Burn pit exposure? Sign up now in VA Registry.

Soldier throwing waste in burn pit.

Smoke from these pits and other airborne hazards during deployment contained substances that may have health effects.

Marine Veteran Rebecca Crawford was so concerned with returning from her tour in Iraq with “two arms and two legs” intact that she didn’t give much thought to the fumes she was breathing while performing her routine job duties.

Tasked with providing base support, Rebecca’s duties alternated between sitting in a foxhole for 12 hours a day—securing the perimeter—to churning unknown mixtures of refuse, chemicals and human waste in open burn pits.

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, especially for those who were exposed for long periods or those more prone to illness such as individuals with pre-existing asthma or other lung or heart conditions.

 The registry is a tool to help … identify health conditions possibly related to burn pits. 

Some Veterans have reported respiratory symptoms and other health conditions that they believe are related to burn pits. There are studies that provide information about the health effects related to exposure, but not enough to determine the long-term impacts. In response, VA is conducting research on the issue and has created the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry for Veterans and Servicemembers.

The registry is a tool to help participants become more aware of their health and to identify health conditions possibly related to exposure to burn pits and other airborne hazards (e.g., sand, dust and particulates. Participation is voluntary and the enrollment questionnaire can be used to identify health concerns, guide discussions with a health care provider and document deployment-related exposures.

Sees Value in Enrolling

Still young and with more than 10 years since exposure, Rebecca is healthy and undecided about participating in the registry. She, however, sees value in receiving updated news and information about the long-term health effects of burn pits.

“I think one of the benefits of enrolling in the registry would be if some new concerns came up about inhaling the fumes or the smoke, I would be notified quickly since they have my name and contact information,” said Rebecca. “The registry would make it possible for VA to contact me and say that we know you were exposed to burn pits and this is what you should be thinking about now.”

All Veterans and active-duty Servicemembers are encouraged to check their eligibility and participate in the registry. VA will use deployment data provided by the Department of Defense (DOD) to determine eligibility.

To access the questionnaire, participants will need a DOD Self-Service level-2 logon (DS-Logon). The DS-Logon is a secure, self-service ID that allows Veterans and Servicemembers to access several websites, including VA’s eBenefits and the burn pit registry, using a single username and password. Ensure your web browser has “scripting” enabled.

Veterans who are eligible for the registry are also eligible to obtain an optional no-cost, in-person medical evaluation. Participants already enrolled in VA health care should contact their primary care provider to schedule an evaluation. Veterans not already enrolled should contact an Environmental Health Coordinator at the nearest VA facility or call 1-877-222-8387.

Active-duty Servicemembers, including activated Reserve and Guard personnel, should contact their local military hospital or clinic to schedule an appointment for a voluntary medical evaluation. Please state that you are calling for an appointment specifically to address “health concerns related to the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry exposures.”

Quick Links:

Sign up for the registry.

View frequently asked questions about the registry and how to sign up.

Get a DS-Logon account.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2014/October/Burn-pit-exposure-Signup-now-in-VA-Registry.asp

Veterans Arts Festival is Fun and Therapeutic

Man and his art.

National Veterans Creative Arts Festival October 27-November 2, 2014 in Milwaukee, Wis.

Creative expression is an important component of healthy living. VA’s annual Creative Arts Festival demonstrates that healing goes well beyond a patients’ physical needs. Creative arts therapy plays a key role at VA in rehabilitation and recovery.

The Creative Arts Festival is the culmination of a year-long fine arts talent competition involving thousands of participants nationwide and is open to all Veterans receiving care at VA medical facilities.

The festival gives thousands of Veterans the opportunity to express themselves creatively and enables them to have life changing experiences connected to their health and recovery.

According to Elizabeth Mackey, Director of the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, “VA is very proud to bring well-deserved recognition to our outstanding Veteran performers, writers and artists. This event accomplishes so much, offering extensive creative arts therapy and rehabilitation for Veterans nationwide, while delighting audiences in both the visual and performing arts.

“VA is committed to providing therapeutic solutions that go beyond traditional physical medicine. The Creative Arts Festival provides an artistic avenue for the physical, mental and emotional healing of our nation’s heroes.

“We look forward to a program that inspires our guests who witness the remarkable talents of these Veterans who remain motivated regardless of their health challenges.”

The competition includes 53 categories in the visual arts division that range from oil painting to leatherwork to paint-by-number kits. In addition, there are 120 categories in the performing arts pertaining to all aspects of music, dance, drama and creative writing.

VA medical facilities incorporate creative arts into their recreation therapy programs to further the rehabilitation process for both inpatients and outpatients. This annual competition recognizes the progress and recovery made through that therapy and raises the visibility of the creative achievements of our nation’s Veterans after disease, disability or life crisis.

It’s an opportunity to demonstrate the depth of artistic talent and skill that our nation’s Veterans possess and how artistic expression promotes healing and enhances quality of life.

As Director Mackey noted, “The camaraderie among the Veteran artists, the beautiful art on display and the world class performances all combine to produce a week that inspires all of us and reminds us of the healing power of artistry.”

Just two of the thousands who participate

John “Jay” Harden, Jr. from O’Fallon, Mo., served in the Air Force as a B-52 Navigator during the Vietnam War. During his eight years of service one of the constants that kept him going was the letters from his wife, Carolyn. Today, he uses writing to help him cope with traumatic stress.

