Veteran Athletes Prepare for National Veterans Wheelchair Games

WASHINGTON – Across the nation, Veterans are preparing for the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games.  The Games, representing the largest annual wheelchair sports event in the world, are presented by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Paralyzed Veterans of America. More than 500 Veterans from across the United States, Puerto Rico and Great Britain are expected to compete in the event, taking place July 13-18, 2013, in Tampa, Fla.

“The National Veterans Wheelchair Games provide an incredible opportunity for Veterans who have been training and competing all year to showcase their talents on the world’s stage,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “VA is committed to world-class care for our Nation’s Veterans and we encourage them to use adaptive sports as a key component of their physical rehabilitation.  These athletes, more so than anyone, know the healing power of competition and camaraderie that this event provides.”

The games are open to all U.S. military Veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition due to spinal cord injuries, neurological conditions, amputations or other mobility impairments. The 33rd Games will be co-hosted by the James A. Haley VA Medical Center and the Paralyzed Veterans of America, Florida Gulf Coast Chapter.

“Participating in the Games is a truly life-changing experience for seriously injured Veterans of every generation,” said Bill Lawson, U.S. Army Veteran and National President of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “Please take a moment to tell disabled Veterans in your neighborhood about the Games. Encourage them to get involved. We can’t wait to welcome them to the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Tampa this summer.”

Competitive events will take place at the Tampa Convention Center, Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, Pin Chasers Bowling Lanes, Clearwater Long Center, Raymond James Stadium, Silver Dollar Shooter’s Club, Jefferson High School, Hillsborough Community College and the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The 33rd Games will include competitions in 18 different events such as swimming, basketball, table tennis, archery, and wheelchair slalom, which is a timed obstacle course. The athletes compete in all events against others with similar athletic ability, competitive experience or age.

In addition to the competitions and the opening and closing ceremonies, the Games will include a “Kids Day at the Games” on Monday, July 15, at Jefferson High School.  Local children with disabilities will have the opportunity to interact with the athletes, participate in sporting events, and watch the Veterans compete.

The public is invited to attend any of the sports competitions throughout the week of the Games, and admission is free.  Up-to-date information is available on the official National Veterans Wheelchair Games website, www.wheelchairgames.va.gov.

VA Approves $28 Million in Grants for Homeless Veterans

 

September 19, 2012

WASHINGTON—The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has approved $28.4 million in grants to fund 38 projects in 25 states and the District of Columbia that will provide transitional housing to homeless Veterans.  Among these 38 projects, 31 will provide temporary housing to homeless Veterans with the goal that they will retain the residence as their own.

“As we drive toward our goal to end homelessness among Veterans by 2015, VA continues to find innovative ways to permanently house Veterans who were formerly homeless,” said VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki. “Under President Obama’s leadership, we have made incredible strides in creating programs to aid these brave men and women who have served our Nation so well.”

Thirty-one of the grants were awarded through VA’s Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program’s (GPD) “Transition in Place” model.  The program allows Veterans the opportunity to take over payment of a lease instead of moving out after using VA services—substance use counseling, mental health services, job training and more. Other VA programs require Veterans living in transitional housing to move out after 24 months.  A list of the grant recipients can be found at:  http://www.va.gov/HOMELESS/GPD.asp.

GPD helps close gaps in available housing for the nation’s most vulnerable homeless Veterans, including women with children, Indian tribal populations, and Veterans with substance use and mental health issues.

Those receiving funding have undergone a rigorous review by teams of experts rating each application under objective criteria to ensure that those funded have the ability to provide the services described and a solid plan to get these Veterans into housing with a high probability of obtaining residential stability and independent living.

“Securing permanent housing is a vital step in the journey of our homeless Veterans,” said Dr. Susan Angell, executive director for VA’s Veterans Homeless Initiative. “This is the last piece of the puzzle, and it is crucial for them in continuing to lead independent lives.”

Community-based programs funded by GPD provide homeless Veterans with support services and housing. GPD grants are offered annually as funding is available by VA’s National Homeless Program.

Lisa Pape, national director of homeless programs for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), which oversees GPD, said VHA’s focus is creating and strengthening community services around the country so that homeless Veterans get the support they need.

“Our focus is creating a team of community support—pairing a variety of services, such as mental health support, employment assistance and job training with the essential component of housing,” said Pape. “Whether it is aid in overcoming substance use or finding a job, a community helping hand is exactly what these Veterans need to lead a better quality of life.”

On a single night in 2011, a national count of homeless Veterans totaled 67,495, 12 percent lower than 76,000 in 2010. As part of Obama and Shinseki’s five-year plan to eliminate Veteran homelessness by 2015, VA has committed almost $1 billion to strengthen programs that prevent and treat the many issues that can lead to Veteran homelessness.

These awards follow closely with a notice VA published asking interested organizations to submit a nonbinding letter of intent to the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program to apply for initial and renewal supportive services grants  by Sep. 28, 2012.  The SSVF Program in the first 10 months of operation has assisted more than 28,000 Veterans and their families to prevent or rapidly end homelessness.  Letters of intent have no impact on the opportunity for entities to apply when funding availability is announced.  These letters of intent will help VA gauge interest in the SSVF program as it seeks to make access to SSVF services available throughout the country.  VA anticipates announcing a Notice of Funding Availability in the new fiscal year.

