Warrior Connection - 08.21.16

August 22, 2016

The  August 21st edition of Warrior Connection was a discussion About the effects of military deployments and operations on children and family.  We also read two new poems about war written  by Jared Worley, USAF veteran,  and published in SITREP: VETERAN PERSPECTIVES ON WAR AND PEACE, Western Illinois University 2016.

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Warrior Connection - 08.14.16

August 16, 2016

The August 14 the Warrior Connection was a discussion about alcohol and drug abuse and how the avoid it with  Robert B. Shaw, D.Min., M.A., LPC, NBCC, BCPCC, BCPC
Associate Director of International Board of Christian Care (IBCC) &
Christian Care Network (CCN) , American Association of Christian Counselors, 129 Vista Centre Drive, Suite B , Forest, VA 24551

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Warrior Connection - 08.07.16

August 7, 2016

Before the crash- SUICIDE:  AN  EMAIL FROM SSG PAUL LYONS

I have had the privilege to have co-hosted With Doug Rokke And Denise Nichols (WARRIOR CONNECTION) on Gary Nulls Radio Station, known as "The Progressive Radio Network", out of New York City, regarding the various exposures that occurred during Desert Storm, whether they be concerning Depleted Uranium, Biological Warfare, and Chemical exposures; not to mention experimental shots with records of them being given as well as Nerve Agent pre-Treatment pills that we were ordered to take, that occurred during Operation Desert Storm. I and well over 275K Troops are said to be on the Gulf War Registry. I have also been exposed...I have two post war Children who are also sick, including my wife. How's that for a "Welcome Home Party"? The VA and DOD Need to Restart  their Children and Spouse Health Registry and get with program! We didn't ask for this and I DAMN sure wouldn't have intentionally exposed my Wife and now my sick post Gulf War Children, had I known that the birth defects and Illnesses were transmittable...This has been a NIGHTMARE for my wife and I. Someone In The Federal Government needs To Pick up the dropped ball and GET WITH THE PROGRAM!! We Also Need New Congressional Hearing's, from somebody in Congress with the backbone and fortitude of Former US Senator Donald Riegle, (R) Who saw the problem back in the early 1990's and held hearings, trying to get to the TRUTH of Gulf WAR Illnesses and now we have possible OIF exposures as well. This Government needs to settle this most important issue once and for all....If our current CBRN, also known as NBC gear is faulty, then let's fix the problem...WE know it there are GAPS, so let's FIX IT!!

 

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Warrior Connection – 07.03.16

July 3, 2016

The July 3rd Edition of Warrior Connection was a continuation of our discussion with Dr. Bob Shaw. We discussed dealing with daily and never ending VA failures that cause physiological and psychological harm INSTEAD OF HELPING, coming home, the healing effects and pain generated by The WALL, making choices, thriving through education, and the role of forgiveness. Denise gave a brief update on DC actions, events,- and her meeting with Va's Dr Clancy.


To Contact:

Dr. Bob Shaw, Associate Director of International Board of Christian Care (IBCC) &
Christian Care Network (CCN), American Association of Christian Counselors
129 Vista Centre Drive, Suite B
Forest, VA 24551  (tel. - 800-526-8673   fax - 434-525-9480)


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Warrior Connection – 06.26.16

June 26, 2016
The June 26th edition of Warrior Connection was a discussion about the Vietnam Wall, coming home, surviving, and thriving. The moving "wall" was just at Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve - Mahomet, Illinois. We all, Ray and I and Denise lost our "brothers" and much more but we can thrive.
 
 
After I helped erect the wall I went to look for one of my aircrew brothers Robert Lynn and as I touched the wall the "little sister" of Thomas Bennett , who was also there to help erect the wall, spoke up to me. Tom and Bob flew together and got shot down one day apart. We both reached some closure.
 
 
 
Ray's brothers who were kids are:
 
William Bushey, Steven Rickerson, James Sickles and Donald Liebl
In the photo I just took with my image reflected back.
 
God's work once more. "WALL MAGIC"
 
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Warrior Connection – 06.19.16

June 19, 2016

The June 19th edition of Warrior Connection was a discussion with Alanna Hertzog on our relationship with the earth.  Alanna is Administrative Director and a United Nations Non-Governmental Representative for the International Union for Land Value Taxation. She is also Co-Director of Earth Rights Institute and International Liason for the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation. She is a recipient of the International Earth Day Award from the Earth Society Foundation.

