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

Monday, January 28, 2013

VA Awards Grants to Improve Health Care Access for Women Veterans

Emergency Services, Provider Education and Telehealth in Rural Areas Targeted

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs recently awarded 33 grants to VA facilities for projects that will improve emergency health care services for women Veterans, expand women’s health education programs for VA staff, and offer telehealth programs to female Veterans in rural areas.

“Our goal is 100 percent accessibility for women Veterans who need our care,” said  Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “These new projects will improve access and quality of critical health care services for women.”

This is the largest number of one-year grants VA has ever awarded for enhancing women’s health services. The complete list of grant recipients is given below. VHA’s national Women’s Health Program Office, Office of Rural Health, and Office of Healthcare Transformation are jointly supporting the winning proposals.

Telehealth concepts that received grants involve tele-mental health, tele-gynecology, tele-pharmacy, and telephone maternity care coordination. The grant program is part of VA’s continuing effort to improve access and quality of care for the increasing number of women Veterans seeking care at VA.

“We are committed to providing individualized, sensitive care to women Veterans,” said VA Undersecretary for Health Robert A. Petzel. “These grant-funded projects enable VA to continue to enhance care for women Veterans and exceed patient expectations.”

Education grants will expand mini-residency training for VA providers and nurses in primary care and emergency services to include topics such as gynecology and early obstetrics emergencies, military sexual trauma, and performing breast and pelvic examinations. Grants will also be used to upgrade emergency services for women Veterans in several VA health care facilities through the purchase of new gender-specific equipment and supplies and the development of protocols to aid in the management of common conditions in women.

Women serve in every branch of the military, representing 15 percent of today’s active duty military and nearly 18 percent of National Guard and Reserve forces. By 2020, VA estimates women Veterans will constitute 10 percent of the Veteran population.

Visit and to learn more about VA programs and services for women Veterans.
Grant Recipients by Topic/Location
Innovations in Emergency Services for Women

·       VA New York Harbor HCS/VISN 3
·       New Jersey HCS/VISN 3
·       Durham VAMC/VISN 6
·       Atlanta VAMC/VISN 7
·       New Mexico VAHCS/VISN 18
·       Salt Lake City VAHCS/VISN 19
·       Puget Sound VA HCS/VISN 20
·       Greater Los Angeles HCS/VISN 22

Women’s Health and Specialty Care Mini-Residencies

·       VA New England HCS/VISN 1
·       New Jersey HCS/VISN 3
·       New Jersey HCS/VISN 3
·       Pittsburgh HCS/VISN 4
·       Maryland HCS/VISN 5
·       Atlanta/VISN 7
·       Tampa/VISN 8
·       VA Great Lakes HCS/ VISN 12
·       VA Heartland/VISN 15
·       South Texas Veterans HCS/VISN 17
·       VA Southwest Health Care Network/VISN 18
·       Greater Los Angeles HCS/VISN 22
·       Minneapolis/VISN 23

Telehealth for Women Veterans

·       VA New Jersey HCS/VISN 3
·       VA Maryland HCS/VISN 5
·       VA Health Care System of Ohio/VISN 10
·       VA Illiana HCS/VISN 11
·       St. Louis VAMC/VISN 15
·       VA Eastern Kansas HCS/VISN 15
·       El Paso VA HCS/VISN 18
·       Northern Arizona VA Healthcare/VISN 18
·       Greater Los Angeles HCS/VISN 22
·       Minneapolis/VISN 23

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Operation Desert Storm: 22 Years Later

Tensions rose on Aug. 2, 1990 as members of the Iraqi Republican Guard invaded Kuwait, immediately triggering a response from the United States. This response resulted in Operation Desert Shield and was a means to prevent Iraqi forces from invading Saudi Arabia. United Nations Security Resolutions 678, an ultimatum to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, was issued on Jan. 15, 1991 and demanded that Iraqi forces withdraw from Kuwait immediately. The United States launched air attacks on Jan. 17, 1991 and commenced Operation Desert Storm.

“As we remember the events that occurred 22 years ago, AMVETS would like to thank all of the service members who were involved in Operation Desert Storm,” said AMVETS National Commander Cleve Geer. “At times we, as Americans, must defend the rights of others, and Operation Desert Storm ensured that tyranny did not prevail in the Middle East.”

