Motorcycles – retired Navy – fuel exposures. Sonja Skinner says those are three items she added to her profile on VA DoD Veteran Link, a new social networking app just for Veterans and current service members. The app creates a secure, closed community where users can connect and feel comfortable talking about common interests and life circumstances – including any health concerns they may have.
After retiring from the Navy in 2005, Skinner began her second career at VA. Today, she works at the Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Medical Center in Temple, Texas, as a My HealtheVet Coordinator, a VA Online Scheduling Manager and a Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) Representative. She’s busy, but not too busy to help test new VA technologies and apps. She tested VA DoD Veteran Link this past spring.
“I think it’s a good program,” she says. “I’m really excited and hope it takes off.”
Those who engage in the Veteran Link community start by creating a secure profile and sharing as much or as little personal information as they want. The profile then lets users search for other Veterans and service members with similar self-reported diagnoses, military backgrounds or interests.
“You definitely want to fill out your profile. That will help you connect with other people,” Skinner explains. “It would be so cool to find people who were stationed in the same places where I was stationed. Maybe if they’re nearby and like motorcycles, too, we could meet up and go for a ride. Or, because I worked with fuels, maybe I could find someone and see if we’re experiencing the same things.”
The benefit of “shared experiences” is exactly the reason why Dr. John Hixson, a neurologist at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, says he pursued the development of VA DoD Veteran Link.
“I personally believe that the unique value of the Veteran experience is in their community. We know a lot of Veterans come to VA because of the Veteran community, to share stories and socialize with peers. For rural or disabled Veterans, or anyone who cannot easily travel, we have identified a need for, and see the value in, this type of technology.”
How to Sign Up
VA DoD Veteran Link is available through the VA App Store. Veterans can access it from internet-connected desktops, laptops and mobile devices. To join and create a profile, users must have a My HealtheVet Premium Account, DS Logon Level 2 (Premium) Account or ID.me credentials.
Pentagon officials need to do more to make sure civilian health care providers are giving military families good care, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The report, released Sept. 17, found that while military health care officials have created a way to monitor whether families and troops are getting quality care from military treatment facilities, those same benchmarks aren't applied to community-based providers.
"As a result, DoD's senior leadership has limited information on the extent to which Military Health System (MHS) beneficiaries receive consistently high-quality care across the MHS," the report states.
To keep track of health care performance, the Defense Department has two sets of measurements -- one for military treatment facilities and one for civilian care.
But for community-based care, rather than the providers and hospitals themselves, the Pentagon instead reviews the performance of Tricare's two civilian health care contractors, Health Net and Humana, using what's known as the Purchased Care Dashboard. The Pentagon expects those contractors, in turn, to monitor individual doctors and hospitals.
But the providers' performance isn't based off the metrics created by the Pentagon, and details on whether the contracted doctors are providing good care aren't shared with military officials, the report found.
"According to MHS officials, the MHS does not require the contractors to ensure that each individual hospital, physician or other provider in these networks meets the performance standards related to the Purchased Care Dashboard measures," the report states.
And while the contractors are expected to make sure military families are receiving quality care, they aren't required to push out providers who don't perform, it adds.
"In practice, however, MHS officials said, and documents we reviewed show, that providers are rarely removed from the network," the report says. "For example, MHS officials reported that one contractor estimated that one provider was removed from its network over quality issues every one to two years."
Pentagon officials told GAO investigators that they don't require performance reports from individual doctors because they don't want to increase provider workloads. Instead, they said they are creating a series of "value-based" pilot programs that give extra incentives and rewards to providers who have good outcomes.
The GAO found fault with that plan, however, because even when completely in place in 2020, those incentive programs would affect only about 25 percent of care. That means the bulk of patient experiences would be left without DoD oversight.
"Without consistent performance standards and corrective action requirements, DoD is limited in its ability to address variation in the quality of care delivered and help ensure that its beneficiaries receive consistent high-quality care across the MHS," the report states.
Instead, the auditors recommend that the Pentagon fix the Tricare East and West contracts to require action against providers who don't meet the standards.