Additional information can be obtained at:

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2012/08/23/2012-20761/letter-of-intent-to-apply-for-funding-available-under-the-supportive-services-for-veteran-families#h-5

 

Mortgage Relief for Servicemembers

 

A new program was unveiled in June 2012 that could help tens of thousands of veterans and servicemembers who are struggling with underwater homes. The program expands the national mortgage settlement that the government previously reached with some of the largest banks, and it steps up enforcement of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).

These are key changes for servicemembers who often have to relocate more frequently than their civilian counterparts because of the demands of military life. About 33% of active duty personnel <http://www.consumerfinance.gov/pressreleases/consumer-financial-protection– bureau-and-prudential-regulators-issue-joint-guidance-to-address-mortgage-se rvicer-practices-that-impact-servicemembers/>  are required to relocate each year. These continuous moves can leave them more vulnerable to a drop in housing prices. This new program will help alleviate that pressure.

The government is particularly concerned about firms that required servicemembers to waive rights they have as members of the military before the firms would offer assistance. In some cases, servicemembers were advised to stop making mortgage payments, and then suffered harm for doing so.

The new relief is a joint effort of many agencies and departments, including the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Department of Defense.

FHFA Acting Director Edward DeMarco explained the importance of the new programs, saying in a press release <http://www.fhfa.gov/webfiles/24026/CFPBFinalwFS.pdf>  that: “It is in everyone’s interest for the men and women serving in our armed forces to focus on the important job they are doing defending our country, rather than worry about the maintenance and leasing of a property in another jurisdiction.”

SCRA Relief

The key SCRA-related components of the program that offer relief to servicemembers include:

*        Compensation for Wrongful Foreclosures: Every servicemember that suffered a foreclosure since 2006 (when the housing market collapsed and house values plummeted) will have his or her file reviewed. The review will be performed under the supervision of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the review will determine if the foreclosure violated the SCRA. If any violations are found, the mortgage lenders will be required to pay significant compensation to parties that they damaged. The White House stated that the damages will be either:

o    The servicemember’s lost equity, plus interest, and an additional $116,785; or

o    An amount provided for the same violation as a result of a review conducted by the banking regulators.

*        Compensation for Excessive Interest: Any servicemember that was charged more than the 6% limit set by the SCRA is entitled to compensation equal to four times the excess interest they were charged. Again, the DOJ will supervise the review done by the mortgage lenders. *        Foreclosure Protection and Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger Pay: No matter when their mortgage was secured, all servicemembers are protected from foreclosure for nine months from the time that they received Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger Pay, as long as they were stationed away from their home.

The White House urged any servicemembers or their dependents who feel that their rights under the SCRA were violated to contact their nearest Armed Forces Legal Assistance office. Office locations can be found online <http://legalassistance.law.af.mil> , by clicking on the Legal Services Locator.

Permanent Change of Service

Some of the new protections are specific to servicemembers with a PCS. Because a PCS often requires a quick move, servicemembers are especially vulnerable to financial harm, even moreso if they owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth and can only sell their home by doing so at a loss.

Richard Cordray, the director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) said, <http://www.consumerfinance.gov/pressreleases/consumer-financial-protection– bureau-and-prudential-regulators-issue-joint-guidance-to-address-mortgage-se rvicer-practices-that-impact-servicemembers/>  “Those who serve our country deserve to be given the best service by their mortgage servicer. Permanent Change of Station orders can complicate a servicemember’s homeownership decisions in ways that civilians may not experience. This guidance provides specific notice to mortgage servicers that this country already has substantial laws in place to help military members in this still-recovering housing market.”

PCS considered a Hardship- If you have a loan that is backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and you have a PCS, you will have the ability to sell a primary residence that was purchased before June 30, 2012 for less than you owe on your mortgage balance. You do not have to be behind on your mortgage or in default. If your home sells for less than you owe, you won’t be responsible for the remaining balance – as long as have a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan. You can check online to determine if either Fannie Mae <http://www.fanniemae.com/loanlookup/>  or Freddie Mac <http://www.freddiemac.com/mymortgage/>  backs your loan.

Increased Funding for the Veterans Housing Benefits Program

In addition, mortgage lenders agreed to fund $10,000,000 into the Veterans Housing Benefits Program. This program offers loans to veterans at very favorable interest rates and terms.

Summary

The White House intends this relief offered to veterans and servicemembers, including the ones harmed by wrongful foreclosures and excessive interest, to be part of its coordinated effort to improve the economy by expanding refinance opportunities through the HARP program and reducing fees for the FHA streamlined refinance program. Regardless, every veteran and servicemember should be sure to take advantage of all relief programs for which they qualify.

