Tag Archives: Veterans and the Local Community

Veterans Administration COVID-19 Control Program And Regular Stats On Hospital Virus Occurrences



“Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

See here for the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Coronavirus information.

What is VA doing?

VA has implemented an aggressive public health response to protect and care for Veterans, their families, health care providers, and staff in the face of this emerging health risk. We are working directly with the CDC and other federal partners to monitor the outbreak of the virus.

On March 27, VA shared its COVID-19 response plan. This best-practice guide is a valuable tool, which may be useful nationwide for the medical community.

VA has administered over 13,216 COVID-19 tests nationwide, while taking aggressive steps to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

These measures include outreach to Veterans and staff, clinical screening at VA health care facilities, and protective procedures for patients admitted to community living centers and spinal cord injury units.

What should Veterans do?

Any Veteran with symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath should immediately contact their local VA facility. VA urges Veterans to call before visiting – you can find contact information for your closest VA facility.

Alternatively, Veterans can sign into My HealtheVet to send a secure message to VA or use telehealth options to explain their condition and receive a prompt diagnosis.

Upon arriving at VA, all patients will be screened for flu-like symptoms before they enter in order to protect other patients and staff. A VA health care professional will assist you with next steps once this screening process is complete.

At this time, VA is urging all visitors who do not feel well to please postpone their visits to VA facilities.

How to protect yourself

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent the COVID-19 infection and no medication to treat it. CDC believes symptoms appear 2 to 14 days after exposure. Avoid exposure and avoid exposing others to an infection with these simple steps.

  • Learn to use VA Video Connect through the VA mobile app store or by contacting your VA care team, before any urgent problems arise.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. An easy way to mark the time is to hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice while scrubbing.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick or becoming sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue (not your hands) and throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Getting a flu shot is recommended.

VA COVID-19 Cases

Nationally, as of March 30, 2020, VA is tracking the following Veteran patients with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. This is a rapidly evolving situation and VA will provide updated information as it becomes available and verified.”


Military Veterans Press For More Restrained American Foreign Policy

Image: “Task and Purpose.com

“MILITARY TIMES” By Nate Anderson and Jon Soltz 

“Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) — the law passed after 9/11 has been used by three presidents to justify military action in 14 countries. The majority of Americans support a new approach abroad

Concerned Veterans for America” and “VoteVets”, are advancing a more restrained American foreign policy.


“In today’s hyper-partisan climate, it is rare for a majority of Americans to agree on anything, let alone something as important to our country’s future as foreign policy. Yet, it’s happening.

Our organizations, Concerned Veterans for America and VoteVets, are doing just that. We have historically clashed during election cycles and bitterly debated how the Department of Veterans Affairs can best serve our nation’s veterans. Yet, we are setting differences aside to advance a more restrained American foreign policy.

With the U.S. role in the world at the forefront of public discussion, it is clearer than ever the majority of Americans support a new approach abroad. Much like the partnership between our two organizations, we believe Americans are willing to reject partisan labels in favor of resolving endless wars, removing troops from Syria and Afghanistan, and pursuing a foreign policy that deters threats and encourages mutually beneficial trade and diplomacy.

And not only do many Americans agree our military should be less engaged abroad, but this sentiment transcends even the deepest of partisan divides, manifesting itself in a growing movement in the halls of Congress.

To further these goals, we are urging Congress to reclaim its constitutional role in authorizing military action abroad and to ensure such a weighty responsibility does not rest solely with the executive branch. With elected representatives vigorously debating U.S. involvement in the world, American interests and the well-being of its citizens will be more thoroughly considered.

In short, an engaged Congress is more accountable to its constituents, more responsible for American security, and more invested in our economic prosperity.

Fortunately, we are seeing hopeful signs that Congress may begin to reassert itself.

Earlier this year, and for the first time ever, Congress used the War Powers Act to demand an end to American support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

Also, the House of Representatives passed a measure to repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) — the law passed after 9/11 that authorized military force in Afghanistan, but which has been used by three presidents to justify military action in 14 countries.

One of the most significant moves toward restoring the balance of power was the passage of a measure that would effectively bar the president from taking offensive military action against Iran without approval from Congress. Cosponsored by two unlikely allies, Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., an outspoken Trump supporter, and Ro Khanna, D-Calif., a co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, this provision would enforce the law, by making clear that the president has no authority to use any existing AUMF to launch an offensive attack against Iran, requiring Congress to debate, approve and authorize offensive military action against that country.

A similar measure received the support of half the Senate. Unfortunately, too many members chose to continue the status quo instead of facing the hard issues and difficult decisions.

A majority of members in both the House and Senate have now voted in support of restricting the executive branch and reasserting the legislative branch in matters of war, just as the Constitution outlines.

Alongside Congress, the American people are largely united in their desire for fewer wars, and a recent poll shows they don’t support a war with Iran. Accordingly, it is critical that members of the NDAA conference committee fight to keep the House-passed Khanna-Gaetz amendment in the final report. Not only would it be a big step toward restoring the constitutional checks and balances that would lead to a more restrained foreign policy, it’s what the American people want.

