Setting Standards for Delivering High-Quality Care to Veterans with Invisible Wounds

by Natalie Ernecoff, Carrie M. Farmer, Matthew F. Amidon, Margaret C. Harrell, Jennifer Silva: For Complete Post, Click Here…

For veterans living with invisible wounds of war, care delivery organizations must define and measure standards for high-quality care. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, traumatic brain injury (TBI), substance use disorders, and other “invisible wounds” are common among post-9/11 veterans and can interfere with their employment, family life, engagement with their communities, and overall well-being. Further, many veterans receive care at non-VA facilities, though the quality and programs in non-VA clinical settings are difficult to assess. Although there are effective treatments for these conditions, many veterans face barriers to accessing high-quality care. Therefore, care delivery organizations could work to ensure that the care and resources they provide are of high quality.

As a first step, the Veteran Wellness Alliance, a coalition of veteran peer network organizations and clinical provider organizations supported by the George W. Bush Institute, previously collaborated with RAND researchers to develop a shared definition of high-quality care consisting of four pillars: veteran-centered care, accessible care, evidence-based care, and outcome monitoring to improve access to high-quality care for post-9/11 veterans with invisible wounds.

The Promise and Challenges of VA Community Care

by Petra Rasmussen, Carrie M. Farmer: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Despite an overall decline in the U.S. veteran population, the number of veterans using VA health care has increased. To deliver timely care to as many eligible veterans as possible, VA supplements the care delivered by VA providers with private-sector community care, which is paid for by VA and delivered by non-VA providers. Although community care is a potentially important resource for veterans facing access barriers and long wait times for appointments, questions remain about its cost and quality. With recent expansions in veterans’ eligibility for community care, accurate data are critical to policy and budget decisions and ensuring that veterans receive the high-quality health care they need.

Factors Determining Veterans’ Eligibility and Priority for VHA Benefits

Veterans must first meet basic criteria to be eligible for VHA benefits.

  • When military service began
  • Duration of military service or active-duty service (for reserve and National Guard members)
  • Conditions of discharge from the military
  • Service-related conditions (e.g., disability, military sexual trauma)

Eligible veterans are assigned to 1 of 8 priority groups.

  • Determines when a veteran is eligible for benefits and to what extent they contribute to the cost of their care
  • Factors considered:
    • Military service history
    • Disability rating
    • Income level
    • Eligibility for Medicaid
    • Other benefits received (e.g., VA pension benefits)

Veterans, active duty can take advantage of Public Service Loan Forgiveness program

From VAntage Point Contributor: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Veterans and active duty service members can get one step closer to student loan forgiveness through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

You will need to submit your application by October 31, 2022.

By cancelling loans after 10 years of public service, PSLF removes the burden of student debt on public servants, makes it possible for many borrowers to stay in their jobs, and entices others to work in high-need fields.

Months on active duty count

The Department of Education will allow months spent on active duty to count toward PSLF, even if the service member’s loans were on a deferment or forbearance rather than in active repayment. This change addresses one major challenge service members face in accessing PSLF.

Service members on active duty can qualify for student loan deferments and forbearances that help them through periods in which service inhibits their ability to make payments. But too often, members of the military find out that those same deferments or forbearances granted while they served our country did not count toward PSLF.

This change ensures that members of the military will not need to focus on their student loans while serving our country. Federal Student Aid will develop and implement a process to address periods of student loan deferments and forbearance for active-duty service members and will update affected borrowers to let them know what they need to do to take advantage of this change.

Giving federal employees credit

The Department of Education will begin automatically giving federal employees credit for PSLF by matching Department of Education data with information held by other federal agencies about service members and the federal workforce. These matches will help the Department of Education identify others who may also be eligible but cannot benefit automatically, like those with FFEL loans.

Qualifying employers

Any U.S. federal, state, local or tribal government agency is considered a government employer for the PSLF Program. This includes employers such as the U.S. military, public elementary and secondary schools, public colleges and universities, public child and family service agencies, and special governmental districts (including entities such as public transportation, water, bridge district, or housing authorities).

A government contractor isn’t considered a government employer.

You can visit the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Help Tool, which will help you determine if an employer is considered a qualifying employer under the PSLF Program.

Income doesn’t matter

There is no income requirement to qualify for PSLF. However, since your required monthly payment amount under most of the qualifying PSLF repayment plans is based on your income, your income level over the course of your public service employment might be a factor in determining whether you have a remaining loan balance to be forgiven after making 120 qualifying payments.

