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

Go Green for Mental Illness Awareness Week

A woman with a sad expression is comforted by a therapist with her hand on the woman's shoulder

Nearly 60 million Americans experience a mental health condition every year.

October 5-11 is Mental Illness Awareness Week. VAs throughout the country are taking the opportunity to educate staff and Veterans and their families about mental health conditions, emphasizing that treatment works and recovery is possible. We encourage help-seeking behavior and emphasize hope and recovery. With this in mind, VA joins America’s mental health community in promoting and expanding awareness of mental health conditions.

According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), mental illness affects everyone. Nearly 60 million Americans experience a mental health condition every year. Regardless of race, age, religion or economic status, mental illness impacts the lives of at least one in four adults and one in 10 children across the United States.

Dr. Harold Kudler, Chief Consultant for Mental Health Services, adds, “Mental Illness Awareness Week is a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness of mental health issues. VA, Veterans and the community come together during MIAW to send messages of strength, hope, and recovery. It is important for everyone to know that help for mental illness is available and that treatment works.

“This week is an important time for us to focus on educating staff and Veterans that mental illness is not the result of personal weakness or lack of character. We want everyone to know that mental illness is treatable and that Veterans regardless of how serious their mental health condition, can improve and recover by actively participating in mental health treatment and a recovery plan.”

 Mental Illness is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also harder to bear. 
— C.S. Lewis

Across the country, VA medical facilities are holding special programs to focus on the road to resilience and recovery.

The Minneapolis VA Health Care System is featuring a quiz game on mental health recovery in an e-mail “Daily Briefing” to all staff. They receive over 100 responses to the quiz each day.

At the Pittsburgh VA Medical Center, the Recovery Action Committee is sponsoring a “Celebrate Recovery” cookout for Veterans with music provided by Veterans.

The VA Northern Indiana Health Care System is having a keynote speaker followed by a resource fair organized around whole health resiliency factors. The theme is “Building Resiliency.”

In Topeka, Kansas, the Veterans Mental Health Council is hosting a free hot dog lunch for all Veterans in honor of MIAW on Tuesday and will hold a Resource Fair later in the month.

The Wilmington, Delaware, VA Medical Center, in partnership with NAMI Delaware, will present an educational event focused on wellness and self-care for individuals with mental illness and their families.

Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System will be doing a series of email blasts about Mental Illness Awareness Week activities sponsored by NAMI across their service area that includes NAMI Connections groups, NAMI family Support Groups and information for Veterans about community based drop-in centers for people with mental illness that are available in Biloxi, MS, Mobile, AL, & Pensacola FL.

Fresno, CA, VA will have a panel of five Veterans and their wives, celebrating Veteran’s stories of recovery and instilling hope “One Day at a Time.”

From a Veteran who attended a Milwaukee VA Mental Health Showcase: Pathways to Recovery: “It’s a reason that I came here today. You have given me hope. I didn’t know about the programs that were available to me.”

Learn more about mental health issues and how VA can help.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2014/October/Go-Green-for-Mental-Illness-Awareness-Week.asp

Slimming Down Helps with Diabetes & Pre-diabetes

Senior woman stands on a scale as a doctor adjusts the balances

The MOVE!® program recommends weighing yourself daily.

Most adults with diabetes are overweight. If you’re one of them, weight loss can improve blood sugar levels and decrease the need for diabetes medications. If you have pre-diabetes, you may avoid diabetes completely by losing some pounds. Other potential benefits of weight loss include:

  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Better heart function
  • Improved cholesterol levels

“Losing weight can even help you live longer,” says Susi K. Lewis, R.N., who works at the VHA National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and with the MOVE!® Weight Management Program that helps Veterans lose weight, keep it off and improve their health.

“It’s one of the most important actions you can take to prevent cardiovascular disease, which is the cause of death for nearly 70 percent of people with diabetes.”

 Losing weight can even help you live longer. 

Slim-Down Secrets

Now that you know why it is important to lose weight, here are a few strategies about how you can get started:

Step on the scale. The MOVE!® program recommends weighing yourself daily.

Break the fast. Eating a morning meal may be linked to lower weight. In a study of more than 5,000 people with diabetes, those who ate breakfast 7 days a week had a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than those who sometimes skipped it.

Get smart about fast food. If you hit the local burger joint, choose wisely. “Most fast food places offer salads, fruit and grilled chicken sandwiches,” Lewis says. “Hold the mayo and the cheese and ask for salad dressing on the side. Maybe eat just one part of the bun and use mustard. Skip the cola and get unsweetened iced tea or water. All these little changes can add up.”

Write it down. One study showed that people who kept a daily food diary lost significantly more weight than those who didn’t. “Use your records to identify opportunities for change in your diet,” Lewis advises. “Look at what you eat and how active you are and start making small changes. You don’t have to give up your favorite foods, just cut back on the amount. Also, record your physical activity. You may not be ready for a marathon, so just start walking a block or two and increase gradually.” For more information on how exercise improves your health when you have diabetes, read this Veterans Health Library (VHL) article.

Savor your progress. When you choose to eat a healthier meal over an unhealthy one, or when you take a 10-minute walk instead of going for a bag of potato chips, know you are on your way to making small changes that will pay off. Enjoy these little successes.

