Archives for January 2015

Department of Veterans Affairs Reaches Historic Breakthrough Agreement

Department of Veterans Affairs Reaches Historic Breakthrough Agreement

January 28, 2015, 06:47:00 PM

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 Department of Veterans Affairs Reaches Historic Breakthrough Agreement

In the Next Step to End Homelessness Among Los Angeles Veterans

VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald to Lead the Launch of a New Master Plan for West Los Angeles VA Campus

Los Angeles — U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert A. McDonald and attorneys representing homeless veterans in Los Angeles announced an agreement that dedicates  the West Los Angeles VA campus to serving veterans in need, and commits the department to design a plan to help end homelessness among veterans in Los Angeles County.  The agreement is an important step forward in carrying out President Obama’s commitment that no veteran should live on the streets, or forego necessary medical and psychological services.

“This agreement offers VA a historic opportunity to build new community relationships in Los Angeles and continue the work needed to end veteran homelessness here,” said Secretary McDonald.  “VA is proud of the progress we’ve made in ending veteran homelessness—down 33 percent since 2010—but we won’t be satisfied until every veteran has a home.”

Under the agreement, Secretary McDonald and plaintiffs’ representatives will develop by February 13, 2015 a written plan to help end veteran homeless in Greater Los Angeles.  The plan will focus on serving veterans, particularly homeless veterans, women veterans, aging veterans and veterans that are severely disabled. Secretary McDonald will appoint a Special Assistant, who will report directly to him, to oversee the plan’s implementation with the necessary resources and support. 

“This historic agreement, forged through the leadership of Secretary McDonald, creates a partnership that will be invaluable to help end veteran homelessness in Los Angeles, provide needed medical care and services, and make concrete our commitment to those who served our nation’s highest calling,” said Ron Olson, one of the counsels for the organizations bringing the lawsuit.

Under the agreement, Secretary McDonald will also launch an accelerated process to develop a new long-term Master Plan for the future use of the West Los Angeles campus.  This Master Plan, which is targeted to be completed by October 16, 2015, will prioritize the provision of bridge housing and permanent supportive housing.  It will also describe an exit strategy for third-party land use agreements that do not comply with applicable laws, and do not fit within the Master Plan.  Representatives from the veterans’ community will be actively involved in providing input to the Master Plan, along with other stakeholders, including the local community.

Attorneys for homeless veterans agreed to pursue a dismissal of the lawsuit Valentini v. McDonald, which was filed in 2011. Plaintiffs are represented by the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, Public Counsel, and Inner City Law Center, with the pro bono support of Arnold & Porter LLP, Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, and Harvard Law School Professor Laurence H. Tribe.  The landmark case was a major impetus behind realizing the vision of eliminating homelessness in Los Angeles among veterans who entered the military to serve the nation.

“The Department of Justice is pleased to have come to a positive resolution in this nearly four year litigation,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda for the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Ending this litigation will facilitate the continuing partnership between the Department of Veterans Affairs and key stakeholders to end veteran homelessness in greater Los Angeles in 2015 and beyond.”

The 387-acre West Los Angeles VA campus was deeded to the United States in 1888 to serve as a home for disabled veterans.  Today, Los Angeles has the nation’s largest population of homeless and veterans with disabilities.



Media contacts:


VA Office of Public Affairs, Media Relations (202)-461-7600

Michael Soller, Public Counsel (213) 637-3821 / (213) 446-1851

Sandra Hernandez, ACLU of Southern California (213) 977-5242

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West Va. Woman Finds Joy Volunteering at VA

Woman volunteer sits with a Veteran patient

Volunteer Joan Chambers visits with Army Veteran Leslie Vannatter, a patient at the Huntington VA Medical Center.

Photo by Deborah Brammer, Huntington VA

At 67, Joan Chambers is a whirlwind of energy with one primary mission in life: to be of service to others.

Veterans are grateful that she spends a good deal of that energy doing volunteer work at Huntington VA Medical Center (VAMC) in West Virginia.

Staying Busy

“I’m one of nine children,” Chambers explained, “and my mother was always telling us, ‘Don’t you have anything to do?’ So I always made sure I had something to do. I learned to stay busy at an early age.”

Chambers said she began volunteering at the Huntington VAMC shortly after her husband, Nicholas, died in 2005. “He was a Navy Veteran who served in Vietnam,” she recounted. “The doctors here at Huntington VA discovered his cancer. He was treated here and then, toward the end, VA provided him hospice care in our home.

