 Clay Hunt SAV Act Vote Delayed:

Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who is currently blocking the bill, left the Senate floor this evening, and Senate protocol precludes the bill to be brought up in his absence.  Susan and Richard Selke, parents of Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran Clay Hunt, are imploring Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to lift his Parliamentary hold on the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans (SAV) Act, which is preventing it from receiving a vote in the Senate. The bill, named after their son, a Marine who died by suicide in 2011, will improve access to quality mental health care for veterans and combat a national suicide crisis that’s resulting in the deaths of 22 veterans every day.

The bipartisan legislation passed the House by a unanimous voice vote this past Tuesday.

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 Holidays Bring Extra Stress for Veterans:

MAKE THE CONNECTION AIMS TO PROVIDE VETERANS NEEDED SUPPORT –

The Make the Connection campaign features stories of resilience and recovery from veterans of every age, experience, and service era. The Make the Connection website (MakeTheConnection.net), is a one-stop resource where veterans and their families and friends can privately explore topics including health, wellness, and common challenges.

MakeTheConnection.net features hundreds of videos of veterans talking openly about their personal experiences with mental health treatment, recovery, and paths to leading healthier, happier lives. These real stories encourage other veterans to seek help and take the first step toward recovery.

In addition to finding support at MakeTheConnection.net, you can also connect with care through a mental health professional or staff members in your community and at your local VA Medical Center or Vet Center by using the resource locator on the site.

The success of this effort relies on the support of those dedicated to serving our nation’s veterans. Visit MakeTheConnection.net today to discover more about how this resource can positively impact the lives of those in the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) community.

Make the Connection is an initiative run by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

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 Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Bill Introduced in Senate:

Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Ala.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) introduced in the Senate the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Bill of 2014, significant legislation that will help combat veteran suicide and improve access to quality mental health care.

The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Bill will:

  • Require independent evaluations of all mental health care and suicide prevention programs at the DoD and VA;
  • Provide up to $120,000 per year in student loan repayments to recruit psychiatrists who commit to VA service;
  • Establish a drug take-back program for controlled substance prescription drugs at VA medical facilities; and,
  • Authorize the VA to collaborate with Veteran Service Organizations and nonprofit mental health organizations to prevent suicide among veterans
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 VRA Offers Preferential Hiring for Veterans:

One law veterans may take advantage of is Veterans’ Recruitment Appointment (VRA) if they are interested in entering employment in the government sector.  According to the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) official site, VRA is an authority that allows employers to hire eligible veterans without competition. A veteran is eligible for hiring under VRA in a variety of circumstances, including if the veteran:  (a) Has a campaign badge for service during a war, campaign or expedition (b) Is a disabled veteran (c) received an armed forces service medal for participation in any military operation (d) has separated within the last 3 years, under honorable conditions

A veteran may be appointed under VRA at any grade level up to and including a GS-11 or equivalent. Veterans’ preference points for veterans and veterans with a service-connected disability also apply when hiring under VRA. This is an entitlement enacted by Congress after the American Civil War. Its purpose is to recognize “the economic loss suffered by citizens who have served their country in uniform, restores veterans to a favorable competitive position for Government employment, and acknowledges the larger obligation owed to disabled veteran,” according to OPM.  To take advantage of this program, the veteran must have the member 4 copy of their DD Form 214. If the veteran intends to apply for the 10-point hiring preference they must submit Standard Form 15 (SF-15), “Application for 10-point Veterans’ Preference.”

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 Study: Telemedicine helps treat PTSD in vets:

Excerpts from an article by Martin Kuz of Stars and Stripes –

Traveling long distances to health clinics presents one of the biggest obstacles to military veterans in rural areas seeking and sticking with therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder.  A new study released Thursday suggests that telemedicine aids their access to care and increases the likelihood they will follow through with months of intensive counseling that can heal war’s inner wounds.  The year-long study, published online in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry and funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs, examined 265 veterans with severe PTSD who live in rural settings.  A team of researchers found that those counseled via remote methods were eight times as likely to complete at least eight sessions of cognitive processing therapy, considered the minimum “therapeutic dose” for treating post-traumatic stress disorder. The same group showed greater improvement in their symptoms for PTSD and depression.

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Supportive Services for Veteran Families

This is a housing first program that provides case management services to qualifying Veterans through supportive services to very low-income Veteran families struggling with homelessness or sustaining permanent housing.  Eligible participants must be a member of a Veteran family (Either a Veteran or spouse of a Veteran), must be “very low-income”(less than 50% of the area median income), and must be homeless or in imminent risk of becoming homeless.

For more information contact 918-681-7525

 

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 H.R. 5484, the Toxic Exposure Research Act:

Representatives Dan Benishek (R-MI) and Mike Honda (D-CA) have introduced the Toxic Exposure Research Act (H.R. 5484) that will, when enacted into law, establish a national center at a VA medical facility for research on the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions of descendants of veterans exposed to toxic substances during their service in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Toxins, such as Agent Orange, are suspected of being responsible for birth defects, cancers, developmental disabilities, and other adverse health conditions in the children and grandchildren of veterans at a rate disproportionate to the general population. Veterans were exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides used during the Vietnam War.

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 Mom of Marine Lost to Suicide Calls On Congress to Pass Critical Legislation:

On November 19, 2014 before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC), Susan Selke, mother of Clay Hunt, a Marine veteran who died by suicide in 2011, urged Congress to take swift action in passing the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Bill of 2014. The bill (S.2930), introduced Monday and spearheaded by IAVA, is sponsored by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Ala.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

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 VA Implements Second Phase of Choice Card Program:

On November 18, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it began mailing Veterans Choice Cards on November 17 to veterans currently waiting more than 30 days from their preferred date or the date that is medically determined by their physician for an appointment at a VA facility.

The Choice Program is a new, temporary benefit that allows some veterans to receive health care in their communities rather than waiting for a VA appointment or traveling to a VA facility.

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 Veterans React to VA’s Reorg Plan:

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced a reorganization and overhaul plan for the entire department on November 10, 2014.  According to some Veteran Service Organizations, transformative change that delivers for veterans is long overdue.  Secretary McDonald is focusing on input from veterans on the ground and for establishing the Community Veteran Advisory Councils as a way to strengthen VA’s relationship their customers.  The creation of the MyVA Idea House where employees can also provide input to improve the system is a move in the right direction but as they say, “Talk is Cheap” and veterans need to see what will happen before they begin to have renewed faith in the VA.

The framework for the MyVA restructuring includes: the establishment of a new VA-wide customer service organization, led by a Chief Customer Service Officer who will report to the Secretary; the incorporation of a single regional framework to allow veterans to more easily navigate VA through simplified internal coordination; the creation of Community Veteran Advisory Councils that will work to coordinate veteran-related service delivery with local, state and community partners; the identification of opportunities for the department to restructure internal business processes into a shared services model, thereby improving efficiency and productivity, and reducing

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