Defense officials countered that when it comes to the contracts, their hands are tied -- at least for now.
"The Defense Health Agency will hold the contractor to the contractual performance standards, but currently cannot take action against individual providers based solely on performance," Pentagon officials said in a response included with the report.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signed the Department of Veterans Affairs fiscal 2019 budget into law on Friday, giving the department a funding boost of more than 6 percent and pushing the agency’s total spending over $200 billion for the first time.
The president finalized the bill at a ceremony held in the North Las Vegas VA Medical Center, surrounded by federal officials and local Veterans. He praised the massive spending measure as another promise kept by his administration.
“With this funding bill we have increased the VA’s budget to the largest ever,” he said. “We are delivering the resources to implement crucial VA reforms.”
The bill includes $1.1 billion for the start of a VA electronic health records overhaul and $400 million for opioid abuse prevention within the department, both efforts touted by Trump in the past.
The final deal also includes a $1.75 billion increase in money tied to the VA Mission Act, passed at the start of the summer. The legislation will rewrite the department’s community care programs, expanding Veterans ability to access private health care at taxpayer expense.
That money had stalled negotiations on the budget bill for months, and Democrats said they still are not satisfied with the short-term spending plug to cover what is expected to be an even bigger financial hole next year.
“The bill the president signed today leaves a funding gap in May of 2019, expected to grow to more than $8 billion in fiscal year 2020,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement after the signing.
“We do our Veterans no favors when we make promises we do not keep, and I will continue to fight in Congress to make sure they receive the care they deserve.”
The VA funding legislation also includes $10.3 billion in military construction funding for fiscal 2019 as well as the full-year budgets for the legislative branch and federal energy programs.
Trump’s signature came just a day after he blasted a similar sprawling budget package focused on the Department of Defense as a “ridiculous spending bill” because it omitted border wall funding he has demanded from Congress.
The House is expected to finalize that legislation next week. If the president chooses to Veto it, most federal departments would face a partial government shutdown. VA would be exempted from those problems, however, since their fiscal 2019 funding is now in place.
We need bro-Vets. Every culture needs true believers. We need men and women who take such pride in their service they literally wear it on their sleeve. I’ve been in more airports than I like these past few months and if I had a dollar for every Grunt Style shirt I saw, I could have upgraded to first class every time.
On many levels, I understand. I grew up in a household where the walls were covered with scenes from battlefields. The toilet in my high school bathroom faced a print depicting the Battle of Nijmegen. My parents’ dining room walls are covered in the Battle of Little Round Top and a print of Stonewall Jackson praying with his chaplain adorns the fireplace. I spent summers going through my dad’s bookcases; they weren’t stocked with bestsellers but crammed with books on the history of the military art.
I was born into the military, served in it, married into it. I’ve been an Army brat, an active duty service-member, a military spouse, and now, a Veteran. I am proud of my time in the Army. Full stop. No qualifiers, no excuses, no comparisons. Having pride in what you have accomplished is integral to a healthy self-concept.
But there is a fine line between being proud and being prideful.
I recently heard an Army PAO, in her explanation of how she helps bridge the civilian-military divide, state: “Being present in the community we are communicating ‘we are just like them, only we serve our country.’”
The notion that we have cornered the market on service to our nation and therefore are best qualified to speak, is pervasive. Just this week, a former Navy SEAL expressed disapproval for comments made by a current governor. In the first article to break this story, it states “From the viewpoint of a combat Veteran…” and then it goes on to describe the SEAL’s perspective. Without delving into the political aspects of the comments on both sides, service in our armed forces qualifies us for a lot but it doesn’t qualify us for everything — especially being self-righteous arbiters of all that it is right and good. We love “stay in your lane!” until we want to apply it to ourselves.
My feelings about national service aside, a well-transitioned Veteran is the best recruitment strategy for an all-volunteer force — and ‘well-transitioned’ can mean a variety of things. I applaud Veteran entrepreneurship, and if you want to make shirts that say, “for those who have fought for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know,” get after it. That particular shirt is sold out, by the way; it’s appealing to someone, lots of someones, and the sellers are probably laughing their way to the bank.
