Archives for December 2014

Top 10 Stories from VA Health Care in 2014

Man shows his ID card to a woman at a desk

The new Veteran Health Identification Card was introduced in 2014.

1. New Identification Cards

VA began introducing a new, secure identification card called the Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC) replacing the Veteran Identification Card (VIC) introduced in 2004. As part of a phased rollout, on February 21, 2014 VA began issuing the newly designed, more secure VHIC to newly enrolled and other Veterans who were not issued a VIC. In September, an update let Veterans know that two forms of identification would be needed to request the new Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC). Read more about the Veteran Health Identification Card

2. Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry

The use of burn pits was a common waste disposal practice at military sites outside the United States such as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Smoke from these pits contained substances that may have short- and long-term health effects. VA is conducting research on the issue and has created the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry for Veterans and Servicemembers. Read more about the registry

3. Vet’s Request for Help Leads to National TV Appearance

A homeless Veteran goes from living in a tent to starring in the popular nationally-televised cooking show, Chopped. The story of Robbie Myers, an Army Veteran who medically retired after serving two brutal tours in Afghanistan, struck a chord with thousands of readers. Read more about Robbie Myers

4. Silent Enemy Affects More than a Million Veterans

A look at the battle with an enemy that is quietly maiming and killing thousands of Americans who have served their country. Not posttraumatic stress, depression, or traumatic brain injury. It’s Type 2 diabetes which is at epidemic proportions among the Veteran population. Diabetes — and with it, the risk of heart disease, stroke, blindness, renal disease and amputation — affects more than one million Veterans at any given time. Read more about diabetes

5. Free Transportation for Veterans in Rural Areas

Thousands of Veterans who live in highly rural and remote areas now have free transportation to their VA medical appointments to receive the health care they need and have earned through service to our country. VA awarded grants to organizations that will receive up to $50,000 per highly-rural area to help operate or contract for free transportation services for Veterans to-and-from VA medical facilities and, when authorized, to non-VA facilities. Read more about transportation in rural areas

Black and white photo of the USS Arizona aflame in Pearl Harbor

6. Pearl Harbor Survivor Recalls Day of Infamy

Veteran Lonnie Cook’s remarkable recall of his experiences on December 7, 1941, received a lot of likes and thank yous from our readers. Cook, one of the lucky survivors, spent the night in a bomb shelter on nearby Ford Island. The next day, he volunteered to immediately go back to sea. Read more about Lonnie Cook

7. The Importance of Programs for Family Caregivers

On the occasion of National Family Caregivers Month in November, we saluted the family caregivers who have an immeasurable impact on the lives of those they assist. Because it can be an extremely demanding job and many caregivers experience isolation and burnout, we featured VA’s Caregiver Support Program’s educational programs to assist caregivers in developing new skills sets and understanding the importance of self-care, which helps caregivers achieve a sense of balance to their lives. Read more about Caregivers Month

8. Dental Care for Millions of Veterans and Their Families

Eligible Veterans and CHAMPVA family members can now purchase affordable dental insurance. This new program, a partnership between VA, Delta Dental and MetLife, affects more than eight million Veterans enrolled in VA health care who can now choose to purchase one of the offered dental plans. Participation does not affect entitlement to VA dental services and treatment. An update in November noted that more than 64,000 eligible Veterans and CHAMPVA beneficiaries had taken advantage of the discounted dental insurance plans. Read more about dental care

9. Training Dogs to Help Veterans Cope with Distress

At the Palo Alto VA’s Menlo Park campus, they’ve been using dogs for the last five years to help Veterans overcome symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Always open to creative and non-traditional ways to better serve our Veterans, the medical center was offered the opportunity to implement a service dog training program designed to help Veterans with PTSD. The training process benefits not only the dog, but the Veteran who is doing the training. Read more about service dog training

Close-up of an orange cat sitting in a hallway.

10. Tabby Cat a Comforting Distraction in VA Hospice

In a VA hospice unit in Salem, Virginia, an orange tabby cat named Tom is a comforting distraction for dying Veterans and their families. One Veteran’s daughter described Tom as her lifeline on the difficult day her dad passed away. “When Tom put his paw in daddy’s hand, it was like God was telling me he had ahold of my dad and that everything was OK. That’s how I felt. I felt a peace come over me.” Millions of readers felt the same way after reading the story. As did several national news organizations who helped to spread Tom’s story. Read more about Tom the tabby cat

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2014/December/Top-10-Stories-From-VA-Health-Care-In-2014.asp

To Face Unafraid, the Plans that We’ve Made

A woman volunteer helps a Veteran find a gift

Holiday Gift Shop at Tucson VA

Celebrating the holidays is more meaningful when we generously give of our time, treasure and talents to others. At VA medical centers across the country, hundreds of VA volunteers, staff members, and community organizations have come together to help America’s Veterans celebrate the holiday season with food, fun, and gifts of companionship and caring.

Holiday Gift Shop at Tucson VA

The Southern Arizona VA Health Care System (SAVAHCS) in Tucson, Az., in partnership with the American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) held their annual Hospital Patient Holiday Gift Shop in early December.

For over 40 years members of the ALA have held their annual Holiday Gift Shop for SAVAHCS hospitalized patients. Veteran patients who cannot get out and shop for the holiday are able to select gifts, which are wrapped and mailed for them by ALA members at no cost to the Veteran. The ALA has donated hundreds of new items for the patients to choose from.

