Veterans-For-Change.org

VFC Visitors Counter

005542329
TodayToday312
YesterdayYesterday1122
This WeekThis Week1434
This MonthThis Month1434
All DaysAll Days5542329
Highest 06-21-2016 : 17814
IP: 35.172.150.239
Logged In Users 0
Guests 34
Registered Users 1894
Registered Today 0

Latest News

VA News

City spending on Veterans spikes as services decline

Spending on Vets Spikes

 

The budget for the city’s Veterans services agency ballooned nearly 70 percent in the last fiscal year, but homeless ex-military members got less housing and other services, City Hall’s own stats show.

The Veteran Services Department spending grew from $3.6 million to $5.4 million this year, but it placed 7 percent fewer homeless Veterans in housing and provided 6 percent fewer Veterans supportive services — a downtick activists attribute to Hizzoner’s absenteeism during his failed presidential run.

“It certainly has not been helping anyone that Mayor de Blasio has been absentee these last many months, and it has been crystal clear that the only Veterans he prioritizes are the ones he’s met with on campaign stops outside of NYC,” said Kristen Rouse, director of the NYC Veterans Alliance.

In May Rouse blasted de Blasio for sitting down with Nevada Vets, when he’d never held a similar meeting with his own constituents.

The report attributes the housing dip to staff vacancies that have since been filled.

“For years, DVS has struggled to build a cohesive team without dedicated human resources staffing and other key administrative roles needed to establish clear roles, procedures, and basic infrastructure for a healthy, thriving agency,” Rouse said.

“The metrics listed in the MMR for DVS are truly disappointing, but not altogether unsurprising,” she added, referring to the Mayor’s Management Report for the Department of Veterans Services.

The only bright spot for the agency was a 7 percent increase in Veterans “reached by the community engagement team,” according to the report.

A DVS spokeswoman said the agency opened two supportive housing complexes with a total 130 units this summer, which is not reflected in the report.

The spokeswoman, Alexis Wichowski, attributed the large budget boost to the addition of an HR department at the agency, which was created by Mayor de Blasio in 2016.

“DVS works tirelessly to ensure that NYC Veterans and their families are housed and connected to appropriate resources. As a result of our continuous data collection, analysis, and subsequent improvements, DVS is now on track to house a record number of homeless Veterans this year and connect even more NYC Veterans and family members to services,” Wichowski said.

There are about 210,000 former service members living in the five boroughs, the majority of whom are Vietnam War Veterans.

Source

VA concedes its debt collection systems leave Veterans confused, frustrated

Collection Systems

 

Veterans Affairs officials acknowledged to lawmakers that the department’s debt collection practices remain “too clunky and too confusing” to ensure families aren’t left in financial jeopardy. And they promised additional reforms within the next year.

“We are too often fragmented, uncoordinated and highly variable in our processes,” said Jon Rychalski, chief financial officer for the Department of Veterans Affairs, told members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Thursday. “Frankly, we have a way to go before we can declare success.”

Last fiscal year, VA overpayments to Veterans totaled roughly $1.6 billion, on par with mistakes in previous years.

The cases include mistakes in disability payouts after beneficiary information is updated, payments that conflict with other federal benefits like drill pay, changes in college enrollment that lower GI Bill eligibility, and simple math errors by department employees.

Officials from Veterans Education Success said one in four recipients of GI Bill benefits face some time of overpayment-related debt.

The department sent out more than 600,000 debt collection notices to Veterans and their families in fiscal 2018 in an effort to recover the money. Members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee said too often they hear from Veterans who face significant financial hardship as a result of those actions, even when they incur the debt through no fault of their own.

“VA has a lot of work ahead to reduce the number of overpayments sent to Veterans,” said Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H. “Receiving these notices of balance due can prove particularly burdensome to Veterans living on fixed incomes.”

VA has changed policies in recent years that required withholding future checks until the debt was fully repaid, instead opting for automatic 12-month repayment plans to ease the burden.

