December 13, 2016

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt Shaft
What has been done to commemorate the 75th anniversary Of Pearl Harbor?

Jake L
Via the internet

Dear Jake
In a speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) honored the 75th Anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor:

“My heart is in Hawaii today. At almost this exact time, on this very day 75 years ago, the first bombs were dropped in the attack on Pearl Harbor. More than 2,400 people perished on that fateful day that will forever live in infamy.

“We remember our brothers and sisters who paid the ultimate price, and those who answered the call to serve in the months and years that followed, including our two former Senators Inouye and Akaka, and the more than 320,000 who gave their lives in that war.

“We remember the Japanese Americans whose lives forever changed when after the attack on Pearl Harbor, they were thrown into internment camps. And the brave Nisei, who in spite of these atrocities, volunteered to serve, forming the Nisei-only “Go For Broke” 442nd Infantry Regiment, serving courageously, and sacrificing greatly.

“May we never forget what happened at Pearl Harbor, the lessons learned, and the sacrifices of all who served.”

Background: Last month, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard reintroduced a House resolution originally authored by Congressman Takai that commemorates the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and honoring the more than 320,000 men and women who gave their lives in defense of the United States during World War II.


Blue military style mailbag with BAVF red letters stenciled on it. Below the BAVF is a tag that says SGT. SHAFTShaft Notes
Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs tell us that the House recently passed two veterans-related bills:.

H.R. 5099, as amended, the Communities Helping Invest through Property and Improvements Needed for Veterans Act of 2016, also referred to as the CHIP IN for Vets Act of 2016, would authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs to carry out a pilot program to allow non-federal entities – including state or city governments, nonprofit organizations and benefactors – to donate up to five facilities to VA.

H.R. 6435 would allow directors of VA’s regional networks to enter into a contract with an appropriate non-VA entity with expertise in health care evaluation to investigate any VA medical center within that director’s jurisdiction.

These bills now await consideration by the Senate. Following House passage of the bills, Chairman Miller released the below statement.

“The support and involvement of outside stakeholders is absolutely crucial to VA’s success, and these bills would help facilitate more of that. H.R. 6435 allows vital third party oversight of VA facilities, and the CHIP IN for Vets Act would broaden the pool of resources available to VA for its infrastructure needs. I’m proud to stand with my colleagues in passing these bills and urge the Senate to consider them without delay.”

After unanimous House passage earlier this month, the Senate voted today to send the Gold Star Families Voices Act (HR 4511) to the President for his signature. The legislation, authored by Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), will allow immediate family members of servicemembers who are killed or missing in action or have died as a result of their service to participate in the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.

“Today’s vote honors the men and women who gave ‘the last full measure of devotion’ in the service of our Nation by allowing their family members to tell their stories, so that all Americans can hear, appreciate, remember, and honor these patriots,” said Smith, former chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Preserving their memories will allow current and future generations of Americans to better understand and appreciate the sacrifices borne by those who served in uniform, the realities of war, and the narrative that helps define who we are as a nation.”

“Senate passage today—which was secured by the hard work of my good friend and colleague Chairman Roy Blunt—will build on this collection and ensure we record and remember the lives and sacrifices of all who have served and provide the very deserving family members with the opportunity to create a lasting record of their fallen loved ones,” Smith continued.

Congress created the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress in 2000 to collect and catalog the stories of American war veterans. The project has been a great success. Earlier this year, the Library announced that it reached a milestone: it has collected more than 100,000 testimonies of veterans who have served in military engagements since World War I in our permanent record.

Currently the project accepts only first-hand accounts of living veterans, unintentionally leaving out the men and women who did not return from the battlefield. Under Smith’s bill, immediate family members can participate on a veteran’s behalf including parents, spouses, siblings and/or children.

After passage in the Senate, Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) added: “We would not be the nation we are today if not for the profound acts of courage and selflessness of our fallen heroes. We, as Americans, owe it to these men and women to know their names, to honor their deeds, and to preserve their memories. The Gold Star Families Voices Act makes an invaluable project even better by giving the family members of our missing and fallen service members the opportunity to share their stories and ensure they become a part of our nation’s historical record. I thank American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. and Representative Chris Smith for championing this bill, and my Senate colleagues for getting it to the President’s desk.”

“Congress created the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project to turn the memories of our warfighters into our history and memorialize the lives of heroes. Yet, conspicuously missing from the rich project’s history are the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Smith.

 

November 22, 2106

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt. Shaft
What’s the latest on the VA Transformation Initiative ?

Carl O
Via the internet

Dear Carl
The  U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recently released a major update on the MyVA transformation, Secretary McDonald’s effort to transform VA into the top customer service agency in the federal government. This third edition of the program’s semi-annual report shows progress serving veterans with more services, in better time.

“Guided by Veterans’ needs, we’ve left old, unresponsive ways of doing business behind,” writes Secretary Robert McDonald. “We’ve changed leadership. We’ve added staff. We’ve adjusted policies. We’re eliminating bureaucracy and unproductive work. We’re encouraging inno­vative approaches to serving Veterans, and we’re sharing best practices across the Department. In short, we’re making VA the high-performing organization that it can be, and that my fellow Veterans, expect and deserve.”

Key results in the report include:

  • Veteran trust of VA is on the rise. In June 2016, nearly 60% of veterans said they trust VA to fulfill our country’s commitment to Veterans – a 47% improvement from six months before.
  • We are completing more appointments, faster. In FY 2016, VA completed nearly 58 million appointments – 1.2 million more than in FY 2015 and 3.2 million more than FY 2014. More of them are provided by a network of more than 350,000 community providers – a 45% increase in the number of providers since last year.
  • Processing of disability claims is faster and more accurate, too. The average wait time to complete a claim has dropped by 65%, to 123 days. We completed nearly 1.3 million claims in FY 2016, and reduced pending claims by almost 90%.
  • Urgent care is available when a Veteran needs it, and for non-urgent appointments, wait times are down. By September 2016, the average wait time for a completed appointment was down to less than 5 days for primary care, less than 7 days for specialty care, and less than 3 days for mental health care.
  • Veteran homelessness has been cut in half; it’s down 47% since 2010 nationwide, thanks in part to VA’s work with nearly 4,000 public and private agencies.
  • In the last 18 months, VA has facilitated dozens more collaborations, bringing in more than $300 million in investments and in-kind services to support America’s veterans.
  • Quality is improving. 82% of VA facilities improved quality overall since the fourth quarter of FY 2015.

