Feb & March 2011 Archives
New VA Support Line Provides Important Assistance to Caregivers
Feb 7, 2011
Benefits and Support Information a Phone Call Away
WASHINGTON (Feb. 8, 2011)- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is
increasing its support to caregivers with a new, toll-free telephone
line for the caregivers of Veterans of all eras.
"The families and loved ones who care for severely injured Veterans
deserve the highest level of support," said Secretary of Veterans
Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "At VA, we consider them important partners in
our efforts to care for and rehabilitate our nation's heroes."
The National Caregiver Support Line -- 1-855-260-3274 -- will serve as
the primary resource and referral center to assist caregivers, Veterans
and others seeking caregiver information.
The line unofficially started Feb. 1, and in its first week logged
nearly 600 calls, including 134 referrals to local VA caregiver support
coordinators and 233 calls from caregivers themselves.
"VA has been providing support for the caregivers of Veterans for more
than seven decades," Shinseki added. "We already have more than two
dozen successful programs, policies and services that support the
caregivers of Veterans of all ages."
The support line will provide information regarding new caregiver
benefits, referrals to local caregiver support coordinators as well as
emotional support to those concerned with their ability to provide care
to loved ones who are Veterans.
The National Caregiver Support Line will be open Monday through Friday.
8 a.m. to 11 p.m., Eastern time; and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.,
Eastern time. Licensed VA social workers and health technicians will
staff the support line.
Local caregiver support coordinators are available to assist Veterans
and their caregivers to understand and apply for VA's many caregiver
benefits. VA also features a Web page, www.caregiver.va.gov <http://www.caregiver.va.gov/>
, with general information on other caregiver support programs available
through VA and the community.
Access to the National Caregiver Support Line was also identified as a
significant need in a November 2010 study on caregivers of Veterans
published by the National Alliance for Caregiving.
For an opportunity to get to know a few of today's remarkable caregivers
of Veterans, go to http://www.youtube.com/user/veteranshealthadmin#p/u/0/XRmAwZHYRFE.
New and Enhanced VA Benefits Provided to Caregivers of Veterans
Unprecedented Law Augments Commitment to Nation's Most Vulnerable
WASHINGTON (Feb. 9, 2011)- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is
launching the first of a series of new and enhanced services supporting
family caregivers of seriously ill and injured Veterans. In May 2010,
President Obama signed the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health
Services Act of 2010 legislation authorizing VA to establish a wide
range of new services to support certain caregivers of eligible Post
"Caregivers make tremendous sacrifices every day to help Veterans of all
eras who served this nation," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K.
Shinseki. "They are critical partners with VA in the recovery and
comfort of ill and injured Veterans, and they deserve our continued
training, support and gratitude."
"DAV is happy to hear that caregivers of Veterans are getting additional
support and services to care for our Nation's heroes and unprecedented
new services for our most recent severely ill and injured," said David
W. Gorman, executive director of the Washington Headquarters of the
Disabled American Veterans. "We understand there are challenges to
implementing the new law; including ensuring that critically ill and
injured Veterans of all eras are similarly supported."
In addition to the new benefits and services for eligible Veterans who
were disabled in the line of duty since Sept. 11, 2001 (Post 9/11
Veterans), VA will also begin providing enhanced benefits and services
to caregivers of Veterans of all eras who are already enrolled in VA
* Access to VA's toll-free Caregiver Support Line: 1-855-260-3274,
* Expanded education and training on caring for Veterans at home,
* Other support services such as counseling and support groups and
referral services; and
* An enhanced website for caregivers.
Some of the new benefits of the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health
Services Act are restricted by law to the caregivers of the most
seriously ill and injured Post 9/11 Veterans. Those additional benefits
* A monthly stipend,
* Health care coverage,
* Travel expenses, including lodging and per diem while
accompanying Veterans undergoing care,
* Respite care; and
* Mental health services and counseling.
VA will take the opportunity to report to Congress in the future on the
feasibility of expanding the enhanced services to family caregivers of
Veterans of all eras.
While some of these enhanced benefits are available now, many of the
other significant newly-enacted benefits will require the issuance of
regulations. These additional benefits include monthly stipends, pay for
travel costs, medical coverage, training, counseling and respite care
designed to prevent institutionalization of Veterans whenever possible.