His original piece, “My Mother of All Letters,” won first place in the Inspirational Personal Experience category of the creative writing division in the 2013 National Veterans Creative Arts Competition.

 When I got home, I lost my way. 

Brenda Bushera made a military career ministering to others with her music, including a 10-month Iraq deployment where she played a combination of punk, alternative and a bit of pop giving young soldiers the music they wanted to hear to take their minds off the war.

“Playing in a war zone was a tough job, filled with danger, hours of travel and friends who didn’t make it home.”

But when she took the war home with her, it was music that helped Bushera heal herself. “When I got home, I lost my way,” She said.

Bushera came to the Central Texas Veterans Healthcare System in Temple, Texas, for treatment for mental health issues and alcoholism. “I don’t mind telling people. It is what it is. I needed to do this for me.”

“It was my music therapist who encouraged me to audition for the Creative Arts Competition. I knew if I was going to do this, I needed to be healthy. I’ve used music to help others. I have to have music in my life. I never knew that I would need it for myself.”

“Music brought me back. I’m just elated to be here. This is a breath of relief that I’ve still got it, and I can still do this professionally. It gives me hope that I can get back and start my career again.”

Learn more about Jay and Brenda and hundreds of other brave Veterans.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2014/October/Veterans-Arts-Festival-is-Fun-and-Therapeutic.asp

Flu Shots: More Access, Seamless Documentation

Woman receives flu shot from nurse.

After you get your shot, the record is sent securely to your VA health record.

Veterans enrolled in the VA health care system can get your seasonal flu shot at any VA health care facility and now at any Walgreens that administers them.

VA also is covering the cost of about 75,000 flu shots*.

To get a seasonal flu shot at Walgreens, you only need to tell the pharmacist you receive care at a VA medical facility and show your VA ID card.

After Walgreens administers the vaccine, the immunization record is transmitted securely to your VA health record—regardless of whether VA covers the cost of the vaccine.

Important information, including the type of immunization, the date and the administering provider will then be part of your VA electronic health record  without any additional steps for you.“

Typically, when a Veteran patient receives a flu shot at a retail pharmacy, the Veteran has to report back to VA about the shot and it was a manual process,” said Douglas Trauner of the VA Center for Innovation.

 This new program fully automates this process. 

“This new program fully automates the process. It focuses on how the VA health care system can scale access to immunizations at retail pharmacies and other health care outlets outside VA.”

According to Trauner, VA immunization rates are typically good, around mid-70 percent in the population of adults older than 65, but VA’s target is to reach a 90 percent immunization rate for certain populations. Through VA’s collaboration with community partners like Walgreens, VA is working to provide more convenient options to Veterans to improve immunization rates and patient care.

The Details

  • Vaccines at Walgreens are subject to availability.  Age, state and health related restrictions may apply.
  • Many immunizations may be covered by commercial insurance plans, Medicare Part B or Medicare Part D.
  • Walgreens accepts most insurance plans, including Medicare.
  • *When VA funding for 75,000 flu shots expires, there may be a cost to a VA patient for the flu shot, but no Veteran without Medicare Part B or private insurance should have to pay for a flu shot provided at Walgreens.
  • Patients are encouraged to check with their health plan for specific coverage details.

Vaccinations are available daily during all pharmacy hours with no appointment necessary and are subject to availability.

Get all the details about the program and answers to all your Frequently Asked Questions.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2014/October/Flu-Shots-More-Access-Seamless-Documentation.asp

Free Rides for Vets Living in Highly Rural Areas

Volunteers help a veteran into a VA van

VA’s Highly Rural Transportation Grants program provides money for free rides for Vets living in highly rural areas.

Thousands of Veterans who live in highly rural and remote areas will now have free transportation to their VA medical appointments to receive the health care they need and have earned through service to our country.

The free transportation is made possible through VA’s Highly Rural Transportation Grants program.

The program enables State Veterans Service Agencies and Veteran Service Organizations to use innovative approaches to provide transportation services that help to expand access to VA health care for Veterans.

In August, VA awarded six grants and in September awarded another five 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.

For example, the grants will assist 2,000 Veterans in Texas by providing $931,006 to fund transportation services.

Twenty-Five States have Highly Rural Counties

The grants went to organizations ranging from American Legion Post 12 in Boise County, Idaho, to the Nevada Department of Veterans Services for Humboldt and Pershing counties in Nevada.

A highly rural area is a county or counties with a population of less than seven persons per square mile. Twenty-five states have counties that are highly rural. Those states are found in the northern, western and southwestern parts of the United States.

VA is committed to ensuring enrolled Veterans have access to quality health care.

The following organizations will receive grant funds:

  • Alaska: Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs — Southwest Fairbanks, Matanuska-Susitna, Kodiak Island, Kenai Peninsula, Prince of Wales-Hyder counties
  • Idaho: American Legion Post 12 — Boise County
  • Montana: American Legion Rocky Boy Post 67 — Hill County
  • Texas: American Legion Post 142 — Baylor, Cottle, Foard and Hardeman Counties
  • Maine: Maine Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. — Piscataquis County
  • Oregon: Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs — Baker, Gilliam, Grant, Morrow, Sherman and Wheeler counties
  • Oregon: Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs — Malheur and Wallowa counties
  • Nevada: Nevada Department of Veterans Services — Humboldt and Pershing counties
  • North Dakota: Robert Tovsrud VFW Post 757 — Benson County
  • Texas: Texas Veterans Commission — Fisher, Kent and Presidio counties
  • Texas: Texas Veterans Commission — Briscoe, Cochran, Coke, Collingsworth, Crockett, Dallum, Dickens, Hansford, Hartley, Jim Hogg, Knox, Lipscomb, McMullen, Motley, Oldham, Roberts, Shackelford, Sutton and Wheeler counties.

