March 15, 2016

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt. Shaft
I served in the US MARINE Corps from 1960-1966 and was honorably discharged. I would like to know how I go about the process to make the future arrangements to be buried in Arlington. Thank you.

Ken K
Via the internet

Dear Ken
Unfortunately burial at Arlington has become very restrictive. Entitlement is limited to veterans who are retired or have a 30 percent or greater service connected disabilities. Semper Fi.


Shaft Notes
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced the appointment of Dr. Richard A. Stone to the position of Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Health. Dr. Stone will serve as the second-in-command to Dr. David Shulkin, VA’s Under Secretary for Health. Dr. Stone began work today.

“We are excited to bring Dr. Stone on board as the Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Health,” said Dr. Shulkin. “Dr. Stone’s keen ability to provide oversight of complex healthcare systems, programs and services has been truly remarkable and his experience in leadership roles within health care validate his skills as an innovative and dynamic leader who will benefit VA as a whole as we continue transformational initiatives.”

A practicing physician in a career that has spanned three decades, Dr. Stone has served in both the uniformed military service and civilian clinical practice.  In the military, he served as commander of military medical units at all levels of command – from detachment to medical command – including multiple recalls to active duty. Prior to that, he was the Director of the Health Care Operations for the Defense Health Agency (DHA) transition team, overseeing the complex and historic transition to DHA from the Military Health System. In this role, he served as the Chief Medical Officer and led a joint services team that provided business case analysis and business process re-engineering to 10 major shared services encompassing more than $30 billion in annual expenses. He also previously served as Deputy Surgeon General and Deputy Commanding General of Support to the Army Surgeon General.


To enhance Veterans’ access to care and eliminate delays in Choice provider payment, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is eliminating administrative burdens placed on VA community providers. Previously, payments to Choice providers were not allowed until a copy of the Veteran’s medical record was submitted. Now, community providers, under the Choice program, will no longer be required to submit medical records prior to payment being made. To facilitate the change, VA has modified the Choice Program contract, making it easier for Health Net and TriWest to promptly pay providers.

VA continues to require pertinent medical information be returned to ensure continuity of care; however, it is no longer tied to payment. VA is taking these steps to more closely align with industry standards.

“This administrative step just makes sense,” said VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. David J. Shulkin. “It ensures Veteran access, timely payments and strengthens our partnerships with our Choice providers. We know that providing Veterans access to high-quality, timely healthcare would be impossible without collaboration with our community providers.”

VA’s Plan to Consolidate Community Care Programs outlines additional solutions to improving timely provider payment. VA is moving forward on two paths to further improve timely payment.  First, VA is working toward a single community care program that is easy to understand, simple to administer and meets the needs of Veterans, community providers and VA staff.  Secondly, VA plans to pursue a claims solution that moves to a more automated process for payment. VA envisions a future state where it is able to auto-adjudicate or process a high percentage of claims, enabling the Department to pay community providers promptly and correctly, while adopting a standardized regional fee schedule to promote consistency in reimbursement.


The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced new steps it is taking to reduce Veteran suicide. The steps follow a February 2 Summit, “Preventing Veteran Suicide – A Call to Action,” that brought together stakeholders and thought leaders to discuss current research, approaches and best practices to address this important subject.

“We know that every day, approximately 22 Veterans take their lives and that is too many,” said VA Under Secretary for Health, Dr. David Shulkin. “We take this issue seriously. While no one knows the subject of Veteran suicide better than VA, we also realize that caring for our Veterans is a shared responsibility. We all have an obligation to help Veterans suffering from the invisible wounds of military service that lead them to think suicide is their only option.  We must and will do more, and this Summit, coupled with recent announcements about improvements to enhance and accelerate progress at the Veterans Crisis Line, shows that our work and commitment must continue.”

Several changes and initiatives are being announced that strengthen VA’s approach to Suicide Prevention. They include:

  • Elevating VA’s Suicide Prevention Program with additional resources to manage and strengthen current programs and initiatives;
  • Meeting urgent mental health needs by providing Veterans with the goal of  same-day evaluations and access by the end of calendar year 2016;
  • Establishing a new standard of care by using measures of Veteran-reported symptoms to tailor mental health treatments to individual needs;
  • Launching a new study, “Coming Home from Afghanistan and Iraq,” to look at the impact of deployment and combat as it relates to suicide, mental health and well-being;
  • Using predictive modeling to guide early interventions for suicide prevention;
  • Using data on suicide attempts and overdoses for surveillance to guide strategies to prevent suicide;
  • Increasing the availability of naloxone rescue kits throughout VA to prevent deaths from opioid overdoses;
  • Enhancing Veteran Mental Health access by establishing three regional tele-mental health hubs; and
  • Continuing to partner with the Department of Defense on suicide prevention and other efforts for a seamless transition from military service to civilian life.

For information about VA initiatives to prevent Veteran suicide, visit www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention.

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