Processing of Retroactive Agent Orange Claims Nearly Complete

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 19, 2012

Processing of Retroactive Agent Orange Claims Nearly Complete

Milestone Allows VA to Refocus 1,200 Decision Makers on Claims Backlog

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs announced that nearly 230,000 claims have already been processed for the three newest Agent-Orange related conditions through June 2012, including over 150,000 claims required to be adjudicated under the order of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Nehmer v. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  The near completion of these complex Nehmer claims enables VA to redirect 1,200 employees who were dedicated to reviewing the Agent Orange cases toward addressing the current backlog of disability claims.

“I am proud of our VA employees who worked hard to complete these Agent Orange claims, putting over $3.6 billion into the hands of our Vietnam Veterans and their survivors,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.  “We completed all of the Agent Orange Nehmer claims for living Veterans, and are now focusing on the fewer than 500 remaining that will benefit survivors.”

The Agent Orange claims stemmed from VA’s 2010 amendment of its regulations to add ischemic heart disease, hairy cell and other chronic B-cell leukemias, and Parkinson’s disease to the list of diseases presumed to be related to exposure to the herbicide used in Southeast Asia.

“While we work to transform how we do business through new processes and technology, at the end of the day it’s about taking care of our Veterans and their loved ones on the issues affecting their lives,” said Secretary Shinseki.

Given the complexity of the historical casework, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) allocated its most experienced decision makers, about 37 percent of its rating staff, to processing Agent Orange claims.  VBA’s 13 resource centers were exclusively dedicated to re-adjudicating these claims.

Even with this allocation of 37 percent of the rating staff dedicated to Agent Orange claims, VA processed over 1 million disability claims in each of the last 2 years, an unprecedented number. “Incoming claims over the last ten years have nearly doubled,” said VA Under Secretary for Benefits, Allison A. Hickey.  “Being able to refocus these skilled raters on the backlog is vitally important.”

In addition to redirecting its rating staff, VA has developed a comprehensive transformation plan to achieve in 2015 Secretary Shinseki’s goal of completing claims within 125 days at 98 percent accuracy.  The plan is built on more than 40 designed, tested, and measured people, processing, and technology initiatives.  VA is now beginning the nationwide rollout of its new operating model and electronic processing system, known as the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS).  All regional offices will be operating under the new model and using the new processing system by the end of 2013.

VA has established a website, www.fastrack.va.gov, to assist Veterans in filing claims for the three new conditions related to the effects of Agent Orange exposure.  It guides Veterans through automated, program-assisted menus to capture the information and medical evidence needed for faster claims decision.    Potentially eligible Veterans include those who were exposed based on duty or visitation in Vietnam or on its inland waterways between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975; exposed along the demilitarized zone in Korea between April 1, 1968, and August 31, 1971; or exposed due to herbicide tests and storage at military bases within and outside of the United States.

 

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VA Eliminates Copayment for In-Home Video Telehealth Care

WASHINGTON – Beginning May 7, the Department of Veterans Affiars will no longer charge Veterans a copayment when they receive care in their homes from VA health professionals using video conferencing.

“Eliminating the copayment for this service will remove an unnecessary financial burden for Veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We will continue to do everything we can to ensure that Veterans have access to the first-class care they have earned with their service to our Nation.”

This change will primarily benefit Veterans with limited mobility, such as spinal cord injury patients.  Whenever medically appropriate, VA will make the home the preferred place of care for Veterans to ensure timely and convenient access to VA services.

For more information about telehealth, visit:  http://www.telehealth.va.gov/.

Data have shown that expanded use of technology in the home enables patients with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, chronic heart failure and hypertension, to live independently, actively engage in managing their health, and prevents avoidable hospitalization of patients who otherwise may need long-term institutional care.

Home telehealth does not replace the need for nursing home care or for traditional noninstitutional care programs. However, it enhances the ability for many veterans to better understand and manage chronic diseases.  This partnership with their care team helps delay the need for institutionalization and enables them to maintain independence for an extended period of time, thus improving their overall quality of life.

