Best Friend’s Home Health is Helping America’s Heros

 Best Friend's Home Health is Helping America's HerosFernandina Beach, FL – In an effort to continue their focus on providing community based services, Best Friends Home Health & Companion Care has obtained a contract with the Veteran’s Administration to offer home care services to veteran’s and their surviving spouse.

Jamie Deonas, Founder and CEO of the local home health company, explains the importance of this new service. “These services will allow veteran’s to receive skilled home care, homemaker, and health aide services while remaining in the comfort of their home.” Deonas continued, “Who better to serve than our own American hero’s?”

Based upon certain qualification criteria, the VA offers several programs that can reimburse Veterans for home care services as well as respite care for veterans and their family caregiver.

Best Friend’s Home Health & Companion Care serves Nassau, Duval, Clay, Baker,and St. John’s counties. For more information, please contact them at (904) 277-0006 or visit them online at www.BestFriendsCompanionCare.com.

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Town Hall Meetings Continue at VA Facilities Nationwide

Town Hall Meetings Continue at VA Facilities Nationwide
Washington DC – Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald has directed all Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare and benefits facilities to continue to hold quarterly town-hall events to improve communication with, and hear directly from, Veterans nationwide. This follows the recent completion of town-halls at these facilities held between August and the end of September of this year.

“Every one of our medical centers and regional benefits offices held town hall meetings around the country in August and September, but we have more listening to do to better serve Veterans and their families,” said Secretary McDonald. “As part of our Road to Veterans Day, VA is taking a hard look at everything we do in order to reorganize the Department around the needs of Veterans. Direct feedback from Veterans, employees and stakeholders is an important component of that Roadmap, and key to improving our services and operations,” Secretary McDonald added.

Details of events at each location will be forthcoming from local facilities. Additionally, VA is looking to continue to improve the town hall notification process, making sure we have the benefit of extensive local input. In addition to Veterans and their families, the quarterly meetings are open to Congressional stakeholders, Veterans Service Organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations and other community partners.

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Power of 1 Helps Veterans in Crisis

Power of 1 Helps Veterans in CrisisWashington – Nationwide Efforts Show how “The Power of 1” can help Veterans, Servicemembers in Crisis.

One small act could save the life of a Veteran or Servicemember in crisis – that’s the inspiration behind “The Power of 1” campaign. The campaign will launch this September during Suicide Prevention Month and is a joint project coordinated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

“The campaign emphasizes the effect that just one person, one conversation, or one act can have on the life of a Veteran or Servicemember by offering hope and opening the door to support,” said Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy, Interim Under Secretary for Health. “It also is designed to spread the word about VA and DoD mental health resources and suicide prevention efforts.”

A new public service announcement, “The Power of 1,” will reinforce this message by focusing on the small, everyday actions that can play a pivotal role in improving a Veteran’s life. It will be broadcast on television and radio stations Nationwide during September. In addition, a Suicide Prevention Month Web page, VeteransCrisisLine.net/ThePowerof1, offers interactive tools to learn more about the Veterans Crisis Line and how small acts make a difference.

“Sometimes, when we suspect a Veteran or Servicemember in our lives may be going through a crisis, we are unsure how to help — but we all have the power to take the first step to reach out, to find time in our day to talk with the Veterans close to us and see how they’re doing,” said Dr. Caitlin Thompson, Deputy Director of VA’s Suicide Prevention Program. “It takes only a moment, and just one small act can start them down the path to getting the support they need.”

VA will also collaborate with community organizations throughout the month, with specially trained suicide prevention coordinators in 151 VA Medical Centers across the Nation spreading the word at local events, sponsoring health fairs, and working with DoD to help

Veterans and Servicemembers get the support they deserve. In addition, VA will coordinate with local and regional groups — including community partners, Veterans Service Organizations, health care providers and prominent Veteran supporters — to spread the word about VA’s mental health resources. Together, this network will encourage Veterans and the people in their lives to educate themselves about suicide risk, identify warning signs and learn the steps to take in a time of crisis.

