New Education Benefit for Unemployed Veterans Has Strong Response

New Education Benefit for Unemployed Veterans Has Strong Response

VA Outreach for Veterans Retraining Assistance Program Garners Over 12,000 Applicants since May 15

WASHINGTON – Within two weeks of being announced, a program to give skills training to some unemployed Veterans has garnered over 12,000 online applications, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“VA is committed to supporting Veterans as they seek employment. This initiative will help provide education and training so that Veterans have an opportunity to find meaningful employment in a high-demand field,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We will continue to build on the success of our initial outreach efforts to Veterans.”

Called the Veteran Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP), the program allows qualifying Veterans between the ages of 35 and 60 to receive up to 12 months of education assistance. Maximum payments are equal to the full-time rate for the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty, currently $1,473 monthly.

Under VRAP, Veterans apply on a first-come, first-served basis for programs that begin on or after July 1. VA began accepting applications on May 15. Forty-five thousand Veterans can participate during the current fiscal year, and up to 54,000 may participate during the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2012.

The goal of the program is to train 99,000 Veterans for high-demand jobs over the next two years.

To qualify Veterans must:

  • · Be 35 to 60 years old, unemployed on the day of application, and have been issued discharges under conditions other than dishonorable;
  • · Be enrolled in education or training after July 1, 2012, in a VA-approved program of education offered by a community college or technical school leading to an associate degree, non-college degree or a certificate for a high-demand occupation as defined by the Department of Labor;
  • · Not be eligible for any other VA education benefit, such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill, or Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment;
  • · Not have participated in a federal or state job training program within the last 180 days; and
  • · Not receive VA compensation at the 100 percent rate due to individual unemployability.

While the initial response has been encouraging, VA officials stress the need for a sustained effort to reach potential VRAP applicants.

“Besides the Veterans themselves, we are asking anyone who knows of an unemployed Veteran to help us get the word out so everyone can take advantage of this new benefit,” said Curtis Coy, VA’s deputy undersecretary for economic opportunity. “With the help of our Veterans community and our partners in the Department of Labor, we hope to reach as many eligible Veterans as possible.”

In addition to its national outreach campaign, VA will seek out potential VRAP-qualified Veterans through online applications and at the National Veterans Small Business Conference being held in Detroit June 26-28. During 2012, VA representatives will also provide VRAP information and assistance at hiring fairs sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce through the Hiring Our Heroes campaign.

For more information on the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) program, the Hire Heroes Act of 2011, VRAP, high demand occupations, and application procedures, visit the website at www.benefits.va.gov/VOW, or call VA National Call Center toll free at 1-800-827-1000.

Veterans may also access the VRAP application online at https://www.ebenefits.va.gov through eBenefits, a joint project between VA and the Department of Defense.

Veterans are also encouraged to visit the nearly 3,000 One-Stop Career Centers across the nation for assistance from staff, Local Veterans’ Employment Representatives (LVERS), and Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program (DVOP) specialists. Center locations are listed at www.servicelocator.org.

 

VVA Seeks President’s Help to Study Dow’s Dioxin Corn Seed

The following is the text of a letter sent earlier today by John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), to President Barack Obama.

“Your obvious concern and efforts on behalf of the health and well-being of America’s veterans and military families, and the overall health of our nation, are very much appreciated by Vietnam Veterans of America. This is why VVA seeks your immediate assistance in staying the deregulation of Dow Agro science’s much ballyhooed 2,4-D-resistant corn seed until an environmental impact study can be conducted and its subsequent results evaluated by scientists who are not affiliated with Dow Agro science.

“To date, no fewer than seven environmental statutes bear on the registration and deregulation of this crop, bred to withstand high levels of herbicides, including 2,4-D, technically known as a chlorinated phenoxy acid in ester form, which comprised what was commonly called Agent Orange, known for the orange stripe around the 55-gallon drums in which this insidious defoliant was stored and shipped during the Vietnam War.

Although there is a lot that science has learned about the effects of dioxin on the human organism, there is still a lot that science has yet to learn. We do know, for instance, the dioxin builds up in the soft fatty tissue, where it remains for years and can do considerable damage. Now, Dow and Monsanto wish to release genetically modified corn that has increased resistance to 2,4-D. What will this mean to Vietnam vets, who have already been exposed to this chemical through our military service? To our progeny? We believe there has been little serious epidemiological investigation by the VA or the CDC or the NIH into this very real issue. To add insult to potential injury, Dow’s naming of this weed-control method “Enlist” is, unintended or not, a slap at all Vietnam veterans.

“The USDA did perform an environmental assessment on this seed and concluded that its deregulation would have no “significant” impact on the environment. We disagree. We submitted formal comments regarding this issue in a letter on April 27, 2012, to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Given what we know, we have major concerns about the effects on biodiversity, human health, cumulative environmental impacts, and the security of the world’s food supply.