The report details the changes and innovations, large and small, which produced these results. It also lays out a path forward for the agency – including an important role for Congress before the end of 2016.


Blue military style mailbag with BAVF red letters stenciled on it. Below the BAVF is a tag that says SGT. SHAFTShaft Notes
After recent unanimous House passage this month, the Senate voted today to send the Gold Star Families Voices Act (HR 4511) to the President for his signature. The legislation, authored by Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), will allow immediate family members of servicemembers who are killed or missing in action or have died as a result of their service to participate in the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.

Today’s vote honors the men and women who gave ‘the last full measure of devotion’ in the service of our Nation by allowing their family members to tell their stories, so that all Americans can hear, appreciate, remember, and honor these patriots,” said Smith, former chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Preserving their memories will allow current and future generations of Americans to better understand and appreciate the sacrifices borne by those who served in uniform, the realities of war, and the narrative that helps define who we are as a nation.”

Senate passage today—which was secured by the hard work of my good friend and colleague Chairman Roy Blunt—will build on this collection and ensure we record and remember the lives and sacrifices of all who have served and provide the very deserving family members with the opportunity to create a lasting record of their fallen loved ones,” Smith continued.

Congress created the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress in 2000 to collect and catalog the stories of American war veterans. The project has been a great success. Earlier this year, the Library announced that it reached a milestone: it has collected more than 100,000 testimonies of veterans who have served in military engagements since World War I in our permanent record.

Currently the project accepts only first-hand accounts of living veterans, unintentionally leaving out the men and women who did not return from the battlefield. Under Smith’s bill, immediate family members can participate on a veteran’s behalf including parents, spouses, siblings and/or children.

     After passage in the Senate, Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) added: “We would not be the nation we are today if not for the profound acts of courage and selflessness of our fallen heroes. We, as Americans, owe it to these men and women to know their names, to honor their deeds, and to preserve their memories. The Gold Star Families Voices Act makes an invaluable project even better by giving the family members of our missing and fallen service members the opportunity to share their stories and ensure they become a part of our nation’s historical record. I thank American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. and Representative Chris Smith for championing this bill, and my Senate colleagues for getting it to the President’s desk.”

Congress created the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project to turn the memories of our warfighters into our history and memorialize the lives of heroes. Yet, conspicuously missing from the rich project’s history are the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Smith.

Smith praised the Gold Star Mothers and highlighted their continued advocacy: “The Gold Star Mothers are an incredibly inspiring, committed and dedicated group of women who have worked tirelessly and successfully to bring about meaningful change to better the lives of servicemembers, veterans and their families.”

November 15, 2016

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt Shaft
I hear that VA is sharing information with Social Security in an effort to speed up claims processing.  Have you heard anything about this?

Rob Y
Via the internet

Dear Rob
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) launched a new Health IT initiative that enables VA to share medical records electronically with social security disability processors. This secure process will save time and money resulting in better service for Veterans and dependents who apply for social security disability benefits. The SSA requests nearly 15 million medical records from health care organizations yearly to make medical decisions on about three million disability claims. For decades, SSA obtained medical records through a manual process.  This new national initiative puts in place an automated process to obtain Veterans’ medical records entirely electronically.

“VA’s partnership with Social Security will ultimately improve the quality of life for Veterans and their dependents by enabling Veterans to share their health information within a safe and secure health-related consumer application,” said Dr. David Shulkin, VA’s Under Secretary for Health.

The joint venture is expected to significantly speed up social security disability decisions, utilizing VA’s VLER Health Exchange under the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) Program. The VLER Health Exchange gives VA and participating community providers the ability to retrieve Veterans’ health information from each other for the purpose of treatment. Currently, VLER Health Exchange shares health data with over 79 community health care partners, representing 775 Hospitals, 427 Federally Qualified Health Centers, 142 Nursing Homes, 8441 Pharmacies and over 11,969 Clinics. The SSA now has access for the purpose of processing benefits for Veterans and their dependents.

“This SSA-VA partnership is another example of VA’s leadership in interoperability efforts among federal partners,” said VA Secretary, Robert McDonald. “Increasing federal partnerships to improve operation and resource coordination across agencies is among VA’s 12 Breakthrough Priorities for 2016.”

VA has partnership agreements with Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Treasury (DOT) among many others.

To learn more about VA health care visit: www.va.gov/health.


Blue military style mailbag with BAVF red letters stenciled on it. Below the BAVF is a tag that says SGT. SHAFTShaft Notes
Congressman Gus Bilirakis, Vice-Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, recently hosted a round-table discussion with local Veterans and Veterans’ service organizations in Oldsmar. Bilirakis has passed legislation, the PROMISE Act and the COVER Act, to help fight opioid abuse among Veterans and expand mental health services through the Department of Veterans Affairs. He continues to work to bring accountability and reform to the VA, and increase access to quality, timely care for Veterans.

In case you missed it, the Palm Harbor Beacon covered the event.

United States Congressman Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, is known for being a staunch advocate of veteran’s rights, serving as vice-chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and co-chair of the Military Veterans Caucus while sponsoring numerous pieces of legislation designed to improve the quality of life for veterans and their families.

One way Bilirakis stays up to date on the issues affecting America’s veterans is by holding informal meetings with vets and representatives of veterans organizations in order to receive direct feedback about what veterans are looking for from their elected officials.