But lawmakers and outside advocates said in many cases the debt — which often tops $2,500, according to committee statistics — is still too large to comfortably deduct from monthly payouts.

“The resultant debts owed by Veterans often cause severe financial hardships for Veterans and their families,” said Shane Liermann, deputy national legislative director for benefits at Disabled American Veterans.

“In many cases, the burden of repaying these debts can negatively impact a Veteran’s quality of life, put them at risk of homelessness and affect their access to VA health care.”

Lawmakers pressed VA on making hardship waivers for debt collection easier to obtain, and for broader use of VA’s authority to wipe out the debt completely.

Rychalski said officials have to balance their responsibility to taxpayers to recover overpayments with Veterans’ financial health, but said the department is reviewing how cases are handled to see if systemic changes are needed.

He said within the next year he expects VA to offer a new online portal where Veterans can monitor any outstanding debts, and new department policies to minimize the number of debt notices sent to Veterans from various sub-agencies within VA.

The department is also targeting a new online debt payment system within the next three years. Rychalski acknowledged that timeline is slower than many would like, but said the process will require coordinating a host of aging computer systems.

Lawmakers urged more speed on the solutions.

“The clock is running,” Pappas said. “Every day this isn’t enacted is a day where a Veteran is potentially put in dire financial straits.”

Source

Vet arranges flag honor for doc’s life-saving work

Flag Honor

 

Bronx VA psychiatrist-researcher cited for work in suicide prevention

Project Life Force helps Veterans cope with suicidal urges

“You often hear negative news about the VA, specifically related to suicide. We don’t recognize the hard work and achievements of our providers, which is why I wanted to honor Dr. Goodman. Sometimes we need to recognize good work in the news.”

Those are the words of Iraq combat Veteran Wilfredo Santos, a patient at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx, New York. He took it upon himself to arrange for formal honors for a VA clinician he credits with saving his life.

The life-saving work took place not in an emergency room or surgery suite, but in classrooms at the Bronx VA where groups of Veterans—including Santos—meet on a regular basis. They talk about their problems, their challenges and their experiences in wanting to take their own lives. The idea of the program is to bring together Vets who have a recent history of suicidal thinking or behavior and provide them with group psychotherapy. They use peer support and revise their safety plans as they add the skills they are learning.

The format, known as Project Life Force, was spearheaded by Dr. Marianne Goodman. She’s the associate director of the New York Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC), based at the Bronx VA. She is also a professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Project being expanded to other VA sites

The model she pioneered has been expanded to a few other VA sites so far—Kansas City, Albany and Syracuse. It is being tested in a VA-funded randomized clinical trial at the Bronx and Philadelphia VA medical centers. The study will include 265 Veterans.

With the help of Santos’ congressman, Rep. Jose Serrano, a flag flew over the U.S. Capitol in Goodman’s honor on June 1. Goodman received the flag in a ceremony at the Bronx VA in August.

Santos, an Army mechanic who deployed to Iraq during 2008 and 2009, says Project Life Force has been a life-saver for him and his peers.

“We communicate with other Veterans in the room to offer support and generate ideas on how to distract yourself so you don’t hurt yourself. We truly use our suicide safety plans and make them part of our everyday lives.”

Veterans in suicide support group feel someone understands

Group sessions for Veterans with issues like PTSD or anger are common in VA, but Goodman has been breaking new ground by running groups for suicidal Veterans. Some experts fear that having suicidal patients mix and share their thoughts and feelings could actually increase risk. Goodman and her team have found otherwise. She says the very power of the intervention appears to be the group.

“Veterans no longer feel alone,” she says. “They feel someone understands their impulses and urges.”

As for the flag honor that Santos initiated, Goodman takes it as a sign of the impact of Project Life Force: “The flag and the dedication on Capitol Hill are an incredible honor. It’s a great feeling to know that our work is helping Veterans find meaning and purpose in their lives.”

