WASHINGTON (September 25, 2015) — One of the greatest ongoing debates in the aftermath of last year’s allegations of patients dying on secret waiting lists is where America’s veterans should get their care. According to a new report released this week by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, America’s veterans prefer that their care be provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Entitled “Our Care,” the VFW report revealed that where veterans choose to receive their care depends on the number of options they have available. Still, the majority of the 1,847 veterans surveyed prefer to use the VA because they receive high quality care, they regard VA health care as an earned benefit, and they consider VA’s ability to treat service-connected conditions to be unmatched anywhere in the private sector.
“While some may believe the actions taken so far to fix the VA may not be thorough enough or fast enough, our latest report validates that 82 percent, an overwhelming majority of eligible veterans, choose to use their local VA for their medical needs,” said VFW National Commander John A. Biedrzycki Jr. “That’s significant, because it means veterans want to use their VA even though they may have other options ranging from private health insurance to the military’s Tricare program or Medicare or Medicaid.”
The VFW report does reveal that the VA continues to experience problems in the consistency of care, which affects all veterans, but was most recognized by the 101 women and 277 Post-9/11 respondents. Negative press reporting was also noted because it hides the great care provided daily by the vast majority of VA personnel and facilities. The top five factors that survey respondents reported as the main drivers of individual health care decisions were quality of care (92 percent), appointment availability (43 percent), distance to care (33 percent), cost of care (25 percent), and provider reputation or expertise (22 percent).
“The VFW has been at the forefront of helping all veterans to obtain the timely and quality care they earned and deserve,” said Biedrzycki, “and we will continue to work to ensure veterans have a voice when reforming a VA that was created to serve them.”
Read more details about the VFW’s “Our Care” report at http://www.vfw.org/uploadedFiles/VFW.org/VFW_in_DC/VFWOurCareReport2015.pdf.
BENEFIT SERVICES PROVIDED TO VETERANS
The Seattle VA Regional Office administers a variety of services and benefits for our nation’s Veterans in Washington State including disability compensation benefits, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment services (VR&E), grants for special adaptive housing, Veterans benefits counseling, outreach services for the homeless, elderly, minority and women Veterans.
VA BENEFITS EMPLOYEES IN SEATTLE
There are 614 employees at the Seattle Regional Office working for Veterans including outreach specialists, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors, Military Service Coordinators, and Veterans Service Representatives. Veteran employees comprise approximately 54% of the workforce.
KEY PERSONNEL AT THE SEATTLE VA REGIONAL OFFICE
Pritz Navaratnasingam, Director; Bill Borom, Assistant Director; Andrew Graf, Assistant Director; Michael Crouse, Special Missions Program Officer; Ayn-Marie Lofgren, Veterans Service Center Manager; David Boyd, VR&E Officer; Rob Hard, Public Affairs Officer.
YOU ARE INVITED: SEATTLE REGIONAL OFFICE TO HOST TOWN HALL MEETING
The Seattle Regional Office (RO) cordially invites you to attend a Town Hall meeting on Friday, September 18th at 11:00am in Seattle, WA. The Veteran Town Hall event will be hosted by the Seattle RO and provides VA Leadership the opportunity to hear how you envision services for Veterans in the future. Staff will also be available to answer your individual healthcare and benefits-related questions.
VA Town Hall Event
When: Friday, September 18th Time: 11:00am – 12:30pm
Where: Henry M. Jackson Federal Building, 915 2nd Avenue, Seattle, WA 98174 – 4th floor North Auditorium
It’s Your VA – Tell Us What You Think!
Programs Designed to Help Transitioning Servicemembers and Veterans Develop New Skills and Credentials
WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today launched two new no-cost training programs, Accelerated Learning Programs (ALPs) and VA Learning Hubs, to help transitioning Servicemembers and Veterans from all eras learn skills, earn credentials, and advance in civilian careers following separation from service.
ALPs and Learning Hubs are part of VA’s Veterans Economic Communities Initiative (VECI), promoting education and employment opportunities for Veterans through integrated networks of support in 50 cities. VA launched the VECI program in response to President Obama’s August 2014 challenge to help Veterans and families integrate with their communities and find meaningful jobs that can lead to economic success. Under VA Secretary Robert McDonald’s MyVA transformation, VECI is now in place in cities across the United States.
“My message to transitioning Servicemembers is simple: Plan early and stay engaged, because transition is the mission,” said McDonald. “These two new resources provide no-cost opportunities for our transitioning Servicemembers and Veterans to learn new skills and earn credentials, which can increase their competitiveness during their transition.”
ALPs offer transitioning Servicemembers and Veterans the opportunity to build on their world-class training and technical skills gained through their military service, and earn certifications in high-demand fields.