Holiday Party for Veterans’ Children in NOLA

This year, Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System (SLVHCS) employees volunteered their time to host the third annual children’s holiday party at the VA Community Resource and Referral Center in New Orleans, La.

This year employees once again assembled a wish list of specific items for children of homeless Veterans and provided the list to anyone interested in donating gifts. The looks on the faces of children who received the gifts were heartwarming.

Boy scout standing next to a decorated tree

Boy Scout Andrew Kiehl and the holiday tree he decorated

Scouts Brighten VA Pittsburgh with Holiday Trees

Heroes Hall at VA Pittsburgh took on the look of Santa’s workshop as Boy Scout Troop 111 from Plum Borough, Pa. decorated and placed holiday trees throughout the University Drive campus. The Scouts delivered the trees to inpatient floors, outpatient clinics and common areas. Family members and volunteers, many dressed in festive elfish apparel, assisted.

The Scout troop’s relationship with VA Pittsburgh and Veterans extends well beyond the annual tree decorating.

“Multiple Eagle projects have benefited Pittsburgh Veterans. The framed pictures and stories of Purple Heart recipients in Heroes Hall, steps for the DAV vans, and archived oral histories, are all Eagle projects out of this troop,” said Rich Laufer (Patient Care). He has a long affiliation with the troop, including previously serving as its Scoutmaster.

In all, 25 holiday trees of all shapes, sizes and themes are on display at University Drive until the first week of January.

Angel Tree Program in Atlanta

For the past 21 years, Nora Socci of VA’s Health Eligibility Center (HEC) in Atlanta, and a faithful band of dedicated helpers have organized the HEC’s annual Angel Tree Program in partnership with the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program provides new clothing or toys for children of needy families.

The HEC’s 2014 program’s kickoff party featured a festive holiday tree decorated with lights and angel tags with the names of 95 children, ages 6 months to 12 years, who live in Atlanta. VA employees enjoyed holiday music and refreshments while they made their angel selections. Toys, skateboards, bicycles and other gifts were delivered to the Salvation Army early in December for distribution.

Los Angeles Veterans Enjoy Holiday Celebrations

The VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System hosted the Veterans’ Holiday Celebration in early December. The event, sponsored by non-profit Veterans’ Holiday Celebration, Inc. creates an annual celebration providing food, gifts and entertainment to honor Veterans and active duty personnel and their families.

Veterans’ Holiday Celebration began 22 years ago when a group wanted to make a difference in the lives of Veterans at the West Los Angeles VA. They discovered many Veterans had nowhere to go and no one to celebrate the holidays with. With turkey dinners in hand, they created an evening of gratitude and love for the Veterans. Since those early beginnings, the Veterans’ Holiday Celebration is now supported by thousands.

The annual Veterans’ Holiday Celebration also recognizes the sacrifices of the men and women Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan by showing them there is indeed a home for them as they return.

A man and woman make gift bags

Volunteers work to make gift bags for Veterans during the annual holiday gift bag event

Asheville, NC, Holiday Gift Bags

Volunteers at the Asheville, N.C. VA Medical Center packed and distributed 750 holiday gift bags for hospitalized Veterans. The camouflage-color gift bags contain a blanket, knit hat, socks, baseball hat, insulated tumbler, a teddy bear, a calendar, and a greeting card.

The gift bags were given to Veterans at the medical center and in nursing facilities, Home Based Primary Care, and Mental Health Intensive Case Management programs. Donations for the holiday gift bags came from 93 Veterans Service and Fraternal Organizations, along with individual donors from around western North Carolina.

Free Holiday Gift Shops in Nebraska

The American Legion Auxiliary brought holiday cheer to Veterans at the Omaha VA Medical Center and the Grand Island, Neb. medical facility. For decades, Auxiliary volunteers have operated free holiday gift shops at both facilities for Veterans who otherwise might not have time to shop for a gift for their loved ones.

Inpatient Veterans receiving dialysis treatment or in the psychosocial rehabilitation recovery center at the Omaha VA selected up to four gifts. For Veterans who couldn’t make it to the shop, Auxiliary members brought a mobile cart stocked with a variety of gifts to their rooms.

In Grand Island, the gift shop was open for Veteran residents in the Transitional House, Community Living Center, and the Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Residential Program. Funds for the free gifts and wrapping were donated by the Auxiliary’s units across Nebraska.

A Vietnam-era Veteran who has shopped at the Omaha VA store for four years for his children and grandchildren said the Auxiliary’s generosity “helps out when times are really tough.”

Help a Hero this Holiday

Why not start a new holiday tradition and spend some time helping your fellow Vets? Every positive interaction and act of kindness is a positive influence in the life of a Veteran. Reach out and redefine how you share your holidays — become a VA volunteer today. www.volunteer.va.gov

We are thankful for our dedicated VA volunteers and employees, and look forward to a wonderful holiday and happy, healthy New Year.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2014/December/To-Face-Unafraid-The-Plans-That-Weve-Made.asp

To Face Unafraid, the Plans that We’ve Made

A woman volunteer helps a Veteran find a gift

Holiday Gift Shop at Tucson VA

Celebrating the holidays is more meaningful when we generously give of our time, treasure and talents to others. At VA medical centers across the country, hundreds of VA volunteers, staff members, and community organizations have come together to help America’s Veterans celebrate the holiday season with food, fun, and gifts of companionship and caring.

Holiday Gift Shop at Tucson VA

The Southern Arizona VA Health Care System (SAVAHCS) in Tucson, Az., in partnership with the American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) held their annual Hospital Patient Holiday Gift Shop in early December.

