October 2009 Archives

VA Chief of Staff Gingrich Kicks off National Veterans
Creative Arts Festival in San Antonio

WASHINGTON (Oct. 6, 2009) - On Oct. 5, the Department of Veterans Affairs

(VA) Chief of Staff John Gingrich celebrated Veteran-artists at the opening banquet of the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival in San Antonio, Texas. The festival is the culmination of a year-long fine arts competition involving nearly 3,500 participants nationwide. It is open to all Veterans receiving care at VA medical facilities.

"I salute each of our Veteran-artists-from our 'Greatest Generation' to our latest generation-for your service to America," said Gingrich. "The National Veterans Creative Arts Festival not only showcases the very 'best of the best' in the creative arts, but also VA's outstanding medical care and rehabilitative techniques."

More than 120 Veteran medal winners in music, dance, drama, creative writing and visual arts contests are participating in the week-long festival. The event will conclude on Oct. 11 with a visual art exhibit and gala variety stage show at the San Antonio Municipal Auditorium.

VA medical facilities incorporate creative arts into their recreation therapy programs. This annual competition recognizes the progress and recovery made through art therapy, and raises visibility of Veterans'

creative achievements.

"VA's rehabilitation therapists deliver a brand of care that enriches-even rescues-lives by providing the kinds of art therapy that give self-confidence, pride and personal expression," said Gingrich.

The festival is presented by VA, Help Hospitalized Veterans (HHV) and the American Legion Auxiliary. It is hosted this year by the South Texas Veterans Health Care System.

"It is truly an honor for the American Legion Auxiliary to support the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival," said National President Rita Navarreté. "This phenomenal event affords our Veterans a unique outlet for their creative expression and is incredibly inspiring for everyone who is privileged to attend."

"The Board of Directors of HHV is again thrilled and privileged to co-sponsor the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival with VA and the American Legion Auxiliary," said Mike Lynch, HHV president and CEO. "HHV wishes to congratulate all Veterans who entered into this national competition, for you have shared your fantastic performing and visual arts abilities with America."

The artists will exhibit their work from 12:15 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 11, at the San Antonio Municipal Auditorium. At 2 p.m., performers in music, drama and dance, as well as the creative writing winners, will showcase their talents in an entertaining stage show backed by a professional orchestra. Heloise, from "Hints from Heloise," will serve as the festival stage show's mistress of ceremonies for the first time.

For further information about the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, contact Jose Llamas at (703) 969-9238, or log on to the festival's Web site

at: www.creativeartsfestival.va.gov

<http://www.creativeartsfestival.va.gov/> .


Secretary Shinseki Announces $17 Million in Homeless Grants

WASHINGTON (Oct. 6, 2009) - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K.

Shinseki has announced that 19 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico will share more than $17 million in grants to community groups to create 1,155 beds for homeless Veterans this year.

"These grants will aid our efforts to eliminate homelessness among those who have served in uniform," said Secretary Shinseki. "Our partnerships with community-based organizations provide safe, transitional housing while these Veterans leverage VA's health care and other benefits to return to productive lives."

A key tool in VA's drive to eliminate homelessness among Veterans, the grants helped VA reduce the number of Veterans who are homeless on a typical night last year by 15 percent to about 131,000 Veterans.

In other programs, VA provides health care to 100,000 homeless Veterans, compensation and assistance in obtaining foreclosed homes and excess federal property, including clothes, footwear, blankets and other items.

That includes the Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program operating from 132 sites to provide outreach, physical and psychiatric examinations and referrals for more than 40,000 Veterans annually, while 2,100 beds in VA domiciliaries provide treatment to more than 5,000 Veterans each year.

In addition, VA partners with volunteers and community organizations to serve tens of thousands of Veterans each year through "stand downs"

offering Veterans who often are living lives in the shadows access to basic services and referrals.

VA works with a variety of federal agencies and Veterans organizations not only to mitigate and eliminate homelessness but toward a goal of preventing its occurrence in the first place.

VA's goal is to have a "no wrong door" phenomena, meaning Veterans who seek assistance should find it either in VA internal programs, from community partners or through contract services.