But I’m also a firm believer in introspection and self-reflection. I genuinely want to know what intention people have when they wear a shirt like that, especially in a place like an airport. Is it because they want to be recognized? Thanked? What about the company? Are they donating and advocating for all of the issues those who “have fought for it” experience? I want Veterans to be successful at all they do — and that includes being good human beings and citizens.
I am more than happy to level equal criticism at a society that has become is apathetic in its understanding of the past 17 years of war. Disengaged and willfully ignorant of foreign and domestic policy, people lack a general desire to contextualize and consider America’s past and present. Yet I see corporations instituting Veteran hiring initiatives, administrations advocating for better opportunities for Veterans in institutes of higher learning, and more than 45,000 Veteran service organizations (VSOs) dedicated (at varying degrees) to helping Veterans — many of these spearheaded by non-Veterans.
Since when did the guys and gals down the street become our brother’s keeper? If I am guilty of anything, it is high expectations. If you want to wear your gun laden shirt, your camo ball cap, and throw around “as a Veteran,” that’s your prerogative. But ask yourself: when was the last time you called a friend you know is struggling? Volunteered for a VSO? Improved your community? Gave to something greater than yourself post-transition? Mentored someone struggling to find a foothold in your profession, class, job market, etc.? Thank you, Gary, for your service, and “what have you done for your country lately” should be the hypothetical interaction pinging around in everyone’s mind.
A ‘bro-Vet’ isn’t the singularity of wearing a questionable shirt or a company that preys on those who wear their version of patriotism like a blanket. It’s the idea that we are perpetuating the notion that we are somehow entitled to more than we are being given. There are some that believe by volunteering for the armed forces, we’ve elevated ourselves so far above the average American and we are no longer responsible for our own trajectory in life. Our government, and society writ large, has an obligation to those that raise their right hand, but that obligation is not a blank check.
When we wear our uniforms, we understand we are representing our service branch, the military, and our country. When you wear a shirt proclaiming your Veteran status, you are doing much of the same. You make yourself an unofficial ambassador of every other Veteran of your age cohort. I don’t mind seeing a Grunt Style shirt at the baggage claim, but next time, take your earbuds out and assist the frail elderly woman trying to lift her bag off the carousel. Who knows: she may turn to you and say, “thank you…for your service.”
Though the Department of Veterans Affairs is underway developing a modernized electronic health record to replace its current, outdated system, there are still years of work ahead of the VA in maintaining its legacy EHR.
The VA plans to open bidding for a five-year contract to manage the IT and data services of its Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture, or VistA, system as early as Friday.
The department released an amended sources sought request for information Monday seeking maintenance and support services for the imaging and architecture operations of VistA. The amended RFI states that the agency expects to submit a request for proposal through the General Services Administration’s IT Schedule 70 on Sept. 21.
The anticipated contract would call for a vendor to provide “technical, managerial and administrative services” for VistA and its imaging systems, which are currently run on Hewlett-Packard servers and OpenVMS operating system.
“The required services include engineering support and engineering changes, updates, repairs and other technical services involving the VistA and VistA Imaging Systems Alpha/Itanium processors, OpenVMS operating systems and ancillary hardware and software as well as providing all support required for maintenance and continuity of operation services, without voiding warrantees and/or the operational integrity of the VistA and VistA Imaging systems across the VA enterprise,” a draft performance work statement says. The contractor would be expected to provide hardware, software, maintenance, help desk and operations support, among other services, as well.
The agency is also continuing its ongoing work to develop a $10 billion EHR system with Cerner, similar to the Department of Defense’s MHS GENESIS system. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie told the American Legion National Convention last month that the VA and DOD will “be joined from the hip” in their development of systems that can seamlessly provide health records across both agencies, a goal that has eluded officials for more than a decade
But in the mean time, the anticipated contract will ensure that the system will continue to operate across 143 VistA-backed facilities across the nation. VA officials have previously said they will continue to maintain VistA over the course of the decade until the new system is complete. Historically, that’s been a costly endeavor. Between 2015 and 2017, maintaining VistA ran the VA about $3 billion in support fees, according to a government watchdog. This contract didn’t yet have a price tag associated with it.
