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IAVA | April 8, 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, April 8

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE 

The Hill: Congress must address the toxic exposure our veterans have endured

By Tom Jurkowsky

There are unseen effects that may not reveal themselves until well after service members return from deployments or leave an installation. These are the emotional and mental injuries that may not be visible, such as post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). This is also the case for countless war veterans who have been exposed to toxic smoke from burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 20 years.

Military Times: Marine vet & the interpreter who saved his life discuss CBS show ‘United States of Al’

By Howard Altman

For Ty Edwards and Hakimi Quadratullah, the premise behind the new CBS series about a Marine veteran and the Afghan interpreter who becomes his roommate after saving his life isn’t exactly farfetched. “Marine veteran Riley (Parker Young), home at last after serving in Afghanistan, is happily reunited with his friend Awalmir (Adhir Kaylan), who goes by Al, the interpreter with his unit, after a long struggle to get him a visa to travel to the United States from Afghanistan,” the CBS show’s description synopsis reads.

SandhillsExpress.com: Program to prevent military veteran suicide, being promoted in Gage County

Gage County’s Veterans Service Officer says he is working to help establish a local effort aimed at preventing suicide among veterans of the military services. Scott Bates says the Lincoln Veterans Administration will conduct a suicide training program for people that are involved in the effort. That’s on April 22nd, 5 to 7 p.m., at the Veterans Club in Beatrice.

Yahoo: Heroic Dose Event Explores Promise of Psychedelic Medicine for Veterans, Military & Servicemen and Women

Microdose Psychedelic Insights, along with Entheon Biomedical Corp., Bexson Biomedical, HavnLife and The Conscious Fund, present the Heroic Dose. The Heroic Dose will commence on 22nd April at 8:45 am EST. This one-day virtual conference explores the use of psychedelic therapies for military veterans and first responders in an effort to combat the alarming rates of PTSD, substance abuse and suicide in this valuable yet underserved demographic.

Forbes: Veterans Health Administration Opens Up: Tackling Interoperability In The Private Sector

By Matthew Michela

Historically, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) led the way with technology to address medical care for this contained population with complex medical needs. In the 1970s, the VHA was the first major system to address internal interoperability by integrating functions such as medication ordering, nursing orders, lab tests, X-rays and procedures with the implementation of the first electronic health record (EHR), now called the Veterans Health Information System and Technology Architecture (VistA).

The New York Times: Veterans Are Next in Line to Receive Delayed Stimulus Checks

More than 25 million lower-income Americans whose stimulus payments were delayed finally received them on Wednesday. And one group still waiting — certain veterans and their beneficiaries — can expect their payments to arrive next week, the Internal Revenue Service said. Some Veterans Affairs beneficiaries are still waiting. But as long as no issues arise, non filing veterans and their beneficiaries who receive compensation and pension benefit payments can expect their money to land on April 14. 

Wednesday, April 7

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE 

USA TODAY: Jill Biden to announce plans to aid military families in next phase of her agenda

By Maria Puente

First lady Jill Biden, the military mom in the White House, is turning her FLOTUS spotlight on a cause that’s been close to her heart for years: making sure military and veteran families, caregivers and survivors get the support they need.

Military Times: Finding housing for veterans without homes could cut emergency care costs: study

By Leo Shane III

Finding stable housing for veterans experiencing homelessness not only provides dramatic improvements for their lives but also potential large cost savings for Veterans Affairs medical programs, according to new research published this week from department researchers.

KOAA: Local breweries brew up awareness for veteran suicide

Two veteran-owned businesses are brewing awareness about veteran suicide. Dueces Brewing Company in Colorado Springs and Elizabeth Brewing Company in Elizabeth, CO are in on the effort. The two breweries worked together to brew a beer called “22 a Day.” It’s to help get the word out about the alarming statistic that every day, 22 veterans commit suicide.

*Also published in Yahoo

Marijuana Moment: South Carolina Senator Threatens To Block ‘Every Single Other Bill’ If Medical Marijuana Doesn’t Get A Vote

By Kyle Jaeger

If other South Carolina senators move to block a bill to legalize medical marijuana, its sponsor said on Tuesday that he would use his power to stop every other piece of legislation on the chamber’s calendar in protest. “We’re going to get this bill passed,” Sen. Tom Davis (R), who filed the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act, said at a press conference with supporters. “And if there are some up on the Senate floor that are still in this reefer madness, drug war mentality and block and stand in the way of this bill, I will exercise my rights as a senator to respond in kind to every single other bill on this calendar.” A coalition of advocates for health care and criminal justice reform, as well as veterans groups, have recently stepped up their push to get medical cannabis legalized in South Carolina.

Marine Times: Marine veterans’ YouTube channel gives civilians a taste of special ops

By Philip Athey

After launching a YouTube channel focusing on video game reviews, two special operations veterans have found so much success that they’re fielding offers to work with video game companies. In the seven months since establishing their channel, Savage Actual, these Marine vets have garnered more than 80,000 subscribers. It’s a place where they “share their thoughts on games, movies and more,” according to their YouTube page. “Join us, share a beer and a laugh. Don’t take us or the world too seriously.”