Recently, the congressman held a town hall meeting in Oldsmar, and after listening to stories, comments and suggestions from the roughly 3-dozen in attendance, Bilirakis came away from the event with a better understand of where the veterans stand on a number of key issues.

“I think it went well,” Bilirakis said following the meeting, which was held in the Oldsmar City Council Chambers on Tuesday, Oct. 4. “They were very honest and they had some good suggestions. We talked about alternative therapies and also the transition program – it’s very important, we need to fix the transition process and have better communication, no question. But I thought it was very good.”

While the main focus of the meeting was a pair of current pieces of legislation Bilirakis is working to pass – the Promise Act, which focuses on safe, quality pain management treatment at VA facilities, and the Cover Act, which seeks to incorporate complimentary, alternative therapies for veterans battling mental health issues – questions about a variety of veterans issues were raised during the two-hour session, as those in attendance stood up and told stories about how they have been overlooked, put off or neglected while searching for ways to help cope with the aftereffects of their service.

Another issue addressed was the lack of support and proper care for female vets.

After raising the subject during the discussion, former Air Force Capt. Julie Daniels spoke about Bilirakis’ dedication to fighting for all veterans’ rights, including women.

“Personally, I think Gus does a great job,” Daniels, a Desert Storm vet who sits on Bilirakis’ veterans advisory council, said after the meeting. “He is one congressman who has focused his entire career on veterans. I can say that he, more than anyone, takes the time out to listen to us. And I believe that he will take this information and actually do something about it. It’s just in his nature, it’s what he’s done, it’s what he’s going to do, and I believe that’s what his career is about.”

One leader of a local veterans organization had nothing but praise for Bilirakis and his efforts to help all vets.

“There’s a lot of issues out there and a lot of good solutions, and the congressman tells us that all the time,” Richard Weltz, a retired naval officer and commander of the local chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, said. “You see what he’s up against with the federal government and the resistance to this VA stuff, and it’s extremely frustrating for vets and the taxpayers, too. You’re paying for a broke system.”

November 8, 2016

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt Shaft
There has been much talk about making life better for our nation’s veterans, especially as we approach Veterans Day.  Where does the VA stand in regard to these proposed changes?

Larry O.
Via the internet.

Dear Larry
I met with the VA Secretary recently and the following is a summary of his current priorities:

Appeals Modernization: In its FY 2017 Budget, VA set forward bold legislation to reform a disability claims appeals process that is failing Veterans. Within the limits of current law, VA is already pursuing changes in staffing and technology to improve the appeals process, but statutory structural changes are badly needed. The proposals put forward by VA in February established a framework for engagement with Congress, VSOs, and other stakeholders to work together to provide Veterans with the improved appeals process they deserve. We have convened initial informal discussions and believe that with a concerted effort, consensus on a foundation for a simplified appeals process that provides Veterans with a quality appeals decision within one year of their appeal can be achieved.

VA fully supports H.R. 5083 and S. 3328, the VA Appeals Modernization Act of 2016, which would provide much needed comprehensive reform for the VA appeals process with a new appeals framework that makes sense for Veterans, their advocates, VA and stakeholders.

Budget Flexibility VA’s FY 2017 Budget offered several straight forward proposals to improve budget planning and execution.  One such improvement would authorize VA to use the Veterans Choice Fund for all non-Department care.  In addition, the 2017 Budget proposes General Transfer Authority to provide flexibility to transfer funds among discretionary appropriations accounts to allow VA to respond to changing needs more readily and in a more business-like fashion.

Provider Agreements: On May 1, 2015, VA transmitted to Congress an Administration draft bill, the Department of Veterans Affairs Purchased Health Care Streamlining and Modernization Act.  S. 2179, the Veteran Care Agreements Rule Enhancement (Veteran CARE Act), introduced on October 8, 2015, fully incorporated the essential features of our proposal and also included useful technical refinements to our original language.

This bill with every passing day becomes more essential to clarify key legal issues regarding VA’s purchased care authorities outside of the Veterans Choice Program.  Failure to address the issue is already creating complications with extended care providers, and has placed other non-Veterans Choice care on insecure footing. We believe this basic clarification of VA authority is needed now.

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC) approved, as part of S. 425, the Veterans Homeless Programs, Caregiver Services, and Other Improvements Act of 2015, a greatly pared-down and time-limited version of this legislation, which only applies to extended care services and includes a sunset of the authority after two years. The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC) approved, on February 25, a draft bill, the Department of Veterans Affairs Purchased Health Care Streamlining and Modernization Act. While analysis of the bill is ongoing, VA notes that the bill departs from the Administration proposal on some issues relating to requirements on providers, and that the bill would limit the new authority to 5 years. While we appreciate these efforts, we are eager to work with you to refine and improve these bills to ensure they will accomplish their objectives.

80-hour pay period: the 2016 Budget included a proposal to end an arbitrary 80-hour per Federal work period requirement that is simply not appropriate nor efficient for many medical professionals, and out of step with health care in the private sector. Enactment will both improve the efficiency of hospital operations and improve VA’s ability to recruit and retain critical professionals.  We appreciate SVAC’s inclusion of this provision in S. 425, the Veterans, Homeless Programs, Caregiver Services, and Other Improvements Act of 2015 as well as the introduction of H.R. 4150 in the House.

VISN & MCD Compensation: VA has requested special pay authority for VA Medical Center and Integrated Service Network Directors to help recruit and retain the best talent possible in hospital system management.

Partnership for Legal Services: Legal services remain a crucial but largely unmet need for homeless and at-risk Veterans. VA supports section 4 of S. 684, the Homeless Veterans Prevention Act, of 2015.  This section would authorize the Secretary to enter into partnerships with public or private entities to provide general legal services to Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

VA as Choice primary payer: VA requests Congress to pass legislation that designates VA as the primary payer through the Choice program.  Paying non-VA providers is essential to getting Veterans the care they need and deserve.  Designating VA as the primary payer will ensure that non-VA providers are receiving prompt payment for medical services they provide to the Veteran.