The contract is expected to include a base year, plus four 12-month option periods. The current VistA maintenance contract will expire Oct. 3, so VA wants to award this new contract so there won’t be any lapse in operations.
Five VA hospitals are set to be removed from a list of 15 poorly performing facilities that are considered high-risk, according to an assessment that is set to be released this week by the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to a report Tuesday.
Removing these hospitals from the list would mark an overall improvement in the quality of care that patient's receive at the nation's 146 Veteran hospitals, the Wall Street Journal reports.
VA officials have recognized that it is important to improve care at the facilities as the VA Mission Act, which President Trump signed in June, will allow Veterans to receive care in the private health sector. The VA Mission Act would also allow VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to refer Veterans to other care centers if VA hospitals fall short on quality standards.
The five VA hospitals that showed improvement were part of a program which transferred personnel from centers that performed better on the VA quality care rating system to high-risk centers that performed poorly. The program, additionally, funneled resources into these low-rank centers.
While VA officials mark this as a success for the program, 10 hospitals are poised to remain in the high-risk category. Most VA care centers, however, have recorded improvements in their service quality, which is measured by death rates, complications, patient satisfaction, overall efficiency, and physician capacity under a system called Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning. Only seven have reported declines in care, and only one high-risk facility, located in Washington, D.C., has faced a rate decline.
VA hospitals have shown continuous improvement in their quality of care standards since SAIL data was publicly released in 2015. Top VA officials and health care analysts attribute the success to increased transparency.
The VA quality care rating system ranks centers on a scale of one to five stars, one being a center that performs poorly. VA officials expect the five high-risk hospitals to upgrade to two stars. The 10 remaining low-ranking facilities, officials say, are continuing targets for improvement.
A complaint from a woman who was not provided a tax receipt for a donation to Livingston County's Department of Veterans Affairs has prompted a criminal investigation into the agency and the board that oversees the department.
Livingston County Administrator Ken Hinton said he was made aware of the complaint Aug. 24 and requested additional information before he asked Michigan State Police to investigate about a week later.
"I made a referral based on information provided by the citizen for the Michigan State Police to investigate," Hinton said. "The citizen was having difficulty getting a receipt for a donation from the Veterans department. There was property — items of minor value — and a check for $400."
Hinton said the woman wrote the check directly to a Veterans affairs committee member. He declined to name that person, saying the matter is under investigation.
Hinton said he has not spoken with the committee member regarding the matter and is unsure whether that person is aware of the criminal investigation.
The criminal investigation comes on the heels of criticism of the committee for stockpiling taxpayer money instead of spending it on Veterans services and the firing last month of the agency's director.
Adam Smiddy was terminated as director of the department on a 4-1 vote of the committee Aug. 27, five days after Smiddy said he received the initial complaint from the citizen.
"I believe that my discovery of the information probably led to my termination," Smiddy said Tuesday.
There are five members on the county's Veterans Affairs Committee: Bruce Hundley, Hansel Keene, Kevin Nagle, Joseph Riker and Jim Wallace. All are Veterans appointed to fixed terms by the county's Board of Commissioners.
Riker said he was not aware of the criminal investigation, declined to comment and directed questions to the committee's chairman, Hansel Keene.
"I have knowledge of the investigation, but I would like to stay out of that right now," Keene said Tuesday morning. He declined further comment.
Wallace declined comment. Hundley and Nagle did not immediately return messages left seeking comment.
State police Detective 1st Lt. Tom DeClercq confirmed on Tuesday he has assigned a detective sergeant to conduct a criminal investigation.
"The original investigation was initiated at the Brighton state police post," DeClercq said. "Due to the political nature of this investigation, it was requested that this investigation come out of district headquarters (in Lansing). I accepted and ran with it. There are allegations of fraud... With any allegation we investigate, there needs to be a complainant and a victim and in this circumstance, we have both."
With a background as a certified public accountant, Hinton said he looked at the information provided to him by the citizen as "an irregular transaction."