VA Announces Aggressive National Recruitment Effort to Hire Mental Health Professionals

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 11, 2012 VA Announces Aggressive National Recruitment Effort to Hire Mental Health Professionals WASHINGTON – Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki recently announced the department would add approximately 1,600 mental health clinicians as well as nearly 300 support staff to its existing workforce to help meet the increased demand for mental health services. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has developed an aggressive national recruitment program to implement the hiring process quickly and efficiently. “The mental health and well-being of our brave men and women who have served the Nation is the highest priority for this department,” said Secretary Shinseki. “We must ensure that all Veterans seeking mental health care have access to timely, responsive and high-quality care.” VA has developed an aggressive national mental health hiring initiative to improve recruitment and hiring, marketing, education and training programs, and retention efforts for mental health professionals, to include targeted recruitment in rural and highly-rural markets. This will help VA to meet existing and future demands of mental health care services in an integrated collaborative team environment and continue to position VA as an exemplary workplace for mental health care professionals. It is critical for VA to proactively engage psychiatrists and other mental health care providers about the vital mission to deliver high-quality mental health services, especially for returning combat Veterans. “The VA mental health community is aggressively transforming the way mental health care services are provided to the Veteran population. As the mental health care workforce continues to increase, VA is committed to improving Veterans’ access to services, especially for at-risk Veterans,” said VA’s Under Secretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel. The national recruitment program provides VHA with an in-house team of highly skilled professional recruiters employing private sector best practices to fill the agency’s most mission critical clinical and executive positions. The recruitment team consists of 21 national, dedicated health care recruiters targeting physician and specialty health care occupations. These recruiters also understand the needs of Veterans because each member is a Veteran. VHA has also established a hiring and tracking task force to provide oversight for this initiative to move the process forward expeditiously in a focused manner to ensure challenges, issues, or concerns are addressed and resolved. This task force is accountable for reporting progress in hiring of mental health professionals in these occupations: psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health nurses, social workers, mental health technicians, marriage and family therapists and licensed professional counselors. VHA anticipates the majority of hires will be selected within approximately six months and the most “hard-to-fill” positions filled by the end of the second quarter of FY 2013. VA has an existing workforce of 20,590 mental health staff that includes nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers. Interested mental health care providers can find additional information about VA careers and apply for jobs online at www.vacareers.va.gov. To locate the nearest VA facility or Vet Center for enrollment and to get scheduled for care, Veterans can visit VA’s website at www.va.gov. Immediate help is available at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net or by calling the Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (push 1) or texting 838255. ###

VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY June 1, 2012

In This Issue: 1. House Passes VA Funding 2. VFW Supports “We Can’t Wait” Initiative: 3. VOW to Hire Heroes Update 4. Servicemember Protection Bills Pass House 5. North Dakota Reports From the Field 6. IFA Introduces Veterans’ Toolkit 7. Veteran Small Business Owner Resources 8. Vietnam MIA Identified

1. House Passes VA Funding: By a vote of 407-12, the House Thursday night overwhelming passed the Military Construction/VA funding bill despite threats of a veto by the Administration. To see how your representative voted, click on http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2012/roll305.xml. The bill, H.R. 5854, provides $146.4 billion dollars for FY 2013, which is a 10-percent increase above last year’s levels. VA funding includes $54.5 in Advanced Appropriations for medical care, a boost for medical services and increases for jobs and disability programs for veterans. House members voted to withhold funding on the DOD-VA integrated medical record project until both departments implement recommendations made by GAO earlier this year. It also provides: * $6.2 billion for mental health services * $5.8 billion for homeless veterans programs * $35 million for continued research on the effects of PTSD and TBI * $174 million for expansion of Arlington National Cemetery * $1.1 billion for major and minor construction projects * $1.7 billion for family and military personnel housing For the committee press release and a list of amendments, go to http://appropriations.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=297903.

2. VFW Supports “We Can’t Wait” Initiative: The VFW is calling President Obama’s new “We Can’t Wait” initiative an extremely positive step that will help thousands of service members with manufacturing and other high-demand skills receive civilian credentials and licenses. National Commander Richard DeNoyer said it just makes sense that specialized military training should also meet private-sector standards, such as in the career fields of machinists, welders, plumbers, engineers and logistics specialists, as well as commercial vehicle drivers, paramedics, and airframe and powerplant technicians. With industry now involved in military training standards, the VFW hopes all the states will soon ease their restrictions regarding the portability of licensing and certifications and academic credit. Read more at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/veterans_report_5-31-2012.pdf

