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VETERANS AFFAIRS NEWS

12-08-2017

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it will use two innovative treatments to ease the everyday challenges associated with living with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Veterans with a history of mild to moderate TBI now have access to light emitting diode (LED) therapy contained in a lightweight frame that is placed on the head and a clip placed inside the nose.  Results of some studies show that LED improves brain function including attention and memory, emotions and sleep. LED therapy has begun at the VA Boston Healthcare System, Jamaica Plain campus, this month. LED also is available for Veterans to use in their homes. 

Providers at the Long Beach VA Medical Center have begun using stellate ganglion block (SGB) to treat Veterans with PTSD symptoms. SGB is safe and may ease PTSD symptoms, such as the feelings of anxiety and constantly being on alert. It involves an injection, or shot, of medication into the neck to decrease the symptoms of PTSD. 

VA remains a world leader in the development and use of innovative therapies, such as telehealth, yoga and other approaches to improve health and well-being.  

For more information about other emerging therapies aimed at enhancing Veterans’ physical and mental well-being, visit VA’s Center for Compassionate Innovation at: https://www.va.gov/healthpartnerships

 

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced a partnership with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to encourage veterans to consider pet ownership and volunteer opportunities with community organizations, including local animal shelters and humane societies in an effort to pair veterans with rescued animals.

This announcement represents the latest example of VA’s commitment to working closely with nonprofit organizations and other community partners to identify new and innovative ways to support veterans’ health and well being through this initiative.

VA and the HSUS will build model programs and networks with community organizations in order to establish connections with local VA medical facilities, making it easier to link Veterans with animals ready for adoption in their local communities.

 

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has formed the Veterans and Community Oversight and Engagement Board Federal Advisory Committee, as part of its commitment to supporting veterans and their families in the greater Los Angeles area.

The committee will coordinate with the local LA local community and VA to identify goals and provide advice and recommendations to the VA Secretary to improve services and outcomes for veterans, members of the armed forces and their families.

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. John D. Hopper Jr., will chair the committee. a noted advocate for veterans and their families. Hopper completed 35 years of service as a combat pilot, and is currently CEO of the Air Force Aid Society. While on active duty, he completed two Air Force assignments in the Los Angeles area, including as the commander of Norton Air Force Base in San Bernadino, Calif, as it prepared to close.

The following members will serve alongside Hopper on the committee: Phillip H. Tagami, (vice chairman); Anthony P. Allman; Arthur M. DelaCruz; Raymond G. Delgado; Kate A. Holt; Lisa J. Mahoney; Phillip F. Managano; Roger B. McReiane; Daisy C. Mo; Terrence P. Pallend; Stephen W. Rutledge; Jeffrey A. Scheire; David Tenenbaum; and Debra L. Thomas.

Additional information about the committee may be found on the Federal Register.

 

12-01-2017

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that the White House VA Hotline is now fully staffed with live agents working to serve veterans 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. 

The hotline has already served more than 10,000 callers by a team consisting of 90 percent veterans or employees who have a veteran family member, and is in response to veterans’ requests to talk to agents who could relate to their experiences. 

Hotline agents answer inquiries, provide directory assistance, document concerns about VA care, benefits and services, and expedite the referral and resolution of those concerns. Agents undergo regular updates and training on VA services based on hotline trends and are assisted by newly implemented tracking software to help VA capture and improve its response, referral and resolution processes to best support Veterans. 

The hotline can be accessed at 855-948-2311 and is VA’s first non-clinical, non-emergency around-the-clock call center. It provides veterans a supplemental option to report issues if they are not being addressed through VA’s normal customer service channels.

The hotline’s agents are located at a VA facility in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Agents have access to a multitude of resources and contact information to help veterans. The hotline also generates real-time reports to VA experts who can help address the specific issues of veterans as well as make better-informed decisions on where program improvements are needed. 

 

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that the application process for the national Veterans Identification Card (VIC) is now available for veterans.

This was mandated through legislation since 2015 to honor veterans. Only those veterans with honorable service will be able to apply for the ID card, which will provide proof of military service, and may be accepted by retailers in lieu of the standard DD-214 form to obtain promotional discounts and other services where offered to Veterans.