Source

VA under pressure to ease medical marijuana rules

Marijuana Rules

 

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is under pressure to ease restrictions on Veterans’ access to medical marijuana to help treat pain and other ailments.

Veterans advocacy groups want to know if marijuana can treat chronic pain, as well as help address widespread suicides among Veteran communities.

While 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, Veterans are finding themselves fighting stigma and roadblocks from the federal government’s drug laws.

Under official federal policy, VA health care providers may not recommend marijuana or assist Veterans in obtaining it. The VA also won’t reimburse Veterans who pay for marijuana out-of-pocket.

Marijuana is a Schedule I drug, meaning it is in the same category as drugs like heroin and LSD. According to the federal government, it has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical value. Until that classification changes, the VA has said its hands are tied.

“[The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee] can make strong proposals for us to move forward with recommendations of filling out forms and such but, in the end, we need to go back to the [Drug Enforcement Agency] DEA and [Justice Department] for their opinion,” Larry Mole, chief consultant for population health at the VA, said during a House hearing in the spring.

That opposition is frustrating members of Congress and some leading advocacy groups, and there is a growing bipartisan push to ease the prescribing ban, as well as force the agency to conduct research into the drug’s efficacy.

Both the American Legion, the country’s largest Veterans organization, and Veterans of Foreign Wars support research into the medicinal uses of cannabis. They have made the issue a top legislative priority.

“If there’s a viable medical treatment available to civilians, it’s not just inappropriate, it’s patently unjust that Veterans don’t have access to it,” said Lindsay Rodman, an executive vice president at the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, which represents the country’s youngest Veterans.

Despite an existing VA directive, Veterans risk having a negative mark in their permanent records if they are flagged using legal medical marijuana.

Former VA Secretary David Shulkin said it would be safe for Veterans to talk about marijuana with their providers. But Veterans groups argue there’s still a stigma, and some Vets are reluctant to bring up the issue.

Pending legislation in the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee could help.

One bill, sponsored by Reps. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) and Clay Higgins (R-La.), would require the VA to conduct research on the effects of medicinal cannabis on Veterans diagnosed with chronic pain and PTSD.

Another bill from Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) would ensure that the VA secretary won’t deny a Veteran benefits because the Veteran participates in a state-approved marijuana program.

Steube said Veterans are getting caught between the states and the federal government, and he wants to change that.

“Veterans who were taking advantage of this state-approved program were having challenges with the VA and their benefits with the VA. There was a lot of confusion,” including cases where Veterans were being told they would lose benefits, Steube told The Hill.

“If we have Veterans who have gone through the process ... they shouldn’t be denied that health care they’ve earned just because they were taking advantage of state-approved medicinal marijuana programs,” he said.

Another bipartisan bill from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) would allow VA doctors to give recommendations and opinions to Veterans regarding participation in state marijuana programs.

Blumenauer withdrew a similar amendment from the annual House spending bill in June, but his legislation remains active in the committee.

VA leadership strongly opposes all the bills, and advocates admit that even if the legislation passes the House, Senate Republicans will be reluctant to buck the administration.

“We are realistic it will be a much more difficult problem to pass it in the Senate than the House,” Rodman said.

Other marijuana legislation that’s not specific to Veterans could still help Veterans gain access. For example, Steube also introduced a bill to reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I controlled substance to a Schedule III controlled substance, to make it easier to research.

VA officials have said that the department supports medical marijuana research, and the agency is conducting some trials.

But the studies are small-scale, and lawmakers want the agency to go further. They argue the VA has the authority to allow rigorous clinical trials but is using bureaucratic red tape as an excuse.

“We authorized VA last year to do the studies. They didn’t do it,” Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) said during a recent hearing. “We need to make sure that they have to study [medical marijuana]. I just don’t think we as politicians should be telling scientists how to design the studies.”

