Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

VA Celebrates 70 Years of Partnering with Medical Schools

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Caring for the nation's Veterans is a shared honor and a shared responsibility, which is why the Department of Veterans Affairs this year is celebrating the 70th anniversary of its partnership with the nation's medical and health professional schools.

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New medical training bridges gap between aircrew, care providers

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MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — Cultivating a well-trained and highly educated force allows the Marine Corps to keep pace with the unpredictable and evolving world. 

The newly formed combat operation medical emergency transport training is one of many new courses, built from the ground up, offered to Marines and naval personnel. Although still under development, it is just another token highlighting the commitment service members have to bolstering their nation’s strength and protecting their brothers-in-arms. 

One of the first renditions of the training was conducted recently at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. 

“COMETT exposes the aircrew to medical emergencies and procedures they may encounter in combat and non-combat environments,” said Marine 1st Lt. Christopher Murr, an aeromedical safety officer with Marine Aircraft Group 39, and Indianapolis native. “The hands-on-training evolution allows aircrewmen, who may have not had Combat Life Savers training, the opportunity to apply general life-extending medical procedures to manikins aboard their respective aircraft platforms. Exposing service members to these training events essentially allows Navy medicine the opportunity to showcase the types of formalized training that may be available. In the end, it is about being prepared on the battlefield,” continued Murr. 

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Skaggs, an aeromedical safety corpsman with Marine Aircraft Group 29, said he was inspired to design the training after learning of the experiences of an aircrewman who had been thrust into a casualty evacuation situation involving two British soldiers with life-threatening injuries. 

“They were caught off guard with the situation, but they did the best that they could with their limited medical training,” said Skaggs, a native of Pensacola, Florida. “After that conversation, I went to the drawing board to design something that would bridge the gap between medical personnel and aircrews.” 

As it stands, COMETT is a course that can be delivered within a few hours. It is condensed enough to fit into the demanding work tempo of aircrewmen, but also thorough enough to provide a comprehensive understanding of life-saving procedures. 

Marine Capt. Ayleah Alejandre, an aviation safety officer with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, said that it has become evident, after many years of war and conflict around the globe, that causality evacuations of service members and civilians have become a major part of Marine Corps aviation and designing training programs tailored to a more modern mission is a focus. 

“The end goal is to have all crew members experienced enough with medical procedures that they could take on some of the responsibilities of a corpsman or flight surgeon, while still having the flexibility to effectively complete their primary duties. We can’t expect them to be experts in both fields, but finding a balance between the two will make the Marine Corps a much stronger force.” 

Disclaimer: Re-published content may have been edited for length and clarity. Read original post.

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Legion to Congress: VA budget must meet critical needs

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The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing Feb. 10 to examine the Department of Veterans Affairs budget request for Fiscal Year 2017.

Prior to the hearing, The American Legion submitted written testimony for the record.

The Legion’s statement examined current issues and projected needs – in lieu of taking the historical and problematic approach of presenting a budget based on a number – directing the committee’s focus to three critical areas:

• Consolidation of outside care

• Ensuring VA’s medical hiring needs are met

• Addressing the rising backlog of appeals

As a temporary emergency measure under the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, the VA implemented the Choice Card program as a viable solution to an increase in patient wait times nationwide.

The American Legion supported the program after seeing the need for it firsthand while conducting numerous Veterans Crisis Command Centers in affected areas from Arizona to North Carolina.

Not only did the Choice Card program provide an immediate short term option, it also provided an opportunity to learn from how veterans utilized the program. Ultimately, that led to the consolidation of VA’s community care programs, streamlining them into the New Veterans Choice Program.

Keeping current and future budget constraints in mind, there are two important considerations revolving around this new transformation that must be implemented in future budgets. VA must have the ability to spend all community care funds under the new framework, and the additional funding required to provide for the Choice Card program needs to be factored into future budgets.

While a robust budget for VA medical care is necessary, the past few years have shown the VA has been dependent upon care in the community to provide timely care to veterans when they are overburdened by scheduling, staffing and a lack of appropriate resources. This needs to be reflected in the community care budgets, not as an emergency measure when the problem boils over and out of control.