In terms of dollars and number of Veterans served, VA has the largest integrated network of homeless assistance programs in the nation. In fiscal year 2009, VA expected to spend $2.8 billion to provide health care and specialized homeless programs, with an anticipated $400 million increase in the budget for fiscal year 2010.

VA social workers and clinicians work with community and faith-based partners to conduct extensive outreach programs, clinical assessments, medical treatments, alcohol and drug abuse counseling and employment assistance.

More information about VA's homeless programs is available on the Internet at http://www.va.gov/homeless. The list of recipients is below.

Recipients of VA Grants for Homeless Veterans

State City Recipients Amount Program
Ariz. Tucson Esperanza En Escalante $450,938 10 beds
Calif. Adelanto Life Community Development $227,240 12 beds, 1 van
  Los Angeles Volunteers of America $506,108 48 beds
Colo. Aurora Aurora Comprehensive Community Mental Health $46,706 15 beds
  Denver Bo Mathews Center for Excellence $362,798 16 beds, 1 van
  Denver Volunteers of America $72,327 8 beds
Conn. New London New London Homeless Hospitality Center $130,627 8 beds
D.C. Washington US Veterans Initiative $942,500 85 beds
Fla. Orlando Center for Drug Free Living $1,049,257 28 beds, 1 van
  St. Cloud Transition House $275,925 4 beds
  St. Petersburg Boley Centers $94,015 13 beds
  Tampa Tampa Crossroads $500,370 16 beds, 1 van
Ga. Augusta Augusta Steppingstones to Recovery $499,070 16 beds, 1 van
Kan. Emporia Corner House. $308,295 18 beds,
Ky. Hopkinsville Pennyroyal Mental Health and Mental Retardation Center $1,604,714 50 beds
Mich. Detroit Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries $932,500 60 beds, 1 van
  Southfield The Salvation Army $1,241,289 34 beds
  Southfield The Salvation Army $962,000 30 beds
Mo. Kansas City The Salvation Army $656,110 30 beds
N.M. Las Cruces Mesilla Valley Community of Hope $180,750 22 beds, 1 van
N.Y. Avon Zion Episcopal Church $96,015 6 beds
  Bronx Everywhere and Now Public Housing $158,715

$188,500

84 beds

61 beds

  Schenectady The Altamont Program, Inc $46,332 12 beds
N.C. Ridgecrest First at Blue Ridge, Inc. $125,813 10 beds
Ore. Eugene Sponsors, Inc. $506,527 10 beds
Pa. Philadelphia Diversified Housing Solutions, Inc. $436,020 30 beds
  Pittsburgh Community Human Services Corporation $8,642 10 beds
Puerto Rico Aguadilla Casa Del Peregrino Aguadilla, Inc. $75,433 12 beds
S.C. Wagner Christ Central Ministries $1,592,500 96 beds
Tenn. Hohenwald Buffalo Valley, Inc. $142,350 14 beds
Texas Houston Forest Lawn Missionary Baptist Church $169,361 25 beds, 1 van
  Houston Spiller Personal Care Home, Inc. $1,900,000 184 beds,1 van
         
         


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Senate Sends VA Health Care Funding Reform Bill to White House
Long-Awaited Victory for Veterans Nears
October 9, 2009

WASHINGTON, Oct. 14 - The U.S. Senate gave final approval Tuesday to legislation that will finally reform the budget and appropriations process for the Department of Veterans Affairs' medical care programs, ensuring veterans receive the health care they have earned in a timely manner

The Senate's unanimous approval comes on the heels of a 419-1 vote in the House last week, passing H.R. 1016, the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act.

The bill is now headed to the White House. President Obama voiced support for this landmark legislation and is expected to sign it into law.

"With the support of Congress, we now are on the brink of a long-overdue victory that will help ensure timely access to medical care for the men and women who have served, are serving and will serve in defense of our nation," said DAV National Commander Roberto Barrera. "For two decades, the Disabled American Veterans and other veterans service organizations have worked to reform the budget and appropriations process to ensure that veterans receive the health care they have earned in a timely manner."