For over 40 years members of the ALA have held their annual Holiday Gift Shop for SAVAHCS hospitalized patients. Veteran patients who cannot get out and shop for the holiday are able to select gifts, which are wrapped and mailed for them by ALA members at no cost to the Veteran. The ALA has donated hundreds of new items for the patients to choose from.

Holiday Party for Veterans’ Children in NOLA

This year, Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System (SLVHCS) employees volunteered their time to host the third annual children’s holiday party at the VA Community Resource and Referral Center in New Orleans, La.

This year employees once again assembled a wish list of specific items for children of homeless Veterans and provided the list to anyone interested in donating gifts. The looks on the faces of children who received the gifts were heartwarming.

Boy scout standing next to a decorated tree

Boy Scout Andrew Kiehl and the holiday tree he decorated

Scouts Brighten VA Pittsburgh with Holiday Trees

Heroes Hall at VA Pittsburgh took on the look of Santa’s workshop as Boy Scout Troop 111 from Plum Borough, Pa. decorated and placed holiday trees throughout the University Drive campus. The Scouts delivered the trees to inpatient floors, outpatient clinics and common areas. Family members and volunteers, many dressed in festive elfish apparel, assisted.

The Scout troop’s relationship with VA Pittsburgh and Veterans extends well beyond the annual tree decorating.

“Multiple Eagle projects have benefited Pittsburgh Veterans. The framed pictures and stories of Purple Heart recipients in Heroes Hall, steps for the DAV vans, and archived oral histories, are all Eagle projects out of this troop,” said Rich Laufer (Patient Care). He has a long affiliation with the troop, including previously serving as its Scoutmaster.

In all, 25 holiday trees of all shapes, sizes and themes are on display at University Drive until the first week of January.

Angel Tree Program in Atlanta

For the past 21 years, Nora Socci of VA’s Health Eligibility Center (HEC) in Atlanta, and a faithful band of dedicated helpers have organized the HEC’s annual Angel Tree Program in partnership with the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program provides new clothing or toys for children of needy families.

The HEC’s 2014 program’s kickoff party featured a festive holiday tree decorated with lights and angel tags with the names of 95 children, ages 6 months to 12 years, who live in Atlanta. VA employees enjoyed holiday music and refreshments while they made their angel selections. Toys, skateboards, bicycles and other gifts were delivered to the Salvation Army early in December for distribution.

Los Angeles Veterans Enjoy Holiday Celebrations

The VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System hosted the Veterans’ Holiday Celebration in early December. The event, sponsored by non-profit Veterans’ Holiday Celebration, Inc. creates an annual celebration providing food, gifts and entertainment to honor Veterans and active duty personnel and their families.

Veterans’ Holiday Celebration began 22 years ago when a group wanted to make a difference in the lives of Veterans at the West Los Angeles VA. They discovered many Veterans had nowhere to go and no one to celebrate the holidays with. With turkey dinners in hand, they created an evening of gratitude and love for the Veterans. Since those early beginnings, the Veterans’ Holiday Celebration is now supported by thousands.

The annual Veterans’ Holiday Celebration also recognizes the sacrifices of the men and women Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan by showing them there is indeed a home for them as they return.

A man and woman make gift bags

Volunteers work to make gift bags for Veterans during the annual holiday gift bag event

Asheville, NC, Holiday Gift Bags

Volunteers at the Asheville, N.C. VA Medical Center packed and distributed 750 holiday gift bags for hospitalized Veterans. The camouflage-color gift bags contain a blanket, knit hat, socks, baseball hat, insulated tumbler, a teddy bear, a calendar, and a greeting card.

The gift bags were given to Veterans at the medical center and in nursing facilities, Home Based Primary Care, and Mental Health Intensive Case Management programs. Donations for the holiday gift bags came from 93 Veterans Service and Fraternal Organizations, along with individual donors from around western North Carolina.

Free Holiday Gift Shops in Nebraska

The American Legion Auxiliary brought holiday cheer to Veterans at the Omaha VA Medical Center and the Grand Island, Neb. medical facility. For decades, Auxiliary volunteers have operated free holiday gift shops at both facilities for Veterans who otherwise might not have time to shop for a gift for their loved ones.

Inpatient Veterans receiving dialysis treatment or in the psychosocial rehabilitation recovery center at the Omaha VA selected up to four gifts. For Veterans who couldn’t make it to the shop, Auxiliary members brought a mobile cart stocked with a variety of gifts to their rooms.

In Grand Island, the gift shop was open for Veteran residents in the Transitional House, Community Living Center, and the Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Residential Program. Funds for the free gifts and wrapping were donated by the Auxiliary’s units across Nebraska.

A Vietnam-era Veteran who has shopped at the Omaha VA store for four years for his children and grandchildren said the Auxiliary’s generosity “helps out when times are really tough.”

Help a Hero this Holiday

Why not start a new holiday tradition and spend some time helping your fellow Vets? Every positive interaction and act of kindness is a positive influence in the life of a Veteran. Reach out and redefine how you share your holidays — become a VA volunteer today. www.volunteer.va.gov

We are thankful for our dedicated VA volunteers and employees, and look forward to a wonderful holiday and happy, healthy New Year.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2014/December/To-Face-Unafraid-The-Plans-That-Weve-Made.asp

To Face Unafraid, the Plans that We’ve Made

A woman volunteer helps a Veteran find a gift

Holiday Gift Shop at Tucson VA

Celebrating the holidays is more meaningful when we generously give of our time, treasure and talents to others. At VA medical centers across the country, hundreds of VA volunteers, staff members, and community organizations have come together to help America’s Veterans celebrate the holiday season with food, fun, and gifts of companionship and caring.