Operation Desert Storm was an immense success under the supervision of Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, a Vietnam veteran. While the military operation was not as lengthy as today’s conflict in Afghanistan, service members and individuals in the National Guard and Reserve came forward to ensure the concept of freedom was preserved overseas.

“When service members from the Vietnam War returned to the United States, our country did a poor job of welcoming them home,” said AMVETS National Executive Director Stewart Hickey. “Operation Desert Storm was our nation’s opportunity to celebrate what our military does for people in other countries.” Hickey served in the Marine Corps during Operation Desert Storm and was in-country from Sept. 15, 1990 to March 22, 1991. He was a company commander for D Company, 3rd Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division.

Operation Desert Storm lasted until Feb. 28, 1991 when those involved declared a cessation of hostilities. Cease-fire terms were negotiated in Safwan, Iraq on March 1, 1991, with Iraq officially accepting the terms on April 6, 1991.

Photos: Top: President George H.W. Bush speaks during a welcoming ceremony for U.S. military personnel just returned from deployment in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm at Sumter, S.C., March 24, 1991. Photo by N. Miller.

Middle: U.S. Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf (center), commander in chief, U.S. Central Command, walks to the reviewing stand with President George H.W. Bush (left) at the beginning of the National Victory Celebration parade in Washington, D.C., June 8, 1991.  Photo courtesy of U.S. Army.

Bottom: President George Bush (center) speaks to the crowd at an air base while making one of several Thanksgiving Day visits to U.S. troops who are in Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield, Nov. 22, 1990. U.S. Navy photo by JO3 Gerald Johnson.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013


ALCOA has joined several major manufacturers and the Manufacturing Institute, a non-profit branch of the National Association of Manufacturers, to bring thousands of veterans into manufacturing careers. 

According to an article in the Nov. 19, 2012 issue of the Air Force Times, “GE, ALCOA Inc., Boeing, and Lockheed/Martin have pooled resources to help 15,000 veterans transition to manufacturing careers, and the group hopes to bring that number up to 100,00 if more companies join the effort.”

The article goes on to read, “Kris Urbauer, GE’s program manager of veteran initiatives, said ‘separating veterans looking for work are returning to a job market with a desperate need for manufacturing workers, and the timing is perfect to marry those two together.  The opportunity to grow manufacturing in the U.S., with this great talent pool kind of leading the charge is, I think, the perfect confluence.’”

Mike Haynie, executive director and founder of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, added, “Some 600,000 manufacturing jobs in the U.S. are unfilled, and the average employee in the manufacturing industry is in his or her 50’s.  The industry will need 10 million or more new skilled workers by 2020.”

Manufacturing Training sites are scheduled to open in Durham and Raleigh in 2013.  Those interested should go to for detail information.

This has not gone unnoticed by our Badin Generating Facility in Badin, N.C.  They recently donated $1,000 to Pfeiffer University’s North Carolina AMVETS Career Center, a non-profit veterans service organization providing volunteer general counseling and education, career and job assistance to those who are or have honorably served in our U.S. military.

North Carolina’s AMVETS Career Center 1 is located in the Stokes Student Center on main campus of Pfeiffer University in Misenheimer, N.C.  Volunteers can be contacted by calling 704-463-3026 or emailing

A check was presented to Gerry Pion, the Career Center’s Deputy Commander, by ALCOA’s Hydro Operations Manager Mark Gross during a special ceremony at the company’s Badin office.  

Nicole Wright, the company’s Foundation Coordinator, summed up the proceedings by saying, “We all owe a tremendous gratitude to the veterans who served America, and ALCOA is proud to help support veterans in our community and across North Carolina.  Our contribution to the AMVETS Career Center in Stanly County will help establish scholarships for the sons and daughters of military veterans and support the center's work with veterans seeking to join the local workforce."

Photo: Left to right, ALCOA Badin Facilities Hydro Operations Manager Mark Gross presents a check to North Carolina AMVETS Career Center 1 Deputy Commander Gerry Pion.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Mission ReDefined: Encouraging veterans with physical disabilities to take on sports

Michael Johnston is a paratriathlete with hopes of competing in the sport’s Paralympic Games debut in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

But he is also part of another mission: He’s trying to encourage fellow veterans and members of the Armed Forces with physical disabilities to get involved in sports to help open doors to new activities, enrich their lives and get them moving forward.