The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act authorizes Congress to approve veterans medical care funding one year in advance to better meet the anticipated demand for veterans health care services. The advanced funding will give the Department of Veterans Affairs up to a full year to plan for the most effective and efficient way of delivering medical care. Additionally, this would require the Government Accountability Office to audit the budget development process to ensure that sufficient funds are included.

"This legislation will help every disabled veteran and every future disabled veteran," said Commander Barrera. "This is happening because so many of DAV's members and supporters have stepped up and called on Congress to put an end to chronic lapses in budgets almost every year for decades. We stood up for veterans together, and veterans and their families are going to benefit."

Commander Barrera expressed DAV's gratitude to several Senators who played leading roles in getting the legislation approved.

"This was truly a bipartisan effort in the Senate, led by the very able Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, Senator Dan Akaka, who drafted and sponsored the legislation in the Senate.  His dogged determination and skillful leadership proved to be central to passing advance appropriations legislation," Barrera said. "Senator Akaka has proven time and again that he is a true champion for all of America's veterans, one who we can rely on to aggressively fight for our interests in Congress, and we are grateful for all that he has done for veterans, especially disabled veterans."

"Senator Richard Burr, the Ranking Member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, played an important role throughout this legislative process.  His insightful contributions strengthened the bill, and his steadfast support was absolutely essential to moving this legislation through the Senate," Barrera said.

 "Senator Olympia Snowe was a crucial supporter of advance appropriations from the very beginning.  Her dedication to working in a bipartisan manner for the benefit of veterans helped lead to over half the Senate cosponsoring the legislation," Commander Barrera said.

"Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Johnson laid the groundwork for this historic victory with his sponsorship of veterans funding reform legislation dating back to 2002.  He has consistently worked to increase funding levels for veterans health care programs and unselfishly put his full support behind advance appropriations legislation when it was needed," Barrera said.

 "One of the most pivotal moments leading to this legislative victory was the inclusion of advance appropriations language in the budget resolution earlier this year.  Veterans have Senator Jim Inhofe to thank for offering that amendment which protected advance appropriations in the budget.  His forceful advocacy of advance appropriations at that crucial moment was essential to the ultimate approval of advance appropriations this year," Commander Barrera said.

"Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad also played a key role when he supported the advance appropriations amendment in the budget, and later worked out an agreement with the House to retain the advance appropriations legislation in the final budget resolution.  Senator Conrad continues to be a strong voice for veterans in the Senate," said Barrera.

The 1.2 million-member Disabled American Veterans, a non-profit organization founded in 1920 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1932, represents this nation's disabled veterans. It is dedicated to a single purpose: building better lives for our nation's disabled veterans and their families. More information is available at www.dav.org

October 9, 2009

 VA Health Care Funding Reform Moves Toward Final Victory

Major Win in House Puts Bill in Senate's Hands

WASHINGTON, Oct. 9 - The House of Representatives Thursday gave overwhelming final approval to legislation that will provide sufficient, timely and predictable funding for veterans health care programs.

By a 419-1 vote, the House passed H.R. 1016, the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act. The Senate is expected to quickly approve this legislation, which the President has vowed to sign.

"For two decades, the Disabled American Veterans and other veterans service organizations have worked to reform the budget and appropriations process to ensure that veterans receive the health care they have earned in a timely manner," said DAV National Commander Roberto Barrera. "With the historic House vote, we are on the brink of a long-overdue victory that will help ensure timely access to medical care for the men and women who have served, are serving and will serve in defense of our nation."

The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act authorizes Congress to approve veterans medical care funding one year in advance to better meet the anticipated demand for veterans health care services. The advanced funding will give the Department of Veterans Affairs up to a full year to plan for the most effective and efficient way of delivering medical care. Additionally, this would require the Government Accountability Office to audit the budget development process to ensure that sufficient funds are included.

"This legislation will help every disabled veteran and every future disabled veteran," said Commander Barrera. "This is happening because so many of DAV's members and supporters have stepped up and called on Congress to put an end to chronic lapses in budgets almost every year for decades. We stood up for veterans together, and veterans and their families are going to benefit."

Commander Barrera expressed DAV's gratitude to members of the House of Representatives who played leading roles in getting the legislation approved.