“The VA hospice people were so kind to us,” she said. “I wanted to volunteer here to try and thank them for how kind they were, and to help make life a little easier for the Veterans being treated here.”

There’s also another reason Chambers spends so much time at the VA.“I feel closer to my husband when I’m here,” she said.

An Amazing Mind; a Good Heart

Teresa Boyes, acting volunteer coordinator at Huntington VAMC, said she often finds herself in awe of Chambers’ energy and her devotion to Veterans.

“Her mind amazes me,” Boyes observed. “She retains everything. She remembers everyone she meets, and she seems to know everybody. And she has this awesome ability to connect with people.”

Chambers said she’s always been a ‘people’ person, but had ample opportunity to hone those innate skills during 33 years as an elementary school teacher and principal.

“You learn to be observant when you’re working with children,” she explained. “You learn how to listen. You learn how to tell which ones are most in need of help, and you try to help them.”

 It just gives me a good feeling to help someone, to make their life a little better. 


Chambers has undoubtedly helped bring comfort and light into the lives of hundreds of hospitalized Veterans over nearly a decade of volunteer work.

As Boyes explained it, “Joan’s husband had cancer and received treatment here before he died, so she felt she wanted to give back. And she’s given back tenfold or more. She’s here every day, and over the last nine years she’s racked up over 6,000 hours of volunteer work. The woman just goes and goes all day long,” she added. “She must sleep awfully well at night.”

“I like keeping busy,” Chambers explained. “I worked in the food pantry today. We served about 140 families.”

While Chambers enjoys her work at the Community Food Pantry in her home town of Lavalette, West Virginia, she has other responsibilities that require a bit more emotional fortitude. For example, she’s part of a special team of volunteers at the Huntington VAMC who provide comfort to Veterans in their final days or hours of life.

You’re Not Alone

“Joan told me that when she’s with a dying Veteran, it’s like being with her husband,” explained Boyes. “So it can be very hard for her. But she’s a very caring person. She’ll read to them, hold their hand. She says that’s the least she can do.”

“I don’t want anyone to be alone when they die,” Chambers said plainly. “If I can do something to make their passing a little easier, to provide them a little comfort at the end, then I’ve done what I needed to do.”

She continued: “I was told by a VA nurse that hearing is the last sense to go, so even if their eyes are closed I keep reading to them, or talking to them. I want them to know someone’s there, that someone cares about them. I did that with my husband just before he died. I said, ‘Honey, it’s okay. Go on home. I’ll be there with you soon.’”

VA volunteers are called to serve for different reasons, many of them as beautiful and profound as Joan Chambers’ story. Although these kinds of touching moments happen every day at VA sites of care across the country, they are each unique and deeply personal for all involved. The relationships Veterans have with VA volunteers is irreplaceable — it’s an essential part of delivering the care Veterans have earned and deserve. To learn more about volunteering at a VA facility near you, visit

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Counting Every Veteran on the Way to Ending Homelessness

Counting Every Veteran on the Way to Ending Homelessness

January 28, 2015, 10:34:00 AM

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 Counting Every Veteran on the Way to Ending Homelessness

VA Leaders Join Community Partners and Volunteers in Nation-wide Homeless Count

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald is taking a firsthand look at the issue of homelessness among Veterans by participating in this year’s Point-in-Time (PIT) Count in Los Angeles, California. The PIT Count typically takes place in locations around the country during the month of January.

Secretary McDonald remains committed to the goal of eliminating Veteran homelessness. The January 2014 PIT Count revealed that 49,993 Veterans were homeless on a single night representing a 33-percent decline in homelessness among Veterans since 2010.  In FY 2014 alone, through VA’s various homeless programs, more than 72,000 Veterans and their family members were placed in permanent housing or prevented from becoming homeless.

“There is no question that the goal to end Veteran homelessness is within reach, and we remain laser-focused on it,” said Secretary McDonald. “Ending Veteran homelessness in America is more than hitting a number, it’s about helping communities put a system in place that can house every Veteran experiencing homelessness today and prevent it in the future. I am so heartened that over 440 mayors, governors, county executives and other local officials have joined us and are committed to ending Veteran homelessness in their communities. We will continue our work until all Veterans have a place to call home.”

By estimating the number of homeless Veterans, the PIT Count gauges progress in achieving President Obama and VA’s goal of ending Veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.  Annual data from the PIT Count also assists VA staff and partner agencies in targeting homeless resources where they are needed most.

VA has a wide range of programs that prevent and end homelessness among Veterans, including health care, housing solutions, job training and education. Also since 2010 there has been nearly 43-percent reduction in unsheltered homeless Veterans.

