By Debbie Gregory.
The VA Mission Statement is: To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan” by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s veterans. Veterans have served this country with steadfast allegiance and deserve the benefits they have earned.
The very first step in obtaining access to VA Health Benefits is to apply. The Veterans Administration then begins the verification process to determine a Veterans’ eligibility. Once a Veteran is enrolled, that Veteran remains enrolled in the VA health care system and maintains access to certain VA health benefits.
VA Health Benefits include all the necessary inpatient hospital care and outpatient services to promote, preserve or restore your health. VHA medical facilities provide a wide range of services including traditional hospital-based services such as surgery, critical care, mental health, orthopedics, pharmacy, radiology and physical therapy.
In addition, most VA medical facilities offer additional medical and surgical specialty services including audiology & speech pathology, dermatology, dental, geriatrics, neurology, oncology, podiatry, prosthetics, urology and vision care. Some medical centers also offer advanced services such as organ transplants and plastic surgery.
Health benefits also include preventive care services:
- Periodic medical exams (including gender-specific exams)
- Health education, including nutritional education
- Immunization against infectious disease
- Counseling on inheritance of genetically determined disease
Health benefits vary for each Veteran. Enrolled Veterans enjoy access to the VA’s comprehensive medical benefits package. Certain benefits, such as dental care, may vary from individual to individual, depending on eligibility status.
The Veterans Health Benefits Guide contains general benefits information and is designed to provide Veterans and their families with the information they need to understand VA’s health care system—eligibility requirements, the enrollment process, enrollment priority groups and copayments.
Veterans can expect the VA’s highly qualified and dedicated health care professionals to meet their needs, regardless of the treatment program, and regardless of the location. New locations continue to be added to the VA system, with the current number of treatment sites now standing at more than 1,400 nationwide. To see the guide online, click here.
By Debbie Gregory.
The fight is leaving the battlefield and entering cyberspace.
Experts have spent years warning the U.S. military that their computer networks are at risk. The networks have been disrupted and fallen prey to intellectual property theft by nations such as China and Russia, in addition to hackers and criminal groups.
Now the U.S. military is developing a unit capable of taking out this new enemy, even as overall defense spending is cut. President Barack Obama’s proposed 2014 budget allotments for an additional $800 million for cyber warfare spending. Meanwhile, the overall Pentagon budget will be cut by $3.9 billion.
The new headquarters of the U.S. military’s Cyber Command is being built at Fort Meade, Maryland, 25 miles north of Washington D.C. on a former military golf course. There, experts expect 3,000 – 4,000 cyber warriors to take their place on the battlefield by late 2015. The additions will quadruple the size of the current Cyber Command.
“We’re going to train them to the highest standard we can,” Army General Keith Alexander, head of Cyber Command, told the Reuters Cybersecurity Summit last month. “And not just on defense, but on both sides. You’ve got to have that.”
There is a growing fear that cyber threats will escalate from mainly espionage and disruptive activities to far more catastrophic attacks, destroying or severely degrading military systems, power grids, financial networks and air travel. Therefore, U.S. military commanders have worked to develop offensive strikes, and have made cyber warfare an integral part of future military campaigns.
While military officials often publicly discuss the nation’s cyber weaknesses in public, there is little talk about the nation’s offensive cyber warfare capabilities. Much of those details are classified. Possible U.S. offensive cyber attacks could range from invading other nations’ command and control networks to disrupting military communications or air defenses. They could even consist of putting up decoy radar screens on an enemy’s computer to prevent U.S. aircraft from being detected in its airspace.
Experts say the U.S. may be the best in the world at inserting viruses and other digital weapons into enemies’ networks. And other countries agree. Last year, U.S. and Israeli officials created a virus that damaged systems at one of Iran’s nuclear facilities.
While the nation’s capabilities are clear, what is unclear is when their use is warranted. Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the United States must be ready and should articulate – soon – what level of cyber aggression would be seen as an act of war, bringing a U.S. response.
“One of the things the military learned, going back to 9/11, is whether you have a doctrine or not, if something really bad happens you’re going to be ordered to do something,” he told the Reuters summit. “So you better have the capability and the plan to execute.”
“To be a good cyber warrior, you have to be thinking, ‘How is the attacker discovering what I’m doing? How are they working around it?’ … Cyber security really is a cat and mouse game,” said Raphael Mudge, a private cyber security expert and Air Force reservist. “That kind of thinking can’t be taught. It has to be nurtured. There are too few who can do that.”
“They’re going to pick the cream of the crop for the ‘full spectrum cyber missions’,” the former U.S. intelligence official said, using a euphemism for cyber offense.
By Debbie Gregory.
Amputee J.P. Norden wants to drive again. More than anything, he wants to walk again.
Service members who lost limbs in combat have reached out to Norden to show him he will drive, he will walk, and that he can do anything he sets his mind to.
Norden and his brother Paul were cheering for a friend at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in April when a series of bombs exploded. Each brother lost a leg in the second blast. Shortly after, wounded warrior amputees from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center traveled to Boston to inspire Norden and the other victims.
