Wednesday, July 31, 2013

VA Announces $300 Million in New Grants to Help End Veterans' Homelessness

VA Announces $300 Million in New Grants to Help End Veterans' Homelessness
Initiative Targets 120,000 Homeless and At-Risk Vets and Families

WASHINGTON – Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced today the award of nearly $300 million in grants that will help approximately 120,000 homeless and at-risk Veterans and their families.  The grants have been awarded to 319 community agencies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

"With these grants, we are strengthening our partnership with community non-profits across the country to provide Veterans and their families with hope, a home, and a future," said Shinseki.  "The work of Supportive Services for Veteran Families program grantees has already helped us prevent and end homelessness among tens of thousands of homeless Veterans and their families, but as long as a single Veteran lives on our streets, we have work to do."

Under the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, VA is awarding grants to private non-profit organizations and consumer cooperatives that provide services to very low-income Veteran families living in -- or transitioning to -- permanent housing. The SSVF program supports VA's efforts to prevent at-risk Veterans from becoming homeless and rapidly re-house those who have recently fallen into homelessness.

Thanks to the SSVF grants, those community organizations will provide a range of services that promote housing stability and play a key role in connecting Veterans and their family members to VA services such as mental health care and other benefits. Community-based groups can offer temporary financial assistance on behalf of Veterans for rent payments, utility payments, security deposits and moving costs.

This is the third year SSVF grants have helped Veterans and their families find or remain in their homes. Last year, VA provided about $100 million to assist approximately 50,000 Veterans and family members.

In 2009, President Obama and Secretary Shinseki announced the federal government's goal to end Veterans' homelessness in 2015. The grants are intended to help accomplish that goal.  According to the 2012 Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness, homelessness among Veterans has declined 17.2 percent since 2009.

Through the homeless Veterans initiative, VA committed over $1 billion in fiscal year 2013 to strengthen programs that prevent and end homelessness among Veterans. VA provides a range of services to homeless Veterans, including health care, job training, and education.

More information about VA's homeless programs is available at www.va.gov/homeless.
Details about the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program are online at www.va.gov/homeless/ssvf.asp.


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The American Legion Department of Michigan represents over 70,000 members in the State of Michigan. The American Legion was founded in 1919, based on "The Four Pillars"; veteran rehabilitation, Americanism, child welfare, and national security and continued above all its mission as a consumers' advocate for veterans. For more information contact the Michigan Legion at 517-371-4720 ext 16, info@michiganlegion.org, or visit our website at www.michiganlegion.org.
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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Veteran Events & Announcements 7/25 to 8/1

Listed below are the events I have for the next 7 days here in the Metro Detroit area, and as you can see the next few days will be busy!  I have also attached my latest event listing which has 4 new items on it!  You can also go to the Legion 328 website to download any flyer for these future events.  http://www.legionpost328.org/events.html  Clicking on "attached flyer" for each event either below or on the future listing will get you the flyer for that event.

You can get a monthly view of events by going to:
http://www.michiganveteranresources.com/Events.aspx

ANNOUNCEMENTS!

"Golf Outings" In the next several weeks there are numerous golf outings that support various veteran causes. If you are a golfer this is your chance to get in a few holes, meet new people, and help a veteran to boot. See regular listing below for more details on each event. Remember, hole-in-one buys! New ones have been added since last week!

  1. "Saturday, July 27, 2013" The Student Veterans of America (SVA) Chapter at Wayne State University will be hosting its 3rd annual Foursome Scramble Golf Outing at the Wesburn Golf & Country Club, located in South Rockwood.
  2. "Saturday, August 3, 2013" The Great Lakes National Cemetery Advisory Council will be holding its 5th Annual Golf Outing at the Lapeer County Club, 3786 Hunt Rd, Lapeer
  3. "Saturday, August 3, 2013" Richmond VFW Post 6802 is hosting a golf outing dedicated to our fallen heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice, at the Richmond Forest Golf Course, 33300 32 Mile, in Richmond.
  4. "Sunday, August 18, 2013" Pontiac VVA Chapter 133 will host the 10th Annual Golf Outing Scrambles at Highland Hills Golf Club in Highland, Mi.
  5. "Friday, August 23, 2013" Michigan Veterans Task Force "Kilroy's Challenge" at Riverbank Golf Club in S Lyon.
  6. "Saturday, September 7, 2013" The GM CCA Veterans Affinity Group is assisting Piquette Square with a Golf Outing at The Jewel in Grand Blanc
  7. "Sunday, September 22, 2013" Madison Hgts VFW Post 9507 hosting their 1st golf tournament at the Selfridge Golf Course in Harrison Twp.