Detailed attention must be paid to VA’s hiring and incentives. If additional resources are needed to secure key providers like psychologists and physician’s assistants, the Veterans Health Administration must be provided the funding needed to secure those key performers. That is the longterm key to ensuring veterans get the care they need in a timely fashion in the system that is designed to treat their unique wounds of war.

Last year, The American Legion noted that occasional mandatory overtime in a short-term crisis is prudent management. However, four straight years is indicative of an organization that is clearly understaffed. VA was supposed to “break the back of the backlog” of veterans’ claims for disability benefits in 2015.

While VA has made substantial progress in reducing the number of initial claims – the “claims backlog” sits at around 77,000 claims. Down from a peak of over 600,000 claims in early 2013 – those numbers do not reflect the waiting period for many veterans who have been waiting for three or more years for their appeals to be decided.

Whether it is appeals or initial claims, a backlog is a backlog, and the budget must reflect sufficient resources to address these claims.

The VA cannot afford to be run as an entity reactive to one crisis after another. While there are other areas that can benefit from predicting crises before they occur, the Legion’s suggestions represent a key start in the sort of thinking that must be adopted to make VA successful in the long run.

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Dental health and heart health

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The mouth has been described as a gateway to the rest of the body.  Poor dental health can not only lead to tooth decay and gum disease but it can also have an impact on your overall health. 

Gum disease, or periodontitis, is a common dental disease caused by oral bacteria and is associated with chronic inflammation. It causes loss of the bone that supports the teeth and is the most common cause of tooth loss.  But did you know that gum disease not only affects your teeth, it can also have an increasing effect on your heart health? The oral bacteria that cause gum disease can enter the blood stream following routine activities such as chewing and brushing your teeth.  These bacteria can negatively affect your heart and blood vessels. The chronic inflammation caused by gum disease has also been associated with an increased risk for heart disease. 

Patients, who are affected by gum disease and associated tooth loss, can have negative impacts on their dental health, systemic health and overall quality of life. Recent estimates indicate more than 47% of American adults, almost 65 million people, have gum disease.  Take the steps now to ensure that you maintain not only your dental health but your heart health by preventing gum disease. 

Here are a few ways you can maintain optimal dental health and heart health: 

  • Help prevent gum disease by getting regular dental exams and cleanings and performing proper daily brushing and flossing. 
  • If you have a family history of gum disease or early tooth loss, tell your dental care provider. 
  • If you notice bleeding, sore or swollen gums or loose teeth it is important to see your dental care provider.  Gum disease often does not hurt, especially in its early stages, so it is important not to ignore these symptoms. Gum disease is easier to treat early. 

Dentists in your military dental treatment facilities check your gums during your annual dental exams.  Cleanings recommended by your dentist can help prevent gum disease.  Patients with gum disease can also obtain referrals to a gum disease specialist, or periodontist, for more advanced care. 

Disclaimer: Re-published content may have been edited for length and clarity. Read original post.

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OCW makes great impression on Alabama

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The American Legion Department of Alabama presented $5,300 worth of recreational and comfort items to the Central Alabama Veterans Health System on Thursday, thanks to the Legion's Operation Comfort Warriors (OCW) program.

The department was so impressed that plans are in the works for future OCW distributions.

"I expect to see more OCW grants come out of Alabama," said Department Commander David Hartline, who was joined by department Adjutant Greg Akers, NECman Willis Frazier and others for the presentation in Montgomery, Ala.

The donations included recreational equipment such as cornhole games with patriotic-themed beanbags, a CD player, soft-tip dartboard and two Samsung video players. The Legion also distributed clothing items such as sweatsuits for winter weather and comfort items like soap and deodorant. Additionally, 30 "starter kits" for male and women homeless veterans were provided to the Central Alabama Health System.

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Did you know?

The issuance or replacement of military service medals, awards and decorations must be requested in writing.

Requests should be submitted in writing to the appropriate military service branch division of the NPRC. Standard form (SF 180), available through the VA, is recommended to submit your request. Generally, there is no charge for medal or award replacements. For more information, or for the mailing address of the military branch office to submit your request to, call 1-86-NARA-NARA (1-866-272-6272) or visit the NPRC website at