The official blog of American Veteran Magazine, the national quarterly publication of AMVETS.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

TODAY Legislative Update: AMVETS bill, S. 769 (VETS Dogs)

AMVETS bill, S. 769 (VETS Dogs) is scheduled for committee markup TODAY at 11 am. Please call your Senator and let them know you support removing any barrier to care disabled veterans experience.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Today, June 27, is National Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day

In an attempt to promote public understanding of PTSD, Congress last year designated today, June 27, as National PTSD Awareness Day. AMVETS encourages members to help increase awareness of PTSD and its devastating consequences by informing employers, workmates, neighbors, friends and relatives of the realities of PTSD. The better we understand PTSD, the better we can support our veterans battling this condition.

The organizations and departments listed below are all working together to create awareness of PTSD and effective treatments that can help.

(From the Department of Veterans Affairs)

Veterans Health Administration (VHA)
This VHA site provides access to apply for health benefits. Read real stories from Inside Veterans Health, or access the MyHealthIVet portal.

VA Office of Mental Health Services
Provides a range of information on depression, substance abuse, and other mental health problems, to improve the health and well-being of Veterans through excellence in health care, social services, education, and research.

The Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Centers (MIRECC) generates new knowledge about the causes and treatments of mental disorders, applies new findings to model clinical programs, and widely disseminates new findings through education to improve the quality of Veterans' lives and their daily functioning in their recovering from mental illness.

For a more comprehensive list of organizations and departments visit the VA PTSD web page.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

AMVETS to Give Oral Testimony at Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Oversight Hearing

Today, at 2:30 PM EST, Ms. Christina M. Roof, AMVETS National Acting Legislative Director, will give testimony during the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Oversight Hearing entitled, “Arlington National Cemetery: An Update from the New Administration.”

The Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, has legislative, oversight and investigative jurisdiction over compensation; general and special pensions of all the wars of the United States; life insurance issued by the Government on account of service in the Armed Forces; cemeteries of the United States in which veterans of any war or conflict are or may be buried, whether in the United States or abroad, except cemeteries administered by the Secretary of the Interior; burial benefits; the Board of Veterans' Appeals; and the Court of Appeals for Veterans' Claims.

In June 2010, the Army released a report from its inspector general that found widespread problems at the Arlington National Cemetery, including 211 graves that were unmarked or mislabeled on cemetery maps and at least four urns that had been unearthed and dumped in landfill piles. The probe also found that cemetery officials with limited expertise in federal contracting regulations and little outside supervision improperly paid millions of dollars to companies that failed to create a digital database of the cemetery's records. Since that time, a new administration has taken charge of the cemetery's affairs and are now conducting a hearing to solicit feedback from and share updates with those the cemetery's former mismanagement directly affects - veterans and their families.

During the hearing, Ms. Roof will share AMVETS' views and recommendations regarding the Army Office of the Inspector General's detailed investigation into the activities of Arlington National Cemetery last year.

Here is an excerpt from her prepared statement:

"AMVETS was saddened and upset over the numerous disgraceful wrongdoings the IG outlined in their report. Furthermore, AMVETS is still at a loss for words as to how Arlington National Cemetery's sacred grounds could have ever been so blatantly mismanaged in a way that showed absolutely no respect or care for the remains of this nation’s fallen heroes. While AMVETS is eager to read the IG’s follow-up report to the investigation, we still believe that we must voice the concerns, recommendations and problems experienced by our membership last year, if only in an effort to give our members the comfort of knowing their experiences are understood. Moreover, AMVETS believes that it is important to preface our statement with the fact they we are not aware of all of the improvements already in place at Arlington National Cemetery, as we too are awaiting the Army’s new report. However, the concerns we share with you today are still just as important and personal as they were one year ago."

Ms. Roof went on to say that the happenings at the cemetery were a direct result of mismanagement, outdated technology and a blatant insubordination of Army Regulation 25-30,issued in 2006. Many AMVETS members are concerned whether their loved ones are being properly cared for at the cemetery and what measures have been taken to prevent further problems and confusion.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

NEWS RELEASE: VA to Expand Housing for Homeless Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs continues to develop housing opportunities for homeless and at-risk veterans by adding 34 VA locations across the country.

According to a press release from the Department of Veterans Affairs released June 8, the VA plans to develop unused and underused buildings at existing VA properties across the country to increase the Department's available beds by more than 5,000. VA currently has 15,000 transitional beds available to homeless veterans.

“This initiative will significantly support our efforts to eliminate Veteran homelessness and improve quality of life for Veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We have a moral obligation to ensure that Veterans and their families have access to affordable housing and medical services that will help them get back on their feet.”

Culminating two years of work to end homelessness among Veterans, a recent strategic study, the Building Utilization Review and Repurposing (BURR) initiative, identified unused and underused buildings at existing VA property with the potential to develop new housing opportunities for homeless or at-risk Veterans and their families through public-private partnerships and VA’s enhanced-use lease (EUL) program. Under the EUL program, VA retains ownership of the land and can determine and control its reuse.

Additional opportunities identified through BURR will include housing for returning Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans and their families, assisted living for elderly Veterans and continuum of living residential communities.

The project will support VA’s goal of ending Veteran homelessness by providing safe, affordable, cost effective, and sustainable housing for Veterans on a priority basis.

To expedite the project, contractors will be asked to develop multiple sites in a region. VA will hold a one-day national Industry Forum in Chicago for interested organizations on July 13, 2011. For information regarding the forum mail to:

Supportive housing projects are planned for homeless Veterans and their families at 23 VA sites: Tuskegee, Ala.; Long Beach and Menlo Park, Calif.; Bay Pines, Fla.; Dublin, Ga.; Hines and North Chicago, Ill.; Danville and Fort Wayne, Ind.; Leavenworth, Kan.; Perry Point, Md.; Bedford, Brockton and Northampton, Mass.; Battle Creek, Mich.; Minneapolis and St. Cloud, Minn.; Fort Harrison, Mont.; Castle Point, N.Y.; Chillicothe and Dayton, Ohio; and Spokane and Vancouver, Wash.

Under the enhanced-use lease agreements, Veterans will receive senior and non-senior independent living and assisted living at eleven VA sites: Newington, Conn.; Augusta, Ga.; Marion, Ill.; Topeka, Kan.; Togus, Maine; Grand Island, Neb.; Big Springs and Kerrville, Texas; Salem, Va.; Martinsburg, W.Va.; and Cheyenne, Wyo.