Click for Veterans Transportation Service and other transportation options

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2014/October/Free-Rides-for-Vets-Living-in-Highly-Rural-Areas.asp

With a Little Help, a Veteran’s Life Transformed

Man in uniform stands in a building service entry area

Formerly homeless Veteran Robbie Myers recently won first place on ‘Chopped,’ a reality-based cooking television series that pits four chefs against each other competing for a chance to win $10,000. The show airs on Food Network.


Photo compliments of the Warrior Transition Command Communications Division

Picture this: one minute you’re living in a tent, with no home to call your own. The next, you find yourself starring in a popular nationally-televised cooking show.

This astonishing change in fortune actually happened to Robbie Myers, an Army Veteran who medically retired after serving two brutal tours in Afghanistan.

But retirement was not kind to Myers, at least not at first. Soon after returning to the United States and entering the civilian world, his own world began to crumble fast.

Just Ask

“He just walked in the door and asked for help,” said Lauren Love, the Operation Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn program manager at the Syracuse VA Medical Center. “The Army had discharged him directly from Germany, where he and his family had been stationed, so he wasn’t even in the VA system. So we got him into the system.”

Love said Myers had somehow ‘fallen through the cracks’ while transitioning from the Army to civilian life.

“It’s rare, but it happens,” she said. “They’d been sent home from Germany, but they had no real home to return to. They were a family in crisis.”

“It was real rough for me because the Army was literally all I knew and I didn’t have it anymore,” Myers said. “On top of that, I had this new obligation to try and find a way to support my family and I had no way of doing it. I was kind of lost. So I started the process of reaching out to the VA.”

 Robbie’s a fighter; he doesn’t give up. His wife is a fighter, too. They were both determined to keep fighting to get their life back on track. 
— Gregory Brown, Case Manager, Syracuse VA

Behind the Scenes

“When he came to us, he had no income to speak of,” Love continued. “So we jumped on that right away. Our team did a lot of behind-the scenes work to get some income flowing to him and his family. We found them income from a number of sources: the Veterans Benefits Administration, Social Security Disability, various non-profit agencies. A number of local non-profits played big roles in this whole process.”

“We also referred them to our Caregiver Support Program,” she added. “His wife, Jamie, was trying to take care of Robbie along with their five kids. She was also eight months pregnant. That’s a lot to handle. So introducing the Caregiver Program into their lives was essential to their well-being as a family unit.”

At this point another member of the team, Cheryl Cox, entered the picture. She’s the caregiver support coordinator at the Syracuse VA.

Contestents stand at in a television studio kitchen set

Robbie Myers (standing next to female Navy Vet) and his three rivals prepare to discover what their next culinary challenge will be on the set of Chopped.


Photo courtesy of the Food Network

Staying Strong

“Jamie Myers has a husband with PTSD to take care of and six kids,” Cox said. “That’s a lot to deal with. She’s a very calm, together, organized person, but she had a lot of pressure on her — a lot of strain. My job was to make her life a bit easier, take some of the pressure off. My job was to help her be strong so she could handle what life was throwing at her.”

“We were able to secure a caregiver stipend for her, which helped provide additional financial support for her,” Cox explained. “We connected her with mental health counseling. She also receives regular home visits from a nurse and a psychologist who talks with her, assesses how things are going with the family and helps connect her with any other community services the family might need.”

Holding it Together

“She’s the glue of that family,” Cox added. “She’s behind the scenes holding everything together which in turn allows Robbie to focus on his recovery as well as his career goals.”

Gregory Brown, a case manager at the Syracuse VA, remembers the day Myers first showed up at the medical center.

“We did an assessment on him to determine what his needs were,” Brown explained. “Our team assessed him for PTSD, depression — a lot of different things.”

“We determined that he had some pretty significant posttraumatic stress issues, so we set up an appointment for him with a combat stress specialist. Then we referred him to our polytrauma unit, because he had issues related to traumatic brain injury.”

“Robbie also had some issues related to homelessness,” Brown said. “His wife and children were living at her parent’s house. He was living in a tent, in the backyard. So our homeless team helped them move into a home of their own.”

A Warrior Wounded

“And while all this was happening,” Brown said, “we also referred him to the Army’s Wounded Warrior Program Office located at the Syracuse VA Medical Center. That was an important step.”

At this juncture, Jeffrey Johnson entered the picture. Johnson, who works for the U.S. Army’s Wounded Warrior Program (also known as AW2) became Myers’ AW2 advocate.

“It was my job to guide Robbie and his family throughout their recovery and transition process,” said Johnson, who spent 32 years in the military. “I assisted them with getting Army financial benefits and short-term financial support from several non-profit agencies in key areas.”

“Our goal,” he added, “was to get him to a state of self-sufficiency and he’s there now. He’s shown a lot of resilience. Now he’s at the point where he’s trying to get into the culinary business. He was a cook, serving in a combat theater and now he wants to be a chef somewhere or start his own restaurant.”

“My plans for the future are to open a gourmet food truck and catering business in northern New York,” Myers said.