Recording Obligations at Payment: VA chronically over-obligates more funds than are necessary for non-VA care due to the difficult in predicting whether Veterans will seek all of the care that is covered by their authorizations.  In accordance with the Recording Statute, 31 U.S.C. § 1501, and the Antideficiency Act, 31 U.S.C. § 1341(a)(1), VA is required to record an obligation covering the estimated amount of the non-VA care.  These amounts are highly unpredictable and this unpredictability has led to significant deobligations at the end of each fiscal year, resulting in large balances of expired prior year appropriations in the Medical Services account. VA seeks legislation that would allow VA to record obligations for Care in the Community on the date on which payment of a claim to a provider is approved rather than on the date that such care is authorized without regard to the Recording Statute and the Antideficiency Act.

Telehealth: There is pending legislation, S. 2170 that would help ensure that VA can utilize the fullest complement of telehealth capabilities in order to provide easier access to VA healthcare, especially in rural areas and across state lines.  As Telehealth opportunities become more readily available, more and more Veterans are using them.

Release of Certain Information for Sharing with Other Providers: Current law prevents VA from providing or sharing patient information relating to drug abuse, alcoholism or alcohol abuse, or infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or sickle cell anemia with public or private health care providers, including with Indian Health Service (HIS) health care providers, without the prior signed written consent of the patient, unless there is a bona fide medical emergency.  This restriction poses potential barriers to the coordination and quality of care provided to our patients by public or private care providers and actual barriers to providing health information to HIS for the treatment of shared patient populations.  This restriction is inconsistent with other health care practices and other Federal standards related to patient privacy. H.R. 5162, the Vet Connect Act, which VA supports and was part of our proposal in our Plan to Consolidate Programs of Department of Veterans Affairs to improve Access to Care in October 2015, would allow VA to provide non-VA health care providers with the necessary information needed for continued health care services for Veterans.

 

October 24, 2016

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt Shaft
I’m Susan from Military Helper. We are a group dedicated to serving and helping military service members, veterans and their families.

I was doing research for our next article when I came across your site. I loved the info I found, it was most helpful. I figured I’d reach out to let you know and share some other resources I found helpful that you may have missed).

Thanks again.

Veterans Benefits for Seniors
Tips for Your Next PCS Move
Service Members’ Legal Rights While on Active Duty
Guide to Financial Assistance for Military Families
Sesame Street for Military Families
Employment Resources for Military Spouses

Best,
Susan Williams

Dear Susan
Thanks for the heads up.


Blue military style mailbag with BAVF red letters stenciled on it. Below the BAVF is a tag that says SGT. SHAFTShaft Notes
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has published proposed regulations to establish presumptions for the service connection of eight diseases affecting military members exposed to contaminants in the water supply at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

The presumptive illnesses apply to active duty, reserve and National Guard members who served for no less than 30 days at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987, and are diagnosed with the following conditions:

  • adult leukemia
  • aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
  • bladder cancer
  • kidney cancer
  • liver cancer
  • multiple myeloma
  • non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s disease

“We have a responsibility to take care of those who have served our Nation and have been exposed to harm as a result of that service,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald. “Establishing a presumption for service at Camp Lejeune will make it easier for those Veterans to receive the care and benefits they deserve.”

Environmental health experts on VA’s Technical Workgroup conducted comprehensive reviews of scientific evidence, which included analysis and research done by the Department of Health and Human Service’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Environmental Protection Agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the National Toxicology Program, and the National Academies of Science.

Military members with records of service showing no less than 30 days of service, either concurrent or cumulative, at Camp Lejeune during the contamination period can already be granted Veteran status for medical benefits, following passage of the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012.

VA acknowledges that current science establishes a link between exposure to certain chemicals found in the water supply at Camp Lejeune and later development of one of the proposed presumptive conditions. However, VA experts agree that there is no scientific underpinning to support a specific minimum exposure level for any of the conditions. Therefore, VA welcomes comments on the 30-day minimum exposure requirement and will consider other practical alternatives when drafting the final rule. VA also notes that the proposed 30-day requirement serves to establish eligibility for service connection on a presumptive basis; nothing in this proposed regulation prohibits consideration of service connection on a non-presumptive basis. The 30-day public comment period on the proposed rule is open until Oct.10, 2016.

The Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced several new and expanded partnerships to support the VA Caregiver Support Program. The VA Caregiver Support Program supports the-often unsung heroes of wounded or ill Veterans – the ones who take care of them. Announcement of the partnerships, made during a summit co-hosted by VA and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. The daylong event, Empowering Hidden Heroes: Pathways to InnoVAtion, attracted 400 leaders from government, the non-profit sector, private industry, academic and stakeholders from the Veteran and caregiver community.

The following partnerships were announced:

  • Amazon: Together with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, Amazon has curated a bookshelf of titles recommended by experts and caregivers. Titles reflect the most current and useful information to support military and Veteran caregivers and their families. Amazon also provided free Kindles to military and Veteran caregivers in attendance. Titles are available for preview here. Caregivers and consumers can download Kindle software to enjoy these books on any mobile device.
  • Coursera: In 2014, Coursera, an online education platform, teamed up with VA to provide one free education certification to every Veteran and transitioning service member. In 2015, that offer was extended to spouses, and this year, they are expanding the eligibility further to caregivers.
  • PsychArmor Institute: A longstanding collaborator with VA, PsychArmor Institute works with nationally recognized subject matter experts to create and deliver online courses tailored to issues related to military and Veteran communities. In conjunction with today’s event, PsychArmor released a suite of new free training resources for caregivers of Veterans. (www.PsychArmor.org)
  •  VetTix: VA has partnered with Veteran Tickets Foundation (Vet Tix), a nonprofit organization that provides free tickets to events for current serving military, Veterans and Gold Star families. Vet Tix has provided more than 2.3 million tickets for current serving military, Veterans and Gold Star families to attend nearly 40,000 events valued at over $87 million since 2008. They currently serve approximately 450,000 Vet Tixers and their families. Through these events, VA and VetTix are exploring ways to encourage service members, families, and friends stay engaged with local communities and reduce stress by attending fun events that everyone can enjoy for a very low delivery fee.
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH): VA’s Domestic Violence/Intimate Partner Violence Assistance program has formed a partnership with The Hotline to provide cross-training resources to Veterans. The Hotline provides 24/7/365 support and referrals for people impacted by domestic violence/intimate partner violence. Through this partnership NDVH will also provide the VA with Veteran-specific usage data from the hotline that will be used to inform VA programs and policies.