"Unclaimed Veterans Laid to Rest" On Friday 26 July 2013 at 12:30 PM seven unclaimed Veterans will be laid to rest with full Military Honors at Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, MI. The Veterans are four Army, two Navy and one Marine. It would be nice to see all those who Honor U.S. Military Veterans to turn out in support of all these forgotten American Heroes. So mark your calender and please come out if you are able. Please let other Veterans or friends know about this..

EVENTS

"Saturday, July 27, 2013" The Student Veterans of America (SVA) Chapter at Wayne State University will be hosting its 3rd annual Foursome Scramble Golf Outing at the Wesburn Golf & Country Club, located in South Rockwood. This golf outing is open to anyone that wants to support our veterans on campus. The fees for participation are $80.00 per player. This includes green fees, cart, hot dog lunch at the turn and a steak dinner. We also have some great silent auction prizes, 50/50 raffles, a Putting Contest, Closest to the Pin and of course the Longest Drive. If companies, organizations or individuals don't have time to participate and want to support, we have hole sponsorships of $100 and any other donations are obviously welcome. To register, or for more information, please contact the Student Veterans Organization at 313-577-4762 or email at studentvetsorg@wayne.edu. To register online goto http://events.wayne.edu/2013/07/27/3rd-annual-golf-outing-for-veterans-46825/

"Saturday, July 27, 2013" Harrison Twp Am Legion Post 404 is hosting its first annual Car Show & Swap Meet from 11AM to 3 PM at their post, located at 1267 W M-61, Harrison. Tables are $7. For more information call 989-539-9792 or see attached flyer.

"Saturday, July 27, 2013" The Yankee Air Museum will hold a Veterans Summit at the facility at Willow Run Airport from 10AM ti 4PM. Family fun activities, job fair, parachute jumpers, service dogs, helicopter rides, & local bands. You can also pay to take a ride on their B-17! See attached flyer for more information.

"Tuesday & Wednesday, July 31 & August 1, 2013" The Military Vehicles Exhibition & Conference will take place at Cobo Convention Center in Detroit, with this year's theme, "Is There a Silver Lining for Military Vehicles Industry during Sequestration?" For complete information on this exhibition & conference visit their website.

--   Tim Wirkus  Volunteer  Southfield Veterans' Commission  southfieldvets@prodigy.net  www.southfieldvets.org

The American Legion Washington DC Office HOT ISSUES Friday July 26th, 2013

The American Legion Washington DC Office
HOT ISSUES
Friday July 26th, 2013

ACTIONS –
Ø  This week the National Alliance to End Homelessness held their annual Washington DC conference at the Renaissance Hotel.  VA&R was invited to participate in a workshop named “Helping Our Heroes Get the Benefits They Earned.”  The workshop looked at how Veteran Service Organizations, local organizations, and veteran advocates can be leveraged to assist homeless veteran clients obtain their benefits through the VA.
VA&R discussed the importance of referring a homeless veteran to an American Legion Service Officer.  It was also explained to the attendees that they need to become familiar with their Department Service Officer to better understand the services provided.  Staff also discussed TAL’s efforts to improve the Fully Developed Claims process by better educating Service Officers at the Regional Offices on the criteria for submitting a claim for consideration as fully developed..

