Archives for July 2012

Study Finds Observation as Effective as Surgery in Early Prostate Cancer

Study Finds Observation as Effective as Surgery in Early Prostate Cancer

July 30, 2012

 Men Treated Surgically Have No Greater Lifespan in 15-Year Follow-Up

WASHINGTON — A major federal study led by the Department of Veterans Affairs found no difference in survival between men with early-stage prostate cancer who had their prostate surgically removed and those who were simply watched by their doctors, with treatment only as needed to address symptoms if they occurred.

“The study results have significant implications for a great number of Veterans in our care,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “This study is a prime example of how VA’s research program is advancing medical knowledge in areas that are top priorities for Veterans.”

The findings appeared in the July 19 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Our data show that observation provides equivalent length of life, with no difference in death from prostate cancer, and avoids the harms of early surgical treatment,” said lead author Dr. Timothy Wilt.  Wilt is with the Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, and the University of Minnesota.

The randomized trial involved 731 men and took place at 44 VA sites and eight academic medical centers nationwide.  Eligible trial participants voluntarily agreed beforehand that to take part in the study they would be randomly assigned to one treatment or the other.

Known as the Prostate Cancer Intervention Versus Observation Trial, or PIVOT, the study was conducted and funded by VA’s Cooperative Studies Program, with additional funding from the National Cancer Institute and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The first trial group had a radical prostatectomy—surgical removal of the walnut-sized prostate.  Surgery is generally performed in the belief it can lower the risk of prostate cancer spreading and causing death.  Evidence had been lacking as to the treatment’s effectiveness, especially for men whose cancer was initially detected only on the basis of a blood test—the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test. In most cases, these tumors are not large enough to be felt during a doctor’s exam and do not cause any symptoms.

The second trial group was the “observation group.”  In this approach, physicians generally do not provide immediate surgical or radiation therapy.  Rather, they carefully follow men and provide treatments aimed at relieving symptoms, such as painful or difficult urination, if and when the cancer progresses and causes bothersome health problems.

The trial followed patients between eight and 15 years. 

When Wilt and colleagues analyzed the results, they found no difference in death rates between the two groups, either from any cause whatsoever or specifically from prostate cancer.

In terms of quality of life for men in the study, the surgery group experienced nearly double the rate of erectile dysfunction—81 percent versus 44 percent—and roughly three times the rate of urinary incontinence—17 percent versus 6 percent. Bowel dysfunction was similar between the groups, 12 percent versus 11 percent.

Dr. Robert A. Petzel, Under Secretary for Health, said the trial “provides crucial information that will help physicians and patients make informed decisions on how best to treat prostate cancer, which affects so many Veterans who rely on VA health care.”

Dr. Joel Kupersmith, VA’s Chief Research and Development Officer, added: “This trial, the largest ever comparing these two treatments, provides definitive evidence on a subject that affects millions of Veterans and all men above a certain age.”

While PIVOT found no difference in overall mortality or prostate cancer deaths between the two groups for men who had cancers with a PSA value of 10 or less, the authors say there may be a survival benefit to surgery for men with PSA scores above 10, or other clinical results indicating more aggressive, higher-risk tumors.

Only about one in five men in PIVOT had tumors classified as high-risk.  Wilt said this proportion is representative of U.S. men with an early-stage prostate cancer diagnosis based on PSA testing and follow-up biopsy.  Prostate cancer is usually slow-growing, and most men with PSA-detected prostate cancer do not die from the disease or develop health problems related to it, even if it is not treated with surgery or radiation.

For more information on the Cooperative Studies Program and VA research overall, visit

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You Can Help Get the Word Out There to Our Veterans!

Print This Out for a Veteran!

A homeless person holds out a cup to people passing by


You Can Help Get Information Out to Our Vets

The Veterans Health Administration wants to let Veterans know about the health support services available to them.

We can use your help in getting information about these services out to Veterans.

Here is a quick list of links to the many programs available to our Vets.

