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IAVA | March 25, 2021

IAVA Weekly SITREP

As the leading voice for the post-9/11 community, IAVA continues to create awareness on issues and topics impacting our community. Below are articles and news sources from the past week:

Thursday, March 25

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

VAntage Point: All Veterans, their spouses, caregivers can get COVID-19 vaccinations from VA

All Veterans, their spouses and caregivers can get COVID-19 vaccinations from VA under the SAVE LIVES Act signed into law March 24. VA must prioritize the vaccination of (1) Veterans enrolled in the VA health care system, (2) Veterans who fail to enroll but receive hospital care and medical services for specified disabilities in their first 12 months of separation from service, and (3) caregivers accompanying such prioritized Veterans. 

Politico: VA asking California if net neutrality law will snag veterans’ health app

By Josh Gerstein 

Officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs are privately sounding the alarm that California’s new net neutrality law could cut off veterans nationwide from a key telehealth app, according to a government communication between federal agencies obtained by POLITICO.

Navy Times: Student veterans, your GI Bill benefits will be easier to access this fall. Here’s how 

By Leo Shane III

Veterans Affairs officials have begun work to shift the bulk of its GI Bill benefits operations to a new online platform, with the first changes visible to students by this fall. Eventually, student veterans and college officials will be able to use the new digital offerings to chat in real time with VA claims staffers and answer questions about benefits. It will also ensure Veterans Benefits Administration officials have “immediate access” to beneficiary records and troubleshoot issues with payments.

Wall Street Journal: New York Lawmakers Reach Deal to Legalize Marijuana

By Jimmy Vielkind

After years of false starts, New York state lawmakers said Wednesday that they had reached an agreement to legalize the sale of marijuana for recreational use by adults starting next year.

Stars and Stripes: Veterans, civilian advocates bring expertise to Pentagon’s commission on military sexual assault

By Caitlin M. Kenney 

Military veterans and experts on violence against women are among the 12 new members of the Pentagon’s Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military, the organization’s chairwoman announced Wednesday.

Wednesday, March 24

IAVA NEWS COVERAGE

NBC Nightly News Broadcast

IAVA Member Advocate Britnee Davis shares her experience receiving prescriptions through the US Postal Service and the challenges of delayed mail. 

NACS: NACS Supports Veterans Coalition to Support Vaccinations

NACS is supporting the Veterans Coalition for Vaccination (VCV)—formed earlier this year with seven leading veterans organizations—to help promote a nationwide public service announcement (PSA) campaign to encourage full vaccination and help end to the COVID-19 crisis. VCV’s members include Team Rubicon, Wounded Warrior Project, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Student Veterans of America (SVA), Team Red, White & Blue, The Mission Continues and the Travis Manion Foundation.

Connecting Vets: Lawmakers relaunch landmark bill to create path to VA care for veterans ill from toxic exposure

By Abbie Bennett

Veterans exposed to toxic substances during their military service could qualify for additional care and benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs under landmark legislation reintroduced in Congress this week. Surveys from veteran service organizations including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Wounded Warrior Project show a majority of respondents report toxic exposures of some kind, and most said they were not receiving care for those exposures at VA. 

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

Forbes: Veterans Affairs Knows How To Distribute The COVID Vaccine [Opinion]

By James Conca

Earlier this month, President Biden visited the vaccine clinic at the Washington D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He was justifiably proud of VA’s success in vaccinating veterans against COVID-19. VA was able to mobilize early to identify vaccine allocation guidelines and proactively prepare facilities to vaccinate VA staff and veterans as soon as vaccines were authorized under the Emergency Use Authorizations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Military.com: The VA Just Got $17 Billion in COVID Relief Money. Here’s How They Plan to Spend It

By Jim Absher

The Department of Veterans Affairs just received over $17 billion as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. How will they spend that money? Of the $17 billion-plus in emergency funding that will add to the department’s $243 billion fiscal 2021 budget, which runs through Sept. 30, $10 billion is earmarked directly for health-care and homeless programs. Another $4 billion is allocated to the Community Care or MISSION program that provides medical care from civilian providers in certain cases. That means that the majority of the emergency funding will go right back to caring for veterans.

Mississippi Public Broadcasting: A high percentage of Mississippi veterans are getting the coronavirus vaccine

By Kobee Vance

Veterans in Mississippi are being vaccinated for the coronavirus at a high rate. Officials at the G. V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center in Jackson say 28% of Mississippi veterans have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, surpassing the 22% vaccination rate among the state’s general population. 