Her book – The Earth Belongs to Everyone - received the Radical Middle Book Award. Chapters include: Democracy, Earth Rights and the Next Economy; Sharing Our Common Heritage; Land for People, Not for Profit; Financing Local to Global Public Goods; Women, Earth and Economic Power; Restructuring Economic Relationships; and Economics of War and Peace.

In 2014 she was the Democratic Party candidate for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 9th District and for the Green Party in 2001. Her E.F. Schumacher Lecture was published as Democracy, Earth Rights and the Next Economy.

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Warrior Connection – 06.05.16

June 5, 2016
The June 5th edition of Warrior Connection was an exceptional discussion with Dr. Robert B. Shaw, D.Min., M.A., LPC, NBCC, BCPCC, BCPC , Associate Director of International Board of Christian Care (IBCC) & Christian Care Network (CCN), American Association of Christian Counselors, 129 Vista Centre Drive, Suite B, Forest, VA 24551
tel. - 800-526-8673, fax - 434-525-9480  about readjustment during and after deployment. Brain development and PTSD= moral injury  etc.
 
Dr Shaw will join us again in a few weeks to continue our conversation.  If you need help please call the Christian Care Network at 800 526-8673    
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Warrior Connection – 05.29.16

May 29, 2016
The May 29th edition of Warrior Connection was a discussion on treatment of irritable bowel syndrome with Dr Ashjok Tuteja of Salt Lake City VA and University of Nevada at  Salt Lake using probiotics. Veterans in the Salt Lake region are invited to participate in these treatment trials. Please call Dr Tutehja at 801-865-9693 or 801-582-1565 ext. 4019 / 4188. PRN and Warrior Connection lead the nation in information and education to help our nation's veterans survive and thrive.
 
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Warrior Connection – 05.22.16

May 22, 2016

The  May 22 edition of WARRIOR CONNECTION was a discussion on disabled veterans caregivers problems and needs and call for action supported by the following information:

This is bad part to quote and get an amendment from House side to fix! Now for the bad which is: Expands the VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to all generations of veterans.
Subtitle D—Family Caregivers
SEC. 231. EXPANSION OF FAMILY CAREGIVER PROGRAM OF
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS.
(a) FAMILY CAREGIVER PROGRAM.—
(1) EXPANSION OF ELIGIBILITY.—
(A) IN GENERAL.—Subsection (a)(2)(B) of
section 1720G of title 38, United States Code,
is amended to read as follows:
‘‘(B) for assistance provided under this sub-
section— 11 ‘‘(i) before the date on which the Secretary
submits to Congress a certification that the De-
partment has fully implemented the information
technology system required by section 232(a) of
the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Act, has a seri-
ous injury (including traumatic brain injury,
psychological trauma, or other mental disorder)
active military, naval, or air service on or after
September 11, 2001;
‘‘(ii) during the two-year period beginning
on the date specified in clause (i), has a serious
injury (including traumatic brain injury, psy-
chological trauma, or other mental disorder) in-
curred or aggravated in the line of duty in the
active military, naval, or air service-
‘‘(I) on or before May 7, 1975; or
‘‘(II) on or after September 11, 2001;
or ‘‘(iii) after the date that is two years after
the date specified in clause (i), has a serious in-
jury (including traumatic brain injury, psycho-
logical trauma, or other mental disorder) in-
curred or aggravated in the line of duty in the active military,

