Archives for March 2014

New National Veterans Survey Underscores Need for Congress and President Obama to Combat Suicide

New National Veterans Survey Underscores Need for Congress and President Obama to Combat Suicide

CONTACT: Gretchen Andersen (212) 982-9699 or gretchen@iava.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New National Veterans Survey Underscores Need for Congress and President Obama to Combat Suicide

Following IAVA’s Storm the Hill, Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation Poll finds 51 percent of vets know a post-9/11 servicemember or veteran who attempted or died by suicide.

New York, NY (March 31, 2014) – Coming a week after Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) demanded Congress and the Administration adopt stronger policies to combat veteran suicide, a new poll from the Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation found that 51 percent of post-9/11 veterans know a servicemember or veteran who attempted or died by suicide. The findings – similar to recent survey results of IAVA members –  underscore the need for Congress and President Obama to take new action on the issue. Additional findings from the national poll of 819 new veterans, including many IAVA members, can be found here

Last week, 32 veterans from across the country were in Washington for IAVA’s 10th annual Storm the Hill advocacy events – specifically launching a Campaign to Combat Suicide. In meetings with the White House, Congress, the VA and the Pentagon, they had the chance to share IAVA’s recently released 2014 Policy Agenda for veterans. The agenda lists important issues and proposed solutions for some of the main challenges facing veterans who have returned from war over the last decade, including the number one issue of veteran suicide. 

“This new national poll is another sobering reminder of how personal this issue is to veterans, and why we must do more to support veterans in transition. Combating suicide is the top issue of the new veteran community in 2014 – and it should be a top issue for the entire nation,” said IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff. “Some issues must transcend politics – combating suicide should be a bipartisan issue that everyone in Washington can work together on.”

The release of the survey findings carries additional meaning at IAVA as three years ago today, Clay Hunt – a Marine veteran, and past Storm the Hill participant from Houston – died by suicide.

As part of the “We’ve Got Your Back: IAVA’s Campaign to Combat Suicide” IAVA is calling on Congress to pass comprehensive legislation expanding mental health care for veterans and ensuring that they have extended access to that care. After Storm the Hill, IAVA is pushing for bipartisan support for S.2182, The Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans Act (SAV Act) – historic legislation introduced Thursday by U.S. Senator John Walsh of Montana, the first Iraq vet ever to serve in the Senate. IAVA is urging all Americans to call their Senators to sign on as a co-sponsor to the SAV Act.

IAVA is also demanding President Obama to issue an Executive Order addressing the often problem plagued coordination of records and care between the Department of Defense and the VA and to appoint a National Director of Suicide Prevention.

Also last week, veterans and supporters placed 1,892 American flags on the Mall representing the number of veterans and servicemembers estimated to have died by suicide to date in 2014.
 According to VA estimates, 22 veterans and servicemembers die a day. 

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the nation’s first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 270,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its tenth year, IAVA recently received the highest rating – four-stars – from Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator.


Houston Vets Unite Following IAVA’s "Storm the Hill" in DC

Houston Vets Unite Following IAVA’s “Storm the Hill” in DC

CONTACT: Gretchen Andersen (212) 982-9699 or press@iava.org


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Houston Vets Unite Following IAVA’s “Storm the Hill” in DC

IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff at Community Event with Vets

Houston, TX (March 31, 2014) – Coming after a week in Washington, D.C. with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) pushing Congress and the Administration for stronger policies to combat veteran suicide, on Monday morning at 8am, IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff will attend a membership breakfast with other Houston-area IAVA members.

Local vets can RSVP here to the membership breakfast.

During IAVA’s 10th annual “Storm the Hill” a team of 32 veterans from across the country met with the White House, Congress, the VA and the Pentagon, to share IAVA’s recently released 2014 Policy Agenda for veterans. The agenda lists important issues and proposed solutions for some of the main challenges facing veterans who have returned from war over the last decade, including the number one issue of veteran suicide. Read the 2014 IAVA Policy Agenda here.

There are more than 85,000 Houston-area veterans, including more than 15,000 who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Houston veterans face a number of critical challenges. More than 350,000 veterans are stuck in the VA backlog, including more than 15,500 in the Houston regional office, who are waiting more than 125 days for a claim. The average wait time here is 166.7 days. In Texas, as well as across the country, suicide is a top concern for new veterans: at least 22 veterans commit suicide every day, and a recent study found that the suicide rate among young male veterans rose by 44 percent in the past three years.