Those steps include contacting the Veterans Crisis Line or using its online chat and text-messaging services for free, confidential support from specially trained and experienced responders. Veterans, Servicemembers and anyone concerned about them can call the Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255 and Press 1), chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or send a text to 838255 — even if they are not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care. All Veterans Crisis Line resources are optimized for mobile devices.

“Taking that first step to connect with someone in crisis can feel daunting, but the Veterans Crisis Line offers support for those concerned about a loved one,” Thompson said. “One call, one chat, or one text can open the door to hope.”

To learn more about the Veterans Crisis Line or to find a local VA suicide prevention coordinator, visit VeteransCrisisLine.net. For more information about VA mental health resources, visit mentalhealth.va.gov.

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A Teacher and the Missing School Desks

 A Teacher and the Missing School DesksThe original author is unknown:

In September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a History teacher at Robinson High School in Little Rock, did something not to be forgotten. On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she removed all of the desks in her classroom.

When the first period kids entered the room they discovered that there were no desks. “Ms. Cothren, where are our desks?”

She replied, “You can’t have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk.”

They thought, “Well, maybe it’s our grades.”

“No,” she said.

“Maybe it’s our behavior.” She told them, “No, it’s not even your behavior.”

And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period. Still no desks in the classroom. Kids called their parents to tell them what was happening and by early afternoon television news crews had started gathering at the school to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her room.

The final period of the day came and as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the desk-less classroom. Martha Cothren said, “Throughout the day no one has been able to tell me just what he or she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. Now I am going to tell you.”

At this point, Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it. Twenty-seven (27) U.S. Veterans, all in uniform, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The Vets began placing the school desks in rows, and then they would walk over and stand alongside the wall. By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place those kids started to understand, perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how the right to sit at those desks had been earned.

Martha said, “You didn’t earn the right to sit at these desks. These heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you. They went halfway around the world, giving up their education and interrupting their careers and families so you could have the freedom you have. Now, it’s up to you to sit in them. It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens. They paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education. Don’t ever forget it.”

By the way, this is a true story. And this teacher was awarded the Veterans of Foreign Wars Teacher of the Year for the State of Arkansas in 2006. She is the daughter of a WWII POW.

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Obama Nominates Procter and Gamble Exec as Next Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Obama Nominates Procter and Gamble Exec as Next Secretary of Veterans AffairsWashington DC – Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D. Gibson today released the following statement after President Obama’s announcement that he intends to nominate former Proctor & Gamble chief executive Robert A. McDonald to be the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

“I have been close friends with Bob McDonald for over 40 years; I welcome his nomination with the utmost enthusiasm,”” said Acting Secretary Gibson. “He is an exceptional person—a great leader, a skilled manager, an extraordinarily talented executive of great experience, and a man with the strongest moral compass. I will do everything I can to help him be successful, and I expect the same to be true for our dedicated VA workforce.

“Personally, professionally, and on behalf of Veterans and all of our VA employees, I look forward to Bob’s speedy confirmation, and to working closely with him and the rest of our VA leadership team toward restoring the public trust in VA by providing Veterans and their families the very best in timely care and benefits.”

Acting Secretary Gibson’s full message delivered to VA employees is below:

Message from the Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Sloan D. Gibson

Today, after a careful search, President Obama announced his intention to nominate former Proctor & Gamble chief executive Robert A. McDonald to be the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

I have been close friends with Bob McDonald for over 40 years; I welcome his nomination with the utmost enthusiasm. He is an exceptional person—a great leader, a skilled manager, an extraordinarily talented executive of great experience, and a man with the strongest moral compass.

All of those attributes contributed to his rise through the ranks to the top spot at P&G, a Fortune 50 company with more than 120,000 employees. Under his stewardship, P&G consistently ranked among the best companies in the world for leadership development, being twice named best company for leaders by Chief Executive Magazine.

Bob graduated from West Point in the top 2 percent of his class and served five years in the U.S. Army. He was a captain in the 82nd Airborne Division before leaving the Army to join P&G. He is a Life Member of the U.S. Army Ranger Association and the 75th Ranger Regiment Association.

His commitment to Veterans is deeply personal. His father served in the Army Air Corps just after World War II. His wife’s father was shot down over Europe during World War II and ended the war as a POW. Her uncle was exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam and still receives treatment from VA.