As part of VA’s continued commitment to ending Veteran homelessness, Secretary McDonald, has directed his senior VA leaders to take part in this year’s count in cities across the United States and learn how the organizations they lead can continue to support VA’s efforts to end Veteran homelessness.  Twenty senior VA leaders will participate in PIT counts everywhere from New York to California to places in between.

The PIT Count is led by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) each year to estimate the number of Americans, including Veterans, who are homeless. 

As a result of VA’s work with HUD, as well as the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness and other federal, state and local partners, significant progress has been made since VA’s initiative to end Veteran homelessness began in 2010. 

More information about VA’s homeless programs is available at Veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless should contact their local VA Medical Center and ask to speak to a homeless coordinator.




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VA Announces Single Regional Framework under MyVA Initiative

VA Announces Single Regional Framework under MyVA Initiative

January 26, 2015, 02:09:00 PM

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  VA Announces Single Regional Framework under MyVA Initiative

Internal Organizations to Realign Their Existing Structures

Washington – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that it is taking the first steps under the MyVA initiative to realign its many organizational maps into one map with five regions to better serve Veterans. 

The new regions under the MyVA alignment will allow VA to begin the process of integrating disparate organizational boundaries into a single regional framework to enhance internal coordination. 

“We want every Veteran to have a seamless, integrated, and responsive VA customer service experience every time.  This regional alignment is the first step in empowering Veterans to interact with one VA – MyVA,” said Secretary Robert McDonald. “Ultimately, this reform will improve the Veteran experience by enabling Veterans to more easily navigate VA and access their earned care and benefits.”

VA’s new regional design utilizes state boundaries to divide the country into five regions.  Each organization within VA will begin work to ensure their structures are aligned within this framework by the end of June 2015. 

Veterans are already seeing the impacts of changes made through the MyVA initiative. For example, at the suggestion of VA employees, the Department has made improvements to VA call center operations, to allow call center agents to suspend or resume certain benefit payments at the request of the Veteran, which eliminates additional steps typically required of Veterans.  Also at the suggestion of employees, VA is working towards piloting improved signage in certain facilities, to make sure Veterans know where they are going and that directions are easy to follow. 

Additional VA efforts are currently underway to define the next steps to transform the Department into one that is more centered on the Veteran.

Background on MyVA

Launched on September 2, 2014, MyVA is an initiative which will reorient VA around Veteran needs and empower employees to assist them in delivering excellent customer service to improve the Veteran experience. It is the largest department-wide transformation in VA’s history and will be a product of ideas and insights shared by Veterans, employees, members of Congress, VSOs, and other stakeholders.

The first phase of MyVA has included creating the task force and building the team to support the mission and an organizational change of this breadth.  MyVA is focused on five areas of improvement:

1) Improving the Veteran experience

2) Improving the employee experience so they can better serve Veterans

3) Improving internal support services

4) Establishing a culture of continuous improvement, and

5) Enhancing strategic partnerships.

[ The Regional Map can be seen at: ]



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A New and Improved VA Prescription Label

Prescription label

VA has changed the format of your VA prescription label to make the most important information more visible.

VA asked hundreds of Veterans to tell us what they liked and didn’t like about the labels on their prescriptions.

We heard you. The results led to this new patient-centric prescription label.

We’ve cleaned up the look and made the following changes:

  • Your name has been moved to the top of the label.
  • Directions on how to take your medication are now larger and bolded.
  • The date the prescription can no longer be refilled is clearly stated.

The new design makes it easier to identify important drug and safety information.

4.8 Million Veterans Benefit from New Labels

VA has now adopted this patient-centric prescription label as the standard format for all VA pharmacies. The 4.8 million Veterans receiving VA prescription benefits now receive prescription labels with standardized information.

Over 400 Veterans and 700 VA pharmacy staff participated in the study.

Here’s a little more background:

Looking at the period from 2000 to 2011, pharmacists from VA’s National Center for Patient Safety (NCPS) identified 1,900 medication safety incidents in which a Veteran may not have understood their prescription label.

Over 400 Veterans and 700 VA pharmacy staff participated in a national study to better understand why this was occurring. NCPS in conjunction with Pharmacy Benefits Management Services conducted this study to identify ways to redesign the prescription label that would support Veterans’ preferences and enhance their understanding of important drug information.