WHO: IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff

            Houston veterans

WHEN: Monday, March 31st at 8 AM

WHERE: The Breakfast Klub, 3711 Travis at Alabama, Houston, TX 77002

Note to media: Please contact press@IAVA.org to attend Monday morning’s membership event or schedule an interview with Paul Rieckhoff.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the nation’s first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 270,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its tenth year, IAVA recently received the highest rating – four-stars – from Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator.

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Why Slow Down?



A man stands holding a trophy between his wife and a coach

“Deno” Cedeño and his wife Gwen










National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic

March 30-April 4, Snowmass Village, CO


“Deno” Cedeño lost his leg to an improvised explosive device while on a foot patrol in Afghanistan.


On the day he received his prosthetic device, he spent eight hours up and walking around. This week he will be snowboarding on a mountain in Colorado.


“I was given a second chance, so why slow down?” asked Cedeño.


As his wife Gwen puts it, “He gets up every day and pushes himself as hard as he possibly can. He is such a powerful and impressive person and I’m so proud of him every day.”


Cedeno is one of nearly 400 Veterans participating this week in the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic at Snowmass Village in Colorado.


The annual event is a world-leader in adaptive winter sports instruction for U.S. military Veterans and active duty servicemen and women with disabilities.


 I wanted to prove to everyone that I would do everything I could do before my injuries. 


Eight Months from Combat to Clinic


A full year had not passed after the explosion that changed the course of Kristian “Deno” Cedeño’s life, when he arrived at Snowmass Village for the 2013 National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.


It was just a few months after first learning how to walk using his new prosthetic leg. But the Army infantryman wasn’t much for staying within boundaries.


Snowboarding was challenging. On day one, a frustrated Cedeño wanted to go home. But sticking with it, he progressed through the week and began to make great strides on the slopes.


Cedeño, still an active duty soldier, was ultimately awarded the DAV Freedom Award, the event’s top participant recognition, for his outstanding courage and achievements at the 2013 clinic.


Cedeño will be back on the mountain again this year, ready to build on his success from the last clinic.


“I owe it to the men and women on my left and right who gave me strength when I didn’t have it. So how dare I put that to waste?”


Now that he’s had another full year adapting to his prosthetic leg, he’s going to be unstoppable.


Other Sports Include Rock Climbing


Set in stunning Snowmass, Colorado, this year the Clinic will celebrate its 28th year by bringing Veterans to the mountain with traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, orthopedic amputations, visual impairments, certain neurological conditions and other disabilities.


More than 200 certified ski instructors for the disabled and several current and former members of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team serve as ski instructors to meet the unique needs of the participants.


In addition to Alpine skiing, the Clinic also features a number of other sports including cross country, rock climbing, scuba diving, kayaking and snowmobiling.


The Clinic is co-sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans and is made possible by a number of sponsors through monetary and in-kind donations.






Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2014/March/Why-Slow-Down-Winter-Sports-Clinic.asp

Historic Legislation Introduced to Combat Veteran Suicide

Historic Legislation Introduced to Combat Veteran Suicide

CONTACT: Gretchen Andersen (212) 982-9699 or press@iava.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Historic Legislation Introduced to Combat Veteran Suicide

On IAVA’s National Day of Action, Sen. John Walsh – the first Iraq vet in the Senate – introduces comprehensive SAV Act

WASHINGTON, DC (March 27, 2014) – Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) today heralded a significant step toward combating veteran suicide in America with the introduction of new, historic and comprehensive legislation introduced by U.S. Senator John Walsh of Montana. Walsh, the first Iraq vet ever to serve in the Senate, and one of only two combat veterans, today introduced The Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans Act (SAV Act) during IAVA’s National Day of Action today, in which veterans and supporters placed 1,892 American flags on the Mall representing the number of veterans and servicemembers estimated to have died by suicide to date in 2014.


“Today, Senator Walsh made history and put us on a path toward saving countless lives. We thank Senator Walsh for being the first Congressional leader to step up and sponsor historic, comprehensive legislation to combat suicide in the veteran community,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. “Senator Walsh’s bill, when passed, will ensure that our servicemen and women will have ready access to top quality mental health care and will take steps to streamline the problem that plagued communication and systems between the Department of Defense and the VA.  As one of our own, we are honored to have Senator Walsh leading the charge on this life-saving fight. We hope every single member of the Senate will move swiftly to co-sponsor this urgent, bi-partisan effort.”


“When 22 veterans are taking their own lives every single day, this is the kind of bold action we need and expect from our leaders in Washington. IAVA will continue our Campaign to Combat Suicide all across the country until we galvanize the full bipartisan support needed to pass this bill. Our legislators should know that America’s veterans are looking to Washington to see who has their back in this moment of great challenge,” Rieckhoff added.