And, having won a popular Food Network cooking competition called ‘Chopped,’ he certainly has the culinary creds to make that happen.

“A friend sent me a link to apply (for the competition),” Myers explained. “I thought, ‘Why not apply?’ So I did and I was selected.”

A Champion in the Making

Myers out-cooked three other Veterans — one from the Navy and two from the Army — to bring home the $10,000 cash prize.

“I’ve also been given a chance to compete in the ‘Ultimate Chopped Champion Competition,” he announced proudly. “It’s a pretty cool competition.”

But chances are none of this might have happened had Myers not walked into the Syracuse VA that fateful day and asked for a little help.

“They opened up these doors for us, which kept us going, helped us survive,” he said. “If this hadn’t happened, I don’t like to think about where we’d be at right now. They really saved us.”

His wife Jamie agreed.

“They didn’t just help us survive,” she said. “With all the continuous support, we’re thriving now. We’ve been incredibly blessed.”

To learn more about how VA is helping Veterans with PTSD, visit www.ptsd.va.gov.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2014/October/With-A-Little-Help-A-Veterans-Life-Transformed.asp

With a Little Help, a Veteran’s Life Transformed

Man in uniform stands in a building service entry area

Formerly homeless Veteran Robbie Myers recently won first place on ‘Chopped,’ a reality-based cooking television series that pits four chefs against each other competing for a chance to win $10,000. The show airs on Food Network.


Photo compliments of the Warrior Transition Command Communications Division

Picture this: one minute you’re living in a tent, with no home to call your own. The next, you find yourself starring in a popular nationally-televised cooking show.

This astonishing change in fortune actually happened to Robbie Myers, an Army Veteran who medically retired after serving two brutal tours in Afghanistan.

But retirement was not kind to Myers, at least not at first. Soon after returning to the United States and entering the civilian world, his own world began to crumble fast.

Just Ask

“He just walked in the door and asked for help,” said Lauren Love, the Operation Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn program manager at the Syracuse VA Medical Center. “The Army had discharged him directly from Germany, where he and his family had been stationed, so he wasn’t even in the VA system. So we got him into the system.”

Love said Myers had somehow ‘fallen through the cracks’ while transitioning from the Army to civilian life.

“It’s rare, but it happens,” she said. “They’d been sent home from Germany, but they had no real home to return to. They were a family in crisis.”

“It was real rough for me because the Army was literally all I knew and I didn’t have it anymore,” Myers said. “On top of that, I had this new obligation to try and find a way to support my family and I had no way of doing it. I was kind of lost. So I started the process of reaching out to the VA.”

 Robbie’s a fighter; he doesn’t give up. His wife is a fighter, too. They were both determined to keep fighting to get their life back on track. 
— Gregory Brown, Case Manager, Syracuse VA

Behind the Scenes

“When he came to us, he had no income to speak of,” Love continued. “So we jumped on that right away. Our team did a lot of behind-the scenes work to get some income flowing to him and his family. We found them income from a number of sources: the Veterans Benefits Administration, Social Security Disability, various non-profit agencies. A number of local non-profits played big roles in this whole process.”

“We also referred them to our Caregiver Support Program,” she added. “His wife, Jamie, was trying to take care of Robbie along with their five kids. She was also eight months pregnant. That’s a lot to handle. So introducing the Caregiver Program into their lives was essential to their well-being as a family unit.”

At this point another member of the team, Cheryl Cox, entered the picture. She’s the caregiver support coordinator at the Syracuse VA.

Contestents stand at in a television studio kitchen set

Robbie Myers (standing next to female Navy Vet) and his three rivals prepare to discover what their next culinary challenge will be on the set of Chopped.


Photo courtesy of the Food Network

Staying Strong

“Jamie Myers has a husband with PTSD to take care of and six kids,” Cox said. “That’s a lot to deal with. She’s a very calm, together, organized person, but she had a lot of pressure on her — a lot of strain. My job was to make her life a bit easier, take some of the pressure off. My job was to help her be strong so she could handle what life was throwing at her.”

“We were able to secure a caregiver stipend for her, which helped provide additional financial support for her,” Cox explained. “We connected her with mental health counseling. She also receives regular home visits from a nurse and a psychologist who talks with her, assesses how things are going with the family and helps connect her with any other community services the family might need.”

Holding it Together

“She’s the glue of that family,” Cox added. “She’s behind the scenes holding everything together which in turn allows Robbie to focus on his recovery as well as his career goals.”

Gregory Brown, a case manager at the Syracuse VA, remembers the day Myers first showed up at the medical center.

“We did an assessment on him to determine what his needs were,” Brown explained. “Our team assessed him for PTSD, depression — a lot of different things.”

“We determined that he had some pretty significant posttraumatic stress issues, so we set up an appointment for him with a combat stress specialist. Then we referred him to our polytrauma unit, because he had issues related to traumatic brain injury.”

“Robbie also had some issues related to homelessness,” Brown said. “His wife and children were living at her parent’s house. He was living in a tent, in the backyard. So our homeless team helped them move into a home of their own.”

A Warrior Wounded

“And while all this was happening,” Brown said, “we also referred him to the Army’s Wounded Warrior Program Office located at the Syracuse VA Medical Center. That was an important step.”

At this juncture, Jeffrey Johnson entered the picture. Johnson, who works for the U.S. Army’s Wounded Warrior Program (also known as AW2) became Myers’ AW2 advocate.