According to Jeanne Tuttle, a National Pharmacist Program Manager with VA’s Pharmacy Benefits Management Services, “Improving and standardizing prescriptions labels is an important step, but ultimately our goal is to encourage Veterans to be active participants in improving their health outcomes. We want our Veterans to speak up and ask their pharmacist or provider if they are unclear on how to take their medication or what it is used for.”

Potential to Misinterpret Medication Lables

Here is a snapshot of the results from the study by Keith W. Trettin, an NCPS program manager:

The VA prescription benefit is one of the most frequently used by our Veterans. More than 4.8 million Veterans use this benefit and the number is growing by 1 percent per year. VA filled more than 143 million prescriptions for Veterans in fiscal year 2014, at a cost of approximately $3.7 billion. In support of the prescription benefit, VA employs more than 7,000 pharmacists and 4,000 pharmacy technicians.

When Veterans understand how to take their medications correctly, they have improved health outcomes and total health care costs decrease. However, NCPS saw cases in which Veterans misinterpreted their prescription labels and subsequently had a poor clinical outcome.

For example, Veterans have often misunderstood labels for diabetes medication that read “Take two tablets by mouth twice a day (half-an-hour before a meal)” to mean the medication should be taken before every meal — or — three times a day. This has resulted in patients experiencing hypoglycemia.

Studies have shown that depending on their literacy level, 25 to 88 percent of patients could not correctly state how to take their medications.

The project evaluated Veterans’ literacy with current VA prescription labels, as well as comprehension and satisfaction with a proposed new patient-centric label, using an evidence-based, patient-centric evaluation model. The goal was to provide evidence that a standardized patient-centric label can increase each Veteran’s understanding of how to take his or her medications.

The evidence is in and the new and improved patient-centric prescription labels are now the standard at all VA pharmacies.

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VA Nurse Goes the Extra Mile in Veteran Care

A nurse wraps a Veteran's arm with a blood pressure cuff

VA Nurse Chuck Maulden checks a Veteran’s blood pressure.

In early November, a Veteran came into the Salisbury VA Medical Center’s Emergency Department seeking treatment for some large blisters on his feet.

Little did he know that before he would leave the ED he would meet someone like Chuck Maulden, a nurse in the Emergency Department.

“I took him back to be seen and his feet were in really bad shape. He had these huge blisters on his feet that were taking up the entire ball of his foot right behind his toes on both feet,” said Maulden.

“He had on dirty compression stockings that were stuck to his feet from the drainage of the blisters. The doctor examined him and told me to give him some more compression stockings.”

Maulden went to work on treating the patient, taking a little extra care to make sure the Veteran had everything he needed to heal properly.

“I got his stockings off, washed his feet really well with some soap and water, and got some non-stick dressings to put over the blisters between them and the stockings. I got him some new stockings and a couple of extra pairs, in case those got worn out or dirty, and some fresh socks to take with him,” he said. “I just felt like I wished there was more I could do, though.”

What a world it would be if every person had that attitude and generosity of spirit.

“No way his feet were going to heal in those shoes.”

It was then Maulden noticed what he thought might be the cause of the blisters — and he decided to do something about it. “I was looking at his shoes and they were just worn out and looked trashed. There was no way his feet were going to heal up in those shoes, especially if he was homeless and walking through puddles and the cold weather,” Maulden said.

“I just asked him what size shoe he wore and it happened to be my size. I had on some fairly new shoes and had probably only worn them a few times.” “I just couldn’t send him out there like that and I only had an hour left in my shift, so I figured I could get by wearing socks until I got home,” he added.

“I just put my shoes on him and asked him if they fit. He just needed a new pair of shoes and I had some, so I just gave them to him. It just felt like the right thing to do.”

Maulden finished out his shift in medical shoe covers to prevent any unsanitary conditions as a result of giving up his shoes.

Ruth Lee, Emergency Department nurse manager and retired Army officer, said that although what Maulden did that night was a little unorthodox, seeing that level of caring and compassion serves as an inspiration to others in the health care field.

“It just made my heart warm to know that one of the nurses would do that,” she said. “I was so excited when I heard what he had done because I’m a Veteran, and so to hear that someone would go that far to care for Veterans — it’s just really very special.”

“He needed something I could provide.”

Salisbury VA Medical Center Director Kaye Green echoed Lee’s sentiments. “We don’t ask every staff member here to give a Veteran their shoes, and certainly we don’t expect that, but can you imagine what a world it would be if every person had that attitude and generosity of spirit,” she said. “I feel like what Chuck did demonstrates every one of VA’s I CARE values: Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect and Excellence.”