Said Senator Walsh: “Far too often, we’re leaving our veterans to fight their toughest battles alone, and the crisis of veteran suicide now claims 22 of our finest men and women every single day. Returning home from combat does not erase what happened there, and yet red tape and government dysfunction have blocked access to the care that saves lives. It is our duty to come together for real solutions for our heros. I am proud to work with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America on this critical issue. It’s time to pass the Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans Act and ensure that our veterans can enjoy what they fought so hard to protect.”

“Senator Walsh really has our back. Veterans nationwide have earned top quality and accessible mental health care and this bill will go a long way toward fixing what stands in the way of that. As an Air Force veteran and native Montanan, I am very happy that this fight is being led by a fellow vet and a Senator from Montana,” said Chris Ford, who is Storming the Hill with IAVA. “All Montana veterans should be proud of the leadership shown by a leader from our home state. The IAVA veterans in Washington have worked hard all week to tell the individual Representatives and Senators about the struggles vets often face when they come home from war and transition out of the military.”


Crafted by IAVA based on the needs of our members, and in consultation with mental health experts and our fellow veterans groups, The Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans Act (SAV Act) will:

Extends Special Combat Eligibility from 5 to 15 Years – Improves access to care for troops and veterans by extending combat eligibility. 

Reviews Wrongful Discharges – An unknown numbers of troops who struggle with mental health issues have been discharged for behavior often caused by invisible injuries. This legislation sets up a review process for potentially wrongful discharges.


Increases Professionals in the VA – This legislation increases the capacity to meet demands for mental health care professionals by repaying medical school loans for psychiatrists who commit to long-term service in the VA.


Improves Mental Health Care and Suicide Prevention Programs – This legislation requires an annual review of care programs within DOD and the VA to ensure resources are effectively combatting the problem.

Ensures Training for Mental Health Care Providers – This legislation requires the VA and DOD to ensure mental health care providers have special training to identify veterans at-risk for suicide.

Creates Greater Collaboration Between the VA and DOD – Provides continuous and seamless care to veterans by putting a timeline on the NDAA mandate to make all DOD and VA records electronic.

Establishes a Common Drug Formulary Between DOD and the VA – Requires DOD and the VA to adopt the same drug formulary for prescription medication to ensure seamless care.

The bill announcement comes on the final day of IAVA’s 10th Annual “Storm the Hill” week of advocacy in which 32 veterans from across the United States have descended on the Capitol, holding over 130 meetings with elected leaders in Congress and officials in the Department of Defense, VA and at the White House. 

IAVA also used the week to launch its “We’ve Got Your Back: Campaign to Combat Suicide” designed to raise public awareness of the suicide crisis and demand Congressional action and a Presidential Executive Order to start to reverse the suicide trend.


Additional information on Storm the Hill and the Campaign to Combat Suicide

As part of its Campaign to Combat Suicide, all year long IAVA will activate every element of its membership, programs and partners – both on-the-ground and online. IAVA will incorporate this effort into everything we do from our monthly VetTogethers to our over 500,000-person strong social media community. We will empower our almost 300,000 members and supporters to serve as a ground force for outreach, support and advocacy. And we will travel the country, turning public attention to the issue of veteran suicide and promoting solutions.


IAVA connects veterans to mental health services, including partnering with the VA’s Veterans Crisis Line to ensure that every servicemember, veteran, family member and provider knows that there is free and confidential help available 24 hours a day through phone, text and online. Veterans, or those concerned about veterans, can call 800-273-8255 and press 1 to be directly connected to qualified responders.

Visit Stormthehill.org to learn more about IAVA’s efforts to combat suicide, Storm the Hill and our 2014 class of Stormers. All week, IAVA will be posting photos, videos and personal stories on social media and with the #StormtheHill and #CombatingSuicide hashtags on Twitter.

White House Hosts IAVA Members Pushing to Combat Suicide

White House Hosts IAVA Members Pushing to Combat Suicide

CONTACT: Gretchen Andersen (212) 982-9699 or press@iava.org


White House Hosts IAVA Members Pushing to Combat Suicide

Veteran leaders call for Executive Order during “Storm the Hill”

WASHINGTON, DC (March 26, 2014) – Today, on the eve of a historic National Day of Action to combat veteran suicide, post-9/11 veterans from across America met with top White House officials in the Roosevelt Room to discuss the Administration’s efforts to make quality mental health care accessible for vets. The representatives from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) urged President Obama to issue a comprehensive Executive Order focused on streamlining and expediting suicide prevention efforts. Tomorrow, IAVA will announce the details of a new comprehensive bill to combat suicide.