“It was my job to guide Robbie and his family throughout their recovery and transition process,” said Johnson, who spent 32 years in the military. “I assisted them with getting Army financial benefits and short-term financial support from several non-profit agencies in key areas.”

“Our goal,” he added, “was to get him to a state of self-sufficiency and he’s there now. He’s shown a lot of resilience. Now he’s at the point where he’s trying to get into the culinary business. He was a cook, serving in a combat theater and now he wants to be a chef somewhere or start his own restaurant.”

“My plans for the future are to open a gourmet food truck and catering business in northern New York,” Myers said.

And, having won a popular Food Network cooking competition called ‘Chopped,’ he certainly has the culinary creds to make that happen.

“A friend sent me a link to apply (for the competition),” Myers explained. “I thought, ‘Why not apply?’ So I did and I was selected.”

A Champion in the Making

Myers out-cooked three other Veterans — one from the Navy and two from the Army — to bring home the $10,000 cash prize.

“I’ve also been given a chance to compete in the ‘Ultimate Chopped Champion Competition,” he announced proudly. “It’s a pretty cool competition.”

But chances are none of this might have happened had Myers not walked into the Syracuse VA that fateful day and asked for a little help.

“They opened up these doors for us, which kept us going, helped us survive,” he said. “If this hadn’t happened, I don’t like to think about where we’d be at right now. They really saved us.”

His wife Jamie agreed.

“They didn’t just help us survive,” she said. “With all the continuous support, we’re thriving now. We’ve been incredibly blessed.”

To learn more about how VA is helping Veterans with PTSD, visit www.ptsd.va.gov.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2014/October/With-A-Little-Help-A-Veterans-Life-Transformed.asp

With a Little Help, a Veteran’s Life Transformed

Man in uniform stands in a building service entry area

Formerly homeless Veteran Robbie Myers recently won first place on ‘Chopped,’ a reality-based cooking television series that pits four chefs against each other competing for a chance to win $10,000. The show airs on Food Network.


Photo compliments of the Warrior Transition Command Communications Division

Picture this: one minute you’re living in a tent, with no home to call your own. The next, you find yourself starring in a popular nationally-televised cooking show.

This astonishing change in fortune actually happened to Robbie Myers, an Army Veteran who medically retired after serving two brutal tours in Afghanistan.

But retirement was not kind to Myers, at least not at first. Soon after returning to the United States and entering the civilian world, his own world began to crumble fast.

Just Ask

“He just walked in the door and asked for help,” said Lauren Love, the Operation Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn program manager at the Syracuse VA Medical Center. “The Army had discharged him directly from Germany, where he and his family had been stationed, so he wasn’t even in the VA system. So we got him into the system.”

Love said Myers had somehow ‘fallen through the cracks’ while transitioning from the Army to civilian life.

“It’s rare, but it happens,” she said. “They’d been sent home from Germany, but they had no real home to return to. They were a family in crisis.”

“It was real rough for me because the Army was literally all I knew and I didn’t have it anymore,” Myers said. “On top of that, I had this new obligation to try and find a way to support my family and I had no way of doing it. I was kind of lost. So I started the process of reaching out to the VA.”

 Robbie’s a fighter; he doesn’t give up. His wife is a fighter, too. They were both determined to keep fighting to get their life back on track. 
— Gregory Brown, Case Manager, Syracuse VA

Behind the Scenes

“When he came to us, he had no income to speak of,” Love continued. “So we jumped on that right away. Our team did a lot of behind-the scenes work to get some income flowing to him and his family. We found them income from a number of sources: the Veterans Benefits Administration, Social Security Disability, various non-profit agencies. A number of local non-profits played big roles in this whole process.”

“We also referred them to our Caregiver Support Program,” she added. “His wife, Jamie, was trying to take care of Robbie along with their five kids. She was also eight months pregnant. That’s a lot to handle. So introducing the Caregiver Program into their lives was essential to their well-being as a family unit.”

At this point another member of the team, Cheryl Cox, entered the picture. She’s the caregiver support coordinator at the Syracuse VA.

Contestents stand at in a television studio kitchen set

Robbie Myers (standing next to female Navy Vet) and his three rivals prepare to discover what their next culinary challenge will be on the set of Chopped.


Photo courtesy of the Food Network

Staying Strong

“Jamie Myers has a husband with PTSD to take care of and six kids,” Cox said. “That’s a lot to deal with. She’s a very calm, together, organized person, but she had a lot of pressure on her — a lot of strain. My job was to make her life a bit easier, take some of the pressure off. My job was to help her be strong so she could handle what life was throwing at her.”

“We were able to secure a caregiver stipend for her, which helped provide additional financial support for her,” Cox explained. “We connected her with mental health counseling. She also receives regular home visits from a nurse and a psychologist who talks with her, assesses how things are going with the family and helps connect her with any other community services the family might need.”

Holding it Together

“She’s the glue of that family,” Cox added. “She’s behind the scenes holding everything together which in turn allows Robbie to focus on his recovery as well as his career goals.”

Gregory Brown, a case manager at the Syracuse VA, remembers the day Myers first showed up at the medical center.

“We did an assessment on him to determine what his needs were,” Brown explained. “Our team assessed him for PTSD, depression — a lot of different things.”

“We determined that he had some pretty significant posttraumatic stress issues, so we set up an appointment for him with a combat stress specialist. Then we referred him to our polytrauma unit, because he had issues related to traumatic brain injury.”