3. VOW to Hire Heroes Update: The House VA Committee this week discussed progress being made by VA and Department of Labor’s Veterans Employment and Training in meeting the goals of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act. A critical provision of the law, the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, or VRAP, is set to launch on July 1. VRAP allows qualifying veterans to receive up to 12 months of assistance equal to the full-time Montgomery GI Bill active duty rate. Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) asked senior officials from VA and DOL/VETS to testify on VRAP and how they intend to reach eligible veterans and promote the program for maximum enrollment. The VOW Act authorized 99,000 training positions for veterans under the program. VFW played a critical role in getting this employment legislation passed into law and will continue monitoring its progress. To learn more about the hearing and to learn more about VRAP, click here: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/06/va-and-labor-officials-update-congress.html

4. Servicemember Protection Bills Pass House: VFW-supported legislation designed to protect service members cleared the House on Wednesday. VFW led the way in advocating for H.R. 3670, which was introduced by Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) to close a long overdue loophole in rehiring compliance by the Transportation Security Administration, and H.R. 4201, which helps protect deployed service members in child custody suits. The bills now move to the Senate for action. To learn more about H.R. 3670 and to view Walz’s floor speech on the bill, go to http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/06/house-passes-vfw-supported-bill-to.html. Other transition-related bills awaiting Senate action include: * H.R. 4051, legislation that directs DOL to provide Transition Assistance Program (TAP) benefits to veterans and their spouses outside military installations. The program will be made available in several states selected by DOL based on high rates of veteran unemployment. * H.R. 1263 will provide surviving spouses with mortgage foreclosure protections.

5. North Dakota Reports From the Field: During the Easter congressional recess, leaders from the VFW Department of North Dakota participated in a roundtable discussion on veterans’ issues with Rep. Rick Berg (R-N.D.) and staff members from both North Dakota U.S. Senate offices. To learn more about the roundtable, click here: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/05/field-report-north-dakota-vfw-calls-on.html. To submit your Field Reports for consideration on the VFW Capitol Hill blog, simply fill out our form here: http://www.vfw.org/Forms/Capitol-Hill-Blog-Submissions/, or send photos and stories directly to vfwac@vfw.org.

6. IFA Introduces Veterans’ Toolkit: VFW is looking to work with the International Franchise Association (IFA) in the coming months in hopes of matching veterans up with small business franchising opportunities. The 2012 Military Friendly Franchise list shows that veteran-owned franchise businesses jumped 35 percent to a record 11,469 last year. IFA has launched their Operation Enduring Opportunity campaign as part of their VetFran program to hire and recruit 75,000 veterans and their spouses by 2014. All of the information on their veterans’ programs can be found on their website at http://www.vetfran.com/.

7. Veteran Small Business Owner Resources: With extensive discussion this week on veterans’ employment and continuing work with IFA to help veterans become franchisees, VFW also wanted to highlight several other resources that can help veteran entrepreneurs start their own small businesses and possibly secure federal contracts: * Small Business Administration: SBA offers a variety of tools and resources to veteran entrepreneurs to help get a veteran-owned small business off the ground. These resources are provided regionally through Veterans Business Outreach Centers, or VBOCs. To learn about the services available through VBOCs and to find the center closest to you, visit the SBA’s website at http://www.sba.gov/content/veterans-business-outreach-centers. * Patriot Loans: SBA also offers financing assistance options for veterans who want to start a small business. Patriot Express Loans are available to anyone who has served honorably to help with expenses ranging from start-up costs to major equipment purchases. Learn more at http://www.sba.gov/content/express-pilot-programs. * Central Contractor Registration: Businesses that seek to secure federal contracts, including set-aside contracts for veteran-owned and service disabled veteran-owned small businesses, must register with the federal government’s Central Contract Registration. Start the process at https://www.bpn.gov/ccr/default.aspx. * FedBid is an online marketplace that allows government agencies to identify contractors that can meet their needs. Veteran-owned and service disabled veteran-owned small businesses can register with FedBid for set-aside, competitive or sole-source contracts. The business model is reverse auction, meaning sellers can select to bid on contracts. The government agency, or “buyer,” can select the contractor that meets their need. The cost of utilizing FedBid is factored into the bid. Sellers bidding on federal contracts must be registered with Central Contracting Registration. FedBid is just one of several online marketplaces that help businesses secure government contracts. Learn more at http://www.fedbid.com/.