Thirty-two veterans are in Washington for IAVA’s 10th annual Storm the Hill advocacy trip, which is also the launch of its “We’ve Got Your Back: IAVA’s Campaign to Combat Suicide.”

“Combating suicide is the top issue of the new veteran community this year. And we need assurances from the White House that it is a top priority for the President as well. Today’s meeting was a first step toward that goal. And we look forward to working with the White House in the days and weeks ahead,” said IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff.

“In our conversations with White House staff we asked President Obama to sign a new Executive Order that will make combating troop and veteran suicide a priority for all government agencies. From issuing a Presidential Call to Service for mental health providers, to appointing a National Director of Suicide Prevention, to reviewing and upgrading wrongful military discharges, signing this order will send a signal to our community – as well as to the country – that combating veteran suicide is something that will be addressed with urgency at the highest level. We appreciate the chance to meet with staff and hope to see the Commander-in-Chief lead on this issue before Memorial Day in May,” Rieckhoff added.

Tomorrow IAVA will lead a National Day of Action in Washington.  Veterans and supporters from across the nation will share their stories and place American flags on the National Mall to represent each of the estimated 1,892 veterans and servicemembers who have died by suicide so far this year. Press is highly encouraged to attend this powerful event.

Policy Agenda

IAVA’s 2014 Policy Agenda is a blueprint for combating suicide and is driven by data from member veterans nationwide, partner organizations, and a decade of experience.  The Policy Agenda also includes recommendations for keeping the VA on track to end the disability claims backlog by 2015, protecting the Post-9/11 GI Bill, reducing unemployment, and fighting military sexual assault. It contains recommendations for Congress, the White House, the DOD and VA, as well as mayors, governors, business leaders, and philanthropic organizations. The full Policy Agenda can be read here.

Storm the Hill

This week, 32 veteran leaders from nationwide are participating in Storm the Hill, IAVA’s advocacy program that brings the stories of the more than 2.5 million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan to Washington. The veterans come from 16 states and represent IAVA’s diverse, dynamic and rapidly-growing national membership. All have been affected in some way by suicide, including knowing family and friends who have faced mental health challenges. Throughout the week, they will meet with more than 125 members of Congress, the VA, the Department of Defense and the White House, urging policymakers to adopt IAVA’s recommendations to bridge the gaps in care and ultimately break through the negative stigma that is too often associated with seeking help.

Now in its 10th year, Storm the Hill puts IAVA’s top issue for the year on the map and has jumpstarted historic changes, including the passage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, advanced funding for health care at the VA, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, and last year, a national focus on the high VA disability claims backlog.

Campaign to Combat Suicide

As part of its Campaign to Combat Suicide, all year long IAVA will activate every element of its membership, programs and partners – both on-the-ground and online. IAVA will incorporate this effort into everything we do from our monthly VetTogethers to our over 500,000-person strong social media community. We will empower our almost 300,000 members and supporters to serve as a ground force for outreach, support and advocacy. And we will travel the country, turning public attention to the issue of veteran suicide and promoting solutions.

IAVA connects veterans to mental health services, including partnering with the VA’s Veterans Crisis Line to ensure that every servicemember, veteran, family member and provider knows that there is free and confidential help available 24 hours a day through phone, text and online. Veterans, or those concerned about veterans, can call 800-273-8255 and press 1 to be directly connected to qualified responders.

Visit IAVA.org to learn more about IAVA’s efforts to combat suicide, Storm the Hill and our 2014 class of Stormers. All week, IAVA will be posting photos, videos and personal stories on social media and with the #StormtheHill and #CombatingSuicide hashtags on Twitter.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the nation’s first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 270,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its tenth year, IAVA recently received the highest rating – four-stars – from Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator.

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U.S. Senator John Walsh to Announce Historic Suicide Prevention Bill at IAVA Day of Action

U.S. Senator John Walsh to Announce Historic Suicide Prevention Bill at IAVA Day of Action

CONTACT: Gretchen Andersen (212) 982-9699 or press@iava.org


U.S. Senator John Walsh to Announce Historic Suicide Prevention Bill at IAVA Day of Action

Walsh to join Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans During IAVA’s Storm the Hill 

WASHINGTON, DC (March 26, 2014) – U.S. Senator John Walsh, one of two combat veterans in the U.S. Senate, will join Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), representatives from veteran service organizations and guests at the National Day of Action to Combat Suicide. Walsh will announce an historic piece of legislation that will address the most pressing issues related to the veteran suicide crisis.