VA’s Caregiver Support Program began in 2007 and expanded in 2010 to offer a variety of local and national programs including, Building Better Caregivers™; Peer Support Mentoring; Caregiver Self-Care Courses; a national Caregiver Support Line; targeted programs for dementia, stroke and spinal cord injury; Respite; and Home and Community Based Care programs.

October 11, 2016

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt Shaft
I would like to know if you have information about where a veteran can find help with inquires about Agent Orange outside of Viet Nam. I did not serve in VN but I do believe I was exposed to Agent Orange in Korea.

I have been shut down at every place I have looked for help. Also, I have not found any information on line concerning use of Agent Orange outside the DMZ in Korea nor can anyone tell me what is meant by the term “At of near the DMZ” in Korea.

Is there any way you can help or direct me to someone who would be able to assist me?

Thank You
Gale N
Via the internet

Dear Gale
I referred your missive to the Powers That Be at the Department of Veterans Affairs. I have as not as yet received an answer to your inquiry


Blue military style mailbag with BAVF red letters stenciled on it. Below the BAVF is a tag that says SGT. SHAFTShaft Notes
Hearing loss, including tinnitus, which is a ringing, buzzing or other type of noise that originates in the head, is the most prevalent service-connected disability among Veterans, with more than 30 million Veterans suffering from a form of it due to frequent exposure to loud noises from weaponry and aircraft. Because of the pervasiveness of hearing loss among Veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is recognizing October as Audiology Awareness Month by highlighting important VA research on the subject and advances made in treating Veterans with hearing loss.

“VA researchers have a rich history of contributions to audiology,” said VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. David J. Shulkin. “From working with the National Institutes of Health to develop and evaluate hearing aids to a comprehensive protocol for managing tinnitus at VA and other audiology clinics nationwide, VA is proud to be a leader in this field.”

VA researchers conduct a wide range of studies in audiology—from biomedical investigations to large clinical trials and epidemiologic database studies. Much of the work takes place at VA’s National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research in Portland, Oregon, one of the world’s leading facilities for research in the field. Studies include older Veterans whose hearing problems have been compounded by aging and younger Veterans who may have suffered hearing loss as a result of blasts in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Recent VA research includes the following:

  • In 2013, researchers at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System published the results of a study comparing group and individual visits for hearing aid fittings and follow up. The team found no differences in how well the hearing aids performed, or how often they were worn. They concluded that group visits could reduce costs while providing community support for patients.
  • In 2014, VA researchers in Loma Linda, California, linked exposure to jet propulsion fuel with auditory processing problems—changes that occur inside the brain rather than the ear.
  • A 2015 VA study yielded promising results on transcranial magnetic stimulation as a tinnitus treatment. The therapy involves holding a magnetic coil to the head. The team now hopes to conduct a larger trial.
  • A 2016 study of nearly 200 Veterans with tinnitus explored the impact of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on how Veterans manage the hearing condition, and offered guidance for clinicians.
  • Below are a few examples of ongoing studies:
  • VA researchers in Pittsburgh, Sioux Falls, Omaha, and Portland are collecting data from nearly 470 Veterans to learn more about auditory complaints in those who have been exposed to blasts. The team will focus on the interplay among hearing problems, traumatic brain injury, and PTSD.
  • A VA trial aims to improve monitoring of hearing changes caused by the drug cisplatin, used to treat cancer. Some 4,000 Veterans receive the drug in a typical year, and up to 40 or 50 percent will experience some hearing loss or tinnitus. The researchers say early detection can prevent significant damage.
  • Together with a lab group at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, VA researchers are seeking biomarkers—including cellular changes— that could warn of impending hearing loss. The work is expected lead to new preventive measures or treatment.

In addition to VA’s audiology research work, the Department announced last month – ahead of National Audiology Awareness Month – that Veterans who need routine audiology appointments will be able to directly schedule them, without the need for a referral from their primary care provider. The move is expected to get Veterans into appointments more quickly. The new expedited process was piloted at three VA sites last year and is now being rolled out nationwide.


Congressman Gus Bilirakis, Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, released a statement on the recent Department of Veterans’ Affairs Inspector General report detailing the continued problems plaguing the Phoenix VA Health Care System:

“This report has revealed an unacceptable truth about the Phoenix VA Health Care System: Despite additional resources and funding, Veterans seeking care in the Phoenix area are not receiving the treatment they have earned through their service,” said Bilirakis. “It is particularly disturbing to hear that the continued delays and rampant mismanagement at this facility may have contributed to the recent death of at least one veteran. The Phoenix VA Health Care System has long been associated with lengthy wait-times and messy bureaucratic management, and yet this report does little to bring accountability to those responsible for the current problems. Clearly, fixing the issues in Phoenix and across the country is about more than providing resources and funding, it’s about changing the culture at this agency so that our Veterans come first.”

October 4, 2016

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt. Shaft
I understand that there are many new bills working through the halls of Congress.  Any that you think will have a positive impact on our nation’s veterans?

Sam T
Via the internet

Dear Sam
Some of the most recent bills in the House include:

H.R. 5392, the No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act, was developed in response to inspector general and media reports that VA crisis line calls were going to voice mail because of mismanagement and lazy employees. It would require VA to develop a plan to ensure that each telephone call and text message is answered in a timely manner by an appropriately qualified live person.