8. Vietnam MIA Identified: The Defense POW/MIA Office announced the identification of remains belonging to Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Arden K. Hassenger, 32, of Lebanon, Ore. On Dec. 24, 1965, Hassenger, and the crew of the AC-47D aircraft, nicknamed “Spooky,” failed to return from a combat strike mission in southern Laos. After a “mayday” signal was sent, all contact was lost with the crew, and a two-day search for the aircraft and crew was unsuccessful. Read more at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/news/news_releases/

 

VFW WASHINGTON WEEK MAY 11, 2012

VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY
May 11, 2012

In This Issue:
1. House Committee Clears NDAA
2. House VA Committee Discusses Mental Health Staffing
3. VA Funding Clears House
4. VFW Discusses Veterans Transition
5. VA Telehealth Co-pays Eliminated

1. House Committee Clears NDAA: The House Armed Services Committee cleared their version of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Because of your advocacy, the bill does not include controversial TRICARE healthcare premium fees proposed by the administration, but does make some minor changes to retail pharmacy. The cost of generic drugs will stay the same, both in retail ($5 / 30-day supply) and mail-order ($0) — however, formulary drugs purchased in retail will rise from $12 to $17 in retail, and will rise from $9 to $13 through mail order. Non-formulary drugs that are purchased without a medical necessity will rise from $25 to $44 in retail, and from $25 to $43 in mail order. Beginning in FY 2014, all pharmacy benefits will be indexed to annual retire COLA. For example, if these provisions become law and retail, non-generic formulary drugs rise to $17, a 3% COLA increase for FY 2014 would raise the cost in that year to $17.51.
Other VFW-supported provisions include:
* A 1.7% pay increase in pay and extension of bonuses and special pay for service members
* Increased oversight and new regulations and procedures for combating and prosecuting sexual assault in the military
* Cap on number of troops that can be separated from the force in a single year

For details on the entire bill, go to http://armedservices.house.gov/index.cfm/press-releases?ContentRecord_id=c1a26a15-9dd3-4658-abf2-e50d0852ba12.

The House is likely to take up the bill next week. The Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to take up their version before Memorial Day after which it will be sent to the Senate floor. From there, a House/Senate conference committee will need to meet to work out their differences and send an agreement back to both houses for final passage before it can go to the President. Rest assured that we will continue to keep you informed and call up our grassroots advocates through Action Alerts to make our voice heard as the congressional process continues.

To join with us to Protect Military Benefits, click here for our Call to Action: http://capwiz.com/vfw/callalert/index.tt?alertid=61313946

2. House VA Committee Discusses Mental Health Staffing: This week, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing to discuss the findings of a recent VA Office of Inspector General report outlining serious concerns with access to mental health care within VA. At the request of Committee Chairman, Jeff Miller (R-FL) VA Secretary, Eric Shinseki, and Dr. Robert Petzel, Under Secretary for Health, testified for VA. Much of the hearing revolved around the recent announcement that VA would hire 1,900 new mental health staff — 1,600 clinicians and 300 support staff in hopes of meeting the shortfalls across the country. The committee members had many questions about the VA staffing model and whether 1,900 FTE’s is enough to address the current need. VFW intends to keep a close watch on what improvements are made in the delivery of mental health care for our veterans.
To read more about the hearing, visit our blog at http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/05/house-veterans-affairs-committee.html

3. VA Funding Clears House: This week, The House Appropriations’ Military Construction and VA Subcommittee approved funding for VA and military constructions programs. The bill funds VA medical services at $41.4 billion which includes $6.2 billion for mental health care and $5.8 billion for homeless veterans programs and job training services. The bill also provides $73 million for suicide prevention, $220 million for TBI treatment and $250 million for rural health initiatives, The full committee is set to consider the bill before the Memorial Day recess. For more on the bill’s highlights, click here: http://appropriations.house.gov/news/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=294142

4. VFW Discusses Veterans Transition: VFW joined the Volunteers of America (VOA) at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. for a panel discussion on transitional issues faced by today’s veterans. The discussion centered on efforts to advance policy to better serve the nation’s newest generation of combat veterans. Moderator, David Gregory (Meet the Press) pointed out that national media would need to play a critical role in ensuring that veterans’ issues remain at the forefront of the public conscience once the wars end. The VFW has long echoed these concerns, pointing to historical examples of how Americans can quickly forget that the cost of caring for veterans is a true cost of war.
To learn more about the event visit our blog at http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/05/vfw-joins-volunteers-of-america-to.html

5. VA Telehealth Co-pays Eliminated: This week, VA announced that veterans receiving VA in-home care via telehealth will no longer have a co-payment for that service. According to VA this will affect approximately 1,300 telehealth users in FY 2013 where a co-payment would have been required. VA data has shown using technology at home enables patients with chronic health conditions to live more independently while actively engaging in managing their own health care. The revised regulation is effective May 7, 2012. For more information about telehealth within VA click here: www.telehealth.va.gov/
 
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New Hampshire Senators Announce Plans for New Veteran Center

 

SHAHEEN, AYOTTE ANNOUNCE NEW FACILITY FOR NH VETS CENTER

 

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) announced today that the Department of Veterans Affairs will relocate the Manchester Veterans Center to a newly renovated facility in Hooksett.