Ø  Staff attended meetings this week at VA Central Office updating the disability claims transformation process.  VA now claims over 30 percent of the current disability claims inventory are digital and accessible in VA’s electronic claims processing system.  There is still some work to be done by VA to make the system work for all.  VA&Rs concerns are: When inside Stakeholders Enterprise Portal (SEP) and a DSO accepts a POA request (coming in from eBenefits) it is not automatically incorporated into Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS).  This current action requires the DSO to leave their office, go to the designated “super user” of VBMS and manually select an allowance block inside the software system.  When the block is checked it is at that time the DSO can access the veterans file in VBMS.  We have asked that VBA require the software contractors of SEP and VBMS to work together.  This must be an automatic communication between SEP and VBMS if it is expected to improve the process.
TAL has also asked for an easier registration process of SEP.  VBA has recognized that not everyone is comfortable using their credit card to gain access to registration.  TAL has requested VBA look into the possibility of issuing Personal Identification Verification card to accredited representatives to use.  They are meeting next week on this issue.
Ø  VA&R is finalizing all items for the second session of the 2013 Department Service Officers School at the Sheraton Indianapolis City Centre Hotel in Indianapolis, IN, August 1 – 3 2013.  A total of 155 Department, State, and County Veteran Service Officers from around the country and Puerto Rico are planning to attend.  The curriculum is broken out into three tracks depending on the level of experience of the attendee.  Track 1 covers basic information that targeted the full development of compensation and pension claims.  Track 2 & 3 covers the topics such as: Why is there a VA backlog and what we can do to fix it; recent court cases; theory vs. practical application; a doctor’s approach to the process of evaluating a case; Radiculopathy secondary mental condition to chronic pain or loss of lifestyle; orthopedic issues; new and material evidence; effective use of the record of a PTSD claim based on personal assault; inconsistent GAF scores; character of discharge; and the new notice of disagreement form.

Ø  On July 22, 2013, the Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission Chairman sent out an email to all Department Adjutants informing them that The American Legion has established a goal of increasing our Department of Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service (VAVS) hours from 925,000 to 1,000,000 hours by September 2014.  To ensure this goal is met, he informed them that VA&R is considering a number of initiatives in hope that they will assist in attracting new volunteers.  The first initiatives include a redesign of the Volunteer Web Center on The American Legion’s National Website that will include a section for spotlighting volunteers and their success stories.  To ensure there are stories ready to post when the new web page is launched, and new stories to post on an ongoing basis, he asked that each Department appoint someone to serve as a point of contact who can work with Roscoe Butler, Deputy National VAVS Representative to ensure their successful Legionnaire VAVS volunteer stories are shared and submitted to the national headquarters office for posting on the new Volunteer Web page.  The new Volunteer Web Center is scheduled to be launched in September 2013.

Ø  Staff attended a live demonstration on VA’s Mobile Applications at the VA central office. With its new VA Mobile Health strategy, the VA aims to revolutionize health care for veterans, caregivers, and VA care teams. The demonstration involved the Family Caregiver Pilot which was launched to multiple veterans in May of 2013. The pilot provides loaner iPads to nearly 1,000 Caregivers already enrolled in VA’s Family Caregiver Program for seriously injured post-9/11 Veterans. The iPads come loaded with nine Apps created to help Caregivers and the veterans they assist. The 12-month pilot features technology that allows veterans and caregivers secure access to health care information, the ability to track personal health-related information, and functionality to share this personal health information with their VA health care teams. The Mobile Applications included a Summary of Care App (active medications, vitals, lab results), Health Advocate App (allows the veteran to give his or her caregiver access to their information), Prescription Refill App, and a Scheduling App. The Veteran Appointment Request Web App is another recently launched pilot. It provides more than 600 Veterans at the Washington, D.C. VA Medical Center and Palo Alto, CA VA Health Care System with the opportunity to request primary care and mental health appointments from their mobile devices or desktop. The App also provides veterans the ability to select three different dates/times for appointments, choose their providers and request in-person, telephone or video conference appointments. More Apps benefiting veterans and caregivers will be tested in future pilot programs. VA will conduct research studies of the pilots to determine the impact of the Apps on veterans and their caregivers, as well as how the Apps are used. This research will then inform next steps in VA’s roll out of Apps to all veterans and caregivers nationwide. For more information about the VA Mobile Health initiative, visitmobilehealth.va.gov.

