time, the bill includes pre-approved appropriations --
$48.2 billion for fiscal 2011 -- for the VA's medical programs, as a way
to ensure uninterrupted funding.
Military Construction-VA Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tim
Johnson, D-S.D., said on Friday he plans to offer an amendment to add
$50 million to VA funding to renovate empty buildings and VA medical
campuses to provide housing and services to homeless veterans.
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said he intends to offer an amendment to add $6
million to the VA's Grant and Per Diem program, which provides capital
and operational resources to assist homeless veterans. The amendment
would boost funding in the program to $150 million.
Johnson said he intends to accept Udall's amendment.
Gov. Perry Announces
Initiatives to Expand and Improve Mental Health Programs for Veterans
November 09, 2009
SAN ANTONIO – Gov. Rick Perry today
announced initiatives to expand and improve mental health support
programs for veterans and their families utilizing state funds marked
for veterans mental health.
“The men and women of the military make the ultimate sacrifice to
leave their families and loved ones and serve our country fighting in
distant lands,” Gov. Perry said. “While observing Veterans’ Day this
week, we cannot forget to support these brave Americans and their
families when they return home by ensuring they have access to the
health care and benefits promised when they made their own promise to
defend this nation, and by ensuring a seamless transition to civilian
life and providing any support they need.”
The governor is working with the Legislature and the Health and Human
Services Commission (HHSC) to secure an additional $5 million to
supplement the $1.2 million from the state budget to expand mental
health treatment and support programs for veterans and their families.
To address the challenges faced by veterans seeking mental health
treatment, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) will expand
their existing programs to cater to veterans’ immediate needs. Family
education and support programs will be modeled after Operation
Enduring Families and the SAFE (Support And Family Education) Program,
both of which have proven successful in other parts of the country.
“Our veterans have sacrificed to protect our nation,” DSHS
Commissioner David Lakey said. “The mental health challenges some
veterans face after combat are serious, and can be life threatening.
Our agency is honored to be part of an expanding effort to better meet
those needs. Our veterans deserve nothing less.”
Gov. Perry has also directed the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC) and
DSHS to establish veteran-to-veteran (V2V) support groups across the
state. These V2V groups help veterans by allowing them to share their
experiences with fellow veterans.
“No one is better suited to give support to our veterans than other
veterans,” Rep. Frank Corte said. “Their unique experiences are a
valuable resource which will help us in our efforts to serve the needs
of those who have so willingly served us.”
V2V groups will focus on the Texas National Guard and will be led by
veterans trained as facilitators or mental health professionals.
Senate Bill 1325, by Sen. Jane Nelson and Rep. Corte, requires DSHS to
create a mental health program for veterans that includes V2V groups.
"Veterans struggling with the psychological wounds of war are more
likely to seek assistance if that support comes from another veteran,”
Sen. Jane Nelson said. “Our legislation sets up a framework for former
military personnel to volunteer their time to help ease the burden of
those facing emotional challenges. We have outstanding, service-minded
veterans in Texas who, with the right training, can make a positive
impact in the lives of their peers and help them readjust."
Gov. Perry has also directed DSHS to recruit and train volunteers and
practitioners to provide mental health support to veterans. The state
will partner with organizations such as Give an Hour, a nonprofit
organization that develops volunteer networks to meet the mental
health needs of troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and
their families. DSHS and TVC will support the expansion of this
program into Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston, Fort Sam Houston in San
Antonio, Rio Grande Valley (Brownsville), Fort Bliss in El Paso and
Fort Hood in Killeen in the next year.
"Our men and women in the military have given much for us, now we must
do all we can for them," Sen. Leticia Van de Putte said. "In this
troubled time, our soldiers have served repeated deployments around
the globe, placing an incredible amount of emotional strain on
military families. This effort will help both those who serve and
those who wait and pray for their loved ones return."