Maulden, who is very humble about the encounter (and not too crazy about all the publicity) said while he doesn’t plan on giving away more of his shoes, he was glad to do something a little extra to help out someone in need. “I just felt like he needed something I could provide. He’s obviously got a harder life than I do,” he said. “I just felt I would rest easier at night knowing I did everything I could for him. I just saw something I could do and I did it.”

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VA Issues Statement on Denver VA Replacement Medical Center

VA Issues Statement on Denver VA Replacement Medical Center

January 19, 2015, 03:42:00 PM

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  VA Issues Statement on Denver VA Replacement Medical Center


The Department of Veterans Affairs continues to work to complete the Denver replacement VA Medical Center project without further delay while delivering the best value to taxpayers under current circumstances. The situation in Denver is unacceptable to Veterans, taxpayers and Department leadership.

Our obligation is to ensure VA doesn’t allow such an outcome to occur again by learning all we can from past mistakes and put in place corrective actions to improve future performance. Veterans and taxpayers also expect a thorough review be completed and those responsible are held accountable. With these objectives in mind, the following actions are being taken:

 As previously announced, VA is partnering with the Army Corps of Engineers to advise on the current construction and on the overall management of this project as part of the transition to negotiate a long-term contract and manage the project until completion.

Today, we are announcing that VA has requested that the Corps complete a detailed examination of the VA major construction program to improve management processes, structures, and controls ‎in project oversight and delivery.

The Department is also convening an Administrative Investigation Board to review all aspects of the Denver project to determine the facts that led to the current situation and gather evidence of any misconduct or mismanagement that contributed to this unacceptable outcome.

Effective immediately, the Department’s Construction and Facility Management organization will report to the Deputy Secretary through the Office of Management.

 VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson was onsite at the Denver replacement project today and will continue regular visits to the site. VA senior leadership is actively engaged on the project, and the facility construction continues to progress. We are continuing to work with our partners to ensure timely completion of the project for the Veterans of the Colorado area.


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Is This the Year You Will Volunteer on MLK Day?

Three women smile as they prepare food in a kitchen

Volunteering to prepare meals at the Washington DC Fisher House are (l-r) Onika Coke-Muñoz, Chief, Professional Development, Office of Employee Development & Training (VBA), Tongela Moore, VA Construction and Facilities Management Training Officer, and Sabrina C. Clark, Director, VA Voluntary Service, Veterans Health Administration.

Photo by Kyle Malloy

To celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this year, millions of Americans will make a commitment to serve not just on one day, but throughout the year.

Taking place each year on the third Monday in January, the MLK Day of Service is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service — a “day on, not a day off.”

Every year, federal agencies, nonprofit and community groups, faith-based organizations, schools and businesses nationwide turn the MLK Day into a national day of service to make an impact on their communities.

Thousands of dedicated volunteers in VA facilities across the country will spend the holiday as an extra day of service helping Veterans and their families in hundreds of different ways. VA Secretary Robert McDonald will join other VA employees and volunteers at the Washington DC Fisher House on the MLK Day of Service to prepare meals for Veterans and their families.

 Being a part of this volunteer activity truly demonstrates VA’s culture of service. 

According to Sabrina Clark, Director of VA Voluntary Service for the Veterans Health Administration, “Secretary McDonald has asked us as employees to recommit to VA’s core values known as: I CARE — Integrity, Compassion, Accountability, Respect, and Excellence. The Day of Service is an ideal time for what I’m calling an “I Care Challenge,” an opportunity to think about our mission in a meaningful way, unrelated to our work, and connect even more deeply to our responsibility to Veterans.

“Being a part of this volunteer activity truly demonstrates VA’s culture of service — a culture that goes beyond just getting up and going to work each day. It’s a part of the fabric of who so many VA employees are at their core — devoted, committed to doing our best for Veterans and their families.”

In 2014, over 76,000 active VA Voluntary Service volunteers gave more than 11 million hours in service to America’s Veterans. It is impossible to calculate the amount of caring and sharing that these volunteers provide to Veteran patients. Our volunteers are a priceless asset to the nation’s Veterans and to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

What’s it like to be a VA volunteer? Watch these stories from VA Volunteers and patients.

Want to join? Start here.

A woman serves food to a woman at a table

Sabrina C. Clark, Director, VA Voluntary Service, Veterans Health Administration, serves up lunch at the Washington DC Fisher House as part of MLK Day of Service.

Photo by Kyle Malloy

MLK Day is a time to re-commit ourselves to the nation by serving each other and our communities. Americans across the country will honor Dr. King by helping their neighbors and communities at thousands of projects spread across all 50 states.