Keith Nordeng
May 13 at 6:09pm
http://www.veterans.senate.gov/…/isakson-blumenthal-unveil-…
Page 120 of the bill
ONCE AGAIN 90-91 veteran are LEFT OUT. What the F?
Veterans First Act specifically addresses
Changes the culture at the VA by improving accountability to make it easier for the VA Secretary to remove bad actors at all levels of the department. (Good)
Expands the VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to all generations of veterans. (Bad)
Strengthens the Veterans Choice program by establishing prompt payment standards and streamlining the requirements for community medical providers to enter into agreements with the VA. (Good)
Enhances education benefits for veterans, surviving spouses and children, and allows thousands of mobilized Reservists to earn GI Bill eligibility. (Good)
Addresses the crisis of opioid over-prescription among veterans.
(Good)
Enhances research on the potential health effects from toxic exposure to veterans and their descendants. (Very Good)
Strengthens programs to combat veteran homelessness (Good)
.
Improves the disability claims and appeals process by requiring the VA to launch a pilot program that will cut down the massive backlog of appeals awaiting action. (Good)
Now for the bad which is: Expands the VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to all generations of veterans.
Subtitle D—Family Caregivers
SEC. 231. EXPANSION OF FAMILY CAREGIVER PROGRAM OF
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS.
(a) FAMILY CAREGIVER PROGRAM.—
(1) EXPANSION OF ELIGIBILITY.—
(A) IN GENERAL.—Subsection (a)(2)(B) of
section 1720G of title 38, United States Code,
is amended to read as follows:
‘‘(B) for assistance provided under this sub-
section— 11 ‘‘(i) before the date on which the Secretary
submits to Congress a certification that the De-
partment has fully implemented the information
technology system required by section 232(a) of
the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Act, has a seri-
ous injury (including traumatic brain injury,
psychological trauma, or other mental disorder)
active military, naval, or air service on or after
September 11, 2001;
‘‘(ii) during the two-year period beginning
on the date specified in clause (i), has a serious
injury (including traumatic brain injury, psy-
chological trauma, or other mental disorder) in-
curred or aggravated in the line of duty in the
active military, naval, or air service-
‘‘(I) on or before May 7, 1975; or
‘‘(II) on or after September 11, 2001;
or
‘‘(iii) after the date that is two years after
the date specified in clause (i), has a serious in-
jury (including traumatic brain injury, psycho-
logical trauma, or other mental disorder) in-
curred or aggravated in the line of duty in the active military, naval, or air service; and’’.

Military Update: A showpiece of the Veterans First package that the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee unveiled last week is a multi-billion-dollar initiative to phase in for older generations of severely injured veterans robust caregiver benefits first enacted in 2010 only for the Post-9/11 generation.

Though it’s only part of a huge omnibus bill containing many veteran reform measures that senators previously introduced as separate bills, the plan to expand caregiver benefit coverage carries the biggest price tag. The early estimate is $3.1 billion over its first five years.

For in-home caregivers of thousands of vets with severe physical or mental injuries, it would mean cash stipends for their time and effort, health insurance if caregivers have none, guaranteed periods of paid respite to avoid caregiver burnout and training to enhance patient safety.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), prime architect of the caregiver expansion plan, negotiated with Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), the committee chairman, to secure a modified plan that could be funded with budget offsets and gain bipartisan support on the committee. That should improve its chances of becoming law despite still formidable obstacles ahead.

Perhaps the biggest is lingering disappointment over how the current caregiver program operates. Though it is delivering benefits to spouses and parents caring for 31,000 severely disabled veterans of the Post-9/11 era, the program remains underfunded, understaffed and lacking modern software to screen applications, track care needs or verify levels of caregiver support and program managers’ responsiveness.

The Government Accountability Office found many problems including too few Caregiver Support Coordinators who run the program locally. The program remains so “badly mismanaged” as to leave the House Veterans Affairs Committee, chaired by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), doubtful that the VA can handle a vast expansion of eligibility, a committee staff member said.

“While the intent of the Senate bill is admirable,” the staffer said, “we have an obligation not to expand existing programs without first ensuring they function correctly.”

But Isakson agreed with Murray that, rather than allow weaknesses in the current program to block expansion to older veterans, they should phase in eligibility for older generations on a schedule that gives VA time to fix problems while it incentivizes Congress to provide needed funding.

VA promises to have a modern IT system in place for the program by December this year. The Senate package would require the VA secretary within a year to certify that problems GAO identified have been fixed. Then within another year VA would begin to accept benefit applications from caregivers of veterans who served during the Vietnam War or earlier. Two years later, VA would start to accept applications from caregivers of severely injured veterans who served in the period between Vietnam and 9/11.

The pool of pre-9/11-era caregivers likely to be eligible for benefits if the program is expanded could be as high as 80,000, VA reported last year.
With up to 400 new caregivers of Post-9/11 veterans qualifying for benefits every month, program costs are climbing steadily, from $453 million in 2015 to $650 million this year and $725 million is sought for next year.