H.R. 3216, the VET Act, was developed after VA refused to help a veteran suffering from a broken foot into a VA emergency room. Instead, VA hospital officials told the veteran to call 911. The bill would clarify and strengthen the VA’s obligation to provide appropriate emergency care for veterans and prohibit VA from transferring a medically unstable veteran unless the veteran makes a written request to be transferred or it is clinically necessary.

H.R. 5162, the Vet Connect Act of 2016, as amended, would require VA to share medical record information with community providers in order to provide care or treatment to a shared patient.

These bills now await consideration by the Senate. Following House passage of the bills, Chairman Miller released the below statement.

“It’s incredibly disappointing that VA is so broken Congress has to pass legislation just to get the department to perform commonsense tasks like answering the phone and providing emergency medical treatment to veterans who need it. Nevertheless, we will keep working until the department is reformed into an organization truly worthy of the veterans it is charged with serving. These bills would help ensure all veterans have access to the help they need in times of crisis, and I’m proud to stand with my House colleagues in support of them. Now it’s time for the Senate to act on this legislation as well as the more than 30 other House-passed veterans bills the Senate has yet to consider.”


Shaft Notes
The Military Coalition (TMC), an influential Washington, D.C.-based consortium of 33 military and veterans’ groups, presented its highest awards Sept. 22 to two legislators and a congressional staff member who have championed the causes of health care and compensation for military families and veterans. The award ceremony was held at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Building on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) received TMC’s 2016 Award of Merit. Murray was recognized especially for her leadership in seeking remedies for wounded veterans with service-caused infertility. Thornberry was honored for his leadership in protecting military members and families against large, unwarranted fee increases for military health coverage.

TMC President Herb Rosenbleeth, who is also legislative director of Jewish War Veterans of the U.S., lauded Murray’s efforts.

“For years, Sen. Murray has pursued legislation to allow the VA to cover in vitro fertilization to provide wounded warriors access to treatment that might otherwise be out of reach due to prohibitive costs,” Rosenbleeth said. “As a senior member of the Appropriations and Veterans Affairs Committees, she included a provision covering these costs in the FY17 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill.”

Morgan Brown, TMC co-chairman and director of Military and Government Relations for the Air Force Sergeants Association, praised Thornberry for his leadership role in support of the military community.

“For years, he has stood up for our troops, families, retirees and survivors to protect their quality of life and to ensure their compensation package is commensurate with the demands imposed upon them,” said Brown. “As we speak, he is their lead representative in continuing negotiations to improve force levels and the military pay raise and to protect against undue erosion of their housing allowances, health care package, commissary, and survivor benefits, among many other issues.”

TMC also presented its annual Freedom Award to Jeanette James, staff director of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, for her work in support of military compensation and benefits issues.

“The legislators are the champions,” said Steve Strobridge, TMC co-chair and vice president for Government Relations of the Military Officers Association of America, “but their staffs expend huge amounts of effort in researching the issues, crafting the legislation and working with DoD and the military associations to find the right answers. A retired Army nurse, Jeanette James, has a particular empathy for the military community, not just in matters of health care, but across the broad range of personnel and compensation programs.”

TMC represents the interests of more than 5.5 million members around the world, including active duty, National Guard, Reserve, and retired members and veterans of the seven uniformed services, plus their families and survivors.

September 27, 2016

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sarge
What’s new regarding the VA Compensation program?

Jason D
Via the internet

Dear Jason
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced the awarding of 12 contracts between 5 firms totaling $6.8 billion to improve the Medical Disability Examination process (Compensation and Pension or Comp and Pen Examinations) for Veterans. The awards are intended to reduce Veterans’ wait times for examinations for service-connected benefits, thereby providing faster claims decisions in a more efficient and streamlined way.

“This is good news for Veterans who are waiting for VA to determine whether a condition can be considered service-connected,” said VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald. “For these Veterans, we want the process to be smoother – from beginning to end. When we announced the MyVA initiative in 2014 to improve Veterans’ experience with VA, that meant looking at every process and every product. These awards represent a way for us to improve a significant process for Veterans.”

Contracts were awarded to the following firms:

  • VetFed Resources, Inc., Alexandria, Virginia;
  • Logistics Health, Inc., La Crosse, Wisconsin;
  • Medical Support Los Angeles, A Medical Corporation, Pasadena, CA;
  • QTC Medical Services, Inc., Diamond Bar, California; and
  • Veterans Evaluation Services, Inc., Houston, Texas.

The contracts are being awarded for a period of 12 months with (4) 12-month options, with an aggregate ceiling of $6.8 billion. The contracts will be managed by VA’s Strategic Acquisition Center based in Frederick, MD.

Shaft NotesBlue military style mailbag with BAVF red letters stenciled on it. Below the BAVF is a tag that says SGT. SHAFT
Chairman Miller released the below statement regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General report on the replacement Denver VA medical center, the biggest construction failure in VA History.

“To this day, the department’s handling of the replacement Denver VA medical center continues to be a case study in government waste, incompetence and secrecy. This report makes two things abundantly clear: there are many more people responsible for the biggest construction failure in VA history than the department has led the public to believe, and it is possible that former VA construction chief Glenn Haggstrom or other employees committed perjury in hiding information regarding the project’s cost overruns during congressional testimony. Consequently, I will be asking the Department of Justice to determine whether charges are warranted against Haggstrom or others, and I am renewing my call for VA to immediately fire Office of Construction and Facilities Management Executive Director Stella Fiotes, who has presided over much of the Denver project’s mismanagement yet remains firmly entrenched at the department. It’s well past time for the department to fire all of those responsible for botching this project or explain to America’s veterans and American taxpayers why these individuals have earned the right to continued VA employment.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs


Rep.Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and a bipartisan group of Congressional Members delivered a letter to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter calling for the Department of Defense (DoD) to address millions of dollars misused by DoD personnel on government travel credit cards.The letter follows a recent Department of Defense Inspector General (DoD OIG) report revealing inadequate action by the DoD to respond to multiple cases of abuse in recent years.