With his years of executive success and principled leadership philosophy, stressing caring for others and personal ethics—choosing “the harder right instead of the easier wrong,” in words he often quotes from the West Point Cadet Prayer—he is an inspired and inspiring choice to lead VA through this period of restructuring and reform.

The planned nomination of Bob McDonald to be the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs is a very positive step. I will do everything I can to help him be successful, and I expect the same to be true for our dedicated VA workforce.

Personally, professionally, and on behalf of Veterans and all of our VA employees, I look forward to Bob’s speedy confirmation—and to working closely with him and the rest of our VA leadership team toward restoring the public trust in VA by providing Veterans and their families the very best in timely care and benefits.

Sloan D. Gibson, Acting Secretary

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Transparency Ordered for VA Wait Times

Transparency Ordered for VA Wait TimesActing Secretary Gibson Continues to Provide Transparency on Wait Times

Washington DC – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released its bi-monthly data update showing progress on VA efforts to accelerate access to quality health care for Veterans who have been waiting for appointments.

Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D. Gibson announced that VA outreach has now extended to nearly 140,000 Veterans across the country to get them off of wait lists and into clinics for medical appointments. VA also released the latest updated, facility-level patient access data.

“In many communities across the country, Veterans wait too long for the high quality care they’ve earned and deserve,” said Acting Secretary Gibson. “We’ve reached out to nearly 140,000 Veterans to get them off wait lists and into clinics, and there is more work to be done. As we continue to address systemic challenges in accessing care, these regular data updates enhance transparency and provide the most immediate information to Veterans and the public on improvements to Veterans’ access to quality health care. We are fully committed to fixing the problems we face in order to better serve Veterans. We must restore the public’s trust in VA, but more importantly, we must restore the trust of our Veterans who depend on us for care.”

The latest patient access data is available at www.va.gov/health/access-audit.asp.

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Veterans Health Facilities Endure Monthly Site Inspections

Veterans Health Facilities Endure Monthly Site InspectionsActing Secretary Gibson initiates monthly site inspections across Veterans health facilities to restore integrity to scheduling process.

WASHINGTON – Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D. Gibson today directed all Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Medical Center and Health Care System Directors to conduct monthly in-person reviews of scheduling practices in every clinic within their jurisdiction. Site inspections will include observing daily scheduling processes and interacting with scheduling staff to ensure all policies are being followed to deliver Veterans the timely care they have earned.

“Our top priority is getting Veterans off of wait lists and into clinics,” said Acting Secretary Gibson. “We need our folks in the facilities to work directly with staff, answer all questions, and ensure our Veterans receive the timely care they have earned. Veterans must trust their health care system, and these reviews are an important step towards restoring integrity in all our scheduling activities.”

In addition to monthly reviews of over 900 Veterans Health Administration facilities nationwide, Veterans Integrated Service Network Directors will also conduct similar visits to at least one medical center within their area of responsibility every 30 days, completing visits to all medical centers in their network every 90 days.

This action follows the VA’s release of results from its nationwide Access Audit, along with facility-level patient access data.

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VA Guidance to Same-Sex Married Couples

VA Guidance to Same-Sex Married CouplesWASHINGTON – After close consultation with the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is providing guidance to same-sex married couples on the benefits and services to which they are entitled under current laws and regulations.

“VA worked closely with DOJ to develop guidance to process cases involving same-sex marriages and to implement necessary changes swiftly and smoothly in order to deliver the best services to all eligible Veterans,” said Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D. Gibson.

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which governed the definitions of “marriage” and “spouse” for all federal agencies. However, there remain certain provisions of federal law governing Veterans’ benefits and services that, like DOMA, define a spouse as a member of the opposite sex. In September 2013, the U.S. Attorney General announced President Obama’s directive to cease enforcement of those VA-specific definitional provisions.

However, another provision of the law governing VA – 38 U.S.C. § 103(c) – requires the Department to look to the place of residency rather than the place of celebration to determine whether a Veteran’s marriage is recognized for the purposes of VA benefits. This statutory requirement to look at the laws governing marriage in the place where the Veteran or Veteran’s spouse resided at the time of the marriage or at the time they filed their claim or application precludes VA from recognizing certain same-sex marriages, such as when a couple has never lived in a state that recognizes same-sex marriages. VA has worked with DOJ to develop guidance to process claims and applications for same-sex married couples while still following the statutory requirement to look to the place of residency.