If you know a Veteran, we hope you will print out this list (pdf) and give it to them.

  • It may be a homeless Vet you pass on the street every day — you can suggest they take the list to a public library computer to learn what VA has to help them.
  • It may be a young Vet recently returning from a combat zone, who is not aware of the benefits he or she is entitled to.

There are many potential opportunities for you to help Veterans make the connection to the services VA has for them, benefits they have earned!

In addition to the doctors and nurses who provide our Vets with high-quality health care, VHA has many programs to help Vets reach their optimal health.

Vets! Use the VA health support services listed below to maintain your physical and mental wellness:

Community Living Centers

Short-stay and long-stay nursing home care for Veterans who are medically and mentally stable.
Compensated Work Therapy
A vocational rehabilitation program to match and support work ready veterans in competitive jobs.
Disease Prevention
Advocating for health promotion, disease prevention, and health education for our nation’s Veterans.
Geriatrics & Extended Care
Geriatric and extended care services for Veterans including non-institutional and institutional options.
Homeless Services
To end Veteran homelessness within the next five years, VA offers a variety of resources, programs and benefits to assist Veterans who are homeless.
Mental Health
Maintaining and improving the health and well-being of Veterans through excellence in health care, social services, education, and research.
Anywhere, anytime Internet access to VA health care information and services.
National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
VA’s center of excellence for research and education on the prevention, understanding and treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder.
Readjustment Counseling (Vet Centers)
Offers services to Veterans and their families to aid their successful transition from military to civilian life.
Rural Health
Improving access and quality of care for Veterans living in rural areas.
Substance Abuse Programs
Treatments addressing problems related to substance use, from unhealthy use of alcohol to life-threatening addictions.
Veterans Crisis Line
The Veterans Crisis Line (Dial 1-800-273-8255 and press 1) is a toll-free, confidential phone support line that connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring VA responders.
Women Veterans Health Care
Implementing positive changes in providing care for all women Veterans.


Reviewed/Updated Date: July 30, 2012

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Women Veterans Focus of Research Network

Why not combine the stats on all women Veterans to answer today’s research questions?
There has always been a problem of not having enough women Veterans — at any one VA facility — to address many important women’s health research questions.

We’re fixing that.

Especially since women Veterans are the fastest growing group in the Veteran population.

Few people understand VA’s longstanding commitment to improving women’s health more than a group of VA doctors who met at a Women Veterans’ Research Roundtable in June.

The Roundtable focused on research and how that research interacts with clinical care.

Women are now the fastest growing group within the Veteran population, more than doubling since 2000, from less than 160,000 to more than 337,000 today, accounting for six percent of all VA health care users.

Dr. Elizabeth Yano from the VA in Los Angeles opened the Roundtable with news about the Women’s Health Research Network (WHRN), a new initiative designed to overcome the hurdle that there are just too few women Veterans at any one VA facility to address many important women’s health research questions.

A good example of the importance of the WHRN is heart disease — the leading cause of death of American women.

“Although there could be enough male Veterans suffering from heart disease in a large VA for a study, there simply would not be enough women at one VA,” said Dr. Susan Frayne of the VA Medical Center in Palo Alto, Calif.

“The solution is banding together across VAs. Now we can.”

Over 100,000 Women in the Network

Dr. Yano and Dr. Susan Frayne co-lead the WHRN which started with four inaugural sites: Palo Alto, Calif., Los Angeles, Durham, N.C., and Iowa City, Iowa.

Due to an outpouring of enthusiasm from VA facilities across the country, in just 18 months it expanded from 4 to 37 VAs. The network now represents a pool of over 100,000 women Veterans who use VA health care. One in every three VA women patients is part of this network.

“We study what we do and we do what we study.”

Dr. Samina Iqbal shared the clinical perspective and the importance of research-clinician collaboration within the WHRN. “Research is helping us improve the quality of health care delivered to women Veterans every day,” said Dr. Iqbal, Medical Director of the Women Veterans’ Health Program at VA Palo Alto.

