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1. Pentagon reworks PTSD strategy. The Defense Department aims to create a more accepting environment for service members seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder in its latest behavioral health guidelines, according to a pair of documents obtained by The News Tribune.
2. Annual walk commemorating Battle of Bulge battalion expected to draw record crowd. The 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion arrived in Europe with 800 men, but heavy fighting on the front lines had whittled the force down to just 250 as they headed into their last major battle of World War II.
3. Defense Department set to announce furlough plan Wednesday. The Defense Department intends to notify Congress on Wednesday of a plan to furlough nearly 800,000 civilian employees one day each week beginning in April, a defense official said Tuesday.
4. Obama warns of disaster from cuts, urges Republicans to find short-term solution. With just 10 days before sequestration, President Barack Obama urged congressional action to stop the harmful “meat cleaver” cuts, warning they would compromise military readiness, damage the nation’s fragile economic recovery, and put hundreds of thousands of Americans out of work.
5. ‘People Magazine’ Features Real Warriors Campaign Profilee Maj. Jeff Hall. After two tours of duty in Iraq, Maj. Jeff Hall found himself coping with posttraumatic stress disorder, depression and thoughts of suicide. Jeff and his wife Sheri, volunteers for DCoE’s Real Warriors Campaign, shared their story in the Feb. 18 print issue of “People Magazine.” The couple spoke candidly about how Jeff’s experiences during and after deployment affected their marriage and family life, their decision to seek psychological health care and how reaching out for help contributed to the long-term success of Jeff’s military career. Knowing Jeff needed help, Sheri mustered the courage to approach his commanding officer.
6. Petition: Lower Precedence Of New Drone Medal. Military Times “Nearly 5,000 people have signed an online petition urging the White House to demote the new medal intended to honor drone pilots and other service members who affect combat operations without actually being in a combat zone.” The “petition will need a total of 100,000 signatures by March 16 in order for the White House to consider taking further action.” Pentagon officials “say the new medal reflects the changing nature of warfare in the 21st Century and the new medal’s high-level placement reflects the truly extraordinary actions that will be required to earn one.”
7. Bill Would Have VA Hospitals Provide Child Care. Army Times “A pilot program to provide child care at veterans’ hospitals would become permanent under a provision of s 131, a bill introduced” by US Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). The program, said Murray, is “near completion and the results have been overwhelmingly positive” and “far less expensive than originally estimated.” The Times adds, “Child care was provided on a test basis largely because of concerns that veterans who are single parents or primary caregivers for children were skipping or not making appointments for medical treatments because they did not have, and often could not afford, hourly child care. That concern, and the increasing presence of women in the veterans’ population, likely could lead to child care becoming a permanent aspect” of VA’s healthcare system.
8. Top Post-9/11 Veterans Group “Yet To Be Determined.” Army Times “Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, speaking at a recent Student Veterans Affairs conference in Florida, said it remains unclear which veterans service organization is going to end up speaking on behalf of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.” Shinseki said, “Opening an office in Washington, DC, and turning on a large megaphone to Congress and the press is not the only measure of merit. It’s yet to be determined which organization will represent the 9/11 generation, carrying its torch forward into this century.” The Times adds, “Widely viewed as a slap at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a 200,000-member group that has been very critical of Shinseki, the statement goes on to suggest that Student Veterans of America could be the group representing the newest generation of veterans.”
9. Younger Vets Still Struggle As Jobs Scene Improves. AP “Although veterans as a whole have a lower unemployment rate than the nation at large, younger veterans who served in the years following the Sept. 11 attacks are having a much harder time finding work.” But “Curtis Coy, an undersecretary at the Veterans Affairs Department, said expanded educational benefits are playing an important role in lowering the unemployment rate as hundreds of thousands of veterans attend college through a program that covers tuition and fees, housing, books and relocation expenses.” Coy “says younger veterans often need a little time to figure out what they’re going to do when they get out of the service.”
10. VA Takes Hit Over Handling Of GI Bill Benefits. Army Times “Starkly different assessments of how well the Veterans Affairs Department processes GI Bill tuition payments clashed” in a House hearing held last Thursday. Roger Baker, VA’s assistant secretary for information and technology, told the House Veterans Affairs Committee’s “economic opportunity panel that VA has tallied ‘a remarkable achievement’ in shrinking processing delays.” But student-veteran “advocates sharply disputed that, saying that after spending $263 million to revamp claims processing, VA still takes too long to process claims.”
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The VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System has reached an agreement with the University of Michigan (UM) Health System to move 150 VA researchers to the university’s newly-founded Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation located in the university’s North Campus Research Complex. “The move will bring VA health researchers closer to their university colleagues,” said Dr. Eve Kerr, director of the Ann Arbor VA Center for Clinical Management Research and a UM professor of internal medicine. “This will make it easier for VA and university researchers to study health issues that affect Veterans and non-Veterans alike and to test new ideas for improving care in heart disease, diabetes, mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder and more.” The VA researchers are part of a group called the Ann Arbor VA Center for Clinical Management Research. Almost all of them have joint faculty appointments at the university’s schools of medicine, public health and nursing. “This is going to be the largest university-based institute for health policy research in the country,” Kerr said. “We’ve always worked closely with UM, but this move will accelerate the pace of research for the benefit of Veterans and patients everywhere.” Kerr noted that many of her researchers are focused on mental health issues for Veterans — especially in the area of suicide.