Holiday Gift Shop at Tucson VA

The Southern Arizona VA Health Care System (SAVAHCS) in Tucson, Az., in partnership with the American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) held their annual Hospital Patient Holiday Gift Shop in early December.

For over 40 years members of the ALA have held their annual Holiday Gift Shop for SAVAHCS hospitalized patients. Veteran patients who cannot get out and shop for the holiday are able to select gifts, which are wrapped and mailed for them by ALA members at no cost to the Veteran. The ALA has donated hundreds of new items for the patients to choose from.

Holiday Party for Veterans’ Children in NOLA

This year, Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System (SLVHCS) employees volunteered their time to host the third annual children’s holiday party at the VA Community Resource and Referral Center in New Orleans, La.

This year employees once again assembled a wish list of specific items for children of homeless Veterans and provided the list to anyone interested in donating gifts. The looks on the faces of children who received the gifts were heartwarming.

Boy scout standing next to a decorated tree

Boy Scout Andrew Kiehl and the holiday tree he decorated

Scouts Brighten VA Pittsburgh with Holiday Trees

Heroes Hall at VA Pittsburgh took on the look of Santa’s workshop as Boy Scout Troop 111 from Plum Borough, Pa. decorated and placed holiday trees throughout the University Drive campus. The Scouts delivered the trees to inpatient floors, outpatient clinics and common areas. Family members and volunteers, many dressed in festive elfish apparel, assisted.

The Scout troop’s relationship with VA Pittsburgh and Veterans extends well beyond the annual tree decorating.

“Multiple Eagle projects have benefited Pittsburgh Veterans. The framed pictures and stories of Purple Heart recipients in Heroes Hall, steps for the DAV vans, and archived oral histories, are all Eagle projects out of this troop,” said Rich Laufer (Patient Care). He has a long affiliation with the troop, including previously serving as its Scoutmaster.

In all, 25 holiday trees of all shapes, sizes and themes are on display at University Drive until the first week of January.

Angel Tree Program in Atlanta

For the past 21 years, Nora Socci of VA’s Health Eligibility Center (HEC) in Atlanta, and a faithful band of dedicated helpers have organized the HEC’s annual Angel Tree Program in partnership with the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program provides new clothing or toys for children of needy families.

The HEC’s 2014 program’s kickoff party featured a festive holiday tree decorated with lights and angel tags with the names of 95 children, ages 6 months to 12 years, who live in Atlanta. VA employees enjoyed holiday music and refreshments while they made their angel selections. Toys, skateboards, bicycles and other gifts were delivered to the Salvation Army early in December for distribution.

Los Angeles Veterans Enjoy Holiday Celebrations

The VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System hosted the Veterans’ Holiday Celebration in early December. The event, sponsored by non-profit Veterans’ Holiday Celebration, Inc. creates an annual celebration providing food, gifts and entertainment to honor Veterans and active duty personnel and their families.

Veterans’ Holiday Celebration began 22 years ago when a group wanted to make a difference in the lives of Veterans at the West Los Angeles VA. They discovered many Veterans had nowhere to go and no one to celebrate the holidays with. With turkey dinners in hand, they created an evening of gratitude and love for the Veterans. Since those early beginnings, the Veterans’ Holiday Celebration is now supported by thousands.

The annual Veterans’ Holiday Celebration also recognizes the sacrifices of the men and women Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan by showing them there is indeed a home for them as they return.

A man and woman make gift bags

Volunteers work to make gift bags for Veterans during the annual holiday gift bag event

Asheville, NC, Holiday Gift Bags

Volunteers at the Asheville, N.C. VA Medical Center packed and distributed 750 holiday gift bags for hospitalized Veterans. The camouflage-color gift bags contain a blanket, knit hat, socks, baseball hat, insulated tumbler, a teddy bear, a calendar, and a greeting card.

The gift bags were given to Veterans at the medical center and in nursing facilities, Home Based Primary Care, and Mental Health Intensive Case Management programs. Donations for the holiday gift bags came from 93 Veterans Service and Fraternal Organizations, along with individual donors from around western North Carolina.

Free Holiday Gift Shops in Nebraska

The American Legion Auxiliary brought holiday cheer to Veterans at the Omaha VA Medical Center and the Grand Island, Neb. medical facility. For decades, Auxiliary volunteers have operated free holiday gift shops at both facilities for Veterans who otherwise might not have time to shop for a gift for their loved ones.

Inpatient Veterans receiving dialysis treatment or in the psychosocial rehabilitation recovery center at the Omaha VA selected up to four gifts. For Veterans who couldn’t make it to the shop, Auxiliary members brought a mobile cart stocked with a variety of gifts to their rooms.

In Grand Island, the gift shop was open for Veteran residents in the Transitional House, Community Living Center, and the Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Residential Program. Funds for the free gifts and wrapping were donated by the Auxiliary’s units across Nebraska.

A Vietnam-era Veteran who has shopped at the Omaha VA store for four years for his children and grandchildren said the Auxiliary’s generosity “helps out when times are really tough.”