The law requires detailed regulations for determining eligibility,
designating and approving caregivers, and providing stipends and health
care coverage to primary family caregivers. The complex process required
to implement these regulations will provide Veterans, caregivers and the
general public the opportunity to provide comments before those
regulations are finalized.
"VA has supported caregivers of Veterans of all eras for almost eight
decades," said Deborah Amdur of VA's Care Management and Social Work
Service, "and we know from our experience and research that Veterans are
best served when they can live their lives as independently as possible
surrounded by caring family and friends."
Each VA medical center has designated caregiver support coordinators who
will assist eligible Veterans and caregivers in understanding and
applying for the new benefits. VA also has a Caregiver Support Web page,
www.caregiver.va.gov <http://www.caregiver.va.gov> , which will provide
general information once final regulations are published.
Cognitive rehabilitation therapy proving to help
soldiers with PTSD and TBI
March 1 2011
By Bonnie Fletcher, Austin
Texas Veterans Commission
As the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan continue, increasing numbers of
service members are coming home with invisible
wounds. Though we mostly hear overwhelming
statistics about PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
is another injury affecting returning service
members. TBI, which is trauma to the brain
caused by sudden force to the
head, is the “signature
wound” of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and has
become one of the most common wounds suffered in
combat. Service members usually walk away from
an explosion or sudden blow to the head without
any obvious injuries. TBI is not always apparent
at first but can have a lingering affect that
can last a lifetime if not treated. Since 2000,
178,786 soldiers have experienced a traumatic
brain injury in the military, according to a
Congressional Research Service report. (http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RS22452.pdf)
There are currently helpful treatments that
offer service members coping mechanisms. One of
the tools that soldiers are utilizing is
therapy. Read or listen to National Public
Radio’s (NPR) coverage of this treatment here:
VA's Caregiver Support Program Expanding
March 3 2011
REACH Program Improves Quality of Life for Caregivers and Veterans
WASHINGTON (March 1, 2011)- The Department of Veterans (VA) is expanding
support nationally to caregivers of Veterans with Alzheimer's disease.
A pilot program of the REACH VA (Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer's
Caregiver Health in VA) program showed great success in reducing stress
on caregivers while improving care outcomes for the Veterans.
"The REACH VA model exemplifies the many different kinds of support VA
offers to the caregivers of Veterans," said Secretary of Veterans
Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "This program has been proven to provide the
right resources, training and a renewed focus on personal health that
can make a world of difference to those caregivers and their Veterans."
"Caregivers step up every day to serve Veterans they love who sacrificed
to defend our Nation," Shinseki added. "To them, caregiving is a labor
of love and devotion, but that alone does not ease the burden and
personal stress placed on those who provide daily care for the
REACH VA involved 127 caregivers connected to 24 VA medical centers.
The median age for the caregiver was 72 and the majority of the
participants were spouses.
Typical issues caregivers face when caring for Veterans with Alzheimer's
disease and dementia include memory problems, behavior problems and the
need to provide basic attendance such as grooming assistance.
Caregivers typically reported feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, cut off
from family and friends, lonely, prone to bouts of crying and having
worse physical health than the year before.
For six months, the REACH VA caregivers were provided 12 individual
in-home and telephone counseling sessions; five telephone support group
sessions; a caregiver quick guide with 48 behavioral and stress topics;
education on safety and patient behavior management; and training for
their individual health and well being.
Caregivers saw their burden reduced; drops in depressive symptoms and
their related daily impacts; fewer frustrations, including those that
have clinical potential for abuse; and decreases in dementia-related
behaviors from the Veterans they cared for. Caregivers also reported
they were able to spend fewer hours per day devoted to caregiving
"Dementia caregiving is such an all encompassing task," said Dr. Linda
Nichols from the VA medical center in Memphis, Tenn., and co-author of a
recent study on the program. "The intervention provided time for
themselves, which caregivers never have enough of. REACH VA improved
our caregivers' knowledge to manage care, made them feel more confident
and competent as they formed bonds with the VA staff supporting them,
and decreased the inevitable feelings of isolation and loneliness that
come from a selfless, but very sacrificial duty of care."