“The increased use of 2,4-D could significantly harm the economic interests of farmers who grow broadleaf crops such as tomatoes, potatoes, and grapes, which are damaged by 2,4-D. The potential for cross-pollination and destruction of other varieties of corn and other crops has not been seriously addressed in the environmental assessment, although it is a factor in whether or not this corn is a plant pest and can itself be considered a noxious weed because of its impacts on other plant species. Dow has also acknowledged that its ultimate goal for its new variety of corn is to eventually seize the market. Should this come to pass, USDA fails to address how increased use of Dow’s product could then impact human health.

“Democracy and free markets cannot exist without an informed citizenry. We have not been provided with enough information to make intelligent decisions regarding the protection of other plants, human health, and the security of the world’s food supply if Dow’s petition moves forward. USDA’s APHIS program has prepared an environmental assessment that raises more questions than it answers, and raises concerns of significant impacts to the future of our crops, our world food supply, and our natural environment. NEPA and the CEQ require an environmental impact statement be prepared under 40 C.F.R. § 1508. We are not calling for a complete ban of this new product at this time. We are simply not willing to be lied to or withheld information from again. Vietnam veterans were lied to about our exposure to chemicals which claimed many lives long after our troops left Southeast Asia.

“Mr. President, at the time when we honor veterans who have laid the ultimate sacrifice upon the altar of freedom, we ask that you honor the public trust and continue to regulate Dow’s product until the USDA performs a proper environmental impact statement on this major federal action and opens the process to appropriate public involvement.

“We thank you for all you have done for veterans and our families, and for active-duty troops and their families.”

Vietnam Veterans of America is the nation’s only congressionally chartered veteran’s service organization dedicated to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families. VVA’s founding principle is “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”

New VA Form Available for Ordering Veterans’ Grave Marker Medallion

WASHINGTON (May 22, 2012) – The Department of Veterans Affairs has streamlined the process for families of deceased Veterans to receive a medallion which can be affixed to grave markers at private cemeteries and indicates the Veteran status of the deceased.

“This new form streamlines the ordering process, making it easier for families to order the medallion,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “The families want everyone to know that their loved one was a Veteran. We should help them do that in any way we can.”

Previously, families ordered the medallion using the form to order a government headstone or marker. VA has introduced a new form – VA Form 40-1330M – for use solely to order a medallion. The older form, VA Form 40-1330, remains in place to order a traditional government headstone or marker.

The medallion is a device furnished in lieu of a traditional Government headstone or grave marker for Veterans whose death occurred on or after Nov. 1, 1990, and whose grave in a private cemetery is marked with a privately purchased headstone or marker. Under federal law, eligible Veterans buried in a private cemetery are entitled to either a government-furnished grave marker or the medallion, but not both.

The medallion is available in three sizes: 5 inches, 3 inches and 1 ½ inches in width . Each bronze medallion features the image of a folded burial flag adorned with laurels and is inscribed with the word “Veteran” at the top and the Veteran’s branch of service at the bottom.

Next of kin receive the medallion, along with a kit that allows the family or the staff of a private cemetery to affix the medallion to a headstone, grave marker, mausoleum or columbarium niche cover.

The medallion is available only to Veterans buried in private ceme teries without a government headstone or marker. Families of eligible decedents may also order a memorial headstone or marker when remains are not available for interment

More information about the medallion or headstones and markers can be found at http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/hm/hmorder.asp. To download the VA Form 40-1330M, Claim for Government Medallion, go to http://www.va.gov/vaforms/va/pdf/VA40-1330M.pdf.

VA operates 131 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico and 33 soldiers’ lots and monument sites. Nearly four million Americans, including Veterans of every war and conflict — from the Revolutionary War to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan — are buried in VA’s national cemeteries on more than 19,000 acres.

Veterans with a discharge issued under conditions other than dishonorable, their spouses and eligible dependent children can be buried in a VA national cemetery. Other burial benefits available for all eligible Veterans, regardless of whether they are buried in a national cemetery or a private cemetery, include a burial flag, a Presidential Memorial Certificate and a government headstone, grave m arker or medallion.

Information on VA burial benefits can be obtained from national cemetery offices, from the VA Web site on the Internet at www.cem.va.gov or by calling VA regional offices toll-free at 1-800-827-1000.

Women Veterans Task Force Draft Plan Released

VA Seeks Public Comment on Strategies

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs is releasing for public comment a draft of its strategic report to address key issues facing women Veterans. The plan outlines steps for improvements to care and services for women Veterans that are sustainable, accountable and a part of the department’s culture and operations.

“Expanding care and services to women Veterans is too important to limit ourselves solely to the views within the department, so we are seeking feedback from all stakeholders, most importantly women Veterans themselves,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “The VA must be visionary and agile enough to anticipate and adjust not only to the coming increase in women Veterans, but also to the complexity and longevity of treatment needs.”

Shinseki formed a task force to develop an action plan to address women Veterans’ issues. Since then, the group has conducted a broad survey of department experts to identify those issues and organize them by priority. The draft report is an interim step prior to VA finalizing its overall plan.