Service is a powerful way for citizens, nonprofits, the private sector, and government to work together to meet critical needs and advance King’s dream of opportunity for all.

MLK Day is an opportunity for all Americans to put the core American principles of citizenship and service into action. Find out how you can help in your community from the Corporation for National and Community Service.

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VA and U.S. Tennis Association Foundation Partner to Make Tennis More Accessible to Veterans

VA and U.S. Tennis Association Foundation Partner to Make Tennis More Accessible to Veterans

January 16, 2015, 03:11:00 PM

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Washington – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is partnering with the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) Foundation, Inc., to make exercise more readily available to VA patients.


The VA/USTA Foundation partnership will facilitate the formation of  tennis clinics at VA medical facilities, link VA medical facilities with community resources and provide consulting and design services for VA facilities interested in upgrading or building tennis courts.


 “Exercise and physical activity is an important component of health and wellness and has been shown to provide numerous physical and mental health benefits,” said Interim Under Secretary for Health Carolyn M. Clancy, MD. “We are very excited to be partnering with the USTA Foundation to improve Veterans’ physical fitness and ultimately their overall health and well-being.”


 The USTA Foundation will support VA in the form of coaching, instruction, equipment or use of courts or other technical assistance to sustain a tennis clinic, along with the recently developed “Warrior Tennis Curriculum,” an electronic manual that provides rehabilitation therapists guidance through text, pictures and videos on how to use tennis as a therapeutic option to help Veterans stay fit and active.


 “The USTA Foundation is honored to partner with the Department of Veteran Affairs in helping to enhance and improve the rehabilitation needs of our country’s Veterans through tennis,” said Dan Faber, Executive Director, USTA Foundation. “We are committed to providing the tools needed for VA facilities around the country to incorporate tennis into their existing rehabilitation programs. Together, we are striving to provide an opportunity for our Veterans to stay active and fit in tribute to their sacrifice and bravery.”


With more than eight million Veterans enrolled, VA operates the largest integrated health care delivery system in the United States. The USTA Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the US Tennis Association.



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VA Announces the Appointment of New Members to Advisory Council

VA Announces the Appointment of New Members to Advisory Council

January 15, 2015, 11:40:00 AM

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VA Announces the Appointment of New Members to Advisory Council

Gulf War-Related Brain Cancer Study Also Announced

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is announcing the appointment of new members to the Research Advisory Committee (RAC) on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses.

 VA will appoint Stephen L. Hauser, MD as committee chair for a term through September, 2016. Dr. Hauser is the Robert A. Fishman Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco.  A neuroimmunologist, Dr. Hauser’s research has advanced the understanding of the genetic basis, immune mechanisms and treatment of multiple sclerosis.

Additional appointees include Ronnie D. Horner, PhD, who is a Professor of Epidemiology in the Department of Health Services Policy and Management at the Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina; Frances E. Perez-Wilhite, a former US Army Officer who served as a Lieutenant in Desert Shield in 1990; and Scott S. Young, MD, a former Navy flight surgeon during the Gulf War, who currently heads Kaiser Permanente’s Care Management Institute, an organization dedicated to creating and supporting high quality care delivery programs. These new members will serve terms through September 2017.

“VA is incredibly excited about the fresh perspective these new members will bring to the RAC, and we will continue to invest in research to understand and treat Gulf War Veterans’ illnesses,” said Secretary McDonald.

VA will also begin a study to examine brain cancer in Gulf War Veterans. The formation of the study was prompted by a discussion between VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald and members of the RAC. The members expressed concerns over the possible association between exposure to chemical nerve agents and brain cancer in Gulf War Veterans.

“Formation of this workgroup of VA subject matter experts to study research literature on the incidence of brain cancer in Gulf War Veterans is the latest VA effort on their behalf,” said Secretary McDonald.

Some Veterans may have been exposed to chemical weapon agents during the demolition of the munitions depot in Khamisiyah, Iraq, in March 1991 after the Gulf War ceasefire. VA expects to complete the brain cancer study by the spring.

The RAC was established by section 104 of Public Law 105-368 to provide advice to VA on proposed research studies, research plans or research strategies relating to the health consequences of military service in the Southwest Asia theater of operations during the 1990-1991 Gulf War (Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm). The Committee periodically releases reports that summarize and make recommendations regarding research on the health of Gulf War Veterans.

Information about the Khamisiyah munitions depot can be found at Information about RAC is available at


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