Rethinking U.S. foreign policy is no simple task. It takes strong, principled leaders willing to honestly evaluate the implications of such significant decisions as sending men and women into battle. Little by little, through measures like the Khanna-Gaetz amendment, our lawmakers can ensure the American people are not unnecessarily embroiled in another endless war that doesn’t serve our national interests or make us any safer.”



Nate Anderson is executive director of Concerned Veterans for America. Jon Soltz is chairman of VoteVets.

GAO Says More Veterans Heading For Veterans Homes That May Not Be Ready

Image: “Columbiacare.org


“The report, released Aug. 2, found the number of veterans in VA funded nursing home care is expected to total about 44,000 by 2022.

Challenges in contracting with community nursing homes (CNHs), which provide the bulk of that care, could keep the agency from being able to meet demands.


“Although the number of veterans in nursing homes is expected to rise 16% between 2017 and 2022 as veterans who served in Vietnam continue to age, the VA may not be prepared to handle the increase, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

And while some of those issues may be helped by a recent VA healthcare law, known as the Mission Act, concerns remain, auditors wrote.

“While VA expects to continue placing more of the veterans needing nursing home care into CNHs, officials noted some challenges contracting with these homes,” the GAO report states. “Specifically, VA central office officials said that about 600 CNHs had decided to end their contracts with VA over the last few years for a variety of reasons. For example, officials from four of the [VA Medical Centers] we interviewed told us about CNH concerns that contract approvals can take two years, homes have difficulties meeting VA staff requirements, and VA’s payment rates were very low.”

In addition, the homes may not be able to handle the special needs some elderly veterans face, including behavioral issues or dementia, the study found.

“[VA officials] said homes may not have any of the necessary specialized equipment or trained staff, or may not have as many of these beds as needed, to meet certain veterans’ special care needs,” the report said. “VA officials told us that they are working to expand the availability of special needs care in each of the three setting.”

The VA covers the full or partial cost of nursing home care for veterans, depending on availability and the veteran’s disability rating or injuries. Veterans rated at 70 percent or higher for service-connected disabilities or those who are receiving nursing home care as the result of a service-connected disability are fully covered.

The system provides care in three types of homes. CNHs are publicly or privately owned and operated and contracted with the VA. State veterans homes are typically owned and operated under the preview of the state in which they are located. And community living centers, which often provide acute care, are owned and operated by the VA and associated with the local VA hospital.

Auditors found the VA should do a better job monitoring the quality and performance of nursing homes, an improvement that will be increasingly important as the number of veterans using the facilities increases.

VA officials contract out inspections of nursing homes, but do not regularly monitor contractors’ performance to determine whether or not inspections are being done correctly, the report said. And the way the system works with state veteran homes does not flag all quality problems, which keeps the system from tracking them.

Moreover, VA officials haven’t given VA hospital staff instructions on how to conduct on-site reviews of nursing homes without the contractor, which means they can’t hold those facilities accountable for correcting problems, the report said.

“By making enhancements to its oversight of inspections across all three settings, VA would have greater assurance that the inspections are effective in ensuring the quality of care within each setting,” the report said.

The report also recommended that VA clarify its communication on the types of nursing home care are available, giving more information on state veterans homes and how their quality compares to the other options.

VA officials generally concurred with all four recommendations. They said they plan to act on the report’s recommendation to increase oversight of inspectors while changing how issues with state veteran homes are flagged. They argued, however, that their employees don’t have the authority or oversight to inspect community nursing homes directly. They also said they would investigate whether or not it’s feasible to provide data on state veteran home quality.”


Minneapolis VA Tests A Local Invention To Ease PTSD Nightmares

Image: https://nightware.com/
Nightware is a App Loaded into an Apple Watch


The brainchild of a Macalester College graduate to help his father overcome combat-related nightmares has turned into a promising — but still experimental — medical app that is being tested by the Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center.


“Called NightWare, the app is loaded onto an Apple watch, where it learns to track the pulse rates and biometric readings of wearers when they have nightmares. Once trained, the app instructs the watch to buzz lightly, rousing sleepers from their nightmares without fully waking them.

“These people, when they’re having nightmares due to PTSD, they’re reliving the worst experiences in their life,” he said. “They’re in dysphoric states. They’re generally miserable.”

PTSD, a condition in which sufferers relive past emotional traumas, has been found at higher rates in soldiers and military veterans, including members of the Minnesota National Guard who served prolonged tours in Iraq and Afghanistan after the 9/11 terrorist bombings. Screenings immediately after deployments found PTSD symptoms in nearly 5% of active-duty soldiers but nearly 13% of National Guard and reserve unit soldiers.

Treatment typically involves intensive therapy — including exposure sessions that try to get sufferers to recall traumas without feeling the pain of those moments — but there has been little specifically designed to treat PTSD-associated nightmares. Hannah said that’s a significant gap, considering that disrupted sleep has been linked to a variety of health problems and increased risk of suicide attempts.