“In just one year, from July 2013 to June 2014, an initial audit found 4,437 transactions totaling $952,258 in which government travel cards were likely used at casinos for personal expenditures.Furthermore, the report noted more than 900 instances of these government-issued cards being used at adult entertainment establishments, totaling $96,576,” the lawmakers wrote.“The most recent report found that the Department of Defense has failed to take appropriate actions to resolve the issues highlighted by the previous audit.The Department has not taken steps to eliminate additional misuse of the government travel cards, initiated reviews for improper payments, or consistently considered the security implications of the misused travel cards.As a result, the government travel card program remains susceptible to continued waste and exploitation.”

The letter was also signed by Reps.Jim Costa (CA-16), Paul Gosar (AZ-04), Walter B.Jones (NC-03), Seth Moulton (MA-06), and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09).Full text is available below:

Dear Secretary Carter,
We are writing to express our concern about DoD personnel misusing government travel cards and American tax payer dollars.

The Department of Defense Inspector General (DoD OIG) has investigated these abuses on multiple occasions in recent years. The most recent investigation resulted in a report, issued on August 30, 2016, in which the DoD OIG found the Department has not done enough to respond to the infractions. The report findings also suggest the Department still maintains insufficient processes to address the problem: insufficient instruction on the appropriate use of the government travel card; improper reimbursements for personal expenses; and a tepid response from DoD management to correct these issues. Most troubling is that the most recent audit was conducted as a response to a previous report on DoD misuse of government travel cards released in 2015.

In a one year period from July 2013 to June 2014, the initial audit found 4,437 transactions totaling $952,258 in which government travel cards were likely used at casinos for personal use. Furthermore, the report noted more than 900 instances of cards being used at adult entertainment establishments, totaling $96,576.

The most recent report found that the DoD has not taken appropriate actions to resolve the issues highlighted by the previous audit. The DoD has not taken steps to eliminate additional misuse, initiate reviews for improper payments, or consistently considered the security implications of the misused travel cards. As a result, the government travel card program remains vulnerable to continued waste and exploitation.

The DoD IG made a number of recommendations to re-focus the Department’s efforts on identifying, investigating, and reporting the misuse or abuse of government travel cards. In light of the Department’s halfhearted response to the previous audit, we request a response on how the Department intends to implement the DoD IG’s recommendations. We will continue to monitor the Department’s progress.

We thank you for your attention to our concerns. We welcome further discussion on this issue.

 

September 13, 2016

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt. Shaft
I know that there has been a tremendous effort lately aimed at suicide prevention, but is anything being done to intervene while our troops are still on active duty. It seems that the earlier the powers to be intervene, the better off everyone will be.

Edward J,
Via the internet

Dear Ed.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is launching a new nationwide campaign to focus on mental wellness within the military and veterans’ communities. Joined by three high-profile national partners, Give an Hour, One Mind, and PatientsLikeMe, the campaign kicks off during a joint press event inside the National Press Club’s Lisagor Room at 2 p.m Today, September 13.

The VFW Mental Wellness Campaign, commissioned by VFW National Commander Brian Duffy and VFW Auxiliary National President Colette Bishop, leverages the power, influence and reach of nearly 1.7 million members in more than 6,600 VFW Posts around the world with the nation’s leaders in mental health care, research, and peer-to-peer support. The campaign’s goal is to raise awareness, foster community engagement, improve research, and provide intervention for veterans, service members, and their loved ones who may be suffering from invisible injuries or emotional stress.

“We are proud to be joined by the nation’s leading mental health organizations to help change the veteran’s narrative — the veteran’s brand — which right now has America regarding us more as individual heroes instead of strategic assets in every community,” said Duffy, who is the first Operation Desert Storm veteran to lead the 117-year-old VFW.

Bishop, who leads the 102-year-old VFW Auxiliary, echoed the VFW national commander’s sentiment, and said “the community is where our troops come from and where our veterans return, so it benefits everyone to know what resources are available and where to turn to for help.”

The VFW is already working closely with Give an Hour to train VFW-accredited service officers and state leadership to “Know the Five Signs” of emotional suffering as a way to better serve clients coping with invisible injuries, and to help change the narrative on mental health in America through its Change Direction campaign.

Give an Hour Founder and President Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen said, “We are honored to join the VFW in this historic effort. VFW Posts can serve as important anchors in communities across the country – and around the world – to engage, educate and inspire veterans from all eras to learn the Five Signs and to reach out to those who are suffering.” Dr. Van Dahlen added, “Our veterans are assets in our communities and they can help lead the way as we change the culture so that those in need receive the care and support they deserve.”

In addition to the upcoming press event, the VFW and Give an Hour are hosting a “Day to Change Direction” on Saturday, Oct. 8. Individual VFW Posts and state departments will work hand-in-hand with Give an Hour’s nationwide network of mental health providers and volunteers, as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs, to help facilitate peer-to-peer discussions on mental wellness, as well as participate in a community action or event designed to empower Americans to “Change Direction” on mental health and well-being.

Over the coming months, the VFW will also work closely with Seattle-based One Mind to encourage VFW members to participate in online communities to better understand and improve their own brain health. They can also volunteer patient and caregiver input to research aimed at developing new evidence-based diagnostic and treatment options.

According to One Mind’s CEO, retired Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli, “It is imperative for us to find better and lasting treatments for our veterans, their families, and caregivers who are affected and suffering from brain injuries and illness. We have an amazing ability to save soldiers on the battlefield, but we must extend that support beyond active duty and aggressively address their invisible wounds. We are honored to be part of this new and sustainable VFW Mental Wellness Campaign.”

The inclusion of the peer-to-peer perspective via PatientsLikeMe is equally important to the VFW’s campaign. The online network helps people living with any one of 2,500 conditions, including post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, to compare treatments, symptoms, and experiences; connect with others like them for support; track and learn what impacts their health; and give data for research. The tools and support provided by PatientsLikeMe are invaluable to patients, potential patients, and their families.