Help a Hero this Holiday

Why not start a new holiday tradition and spend some time helping your fellow Vets? Every positive interaction and act of kindness is a positive influence in the life of a Veteran. Reach out and redefine how you share your holidays — become a VA volunteer today. www.volunteer.va.gov

We are thankful for our dedicated VA volunteers and employees, and look forward to a wonderful holiday and happy, healthy New Year.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2014/December/To-Face-Unafraid-The-Plans-That-Weve-Made.asp

To Face Unafraid, the Plans that We’ve Made

A woman volunteer helps a Veteran find a gift

Holiday Gift Shop at Tucson VA

Celebrating the holidays is more meaningful when we generously give of our time, treasure and talents to others. At VA medical centers across the country, hundreds of VA volunteers, staff members, and community organizations have come together to help America’s Veterans celebrate the holiday season with food, fun, and gifts of companionship and caring.

Holiday Gift Shop at Tucson VA

The Southern Arizona VA Health Care System (SAVAHCS) in Tucson, Az., in partnership with the American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) held their annual Hospital Patient Holiday Gift Shop in early December.

For over 40 years members of the ALA have held their annual Holiday Gift Shop for SAVAHCS hospitalized patients. Veteran patients who cannot get out and shop for the holiday are able to select gifts, which are wrapped and mailed for them by ALA members at no cost to the Veteran. The ALA has donated hundreds of new items for the patients to choose from.

Holiday Party for Veterans’ Children in NOLA

This year, Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System (SLVHCS) employees volunteered their time to host the third annual children’s holiday party at the VA Community Resource and Referral Center in New Orleans, La.

This year employees once again assembled a wish list of specific items for children of homeless Veterans and provided the list to anyone interested in donating gifts. The looks on the faces of children who received the gifts were heartwarming.

Boy scout standing next to a decorated tree

Boy Scout Andrew Kiehl and the holiday tree he decorated

Scouts Brighten VA Pittsburgh with Holiday Trees

Heroes Hall at VA Pittsburgh took on the look of Santa’s workshop as Boy Scout Troop 111 from Plum Borough, Pa. decorated and placed holiday trees throughout the University Drive campus. The Scouts delivered the trees to inpatient floors, outpatient clinics and common areas. Family members and volunteers, many dressed in festive elfish apparel, assisted.

The Scout troop’s relationship with VA Pittsburgh and Veterans extends well beyond the annual tree decorating.

“Multiple Eagle projects have benefited Pittsburgh Veterans. The framed pictures and stories of Purple Heart recipients in Heroes Hall, steps for the DAV vans, and archived oral histories, are all Eagle projects out of this troop,” said Rich Laufer (Patient Care). He has a long affiliation with the troop, including previously serving as its Scoutmaster.

In all, 25 holiday trees of all shapes, sizes and themes are on display at University Drive until the first week of January.

Angel Tree Program in Atlanta

For the past 21 years, Nora Socci of VA’s Health Eligibility Center (HEC) in Atlanta, and a faithful band of dedicated helpers have organized the HEC’s annual Angel Tree Program in partnership with the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program provides new clothing or toys for children of needy families.

The HEC’s 2014 program’s kickoff party featured a festive holiday tree decorated with lights and angel tags with the names of 95 children, ages 6 months to 12 years, who live in Atlanta. VA employees enjoyed holiday music and refreshments while they made their angel selections. Toys, skateboards, bicycles and other gifts were delivered to the Salvation Army early in December for distribution.

Los Angeles Veterans Enjoy Holiday Celebrations

The VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System hosted the Veterans’ Holiday Celebration in early December. The event, sponsored by non-profit Veterans’ Holiday Celebration, Inc. creates an annual celebration providing food, gifts and entertainment to honor Veterans and active duty personnel and their families.

Veterans’ Holiday Celebration began 22 years ago when a group wanted to make a difference in the lives of Veterans at the West Los Angeles VA. They discovered many Veterans had nowhere to go and no one to celebrate the holidays with. With turkey dinners in hand, they created an evening of gratitude and love for the Veterans. Since those early beginnings, the Veterans’ Holiday Celebration is now supported by thousands.

The annual Veterans’ Holiday Celebration also recognizes the sacrifices of the men and women Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan by showing them there is indeed a home for them as they return.

A man and woman make gift bags

Volunteers work to make gift bags for Veterans during the annual holiday gift bag event

Asheville, NC, Holiday Gift Bags

Volunteers at the Asheville, N.C. VA Medical Center packed and distributed 750 holiday gift bags for hospitalized Veterans. The camouflage-color gift bags contain a blanket, knit hat, socks, baseball hat, insulated tumbler, a teddy bear, a calendar, and a greeting card.

The gift bags were given to Veterans at the medical center and in nursing facilities, Home Based Primary Care, and Mental Health Intensive Case Management programs. Donations for the holiday gift bags came from 93 Veterans Service and Fraternal Organizations, along with individual donors from around western North Carolina.

Free Holiday Gift Shops in Nebraska

The American Legion Auxiliary brought holiday cheer to Veterans at the Omaha VA Medical Center and the Grand Island, Neb. medical facility. For decades, Auxiliary volunteers have operated free holiday gift shops at both facilities for Veterans who otherwise might not have time to shop for a gift for their loved ones.

Inpatient Veterans receiving dialysis treatment or in the psychosocial rehabilitation recovery center at the Omaha VA selected up to four gifts. For Veterans who couldn’t make it to the shop, Auxiliary members brought a mobile cart stocked with a variety of gifts to their rooms.

In Grand Island, the gift shop was open for Veteran residents in the Transitional House, Community Living Center, and the Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Residential Program. Funds for the free gifts and wrapping were donated by the Auxiliary’s units across Nebraska.