"It is not my job or responsibility to determine if it is a criminal action, but I felt it was worth it to investigate," he said.
Hinton was unsure whether the Department of Veterans Services has a system in place for recording donations of property, but checks should be deposited into the county account, which would result in a record of the deposit.
In this instance, he said the woman did not write the check to the county, but to the individual and she claimed the committee member "is diverting the money."
Hinton said he did not know the woman making the allegations prior to this incident and was concerned that he had received a communication from her attorney that had incorrect information.
"He said I had made certain statements to her that there wouldn't be an internal investigation and that is false," Hinton said, adding that any internal investigation would commence once the criminal investigation ends.
The committee sets policy for the Department of Veterans Services, which assists about 12,300 county Veterans in a variety of ways, including transportation to medical appointments, filing claims with the federal government for benefits, mental health services, job placement and more.
A millage that took effect in 2017 is intended to help fund those services. The operational millage of 0.139 mills raises just over $1 million a year.
The Veterans Affairs Committee is facing scrutiny over how that money is being used.
Judy Daubenmier, chair of the Livingston County Democrats, issued a statement last week saying the county is "cheating Veterans out of millage services."
She noted that the millage brought in $1,035,190 in 2017 for Veterans services, but the department spent $430,792. This year, the millage raised $1,108,000, she noted, but the department had plans to spend less than half, about $501,000, based on Sept. 10 county budget reports.
Hinton said those numbers "sound accurate," and added that the Veterans services millage fund balance account is roughly $1 million.
"Veterans deserve to receive the services that we taxpayers thought we were paying for, but right now the county is cheating them," Daubenmier said.
On Monday night, Daubenmier asked the Board of Commissioners to increase their oversight of the Veteran services committee.
"Two years ago, we encouraged the millage to provide services for Veterans ... we asked people to vote for it and now we find out the money is not being spent," she said. "The committee members need to be replaced."
Hansel Keene and Bruce Hundley, Veterans Affairs Committee members, both attended the meeting and defended their decision-making.
"Veterans in this county are treated with the highest dignity and respect we can give them," Keene said. "We do not suggest they use taxis or Ubers. You said I don’t care for Vets, I find that appalling..."
Hundley acknowledged someone may have suggested Uber, admitting that Veterans services is "short on drivers."
"I find it offensive (that) at this time of the election cycle, there is a newfound love for Veterans," he said. "I don’t see one person in here who has been at our meetings... We are looking for volunteers to assist with transportation. With everyone here who loves Veterans, I am sure our Facebook and website will be flooded with people who want to support Veterans."
Staffing drops to 1994 levels
Smiddy said Veterans services is the shortest-staffed it has been since 1994.
The 32-year-old Howell husband and father who served in the Army from 2004 to 2013, including two deployments to Iraq and one to Afghanistan, and also served in the National Guard, was hired as Veterans services director in June 2017.
"I liked what I was doing," Smiddy said. "I helped a lot of people and I thought I was doing a good job. I wasn’t going to sacrifice my personal code of ethics to appease this committee."
After he was fired, Smiddy said two other employees, a counselor and a driver, quit.
"The Democrats’ numbers are accurate," he said. "The millage was supposed to fund a certain level of services and the committee is not authorizing those services...The millage promised, staff-wise, a court coordinator, relief fund counselor, three benefits counselors and two part-time drivers. Today there is one relief fund counselor, one benefit counselor, one part-time driver and no director."
Smiddy said the woman made the donation, which included a $400 check, two new vacuum cleaners and a riding lawnmower, in November. He said he approached the committee member to whom the woman wrote the check to ask about the donation. He said he was told that $125 was used for a Veterans plaque, while the lawnmower was scrapped at a fellow committee member's scrapyard and the vacuum cleaners were still in his possession. Smiddy said the committee member did not have an accounting for the remainder of the cash, which he said had not been reported to the department.
"I asked (the committee member) for his quick side of the story and how to proceed to satisfy the donor... He didn’t offer to give anything to the department," Smiddy said. "I told him I needed the receipt from the scrapyard, and the vacuums he could bring to the department. I asked him to bring those on a Friday and I got fired three days later."