DSHS will also provide funds to the Texas A&M Health Science Center
for improving the TexVet Web site,
http://www.texvet.com/, which will
provide veterans with screening resources and information regarding
potential eligibility for federal, state and local benefits. DSHS will
ensure coordination between 2-1-1, TexVet, and other state agencies
such as TVC, and will expand the availability of veteran information
Summary of initiatives:
· $6.2 million expansion of existing mental health programs for
· Expansion of the number of programs available to meet the needs
of families of veterans in addition to programs for veterans.
· Establishment of veteran-to-veteran support groups across the
state coordinated by TVC and DSHS.
· Recruiting and training volunteers and practitioners for
veterans’ mental health support.
· Upgrading http://www.texvet.com/ to include
resources and information on veterans’ benefits and coordination
between agencies that provide veterans’ services.
Women Veterans’ Challenges inBy Pam Maercklein
Receiving Health Benefits from VA
Texas Veterans Commission
Nov 12th 2009
Today, more women
service members are in combat zones and obtaining injuries that are
similar to their male counterparts, but they often do not know how or
where to obtain medical services once they get out of the service.
This is just one of many barriers women have in obtaining medical
services through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Some other
questions women have include what type of VA women’s health services are
available, how is the quality of care at VA or if VA physicians are
skilled in treating women. VA is continuously trying to find new ways to
improve benefits and services for women veterans through programs such
as the Center for Women Veterans, the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on
Women Veterans and VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans.
VA has started several programs to help women veterans obtain better
health care programs. Today, there are Women Veterans Program Managers
at the VA Medical Centers throughout the United States advocating for
women veterans and trying to increase services and programs for women
veterans. They provide empathetic assistance to women veterans and
victims of Military Sexual Trauma. The Women Veterans Coordinators are
being established at the outpatient clinics in order to expand outreach
to more women veterans. VA offers several programs that women may not be
aware. Some of services include pap smears, general reproductive health
care, counseling for substance abuse/sexual trauma/PTSD, IUD, HPV,
mammograms, primary care, dermatology, chiropractic, etc. Recently, VA
has broadened its coverage pertaining to service connected disability
benefits for Special Monthly Compensation for women veterans who
suffered loss of breast tissue related to their military service. In
addition, VA has launched an aggressive program to ensure that women
veterans receive the highest quality of health care, including $32.5
million to purchase additional equipment to meet the health care needs
of women. This includes full field digital mammography equipment,
stereotactic imaging technology, specialized ultrasound and biopsy
equipment, and DEXA scanners for bone density measurements. Sexual
assault/trauma resulting in PTSD is increasing throughout the military.
VA began to recognize this issue as a huge concern for women who are
coming back from overseas and has developed MST programs to help women
adjust to civilian life after these
types of incidents. They began to reach out extensively to women
veterans who are experiencing problems related to sexual trauma or
harassment while in the military. All veterans who are victims of sexual
trauma incurred in the military – both men and women – may receive free
counseling, as well as disability compensation and related services. In
addition, there are special programs to assist women veterans who are
homeless or who are victimsof domestic violence. There is a MST point of
contact for psychotherapy at every VA medical center.
Extensiveenhancements of the MST program have taken place in recent
years, including training of providers in the most current and effective
treatments for PTSD and sexual trauma.
VA has treatment sites for combat PTSD in women and is conducting
further research into how best to address the complex issues resulting
from combat duties and MST. The Temple VA Medical Center has an
inpatient Women’s Veterans Trauma Program as well as outpatient
counseling. VA is also recognizing nationwide that there are other
non-traditional types of therapy for PTSD that have produced excellent
results for some veterans. Some therapies include hypnosis, meditation,
music therapy, animal therapists, emotional freedom technique and
virtual reality treatment. Women veterans need to request services they
want in order for the services to be offered. VA has formed a work group
focusing on women’s needs in prosthetics and rehabilitation; developing
quality measurements specifically for women patients; purchasing more
state-of the- art specialized women’s health care equipment and
expanding medical education in women’s health for their health care
VA holds a National Summit on Women Veterans’ Issues every four years to
focus on women-specific health needs being fulfilled and to inform women
veterans of their eligibility for VA benefits.