A Vietnam-era Veteran who has shopped at the Omaha VA store for four years for his children and grandchildren said the Auxiliary’s generosity “helps out when times are really tough.”

Help a Hero this Holiday

Why not start a new holiday tradition and spend some time helping your fellow Vets? Every positive interaction and act of kindness is a positive influence in the life of a Veteran. Reach out and redefine how you share your holidays — become a VA volunteer today. www.volunteer.va.gov

We are thankful for our dedicated VA volunteers and employees, and look forward to a wonderful holiday and happy, healthy New Year.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2014/December/To-Face-Unafraid-The-Plans-That-Weve-Made.asp

To Face Unafraid, the Plans that We’ve Made

A woman volunteer helps a Veteran find a gift

Holiday Gift Shop at Tucson VA

Celebrating the holidays is more meaningful when we generously give of our time, treasure and talents to others. At VA medical centers across the country, hundreds of VA volunteers, staff members, and community organizations have come together to help America’s Veterans celebrate the holiday season with food, fun, and gifts of companionship and caring.

Holiday Gift Shop at Tucson VA

The Southern Arizona VA Health Care System (SAVAHCS) in Tucson, Az., in partnership with the American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) held their annual Hospital Patient Holiday Gift Shop in early December.

For over 40 years members of the ALA have held their annual Holiday Gift Shop for SAVAHCS hospitalized patients. Veteran patients who cannot get out and shop for the holiday are able to select gifts, which are wrapped and mailed for them by ALA members at no cost to the Veteran. The ALA has donated hundreds of new items for the patients to choose from.

Holiday Party for Veterans’ Children in NOLA

This year, Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System (SLVHCS) employees volunteered their time to host the third annual children’s holiday party at the VA Community Resource and Referral Center in New Orleans, La.

This year employees once again assembled a wish list of specific items for children of homeless Veterans and provided the list to anyone interested in donating gifts. The looks on the faces of children who received the gifts were heartwarming.

Boy scout standing next to a decorated tree

Boy Scout Andrew Kiehl and the holiday tree he decorated

Scouts Brighten VA Pittsburgh with Holiday Trees

Heroes Hall at VA Pittsburgh took on the look of Santa’s workshop as Boy Scout Troop 111 from Plum Borough, Pa. decorated and placed holiday trees throughout the University Drive campus. The Scouts delivered the trees to inpatient floors, outpatient clinics and common areas. Family members and volunteers, many dressed in festive elfish apparel, assisted.

The Scout troop’s relationship with VA Pittsburgh and Veterans extends well beyond the annual tree decorating.

“Multiple Eagle projects have benefited Pittsburgh Veterans. The framed pictures and stories of Purple Heart recipients in Heroes Hall, steps for the DAV vans, and archived oral histories, are all Eagle projects out of this troop,” said Rich Laufer (Patient Care). He has a long affiliation with the troop, including previously serving as its Scoutmaster.

In all, 25 holiday trees of all shapes, sizes and themes are on display at University Drive until the first week of January.

Angel Tree Program in Atlanta

For the past 21 years, Nora Socci of VA’s Health Eligibility Center (HEC) in Atlanta, and a faithful band of dedicated helpers have organized the HEC’s annual Angel Tree Program in partnership with the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program provides new clothing or toys for children of needy families.

The HEC’s 2014 program’s kickoff party featured a festive holiday tree decorated with lights and angel tags with the names of 95 children, ages 6 months to 12 years, who live in Atlanta. VA employees enjoyed holiday music and refreshments while they made their angel selections. Toys, skateboards, bicycles and other gifts were delivered to the Salvation Army early in December for distribution.

Los Angeles Veterans Enjoy Holiday Celebrations

The VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System hosted the Veterans’ Holiday Celebration in early December. The event, sponsored by non-profit Veterans’ Holiday Celebration, Inc. creates an annual celebration providing food, gifts and entertainment to honor Veterans and active duty personnel and their families.

Veterans’ Holiday Celebration began 22 years ago when a group wanted to make a difference in the lives of Veterans at the West Los Angeles VA. They discovered many Veterans had nowhere to go and no one to celebrate the holidays with. With turkey dinners in hand, they created an evening of gratitude and love for the Veterans. Since those early beginnings, the Veterans’ Holiday Celebration is now supported by thousands.

The annual Veterans’ Holiday Celebration also recognizes the sacrifices of the men and women Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan by showing them there is indeed a home for them as they return.

A man and woman make gift bags

Volunteers work to make gift bags for Veterans during the annual holiday gift bag event

Asheville, NC, Holiday Gift Bags

Volunteers at the Asheville, N.C. VA Medical Center packed and distributed 750 holiday gift bags for hospitalized Veterans. The camouflage-color gift bags contain a blanket, knit hat, socks, baseball hat, insulated tumbler, a teddy bear, a calendar, and a greeting card.

The gift bags were given to Veterans at the medical center and in nursing facilities, Home Based Primary Care, and Mental Health Intensive Case Management programs. Donations for the holiday gift bags came from 93 Veterans Service and Fraternal Organizations, along with individual donors from around western North Carolina.

Free Holiday Gift Shops in Nebraska

The American Legion Auxiliary brought holiday cheer to Veterans at the Omaha VA Medical Center and the Grand Island, Neb. medical facility. For decades, Auxiliary volunteers have operated free holiday gift shops at both facilities for Veterans who otherwise might not have time to shop for a gift for their loved ones.