VA will roll out REACH VA on a national basis through home-based primary
care programs across the country. In addition, the program will be
modified to assist caregivers of Veterans with other diagnoses like
spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury.
"Providing support to caregivers who sacrifice so much to allow Veterans
to remain at home surrounded by loved ones is the right thing for VA to
do," said Dr. Robert Petzel, VA's under secretary for health.
An article on the REACH VA program is being published in the Feb. 28
issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. Nichols and Dr. Jennifer
Martindale-Adams, also from VA's Memphis facility, are the lead authors
and based the VA pilot on the National Institute on Aging and the
National Institute for Nursing Research funded REACH II study. REACH VA
is the first national clinical implementation of a proven behavioral
intervention for stressed and burdened dementia caregivers.
Local caregiver support coordinators are available to assist Veterans of
all eras and their caregivers in understanding and applying for VA's
many caregiver benefits. VA also features a website,
www.caregiver.va.gov, with general information on REACH VA and other
caregiver support programs available through VA and the community.
The Veterans Health Administration leads the way in the treatment of
.by Veterans Health Administration (VHA) -
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on Sunday, February 27, 2011 at
6:20am.On the forefront of innovative treatments and technologies, the
Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center now provides Veterans a targeted,
painless alternative to open surgery and a medical option for certain
The CyberKnife can treat tumors anywhere in the body with radiosurgery.
The CyberKnife, an impressive-looking machine resembling a giant robot
with a multi-jointed arm that pivots, twists, and turns, can treat
tumors anywhere in the body with radiosurgery.
Poised above the patient who is fully clothed and awake on a table, the
device’s giant arm whirs above, beside, then under the tumor site,
delivering hundreds of beams of radiation to the tumor with pinpoint
“The flexible arm allows for precisely targeted radiation delivery and
can reach areas of the body that are untreatable with other, more
limited radiation-delivery systems,” said Dr. Angela Zhu, acting
Radiotherapy Section chief.
At the beginning of the procedure, images from the patient’s previous
computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or positron
emission tomography (PET) scan are loaded into the machine, allowing
physicians to identify the exact size, shape, and location of the tumor
to target, as well as surrounding areas to avoid.
“It is so precise that radiation can be sculpted to tumors near critical
structures like hearing or vision nerves,” said Zhu. “Though ‘knife’ is
part of its name, the machine does not actually cut anything. The body
absorbs the tumor, much like a bruise eventually disappears.”
Depending on the complexity of the case, only one to five treatments
lasting 30 to 90 minutes are needed, given one to two days apart. No
anesthesia is required because the procedure is incision-less and
pain-free. When the session’s done, patients return to normal activity
“This cutting-edge machine is an excellent alternative to surgery and
can be used on tumors anywhere in the body including the brain, lung,
liver, prostate, spine, pancreas — anywhere,” said Dr. Meena Vij,
Diagnostic and Therapeutic Care Line executive. “This device has shown
remarkable results and will provide a life-saving alternative for our
Tank: Rein In TRICARE Costs
Department must take several key steps to rein
in health-care costs, or face a future in which
they increasingly will consume resources that
would otherwise be used to meet military
commitments, according to a report by a
Washington, D.C.-based think tank headed by a
former senior Pentagon leader. The white paper,
entitled "Restoring TRICARE: Ensuring the Long
Term Viability of the Military Health Care
System," points out that the Obama
administration's $52.5 billion request for
TRICARE funding in the 2012 defense bill
represents a 300-percent increase from the 2001
funding now accounts for 10 percent of the total
defense budget, the report states, largely
because lawmakers have refused to make the tough
decisions necessary to bring costs under
control. Adapting the changes could save as much
as $15 billion annually, say the report's
authors, among whom is Lawrence Korb, who served
as the Pentagon's personnel chief under the
Reagan administration. The report calls for:
* Phasing in
fee increases for retirees;
cost-sharing, to "encourage responsible use" of
TRICARE for Life
double coverage for retirees with higher
pegging TRICARE premiums to Medicare Part B
March 4, 2011
Think Tank: Rein In TRICARE Costs
The Defense Department must take several key steps to rein in
health-care costs, or face a future in which they increasingly will
consume resources that would otherwise be used to meet military
commitments, according to a report by a Washington, D.C.-based think
tank headed by a former senior Pentagon leader. The white paper,
entitled "Restoring TRICARE: Ensuring the Long Term Viability of the
Military Health Care System," points out that the Obama administration's
$52.5 billion request for TRICARE funding in the 2012 defense bill
represents a 300-percent increase from the 2001 budget request.