“We worked out with them and pushed them,” said Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills. “We told them, ‘Hey man, there’s life after amputation.’”
This week J.P. and his surgeon, Dr. E.J. Caterson, chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Harvard Medical School’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston – visited Walter Reed to meet with patients and learn the latest medical and surgical advances for military members who received similar blast wounds on the battlefield.
“Walter Reed has the most experience with amputees,” Caterson said. “[The doctors] shared with us their expertise, because there are some difficult decisions we’re making” in fitting patients with prosthetics and providing rehabilitation programs.
Caterson said he hoped the wounded warriors would be an inspiration to J.P.
“I wanted J.P. to see his peers around him who have gone through the same thing as he did, and I want him to see the incredible energy this place has, the incredible expertise and the motivation to say, ‘Let’s get better,’” Caterson said.
During the visit, the wounded warriors were quick to inspire. Marine Corps Sgt. Luis Remache, who lost both legs in a grenade attack in Afghanistan, told Norden that challenges always would exist with prosthetics. Norden does not yet have a prosthetic leg.
“It’s all on you,” Remache told Norden. “Set a goal and work toward it. At first, I depended on everyone, and people had to carry me. I wondered how I would ever drive. Now I can hand cycle and swim,” he said.
“Some days you’ll get down, but it all gets better,” advised single-leg amputee Army Sgt. Ryan Long. Long was on patrol in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province when the vehicle in which he was traveling hit a roadside bomb. “You’ll find the little things in life are really meaningful,” he added.
Norden, whose amputation is below the knee, was overwhelmed by the support and dedication of the wounded warriors as they pushed themselves during workouts.
“I’m just amazed,” he said of the peer support and energetic atmosphere. “It’s unbelievable that there are so many people like me here, but worse. I see people doing everyday things. It makes me know it can happen.”
By Debbie Gregory.
When military members and their families make a transition — like a deployment or permanent change of station – it is important that they have the right support systems in place. For those receiving treatment for psychological health concerns, the inTransition Coaching and Support program offers personalized support as they move between health care systems or providers
inTransition is a voluntary program that aims to help those returning from deployment; those transitioning to or from active duty; service members separating from the military or temporarily relocating. The program also provides support to service members undergoing transitions of all kinds, ensuring they maintain their behavioral health treatment and successfully continue through the changes in their lives.
inTransition is a confidential program that supports service members move between health care systems or providers. A personal coach is provided along with resources and tools that help service members transition with success. All inTransition coaches are skilled counselors who understand today’s military culture and issues.
Service members and veterans transitioning from the military to Veterans Affairs for treatment or between military treatment facilities now have access to greater consistency in psychological health and traumatic brain injury care, according to a Defense Department official George Lamb. Lamb currently serves as the acting division chief of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) Clearinghouse. He supervises and manages the division’s dissemination and activities; provides marketing guidance; and coordinates outreach. His work entails managing reports, recommendations, analysis and research efforts in support the directorate’s outreach mission.
The Defense Department developed six inTransition program public service announcements (PSAs) to educate service members, veterans, Reserve and National Guard members, health care providers and family members about the program’s coaching resources. The inTransition PSAs provide an overview of what the program provides to each audience and how to get more information.
InTransition is open to all service branches, and is part of a Defense Department Health Affairs policy that identifies and screens every service member with a need for a mental health referral. inTransition has 98% retention in the program.
By Debbie Gregory.
Weekly, applicants are walking into a requiting center in Brooklyn wanting to enlist in the United States Army. Sergeant First Class Israel Herrera doesn’t like to turn them away, but he finds, more often than not, six out of 10 don’t meet military standards.
Today, the military is seeking a higher skilled recruit. In addition to being a high school graduate who is patriotic and able bodied, recruits must also have above average scores on the military entrance exams and be free from prior drug use or criminal conduct. Drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan, coupled with high unemployment, have enabled the U.S. military to become choosier. Joining the Army provides employment and stability, and that makes it an attractive choice for young people.
There are several reasons why today’s youth do not qualify for military service. 20% of high school students fail to graduate. Obesity and other medical conditions disqualify about 35% of candidates. Prior drug and alcohol involvement disqualify another 19%, and criminal records disqualify 5%.
Thee qualification requirements were much more lenient during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
But more recently, the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines have been looking to enlist the highest quality recruits. High school diplomas are required, and candidates with GEDs are often turned away and encouraged to acquire some college credits before re-applying.
Studies of preschool programs have shown higher rates of high school completion and lower rates of criminal activity, among other positive outcomes in program graduates through age 20. Retired military admirals and generals are supporting Obama’s proposal to invest more public money in preschool access for 4-year olds in order to improve the nation’s national security. They believe that the best long-term solution to improve recruiting qualifications is to expand the access to and quality of early education. Research has shown that students who start school earlier do better academically and live healthier lives.
Strategically, it is imperative that the United States have a military comprised of highly qualified individuals, capable of using high-tech weapons systems, interacting with people from different cultures, and making high-stakes decision.