Visit TVC’s website at www.tvc.state.tx.us to obtain contact information
for the VA facilities in your area. You will also find contact
for the nearest TVC office, veterans county service offices, TVC
Employment Services, Veterans Education and a host of other information.
Also visit www.publichealth.va.gov/womenshealth/faqs.asp to see what
services are available from VA and where to find them.
November 13, 2009
Streamlines Pharmacy Benefits
members and their families will be able to use a single toll-free
phone number – (877) 363-1303 – when obtaining or refilling retail,
specialty, or mail-order prescriptions through TRICARE, the network of
military health-care providers. The change is among several TRICARE
adopted when it combined mail-order and retail pharmacies under a
single contract, provided by St. Louis-based Express Scripts Inc.
follows an industry-wide trend. Officials are hopeful that
beneficiaries will find the new system easier to navigate, while the
health-care system saves money.
information is available on the Web at
Senate approves military construction-VA
November 18, 2009
The Senate on Tuesday approved the $133.9 billion fiscal 2010 Military
Construction-Veterans Affairs spending bill after defeating a proposal
that would have blocked funds in the measure or other previously
passed bills from being used to construct facilities in the United
States to hold detainees from the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, terrorist
bill was approved 100-0, and the amendment, offered by Sen. James
Inhofe, R-Okla., was defeated 57-43.
Rejection of the Inhofe amendment comes after the Obama administration
announced last week it will prosecute five individuals charged with
committing the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in federal court in
Senate also approved, 98-1, an amendment offered by Senate Military
Construction-VA Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Johnson, D-S.D.,
that would add $50 million to Veterans Affairs Department funding to
renovate empty buildings to provide housing and services to homeless
amendment is offset by cutting $50 million from the Defense
Department's Homeowners Assistance Program, which the Pentagon has
determined is not currently required, Johnson said. The program helps
military and federal personnel whose homes have lost value because of
a base closure.
Senate approved by unanimous consent two other amendments, including a
proposal by Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye to provide
$68.5 million, redirected from fiscal 2009 funds, to build an Aegis
missile defense test site at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on the
western shores of Kaua'i, Hawaii.
other amendment, from Senate Appropriations ranking member Thad
Cochran, would allow the city of Gulfport, Miss., to develop VA
property deeded to it after 2005's Hurricane Katrina.
addition, the Senate approved by voice vote an amendment from Sen.
Russell Feingold, D-Wis., that would provide $5 million for grants to
community-based organizations and state and local government entities
to conduct outreach to veterans in underserved areas.
Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said he expects
the House will reject an expected GOP motion to recommit that would
put language in the fiscal 2010 Commerce-Justice-Science
Appropriations conference report prohibiting the transfer or release
of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, into the United States,
including for prosecution. Hoyer cited as precedent the fiscal 2010
Homeland Security conference report, which the House approved last
month after rejecting a similar motion, 224-193. The vote came after
the House initially approved, 258-163, a similar nonbinding Republican
motion to instruct conferees.
Hoyer said that Democratic leaders are deciding when to name C-J-S
conferees. Republicans have charged that Democrats are delaying naming
conferees to protect their members from taking difficult votes.
Billy House contributed to this report.
Recent VA News Release
Secretary Shinseki Announces Study of Vietnam-Era Women Veterans
Comprehensive Study Will Help VA Provide High-Quality Care
WASHINGTON (Nov. 19, 2009) -Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K.
Shinseki announced the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is
launching a comprehensive study of women Veterans who served in the
military during the Vietnam War to explore the effects of their military
service upon their mental and physical health.
"One of my top priorities is to meet the needs of women Veterans,"
said Secretary Shinseki. "Our Veterans have earned the very best care.
VA realizes that women Veterans require specialized programs, and this
study will help VA provide high-quality care for women Veterans of the
The study, which begins in November and lasts more than four years,
will contact approximately 10,000 women in a mailed survey, telephone
interview and a review of their medical records.
As women Vietnam Veterans approach their mid-sixties, it is important
to understand the impact of wartime deployment on health and mental
outcomes nearly 40 years later. The study will assess the prevalence of
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental and physical
health conditions for women Vietnam Veterans, and explore the
relationship between PTSD and other conditions.
