PLEASE HELP…If this is you or someone you know.

In order to better understand and advocate for caregivers of all disabled veterans, DAV is conducting a survey about the role, benefits, challenges and inequities facing family caregivers of disabled veterans. This survey builds on earlier research DAV undertook in 2014 to document how family caregivers allow disabled veterans to continue living in their own homes, rather than in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

If you are a family member, relative or friend who provides care or assistance to a disabled veteran, or you are a disabled veteran who has a family member, relative or friend who provides care and assistance to you, please participate in DAV’s 2017 Family Caregiver Survey.

DAV will use this survey research as part of our continuing campaign to educate the public and policymakers about the important contributions and sacrifices made by family caregivers of disabled veterans. It will also help us advocate for legislation and federal policies that strengthen and expand programs supporting family caregivers of disabled veterans from all eras and finally eliminate inequities that currently exist in federal caregiver assistance programs.

Please click here to participate in DAV’s 2017 Family Caregiver Survey:

Thank you for continuing to support the men and women who served

Click the link below to participate in the survey:

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Governor Mary Fallin announces Outreach for Veterans Pilot Program:

Like many of you, I have heard of the Governor’s veterans pilot program but I have heard very little as to what it entails. Governor Mary Fallin announced efforts to inform Oklahoma veterans about the Oklahoma Veterans Pilot Program, a private/public initiative to develop a comprehensive health care access and delivery system for the state’s veterans. According to Governor Fallin, “The Oklahoma Veterans Pilot Program is an important effort to identify best practices in healthcare delivery to ensure we offer the highest quality of care to our veterans,” said Fallin. “Our veterans have made incredible sacrifices for our freedoms, and the least we owe them is superior healthcare that is easily accessible for all. I applaud the formation of the Force 50 Brigade and its subgroups, Victor Company and the County Chairperson Leadership Team, to spread the word about this critical initiative.”
The Oklahoma Veterans Pilot Program, which was launched in September, is a private/public effort to develop a comprehensive transitional system of care designed to deliver accessible quality healthcare to veterans statewide. The system will cover healthcare services in mental health, home health, nursing care, rehabilitative services, and coordinated access to physician services, laboratory services, pharmacy services and tele-health capability. The Force 50 Brigade, which is the primary public awareness organization of the Oklahoma Veterans Pilot Program, will consist of 50 well-known Oklahoma entertainers, sports figures and professionals from the film and music industries, as well as two critical subgroups, the County Chairperson Leadership Team and Victor Company. Victor Company is the Veterans Leadership Team and will consist of veterans organizations and leaders within the veterans community. As the most integral part of this effort, it has been mobilized first, and will be led by Pete Peterson and Scott Ellis, leaders of the Oklahoma Veterans Council. “It is our hope that the outreach program being implemented under the Force 50 Brigade and led by the Oklahoma Veterans Leadership Team will encourage our Oklahoma veterans population to get involved with our efforts to improve healthcare opportunities to all veterans,” said Myles Deering, director of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs “The role of the Oklahoma veterans service organizations will be to assist in gathering comments, survey data and assist in publicizing the program efforts to all Oklahoma veterans.”

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Proposal in Congress would require service members to pay into GI Bill for benefits

Congress is in the early stages of considering a mandate for service members to pay into the GI Bill –
The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs gave veterans groups a draft last week of legislation that would deduct $100 from service members’ basic pay each month for two years, for a total of $2,400, in order for them to receive education benefits. The Post-9/11 GI Bill created in 2009 doesn’t require service members to pay into it, but an earlier version of the benefit – the Montgomery GI Bill – mandated recipients to pay $100 per month for one year, not the 2 years that is proposed.
The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs postponed on Friday a hearing planned for April 26 to discuss proposed changes to the GI Bill, including the idea of troops paying to receive the education benefit. Committee staff did not say when the hearing would be rescheduled.

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VA suicide prevention:

While drug and alcohol problems are associated with a higher risk of suicide among veterans, the increased danger is particularly high with opioid abuse, a U.S. study suggests. Overall, male veterans with drug or alcohol problems are more than twice as likely to die by suicide as other ex-service members, researchers report in the journal Addiction. For female veterans with substance use disorders, the odds of death from suicide are almost six times higher. The suicide risk is particularly high when veterans misuse prescription sedatives, with more than quadrupled
odds of suicide for men and more than 11 times the risk for women, the study also found. Among female veterans, opioids were also tied to a nearly eight-times-higher risk of suicide, while amphetamines and stimulants were tied to almost six times the risk.
Personally, I think that when you send our men and women into combat situations several times in succession you are asking for trouble. Many of our men and women who have been in combat situations will never be the same because of the invisible wounds or, as some say, “wounds that don’t bleed”/

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VA mental health care – Senators ask for more OTH details:

Eight Democrats in the Senate are seeking more details from the Department of Veterans Affairs about an announcement last week that the VA would provide urgent mental health care to veterans with other-than-honorable discharges. In a letter to VA Secretary David Shulkin, the senators wrote the announcement had sparked interest from some veterans with other-than-honorable (OTH) discharges who are now scrambling to find more information about what services the VA will provide. Other-than-honorable discharges, also known as “bad paper,” prevent veterans from receiving federal benefits, such as health care, disability payments, education and housing assistance. “Many of the veterans who could be eligible under this expansion are now seeking information and treatment after hearing your statements,” the senators’ letter reads. “These are veterans with elevated risks for substance use issues,
homelessness, criminal court involvement and suicide, and time is always crucial in connecting them to treatment options.”