Thursday morning, volunteers will place 1,892 American Flags on the Mall representing the number of veterans estimated to have died by suicide to date in 2014. The event will conclude with a program at 11am featuring IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff, Senator Walsh and Kim Ruocco, Director of Suicide Postvention Programs at TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors).

The National Day of Action is the culmination of IAVA’s 10th Annual “Storm the Hill” week of advocacy during which 32 member vets from across the country have held over 130 meetings with Members of Congress, senior officials at the Pentagon and at the White House. Each “Stormer” has a personal story that illustrates why suicide prevention is the number one issue for post-9/11 veterans.

What: National Day of Action to Combat Suicide – Flag Planting and Program

Who: U.S. Senator John Walsh (MT)

         Paul Rieckhoff – CEO and Founder, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

         Kim Ruocco – Director of Suicide Postvention Programs at TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors)

         IAVA Veteran Members from across the United States

Where: On the National Mall at 12th Street NW, Washington DC

When: 10 am EDT flag planting begins on National Mall

          11 am EDT Speaking program begins

          11:30 am EDT Speaking program ends and flag-planting resumes

Note: Mult Box will be available

To RSVP and receive additional information, please contact Press@IAVA.org

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the nation’s first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 270,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its tenth year, IAVA recently received the highest rating – four-stars – from Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator.

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Weight Loss for Those with Disabilities



A man with a prosthetic leg and his son work out on exercise balls

Sgt. Maj. Brent “The Rock” Jurgersen exercises with his son Chase. Photo by Virginia Reza via Wikimedia Commons










It seems simple: Exercise harder. Eat better. Lose those extra few pounds.


But what are the options for a person who can’t stand, let alone crank out pushups or run a 5K? How does someone eat healthy when grocery shopping and cooking dinner are both major challenges?


The answer, says VA researcher Dr. Ben Gerber, may be only a telephone call away.


Gerber, of the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago, says regular 30-minute targeted phone calls from a trainer can result in significant weight loss for disabled persons. The finding is from a study Gerber worked on along with Dr. James Rimmer of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).


Gerber says providers often don’t know exactly what to tell disabled patients about exercise. “From a provider’s perspective, we might tell a patient to walk 30-minutes a day or to eat a certain kind of diet, but for someone with paraplegia, that recommendation becomes a lot more complicated. There also might be competing health priorities,” says Gerber. “Who grocery shops and prepares the meals, mobility limitations, pain, depression—all of that plays a role.”


All that is part of why people with disabilities have a 66 percent higher rate of obesity than the general population.
Intrigued by the challenge, the researchers set out to develop a program to make exercise—and weight loss—more practical and attainable for the disabled population.


One call per week


Their study, published in the December 2013 issue of the American Journal of Physical Medical Rehabilitation, involved more than 100 participants, each with a mobility-limiting disability. The conditions included spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, stroke and lupus.


 People with disabilities can exercise, lose weight and achieve their goals. 


The researchers randomly assigned the volunteers to one of three groups. One group received a physical-activity toolkit along with regular calls from coaches who used a Web-based remote coaching tool called POWERS (Personalized Online Weight and Exercise Response System). The software program was developed by Rimmer’s group at UAB through funding from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.


A second group received the toolkit, POWERS calls and nutritional advice. The third group received the physical-activity toolkit only after the study completed and no phone coaching.


For four months, those receiving calls were contacted weekly to develop a plan, monitor progress and troubleshoot any barriers. The calls dropped to every other week after that. At seven months, the calls came only monthly.


After nine months, those on the POWERS plan had lost, on average, nearly five pounds. Participants who also received nutritional advice lost an additional pound. Meanwhile, in the control group, participants actually gained weight—five to six pounds, on average.


Gerber notes that the approach may be a way to reduce not only weight, but health care costs. “Something like this is relatively low-cost,” he says. “We can do health behavior promotion and intervention by telephone. That’s an easy, cheap, and accessible mechanism to use.” He adds the benefits might be especially applicable in VA, with its large population of Veterans, many in rural areas, who have disabilities and other chronic health conditions.


Moving forward


Work remains. Among other tasks, researchers and clinicians have to develop appropriate weight guidelines for those with certain disabilities. Gerber is working now with Dr. Sherri LaVela of the Hines VA Medical Center on a VA-funded study of weight management among Veterans with spinal cord injuries.