In the WHRN, women’s health researchers and clinicians meet regularly to share information and ideas. By sharing issues that emerge at the bedside, the clinicians are able to guide research. Researchers share studies still in the planning phase with the clinicians for feedback. New findings, hot off the press, improve and refine clinical programs.

“In short,” said Dr. Iqbal, “We study what we do and we do what we study.”

Dr. Rachel Kimerling, whose research on military sexual trauma is world-renowned, spoke about her newest study with the WHRN, “Patient Priorities for Gender-Specific Care,” among the first studies to be launched under the WHRN.

Services Most Important to Women

“We are developing methods to assess the types of mental health services that are most important to women in our system,” said Dr. Kimerling. “We ask about services ranging from help with their mood, or PTSD, to issues such as parenting, care giving, or relationships. We also are focusing on how women would like to receive these services.”

VA asks women Veterans to rate the importance of female providers and the venues where they receive their health care — including telemedicine.

The data allow VA to study gender-specific care in areas where there are fewer women Veterans. “The enthusiastic response we are seeing in the clinics suggests that we are on the right track,” she said.

Based on this work, the network helped Dr. Kimerling launch the first national survey of Women Veterans Mental Health Needs: The WOMAN Survey, or Women’s Overall Mental Health Assessment of Needs.

Researchers are now in the process of contacting women Veterans across the country by phone to determine priorities for women’s mental health services and to find out if VA services meet women’s gender-specific needs and values.

“The great news is that we are starting to see researchers lining up to express interest in using the Network,” said Dr. Frayne. “Now that VA has laid the foundation for a new era in women’s health research, our next challenge will be to build on the energy and enthusiasm of the researchers, clinicians and women Veterans who are part of this Network to promote research that improves the quality of care for all women Veterans.”

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IAVA Launches Aggressive Campaign to “Defend the New GI Bill,” Protect Student Veterans from Predatory For-Profit Schools

IAVA Launches Aggressive Campaign to “Defend the New GI Bill,” Protect Student Veterans from Predatory For-Profit Schools

CONTACT: Michelle McCarthy (212) 982-9699 or

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

IAVA Launches Aggressive Campaign to “Defend the New GI Bill,” Protect Student Veterans from Predatory For-Profit Schools

New Public Service Announcement Calls on Congress to Close GI Bill Loophole Exploited by For-Profit Schools

NEW YORK – Today, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the nation’s first and largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization representing veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, unveiled an ambitious new campaign – Defend the New GI Bill – warning new veterans and their spouses about predatory for-profit colleges who are targeting their GI Bill benefits.  Since June 2008, when IAVA spearheaded passage of the historic Post-9/11 GI Bill, over 750,000 new veterans, their spouses and children have taken advantage of its benefits. Due to a loophole in the current legislation, however, the New GI Bill is under siege by some for-profit institutions that are gouging veterans’ benefits and government funds without delivering the quality education, training and career services that they promised. Anchored by a new Public Service Announcement, IAVA’s Defend the New GI Bill campaign seeks to increase transparency and reporting from these higher learning institutions, so student veterans and spouses understand their options, maximize their GI Bill benefits and receive the career-ready education that they earned. Watch the PSA at

“Education is the single best tool that veterans have to level the playing field in this tough job market. Nearly 750,000 veterans and family members have utilized the New GI Bill to gain critical education and training for the civilian workforce. IAVA is committed to ensuring that each and every one of them can maximize their benefits, especially with IAVA members nationwide facing a 17 percent unemployment rate. IAVA refuses to allow predatory for-profit colleges to gouge the New GI Bill and pad their pockets at the expense of our nation’s veterans,” said IAVA Founder and Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff.