Biden Signs Toxic Burn Pit Bill Into Law

by Joyce Frieden: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Measure provides health, disability benefits for veterans.

President Biden signed the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act into law Wednesday, calling it “the most significant law our nation has ever passed to help millions of veterans exposed to toxic substances during their military service.”

As a country, “we have many obligations, but only one truly sacred obligation,” Biden said during the signing ceremony in the East Room of the White House. That obligation is “to equip those we send into harm’s way, and to care for them and their families when they come home. Today, we’re one step closer to fulfilling that sacred obligation with the bill I’m about to sign into law.” The Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill’s cost at $278.5 billion over 10 years.

Veterans group slams GOP senators for delaying health benefits bill: We ‘will hold them accountable’

By Alex Henderson: For Complete Post, Click Here…

n the U.S. Senate, a group of Republican senators — including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania — have been holding up a bill that would extend health care benefits for military veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during wars: the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022, or PACT Act. Cruz claims that Democrats have loaded the bill up with “pork,” and comedian Jon Stewart — an outspoken and aggressive supporter of PACT Act — vehemently disagrees, slamming the GOP senators for holding the bill up. And those GOP senators, according to Boston Herald reporter Matthew Medsger, are also drawing the ire of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

In response to the 25 GOP senators who voted against the PACT Act on Wednesday, July 27, VFW National Commander Tim Borland complained, “When I heard the news about the failed PACT Act vote, I was angered. (On Wednesday), 25 senators who voted for the PACT Act last month changed their vote on the exact same. These 25 senators who broke their promise to veterans are risking more veterans getting sick and dying with every day this is delayed.”

The PACT ACT is designed to help veterans who were exposed to toxins from burn pits during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks as well as Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Some of the Republican senators who supported the PACT Act in June are opposed to it now; the bill, passed in the U.S. Senate in June, was later passed in the U.S. House of Representatives as well. But now that it has gone back to the Senate, Cruz and other Republicans have turned against it.

Virtual Reality therapy helps treat PTSD and cognitive impairment

By James W. Huckfeldt Jr.: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Imagine having the power to temporarily escape your current reality for a virtual one. While this might sound like “The Twilight Zone,” our story of Navy Reserve Veteran Sharon Thompson has a happy ending.

“Virtual reality puts me in a different atmosphere, almost like my own little world,” Thompson said. “I felt happy, like I was there, and the experience was real.”

Thompson was one of the first Veterans to try the new virtual reality systems donated by Soldier Strong. Her sessions included paint by number and matching objects of similar shapes and colors. The virtual reality simulator consists of a headpiece to view the altered reality and sensors hooked up to each hand, bicep and back.

“Virtual reality is another tool in our kit to help Veterans with PTSD and cognitive impairments improve relaxation techniques and range of motion,” said Carl Vinson VA Recreation Therapy Supervisor Jane Helsing. “We can monitor and track progress on a tablet controlling the programs being used by the Veteran.”

Other programs can be added

Data collected through these interactions can be compared over time to illustrate therapeutic progress. Other more challenging programs can be added to enhance therapy sessions and achieve loftier goals.

Thompson, who deployed to Iraq, struggled with PTSD after redeploying home and is currently receiving inpatient treatment at Dublin VA.

Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) facilitates the emotional engagement of patients with PTSD during exposures to the multiple sensory stimuli made possible by the virtual environment, bypassing symptoms of avoidance and facilitating control on the part of the therapist.

This is according to the research paper, “Efficacy of Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy in the Treatment of PTSD: A Systematic Review.”

New Zillow tool helps veterans nationwide discover condos eligible for VA loans

From Zillow: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Zillow now includes Veterans Affairs loan eligibility in condo listings, making it easier and faster for veterans to find a condo they qualify for

SEATTLE, July 7, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Home shoppers who are military veterans now have a simpler way to shop for condos that are eligible for Veterans Affairs (VA) loans. Today, Zillow announced that condo listings on its site and apps will include information about the home’s eligibility for a VA loan. This new Zillow feature is designed to help the 19 million veterans who are eligible to fund their home purchase using a VA loan.