VA is committed to treating all Veterans and their spouses as equally as possible under the law. Since the Windsor decision, VA has worked with DOJ to develop guidance to process claims and applications for same-sex married couples while still following the statutory requirement to look to the place of residency. Importantly, the administrations within VA will aim to apply the same level of scrutiny to all Veterans’ marriages, regardless of whether it is a same-sex or opposite-sex marriage. VA will therefore process claims and applications involving same-sex marriage in the same manner that VA processes claims based on opposite-sex marriage without any additional scrutiny or development. This means generally that VA will accept a claimant or applicant’s assertion that he or she is married as sufficient evidence to establish a Veteran’s marriage for the purpose of VA benefits. VA has made efforts to ensure that claimants will not be negatively impacted as a result of the time that has passed while developing this guidance.

VA is now processing all claims and applications involving same-sex marriages that were previously being held by the program offices. VA launched a new website and is continuing to update forms to inform Veterans and beneficiaries of the recent changes in the law and procedures. The new website provides important information to help Veterans and beneficiaries understand the eligibility requirements under federal law and VA regulations, and answers frequently asked questions.

“Our commitment to provide all eligible Veterans and their families with their earned care and benefits will continue to be our focus as VA begins recognizing same-sex marriages to the extent the law will allow.” Gibson said. “We will work with lawmakers to address the changes that are necessary to allow all veterans and their families to access the benefits they have earned and deserve.”

Veterans can learn more about VA’s guidance regarding same-sex marriages at http://www.va.gov/opa/marriage/ or by reaching out to one of our Call Centers at 1-800-827-1000.

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Vet Law 2014

Vet Law 2014WASHINGTON DC – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today hosted the first national forum for law schools and legal organizations that provide free legal help to Veterans.

Called Vet Law 2014, the forum welcomed attorneys, law students and legal aid organizations that provide pro bono services to Veterans, especially homeless Veterans and those at risk of becoming homeless.

“The unmet legal needs of Veterans are one of the root causes of homelessness,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “Working with partners in law schools and the legal community, we can improve the lives of these vulnerable Veterans.”

The forum is designed to educate legal providers on the most pressing legal needs of Veterans. VA officials and Veterans Service Organizations shared best practices for providing legal and benefits assistance to Veterans. The forum built on the partnerships at 45 VA medical facilities across the nation, which have housed legal service clinics since 2011.

“We are pleased that so many law schools and legal groups have joined us in this effort to assist Veterans with their legal issues and their applications for benefits,” Shinseki said.

Issues on the agenda includde legal assistance for eviction and foreclosure prevention; child support issues; outstanding warrants and fines; accessing public benefits; guardianship; clearing up bad credit; expunging criminal records; and family law matters, such as child support, child custody and divorce.

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VA Researchers Receive Nation’s Top Award for Early Career Scientists

VA Researchers Receive Nation's Top Award for Early Career ScientistsWASHINGTON DC — Four Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) researchers were among the 102 recipients of the 2012 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) honored at a ceremony held April 14th. The PECASE is the highest honor conferred by the U.S. government on federal researchers in the early stages of their careers.

“These four VA scientists truly embody the spirit and intent of the PECASE,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “In addition to making important contributions to our understanding of Veterans’ health and provision of treatment, they are also adding to the body of scientific knowledge in their chosen fields of study.” Joining fellow award recipients from 11 other federal agencies and institutes as well as the intelligence community were VA investigators Dr. Karunesh Ganguly, San Francisco VA Medical Center; Dr. Brian P. Head, VA San Diego Healthcare System; Dr.Katherine M. Iverson, VA Boston Healthcare System; and Dr.Hardeep Singh, Michael E. Debakey (Houston) VA Medical Center.

The ceremony took place at the White House.