There are problems with the program, but the VA alone isn’t to blame, said Adrian Atizado, deputy legislative director for Disabled American Veteran whose national service officers field caregiver complaints. Congress underfunded it. Meanwhile, DAV and other advocates were slow to sound alarms over the underfunding, poor staffing and the sketchy information about the program that VA has given caregiver applicants and injured vets.

“I totally disagree with the House’s interpretation that it should not be expanded because of how the program is running now,” said Atizado. “I do share their concern about completely opening it up immediately.” But the Isakson-Murray phased expansion, he said, is a “reasonable compromise.”

In a statement, Miller said the omnibus deal reached by the Senate committee is a positive development. If it clears the Senate, “I look forward to immediately engaging in conference committee negotiations in order to move a VA reform package to the president’s desk,” Miller said.

Rather than compile one massive piece of legislation as the Senate committee opted to do, the House committee shepherded 21 separate bills on veterans’ issues through the House, which now await Senate action.

Beside differences in approaches, there are differences in priorities. The House committee said the most pressing VA need is tougher accountability rules so executives who put their own interests ahead of veterans can swiftly be reprimanded or fired. Miller and staff view their House-passed accountability bill, HR 1994, as much stronger than provisions embraced by Isakson and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), the committee’s ranking Democrat, at their Veterans First press conference.

Though the House sought no expansion to the caregiver program, staff noted that all of its House-passed veteran bills are fully paid for with spending offsets verified by the Congressional Budget Office.

Isakson said he and colleagues also found offsets to pay for the Veterans First package, with its estimated annual cost of $4 billion over 10 years, and without cutting prized veteran benefits. The offsets no longer embrace a controversial idea to cut by half the monthly housing stipend for family members who use transferred Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

Instead Isakson would cap total VA employee bonuses paid annually, mandate higher VA home loan funding fees, and “harmonize” the GI Bill housing stipend lower to reflect a total five-percent dampening of Basic Allowance for Housing rates over five years being imposed on active duty force members.

Murray said she doesn’t know if Miller and his House colleagues will support the caregiver expansion when they conference on veteran issues.
“I do know that this program is about putting veterans’ needs first and supporting the men and women who put their own lives on hold to take care of veterans,” Murray said. “Taking care of our veterans should never be a partisan issue.”

Send comments to Military Update, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA, 20120, email milupdate@aol.com or twitter: Tom Philpott @Military_Update

Tom Philpott has been breaking news for and about military people since 1977. After service in the Coast Guard, and 17 years as a reporter and senior editor with Army Times Publishing Company, Tom launched “Military Update,” his syndicated weekly news column, in 1994. “Military Update” features timely news and analysis on issues affecting active duty members, reservists, retirees and their families.

Visit Tom Philpott’s Military Update Archive to view his past articles.

Tom also edits a reader reaction column, “Military Forum.” The online “home” for both features is Military.com.

Tom’s freelance articles have appeared in numerous magazines including The New Yorker, Reader’s Digest and Washingtonian.

His critically-acclaimed book, Glory Denied, on the extraordinary ordeal and heroism of Col. Floyd “Jim” Thompson, the longest-held prisoner of war in American history, is available in hardcover and paperback.

Buy Glory Denied from Amazon

Senators want caregiver benefits phased in for older veterans

By Tom Philpott

Special to Stars and Stripes

Published: May 5, 2016

·         

Shundra Johnson holds a wheelchair for her husband Coast Guard Lt. Sancho Johnson as he gets into a car while traveling to the Navy's wounded warrior training camp for the 2015 DoD Warrior Games, May 29, 2015. Shundra is also her husband's caregiver.

EJ Hersom/Department of Defense

Related

Senators unveil Veterans First Act

Senators took fresh steps this week in the slow effort to reform the beleaguered Veterans Affairs Department and hold it more accountable just as news broke of a new scandal — cockroaches in food at a VA hospital in Chicago.