On Tuesday, Keene defended the department's spending decisions, saying it was up to the director of Veterans services to bring forward programs for the committee's approval.
Keene said he was not sure if the budget figures confirmed by Hinton were accurate.
DeClercq said the detective sergeant assigned to the investigation had begun requesting financial documents and he hoped to have the investigation completed within two to three weeks.
WASHINGTON -- Five low-performing Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals have improved enough in the past six months to no longer qualify as high risk, the VA announced Tuesday.
The VA hospitals in Dublin, Ga.; Harlingen, Texas; Roseburg, Ore., Nashville and Denver were removed from high-risk status based on new performance statistics released Tuesday.
The statistics, called the Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning, or SAIL, score hospitals based on 25 categories, including patient satisfaction, overall efficiency and death rates. The scorecards are used to rank hospitals using a star system -- one star being the worst and five the best.
Last year, 15 hospitals, including the facilities in Dublin, Harlingen, Nashville, Roseburg and Denver, received one-star ratings. The VA in February announced an "aggressive new approach" to improving those hospitals, which included more direct oversight from VA headquarters.
At the 15 hospitals, 26 managers and senior leaders were removed -- a result of "close scrutiny of performance trends," said VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour.
The five hospitals removed from the high-risk list are on track to rise to two stars when the new star ratings are released, Cashour said. The new star ratings are expected to be made public before Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.
Nine other VA hospitals are still designated as high risk. Those facilities are located in Hampton, Va.; Big Spring and El Paso, Texas; Jackson, Miss.; Loma Linda, Calif.; Memphis and Mufreesboro, Tenn.; Walla Walla, Wash., and Phoenix.
One hospital that made the high-risk list has gotten worse. The Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center was elevated to "critical" in July after a quarterly review found conditions had deteriorated.
The D.C. hospital has been under scrutiny since last year, when the VA inspector general warned of widespread failures that put Veterans at risk. The warning prompted former VA Secretary David Shulkin to fire the hospital director. Since then, a series of temporary directors have led the facility.
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said Aug. 7 that he would soon announce a new, permanent leader for the hospital. As of Tuesday, he had yet to name a replacement.
Keith Thompson earns top honors at National Veterans Wheelchair Games Dislocated shoulder during games
Army Veteran Keith Thompson (pictured above) is no stranger to conquering life’s challenges.
A 2006 motorcycle accident left the former firefighter in a 27-day coma and paralyzed from the waist down. Not one to be kept down, Thompson strives to be the best at everything he does and that paid dividends at this year’s National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG) held in Orlando, Florida.
Thompson was awarded the prestigious Spirit of the Games trophy, an award presented to “the Veteran that through their athletic achievement, leadership and support of their fellow Veterans exemplifies the values of the games.”
To illustrate the award’s significance, Thompson was selected from the record-setting 611 athletes that participated in this year’s games and is the 32nd recipient since the award’s creation in 1987. The theme for this year’s games was “Conquer the Challenge,” and that’s exactly what Thompson did.
“There are no limits,” said Thompson. “My wife told me I can do anything I want. I just have to do it from a chair.”
Thompson defines the word competitor. He’s competed in various events over his NVWG career including archery, trap shooting, air rifle, air pistol, 9-ball, shot put, discus, javelin, boccia ball and softball.
Played through multiple injuries
While at this year’s games, Thompson attempted to catch a softball hit his way when he fell out of his chair and dislocated his shoulder. Also, in 2016, Thompson competed at the NVWG despite having a broken wrist and torn rotator cuff after being rear-ended by a distracted driver. He truly knows no limits.
“We are all at the games to compete and leave our best on whatever field we play on,” Thompson said.
Thompson was introduced to Carl Vinson VAMC when he accompanied a friend to the medical center to check on the status of his benefits. Tamara Jackson, administrative officer for acute care, suggested Thompson also apply for benefits and suggested the Sandersville, Ga. resident consider recreation therapy. It wasn’t long before recreational therapist Charlene James urged Thompson to try adaptive sports and in 2011, he attended his first NVWG.