VA will study women Vietnam Veterans who may have had direct exposure
to traumatic events, and for the first time, study those who served in
facilities near Vietnam. These women may have had similar, but less
direct exposures. Both women Veterans who receive their health care from
VA and those who receive health care from other providers will be
contacted to determine the prevalence of a variety of health conditions.
About 250,000 women Veterans served in the military during the
Vietnam War and about 7,000 were in or near Vietnam. Those who were in
Vietnam, those who served elsewhere in Southeast Asia and those who
served in the United States are potential study participants.
The study represents to date the most comprehensive examination of a
group of women Vietnam Veterans, and will be used to shape future
research on women Veterans in future wars. Such an understanding will
lay the groundwork for planning and providing appropriate services for
women Veterans, as well as for the aging Veteran population today.
Women Veterans are one of the fastest growing segments of the Veteran
population. There are approximately 1.8 million women Veterans among the
nation's total of 23 million living Veterans. Women comprise 7.8 percent
of the total Veteran population and nearly 5.5 percent of all Veterans
who use VA health care services. VA estimates women Veterans will
constitute 10.5 percent of the Veteran population by 2020 and 9.5
percent of all VA patients.
In recent years, VA has undertaken a number of initiatives to create
or enhance services for women Veterans, including the implementation of
comprehensive primary care throughout the nation, staffing every VA
medical center with a women Veterans program manager, supporting a
multifaceted research program on women's health, improving communication
and outreach to women Veterans, and continuing the operation of
organizations like the Center for Women Veterans and the Women Veterans
Health Strategic Healthcare Group.
The study, to be managed by VA's Cooperative Studies Program, is
projected to cost $5.6 million.
VA and Kaiser Permanente Invite Veterans to
Health Record Pilot Program
Working Together to Share Records Safely, Improve Care
WASHINGTON (Nov. 25, 2009) - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
and Kaiser Permanente today announced an exciting program designed to
improve care and services to our Nation's heroes. VA and Kaiser
Permanente are launching a pilot program to exchange electronic health
record (EHR) information using the Nationwide Health Information Network
(NHIN) created by the Department of Health and Human Services.
"The ability to share critical health information is essential to
interoperability," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric K. Shinseki.
"Utilizing the NHIN's standards and network will allow organizations
like VA and the Department of Defense to partner with private sector
health care providers to promote better, faster and safer care for
This week, VA and Kaiser Permanente will send a joint letter to
Veterans in the San Diego area who receive care from both institutions,
to invite Veterans to participate in this first-ever pilot program.
Veterans, who respond and ask to participate, will enable their public
and private sector health care providers and doctors to share specific
health information electronically, safely, securely and privately. This
initial pilot is planned to begin in mid-December 2009.
"This partnership demonstrates the power of a large-scale EHR that
safely connects several care systems. Securely digitizing American's
health care information is only the first step in realizing the cost
saving and improved quality benefits possible with health care
technology," said Andrew M. Wiesenthal, MD, associate executive director
of The Permanente Federation. "The reality is that most people receive
care from multiple providers. Without the ability for caregivers and
patients to have access to their data, all of the time, there is the
possibility for wasted time and resources duplicating tests and
procedures. Exchange of current health record data at the point of
treatment also improves quality, allowing medical decisions to be made
quickly, with the relevant background."
The pilot program connects Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect(r) and the
VA's electronic health record system, VistA, two of the largest
electronic health record systems in the country.
The program puts the highest priority on patient privacy and data
security, and no exchange of information will occur without the explicit
permission of the individual patient. Explicit policies and technologies
to safeguard patient information are part of the NHIN. Patient
information will not be shared without first obtaining their consent.
Veterans' access to care will in no way be affected at either
institution if they choose not to participate. Patients who do choose to
participate will benefit by allowing their doctors at any one of the
institutions to obtain key health record information from other
VA, DoD, and HHS have been working closely to create a system that
will modernize the way health care is delivered and benefits are
administered. DoD will be included in the next phase of the pilot
program in early 2010.