Summit highlights difficulties of veterans’ caregivers

Torrey Shannon provides round-the-clock care for her husband, retired Staff Sgt. Dan Shannon, who survived a gunshot wound to the head in Iraq. He needs to live in a remote area because severe post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injury has left him overwhelmed by cities. Despite this, she said she has struggled to get the support she needs as a veteran’s caregiver.

·         As veterans come home, a new generation of caregivers

American troops were serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan five years ago when President Barack Obama signed the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, a comprehensive piece of legislation acknowledging the critical role of caregivers for seriously injured post- 9/11 veterans.

A showpiece of the Veterans First package that the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee unveiled last week is a multibillion-dollar initiative to phase in for older generations of severely injured veterans robust caregiver benefits first enacted in 2010 only for the post-9/11 generation.

Though it’s only part of a huge omnibus bill containing many veteran reform measures that senators previously introduced as separate bills, the plan to expand caregiver benefit coverage carries the biggest price tag. The early estimate is $3.1 billion over its first five years.

For in-home caregivers of thousands of vets with severe physical or mental injuries, it would mean cash stipends for their time and effort, health insurance if caregivers have none, guaranteed periods of paid respite to avoid caregiver burnout and training to enhance patient safety.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., prime architect of the caregiver expansion plan, negotiated with Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., the committee chairman, to secure a modified plan that could be funded with budget offsets and gain bipartisan support on the committee. That should improve its chances of becoming law despite still formidable obstacles ahead.

Perhaps the biggest is lingering disappointment over how the current caregiver program operates. Though it is delivering benefits to spouses and parents caring for 31,000 severely disabled veterans of the post-9/11 era, the program remains underfunded, understaffed and lacking modern software to screen applications, track care needs or verify levels of caregiver support and program managers’ responsiveness.

The Government Accountability Office found many problems, including too few Caregiver Support Coordinators who run the program locally. The program remains so “badly mismanaged” as to leave the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, chaired by Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., doubtful that the Department of Veterans Affairs can handle a vast expansion of eligibility, a committee staff member said.

“While the intent of the Senate bill is admirable,” the staffer said, “we have an obligation not to expand existing programs without first ensuring they function correctly.”

But Isakson agreed with Murray that, rather than allow weaknesses in the current program to block expansion to older veterans, they should phase in eligibility for older generations on a schedule that gives VA time to fix problems while it incentivizes Congress to provide needed funding.

VA promises to have a modern IT system in place for the program by December this year. The Senate package would require the VA secretary within a year to certify that problems GAO identified have been fixed. Then within another year VA would begin to accept benefit applications from caregivers of veterans who served during the Vietnam War or earlier. Two years later, VA would start to accept applications from caregivers of severely injured veterans who served in the period between Vietnam and 9/11.

The pool of pre-9/11-era caregivers likely to be eligible for benefits if the program is expanded could be as high as 80,000, VA reported last year.

With up to 400 new caregivers of post-9/11 veterans qualifying for benefits every month, program costs are climbing steadily, from $453 million in 2015 to $650 million this year; $725 million is sought for next year.

There are problems with the program, but the VA alone isn’t to blame, said Adrian Atizado, deputy legislative director for Disabled American Veterans, whose national service officers field caregiver complaints. Congress underfunded it. Meanwhile, DAV and other advocates were slow to sound alarms over the underfunding, poor staffing and the sketchy information about the program that VA has given caregiver applicants and injured vets.

“I totally disagree with the House’s interpretation that it should not be expanded because of how the program is running now,” said Atizado. “I do share their concern about completely opening it up immediately.” But the Isakson-Murray phased expansion, he said, is a “reasonable compromise.”

In a statement, Miller said the omnibus deal reached by the Senate committee is a positive development. If it clears the Senate, “I look forward to immediately engaging in conference committee negotiations in order to move a VA reform package to the president’s desk,” Miller said.

Rather than compile one massive piece of legislation as the Senate committee opted to do, the House committee shepherded 21 separate bills on veterans’ issues through the House, which now await Senate action.

Besides differences in approaches, there are differences in priorities. The House committee said the most pressing VA need is tougher accountability rules so executives who put their own interests ahead of veterans can swiftly be reprimanded or fired. Miller and staff view their House-passed accountability bill, HR 1994, as much stronger than provisions embraced by Isakson and Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, the committee’s ranking Democrat, at their Veterans First press conference.