"Rep. Bob Filner, Chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, introduced the advance appropriations legislation, fought for its approval, moved it through his committee and negotiated the compromise with the Senate reflected in the legislation. Chairman Filner has proven to be a reliable and effective leader, always willing to stand up for our nation's veterans," Barrera said.

"Advance appropriations legislation would not have been passed without the support of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose passion and commitment to America's veterans are regularly demonstrated in her leadership of the House," Barrera said.

"Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey's public backing of advance appropriations was one of the most significant moments leading to our success," said Barrera. "Veterans across the country owe a debt of gratitude to Chairman Obey; not only for helping this legislation succeed, but also for his unwavering efforts to increase funding for veterans health care programs each year."

"Rep. Michael Michaud, who chairs the Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Health, was one of the earliest supporters of advance appropriations and played a crucial role in building support for the legislation in the House. Rep. Michaud continues to be one of the most astute and courageous legislators in Congress on behalf of all veterans," said Barrera.

"Rep. Chet Edwards, who is Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, has always been a great friend to America's veterans, constantly fighting for increased funding for VA programs. Rep. Edwards' support for sufficient, timely and predictable funding for veterans health care was vital to the success of the advance appropriations legislation," Barrera said.

"Years before H.R. 1016 was developed, Rep. Phil Hare was leading the fight in the House to secure guaranteed funding for VA health care," Barrera said. "When the advance appropriations legislation was proposed as a new alternative to achieving funding reform, Rep. Hare unhesitatingly signed on in support, and DAV applauds him for putting the interests of veterans first."

"Rep. Walter Jones has a long and consistent record of standing up for veterans regardless of the political or partisan costs involved. As the lead Republican sponsor, Rep. Jones played an important role in making this a bipartisan effort, as demonstrated by the 419 to 1 vote in favor of H.R. 1016," said Barrera.

The 1.2 million-member Disabled American Veterans, a non-profit organization founded in 1920 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1932, represents this nation's disabled veterans. It is dedicated to a single purpose: building better lives for our nation's disabled veterans and their families. More information is available at www.dav.org.


VA Extends "Agent Orange" Benefits to More Veterans
Parkinson's Disease, Two Other Illnesses Recognized
October 13, 2009

WASHINGTON (Oct. 13, 2009) - Relying on an independent study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K.
Shinseki decided to establish a service-connection for Vietnam Veterans with three specific illnesses based on the latest evidence of an association with the herbicides referred to Agent Orange.

The illnesses affected by the recent decision are B cell leukemias, such as hairy cell leukemia; Parkinson's disease; and ischemic heart disease.

Used in Vietnam to defoliate trees and remove concealment for the enemy, Agent Orange left a legacy of suffering and disability that continues to the present. Between January 1965 and April 1970, an estimated 2.6 million military personnel who served in Vietnam were potentially exposed to sprayed Agent Orange.

In practical terms, Veterans who served in Vietnam during the war and who have a "presumed" illness don't have to prove an association between their illnesses and their military service. This "presumption"
simplifies and speeds up the application process for benefits.

The Secretary's decision brings to 15 the number of presumed illnesses recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

"We must do better reviews of illnesses that may be connected to service, and we will," Shinseki added. "Veterans who endure health problems deserve timely decisions based on solid evidence."

Other illnesses previously recognized under VA's "presumption" rule as being caused by exposure to herbicides during the Vietnam War are:

* Acute and Subacute Transient Peripheral Neuropathy http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/conditions/peripheral_neuropathy.asp

* AL Amyloidosis
http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/conditions/al_amyloidosis.asp

* Chloracne
http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/conditions/chloracne.asp

* Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/conditions/chronic_leukemia.asp

* Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2)
http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/conditions/diabetes.asp

* Hodgkin's Disease
http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/conditions/hodgkins.asp

* Multiple Myeloma
http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/conditions/multiple_myeloma.asp

* Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/conditions/nh_lymphoma.asp

* Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/conditions/porphyria.asp

* Prostate Cancer
http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/conditions/prostate_cancer.asp
 
* Respiratory Cancers
http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/conditions/respiratory_cancers.asp