Ganguly was recognized for his work on human learning vs. machine learning. His efforts to develop brain-machine interfaces—a technology that promises to enable those with permanent disabilities to control prosthetics will improve the function and quality of life of Veterans and others following spinal cord injury, stroke, or amputation.

Iverson was honored for her studies regarding intimate partner violence (IPV) among women Veterans. Her work regarding the clinical importance of IPV screening has provided a foundation for better IPV detection and treatment and has informed emerging VA policy’

Head was nominated for research that may soon lead to gene therapies that treat a variety of nervous system disorders. His work holds great promise for helping those with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, patients recovering from stroke, and Veterans with traumatic brain injury.

Singh was nominated for studies using VA electronic medical data to improve patient safety and healthcare quality. In addition to developing novel methods for reducing diagnostic errors by alerting health professionals to abnormal test results, he has worked toward improved detection and understanding of patient safety issues in the VA outpatient setting.

“We are proud of these young researchers and the outstanding contributions they’ve made to Veterans’ health,” said Dr. Robert Petzel, VA Under Secretary for Health. “Their work exemplifies the many ways VA Research improves the lives of Veterans and the Nation.”

Established in 1996, the awards are given each year for “innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology” and a commitment to community service. VA, which has the largest integrated health care system in the country, also has one of the largest medical research programs. This fiscal year, nearly 3,500 researchers will work on more than 2,200 projects with about $586 million in direct funding from VA. Additional research is conducted under VA auspices by VA-affiliated investigators with funding from non-VA sources, such as the National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense, and various private and nonprofit organizations.

For more information on VA Research, please visit www.research.va.gov, or follow us at www.facebook.com/varesearch and on Twitter @VAResearch.

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VA Initiative Shows Promise in Reducing Opioids for Chronic Pain

VA Initiative Shows Promise in Reducing Opioids for Chronic PainThe Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has initiated a multi-faceted approach to reduce the use of opioids among America’s Veterans using VA health care. The Opioid Safety Initiative (OSI) is a comprehensive effort to improve the quality of life for the hundreds of thousands of Veterans suffering from chronic pain.

Launched in October 2013 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, OSI is already demonstrating success in lowering dependency on this class of drugs. At eight sites of care in Minnesota, OSI practices have decreased high-dose opioid use by more than 50 percent. OSI incorporates the team approach with the goal of reducing opioid use by alleviating a Veterans’ pain using non-prescription methods. There is an emphasis on patient education, close patient monitoring with frequent feedback and Complementary and Alternative Medicine practices like acupuncture.

“We have developed and implemented joint pain management guidelines which encourage the use of other medications and therapies in lieu of habit forming opiates,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “Early results give us hope that we can reduce the use of opioids for Veterans suffering with chronic pain and share these best practices across our healthcare networks.”

The Opioid Safety Initiative faces the challenge of opioid dependency with an innovative and comprehensive plan that closely monitors VA’s dispensing practices system-wide and coordinates pain management to include patient and provider education, testing and tapering programs, and alternative therapies like acupuncture and behavior therapy.

Veterans enrolled in the VA health care system suffer from high rates of chronic pain. Each VA facility employs personnel including Interdisciplinary Pain Medicine Specialty Teams and Consult Services, Facility Pain Committees, Pharmacy staff and Primary Care/PACT, and other professionals to accomplish the goals and objectives of the OSI.

VA has developed patient management initiatives including Pain Coach, which is a pain management app available for download by patients receiving pain management treatments, a Veterans’ Health Library, including a Patient/Family Management Toolkit, and resources for Pain Management on My HealtheVet. All of these applications allow Veterans to better manage their pain without the use of opioids. VA’s measurement-based pain care includes the “Pain Scale,” which reduces uncertainty and helps Veterans by discussing the potential benefits of a medication and possible side-effects.

“The Opioid Safety Initiative is an example of VHA’s personalized, proactive and patient-centered approach to health care. We are also using a full-range of support treatments for Veterans, including Complementary and Alternative Medicine,” said Dr. Robert Petzel, VA’s Under Secretary for Health. “We are delivering health care with the patient’s long-term personal health goals at the forefront.”

For further information, Veterans should contact their primary care health team. To learn more about VA health care, visit www.va.gov.

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