Though the House sought no expansion to the caregiver program, staff noted that all of its House-passed veteran bills are fully paid for with spending offsets verified by the Congressional Budget Office.

Isakson said he and colleagues also found offsets to pay for the Veterans First package, estimated to cost $4 billion over 10 years, without cutting prized veteran benefits. The offsets no longer embrace a controversial idea to cut by half the monthly housing stipend for family members who use transferred post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

Instead Isakson would cap total VA employee bonuses paid annually, mandate higher VA home loan funding fees, and “harmonize” the GI Bill housing stipend lower to reflect a total 5 percent dampening of Basic Allowance for Housing rates over five years being imposed on active-duty force members.

Murray said she doesn’t know if Miller and his House colleagues will support the caregiver expansion when they conference on veteran issues.

“I do know that this program is about putting veterans’ needs first and supporting the men and women who put their own lives on hold to take care of veterans,” Murray said. “Taking care of our veterans should never be a partisan issue.”

Send comments to Military Update, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA, 20120 milupdaSenators want caregiver benefits phased in for older veterans

By Tom Philpott

Special to Stars and Stripes

Published: May 5, 2016

Shundra Johnson holds a wheelchair for her husband Coast Guard Lt. Sancho Johnson as he gets into a car while traveling to the Navy's wounded warrior training camp for the 2015 DoD Warrior Games, May 29, 2015. Shundra is also her husband's caregiver.

EJ Hersom/Department of Defense

Related

Senators unveil Veterans First Act

Senators took fresh steps this week in the slow effort to reform the beleaguered Veterans Affairs Department and hold it more accountable just as news broke of a new scandal — cockroaches in food at a VA hospital in Chicago.

Summit highlights difficulties of veterans’ caregivers

Torrey Shannon provides round-the-clock care for her husband, retired Staff Sgt. Dan Shannon, who survived a gunshot wound to the head in Iraq. He needs to live in a remote area because severe post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injury has left him overwhelmed by cities. Despite this, she said she has struggled to get the support she needs as a veteran’s caregiver.

·         As veterans come home, a new generation of caregivers

American troops were serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan five years ago when President Barack Obama signed the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, a comprehensive piece of legislation acknowledging the critical role of caregivers for seriously injured post- 9/11 veterans.

A showpiece of the Veterans First package that the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee unveiled last week is a multibillion-dollar initiative to phase in for older generations of severely injured veterans robust caregiver benefits first enacted in 2010 only for the post-9/11 generation.

Though it’s only part of a huge omnibus bill containing many veteran reform measures that senators previously introduced as separate bills, the plan to expand caregiver benefit coverage carries the biggest price tag. The early estimate is $3.1 billion over its first five years.

For in-home caregivers of thousands of vets with severe physical or mental injuries, it would mean cash stipends for their time and effort, health insurance if caregivers have none, guaranteed periods of paid respite to avoid caregiver burnout and training to enhance patient safety.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., prime architect of the caregiver expansion plan, negotiated with Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., the committee chairman, to secure a modified plan that could be funded with budget offsets and gain bipartisan support on the committee. That should improve its chances of becoming law despite still formidable obstacles ahead.

Perhaps the biggest is lingering disappointment over how the current caregiver program operates. Though it is delivering benefits to spouses and parents caring for 31,000 severely disabled veterans of the post-9/11 era, the program remains underfunded, understaffed and lacking modern software to screen applications, track care needs or verify levels of caregiver support and program managers’ responsiveness.

The Government Accountability Office found many problems, including too few Caregiver Support Coordinators who run the program locally. The program remains so “badly mismanaged” as to leave the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, chaired by Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., doubtful that the Department of Veterans Affairs can handle a vast expansion of eligibility, a committee staff member said.

“While the intent of the Senate bill is admirable,” the staffer said, “we have an obligation not to expand existing programs without first ensuring they function correctly.”

But Isakson agreed with Murray that, rather than allow weaknesses in the current program to block expansion to older veterans, they should phase in eligibility for older generations on a schedule that gives VA time to fix problems while it incentivizes Congress to provide needed funding.