Inpatient Veterans receiving dialysis treatment or in the psychosocial rehabilitation recovery center at the Omaha VA selected up to four gifts. For Veterans who couldn’t make it to the shop, Auxiliary members brought a mobile cart stocked with a variety of gifts to their rooms.

In Grand Island, the gift shop was open for Veteran residents in the Transitional House, Community Living Center, and the Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Residential Program. Funds for the free gifts and wrapping were donated by the Auxiliary’s units across Nebraska.

A Vietnam-era Veteran who has shopped at the Omaha VA store for four years for his children and grandchildren said the Auxiliary’s generosity “helps out when times are really tough.”

Help a Hero this Holiday

Why not start a new holiday tradition and spend some time helping your fellow Vets? Every positive interaction and act of kindness is a positive influence in the life of a Veteran. Reach out and redefine how you share your holidays — become a VA volunteer today. www.volunteer.va.gov

We are thankful for our dedicated VA volunteers and employees, and look forward to a wonderful holiday and happy, healthy New Year.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2014/December/To-Face-Unafraid-The-Plans-That-Weve-Made.asp

Want Less Stress? Check Out This Veteran Resource

Hans Petersen, VA Staff Writer

The courses are designed specifically for Veterans.

The demands of the holiday season can sometimes bring unwelcome guests — stress, anxiety and depression. People can experience stress for many different reasons and in a variety of ways. The pressures and demands of family and friends, financial issues, or unrealistic expectations can make you feel overwhelmed.

Veterans often deal with holiday stress on top of other challenges, such as transitioning into civilian and family life or being separated from loved ones.

In order to help Veterans deal with challenges associated with times of stress and transition, VA developed the Veteran Training Resource Center. It contains a variety of online resources that can help you navigate the holiday season. The courses are designed specifically for Veterans and include tips and examples from Veterans who have experienced the same challenges.

The Veteran Training Resource Center consists of:

  • Moving Forward: Overcoming Life’s Challenges: Teaches problem-solving skills to help you face obstacles without feeling overwhelmed or “stuck.” It can be used to solve any stressful problem including relationship problems, financial difficulties, or transitioning to civilian life.
  • Parenting for Servicemembers and Veterans: Addresses both everyday parenting challenges as well as those exclusive to military and Veteran families. It teaches ways to reconnect with your family, manage stress, and strengthen your relationship with your children.
  • Anger and Irritability Management Skills (AIMS): Provides practical skills and tools to help manage your temper, reduce stress, and develop more control over what you say and do. Veteran mentors share their experiences learning to manage their anger.

These easy-to-use, award-winning courses can be found at www.veterantraining.va.gov and are valuable throughout the year, but can be especially beneficial during the holidays, when stress can run rampant.

Each course is free, confidential, and does not require any personal information.

Apps for Courses are Available

Each course is free, confidential, and does not require you to input any personal information. You can take these courses at your leisure and in complete confidence. In fact, companion mobile apps for Moving Forward and Parenting are available for download on iTunes, allowing convenient access at any time.

The courses consist of several modules complete with interactive exercises, videos and real-life Veteran experiences. While these tools are not intended to replace professional care, they have advice and exercises that can help Veterans as they work through transitions and stressful life situations.

Stress can be managed with some time and effort. If you are experiencing sadness or stress during the holidays, we urge you to consider looking at the Veteran Training Resource Center, and hope you have a happy, healthy and enjoyable holiday season.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2014/December/Want-Less-Stress-Check-Out-This-Veteran-Resource.asp

Veterans Can Now Track Delivery of Prescriptions

Woman checking a mailbox

She knew her VA prescriptions would arrive today.

Call it innovative thinking, ingenuity, or just a plain great idea to better serve Veterans! VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald recently reminded VA employees that the mission is clear — to serve Veterans. Putting Veterans at the center of VA is first and foremost.

For VA employee Kenneth Siehr, National Director, VA Consolidated Mail Out Pharmacy Program (CMOP), his great idea not only foreshadowed the sentiments expressed by Secretary McDonald months later, but brought national recognition to VA and My HealtheVet.

Joining four other federal finalists, Siehr’s innovative idea for the President’s 2013 Securing America’s Value and Efficiency (SAVE) Award focused on the use of technology to save money and improve the services VA provides to Veteran patients.

This innovative idea — now a reality — won the Presidential SAVE Award in December 2013. In February 2014, Siehr met with President Obama to discuss his winning proposal. Following that meeting, work to implement his funded idea began.

Siehr’s idea allows Veteran patients to track the delivery of their VA prescriptions online through My HealtheVet at www.myhealth.va.gov. He believed that taking the idea of a self-service delivery tracking tool would improve customer service to Veterans by giving them the ability to track their VA refill medications online, 24/7. This online option is designed to be both efficient and customer-focused. It may eliminate a portion of the estimated 1.8 million telephone calls to VA health care facilities generated from Veterans seeking to track their medication delivery each year.

“Our nation’s Veterans deserve a first-class pharmacy and customer service as a part of the exceptional health care available from VA,” said Siehr. “It is an honor to be part of serving Veterans and to have been recognized for an idea that enhances service to those Veterans. They deserve nothing less, and online prescription tracking on My HealtheVet delivers on that commitment.”

“Siehr looked at the process of VA prescription tracking through the eyes of Veteran patients and came up with an idea,” said Theresa Hancock, Director, My HealtheVet. “This idea was both innovative and transformative. We are pleased to be part of moving this idea into action to improve service to America’s Veterans.”