“Due to a loophole in the law, for-profit schools can rake in an extra $125,000 in taxpayer dollars for every veteran they enroll. But they have no incentive to graduate them. The major for-profit schools are reporting a nearly 70% dropout rate, they’re aggressively targeting and misleading new veterans, and then failing to deliver solid return on investment. IAVA fought hard to secure the New GI Bill for our community and to expand it to 400,000 more veterans in 2010. We call on Congress and the President to protect the New GI Bill and all career-ready education programs for veterans. No veteran should return home from Iraq or Afghanistan a target of these deceptive schools and practices.”

According to a report from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, eight of the top 10 recipients of New GI Bill funding are for-profit schools. Some of these schools are taking advantage of veterans in four main areas:

  • For-profit schools have higher dropout rates. An estimated 67% of students at most major for-profit schools never graduate from their programs.
  • A greater percentage of students at for-profit schools default on loans. For-profits schools represent 13% of all college students but almost half of all student loan defaults.
  • For profit-schools are more expensive but don’t all provide a return on investment. For-profit schools typically cost two to four times more than public universities and community colleges. For-profits capture more than a third of all GI benefits – about $1.6 billion – but enroll only a quarter of veterans. Some schools often don’t provide students with useful degrees, career training or transferable credits.
  • For-profit schools aggressively target veterans through a loophole in the 90/10 rule. The original intent of the 90/10 rule was to allow free market regulation of for-profit schools by preventing them from being entirely government funded. The rule states that 90% of for-profit school revenue may come from government funds; 10% must come from private sources. Military and veterans benefits like the GI Bill currently fall within that 10% of private source revenue, putting a target on every veteran’s back. For each veteran that a for-profit school recruits, they can enroll nine more students using federal financial aid.

IAVA supports the following legislation to address the loophole in the 90/10 and prevent predatory for-profit schools from using government funds to deceptively market to and recruit student veterans. For a complete list of legislation supported by IAVA, click here.

If you’re a veteran considering attending school, watch IAVA’s new PSA Defend the New GI Bill first. Enrolled or completed courses at a for-profit college program but feel that you or someone you know have been taken advantage of? Click here to share your story with IAVA and explore financial resources for assistance.

To learn more about IAVA’s concrete recommendations to protect career-ready education and combat veteran unemployment, read IAVA’s 2012 Policy Agenda.

If you are a member of the media who wishes to arrange an interview with IAVA Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff, Deputy Policy Director Tom Tarantino, or an IAVA Member impacted by a predatory for-profit school, please contact Michelle McCarthy at (212) 982-9699 or

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the country’s first and largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 200,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Its mission is to improve the lives of this country’s newest generation of veterans and their families.


Redesigned Transition Assistance Program Announced

Redesigned Transition Assistance Program Announced

July 23, 2012

WASHINGTON — Today President Obama announced the launch of the redesigned Transition Assistance Program developed by an interagency team from the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Labor, Education, and Homeland Security as well as the Office of Personnel and Management and the Small Business Administration.

The revamped program, called Transition GPS, is the first major overhaul of the transition assistance program for military members in nearly twenty years.  The effort began in response to a call from President Obama in August 2011 to ensure all service members are “career ready” when they leave the military.

“I applaud the leadership of President Obama to bring together government agencies around the goal of enhancing career opportunities for service members,” said Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta. “Our personnel have developed extraordinary technical expertise and world-class leadership skills that are in high demand. Transition GPS will help military members apply their experience to additional training, formal education, and develop successful civilian careers.”

“One of our fundamental responsibilities as a government is to properly prepare and support those serving in our military so they are career ready as they transition back into civilian life. With this new initiative, we can better ensure veterans receive the care, benefits and employment services they have earned,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.  “This collaborative effort will have an impact well beyond this current generation of individuals returning from combat.”

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Reviewed/Updated Date: July 23, 2012

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VA Focuses on Electronic Health Records at AIDS Conference

Nurse with a patient in a hospital bed enters iformation into a medical laptop


How VA’s Electronic Health Record Improves Outcomes

As the largest provider of HIV care in the U.S., the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will be a strong voice at the International AIDS Conference from July 22-27, 2012 in Washington, D.C.