The federal government has put significant restrictions on cannabis research. Scientists need permission from a host of federal agencies to start the research, including the Food and Drug Administration, the DEA and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Even then, there is only one facility in the country that is allowed to grow marijuana and distribute it for research purposes, and there have been concerns raised that the marijuana grown at the facility is poor quality.

The VA has also in the past declined to participate in FDA-approved private sector research on medical marijuana and Veterans’ post-traumatic stress disorder, and has blocked researchers from having access to VA hospitals and Veterans who might benefit from the research.

But advocates insist they’ll keep up pressure on the VA.

Veterans groups say it doesn’t matter what the research concludes. They say they just want the VA to be able to conduct it, and they want Veterans to be able to talk to their providers about whether they should be using marijuana.

Source

VA concedes its debt collection systems leave Veterans confused, frustrated

VA Debt Collection 001

 

Veterans Affairs officials acknowledged to lawmakers that the department’s debt collection practices remain “too clunky and too confusing” to ensure families aren’t left in financial jeopardy. And they promised additional reforms within the next year.

“We are too often fragmented, uncoordinated and highly variable in our processes,” said Jon Rychalski, chief financial officer for the Department of Veterans Affairs, told members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Thursday. “Frankly, we have a way to go before we can declare success.”

Last fiscal year, VA overpayments to Veterans totaled roughly $1.6 billion, on par with mistakes in previous years.

The cases include mistakes in disability payouts after beneficiary information is updated, payments that conflict with other federal benefits like drill pay, changes in college enrollment that lower GI Bill eligibility, and simple math errors by department employees.

Officials from Veterans Education Success said one in four recipients of GI Bill benefits face some time of overpayment-related debt.

The department sent out more than 600,000 debt collection notices to Veterans and their families in fiscal 2018 in an effort to recover the money. Members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee said too often they hear from Veterans who face significant financial hardship as a result of those actions, even when they incur the debt through no fault of their own.

“VA has a lot of work ahead to reduce the number of overpayments sent to Veterans,” said Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H. “Receiving these notices of balance due can prove particularly burdensome to Veterans living on fixed incomes.”

VA has changed policies in recent years that required withholding future checks until the debt was fully repaid, instead opting for automatic 12-month repayment plans to ease the burden.

But lawmakers and outside advocates said in many cases the debt — which often tops $2,500, according to committee statistics — is still too large to comfortably deduct from monthly payouts.

“The resultant debts owed by Veterans often cause severe financial hardships for Veterans and their families,” said Shane Liermann, deputy national legislative director for benefits at Disabled American Veterans.

“In many cases, the burden of repaying these debts can negatively impact a Veteran’s quality of life, put them at risk of homelessness and affect their access to VA health care.”

Lawmakers pressed VA on making hardship waivers for debt collection easier to obtain, and for broader use of VA’s authority to wipe out the debt completely.

Rychalski said officials have to balance their responsibility to taxpayers to recover overpayments with Veterans’ financial health, but said the department is reviewing how cases are handled to see if systemic changes are needed.

He said within the next year he expects VA to offer a new online portal where Veterans can monitor any outstanding debts, and new department policies to minimize the number of debt notices sent to Veterans from various sub-agencies within VA.

The department is also targeting a new online debt payment system within the next three years. Rychalski acknowledged that timeline is slower than many would like, but said the process will require coordinating a host of aging computer systems.

Lawmakers urged more speed on the solutions.

“The clock is running,” Pappas said. “Every day this isn’t enacted is a day where a Veteran is potentially put in dire financial straits.”

Source

VA launches groundbreaking training program to fully leverage new electronic health record solution

DVA Logo 32

 

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently launched an innovative new training program to support its electronic health record modernization (EHRM) effort that, as of Sept. 12, had selected 76 trainees who have begun projects that address real-world VA health care challenges.