Ø  Staff attended a meeting on VA Mental Health Research: Improving the Lives of America’s Veterans at 334 Cannon House Office Building.  The meeting was to learn about what medical and prosthetic research the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is currently engaged in. Speakers mainly presented on their latest research on enhancements in the care of veterans in the areas of traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sleep apnea, and depression.  Speakers included  John McQuaid, Ph.D.  Associate Chief of Mental Health for Clinical Administration San Francisco, VA Medical Center, and Professor of Clinical Psychology for the University of California, San Francisco.  Dr. McQuaid discussed the advances in psychotherapy research such as cognitive behavior therapy (CPT) to treat mental health and how vital VA research serves providers and veterans.  Daniel Gottlieb, M.D., M.P.H. Director, Sleep Disorders Clinic, VA Boston Healthcare System and Associate Professor of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine addressed sleep apnea in the veteran population.


Ø  Staff met with Shiree Skinner, Director, Annual Giving & Special Events, Easter Seals, to discuss their new military initiative -- the Veteran Staffing Network. This initiative is a social enterprise business developed by Easter Seals serving DC, Maryland,  and Virginia – that builds on their long experience in veteran employment programs

Ø  Staff met with Pamela Tate, CEO, the Council for Adult & Experiential, to discuss how can higher education help veterans get what they need to succeed in civilian life by working with colleges and universities to create military-friendly policies and advising structures
Ø  Staff moderated a panel at the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) Conference regarding veteran homelessness issues and their reintegration back into mainstream society

Ø  Staff met with Andre Gudger, Director, Office of Small Business Programs, DOD, to discuss contracting for veteran and service-disabled veteran business owners

Ø  Staff met with Citibank to discuss their Citi Salutes program, which is aimed at providing service members and veterans with a centralized resource to meet a range of unique needs (i.e., Careers, Products, Service)

Ø  Staff met with AVUE to discuss their veterans’ preference and education initiatives for veterans

Ø  Staff served on a panel at the ‘Goodwill for American Heroes Conference’ regarding transition and employment for veterans

Ø  Staff met with Martin Simon, Director, Workforce Development Program, National Governors Association, Center for Best Practices, to discuss our current status on the state-by-state initiative on military credentialing

Ø  Staff participated in a phone conference with SBA and Syracuse University to discuss the progression of the 2-day For HEROES Entrepreneurial Course that will be piloted at our National Convention.

Ø  Staff met with the Home Depot Foundation to discuss a national partnership regarding employment and housing initiatives for veterans and their families

Ø  Staff will be participating in a couple of events to celebrate the 60th  Anniversary of the Korean War Armistice.  Thursday night is a special Evening Parade at Marine Barracks Washington DC to honor Korean War veterans, preceded by a VIP reception at The Home of the Commandants.  There will be a wreath laying ceremony on Saturday at Arlington National Cemetery. Additionally, President Obama is scheduled to speak at the Korean War Memorial on Saturday morning.

Ø  Staff attended a luncheon at the State Department in honor of President Sang, who is on an official visit to the U.S. Secretary Kerry and President Sang both spoke of the tremendous progress both            countries have made in normalization since the end of the Vietnam War. They cited ongoing cooperation in trade, Asian security matters, and MIA remains recovery as key issues in the growing relationship. This visit  marks an important step in Vietnam-U.S. relations, especially when Vietnam is seeking to safeguard its interests in the South China Sea.

Ø  The House approved a giant Defense Department spending bill Wednesday evening that includes some limits on U.S. military action overseas, but does not include language to curb National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance activities, as many were hoping. The bill also includes language aimed at making it easier for the Defense Department to deal with the sequester next year — this year, sequester cuts led to the furlough of hundreds of thousands of civilian workers.  The defense bill is the fourth of twelve 2014 spending bills the House has approved this year, and passage sends it to the Senate. But like the other three bills the House has passed, President Obama has threatened to veto this bill unless it's part of a broader budget framework.