Tuesday, April 6

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE 

Government Executive: VA Suicide Prevention Teams Report Burnout as Department Fails to Ensure Proper Staffing 

By Eric Katz

Psychologists and social workers at the Veterans Affairs Department who specialize in suicide prevention are feeling overwhelmed and understaffed, according to a new report, which found the agency has failed to ensure the specialized workforce has kept pace with new responsibilities. Local teams dedicated to prevent veteran suicides at VA facilities across the country are identifying more veterans at risk of suicide and taking more proactive measures to catch early signs, but the department has failed to account for the impact of that workload growth. 

*Also reported in Navy Times

KTVQ: VA secretary makes Billings stop to hear about vets’ concerns with medical care

By Mitch Lagge

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough had a round table discussion with about 20 local veterans on the MSU Billings campus Monday to hear the vets’ feedback about the VA health care system and struggles faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tester, chairman of the Senate’s Veterans Affairs Committee, told reporters a common topic of discussion was widening access to mental health care for veterans in the state.

WLUC: Department of Veteran’s Affairs works to prevent, help veteran homelessness

By Alyssa Jower

Veteran homelessness in Michigan is up by 7% since 2019, according to the Detroit News and it is not new to Upper Michigan. “We see about 15 referrals per month; We generally average, helping 5-10 veterans, at any given time who are homeless,” said Richard Holmstrom, the homeless prevention coordinator at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center. He says that’s why some federal funds, through the CARES Act have been allocated to the cause, as well as starting prevention classes. Many VA’s around Upper Michigan have many programs to help those homeless veterans.

CBS News: Stimulus check: Some veterans are still waiting for their checks

By Aimee Picche

The IRS is continuing to issue stimulus checks, even as the bulk of the $1,400 payments have already been distributed to eligible Americans. But among those still waiting are some people who receive benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The IRS on Friday said it is continuing to review payment data it received from the VA, but doesn’t yet have a specific payment date available for those recipients. It said it believes that VA beneficiaries who don’t regularly file tax returns could receive their payments by mid-April, however. The tax agency did not disclose how many veterans may be waiting for their money.

Baltimore Sun: Veterans View: Veterans organizations continue helping despite challenges of coronavirus

By Todd Mitchell

Many veterans organizations and fraternal organizations have struggled to keep their doors open amid the pandemic. The lounge and restaurant operations at American Legion are critical to our organization as the revenue raised from these activities funds our community service projects. Just like other restaurants, The American Legion experienced the same impact on this aspect of our business which then in turn affects the funds for our community outreach. When a post closes its doors, the services provided to the community and veterans also cease to exist.

Monday, April 5 

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE 

Military.com: Guard Troops Rapidly Deploy to US Capitol After Attack on Police

By Steve Beynon

The security posture is “steady” on Capitol Hill after a suspect rammed a car into two police officers Friday, acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman told reporters in a press briefing. The suspect was gunned down by police after exiting the vehicle and “lunging” at officers with a knife, she added.

Military.com: AP Source: Suspect in Capitol Attack Suffered Delusions

The man who rammed a car into two officers at a barricade outside the U.S. Capitol, killing one of them before he was shot to death by police, had been suffering from delusions, paranoia and suicidal thoughts, a U.S. official told The Associated Press. Investigators believe it was an isolated incident from a disturbed young man.

Marijuana Moment: D.C. Is ‘Ready’ To Legalize Marijuana Sales As Soon As Congress Gets Out Of The Way, Mayor Says

By Kyle Jaeger

The mayor of Washington, D.C. says local officials are prepared to move forward with implementing a legal system of recreational marijuana sales in the nation’s capital just as soon as they can get over the final “hurdle” of congressional interference. People who’ve been convicted of a cannabis-related offense, lived in a disadvantaged community for 10 of the past 20 years or who already operate a medical marijuana dispensary would get licensing priority under the chairman’s legislation. The mayor is similarly proposing licensing prioritization for returning citizens who’ve been arrested or convicted of cannabis-related offenses, as well as veterans and residents from disadvantaged communities.

The Hill: Don’t press pause on the PAWS Act [Opinion]

By Robin Ganzert

The PAWS Act will allocate federal funds to pair veterans suffering from mental health issues with service dogs. This is a huge step in the right direction, but unless it is signed into law veterans who are struggling now won’t get the unconditional help and support they desperately need.

Military Times: Burn pit advocate, Navy vet, Lauren Price dies after long fight with cancer

By Leo Shane III

A prominent advocate for military burn pit victims died this week from complications related to her own toxic exposure injuries. Lauren Price, a Navy veteran who co-founded the Florida-based Veterans Warriors Inc., passed away on March 30 from complications related to cancer. She was 56. In a statement, group officials said her death was “due to illness and disease that directly resulted from her service in the United States Navy, specifically her exposure to toxic chemicals and substances during her deployment to Iraq.”