This premier conference brings together professionals in the field of HIV, as well as policy makers, people living with HIV/AIDS, and others committed to ending the pandemic.

VA’s special session, “Improving HIV Outcomes using the Electronic Health Record: Case Study: HIV and Aging,” will focus on how electronic health records (EHRs), a clinical case registry, and computerized “clinical reminders” to care providers within the health record have improved VA’s diagnosis and treatment of Veterans with HIV infection.

“VA’s efforts to increase HIV testing in Veterans are paying off.”

VA uses the EHRs to guide HIV management efforts, such as prompting health care providers to offer HIV testing, tracking patients’ progress over time, and providing feedback to providers on health outcomes, said Maggie Czarnogorski, M.D., VA’s Director of Clinical Public Health Programs.

“VA’s efforts to increase HIV testing in Veterans are paying off. The number of Veterans ever tested in VA has doubled from 2009 to 2011.” said Czarnogorski.

Currently, 91 percent of Veterans in VA care who qualify for HIV therapy are receiving medication, and data shows that most Veterans on therapy have undetectable levels of the HIV virus in their blood, which means that Veterans with HIV can live longer, healthier lives.

Since the 1980s, VA has been a pioneer in developing and using EHRs to improve access to care and to boost health outcomes for Veterans. Two out of three new HIV diagnoses in VA are Veterans over age 50, giving VA valuable experience with the issue of HIV and aging.

The International AIDS Conference is an opportunity to assess where we are in the fight against HIV/AIDS, evaluate recent scientific developments and lessons learned, and collectively chart a course forward.

VA’s participation in the conference will share best practices in treating the disease and offer opportunities for dialogue on care issues in the global response to HIV.

For more information on the conference:

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VA Delivers Cutting-Edge Bionics to Above-Knee Amputees

The Department of Veterans Affairs now has the technology to enable Veterans with above-the-knee amputations to walk with a healthy, natural gait, just the way they did before they were injured.

“The BiOM is a unique piece of technology that actually mimics the human body and allows an amputee to walk with the same, natural gait as a non-amputee,” said John Fox, supervisor of the Orthotic & Prosthetic Services Lab at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, Va. “The system even contains a battery and a motor that provide you with a ‘power push-off,’ propelling you as well as the weight of the device. It literally mimics what our feet do when we walk.”

He added: “With a traditional prosthetic, you get tired because you’re using so much additional energy to move. With the BiOM, no additional effort is needed, so you don’t get tired.”

Over several hundred people with below-the-knee amputations currently wear the BiOM ankle, developed by a company called iWalk. Made possible by funding from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense, iWalk’s BiOM ankle is the world’s first bionic ankle system that utilizes robotics to restore the function of missing anatomy in the calf muscle and Achilles tendon.

Recently, however, VA has begun mating the bionic ankle with a microprocessor knee to allow Veterans with above-the-knee amputations to walk normally. iWalk refers to this ankle-knee combo as the BiOM ‘AK.’

“This device is literally a miracle,” said William Gadsby, a 34-year-old Veteran who has been outfitted with both the BiOM ankle and a microprocessor knee known as the X2, made by a company called Ottobock. “A few months ago I was walking at nighttime and had my hands in my pockets. For the first time in four years I was able to look up at the stars without stopping to balance myself. I’ve been able to walk up steep hills and stairs. I can walk down steep grades, and have been able to do some Yoga stances. Just walking —in and of itself— is awesome.

“I recently took my family to the Outer Banks in North Carolina,” he continued. “I was able to walk up the sand dunes with no problem. In fact, I kept shouting to my wife and my three-year-old son to keep up with me! I also went hiking in the Shenandoah Valley area of Virginia with a 50-pound pack. I was going up some pretty steep trails, and I wasn’t getting tired.”

“I feel like a normal person again.”