Earlier this week, Shaheen and Ayotte sent a joint letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki urging his department to approve a contract that would allow the Vets Center to relocate. The Hooksett property was identified nearly 25 months ago, yet delays in the approval process have prevented the relocation from moving forward.

“New Hampshire’s men and women who have served in uniform deserve access to quality, local veterans’ health services,” said Senator Shaheen. “This relocation is long overdue and I’m thrilled that our veterans will soon have a new facility to call their own. They deserve nothing less.”

“The Manchester Veterans Center provides important services for New Hampshire veterans, and I’m pleased that the relocation has finally been approved,” said Senator Ayotte.  “This new facility will help ensure that our veterans, who have sacrificed so much for our country, continue to receive the care they need and deserve.”

 

The current Vets Center in Manchester has had significant safety concerns and is too small for veterans to hold many of their activities. As a result, area veterans have been forced to find alternative spaces to meet. The new center will increase the center’s space from 2,200 square feet to 4,975 square feet and will feature new space for physical therapy, educational activities and group meetings. Both senators have been working with the Manchester VA Center and the regional Health Administration to help secure final approval and approve the site’s relocation.

The full text of the senators’ letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is below.

The Honorable Eric Shinseki

Secretary

Department of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20420

 

Dear Secretary Shinseki:

 

Let us begin by thanking you for your commitment and dedication to serving our nation’s veterans.  In New Hampshire, veterans comprise almost ten percent of our population, and as senators, the two of us have worked closely together to support the work of the Veterans Administration (VA) in ensuring that New Hampshire veterans have the care they need and deserve.

 

We are writing to you today about our concern with a contract currently pending for new space for the Manchester, NH Vet Center.  This new facility will help the numerous veterans currently utilizing the services of the Vet Center and move them out of a facility that is nearly 80 years old.  The contract for a new facility for the Vet Center has now been pending for close to 25 months.

 

Our offices have been contacted by numerous veterans concerned that the current facility has considerable safety issues and cannot accommodate the number of veterans who gather for group sessions.  As a consequence, each month the veterans groups are forced to meet at other locations around the city where space is available.

 

Since November of last year, our staffs have been engaged with the VA Medical Center in Manchester, the VA Integrated Service Network Region1, and their respective contracting staffs to follow-up on the status of this contract in an effort to push it to completion.  The date for approval of the contract has been delayed three times, since our involvement began last year.

 

We ask that the VA complete this long overdue contract as soon as possible.  Our nation’s veterans who have sacrificed so much deserve no less.    We look forward to working with you to ensure we are able to complete this contract and make the new Manchester Vet Center a reality in the near future.

 

Research Roundtable Caps VA Celebration of Women’s History Month

Research Roundtable Caps VA Celebration of Women’s History Month

WASHINGTON — Improving the health and health care of women Veterans is a high priority within the Department of Veterans Affairs, said a panel of leading researchers on March 27.

 

“VA is committed to serving women Veterans and it is our privilege to do so,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.  “We are honored to sponsor research that supports the outstanding care our women Veterans have earned and deserve.”

 

VA’s research commitment is multidisciplinary, covering the areas of biomedical, clinical, health services, and rehabilitation.  To meet the needs of a growing, diverse demographic that spans all generations of women Veterans — from an aging population of WWII Veterans to those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan—the pace of research activity in recent years has greatly accelerated.

 

“From building an extensive research network that supports top notch investigators to providing a strong foundation of knowledge for quality care, VA is addressing the diverse health care needs of this fastest growing segment of the Veteran population,” said Dr. Joel Kupersmith, VA chief research and development officer, who was the opening speaker.

 

Between 2004 and 2008, more research on the health of women Veterans was published than in the previous 25 years combined.  Today, VA supports a significant amount of research on a wide variety of health issues faced by women.  In fiscal year 2011, the agency funded 60 studies for a total investment of more than $12 million.