Learn more. Find out how to set your daily calorie goal with this MOVE!® handout: The Basics of Weight Control. “The basic idea of weight loss never changes,” says Lewis. “You need to burn more calories than you take in.”

Go to the Library. To learn about living well with diabetes, make the VHL go-to-guide your go-to resource. And remember that the VHL has lots of great information to help you get healthy by eating better and exercising more.

More Help and Inspiration

To inspire your weight-loss efforts, check out these VHA videos from the MOVE!® Weight Management Program:

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2014/October/Slimming-Down-Helps-With-Diabetes-Pre-Diabetes.asp

Male Breast Cancer: A Rare Disease, on the Rise

Two men with pink bracelets bump fists

Photo by U.S. Air Force/Airman Anthony Jennings

“I woke up in the morning with a good-sized lump in my chest. At that point in my life I had no idea men could get breast cancer. I contacted my doctor and we set up the same test women usually get—a mammogram and an ultrasound followed by a core biopsy. The doctor called me to let me know I had breast cancer. It was the first time I knew I had breasts…”

That’s how one hard-boiled Marine recalls the beginning of his bout with male breast cancer. His story, along with that of others affected by the condition, is found on semperfialwaysfaithful.com.

A recent study led by Dr. Anita Aggarwal, an oncologist at the Washington, DC, VA Medical Center, is the most extensive look yet at the prevalence of the disease among VA patients. She and her colleagues combed the VA Central Cancer Registry to learn more about how many men in VA have the disease and how it compares with breast cancer among female Veterans who receive care in VA. Aggarwal presented the findings at a meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology in early June.

“In the general population, it’s very rare,” points out Aggarwal, noting that fewer than one percent of breast cancer cases occur in men. She says it’s on the rise, though, with data showing a 26 percent increase from 1975 to 2010.

Scientists don’t yet have a handle on why that is, but they do know that men with breast cancer are typically diagnosed at a later stage than their female peers.

“With men, there’s a delay in detection,” says Aggarwal. “There’s less awareness, no screening. And men don’t palpate their breasts every month, as do many women. All these factors combine.”

 With men, there’s a delay in detection. There’s less awareness, no screening. 

Many similarities with female breast cancer

A quick biology lesson: Men not only have breasts, but they also have milk ducts. And that’s where the majority of male breast cancer originates. It’s a form of the disease called invasive ductal carcinoma.

And just as the BRCA genes, among others, can help predict which women are at risk for hereditary breast cancer, the same is true of men. It turns out that men who test positive for the BRCA 1 or BRCA2 mutations are also at higher risk. But men are far less likely to proactively get the test. Some do if they have a family history of breast cancer.

The similarities extend to treatment. As with women, surgery is one option, especially when the cancer is still localized to the breast and hasn’t spread. “Because they only have a small amount of breast tissue, in most cases they end up getting a mastectomy [removal of the entire breast] instead of a lumpectomy [removal of only the cancerous lump],” says Aggarwal.

And although men and women have a different hormone mix, men do have some estrogen and progesterone. So men whose breast cancer is driven by those hormones can get hormone therapy similar to that given to women. The side effects, though, can be more troubling for men.

“Men can get hot flashes from the hormone therapy and this is very distressing to them — they don’t want to go out in public with this, because they see hot flashes as a woman’s condition,” says Aggarwal.

Portrait of a woman doctor

Dr. Anita Aggarwal at the Washington, DC, VA Medical Center led a study comparing breast cancer in male and female Veterans. Photo by Robert Turtil

A tough medical and emotional battle

This is just one facet of the emotional turmoil that men with breast cancer may endure, suggests Aggarwal.

“They get very distressed,” she says. “In my experience, the first questions they will ask are, ‘Why do I have breast cancer? Are you sure that’s what it is?’ They tend to get depressed and socially isolated.”

Says Aggarwal, the psychosocial aspects of the disease can be especially difficult for male Veterans when they also have posttraumatic stress disorder or another mental health condition.

Fortunately, there is help on the emotional front. Aggarwal notes that at her VA medical center and others, support groups for breast cancer patients attract men as well as women.

By the same token, men with breast cancer can attend general cancer support groups. Much of the information will be the same, and they still have the opportunity to bond with other men who face potentially life-threatening cancers whether prostate, lung, colon or other forms.

Aggarwal is now seeking to connect with oncologists and others in VA who work with breast cancer patients to do a more extensive study.

“I would like to do a nationwide male breast cancer study,” she says. “It would need to be a wide collaborative effort, since the total number of cases at any one VA or in any one region would be too small. We could look at epidemiology, chemical and radiation exposure, biology of the cancer and psychosocial factors.”

Another federal study is already underway, by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to determine whether male breast cancer is linked to toxic exposures at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, a Marine base where the water supply was chemically contaminated from the 1950s through the 1980s. The results are expected in 2015. Meanwhile, VA’s Public Health website has health care eligibility information for Veterans and family members who may have been affected.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/newsfeatures/2014/October/Male-Breast-Cancer-A-Rare-Disease-On-The-Rise.asp


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