NBC Montana: Tester to lead Senate Veterans Affairs Committee suicide prevention, mental health hearing

Senator Jon Tester, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs committee, will convene a hearing Wednesday on connecting veterans with mental health care and suicide prevention during the pandemic.

Tuesday, March 23

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

Chicago Tribune: River Grove military museum keeps local veterans’ stories alive, they say

By Bob Chiarito

George Batson, a former U.S. Army medic, has stories from the three years he served in Vietnam, and so do many others who served in the military. That’s why River Grove’s new military museum is valuable, he said–its organizers aim to document the sacrifices made by local veterans and keep their stories alive. The museum, called the Chicago Combined Veterans Museum, is located inside the building that houses American Legion Post 335 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5979. 

WCHS ABC 8: Local veterans organizations struggling throughout the pandemic financially, mentally

By Megan Bsharah

Veterans organizations like the American Legion have had to cut back on meetings and activities throughout the pandemic to keep members safe. But the stress of the pandemic and a lack of socialization has taken a toll on some veterans. The pandemic has especially affected one community in Logan County. Several members of the American Legion Post 19 unit have battled COVID-19, with many others too afraid to go out in public and several other members have passed away.

The Conversation: One veteran on average dies by suicide every two weeks. This is what a royal commission needs to look at

This is an important day for the veteran community. After five years of campaigning for a royal commission, parliament has backed a motion to establish one. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also signalled he would no longer oppose the move. For at least two decades, there have been numerous inquiries into veteran suicide, institutional abuse, mental health, the transition from military to civilian life, and combat trauma — with little positive outcome.

WTAP: Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans to take place on March 28

By Mitchell Blahut

The Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans event will be returning this year. It’s set for this Sunday at City Park from 1 to 4 p.m. Organizers say that many veterans were disappointed about its cancellation last year. There will be several things for veterans to check out. From the West Virginia Traveling Memorial Wall to a speaker that will discuss veteran suicide.

Healthcare IT News: VA to undertake strategic review of EHR modernization program

By Kat Jercich

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced on Friday that it would be undertaking a strategic review of its Cerner electronic health record modernization program. The review, consisting of a full assessment of the ongoing EHR modernization program, will not exceed 12 weeks. “A successful EHR deployment is essential in the delivery of lifetime, world-class health care for our veterans,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough.  

Monday, March 22 

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

Yahoo: Paralyzed Veterans of America receives $1 million donation from Penske Automotive Group to help veterans live full, productive lives

Paralyzed Veterans of America, the nation’s only nonprofit organization dedicated solely to helping veterans with spinal cord injuries and disorders, and diseases, like MS and ALS, today announced that they have received $1 million from Penske Automotive Group to help veterans and their families live full and productive lives well after injury.

Military.com: Doctors Found Jet Fuel in Veteran’s Lungs. He Can’t Get Full Benefits

By Michael McAuliff

The lungs Bill Thompson was born with told a gruesome, harrowing and unmistakable tale to Dr. Anthony Szema when he analyzed them and found the black spots, scarring, partially combusted jet fuel and metal inside. The retired Army staff sergeant had suffered catastrophic lung damage from breathing incinerated waste burned in massive open-air pits and probably other irritants during his tour of duty in Iraq.

*Also published in Yahoo and ABC News

Jefferson City News Tribune: Veterans push Kansas to legalize medical marijuana

George Hanna has undergone 21 orthopedic surgeries since he left the U.S. Navy in 1990. He was recommended opioids to manage his pain but refused. One option for him remains: medical cannabis. Hanna said if he had the access, he’d absolutely use it. But as a Topeka resident, he would risk losing his veteran benefits as Kansas is one of only eight states that hasn’t legalized any form of marijuana, the Kansas City Star reported. A two-day House hearing in February brought forward numerous veterans and veteran organizations in favor of the change as opioid addiction, chronic pain and mental health struggles continue to plague their community.

The Hill: Service dogs are saving veteran lives, despite limited access through VA [Opinion]

By Rory Diamond

Veteran suicide is a growing national crisis, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) continues to ignore a proven, inexpensive, side-effect free treatment — service dogs. The VA estimates that an average of 18 military veterans die by suicide every day, yet they refuse to cover service dogs under the insurance benefits that veterans earn through their military service.

Stars and Stripes: Groups offer House lawmakers new ways to improve care for female veterans

By Sarah Cammarata

After leaving the military, Stephanie Gattas was homeless and suffered from mental illnesses, such as PTSD. She struggled to find resources to help, the Navy veteran told House lawmakers. She said her experiences inspired her to form the Pink Berets in 2015 — a nonprofit that supports female veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, sexual trauma in the military, stress from combat trauma and other “invisible injuries.”