 

 

PROJECT HOPE FREE WEEKENT RETREATS FOR COMBAT VETERANS

Project New Hope Inc offers “free” weekend Retreats for combat veterans and their families to include Gold Star & Survivor families throughout New England.  Please visit your state web site to find out more information about Project New Hope Inc and upcoming Retreats and other activities.   www.Projectnewhopema.org (Massachusetts) www.projectnewhoperi.org (Rhode Island) www.projectnewhopect.org (Connecticut) www.projectnewhopevt.org (Vermont) www.projectnewhopenh.org (New Hampshire) www.projectnewhopeme.org (Maine)   Best,   Bill Moore, M.A., President Project New Hope Inc P.O. Box 91 Leicester, Massachusetts 01524 Phone: (508) 713-3362 Web Site: www.projectnewhopema.org E-Mail: bmoore@projectnewhopema.org

 

VA Supports Gulf War Veterans on Multiple Fronts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 7, 2012

 

VA Supports Gulf War Veterans on Multiple Fronts

 

It has now been 22 years since the start of the 1990-1991 Gulf War which comprises the deployment and combat operations known as Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Almost 700,000 Servicemembers were deployed during this period. Those Veterans who have enrolled in the VA health care system have made over 2 million outpatient visits for health care and had over 20,000 inpatient admissions in the VA health care system.

 

“The Department of Veterans Affairs has not forgotten the service and dedication of Gulf War Veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We continue to provide high-quality health care and benefits to them while we invest in research that helps us understand and treat Gulf War Veterans’ illnesses.”

 

In support of care and services to the Veterans of the first Gulf War, VA has led efforts to better understand and characterize Gulf War Veterans’ illnesses and to improve treatment.   Research initiatives have included:

 

  • Funding an independent Institute of Medicine (IOM) review of scientific and medical research related to treatment of chronic multi-symptom illness among Gulf War Veterans.  The report is expected in 2013.

 

  • Funding and encouraging a wide spectrum of research focused on identifying new treatments to help Gulf War Veterans, including studies on pain, muscle and bone disorders, autoimmune disease, neurodegenerative disease, sleep disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory problems, and other chronic diseases.   Research is ongoing in other conditions, as well, that may affect Gulf War Veterans, such as brain cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS), and multiple sclerosis.

 

  • Launching in May 2012, the third follow-up study of a national cohort of Gulf War and Gulf War Era Veterans (earlier studies were conducted in 1995 and 2005; the health surveys are done to understand possible health effects of service and guide health care delivery).

 

  • Continuing the clinical, research, and education activities of the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center program which focuses on post-deployment health.

 

VA is also improving care and services for Gulf War Veterans through initiatives outlined in the 2011 GWVI Task Force Report. These include the evaluation of a clinical care model specifically for Gulf War Veterans and of enhanced education for health care providers about Gulf War Veterans’ concerns.  Additionally, a VA Gulf War Research Strategic Plan has been developed to address effective treatment for the symptoms experienced by some Gulf War Veterans and to guide efforts toward improvements in diagnosis, the understanding of genetic and biologic factors related to Gulf War Veterans’ illnesses, and the application of research findings in Veterans’ health care.

 

VA provides care for Veterans of all eras as part of its mission.  VA operates the nation’s largest integrated health care system.  With a health care budget of more than $50 billion, VA expects to provide care to 6.1 million patients during 920,000 inpatient hospital admissions and nearly 80 million outpatient visits during 2012.  VA’s health care network includes 152 major medical centers and more than 800 community-based outpatient clinics.

For more information on Gulf War Veterans’ illnesses, see: http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/gulfwar/.

 

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New Website Honors Service Members’ Valor

WASHINGTON, July 25, 2012 – The Defense Department unveiled a new website today that honors service members’ highest acts of valor.

The site — at http://valor.defense.gov — is designed to raise awareness of service members’ heroism and to help deter those who falsely claim military honors, officials said.

Recognizing those who have served so honorably remains the crux of the DOD effort, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said. “One of the most important things we can do for all veterans is to honor the service of those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty,” he added.

Ultimately, officials said, the intent of the website will be to honor soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who received the highest valor awards in operations since Sept. 11, 2001. These are the Medal of Honor, service crosses and the Silver Star. The listing covers only awards since Sept. 11, 2001. The site currently lists only those awarded the Medal of Honor, and will expand to include the other awards, officials said.

“It is essential that we honor and recognize our service members’ achievements, while maintaining the integrity of our award data,” said Erin C. Conaton, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. “We are working quickly to compile accurate information on the heroes of the post-9/11 conflicts. At the same time, we will work with the military services to identify and seek to address the challenges associated with compiling data from earlier conflicts.”

Defense Department News Through Facebook On American Forces Press Service’s Facebook page, you can post comments and share news, photos and videos. Go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/American-Forces-Press-Service/65137437532 or search for American Forces Press Service at Facebook.com.

Get the help you, your family, and fellow servicemembers need, when you need it. Visit www.WarriorCare.mil to learn more.

Check out the National Resource Directory at www.nationalresourcedirectory.org , a new web-based resource for wounded, ill and injured service members, veterans, their families, families of the fallen and those who support them from the Departments of Defense, Labor, and Veterans Affairs.

This service is provided to you at no charge by U.S. Department of Defense. Visit us on the web at http://www.defense.gov/ .

Updates from the U.S. Department of Defense