 

VA women Veteran’s health research focuses on:

  • Returning combat women Veterans – gender differences with regard to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),  post-deployment behaviors, and reintegration;
  • Understanding barriers and improving access to VA health care for women Veterans;
  • Long-term health outcomes of women who served during the Vietnam era;
  • Expanding mental health research including PTSD, substance abuse, and sexual trauma; and
  • Basic research (biomedical) on breast cancer including hormones, regulation, genetic factors, as well as autoimmune diseases

To bolster support for investigators conducting women’s health services research, as well as recruitment and inclusion of women Veterans in a wider array of studies, VA Health Services Research and Development (HSR&D) launched the Women’s Health Research Network (WHRN).  The WHRN includes two partnered components:  the Women’s Health Research Consortium providing training and mentorship to researchers focusing on women’s health research, and the Women’s Health Practice-based Research Network supporting clinical research networks that test VA-based women’s health-related interventions and studies requiring recruitment of women Veterans at multiple sites. The former is headed by Elizabeth Yano, Ph.D., M.S.P.H.; the latter by Dr. Susan Frayne, M.P.H.

“Excellence in health care begins with excellence in research” said Dr. Robert A. Petzel, VA’s under secretary for health. “VA research has put together a solid infrastructure that supports quality health care for women Veterans.”

Joining Kupersmith to discuss the ways VA research improves the health of women Veterans were Dr. Sally Haskell, acting director of Comprehensive Women’s Health for the Women Veterans Health Strategic Health Care Group, and three leading researchers:  Elizabeth Yano, co-director of the VA Health Services Research and Development Center for the Study of Healthcare Provider Behavior at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System; Susan Frayne, associate director for development and staff physician at the Women’s Health Center of Excellence, VA Palo Alto Healthcare System;  and Dr. Donna Washington, M.P.H., program area lead, Women’s Health and Equity Strategic Program, HSR&D Center of Excellence for the Study of Healthcare Provider Behavior and staff physician at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.

The media roundtable culminated a month of activities sponsored by VA to recognize Women’s History Month.  It is the third in a series of media roundtables sponsored by VA’s Office of Research and Development.  For more information about other roundtables, see www.research.va.gov/media_roundtable.  For more information on VA Research, visit www.research.va.gov.

 

VA Gulf War Task Force Report Released

VA Gulf War Task Force Report Released

Report Redefines How Care and Services Are Provided

 

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs has released the second in a series of annual reports from its Gulf War Veterans Illnesses Task Force, outlining how the department will address the concerns of Veterans deployed during the Gulf War of 1990-1991.  The report is available on the Internet at http://www.va.gov/opa/publications/2011_GWVI-TF_Report.pdf.

 

“This report, which considered input from nearly 500 Veterans who responded to the draft report, provides a roadmap for our continued enhancements in the care and services we provide to Gulf War Veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We will also apply lessons learned from this Task Force to our engagement with Veterans of all eras.”

 

VA issued a draft version of this report for public comment on Oct. 21, 2011.  During the 30-day comment period, VA received over 450 comments through a special social media website created for this purpose, along with twenty-five other comments received through mail, e-mail and telephone calls.

 

The chairman of the Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses Task Force is John R. Gingrich, chief of staff at VA, and a retired Army officer who also served in the Gulf War.

 

“Feedback is critical to understand and serve the specific needs of Gulf War Veterans,” said Gingrich. “This valuable input will guide how the task force communicates with Veterans in the future.”

 

The report focuses on efforts to improve the delivery of health care for Gulf War Veterans.  One of the most substantial additions is the launch of a prototype clinical care model specifically for Gulf War Veterans, which is the most critical point of service VA provides.  There are also efforts underway to create better links between specialty knowledge on Gulf War health issues and subject matter experts for health care providers serving these Veterans at the point of care.

 

Gulf War specific research and development is also contributing to clinical practice and clinical education throughout VA.  Two new positions were established in the Office of Research and Development for deployment health and Gulf War health-related issues.  Both positions have been filled, are enhancing research efforts for Gulf War Veterans now, and will continue to do so in the coming years.

 

VA continues to leverage partnerships to improve longitudinal medical surveillance and epidemiology so the department is better able to address the potential health impacts on Veterans from past environmental exposures as well as those on today’s battlefield.

 

VA recognizes that a great number of Gulf War Veterans use the Internet every day to share their ideas and concerns.  In addition to public interaction via social media, the main VA Gulf War illnesses website was recently updated at www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/gulfwar/index.asp.  Veterans can subscribe there to receive future updates.