Military Times: All veterans, their spouses and caregivers eligible to get COVID vaccine through VA under newly-passed bill

By Leo Shane III

All veterans, their spouses and caregivers will be able to receive a coronavirus vaccine through the Department of Veterans Affairs once doses are made available, under legislation finalized by Congress on Friday.

Military.com: Congress Passes Sweeping New Rule Allowing VA to Vaccinate All Veterans, Spouses

By Steve Beynon

The House on Friday passed a sweeping new authorization for the Department of Veterans Affairs that would boost the agency’s ability to deliver shots to millions of Americans, following President Joe Biden’s pledge to have COVID-19 vaccines available to all adults by May.

Military Times: FDA-regulated study shows promise for using marijuana to treat veterans with PTSD

By Todd South

The first FDA-regulated, placebo-controlled, double-blind study on smoked cannabis among veterans with diagnosed PTSD revealed improvements among those receiving doses with higher levels of THC, an active component in the herbal drug.

Stars and Stripes: Congressman calls for service members, veterans who stormed the Capitol to be stripped of benefits

By Sarah Cammarata

Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Marine Corps combat veteran, is calling on Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough and other top officials to strip benefits from active-duty service members, veterans and military retirees who took part in the deadly siege of the Capitol.

Military Times: Lawmaker wants to strip benefits from veterans involved in January’s attack on Congress

By Leo Shane III

A Marine-turned-congressman wants federal officials to deny veterans benefits to any current or former military members involved with the attack on the U.S. Capitol building earlier this year, saying they “no longer deserve” the payouts. 

Friday, March 19

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

Los Angeles Times: Orange County Music and Dance launches program for vets

By Vera Castaneda

Orange County Music and Dance is launching a new program for veterans in April. Operation Gig is designed to help active duty military or veterans cope with stress resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

Connecting Vets: For the first time ‘in many years,’ veteran homelessness was up in 2020, even before the pandemic

By Abbie Bennett

Veteran homelessness increased slightly from 2019 to early 2020, even before the coronavirus pandemic struck the United States and left thousands out of work, according to an anticipated, overdue report released Thursday, though overall veteran homelessness is still down by nearly half over the last 10 years.

Daily Caller: New Report Reveals Which States Have The Highest Number Of Homeless Veterans

By Jordan Lancaster

A Thursday report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development revealed which states have the highest number of homeless veterans.

The 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) found that California, Hawaii and Oregon had the highest rates of veterans experiencing homelessness. On average nationally, 21 out of every 10,000 veterans were homeless in 2020. In California, that number was 77 out of every 10,000 veterans; in Hawaii, 54 out of about 10,000 veterans were homeless; in Oregon, 50 out of every 10,000 veterans were homeless.

Yahoo: State report offers no explanation for Veterans Home COVID outbreak that killed 37 vets

A state examination of infection control at the Tilton Veterans Home, released Thursday, offers no insight into what went wrong in November and December as one of the state’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks raged. Ninety-two residents were infected, out of about 130 who lived in the Veterans Home last November, when the outbreak began. The outbreak left 37 veterans dead — more than a quarter of those who lived in the facility. Only the outbreaks at the much-larger Hillsborough County Nursing Home in Goffstown have claimed more lives.

Military.com: 10 Opportunities for Veterans to Reduce Resistance to Change

By Blake Stilwell

It’s important to understand basic elements of the change process and its application to the job search process. This understanding allows the veteran to become his or her own facilitator of change — a realistic approach to the development of self-sufficiency and sustainability.

Military.com: Army Denies Major’s Appeal to Get Valor Award Back After Trump Pardon

By Gina Harkins

An Army board has denied a retired Green Beret’s request to have a heroism award and Special Forces tab restored after President Donald Trump pardoned him ahead of a federal trial for a murder charge.

IAVA is the voice for the post-9/11 veteran generation. With over 400,000 veterans and allies nationwide, IAVA is the leader in non-partisan veteran advocacy and public awareness. We drive historic impacts for veterans and IAVA’s programs are second to none. Any veteran or family member in need can reach out to IAVA’s Quick Reaction Force at quickreactionforce.org or 855-91RAPID (855-917-2743) to be connected promptly with a veteran care manager who will assist. IAVA’s The Vote Hub is a free tool to register to vote and find polling information. IAVA’s membership is always growing. Join the movement at iava.org/membership.

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