VA is piloting ALPs this summer with seven courses focusing on building skills and certifications needed to advance in high-demand careers in information technology (IT), as part of the President’s TechHire initiative. Each ALP course is offered at no cost and includes free referral and support services..
The first ALP cohort includes seven courses covering a range of IT-related topics, including:
- Coding/Programming Boot Camps;
- 80+ IT Certifications in Hardware, Software, Networking, Web Services, and more;
- Network Support Engineer Job Training and Certification;
- Cybersecurity Training and Certification;
- IT Help Desk Job Training; and
- IT Boot Camps for Desktop Support and Windows Expertise.
Transitioning Servicemembers and Veterans from any era are invited to apply to their choice of courses. Applications will be accepted starting August 17, 2015 – seats in the pilot cohort are limited; applicants are encouraged to apply early. ALPs do not involve use of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.. Students are able to participate in these programs while also pursuing other programs of study using Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. Visit the ALP website to learn more about each program and apply.
VA is also launching Learning Hubs in 27 cities across the country this year in partnership with the American Red Cross, The Mission Continues and Coursera, an online education platform.
Transitioning Servicemembers and Veterans can take advantage of both online and in-person study. Each week, online course modules will be completed outside the classroom while class sessions, led by Learning Hub facilitators, provide opportunities to discuss course materials with peers, hear from subject matter experts, and network. Upon completion of the program, Servicemembers and Veterans may elect to receive one free verified certificate issued by Coursera.
For more information about the VECI or to learn more about VA ALPs and Learning Hubs, contact VeteranEmployment.firstname.lastname@example.org
SEA MOAA Veteran’s Picnic
Wed. August 26th at Seward Park, Picnic site #1
Picnic 11:00 – 14:00
Please plan on coming to enjoy the picnic with all of the Veterans from the Seattle VA Hospital and other SEA MOAA members.
SEA MOAA will provide the following: Chili, hotdogs, hamburgers, buns and condiments, water, ice, soda pop, pickles & olives, diced sweet onions, lettuce & tomato and a variety of chips.
RSVP to Jay Murray: Telephone 206-932-6064 or email email@example.com by Monday August 24, 2015 so we can purchase enough food, beverages, etc.
Please pass on this information to others. The area is wheelchair accessible. We hope to have a big turnout. See You there.
VA Picnic Coordinator
Behind-the-scenes of the IOM panel that helped extend reservist medical benefits
HSNewsBeat | Updated 9:30 AM, 07.28.2015|
Posted in: Issues
In June, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reversed a longstanding position and extended medical benefits to about 2,000 Air Force reservists who worked on C-123 aircraft that were returned to the United States after being used to spray Agent Orange defoliant in Vietnam.
The VA was acting on findings of an Institute of Medicine ad hoc panel, whose seven members included John Kissel, a University of Washington professor of environmental and occupational health sciences. In an interview, he gave context to the panel’s job, its process and findings, and his takeaway. This Q&A is excerpted from that conversation.
Q: What’s your background that led to your inclusion on the panel?
A: I do human exposure assessment in community and occupational environments.
Q: What was the panel’s task?
A: We were supposed to decide whether the Air Force reservists who flew and maintained the planes well after Vietnam could have gotten meaningful exposures to Agent Orange residues that would make them potentially eligible for compensation.
John Kissel is a professor of environmental and occupational health sciences.
Years ago Congress decided that, presumptively, all Vietnam veterans were exposed to Agent Orange and its contaminant, dioxin. The standing IOM committee on Agent Orange – another group, not our panel – has reviewed epidemiological records and created a list of health outcomes for which there is an accepted link between Agent Orange exposure and negative consequences. I think 18 or 19 diseases are on the list.
We were looking at a population of people who didn’t go to Vietnam but who may have had equal or higher exposures than some veterans who did. The non-Vietnam veterans were presumptively not covered.
Q: Was the panel going to stand entirely on science, either way, or were you looking for justification to cover the reservists?
A: Just the science. We weren’t unaware of the contention of the non-covered veterans that this was an equity issue, but we weren’t impaneled to deal with equity. We could have said, “It doesn’t seem fair to us, but we found no basis for your claims of exposure.”
Q: Were you lobbied?
A: We had one public hearing where people were able to offer their opinion. There were advocates for the reservists and on the other side there was the VA’s primary consultant as well as consultants paid by Dow and Monsanto, who made Agent Orange, to argue that the reservists’ claims didn’t hold up to scrutiny. We also received written comments on both sides of the issue.
Q: What did the science tell you?
A: We had a problem with lack of information. If you want to assess a person’s or a group’s exposure, you would like to have environmental data from the period of exposure, plus skin data, inhalation data, and urine data from the population. You’d also want to know the length of potential exposure – how many hours a day, how many years. At the individual level, we had little or none of that. What we had was residue numbers obtained from the planes a decade or more after the reservists served. Given that there was still residue in the planes 10 or more years after they had been active, we were confident that there was residue in the planes when the reservists were working.