Though this is a joint campaign commissioned during the one-year leadership terms of Duffy and Bishop, the VFW’s goal is to build a sustainable program through which all levels of the organization can remain proactive advocates for those coping with emotional stress, which will build upon the VFW’s century-plus legacy of veterans’ advocacy, service and assistance to others.


Blue military style mailbag with BAVF red letters stenciled on it. Below the BAVF is a tag that says SGT. SHAFTShaft Notes
Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and Scott Perry (PA-04), co-chairs of the Congressional Post 9/11 Veterans Caucus, introduced a bipartisan House resolution marking the 15th Anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, honoring the more than 3,000 innocent men, women, children, and first responders killed on 9/11 and the more than one million men and women who have served in the U.S. military since 9/11, including more than 6,800 who have made the ultimate sacrifice. The resolution also honors the sacrifices made by military families and reaffirms the responsibility of the U.S. Congress to honor the generation of post-9/11 veterans. Reps. Joe Heck (NV-03), Ryan Zinke (MT), Ted Lieu (CA-33), and Adam Kinzinger (IL-16) are original cosponsors.

Members of Congress also gathered on the House steps this morning to remember the victims of 9/11 and hold a moment of silence in their memory.

August 23, 2016

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt Shaft
I received a missive regarding a dying Marine veteran. I hope you can help this dying leatherneck and his wife.

George S
Via the Internet

Dear George

I referred the information you sent about him to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. I am sure that he will see that this veteran gets the best resolution for him and his family.


Blue military style mailbag with BAVF red letters stenciled on it. Below the BAVF is a tag that says SGT. SHAFTShaft Notes
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin has welcomed support from veterans’ organizations in Wisconsin for her bipartisan legislation to support job creation for America’s veterans. Senator Baldwin introduced the Boosting Rates of American Veterans Employment Act (BRAVE Act) with Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) last month. The legislation will reform the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) contracting process to give preference to businesses that actively employ veterans.

“Wisconsin’s veterans have earned every opportunity to be productive and successful after they have completed their military service and returned to civilian life,” said Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Saul Newton. “The BRAVE Act is vital to ensuring veterans can have a career and support their families. Wisconsin’s veteran business community applauds Senator Baldwin for her leadership and support of businesses who hire military veterans.”

“The Veterans of Foreign Wars – Department of Wisconsin supports the BRAVE ACT and believe that this bill will increase veteran employment nationwide,” said Veterans of Foreign Wars – Department of Wisconsin Commander Michael B. Eggleston. Providing gainful employment to our nation’s veterans is the most productive way this country can thank them for their service. This nation will also realize the benefit of having these disciplined and innovative men and women fully integrated into its workforce. We hope to see this bill continue to move through congress and signed into law.

“The VA spends $19 billion on procurement and contracting. The American Legion wants to ensure that our fellow veterans are given due consideration in the awarding of federal contracts, both those employed by contractors and the many who own their own businesses,” said American Legion Department of Wisconsin’s Commander Dan Seehafer of Horicon Post No. 157. “This bill expands veterans preference to companies who go out of their way to employ veterans, as well as punishes companies who knowingly misrepresent their percentage of veteran employees in an attempt to gain an unearned advantage. The Wisconsin American Legion supports this bill and applauds Senator Baldwin for her efforts on behalf of our fellow veterans.”

“The Military Order of the Purple Heart-Department of Wisconsin is proud to support Senator Baldwin’s BRAVE ACT as it is an important bill that will help incentivize the hiring of our nation’s veterans,” said Military Order of the Purple Heart – Department of Wisconsin Legislative Officer Jason Johns. “After giving so much in service to our country abroad and within, the least we can do is to help these brave men and women find gainful employment when they get back home. I hope to see this bill continue to move through the Congress and be signed into law.”

The Boosting Rates of American Veterans Employment Act (BRAVE Act) is also supported by The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Specifically, the BRAVE Act would allow the VA to consider the proportion of veterans employed by a prospective business when awarding federal contracts. The VA Secretary would have the authority to give preference to businesses that employ veterans based on its percentage of full-time veteran employees. The bipartisan legislation would encourage and incentivize VA contractors to employ veterans, and hold contractors responsible by requiring temporary debarment from contracting for businesses who knowingly misrepresent their proportion of veteran employees.


The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded Carolinas HealthCare System (CHS) a 2016 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, the highest recognition given by the Department to employers for their support of employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve.

CHS was one of just 15 employers nationally to be recognized with this top honor, from more than 2,400 employers nominated.

“These 15 employers have distinguished themselves through their outstanding support of our Guard and Reserve members and their families,” said Defense Secretary Ash Carter. “Without the unfaltering support of employers like them, the men and women of the National Guard and Reserve would not be able to fulfill their vital roles in our National Security Strategy. It is a great honor for me to recognize these employers, and I congratulate them on their receipt of the Employer Support Freedom Award.”

The nomination for CHS was submitted by Sylvia Wray, RN, nurse manager at Carolinas HealthCare System Kings Mountain and a flight nurse for the North Carolina Air National Guard.

Wray wrote, in part, “In the National Guard we talk quite a bit about how the guard functions as one big family. We take care of each other. That same feeling pretty much sums up the way that Carolinas HealthCare System takes care of their employees. Two main themes that are always present in the System are ‘one team’ and ‘caring.'”

Aaron Harper, CHS manager of military and veterans affairs, knows firsthand the work being done on behalf of CHS’ military teammates. “CHS, like all employers, is required to comply with USERRA (the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act) but we don’t just comply, we go above and beyond,” Harper said. “We aren’t doing this to win awards. We are engaged internally and externally because we truly care about our military, veterans and their families.”

CHS and the other 2016 award recipients will be honored at a ceremony in the Pentagon on Aug. 26.