The report comes at an important juncture in VA’s history that demands a review of the quality, quantity, and types of services and programs it provides to women Veterans. The number of women Veterans using VA has increased 83 percent in the past decade, from about 160,000 to over 292,000 between fiscal years 2000 and 2009, compared with a 50 percent increase in men.

 Women are now the fastest growing cohort within the Veteran community. In 2011, about 1.8 million or 8 percent of the 22.2 million Veterans were women. The male Veteran population is projected to decrease from 20.2 million men in 2010 to 16.7 million by 2020. In contrast, the number of women Veterans will increase from 1.8 million in 2011 to 2 million in 2020, at which time women will make up 10.7 percent of the total Veteran population.

 VA is training providers in basic and advanced topics in women’s health through mini-residencies, and over 1200 providers have currently received training. Comprehensive women’s health care can be provided within three different models of care, including comprehensive women’s clinics; separate, but shared, space women’s clinics; or integrated primary care clinics. All of these clinic models ensure that women receive all of their primary health care (prevention, medical, and routine gynecologic care) by a single primary care provider. A network of medical directors and program managers who coordinate care for women Veterans now encompasses all 153 medical centers in the VA Health Care System.

 The public notice and instructions for how to submit comments will be posted at www.regulations.gov. The draft written report will be open for comment for 30 days, and responders will have a number of options to provide both electronic and written feedback. Readers will also be able to participate in a public discussion board on the Internet at: http://vawomenvetstratplan.uservoice.com/forums/159415-general.

 To view the report without making recommendations, please visit VA’s website at: http://www.va.gov/opa/publications/Draft_2012_Women-Veterans_StrategicPlan.pdf.

HAWAII PROCUREMENT TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE CENTER (HI-PTAC)

BACKGROUND

On May 1, 2011, the Defense Logistics Agency awarded a grant to a non-profit limited liability corporation by the name of Ho’okipaipai LLC under the Office of Hawaiian Affairs through a cooperative agreement to continue services to Hawaii business as the Hawai`i Procurement Technical Assistance Center (HI-PTAC). There are ninety-seven PTACs across the nation. They form a national network of procurement professionals dedicated to providing you with: 1) an understanding of government procurement requirements, 2) guidance on how to evaluate and respond to solicitations, and 3) how to win government contracts.

GOALS

To help small businesses in Hawai`i secure government contracts and sub-contracts.

To maximize partnerships between eligible small businesses with prime contractors or big businesses.

To help drive the local economy by increasing government contracts awarded to Hawai`i companies.

ASSISTANCE PROVIDED

Hawai`i PTAC provides a wide range of assistance to businesses through professional and specialized training and technical assistance. All assistance and training is free of charge.

Counseling:

One-on-one sessions with our counselors to instruct businesses on how to obtain government solicitations, prepare bids or offers, and win contracts.

Bid Matching

: Daily emails with business solicitations culled from FedBizOps, Defense Logistics Agency, and other state and county data bases that are current and pertinent to your trade.

Assistance with Bid Preparation

: Solicitation and proposal review; guidance on understanding the terms and conditions of government requirements; help with cost and pricing issues, analysis of marketing/bid strategies.

Securing of Registration and Certification:

Assistance with registration in various government databases, such as the Central Contractor Registration (CCR), SBA’s Small Business Dynamic Search, Online Representations and Certifications Applications (ORCA), and other government vendor databases.

Education and Training:

Offer seminars and workshops on a variety of procurement topics, e.g., Understanding Doing Business with the Government, Responding to RFPs, Getting 8(a) Certification.

Business Networking:

Sponsor and coordinate matchmaking events for prime contractors and small businesses that may lead to teaming agreements, prime and subcontracting opportunities.

LOCATION

Pacific Park Plaza

711 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite 1430

Honolulu, Hawai`i 96813

CONTACT

hiptac.ecenterdirect.com

Corinne Fukushima, Client Services Executive Assistant, (808) 596-8990, ext 1009

Email: corinnef@hookipaipai.org

VA Eliminates Copayment for In-Home Video Telehealth Care

WASHINGTON Beginning May 7, the Department of Veterans Affairs will no longer charge Veterans a copayment when they receive care in their homes from VA health professionals using video conferencing.

“Eliminating the copayment for this service will remove an unnecessary financial burden for Veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We will continue to do everything we can to ensure that Veterans have access to the first-class care they have earned with their service to our Nation.”

This change will primarily benefit Veterans with limited mobility, such as spinal cord injury patients.  Whenever medically appropriate, VA will make the home the preferred place of care for Veterans to ensure timely and convenient access to VA services.

For more information about telehealth, visit:  http://www.telehealth.va.gov/.

Data have shown that expanded use of technology in the home enables patients with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, chronic heart failure and hypertension, to live independently, actively engage in managing their health, and prevents avoidable hospitalization of patients who otherwise may need long-term institutional care.

Home telehealth does not replace the need for nursing home care or for traditional noninstitutional care programs. However, it enhances the ability for many veterans to better understand and manage chronic diseases.  This partnership with their care team helps delay the need for institutionalization and enables them to maintain independence for an extended period of time, thus improving their overall quality of life.