 , and * Soft Tissue Sarcoma (other than Osteosarcoma, Chondrosarcoma, Kaposi's sarcoma, or Mesothelioma) http://www.publichealth.va.gov/PUBLICHEALTH/exposures/agentorange/conditions/st_sarcoma.asp
 

Additional information about Agent Orange and VA's services and programs for Veterans exposed to the chemical are available at www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange

http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/


A blue-chip group of information technology companies met on Wednesday
October 15, 2009

A blue-chip group of information technology companies met on Wednesday to consider the work required to modernize a decades-old federal electronic health record system that stores the medical files for millions of veterans and their families, with the underlying implication the system could become a platform for the national health record network President Obama envisions.

The Industry Advisory Council, a 550-member group of technology companies that works to foster dialogue with federal agencies about IT solutions and procurement, invited executives from about 40 high-tech corporations to form the VistA working group. VistA stands for the Veterans Health Information System and Technology Architecture, an electronic health record system that the Veterans Affairs Department has operated for two decades.

IAC, which includes technology giants AT&T, Cisco, Dell, IBM, Oracle, Unisys and Verizon, met behind closed doors on Wednesday in Tysons Corner, Va., outside Washington to discuss the possibility of upgrading the system, which might include using open source code, a move that would make a relatively cheap electronic health records alternative to clinicians nationwide.

The agenda for the meeting, which an invitation described "as one of the most significant projects IAC has ever undertaken," has "staggering implications" for the IT industry if VistA could become a platform for a national heath care IT standard, said an industry source who declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.

High-tech conglomerates are investing millions of dollars in developing electronic health records systems businesses, hoping to cash in on the billions of dollars that hospitals and doctors' offices will spend deploying the systems. The stimulus package that Obama signed into law in February includes about $20 billion for electronic health records.

Some physicians have criticized the government's push to a nationwide network of digitized medical records, arguing they cannot afford to buy the computer systems. Technicians say many of today's electronic health record systems cannot share records because they operate on different standards.

But upgrading Vista, especially to operate on open source, could answer many of those objections, sources said.

Roger Baker, chief information officer at VA who requested IAC to form the working group, said in an interview with Nextgov that VistA is "the best in the world" and he has asked the IT industry to look into leveraging the system "for the betterment of the country."

Baker said one of the questions he wants the working group to consider is how VistA can improve the American health care system, including the use of the software in the private sector. He added that industry must help improve VistA, which has widespread acceptance by VA clinicians. "Doctors love VistA and we would be crazy to walk away from it," he said.

VA has a long-term project to replace VistA, but Baker said he is not ready to abandon the network and hopes IT companies that are part of the working group can determine what the government would need to do to modernize the old system. Ed Meagher, director of strategy for health affairs for SRA International who served as deputy CIO at VA from 2001 to 2006, chairs the working group. He could not be reached for comment.

Baker said any effort to push the system, which "is owned by the American public," into the private health care industry, which is served by hundreds of commercial electronic health record vendors looking to cash in on the billions of dollars expected to be spent on health systems in the coming years, has to consider the role of the government in a free market.

Aneesh Chopra, whom Obama appointed as federal chief technology officer in May, agreed that VistA was popular among doctors, but added the government must remain platform neutral when it comes to electronic health record systems. Chopra said he viewed the working group as a powerful example of collaboration between government and industry to support VA. But he added that an improved VistA might be only "one of the many alternatives" that could serve as a platform for an electronic health record system in the private sector.

The working group's agenda, which was provided to Nextgov, makes it clear that the members will discuss upgrading VistA for both public and private sector use. "It has been suggested that there may be advantages in making VistA available to a broader community that could include both government and nongovernment entities," the agenda noted. "While no decision has been made about such an initiative, VA's management is interested in understanding the issues, challenges and opportunities associated with such an action. The government is also seeking advice on how to upgrade the system to take advantage of innovative software and technologies."

In addition, the agenda asked industry to develop answers to the following questions:

--Is VistA a system that could be deployed to a wider community? If yes, what is the most appropriate deployment model: open source code; cloud computing; business process/methodology; other?