“We’re trying to increase the ways we can reach our Veterans,” says Gerber. “I think the studies we’re doing are showing that people with disabilities can exercise, lose weight, and achieve their goals. Telephone lifestyle coaching is growing in the VA for overweight Veterans. We should also offer services to disabled Veterans that meet their unique needs in weight management.”






Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2014/March/Weight-Loss-for-Those-with-Disabilities.asp

Veterans Build Momentum on Campaign to Combat Suicide in Lead up to National Day of Action

Veterans Build Momentum on Campaign to Combat Suicide in Lead up to National Day of Action

CONTACT: Gretchen Andersen (212) 982-9699 or press@iava.org

Veterans Build Momentum on Campaign to Combat Suicide in Lead up to National Day of Action

On Tuesday, IAVA meets with key Pentagon leaders to discuss combating troop and veteran suicide

WASHINGTON, DC (March 25, 2014) – Today, as momentum continued in the build-up to Thursday’s historic National Day of Action on the National Mall, post-9/11 veterans from across America met with senior military officials at the Pentagon to discuss the Department of Defense’s efforts to combat troop and veteran suicide. Thirty-two veterans from across the country are in Washington with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) for the 10th annual Storm the Hill advocacy trip, which is also the launch of its year-long “We’ve Got Your Back: IAVA’s Campaign to Combat Suicide.”

At Thursday’s National Day of Action, which starts at 11 a.m. veterans and supporters will place American flags on the National Mall in Washington to represent each of the estimated 1,892 veterans and servicemembers who have died by suicide this year and share the stories of friends and families lost. Press are highly encouraged to attend this powerful event.

“Combating suicide is the top issue of the new veteran community in 2014 – we intend for the whole country to see that and participate during Thursday’s National Day of Action. But in order to make a big impact and start to solve the problems that surround this issue we need to enlist the support and action of several government agencies and departments. That’s why today’s meeting at the Pentagon is so important,” said IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff.

“With an estimated 22 veterans dying by suicide every day, this is an issue that requires a national response and focus,” Rieckhoff added. “IAVA’s 2014 Policy Agenda, which we unveiled this week, lays out concrete ways that the DOD can work with VA, Congress and the White House to ensure no servicemember falls through the cracks when transitioning from military to civilian life. Their leadership is critical to start reversing the trend of suicide in our community. And just as the DOD supports our troops while they’re overseas, we also need to make sure they’re supporting them once they’re back home.”

Policy Agenda

IAVA’s 2014 Policy Agenda is a blueprint for combating suicide and is driven by data from member veterans nationwide, partner organizations, and a decade of experience.  The Policy Agenda also includes recommendations for keeping the VA on track to end the disability claims backlog by 2015, protecting the Post-9/11 GI Bill, reducing unemployment, and fighting military sexual assault. It contains recommendations for Congress, the White House, the DOD and VA, as well as mayors, governors, business leaders, and philanthropic organizations. The full Policy Agenda can be read here.

Storm the Hill

This week, 32 veteran leaders from nationwide are participating in Storm the Hill, IAVA’s advocacy program that brings the stories of the more than 2.5 million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan to Washington. The veterans come from 16 states and represent IAVA’s diverse, dynamic and rapidly-growing national membership. All have been affected in some way by suicide, including knowing family and friends who have faced mental health challenges. Throughout the week, they will meet with members of Congress, the VA, the Department of Defense and the White House, urging policymakers to adopt IAVA’s recommendations to bridge the gaps in care and ultimately break through the negative stigma that is too often associated with seeking help.

Now in its 10th year, Storm the Hill puts IAVA’s top issue for the year on the map and has jumpstarted historic changes, including the passage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, advanced funding for health care at the VA, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, and last year, a national focus on the high VA disability claims backlog.

Campaign to Combat Suicide

As part of its Campaign to Combat Suicide, all year long IAVA will activate every element of its membership, programs and partners – both on-the-ground and online. IAVA will incorporate this effort into everything we do from our monthly VetTogethers to our over 500,000-person strong social media community. We will empower our almost 300,000 members and supporters to serve as a ground force for outreach, support and advocacy. And we will travel the country, turning public attention to the issue of veteran suicide and promoting solutions.

IAVA connects veterans to mental health services, including partnering with the Veterans Crisis Line to ensure that every servicemember, veteran, family member and provider knows that there is free and confidential help available 24 hours a day through phone, text and online. Veterans, or those concerned about veterans, can call 800-273-8255 and press 1 to be directly connected to qualified responders.