More than 4,000 Veterans are already using VA’s Prescription Tracker available on My HealtheVet every day. Postcards are being sent to enrolled Veteran patients so that they may learn more about the new Prescription Tracking feature.

This is one of many features available for Veterans on My HealtheVet. If you are a Veteran enrolled in VA and are not currently registered on My HealtheVet visit www.myhealth.va.gov today! For questions, please contact the My HealtheVet Coordinator at your VA medical center.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2014/December/Veterans-Can-Now-Track-Delivery-Of-Prescriptions.asp

Veteran Survived the Battle of the Bulge

Old photo of a man in uniform next to the same man, now elderly

WW II Veteran Arthur Berkowitz in 1944 and today

Sherry Berkowitz has the utmost admiration for Arthur Berkowitz, her dad, who celebrated his 91st birthday last week. She is his daily caregiver, advocate, and morale booster and takes every occasion to let others know, “He is a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient who fought in the bloody Battle of the Bulge and was badly injured in the weeks that followed.”

The Battle of the Bulge was a major German offensive fought in the late winter of 1944, through the densely forested Western Front of Europe. The surprise attack toward the end of World War II took many Allied casualties, particularly among U.S. troops.

The historic Battle of the Bulge happened 70 years ago and helped turn the tide of war in the European Theater by weakening German military resources. But the Battle of the Bulge remains very much present in the minds of World War ll Veterans like Berkowitz who, time after time, relives his combat experience and the moment he was permanently disabled.

Drafted as an Army infantryman, Berkowitz describes the daily life he and others endured during the winter of 1944-45. “It was very, very cold. I slept on ice in a fox hole, wrapped in a coat I took off a dead German,” he said. “Yes, I have PTSD.”

“I wasn’t assigned to tanks, but I knew how to reload the gun. I asked another soldier to move over so I could reload, and he and the two other soldiers with me were killed by a mortar shell explosion,” said Berkowitz, recalling one traumatic incident among many. “That’s what you call luck,” he says.

Weeks later, Berkowitz’s knee was shattered by a sniper’s bullet. Treated on the field and airlifted to England, Berkowitz was then transported by ship to the United States. He sustained 14 operations on his knee and spent over two years in hospitals, basically battling infection.

Finally, he volunteered to try streptomycin. Now a familiar antibiotic, the drug was then in its experimental stages. He was told it might cause loss of hearing and sterility, but, happily for Berkowitz, the drug stopped the infection and had no negative side effects.

His combat injury, however, was treated by fusing the bones of his knee and Berkowitz knew then he would proceed through life with chronic pain and a knee that would not bend.

Veteran Marries Veteran

After recovery, Berkowitz met Navy Veteran Tabby Berkowitz on a blind date. Within a month’s time, he asked her to be his wife, and the couple married two months later. They lived in an apartment and then moved to a home they purchased for $16,000 in Fresh Meadows, Queens where they raised two daughters. After Berkowitz’s wife died, he continued to live in the same home with his daughter Sherry.

Berkowitz and his daughter are frequent visitors to VA’s Manhattan campus, where he receives care in cardiology, PTSD, physical medicine and rehab. Berkowitz cannot give enough praise for his daughter’s devoted care. “She gets up very early every day and drives me here, three, four times a week for all my appointments. I couldn’t do this without her.”

For her part, Sherry, a trained speech therapist, takes the full-time job as caregiver in stride. “I began being a caregiver when my mother was ill. Now, I take care of my father,” she said.

Sherry said she was very grateful to have access to VA’s toll-free Caregiver Support line, 855-260-3274. “It’s wonderful,” she said. Sherry just completed a six-week Building Better Caregivers training program, offered through VA’s national Caregiver Support Program.

For more about services VA provides caregivers of Veterans, visit VA’s Caregiver Support page.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2014/December/Veteran-Survived-The-Battle-Of-The-Bulge.asp

VA to Pilot IBM Computer Technology to Assist Physicians in Caring for Patients








VA to Pilot IBM Computer Technology to Assist Physicians in Caring for Patients

December 15, 2014, 01:47:00 PM





Printable Version




 


VA to Pilot IBM Computer Technology to Assist Physicians in Caring for Patients


Two-Year Pilot Program Places Emphasis on Evidence-based Clinical Decisions


 


The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has begun a two-year pilot to study innovative approaches to quickly search electronic medical records and medical literature for relevant published studies. During the pilot, VA will assess how the technology may accelerate evidence-based clinical decisions.


“Physicians can save valuable time finding the right information needed to care for their patients with this sophisticated and advanced technology,” said Interim Under Secretary for Health Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. “A tool that can help a clinician quickly collect, combine, and present information will allow them to spend more time listening and interacting with the Veteran.  This directly supports the patient-centric medicine VA is committed to delivering every day.”


The IBM Corporation was selected to provide the system which uses its “Watson technology” made famous on Jeopardy! in 2011. Today, IBM is working with several healthcare organizations to apply Watson’s cognitive capabilities in helping doctors identify and analyze cancer treatment options. Learning about the opportunities and challenges these next-generation technologies may have is part of an ongoing effort for VA to advance the quality of healthcare provided to our Nation’s Veterans. During the pilot, clinical decisions will not be made on actual patient encounters, but instead will use realistic simulations. The notice can be found here: 


https://www.fbo.gov/notices/1e9767c0e2880cf2e4ce98f75b113efa


For more information, visit http://www.va.gov/health/.


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Source Article from http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/PressArtInternet.cfm?id=2667


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