--Should VistA be established as a national standard? What are the implications of this action?

--What is an appropriate strategy for modernizing VistA and transitioning it to a more current and innovative architecture?

--What are the opportunities and impact of modernizing and deploying VistA on private industry, the health care community and other key groups?

Michael Doyle, president and chief executive officer of Medsphere Systems Corp., which sells an open source version of VistA, said he supports the effort "to take VistA to the masses." Medsphere's version sells for about a third of the cost of commercial health record systems, which have an estimated price tag of between $10 million and $70 million.

In its letter to members of the working group, IAC said it expected to complete the VistA project in six months. While the meeting was closed to the public and the press, work on the project will be posted on a public Web site in what an industry source said was keeping in the spirit of transparency that Obama has called for.


More Help Available for Agent Orange Veterans
October 16, 2009

The Department of Veterans Affairs will soon ease standards of proof for Vietnam War veterans who suffer from three maladies related to exposure to the chemical defoliant Agent Orange. In an Oct. 13 announcement, VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said that newly released clinical studies concluded that veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and suffer from hairy-cell leukemia and other related leukemias, Parkinson's disease, and ischemic heart disease will now be considered service-connected. That determination will enable affected veterans to receive treatment at VA medical facilities, and seek disability compensation and other benefits as well.


VA Deputy Highlights Bond between Defense and Veterans Affairs
October 16, 2009

Gould Addresses Senior Pentagon Leadership

WASHINGTON (Oct. 16, 2009) - An innovative, far-sighted partnership between the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) will improve the health care system for Veterans and dramatically change the way health care is delivered to all Americans, according to Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs W. Scott Gould.

"The future will see VA and DoD working even closer together," said Gould, "as we fulfill the President's requirement for a single Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record that will support Veterans from their day of induction to their day of interment."

Gould spoke Oct. 15 at the second annual DoD "Breakthrough Convention"

devoted to improving business practices in the nation's largest government agency.

Noting that VA's budget requirements are substantially affected by DoD's strategic decisions and operations, he reassured the audience that the President's proposed 2010 budget for VA addresses the issue and builds on increases Congress added to the Department's budget in the last two years.

VA's 2010 budget request for $113 billion would fund increased education benefits for post-9/11 Veterans, health care for some Veterans who were previously ineligible, more mental health and cognitive-injury services

-- especially in rural areas -- and upgraded technology for data transmission and records.

Gould said the long-term solution for correcting procedural delays that affect Veterans is to redesign business processes and improve information technology. VA's new strategic plan, he said, is focused on Veterans, with whom VA has an ongoing - sometimes, life-long - relationship.

Employees have a natural desire to achieve client satisfaction, but their ability to act on the desire can be diminished by poor systems, policies or lack of training, Gould said. VA's second-ranking executive credited Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki with providing the leadership to create an organizational culture of performance on behalf of Veterans.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 22, 2009

VA Health Care Funding Reform Major Victory for Veterans

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22 - The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) today applauds President Obama for signing the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act, calling it "the most significant legislative victory for veterans in a generation."

"This is a great, historic day for all veterans and their families," said DAV National Commander Roberto "Bobby" Barrera, who was at the signing ceremony in the White House. "Veterans, families, survivors and everyone else who cares about the plight of veterans can rejoice knowing that for the first time ever, the Department of Veterans Affairs' health care system can be assured it will be funded on time and adequately every year."

"We have worked for this for more than two decades as veterans suffered. Approval of advance appropriations is the most significant legislative victory for veterans in a generation," he said. "This legislation will help ensure timely access to medical care for the men and women who have served, are serving and will serve in defense of our nation."

"This long overdue legislation will make a difference for every disabled veteran and every future disabled veteran," said Commander Barrera. "This victory flows from the effective collaboration by veterans organizations in the Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform, The Military Coalition and a dedicated group of former VA officials who joined our cause.  Most important, this is happening because veterans across the country, including so many DAV members and supporters, stepped up and called on Congress to put an end to chronic funding lapses occurring for decades. Together, we stood up for veterans, and veterans and their families are going to benefit."