TRICARE funding now accounts for 10 percent of the total defense budget,
the report states, largely because lawmakers have refused to make the
tough decisions necessary to bring costs under control. Adapting the
changes could save as much as $15 billion annually, say the report's
authors, among whom is Lawrence Korb, who served as the Pentagon's
personnel chief under the Reagan administration. The report calls for:
* Phasing in fee increases for retirees;
* Increasing cost-sharing, to "encourage responsible use" of TRICARE for
* Limiting double coverage for retirees with higher incomes;
* And pegging TRICARE premiums to Medicare Part B costs.
And I promise you all that I will keep you informed thru Sargent's News
as to what is going on. Maybe we can even get the DCCCLOA website
updated for you!!
VA Launches New PSA on Suicide Prevention for Veterans
Recent VA News Releases
March 15, 2011
VA Launches New PSA on Suicide Prevention for Veterans
Confidential Crisis Line Provides 24/7 Access to Help
WASHINGTON (March 15, 2011)- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is
reaching out to Veterans in crisis and their families in a new public
service announcement to raise awareness about suicide prevention
resources, such as the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
"As more Veterans return from Iraq and Afghanistan, the critical need
for mental health care is rising," said Sonja V. Batten, assistant
deputy chief patient care services officer for mental health. "VA is
increasing its efforts to reach out to Veterans in need and their
families, to inform them about available services and programs."
The new television spot encourages Veterans in crisis to call the crisis
hotline number at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and then push 1 on their
telephone keypad to reach a trained VA mental health professional who
can assist the Veteran 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"Suicide is preventable," said Batten. "Every Veteran suicide is tragic
and regardless of the numbers or rates, one Veteran suicide is too many.
We feel the responsibility to continue to spread the word throughout the
nation that suicide prevention is everyone's business."
So far, more than 379,000 people have called the hotline, and more than
200,000 of these callers have identified themselves as Veterans, family
members or friends of Veterans. The hotline has led to more than 13,000
rescues of actively suicidal Veterans.
The hotline also operates an online Veterans Chat program, which
provides Veterans, their families and friends with the ability to
communicate anonymously online in real-time with a trained VA mental
health professional. Veterans Chat can be accessed through the National
Suicide Prevention Lifeline's web page at http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/Veterans/Default.aspx.
Through the hotline and Veterans Chat, VA can connect Veterans and their
families with important services, including suicide prevention
coordinators, as well as general inpatient and outpatient psychiatric
services at VA medical centers and community-based outpatient clinics.
The hotline, which is part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline,
was started in 2007 as a partnership between VA and the Substance Abuse
and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
The PSA can be viewed at
VA Extends Post-Incarceration Health Care
March 30, 2011
Measure Would Help Reduce Repeat Offenses
WASHINGTON (March 30, 2011)- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
will extend health care to eligible Veterans in halfway houses and other
temporary, post-incarceration housing under a new program aimed at
cutting back on repeat offenses.
"There's hard evidence that lack of access to health care, including
mental health care, for newly released inmates is a factor in people
becoming homeless or returning to prison and jail," said Jim McGuire,
director of VA's Veterans Justice Outreach Programs. "These are Veterans
who otherwise qualify for VA health care."
A long-standing rule has barred VA from providing health care to
Veterans for whom another federal, state or local government has an
obligation to provide health care. Frequently, that means inmates of
prisons and jails.
Under the changed rule, that prohibition would be amended and VA would
be allowed to provide health care to Veterans in halfway houses and
other temporary, post-incarceration housing.
An Urban Institute study in 2008 found that good health care in the
first months of community reentry played a key role in easing
readjustment and reducing recidivism.
About 29,000-56,000 Veterans are released annually from state and
federal prisons, and at least 90,000 Veterans are released each year
from city and county jails, according to Department of Justice's Bureau
of Justice Statistics.