Q: The dioxin residue was still there?
A: A lot of military aircraft get mothballed in the Arizona desert because things rust slowly. The planes’ doors and windows were sealed up. Dioxin biodegrades very slowly and, if there’s no sunlight, it can’t decompose through photolysis.
Dioxin residue was found in aircraft used to spray Agent Orange defoliant in Vietnam.
Q: Your panel’s report didn’t actually recommend coverage for the reservists.
A: It wasn’t ours to decide whether to compensate the reservists. We were asked to answer whether meaningful exposures were plausible. We estimated that the reservists would have been “downhill” in a chemical sense from the surface residues, so exposures would be expected. We also determined that, given the paucity of information, we could not conclude that the reservists’ exposures would have been negligible. We decided that to go to just that far, and left it to the VA to make the final decision.
Q: What do you take from this experience?
A: It’s enjoyable to serve on a panel with bright people to chew on a real problem, and there’s satisfaction in writing a report that somebody read and that apparently made a difference. That doesn’t always happen.
WASHINGTON – As part of VA’s ongoing commitment to provide care to Veterans and their families, the Department of Veterans Affairs today announced that it will start the process of amending its regulations to establish presumptions of service connection for certain conditions resulting from exposure to contaminated drinking water at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
This process is in addition to the healthcare VA already provides for 15 conditions to eligible Veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 as a result of the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012. VA also provides reimbursement of healthcare expenses for those 15 conditions to eligible family members who resided at Camp Lejeune during that time period.
The Secretary of Veterans Affairs recently met with Senators Isakson, Burr and Tillis and the Director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to discuss the creation of presumptions of service connection for diseases associated with the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. The diseases that are currently being reviewed for potential presumptive service connection include kidney cancer, angiosarcoma of the liver, and acute myelogenous leukemia, which are known to be related to long-term exposure to the chemicals that were in the water at Lejeune from the 1950s through 1987. The chemicals are Benzene, Vinyl Chloride, Trichloroethylene and Perchloroethylene, which are known as volatile organic compounds, used in industrial solvents and components of fuels. ATSDR and VA representatives will meet at ATSDR offices on August 19 to begin discussions on establishing these presumptions.
VA will also work with ATSDR and potentially the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate the body of scientific knowledge and research related to exposure to these chemicals and the subsequent development of other diseases. VA will carefully consider all public comments received when determining the final scope of any presumptions.
Veterans with health problems they believe are related to exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune may file a claim for disability compensation online at http://www.ebenefits.va.gov, or call 1–800–827–1000 for assistance.
For more information, Veterans and family members should contact the nearest VA healthcare facility by calling 1–877–222–VETS (8387) or visit http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/camp-lejeune. For further information on Camp Lejeune: VHA Office of Public Health has a Website on Camp Lejeune historical water contamination at: http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/camp-lejeune/index.asp.
The U.S. Marine Corps encourages all those who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune before 1987 to register for notifications regarding Camp Lejeune Historic Drinking Water at https://clnr.hqi.usmc.mil/clwater.
The Seattle VA Regional Office (VARO) provides the attached Fact Sheet for July 2015, for your reference. The Fact Sheet contains the VARO’s accomplishments for Veterans and Service Members, as well as notable milestones and events aimed at improving our service to this population.
In this issue:
- Veterans Economic Communities Initiative (VECI) Launch Event – July 31st at 10am
- Please see the attached factsheet for more information on VECI.
- Veterans Identification Card Act of 2015
- Stakeholder Enterprise Portal (SEP) Release Updates
Office of the Director,
Seattle Regional Office
Just one year ago, Americans learned of secret VA wait lists, whistleblower retaliation and veteran patients dying while waiting to see a doctor. Despite these revelations, few VA employees have been held accountable for their negligence.
We need your help to bring about true reform at the VA.
Later today, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on H.R. 1994, the VA Accountability Reform Act, which will streamline the process for removing or demoting VA employees for poor performance or misconduct, and enhance protections for whistleblowers who expose negligence.
In addition, Congress will soon consider a bill that provides the VA increased spending flexibility to better meet the health care needs of our nation’s veterans while keeping hospitals from closing. In the interest of our veteran members facing urgent health care needs, we urge Congress to support the funding measure.
Please call your members of Congress TODAY and encourage them to support increased staff accountability at the VA and budget flexibility to keep hospitals open.
Passing VA accountability reform is the next step in IAVA’s eight-point “Marshall Plan for Veterans” issued last year to restore confidence in the VA. We still have a long way to go but we hope this bill will help heal the rift created between the VA and our veterans.
IAVA is a non-partisan organization founded and led by post-9/11 veterans. For more information about IAVA’s policy priorities, visit: http://iava.org/campaigns/
One team. One fight.