The Pantagraph: Veterans Corner: Where Agent Orange exposure meets COVID-19

By Jerry A. Vogler Sr.

A veteran served in Vietnam and was exposed to Agent Orange. He died in November 2020 from COVID-19. He had been granted a disability rating in 2012 for a diagnosis of ischemic heart failure, renal insufficiency and hypertension. These conditions were decided by the VA to have been caused by exposure to Agent Orange, and he was treated for several years for these conditions. The veteran’s cause of death was listed as “COVID-19, pneumonia and acute respiratory failure and hypoxia.” However, the VA concluded that the veteran’s service-connected chronic renal insufficiency with hypertension and ischemic heart disease were at least a contributing factor in his death. This ruling results in the spouse and dependents being eligible for the Dependents’ Educational Assistance under 38 US.C Chapter 35 and other compensation and benefits.

Military.com: Vaccine Refusal Rate at 3% Among Veterans, Slightly Higher in Rural Areas

By Nikki Wentling

About 3% of veterans have refused coronavirus vaccines when offered them by the Department of Veterans Affairs – an amount lower than the agency anticipated, a VA official said Thursday.

Military.com: 2 Competing Bills Now Aim to Secure Health Care for Veterans Sickened by Burn Pits

By Steve Beynon

Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., unveiled an ambitious and potentially costly legislative effort Thursday to open up compensation and health care to a large swath of veterans sick from exposure to burn pits, but some are concerned the bill doesn’t go far enough. The Conceding Our Veterans’ Exposure Now and Necessitating Training Act aims to streamline the claims process at the Department of Veterans Affairs by doing away with most of the burden of proof on veterans to show they got sick from breathing in burning garbage for up to a year at a time while deployed.

Friday, April 2

IAVA NEWS COVERAGE 

FEDWeek: Presumption for Burn-Pit Exposure Sought

The roughly 3.5 million veterans who became sick as a result of exposure to toxins that emanated from burn pits and elsewhere could qualify for treatment and benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs, under measures pending before both houses of Congress. The bills would require VA to presume that burn pit fumes contributed to illnesses that sickened or killed veterans who were exposed to them. The bills have garnered support from several veterans’ service organizations, to include the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Vietnam Veterans of America, and the American Legion. David Shulkin, who served as VA secretary under President Trump, also voiced his support.

Military Times: VA COVID cases rising; vets groups tapped by White House for vaccination outreach

By Leo Shane III

White House officials will tap numerous veterans groups to act as “trusted voices” in communities across the country in administration efforts to convince Americans to get coronavirus vaccines as soon as they’re available. White House officials identified 10 veterans groups involved in the initial steps of the outreach effort: AMVETS, the Blinded Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Modern Military Association of America, Student Veterans of America, The Mission Continues, VetsFirst, Vietnam Veterans of America and the Women’s Veterans Interactive.

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE 

Times News Online: Carbon OKs $100K to help veterans

By Amy Miller

Carbon County wants to make sure veterans get the help they need. Last week, the board of commissioners approved the award of funding in the amount of $100,000 through the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education to support the implementation of Together with Veterans Northeastern Pennsylvania. The money will actually be used for the creation of a suicide prevention program.

Fox 8: Houma man biking 1,500 miles to raise awareness for veteran homelessness

By Rilwan Balogun 

In an effort to raise awareness for veteran homelessness, Ricky Folse of Houma embarks on a 1,500-mile bike ride that will take him through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama to Key West, Florida. In 2019, Veteran Affairs report to Congress showed that more than 37,000 veterans experienced homelessness during a single day count. Another report showed more than a million vets received mental health treatment through a number of its programs in 2018.

Stars and Stripes: Navy vet pushes House bill that would expand care for veterans exposed to toxic fumes

By Sarah Cammarata

Rep. Elaine Luria, a 20-year Navy veteran, introduced legislation Thursday that would expand care and disability compensation for veterans made sick after breathing in toxic fumes on overseas deployments. The Conceding Our Veterans’ Exposures Now and Necessitating Training Act would ease the burden of proof for veterans who got sick by exposure to burn pits and other toxic exposures.

*Also reported in Daily Press

McClatchy: VA expected Iraq, Afghanistan wars would lead to toxic exposures, agency reveals

By Tara Copp

Soon after the 9/11 attacks, disease researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs began internal discussions on how to prepare for the war-related illnesses they knew would follow, agency officials told McClatchy. The revelation that the VA was concerned that some veterans would return home with illnesses, and that it has been collecting data on those service members since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars began, deeply angered veterans who have spent years trying to convince the agency their illnesses were linked to their service overseas.

Navy Times: More veterans finding work as unemployment rates drop again

By Leo Shane III

Veterans unemployment in March reached its lowest level since the start of the coronavirus pandemic more than a year ago, but still remains significantly higher than before the nationwide shutdowns and business restrictions began. On Friday, officials from the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that unemployment among all veterans last month was at 5 percent, down from 5.5 percent in February and less than half of what it was in April 2020, right at the start of the pandemic.

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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