When he’s not practicing for the games, Thompson spends time with his wife of 17-years, Janice, and managing his medical transportation service, 3D Enterprises.
Keith Thompson is no stranger to life’s challenges. However, he is an example all people can emulate when striving for something that seems unobtainable.
In the midst and aftermath of Hurricane Florence, service members and their families living in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia may experience challenging living conditions and may be displaced from their homes. Given the uncertainty of Florence’s final path and potential secondary impacts of hurricanes, those in other states may be affected as well. Access to emergency response resources can make a critical difference for those impacted by the hurricane and providers and commands should encourage service members, Veterans and military families to leverage all available resources.
General Hurricane Assistance and Information
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – Hurricane Florence(link is external)
- Registration: https://www.disasterassistance.gov/(link is external) or 1-800-621-3362 (en espanol)
- FEMA App: https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app(link is external)
- Red Cross(link is external) (en español)
- National Hurricane Center(link is external) (en español)
- USA.gov Hurricane Recovery Resources(link is external)
- Department of Homeland Security Twitter(link is external)
Military-specific Information and Resources
- Tricare Disaster Alert Hurricane Florence(link is external)
- Information regarding emergency prescription refills and the process for getting a referral requirement waived
- Military One Source: Before-and-After Steps and Resources for Disasters(link is external)
- Defense Department News Special Reports
- Red Cross for Military Families(link is external) (en español)
- The American Legion's Family Support Network(link is external)
- VFW National Home For Children(link is external)
- American Bar Association Military Pro Bono Center(link is external)
- Ready Military Family Preparedness(link is external)
Air Force Resources
- Ready Air Force(link is external)
- Air Force Aid Society(link is external)
- Air Force Personnel Accountability and Assessment System(link is external)
- Army Public Health Center Hurricane and Typhoon Preparedness and Response (link is external)
- Army OneSource online(link is external)
- Army Emergency Relief(link is external)
- Army Disaster Personnel Accountability and Assessment System (ADPAAS)(link is external)
- Army Info Hotline: 1-800-833-6622
Navy/Marine Corps Resources
- Ready Navy(link is external)
- Ready Marines(link is external)
- Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society(link is external)
- Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System (NFAAS)(link is external)
Coast Guard Resources
- Hurricane Florence Updates – U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs(link is external)
- Department of Veterans Affairs Facebook Page(link is external)
- Department of Veterans Affairs Twitter Page(link is external)
- Child-focused Resources
- National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Hurricane Resources(link is external)
- American Psychological Association (APA): Tornados, Hurricanes, and Children(link is external)
- Sesame Street Emergency Toolkit(link is external) (en espanol)
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Responding to Children's Emotional Needs During Times of Crisis(link is external)
Information for Psychological Health Providers
After natural disasters, such as damaging hurricanes, it is common and normal to experience many different emotions. Individuals may report a range of emotions, such as feeling sad, overwhelmed, shocked, helpless, “numb,” distracted, or fatigued. Some may experience intrusive, repeated images of what they have seen. These responses are to be expected, and for most individuals, the symptoms will fade with time. However, if symptoms do not abate within several weeks or if they contribute to unhealthy coping responses (such as increased alcohol or substance use), it may be beneficial for these individuals to seek help and support from their health care provider.
Psychological health providers should be ready to offer support following hurricanes, as needed. In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, they can provide psychological first aid(link is external), which is an evidence-informed approach to reduce initial distress and to foster adaptive functioning. They can also help educate their patients on normal responses to extreme stressors, such as experiencing a hurricane, and help patients to move forward. These resources provide additional information on post-disaster psychological health support:
- National Center for PTSD(link is external) Psychological First Aid: Field Operations Guide
- American Red Cross: Recovering Emotionally(link is external)
- APA: Managing Stress After Hurricanes(link is external)
- Disaster Behavioral Health Resources(link is external)
- Real Warriors Campaign: Understanding and Coping with Natural and Human-made Disasters(link is external)
Creason is a contracted licensed clinical psychologist on the evidence-based practice team at the Psychological Health Center of Excellence. She has a doctorate in counseling and human systems and a master of public health in maternal and child health.