Leveraging the experiences of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) current EHR rollout, VA developed the VA Innovative Technology Advancement Lab (VITAL) training program, recognizing the importance of providing advanced training to selected end users who will support continuous performance improvement.

“VA established VITAL to specially train staff who can identify possible challenges and work across the entire VA organization to make improvements,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “VITAL is an important component in our larger training strategy, which will help ensure efficient and timely user adoption of the modernized EHR system.”

The new EHR solution will be the single source of Veteran health information. Its advancements will allow users who solve a problem at one facility to share the solution with other facilities in near real-time. The VITAL program, a 12-18-month training series, develops both the technical and supporting change management skills necessary to drive greater efficiency and effectiveness in all aspects of Veteran health care.

VA identified key clinical and frontline staff who require advanced training to ensure smooth EHR modernization implementation, enhance functionality and support continuous performance improvement.

In May 2018, VA awarded Cerner Corp. a contract to replace the department’s legacy patient record systems with the commercial-off-the-shelf solution currently being deployed by DOD. A single interoperable solution across VA and DOD will facilitate the secure transfer of active-duty service members’ health data as they transition to Veteran status. This modernization effort will create a lifetime of seamless care for service members and Veterans.

For more information about VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization program, visit www.ehrm.va.gov.

Source

VA receives highest accolades for service from J.D. Power

DVA Logo 31

 

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy (CMOP) initiative recently received the highest overall customer service satisfaction score in the nation for its mail order pharmacies.

The score is based upon the 2019 U.S. Pharmacy Satisfaction Study released Aug. 20 by J.D. Power, an independent national consumer group.

“J.D. Power has scored VA’s CMOP as highest in overall customer service satisfaction nine out of the past 10 years,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “These results demonstrate VA’s commitment to ensuring that our nation’s Veterans are receiving the best possible service for prescriptions delivered directly to their homes.”

VA’s CMOP system includes seven highly automated pharmacies. The study is based on responses from 12,059 pharmacy customers who filled a prescription three months prior to the survey period of May-June. J.D. Power compared large-scale mail order pharmacies and scored VA 906, out of scale of 1000.

The VA CMOP dispensed more than 122 million outpatient prescriptions in 2018 to Veterans, representing approximately 80% of all outpatient prescriptions dispensed to Veterans via the mail order program.

The entire J.D. Power consumer study is available at J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Pharmacy Satisfaction Study.

Source

VA-distributed video tablets deliver telehealth to Veterans

VA Telehealth 01

 

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was recently recognized in studies by two independent peer-review journals — JAMIA Open and Psychiatric Services — for efforts to deliver trusted, easy access and high-quality online health care services to Veterans with complex health care needs or residing in remote areas.

The department’s tablet program is one part of VA’s extensive telehealth program. The VA’s use of technology to enhance care options for Veterans is supported by the VA MISSION Act.

“Telehealth technology remains a vital platform to provide high-quality health care to all Veterans, regardless of challenges they may face in accessing care,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “VA’s tablet program is a model that other networked health care systems across the country can mirror, and demonstrates the potential of telehealth capabilities in the years to come.”

According to the JAMIA Open study published Aug. 5, VA’s initiative to distribute video telehealth tablets to high-need patients appears to have successfully reached Veterans with social and clinical access barriers, including Veterans in rural areas and patients with mental health conditions.

The study published by Psychiatric Services, Aug. 5, validates that the initiative also appears to improve access and continuity of mental health services of Veterans with mental health conditions. Furthermore, researchers discovered that VA’s efforts are improving clinical efficiency by decreasing missed opportunities for care.

Learn more about VA Telehealth Services.

Source

Anger as VA evicts lawmakers from medical center offices

VA Evicts Lawmakers

 

Several members of Congress from Florida are accusing the Veterans Affairs officials of trying to limit oversight into department operations by evicting them from offices at local VA medical centers, limiting their ability to interact with Veterans.