Visit IAVA.org to learn more about IAVA’s efforts to combat suicide, Storm the Hill and our 2014 class of Stormers. All week, IAVA will be posting photos, videos and personal stories on social media and with the #StormtheHill and #CombatingSuicide hashtags on Twitter.


Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the nation’s first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 270,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its tenth year, IAVA recently received the highest rating – four-stars – from Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator.

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Young Veterans “Storm The Hill” in Washington to Combat Suicide

Young Veterans “Storm The Hill” in Washington to Combat Suicide

CONTACT: Gretchen Andersen (212) 982-9699 or press@iava.org

Young Veterans “Storm The Hill” in Washington to Combat Suicide

IAVA launches “We’ve Got Your Back” Campaign and Unveils Policy Agenda Demanding New Action from the Obama Administration and Congress to Reverse the National Trend of Veterans Suicide

WASHINGTON, DC (March 24, 2014) – Veterans from across America storming Capitol Hill with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) today demanded Congress and the President take new action on their top issue: combating veteran suicide. At an event with leading mental health advocates, IAVA announced the “We’ve Got Your Back: Campaign to Combat Suicide” and unveiled IAVA’s 2014 Policy Agenda, which includes a call for omnibus legislation and a comprehensive Executive Order from President Obama to significantly reduce the number of suicides among veterans and servicemembers. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 22 veterans die by suicide each day. In IAVA’s 2014 Member Policy Survey, over 47 percent of respondents said they knew a veteran who had served in Iraq or Afghanistan who had attempted suicide.

This week, 32 veteran leaders from nationwide are participating in Storm the Hill, IAVA’s advocacy program that brings the stories of the more than 2.5 million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan to Washington. The veterans come from 16 states and represent IAVA’s diverse, dynamic and rapidly-growing national membership. All have been affected in some way by suicide, including knowing family and friends who have faced mental health challenges. Throughout the week, they will meet with members of Congress, the VA, the Department of Defense and the White House, urging policymakers to adopt IAVA’s recommendations to bridge the gaps in care and ultimately break through the negative stigma that is too often associated with seeking help. On Thursday, they will participate in a National Day of Action. In Washington, veterans and supporters will place American flags on the National Mall to represent each of the estimated 1,892 veterans and servicemembers who have died by suicide this year and share the stories of friends and families lost.

“Combating suicide is the top issue of the new veteran community in 2014 – and it should be a top issue for Washington and the entire nation. Too much is at stake,” said IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff. “This should be an issue everyone in Washington can work together on—Republican and Democrat. The young men and women taking part in Storm the Hill have put their lives on hold this week to represent their community. These dynamic leaders are in our nation’s capitol this week because they want Washington to do more to combat suicide and support our brothers and sisters. We’ve lost too many of our friends over the years. It’s long past time for Washington to listen to veterans and take bold action to support our community on this critical issue. This week, IAVA veterans will lead. We expect the President and Congress to follow, respond and work with us to change the course of history and save countless lives over the decades to come. If our entire country is focused, there’s no limit to what we can achieve together.”

IAVA’s 2014 Policy Agenda is a blueprint for combating suicide and is driven by data from member veterans nationwide, partner organizations, and a decade of experience.  The Policy Agenda also includes recommendations for keeping the VA on track to end the disability claims backlog by 2015, protecting the Post-9/11 GI Bill, reducing unemployment, and fighting military sexual assault. It contains recommendations for Congress and the White House., as well as mayors, governors, business leaders, and philanthropic organizations. The full Policy Agenda can be read here.

IAVA is pushing for new, comprehensive legislation that would strengthen mental health care and suicide prevention. The legislation would improve access to care for servicemembers and veterans; increase capacity to meet the demand for mental health care, including by helping the VA fill more than 1,000 open mental health positions open on USAJobs; improve the quality of care for servicemembers and veterans; expand proactive outreach to those in crisis; ensure seamless care to those who served; and involve the whole nation in combating suicide.

Additionally, IAVA called on President Obama to make this issue a top priority by signing an Executive Order around suicide prevention, which will include a Presidential Call to Service for mental health providers and appointing a National Director of Suicide Prevention to bring direction and priorities to the hundreds of suicide prevention programs currently in operation. This director must take charge of coordinating between the DOD and VA to ensure a seamless transfer of records while the veteran transitions between the two – so that no one falls between the cracks.

Speakers at Monday’s mental health panel and Policy Agenda unveiling included Rieckhoff; Terri Tanielian, Senior Social Research Analyst at the RAND Corporation; Loree Sutton, Brigadier General (Ret.) in the U.S. Army and Co-Director of Threshold GlobalWorks, LLC; Caitlin Thompson, VA Deputy Director of Suicide Prevention.