The “Mission Redefined” campaign, a joint effort by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Paralympics, will release a 30-second public service announcement on Jan. 15 that features Johnston sprinting down a track.

Johnston says it’s a campaign he’s proud to be a part of, and believes it’s necessary to help disabled veterans see what’s possible.

“When they get out of the military, they don’t really know where to go,” he said. “They don’t know how to get reconnected with their community, with life, so sports are a great way of bridging that gap.”

* * *

Johnston knows firsthand about making the transition from being injured in the military to becoming an athlete.

In 2003, Johnston, then in the Navy, lost his left leg in a motorcycle accident. Yet he was able go through rehabilitation, learn to walk with a prosthesis and return to active duty.

His life had gone through a traumatic change, but by staying in the Navy for another seven years he was able to adjust while in a familiar environment.

“I was expected to do the same duties as everybody else and that I previously had been doing,” he said.

But it wasn’t easy.

“After I was injured, I wasn’t even 21 yet, so I had no idea who I was or what I wanted to achieve in my life and I had very little direction,” he recalled.

After going through rehabilitation and learning to use his prosthesis (his leg was amputated just below the knee), he began to challenge himself.

What were his limits? What could he do physically? He wanted to not only test himself but prove to others that assumptions of limitations were wrong.

“[It] gave me a drive and determination to break those perceptions, you know, that ‘This guy’s going to slow us down’ and whatnot, of physical limitations that people associate with a lot of amputees and disabilities in general,” he said.

Eventually, he got involved in sports through the Navy’s Operation Rebound program and also the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

In 2008, he began competing in paratriathlons, and he’s competed internationally for the U.S. Paratriathlon National Team. In 2011, he finished fourth at the ITU Paratriathlon World Championship in Beijing.

Becoming an athlete has helped Johnston redefine his own life.

Now he is trying to help others redefine theirs.

* * *

The PSA begins with Johnston at the starting line. At the sound of a starter’s pistol, Johnston bursts from the blocks.

As the camera captures him in full stride, the words “Passion,” “Power,” and then  “Strength” appear in place of his churning left leg, until “Strength” explodes and falls away, revealing Johnston’s racing prosthesis. As he sprints away, the words “Mission Redefined” appear on screen and a narrator says, “Redefine your mission. Find a sport, get involved.” The spot ends with the Mission ReDefined and U.S. Paralympics logos.

Viewers can then go to the Department of Veterans Affairs Adaptive Sports site ( to find affiliated sports clubs around the nation in which they can get involved.

As Johnston reflects on the weeks and months after his injury in 2003, he believes the “Mission Redefined” campaign would have been inspirational.

“It would definitely move me and hopefully inspire me to get out and re-engage in sports and life again,” he said, recalling that he felt lost at the time.

The message with this campaign, he said, is that people and programs are out there to help veterans get moving, and being active — finding a sport or activity — is a terrific step. But the message, he said, is even simpler.

“The big push I have is just getting involved,” said Johnston, now living in San Diego. “Just getting off the couch and being reconnected.”

* * *
Christopher Nowak, VA’s director of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events, is in charge of the “Mission Redefined” campaign. Nowak, a Marine Corps veteran who lost his right leg while serving, started work on the campaign in 2011.

To Nowak, Mission Redefined has multiple meanings.

“One is the VA itself,” Nowak said. “We’re redefining our mission on how we deliver adaptive sports to veterans as well as sporting opportunities. And also we’re using the campaign for veterans. There’s an opportunity to redefine their mission in life. They’ve been through a traumatic injury and this is an opportunity for them to use sports to redefine their mission.”

The campaign’s name works, he said, because to men and women in the military, “everything is defined as a mission.”

“What we hope with this campaign is that veterans understand that after a traumatic injury life is not over. It may seem like it, they all go through it, as well as I did,” he said. “You go through a certain phase in your life after your injury. But something clicks in” to get them back on track, he said, and sports can be a giant part of that process.

This campaign, combined with the success and attention garnered by some of the military veterans competing at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, is providing a whole new layer of attention and information for veterans, Nowak said.