Many home shoppers are not aware of the additional requirements that must be met for a condo to be eligible for a VA loan. Zillow’s new feature takes the guesswork out of the process for shoppers using VA financing for their home purchase allowing them to immediately see if the condo they’re interested in is VA-loan eligible. Before this tool was available, most shoppers had to toggle between their search on Zillow and the VA website to confirm financing eligibility on every single condo they were interested in, adding unnecessary complexity and time to their home search.

With this new tool, veterans shopping for a home are saving valuable time in a hot housing market, where speed and access to accurate information is increasingly important in the buying process. Recent Zillow research shows that homes sold in April typically went pending after only seven days — a dramatic acceleration in the market over the past few years, following the COVID-19 outbreak. For perspective, in April 2019, the typical home was on the market for 24 days before an offer was accepted.

Mobile Vietnam Veterans Memorial replica wall coming to southwest Michigan

By Nick Buckley: For Complete Post, Click Here…

The Wall That Heals is returning to southwest Michigan to honor Vietnam veterans.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Replica Wall and Mobile Education Center will parade through Galesburg Tuesday, traveling to Harper Creek High School in Emmett Township, where it will be on display 24 hours a day from July 14 until closing ceremonies July 17.

“This event is a special opportunity to show our support for the military,” retired Brig. Gen. Robert Secrist, co-chairperson of the event, said in a release. “This event is a unique occasion to thank Vietnam veterans for their service and sacrifices during the Vietnam War and for their suffering since then.”

The three-quarter scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., is designed to put American experiences in Vietnam in a historical and cultural context. Also called The Wall That Heals, it was started in 1996 by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, and last visited the Battle Creek area in 2012. 

The synthetic granite replica has 140 numbered panels supported by an aluminum frame, and features machine engraving of more than 58,000 names, along with LED lighting to provide 24-hour readability. Using a 53-foot tractor-trailer, the mobile exhibit converts into a education center at each stop, showcasing letters and memorabilia left at the original wall on the National Mall in Washington.

AARP launches free online hub to help Veterans fight fraud

From VAntage Point: For Complete Post, Click Here…

In response to the growing number of online fraud reports against the military community, AARP recently launched its Veterans Fraud Center, a new education and resource hub to help protect Veterans, service members and their families.

The data

Just last year, an AARP survey found that one in three active-duty military members and Veterans have lost money to at least one fake service-related offer.

Additionally, the number of fraud attacks against the military community jumped 69 percent compared to the previous year, according to the 2021 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book published by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Of those 110,827 reports of fraud, 26 percent resulted in financial losses, which totaled $267 million. Individual victims within the military community reported losing more money than their civilian counterparts, with a median loss of $600, compared to $500 for civilians.

“Targeting scams at members of the military community is unconscionable,” said Troy Broussard, senior advisor of AARP’s Veterans and Military Families Initiative and U.S. Army Desert Storm Veteran. “The AARP Veterans Fraud Center is designed to alert Veterans and their families about the latest scams and how to avoid them.”

AARP’s free resources

AARP’s Veterans Fraud Center offers free information on the latest scams targeting the military community, tips for spotting other types of consumer fraud, and specially tailored resources to help protect Veterans and military families.

They include:

For the latest news and information impacting older Veterans, bookmark the Veterans, Military and Their Families page on AARP.org.

Disabled veterans could live more independently with new technology

From Texas A&M: For Complete Post, Click Here…

n 2017 it was estimated that there were nearly 4.2 million veterans with service-connected disabilities, many of whom required housing assistance in one form another to be able to live independently. Among these are about 42,000 veterans with severe spinal cord injuries and disorders. Researchers at Texas A&M University are working on new technology that could help these veterans achieve even more independence.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) oversees a program offered to veterans and service members with certain service-connected disabilities called Specially Adapted Housing (SAH), which provides funds to modify or construct an adapted home to meet their needs. Typical adaptations include ramps, wider halls and doors, or wheelchair-accessible bathrooms.

But there are many other emerging technologies that could improve home adaptions or enhance a veteran or service member’s ability to live independently, such as voice-recognition and voice-command operations, living environment controls and adaptive feeding equipment. The VA has defined this as new assistive technology (AT), an advancement that could aid or enhance the ability of a veteran or service member to live in an adapted home.

To help improve this new assistive technology, the VA is awarding Specially Adapted Housing Assistive Technology (SAHAT) Grants. Dr. Hangue Park, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, along with Dr. Jeonghee Kim, assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution, have received a $200,000 SAHAT grant to work on their own assistive technology device.