Ø  Staff attended Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing titled The 90/10 Rule: Improving Educational Outcomes for our Military and Veterans. A bipartisan desire to protect service members and veterans are informing larger educational  policy debates, which could have ramifications. For example, nascent efforts to collect more data and track how well colleges serve military and veteran students could be applied to all students. They are also likely to inform future debates on college prices and federal performance measures.

Ø  Staff attended a meeting with the Secretary of State on The Disabilities Treaty: Opening the World to Americans with Disabilities. At the State Department to discuss the challenges veterans face when working abroad when they have disabilities
Ø  Staff attended a Hearing at the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill titled: A Study in Contrasts: House and Senate Approaches to Border Security
Ø  Staff attended a Foreign Policy Initiative forum at the Senate Dirksen Building on Capitol Hill on the topic of Next Steps for Missile Defense: A Conversation with Senator Ayotte and LTG Oberling USAF ret.
Ø  Staff attended a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific Region and Implications for US National Security
Ø  Staff attended a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Women in Service Reviews
Ø  Staff attended a congressional discussion on America’s Energy Future at the Columbus Club

HEARINGS-
Ø  July 31, 2013.  SVAC will hold a hearing entitled “Preserving the Rights of Service members, Veterans, and their Families in the Financial Marketplace.” 10:00 A.M.; 418 Russell
Ø  August 1, 2013 HVAC will conduct a full committee markup on pending legislation.  10:00 A.M.; 334 Cannon

The American Legion Department of Michigan represents over 70,000 members in the State of Michigan. The American Legion was founded in 1919, based on “The Four Pillars”; veteran rehabilitation, Americanism, child welfare, and national security and continued above all its mission as a consumers’ advocate for veterans. For more information contact the Michigan Legion at 517-371-4720 ext 16, mark@michiganlegion.org, or visit our website at www.michiganlegion.org.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

VA Grants Will Expand Transportation in Highly Rural Areas

VA Grants Will Expand Transportation in Highly Rural Areas
Veterans to Have Easier Access to Health Care

WASHINGTON – Veterans will have improved access to health care under a Department of Veterans Affairs initiative that supports new transportation services for those living in highly rural areas.

VA began accepting applications this month for grants to help state Veterans Service Agencies and Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) operate or contract for transportation services to transport Veterans to VA medical centers and other facilities that provide VA care.  A new regulation establishes the program that will administer these grants.  Transportation will be provided at no cost to Veterans.

“VA wants to be sure that all Veterans, including those who live in rural and remote areas, can receive the health care they have earned through service to our country,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.  “State Veterans Agencies and VSOs will now be able to employ innovative approaches to transportation services for Veterans in our highly rural areas.  The end results will include better service and better health care for Veterans.”

VSOs and State Veterans Service Agencies may apply for grants up to $50,000 to fund transportation of Veterans to and from VA medical centers and other facilities that provide VA care.  If specified in the application, the services may be provided under agreements with contractors, such as private bus or van companies.

A highly rural area is defined as a county or counties with a population of fewer than seven persons per square mile.  Many highly rural areas are found in the western and southwestern United States but at least half of the states have at least one highly rural area.

One of Secretary Shinseki’s top three priorities is increasing access to VA care and services for Veterans wherever they live.  VA is expanding access in a three-pronged effort that includes facilities, programs and technology.  Veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan are eligible for an extended period of eligibility for health care for 5 years after they have left the service.

For more information, please see the Federal Register.

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The American Legion Department of Michigan represents over 70,000 members in the State of Michigan. The American Legion was founded in 1919, based on “The Four Pillars”; veteran rehabilitation, Americanism, child welfare, and national security and continued above all its mission as a consumers’ advocate for veterans. For more information contact the Michigan Legion at 517-371-4720 ext 16, mark@michiganlegion.org, or visit our website at www.michiganlegion.org.