— Former Marine William Gadsby

Gadsby is a former Marine who was badly injured by an IED while on a foot patrol in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He said his iWalk equipment has not only allowed him to walk as fast or faster than ‘organic’ people, but has also made a big difference for him emotionally.

“I am a cranky guy normally,” he admitted, “but my wife has noticed a major psychological change in me. Before the BiOM my body was more worn out with pain and I was always dead tired when going somewhere. Now I’ve got zero back pain. I’m active from the time I wake up till the time I fall asleep. My depression has largely receded. I’m more confident and feel closer to how I felt before I was wounded. I feel like a normal person again.”

Along with providing state-of-the art bionics, VA also makes sure the equipment is fine tuned to each individual wearer.

“Personal Bionic Tuning is a proprietary process where a computer first overlays an accepted range of natural motion for the gait cycle,” explained iWalk Representative Ryan Hixenbaugh. “The BiOM is then adjusted for that individual to perform within ‘normal’ parameters. The device is then further adjusted to fit the preferences of the wearer. It’s an incredible level of personalization.”

Cezette Leopold, a VA prosthetics representative based at the VA medical center in Richmond, said VA’s goal is to transform Veterans who have lost limbs into completely able-bodied individuals who do everything they want without thinking about their mobility.

“And the real payoff is better health,” Leopold noted. “Amputees outfitted with this technology will be healthier because they can lead much more active lives.

“Healthier amputees equates to a significant reduction in health care costs,” she continued. “Amputees who have less exhaustion and less pain tend to move around a lot more. They lose weight. They reduce their reliance on pain medications. They even return to work.”

Dr. Douglas Murphy, a staff physician at the Richmond VA Medical Center, agreed. “The BiOM ankle,” he said, “when coupled with the microprocessor knee, significantly improves the physical health of above-the-knee amputees by normalizing metabolic and walking speeds. This, in turn, enables reductions in energy consumption and also alleviates things like lower back pain and knee osteoarthritis.”

He added: “This technology is going to mean the difference between night and day for many of our amputee Veterans. Here at VA we’re very proud to have helped pioneer this incredible breakthrough in bionics.”

Related link: Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service (PSAS)

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VA to Expand Health Care Service by Opening 13 New Community-Based Outpatient Clinics

VA to Expand Health Care Service by Opening 13 New Community-Based Outpatient Clinics

July 19, 2012

 Veterans Get Increased Access to World-Class Health Care

WASHINGTON – As part of the continuing effort to provide world-class health care closer to where more Veterans live, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs today announced plans to open 13 new community-based outpatient clinics in nine states. 

“Community-based clinics are key to providing Veterans better access to high-quality care closer to home,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.  “By reducing the distance Veterans have to travel, we hope more Veterans will benefit from the health care services they have earned through their service to our Nation.”

With 152 medical centers and more than 812 community-based outpatient clinics (CBOCs), the department operates the largest integrated health care system in the country. VA will provide health care to about 6.1 million patients in fiscal year 2012 and 80 million outpatient visits. 

The Obama Administration is committed to increasing access to VA care and services for Veterans wherever they live. 

The first of the new CBOCs will become operational during the latter part of 2012, with openings continuing through 2015.  Local VA officials will keep their Veterans, communities, congressional offices and other stakeholders informed of the progress of the new CBOCs.

A list of the new community clinics and planned activation follows:

Arizona – Northeast Phoenix/Maricopa (2012/2013)

Georgia – Tifton/Tift (2012/2013)

Kansas – Lenexa/Johnson County (2013)

Maryland – St. Mary’s (2013)

Missouri – Marshfield/Webster (2013), Platte City/Platte (2012/2013), Springfield/Greene (2015)

North Carolina – Sanford/Lee (2012/2013)

Ohio – Georgetown/Brown (2012/2013)

Oregon – Portland Metro South/Clackamas (2012/2013), Grants Pass/Josephine (2012/2013)

Pennsylvania – Huntingdon (2013), Indiana (2013)

For more information about VA’s health care services, please visit:

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Nebraska National Guard Education Assistance Program

Nebraska National Guard Education Assistance Program:
75% of tuition paid at state supported college/university or technical college. Up to 75% of University of Nebraska-Lincoln undergraduate resident charge paid to select private college/university and technical schools. Tuition waiver limited to state resident rate.
Eligibility: National Guard enlisted service member. Service member has to be working towards the first BA degree only. No more than 1,200 members will be granted tuition assistance during any State fiscal year (1 July – 30 June).