But VA Secretary Robert Wilkie insists there is no truth to that claim, and that the move is being made to provide more space for Veterans medical services. He accused lawmakers of making “misleading public statements” about the moves in an effort to create unneeded controversy.

The dispute began last week, when Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., went on Fox News to complain that he had been told to clean out his satellite congressional office at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center by December, so officials could reclaim the space.

Mast, an Army Veteran who lost both his legs in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2010, blasted the move as an attempt to cut down on lawmakers’ visibility of potential problems at the facility.

“We need to flip that place upside down in order to change the whole climate of what’s going on there,” he told the network. “And if the people in charge aren’t willing to do that, then they’re not doing the right thing.”

Fellow Florida Democratic Reps. Darren Soto and Stephanie Murphy said they both have been given similar reasons for VA shutting down their offices at the Orlando Veterans Affairs Medical Center. They have also requested top VA officials reconsider the decision.

VA officials said six lawmakers with offices at local medical centers have been told their spaces will be reclaimed, as part of an effort to “maximize clinical space.” In a letter to Mast last week, Wilkie criticized the congressman’s reaction as off-base and unhelpful to Veterans.

“You falsely implied that you could not conduct congressional oversight and constituent services from your district or Washington-based offices,” Wilkie wrote.

“You are one of only six members of Congress who currently have office space in a VA facility. None of the other 529 members, all of whom conduct oversight and constituent services, are making such demands.”

Lawmakers conceded that VA is not required to make the space available to them, but said the eviction runs counter to publicly stated goals of transparency and reform at the department. Wilkie dismissed those concerns, saying the department “is more transparent and accountable than ever before.”

The issue is likely to come before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, which in recent months has raised its own complaints about a lack of cooperation from VA officials in providing information on key programs and personnel. VA leaders have disputed that, saying they have provided all of they documentation available upon request.

Mast and other lawmakers said they are also considering legislation to force a return of the space to interested members of Congress.

Source

Senior VA leaders disciplined after ant infestation at nursing home

Discipline

 

Veterans Affairs officials are disciplining nine department workers — including the regional director for three southeastern states — in response to ant-infested conditions at a department-run community center in Georgia uncovered earlier this month.

Officials have also promoted the head of the VA medical center in Charleston, S.C., to take over as acting regional director immediately and lead reform efforts at facilities across that part of the department’s health network.

“What happened at (the community center) was unacceptable, and we want to ensure that Veterans and families know we are determined to restore their trust in the facility,” Dr. Richard Stone, executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, said in a statement. “Transparency and accountability are key principles at VA, and they will guide our efforts in this regard.”

Last week, lawmakers reacted with horror at local news reports that at least three patients suffered injuries from numerous insect bites at the Eagle’s Nest Community Living Center near Atlanta. The family of one Veteran (who later died from unrelated causes) said their complaints about the conditions were met with apathy from center staff.

Among the staff disciplined for the incident Tuesday were Leslie Wiggins, Veterans Integrated Service Network 7 director, who was placed on “immediate administrative leave.” The VISN Chief Medical Officer was also assigned to administrative duties, pending a review of safety issues in the network.

Seven staff connected to the infested facility and the Atlanta VA Medical Center were also moved into non-patient care positions, pending job reviews.

The news comes amid a series of high-profile, unsettling medical problems at VA hospitals in recent weeks. Last month, a former VA pathologist in Arkansas was charged with three counts of involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of former patients. Officials in West Virginia are also investigating a series of suspicious patient deaths at a VA medical center there.

Days after that news became public, officials announced they had opened an investigation into a series of sexual assault claims at another West Virginia medical center.

VA officials have insisted that they are moving quickly on all of the incidents to ensure patient safety is not compromised.

Last week, in a statement to local news, officials at the Atlanta VA Health Care System said that the convalescent care center underwent a full cleaning following the revelations of insect problems.

VISN 7 covers facilities in Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama.

Source

Copyright © 2016. All Rights Reserved.