“Robbie also had some issues related to homelessness,” Brown said. “His wife and children were living at her parent’s house. He was living in a tent, in the backyard. So our homeless team helped them move into a home of their own.”

A Warrior Wounded

“And while all this was happening,” Brown said, “we also referred him to the Army’s Wounded Warrior Program Office located at the Syracuse VA Medical Center. That was an important step.”

At this juncture, Jeffrey Johnson entered the picture. Johnson, who works for the U.S. Army’s Wounded Warrior Program (also known as AW2) became Myers’ AW2 advocate.

“It was my job to guide Robbie and his family throughout their recovery and transition process,” said Johnson, who spent 32 years in the military. “I assisted them with getting Army financial benefits and short-term financial support from several non-profit agencies in key areas.”

“Our goal,” he added, “was to get him to a state of self-sufficiency and he’s there now. He’s shown a lot of resilience. Now he’s at the point where he’s trying to get into the culinary business. He was a cook, serving in a combat theater and now he wants to be a chef somewhere or start his own restaurant.”

“My plans for the future are to open a gourmet food truck and catering business in northern New York,” Myers said.

And, having won a popular Food Network cooking competition called ‘Chopped,’ he certainly has the culinary creds to make that happen.

“A friend sent me a link to apply (for the competition),” Myers explained. “I thought, ‘Why not apply?’ So I did and I was selected.”

A Champion in the Making

Myers out-cooked three other Veterans — one from the Navy and two from the Army — to bring home the $10,000 cash prize.

“I’ve also been given a chance to compete in the ‘Ultimate Chopped Champion Competition,” he announced proudly. “It’s a pretty cool competition.”

But chances are none of this might have happened had Myers not walked into the Syracuse VA that fateful day and asked for a little help.

“They opened up these doors for us, which kept us going, helped us survive,” he said. “If this hadn’t happened, I don’t like to think about where we’d be at right now. They really saved us.”

His wife Jamie agreed.

“They didn’t just help us survive,” she said. “With all the continuous support, we’re thriving now. We’ve been incredibly blessed.”

To learn more about how VA is helping Veterans with PTSD, visit www.ptsd.va.gov.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2014/October/With-A-Little-Help-A-Veterans-Life-Transformed.asp

With a Little Help, a Veteran’s Life Transformed

Man in uniform stands in a building service entry area

Formerly homeless Veteran Robbie Myers recently won first place on ‘Chopped,’ a reality-based cooking television series that pits four chefs against each other competing for a chance to win $10,000. The show airs on Food Network.


Photo compliments of the Warrior Transition Command Communications Division

Picture this: one minute you’re living in a tent, with no home to call your own. The next, you find yourself starring in a popular nationally-televised cooking show.

This astonishing change in fortune actually happened to Robbie Myers, an Army Veteran who medically retired after serving two brutal tours in Afghanistan.

But retirement was not kind to Myers, at least not at first. Soon after returning to the United States and entering the civilian world, his own world began to crumble fast.

Just Ask

“He just walked in the door and asked for help,” said Lauren Love, the Operation Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn program manager at the Syracuse VA Medical Center. “The Army had discharged him directly from Germany, where he and his family had been stationed, so he wasn’t even in the VA system. So we got him into the system.”

Love said Myers had somehow ‘fallen through the cracks’ while transitioning from the Army to civilian life.

“It’s rare, but it happens,” she said. “They’d been sent home from Germany, but they had no real home to return to. They were a family in crisis.”

“It was real rough for me because the Army was literally all I knew and I didn’t have it anymore,” Myers said. “On top of that, I had this new obligation to try and find a way to support my family and I had no way of doing it. I was kind of lost. So I started the process of reaching out to the VA.”

 Robbie’s a fighter; he doesn’t give up. His wife is a fighter, too. They were both determined to keep fighting to get their life back on track. 
— Gregory Brown, Case Manager, Syracuse VA

Behind the Scenes

“When he came to us, he had no income to speak of,” Love continued. “So we jumped on that right away. Our team did a lot of behind-the scenes work to get some income flowing to him and his family. We found them income from a number of sources: the Veterans Benefits Administration, Social Security Disability, various non-profit agencies. A number of local non-profits played big roles in this whole process.”

“We also referred them to our Caregiver Support Program,” she added. “His wife, Jamie, was trying to take care of Robbie along with their five kids. She was also eight months pregnant. That’s a lot to handle. So introducing the Caregiver Program into their lives was essential to their well-being as a family unit.”

At this point another member of the team, Cheryl Cox, entered the picture. She’s the caregiver support coordinator at the Syracuse VA.

Contestents stand at in a television studio kitchen set

Robbie Myers (standing next to female Navy Vet) and his three rivals prepare to discover what their next culinary challenge will be on the set of Chopped.


Photo courtesy of the Food Network

Staying Strong

“Jamie Myers has a husband with PTSD to take care of and six kids,” Cox said. “That’s a lot to deal with. She’s a very calm, together, organized person, but she had a lot of pressure on her — a lot of strain. My job was to make her life a bit easier, take some of the pressure off. My job was to help her be strong so she could handle what life was throwing at her.”

“We were able to secure a caregiver stipend for her, which helped provide additional financial support for her,” Cox explained. “We connected her with mental health counseling. She also receives regular home visits from a nurse and a psychologist who talks with her, assesses how things are going with the family and helps connect her with any other community services the family might need.”