While dreams and even nightmares can play legitimate roles in physical and mental health, they can become “pathological” and “disruptive” to people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, said Grady Hannah, chief executive of NightWare, a Minneapolis med-tech firm that is developing the app as a medical device.

That treatment gap prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to grant special “breakthrough” status to NightWare last month to hasten it through the approval process and to the marketplace.

This month the Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center reported that 31 veterans had tried the device, and 85% reported improved sleep within one month. Now VA researchers are starting a trial that will compare veterans who receive buzzes from the watch when they are having nightmares with veterans whose watches simply silently track their pulse and sleep data.

Buzzing and alarm technology has already been used in commercial products to address sleep-related problems, including bed-wetting for children, and in products that didn’t receive FDA approval as medical devices.

Hannah said the FDA deemed NightWare a medical device requiring research and approval, to prove that it is effective and safe, which will ultimately increase trust in the system and make it eligible for coverage by health insurance.

“There have been lots of companies that have tried to create consumer treatments that never made it, because marketing direct to consumers takes a lot of money,” Hannah said. “And you can’t make any medical claims” without research and federal approval to back them up.

NightWare was originally created at a 2015 hackathon technology innovation contest in Washington D.C., by a 21-year-old Macalester student named by Tyler Skluzacek.

Skluzacek had come to learn about PTSD because of his father’s struggles after his overseas deployment in 2006.

“He just hit absolute rock bottom,” Skluzacek told the Star Tribune in 2015. “He was just depressed and angry and every emotion you can think of that has nothing to do with happy.”

Hannah, an entrepreneur and Silicon Valley veteran, read the Star Tribune account and contacted Skluzacek, who now attends graduate school at the University of Chicago, to begin developing the app for use as a medical device.

Hannah is guarded about discussing the benefits of NightWare until the VA research data comes in, but some early test users have called it life-changing.

Justin Miller suffered PTSD after returning home to South Carolina from two deployments in Iraq as part of a sniper team. He had constant nightmares evoking memories of being injured by an explosive device, seeing soldiers die, or being left by his unit in a building and having to fight his way out to avoid capture.

Miller said he would wake in a sweat with a racing pulse. Sometimes he would be flailing about and elbowing his wife. He rarely slept more than four hours per night, he said.

After trying the app in January, Miller said he started sleeping through the night almost immediately. He’s had about a dozen nightmares since then, on the nights when he left the watch off his wrist and on the charging station.

Miller said he’s drastically reduced his consumption of energy drinks, melatonin to help with sleep, and even his antidepressant dosage.

“Once I started sleeping, it’s amazing how much the rest of my life changed,” he said. “I have more patience with people. I am able to keep my cool, most of the time.

“I didn’t know [sleep] was possible for me anymore. It hadn’t happened in 12 to 13 years.”


Veterans Care Suffering Due To Poor Local Community & Government Coordination




“Researchers found that nearly 45,000 nongovernmental, nonprofit groups nationwide focus on veterans and military issues, many “largely going it alone in their efforts” to provide services. If ever there was a sector screaming for more collective activity, it is the veteran nonprofit sector.

It is foolish to think that one federal agency, or even a few, can or should shoulder absolute responsibility for veteran wellness and reintegration — especially for health and wellness concerns that are both societal and local in nature.

Veterans struggling to adapt to post-military life face a bounty of support resources, but poor coordination of those efforts potentially leaves them confused and without help, according to a new study released Wednesday.

Researchers from the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University said many of the financial, medical and social problems faced by veterans in America can be traced not to a lack of assistance programs but instead to “a lack of collaboration, coordination, and collective purpose” between myriad government and community offerings.

The findings argue for a “collective impact” model for better coordinating efforts, establishing community leaders to rein in scattered local programs and simplify processes for veterans in need.

“We need to come up with better ways for veterans to pick and choose the best services for them,” said Nick Armstrong, lead author of the report and the senior director for research and policy at IVMF.

“Every community is different, each has different needs and different veterans populations. But they can all benefit by working together better.”

“Most communities are organizing efforts with little or no understanding of how to deliver high-quality, personalized models of services, resources, and care that match veterans’ needs.”

IVMF officials are in the midst of a 18-month pilot program for one such coordination model. The NYCServes project — which will be expanded to Pittsburgh and North Carolina this summer — has focused on reaching out to community service providers and leaders, emphasizing better data collection and a veteran-focused model for referrals.

Armstrong said the project is more a proof of concept than a blueprint, offering ideas for local communities to build their own networks.

The report notes that Veterans Affairs Department officials need to be better leaders in public-private partnership efforts, arguing that VA is not getting full value for the $160 billion-plus it spends annually.

But researchers also argue that caring for veterans is a national moral responsibility, one that stretches far beyond what government programs can provide.

“Wellness encompasses far more than sustaining physical health and fulfilling material need,” the report states. “The VA was never designed to reintegrate veterans into civilian society, repair their existing social relationships or build new ones in the communities in which they ultimately settle.”