The VIC provides a more portable and secure alternative for those who served the minimum obligated time in service, but did not meet the retirement or medical discharge threshold. veterans who served in the armed forces, including the reserve components, and who have a discharge of honorable or general (under honorable conditions) can request a VIC.

To request a VIC, veterans must visit vets.gov, click on “Apply for Printed Veteran ID Card” on the bottom left of the page and sign in or create an account.

Veterans who apply for a card should receive it within 60 days and can check delivery status of their cards at vets.gov. A digital version of the VIC will be available online by mid-December.

 

 

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will offer Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) as a treatment option for a small number of veterans with persistent post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms resistant to standard options. 

Providers from the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System and the VA Northern California Health Care System will partner with HBOT providers at the Tulsa Wound Care and Hyperbaric Center at Oklahoma State Medical Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the David Grant Medical Center on Travis Air Force Base, California, respectively, to provide this care. 

HBOT is a procedure that increases oxygen in the body - under pressure - to encourage healing. Currently, HBOT is commonly used to treat carbon monoxide poisoning, divers’ sickness, enhanced healing of some wound problems, skin grafts, heat burns, crush injuries and other acute health-care issues that involve too little blood flow to a part of the body. 

This use of HBOT for treatment of PTSD is considered an “off-label” use and will occur under the supervision of a trained physician. Separately, VA and the Department of Defense are planning a multi-site research study to examine more fully the use of HBOT for patients diagnosed with PTSD. 

As health-care leaders interested in innovative approaches to care, the VA Center for Compassionate Innovation (CCI) is facilitating use of HBOT for a subset of Veterans who have noticed no decrease of symptoms after receiving at least two evidenced-based treatments. CCI uses innovative approaches to treat conditions where traditional methods have been unsuccessful. VA will monitor the HBOT clinical demonstration project and the HBOT research study to help inform the potential for HBOT usage to treat a larger number of Veterans with PTSD.  

For more information about VA’s Center for Compassionate Innovation, go to https://www.va.gov/healthpartnerships/

11-24-2017

Representative Doug Lamborn (R-Colo) introduced the Veterans Empowerment Act on Nov. 22, 2017, which would allow veterans to receive treatment from private-sector doctors (paid with VA funds) instead of using VA facilities. 

Lamborn defended his bill against claims that it would privatize the VA:

“This bill throws out the idea of acceptable patient wait times and eliminates the requirement of the veteran to ask for VA permission to use civilian medical providers,” Lamborn said in a statement. “It gives veterans full authority to use the existing VA system or not.”

Bills are already being considered in the House and Senate to overhaul the process veterans use to receive private-sector care.

 

ABC News is reporting that Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is exploring merging the VAs health care system with TRICARE. 

While it would cut cost,s it could alsothreaten the viability of VA hospitals and clinics.

Health care experts expressed surprise that VA would consider a TRICARE merger to provide private care for millions of active-duty troops, military retirees and veterans. The two departments generally serve very different patient groups —older, sicker veterans treated by VA and generally healthier service members, retirees and their families covered by TRICARE.

11-16-2017

A new VA Inspector General report finds that three VA facilities in Colorado — Denver, Golden and Colorado Springs — failed to follow proper protocol to track patients needing mental health services, according to the Denver Post.  

The OIG, examining care from Oct 2015 through September 2016, was unable to quantify the number of veterans affected.  However, they did find there were 3,775 individual entries on the unofficial referral list for group therapy.  OIG also noted that VA staff in Colorado Springs took too long to process requests for care for post-traumatic stress disorder.

As part of the inquiry, the OIG looked at whether VA officials in Colorado falsified records in the aftermath of a patient suicide, but determined there was “insufficient evidence” to support that claim.  While there was a delay in scheduling treatment for post-traumatic stress, “the veteran was otherwise actively engaged in mental health care at the facility” in Colorado Springs.

Primary care appointments at the Denver VA Medical Center had grown to more than three times higher than those at the main VA facility in Phoenix – where a national scandal over wait times and secret wait lists erupted in 2014.

Local VA officials pegged part of the problem on a critical shortage of physicians and anesthesiologists, which they most recently said were approved for higher pay to solve the shortage.

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