Holding it Together

“She’s the glue of that family,” Cox added. “She’s behind the scenes holding everything together which in turn allows Robbie to focus on his recovery as well as his career goals.”

Gregory Brown, a case manager at the Syracuse VA, remembers the day Myers first showed up at the medical center.

“We did an assessment on him to determine what his needs were,” Brown explained. “Our team assessed him for PTSD, depression — a lot of different things.”

“We determined that he had some pretty significant posttraumatic stress issues, so we set up an appointment for him with a combat stress specialist. Then we referred him to our polytrauma unit, because he had issues related to traumatic brain injury.”

“Robbie also had some issues related to homelessness,” Brown said. “His wife and children were living at her parent’s house. He was living in a tent, in the backyard. So our homeless team helped them move into a home of their own.”

A Warrior Wounded

“And while all this was happening,” Brown said, “we also referred him to the Army’s Wounded Warrior Program Office located at the Syracuse VA Medical Center. That was an important step.”

At this juncture, Jeffrey Johnson entered the picture. Johnson, who works for the U.S. Army’s Wounded Warrior Program (also known as AW2) became Myers’ AW2 advocate.

“It was my job to guide Robbie and his family throughout their recovery and transition process,” said Johnson, who spent 32 years in the military. “I assisted them with getting Army financial benefits and short-term financial support from several non-profit agencies in key areas.”

“Our goal,” he added, “was to get him to a state of self-sufficiency and he’s there now. He’s shown a lot of resilience. Now he’s at the point where he’s trying to get into the culinary business. He was a cook, serving in a combat theater and now he wants to be a chef somewhere or start his own restaurant.”

“My plans for the future are to open a gourmet food truck and catering business in northern New York,” Myers said.

And, having won a popular Food Network cooking competition called ‘Chopped,’ he certainly has the culinary creds to make that happen.

“A friend sent me a link to apply (for the competition),” Myers explained. “I thought, ‘Why not apply?’ So I did and I was selected.”

A Champion in the Making

Myers out-cooked three other Veterans — one from the Navy and two from the Army — to bring home the $10,000 cash prize.

“I’ve also been given a chance to compete in the ‘Ultimate Chopped Champion Competition,” he announced proudly. “It’s a pretty cool competition.”

But chances are none of this might have happened had Myers not walked into the Syracuse VA that fateful day and asked for a little help.

“They opened up these doors for us, which kept us going, helped us survive,” he said. “If this hadn’t happened, I don’t like to think about where we’d be at right now. They really saved us.”

His wife Jamie agreed.

“They didn’t just help us survive,” she said. “With all the continuous support, we’re thriving now. We’ve been incredibly blessed.”

To learn more about how VA is helping Veterans with PTSD, visit www.ptsd.va.gov.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2014/October/With-A-Little-Help-A-Veterans-Life-Transformed.asp

With a Little Help, a Veteran’s Life Transformed

Man in uniform stands in a building service entry area

Formerly homeless Veteran Robbie Myers recently won first place on Chopped, a reality-based cooking television series that pits four chefs against each other competing for a chance to win $10,000. The show airs on Food Network.


Photo compliments of the Warrior Transition Command Communications Division

Picture this:  one minute you’re living in a tent, with no home to call your own.  The next, you find yourself starring in a popular nationally-televised cooking show.

This astonishing change in fortune actually happened to Robbie Myers, an Army Veteran who medically retired after serving two brutal tours in Afghanistan.

But retirement was not kind to Myers, at least not at first.  Soon after returning to the United States and entering the civilian world, his own world began to crumble fast.

Just Ask

“He just walked in the door and asked for help,” said Lauren Love, the Operation Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn program manager at the Syracuse VA Medical Center. “The Army had discharged him directly from Germany, where he and his family had been stationed, so he wasn’t even in the VA system. So we got him into the system.”

Love said Myers had somehow ‘fallen through the cracks’ while transitioning from the Army to civilian life.

“It’s rare, but it happens,” she said. “They’d been sent home from Germany, but they had no real home to return to. They were a family in crisis.”

“It was real rough for me because the Army was literally all I knew and I didn’t have it anymore,” Myers said. “On top of that, I had this new obligation to try and find a way to support my family and I had no way of doing it.  I was kind of lost. So I started the process of reaching out to the VA.”

 Robbie’s a fighter; he doesn’t give up. His wife is a fighter, too. They were both determined to keep fighting to get their life back on track. 
— Gregory Brown, Case Manager, Syracuse VA

Behind the Scenes

“When he came to us, he had no income to speak of,” Love continued. “So we jumped on that right away. Our team did a lot of behind-the scenes work to get some income flowing to him and his family. We found them income from a number of sources: the Veterans Benefits Administration, Social Security Disability, various non-profit agencies. A number of local non-profits played big roles in this whole process.”

 “We also referred them to our Caregiver Support Program,” she added.  “His wife, Jamie, was trying to take care of Robbie along with their five kids.  She was also eight months pregnant. That’s a lot to handle.  So introducing the Caregiver Program into their lives was essential to their well-being as a family unit.”
At this point another member of the team, Cheryl Cox, entered the picture.  She’s the caregiver support coordinator at the Syracuse VA.

Contestents stand at in a television studio kitchen set

Robbie Myers (standing next to female Navy Vet) and his three rivals prepare to discover what their next culinary challenge will be on the set of Chopped.