VA promises to have a modern IT system in place for the program by December this year. The Senate package would require the VA secretary within a year to certify that problems GAO identified have been fixed. Then within another year VA would begin to accept benefit applications from caregivers of veterans who served during the Vietnam War or earlier. Two years later, VA would start to accept applications from caregivers of severely injured veterans who served in the period between Vietnam and 9/11.

The pool of pre-9/11-era caregivers likely to be eligible for benefits if the program is expanded could be as high as 80,000, VA reported last year.

With up to 400 new caregivers of post-9/11 veterans qualifying for benefits every month, program costs are climbing steadily, from $453 million in 2015 to $650 million this year; $725 million is sought for next year.

There are problems with the program, but the VA alone isn’t to blame, said Adrian Atizado, deputy legislative director for Disabled American Veterans, whose national service officers field caregiver complaints. Congress underfunded it. Meanwhile, DAV and other advocates were slow to sound alarms over the underfunding, poor staffing and the sketchy information about the program that VA has given caregiver applicants and injured vets.

“I totally disagree with the House’s interpretation that it should not be expanded because of how the program is running now,” said Atizado. “I do share their concern about completely opening it up immediately.” But the Isakson-Murray phased expansion, he said, is a “reasonable compromise.”

In a statement, Miller said the omnibus deal reached by the Senate committee is a positive development. If it clears the Senate, “I look forward to immediately engaging in conference committee negotiations in order to move a VA reform package to the president’s desk,” Miller said.

Rather than compile one massive piece of legislation as the Senate committee opted to do, the House committee shepherded 21 separate bills on veterans’ issues through the House, which now await Senate action.

Besides differences in approaches, there are differences in priorities. The House committee said the most pressing VA need is tougher accountability rules so executives who put their own interests ahead of veterans can swiftly be reprimanded or fired. Miller and staff view their House-passed accountability bill, HR 1994, as much stronger than provisions embraced by Isakson and Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, the committee’s ranking Democrat, at their Veterans First press conference.

Though the House sought no expansion to the caregiver program, staff noted that all of its House-passed veteran bills are fully paid for with spending offsets verified by the Congressional Budget Office.

Isakson said he and colleagues also found offsets to pay for the Veterans First package, estimated to cost $4 billion over 10 years, without cutting prized veteran benefits. The offsets no longer embrace a controversial idea to cut by half the monthly housing stipend for family members who use transferred post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

Instead Isakson would cap total VA employee bonuses paid annually, mandate higher VA home loan funding fees, and “harmonize” the GI Bill housing stipend lower to reflect a total 5 percent dampening of Basic Allowance for Housing rates over five years being imposed on active-duty force members.

Murray said she doesn’t know if Miller and his House colleagues will support the caregiver expansion when they conference on veteran issues.

“I do know that this program is about putting veterans’ needs first and supporting the men and women who put their own lives on hold to take care of veterans,” Murray said. “Taking care of our veterans should never be a partisan issue.”

Send comments to Military Update, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA, 20120

milupdate@aol.com

te@aol.com

Act
Subtitle D—Family Caregivers
SEC. 231. EXPANSION OF FAMILY CAREGIVER PROGRAM OF
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS. Specifically the donut hole created by the dates.
‘‘(I) on or before May 7, 1975; or
‘‘(II) on or after September 11, 2001;
or
‘‘(iii) after the date that is two years after
the date specified in clause (i), has a serious in-
jury (including traumatic brain injury, psycho-
logical trauma, or other mental disorder) in-
curred or aggravated in the line of duty in the

Form to send comments to house veterans affairs committee. https://republicans-veteranforms.house.gov/forms/writethecommittee/

00:0000:00

Warrior Connection – 05.15.16

May 15, 2016

The May 15th edition of Warrior Connection  was a continuation of our discussion on CDMRP medical research with Dr Julia Colier of Bronx VA about new medical treatment protocol using nasal insulin spray to alleviate brain inflammation and thus reduce effects of toxic exposures on cognition, pain, stress, etc. Veterans are needed to participate in the Bronx VA and Boston VA systems.  This new treatment promises significant improvement in cognitive functioning and also may be useful for Parkinson's and Altzheimers too.  Please call Dr Colier at 718-584-9000 to participate in Bronx trials or Dr Maxine Kringle at 857-364-6933 for Boston or email Julia.Golier@va.gov.  We will continue with this series.
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