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USFSPA & divorce – dividing retired pay:

A case involving the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA), a controversial 1982 law, is being heard before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). The case will determine the extent of a state court’s legal authority to divide military retired pay in a divorce where the former service member waives a portion of military retired pay in favor of VA disability compensation. Lt. Col. Aniela Szymanski, USMCR, MOAA director of government relations for veterans benefits, attended the Supreme Court oral argument March 20 in the case of Howell v. Howell and reported on the proceedings. In the current case, a family court granted the former spouse 50 percent of the service member’s retirement pay Years later, the retiree received a VA disability rating and waived a portion of military retired pay to receive the tax free VA disability compensation instead. As a result, the service member’s military retirement pay was reduced; the former spouse took the retiree to court to get her portion of that – in this case, $152 a month – back. USFSPA is a controversial law in the military community because it allows courts to treat military retired pay as property in the case of a divorce. Adam Unikowsky, the attorney for the veteran, says the letter and spirit of USFSPA were followed in this case. Disability pay, he argued, is paid to the veteran for injuries suffered in service and to compensate for lost earning potential

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):

Researchers from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Department of Defense (DOD) recently released findings of a new study called Prospective Post-Traumatic Stress disorder Symptom Trajectories in Active Duty and Separated Military Personnel, which examines Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms in Veterans, compared with active-duty populations. According to VA’s National Center for PTSD, the PTSD rate among Vietnam Veterans was 30.9 percent for men and 26.9 percent for women. For Gulf War Veterans, the PTSD rate was 12.1 percent. Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom Veterans had a PTSD rate of 13.8 percent.

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The Oklahoma senate and house veterans and military affairs committee

Many have asked me “Who are the members of the Oklahoma veterans and military affairs committee”? Following are the members of the Oklahoma house and senate veterans and military affairs committees:
House – Chair Rep. Tommy Hardin, Vice Chair Rep. Josh West , Rep. John Bennett, Rep. Dale Derby, Rep. John Enns, Rep. Claudia Griffith, Rep. Chuck Hoskin, Rep. Scott Inman, Rep. Rick West.
Senate – Senator Frank Simpson – Chair, Senator Larry Boggs – Vice Chair, Senator Mark Allen,
Senator Randy Bass, Senator Bill Brown, Senator J.J. Dossett, Senator Joe Newhouse, Senator Adam Pugh, Senator Anthony Sykes . Don’t forget that Senator Mike Schulz is the senate President Pro Tempore

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 The Honor Salute Program:

Veteran service organizations in several states have formed a “Final Salute Program” which is to honor veterans on a hospice program and to give them one final salute. While the program is geared primarily towards Vietnam veterans it does not distinguish between wars or conflicts. The sole purpose of the program is to honor those veterans on a hospice program one final time.

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Deborah Sampson Act Introduced

On March 21, the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, Senator Jon Tester, introduced S. 681, the Deborah Sampson Act.  This comprehensive measure addresses gender disparities and would improve and expand programs and services for women veterans provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The bill would establish a pilot program for peer-to-peer counseling and authorizes group retreat counseling for women veterans recently separated from military service. It would expand the capabilities within the VA Women Veterans Call Center and extend the number of days, from seven to 14, VA can cover the cost of care for newborns of women veterans and authorize medically-necessary transportation for newborns.

The legislation aims to eliminate barriers to care by ensuring every VA medical facility has at least one full-time or part-time women’s health provider, as well as a Women Veterans Program Manager and a Women Veteran Program Ombudsman. Additional resources are authorized for mini-residency training in women’s health for clinicians, and retrofitting VA facilities to enhance privacy, safety and improve the overall environment of care for women veterans.

S. 681 would provide support services for women veterans seeking legal assistance and authorizes additional grants for organizations supporting women veterans and their families. Finally, The Deborah Sampson Act would require data collection and reporting on all VA programs serving veterans, by gender and minority status, including a report on the availability of prosthetics for women veterans and would better coordinate outreach by centralizing all information for women veterans in one easily accessible place on VA’s website.

DAV’s 2014 report, Women Veterans: The Long Journey Home identified many of these gaps in VA programs for women and has long advocated for a more comprehensive provision of VA women’s health services that appropriately recognizes and honors their service and sacrifice.

Please contact your elected representatives to urge co-sponsorship and passage of S. 681. A letter has been prepared for this purpose or you may write your own to express your personal views. Click the link below to log in and send your message:

As always, thank you for your support.

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