And working with the U.S. Olympic Committee as a partner, he said, has helped the VA “get out of the box” and push the message in the most effective way possible.

For Johnston, who was involved in filming the PSA— doing countless takes until 2 or 3 in the morning on a high school track north of Los Angeles — the joint VA/U.S. Paralympic campaign is worth every penny.

“Anybody that sees it will connect with it,” he said. “It breaks down all borders. It’s not just amputees, not just military. Everybody will connect with forward movement.”

Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. ( Doug Williams is a freelance contributor for This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.

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Friday, January 11, 2013


Department of Veterans Affairs to develop new registry

LANHAM,Md., Jan. 11, 2013— On Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, President Obama signed legislation requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a registry for service members who lived and worked near open burn pits in Iraq, Afghanistan and other overseas locations. This new measure will allow VA to track the number of military personnel and veterans who have been afflicted with conditions due to burn pits, as well as inform them of treatment options.

“This is a tremendous victory for veterans and AMVETS,” said AMVETS National Legislative Director Diane Zumatto. “AMVETS has continued to push for the Department of Veterans Affairs to create a burn pit registry and believes this legislation will allow service members and veterans to receive the care they deserve.”

AMVETS has focused on the problems associated with burn pits in overseas locations, and has promoted the topic as a legislative priority since 2011. At the 68th AMVETS National Convention in Daytona Beach, Fla., AMVETS leadership and members passed Resolution 13-32: Open Burn Pit Registry Act 2011. AMVETS requested that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki develop an open burn pit registry to address the members in the Armed Forces who have been exposed to toxic chemicals and fumes as a result of burn pits. In their many efforts to further progress on this issue, AMVETS’ National Legislative Department worked with Rep. W. Todd Akin, the creator of the Open Burn Pit Act, to develop legislation involving open burn pits.

“I want to thank the countless veterans and activists for veterans causes for supporting this legislation,” said Rep. Akin. “Without the support of veterans organizations, this legislation would not be moving forward.”

In addition to this measure, AMVETS continues to advocate for VA to develop a public information campaign that will inform eligible individuals about the registry, how to register and the benefits registering, as well as developments in the treatment of associated conditions.

“AMVETS is dedicated to advocating for continued improvement of VA health care benefits and services for all service members and veterans,” said AMVETS National Commander Cleve Geer. “By establishing an open burn pit registry, both President Obama and VA have taken a positive step toward assisting veterans who have been ignored, yet suffer from conditions associated with their service overseas in conjunction with open burn pits.”

To learn more about the open burn pit registry, visit:

About AMVETS:    
A leader since 1944 in preserving the freedoms secured by America’s armed forces, AMVETS provides support for veterans and the active military in procuring their earned entitlements, as well as community service and legislative reform that enhances the quality of life for this nation’s citizens and veterans alike. AMVETS is one of the largest congressionally-chartered veterans’ service organizations in the United States, and includes members from each branch of the military, including the National Guard and Reserves. To learn more visit
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Wednesday, January 9, 2013


LANHAM, Md., Jan. 8, 2013—This afternoon, AMVETS National Commander Cleve Geer endorsed President Barack Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel as the next Secretary of Defense. Obama announced the nomination yesterday, Jan. 7, 2013.

“AMVETS fully supports President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel for the future Secretary of Defense,” said Geer. “As a veterans service organization, AMVETS’ main mission is to serve as an advocate for veterans, their families and the community in which they live. I am confident that former Sen. Hagel will utilize his experience and understanding of America’s military to lead this nation’s troops and the Department of Defense.”

If confirmed by the Senate, Hagel will be first infantryman to serve as the Secretary of Defense. He will replace current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who has been in this position since 2011. Hagel’s experience ranges from serving in the Army during the Vietnam War to representing Nebraska as a senator. 

A leader since 1944 in preserving the freedoms secured by America’s armed forces, AMVETS provides support for veterans and the active military in procuring their earned entitlements, as well as community service and legislative reform that enhances the quality of life for this nation’s citizens and veterans alike. AMVETS is one of the largest congressionally-chartered veterans’ service organizations in the United States, and includes members from each branch of the military, including the National Guard and Reserves. To learn more, visit:

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