"This historic legislation will ensure an uninterrupted, predicable flow of funds for veterans health care programs even if Congress is unable to complete work on the rest of the federal budget by the start of a fiscal year," said DAV National Adjutant Arthur H. Wilson. "With funding assured, VA hospital and clinic directors will no longer have to delay the hiring of new doctors or nurses, or the purchase of new medical equipment, due to Congress' failure to approve a budget on time; something that has occurred in 20 of the past 23 years, including this year. With advance appropriations in place, VA officials will be able to plan ahead how best to provide veterans with the medical care they have earned: when and where they need it."

The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act authorizes Congress to approve veterans medical care funding one year in advance to better meet the anticipated demand for veterans health care services. The advanced funding will give the Department of Veterans Affairs up to a full year to plan for the most effective and efficient way of delivering medical care. Additionally, this now requires the Government Accountability Office to audit the budget development process to ensure that sufficient funds are included.

The 1.2 million-member Disabled American Veterans, a non-profit organization founded in 1920 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1932, represents this nation's disabled veterans. It is dedicated to a single purpose: building better lives for our nation's disabled veterans and their families. More information is available at www.dav.org.


Recent VA News Releases

October 23rd 2009

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Olympic Committee Launch Paralympic Community Initiative to Serve Physically Disabled Veterans

WASHINGTON (Oct. 21, 2009) - Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs

(VA) and the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) signed a memorandum of understanding to provide Paralympic sport programming and additional community support, including funding and resources, to injured servicemembers and Veterans across the country.

"Americans have a covenant to care for those who have served our nation with honor," said Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. "VA is proud to fulfill that covenant through this partnership with U.S. Paralympics, which gives injured Veterans an opportunity to rediscover their potential and redefine their capabilities. Too often, the world sees only their limitations - we know their potential. Disabled Veterans show us how to live life. Life for them is not just about winning or losing at sports events. It's about the joy that comes from triumphing over adversity, and their triumph is the fight each and every day."

Under the terms of the agreement signed today, the U.S. Olympic Committee and its Paralympic Division, along with USOC member organizations, including Veteran and military organizations, will expand rehabilitative support at the community level in collaboration with the VA, to injured Veterans. Support includes training, equipment, access to Paralympic mentors and ongoing sports programming in communities across the country.

"Research shows that sports and physical activity provide incredible healing power and contribute significantly to successful rehabilitation and re-engagement in life for people and soldiers who become physically

disabled," said Charlie Huebner, Chief of Paralympics, USOC. "A

significant need is ensuring access to programs for injured Veterans at the community level. By collaborating with VA, we can ensure that Olympic and Paralympic community-based and Veteran sport organizations connect injured service members to local programs immediately, and resources are provided to those programs to meet the need through VA funded USOC grants."

The Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 2008 authorizes VA to award $8 million in annual grant support to the U.S. Paralympics to plan, develop, manage, and implement an integrated adaptive sports program for disabled Veterans and disabled members of the Armed Forces.

Calling the partnership an important step in ensuring that USOC Paralympic Military Program is capable of supporting Veteran athletes, Chairman Filner said, "For many service members and Veterans who have been severely-injured, their rehabilitation can be a disheartening experience. The partnership between USOC and VA will provide injured service members and veterans more opportunities to heal and grow, while in an environment of athletic competition and sport. For so many wounded warriors, this program provides a valuable chance to explore new limits, dream new dreams, and continue their active lifestyle."

In addition, $2 million in direct Veteran support will be provided for injured servicemembers who are seeking competitive sport opportunities.

"When I had the pleasure of visiting the U.S. Olympic Committee training site in Chula Vista, California, I saw first-hand how sports strengthen these heroes physically, mentally and emotionally," said Congressman Buyer. "These qualities of the heart and mind translated into other areas of life often lead to great success and accomplishments, and I am excited about this milestone in Veterans' rehabilitation."

Headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo., U.S. Paralympics is a division of the USOC and was formed in May 2001 with the goal of enhancing programs, obtaining funding and providing competitive opportunities for athletes with physical disabilities to participate in Paralympic sports.


 

 

 

 

 

TO HCVC HOME PAGE

TO ARCHIVES