Nebraska Postsecondary Career Schools and Veterans Education
301 Centennial Mall South
PO Box 94987
Lincoln, NE 68509-4987
Phone: 402-471-4825
Fax: 402-471-8127

VA Exceeds 2012 Goal to Improve Online Access to Benefits Information

VA Exceeds 2012 Goal to Improve Online Access to Benefits Information

July 18, 2012


The Department of Veterans Affairs announced today that 1.67 million Veterans and Servicemembers have registered for the secure, joint VA-Department of Defense (DoD), self-service web portal, eBenefits, which provides online information and access to a wide variety of military and Veteran benefits resources. 

“We know that 3 out of 4 Veterans who use VA services want to connect online, so we must to be there for them with the information they need,” said Allison Hickey, Under Secretary for Benefits.  “eBenefits is clearly becoming the platform of choice for Veterans seeking access.”

The strong pace of registrations for the site since its launch in October 2009 has allowed VA to exceed its fiscal year 2012 agency priority goal of 1.65 million users, and puts it on track to meet the 2013 goal of 2.5 million users, as outlined for VA in

Veterans and Servicemembers new to the Website  are guided through the registration process to get a full-access account, called a premier account, which allows maximum ability to update personal information and learn about benefits without having to visit a VA facility. With the premier account, one password—called a single sign-on—allows Veterans to access multiple applications on the secure portion of the website.

A premier account also allows Veterans to check the status of compensation and pension claims that they have filed with VA.  This feature, the most popular within the eBenefits application, had over 700,000 visits in June alone.  Overall, visits to the site have increased 60 percent over the previous year, approaching 2 million per month.

On July 1, VA introduced its 11th consecutive quarterly release of improved functionalities to the eBenefits application that includes benefits eligibility email messages to Servicemembers as they reach career milestones and a new Career Center page with employment self-assessment tools, a resume builder, and a translator that relates military expertise to civilian work skills.  The Career Center, which received over 8,000 visits in its first week, has single sign-on connectivity to VA’s Veteran hiring site, “VA for Vets.”  Another key function added is a single sign-on capability for Veterans to transition securely between benefits information on eBenefits and health information on VA’s myHealtheVet website without an additional log-on step.  

VA has completed a record-breaking 1 million claims per year the last two fiscal years, and is on target to complete another 1 million claims in FY2012.  Even so, too many Veterans have to wait too long to get the benefits they have earned and deserve.  That is why VA is aggressively building a strong foundation for a paperless, digital disability claims system – a lasting solution that will transform how VA operates and eliminate the backlog.  This plan will help VA achieve Secretary Shinseki’s goal: claim completion in less than 125 days with 98 percent accuracy in 2015 – delivering faster, better decisions for Veterans.

With the most recent release, there are now 46 self-service features enabling Servicemembers and Veterans the ability to download copies of their official VA and military correspondence, including Veterans civil service preference, service verification, benefits verification letters, military records and VA home loan certificates of eligibility.  Servicemembers and Veterans can also access records that directly impact their family members, like the Post-9/11 GI Bill enrollment status, VA payment history, and DoD TRICARE health insurance status. 

The eBenefits application is a key component in VA’s ongoing transformation to a digital environment for Veterans’ benefits delivery. Additional functionality and features will continue to be added to the site throughout the coming months.

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The website eBenefits is a joint VA/DoD web portal that provides resources and self-service capabilities to Veterans, Servicemembers, and their families to research, access and manage their VA and military benefits and personal information. It can be accessed at


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