Photo courtesy of the Food Network

Staying Strong

“Jamie Myers has a husband with PTSD to take care of and six kids,” Cox said. “That’s a lot to deal with. She’s a very calm, together, organized person, but she had a lot of pressure on her–a lot of strain. My job was to make her life a bit easier, take some of the pressure off.  My job was to help her be strong so she could handle what life was throwing at her.”
“We were able to secure a caregiver stipend for her, which helped provide additional financial support for her,” Cox explained. “We connected her with mental health counseling. She also receives regular home visits from a nurse and a psychologist who talks with her, assesses how things are going with the family and helps connect her with any other community services the family might need.”

Holding it Together

“She’s the glue of that family,” Cox added. “She’s behind the scenes holding everything together which in turn allows Robbie to focus on his recovery as well as his career goals.”

Gregory Brown, a case manager at the Syracuse VA, remembers the day Myers first showed up at the medical center.

“We did an assessment on him to determine what his needs were,” Brown explained. “Our team assessed him for PTSD, depression–a lot of different things.”

“We determined that he had some pretty significant posttraumatic stress issues, so we set up an appointment for him with a combat stress specialist. Then we referred him to our polytrauma unit, because he had issues related to traumatic brain injury.” 

“Robbie also had some issues related to homelessness,” Brown said. “His wife and children were living at her parent’s house.  He was living in a tent, in the backyard. So our homeless team helped them move into a home of their own.” 

A Warrior Wounded

“And while all this was happening,” Brown said, “we also referred him to the Army’s Wounded Warrior Program Office located at the Syracuse VA Medical Center. That was an important step.” 

At this juncture, Jeffrey Johnson entered the picture.  Johnson, who works for the U.S. Army’s Wounded Warrior Program (also known as AW2) became Myers’ AW2 advocate.

“It was my job to guide Robbie and his family throughout their recovery and transition process,” said Johnson, who spent 32 years in the military. “I assisted them with getting Army financial benefits and short-term financial support from several non-profit agencies in key areas.”

“Our goal,” he added, “was to get him to a state of self-sufficiency and he’s there now.  He’s shown a lot of resilience. Now he’s at the point where he’s trying to get into the culinary business.  He was a cook, serving in a combat theater and now he wants to be a chef somewhere or start his own restaurant.” 

“My plans for the future are to open a gourmet food truck and catering business in northern New York,” Myers said.

And, having won a popular Food Network cooking competition called ‘Chopped,’ he certainly has the culinary creds to make that happen.

“A friend sent me a link to apply (for the competition),” Myers explained.  “I thought, ‘Why not apply?’ So I did and I was selected.”

A Champion in the Making

Myers out-cooked three other Veterans–one from the Navy and two from the Army–to bring home the $10,000 cash prize.

“I’ve also been given a chance to compete in the ‘Ultimate Chopped Champion Competition,” he announced proudly.  “It’s a pretty cool competition.”

But chances are none of this might have happened had Myers not walked into the Syracuse VA that fateful day and asked for a little help.

“They opened up these doors for us, which kept us going, helped us survive,” he said. “If this hadn’t happened, I don’t like to think about where we’d be at right now. They really saved us.”

His wife Jamie agreed.

“They didn’t just help us survive,” she said.  “With all the continuous support, we’re thriving now.  We’ve been incredibly blessed.”

To learn more about how VA is helping Veterans with PTSD, visit www.ptsd.va.gov.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2014/October/With-A-Little-Help-A-Veterans-Life-Transformed.asp

Dondi gets Flu Shot Along with 96-year-old Creator

Senior man holds up a tablet with a cartoon character drawn on it

Irwin Hasen, Cartoonist and Army Veteran

“I got my free flu shot at the VA…How about you!!!” says cartoon character Dondi.

Just as the war orphan cartoon character he made famous, 96-year-old cartoonist Irwin Hasen also got a flu shot. But, his vaccine was real and delivered by his VA New York Harbor home based primary care nurse practitioner Michael Lehrman.

Hasen was a man about town for years and although he doesn’t get out too much anymore, he hasn’t lost his charm.

He says, “VA has been very good to me.”

When his home based primary care social worker Linda Schwarzmann, asked him, he readily agreed to sketch Dondi to encourage Veterans and VA staff to get a flu shot as this season begins.

The artist has an infectious sense of humor and laughs as he explains going to VA “for a pedicure,” when in fact he’s coming for podiatry care.

 VA has been very good to me. 

Cartoon Strip Ran in Hundreds of Newspapers

Hasen has been known for decades as the creator, with his friend Gus Edson, of Dondi, a syndicated comic strip. The Dondi character, loved by millions, was a round-eyed war orphan. The strip ran in hundreds of newspapers throughout the U.S. from 1955-1986.

Hasen is also the creator of many other comics and did many Marvel and DC comic book illustrations. Loverboy, a 2009 autobiographical book, was his latest publication.

He was drafted into the Army where he happily accepted assignment as writer, editor and cartoonist of a Fort Dix newspaper. “It was the happiest time of my life,” he recalled.

After a stroke in 2007, Hasen found it more difficult to move around and is very grateful for the services provided by the Home Based Primary Care team. The team, which includes his nurse practitioner, social worker, physical therapist and dietitian, provide their service to Hasen in his home. All who visit with him are impressed by his upbeat and positive attitude.

For more information, click flu.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2014/October/Dondi-Gets-Flu-Shot-Along-With-96-Year-Old-Creator.asp


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