As part of its Campaign to Combat Suicide, all year long IAVA will activate every element of its membership, programs and partners – both on-the-ground and online. IAVA will incorporate this effort into everything we do from our monthly VetTogethers to our over 500,000-person strong social media community. We will empower our almost 300,000 members and supporters to serve as a ground force for outreach, support and advocacy. And we will travel the country, turning public attention to the issue of veteran suicide and promoting solutions. 

IAVA connects veterans to mental health services, including partnering with the Veterans Crisis Line to ensure that every servicemember, veteran, family member and provider knows that there is free and confidential help available 24 hours a day through phone, text and online. Veterans, or those concerned about veterans, can call 800-273-8255 and press 1 to be directly connected to qualified responders.

Now in its 10th year, Storm the Hill puts IAVA’s top issue for the year on the map and has jumpstarted historic changes, including the passage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, advanced funding for health care at the VA, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, and last year, a national focus on the high VA disability claims backlog.

Visit StormTheHill.org to learn more about IAVA’s efforts to combat suicide, Storm the Hill and our 2014 class of Stormers. All week, IAVA will be posting photos, videos and personal stories on social media and with the #StormtheHill and CombatingSuicide hashtags on Twitter.

Veterans Storming the Hill this week with IAVA bring their own stories of service in and out of the military. These are two stories:

Ann Weeby served in Iraq in 2003-04 leading convoys, building enemy prisoner of war camps, and supporting engineer missions as part of the Michigan Army National Guard. When she came home she fought to get education benefits and integrate back into college life. She’s used the skills she learned in the military to help build strong communities by rebuilding parks, providing healthy school lunches to kids, and, in her current role, supporting low-income veterans, including those facing mental health challenges. Ann lives in San Francisco with her husband and son.

“From my deployment in Iraq through my work today helping low-income veterans in the San Francisco area, helping my fellow service members has always been priority number one. But we can’t do it alone,” Weeby said. “We need Congress and the President to stand with us in this paramount fight to combat veteran suicide. I’m honored to Storm the Hill with IAVA this week and take an important step toward curbing the devastating veteran suicide rate.”

Marine Corporal Aaron P. Mankin served as a Marine and was deployed to Iraq in several capacities, including Combat Correspondent. During an assignment on an 11-day combat mission in Northern Iraq, Aaron was severely wounded in an IED attack that killed six Marines. Aaron calls the transition period after leaving the military one of the worst times of his life. Marine Corporal Aaron P. Mankin was Operation Mend’s first patient in August 2007. Aaron currently serves as a Leadership Fellow for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), helping to combat veteran suicide. Aaron has spoken at various events and corporations throughout the country. Aaron lives in Rogers, Arkansas with his two children.

“Every veteran knows another vet who has struggled with mental health issues since they have returned home from overseas,” Mankin said. “ For some vets – who slipped through the cracks and couldn’t get solid care – their struggle tragically ended in suicide. We have got to address this problem. I’m here in DC to ensure that this becomes a national focus for our country and to push Congress and the President to fight for us as hard as we fought for them.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the nation’s first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 270,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its tenth year, IAVA recently received the highest rating – four-stars – from Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator.

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VA Removes Annual Income Reporting Requirement








VA Removes Annual Income Reporting Requirement

March 24, 2014





Printable Version



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 24, 2014


VA Removes Annual Income Reporting Requirement
Eliminates Burden on Veterans, Improves Customer Service

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is eliminating the annual requirement for most Veterans enrolled in VA’s health care system to report income information beginning in March 2014. Instead, VA will automatically match income information obtained from the Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration.

“Eliminating the requirement for annual income reporting makes our health care benefits easier for Veterans to obtain,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “This change will reduce the burden on Veterans, improve customer service and make it much easier for Veterans to keep their health care eligibility up-to-date.”

Some Veterans applying for enrollment for the first time are still required to submit income information. There is no change in VA’s long-standing policy to provide no-cost care to indigent Veterans, Veterans with catastrophic medical conditions, Veterans with a disability rating of 50 percent or higher, or for conditions that are officially rated as “service-connected.”

VA encourages Veterans to continue to use the health benefits renewal form to report changes in their personal information, such as address, phone numbers, dependents, next of kin, income and health insurance.

For more information, visit www.va.gov/healthbenefits/cost or call VA toll-free at 1-877-222-VETS (8387).

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