The Department of Veterans Affairs pushed back Monday at a New York Times report suggesting that expanded community-care options under the VA Mission Act would lead to the "privatization" of VA health care and the eventual shutdown of some VA medical centers.
"Privatization is a myth and to suggest otherwise is completely false and a red herring designed to distract and avoid honest debate on the real issues surrounding veterans' health care," Curt Cashour, a VA spokesman, said in a statement.
The Mission Act, passed last year by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump with the support of veterans service organizations (VSOs), was intended to overhaul and continue funding for the VA Choice program on private-care options. That program was riddled with inefficiencies, both for veterans and the community-care providers. Under the (Mission) act, about $5.2 billion in mandatory funding was appropriated for the Veterans Choice Fund.
The new Veterans Community Care Program was designed to include new standards for access to care.
Cashour said that the Mission Act now "gives the VA secretary the authority to set access standards that provide veterans the best and most timely care possible -- whether at VA or with community providers -- and the department is committed to doing just that."
The statement was in response to a New York Times report Sunday that said billions of dollars could be diverted under the Mission Act from the VA's hospitals and clinics -- the nation's largest health care system -- into the private sector, and could eventually lead to the closure of some VA medical centers.
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has repeatedly given assurances that he has no intention of "privatizing" the VA, but he has yet to give public guidance on the new access standards on expanding community care.
Rep. Julia Brownley, D-California, a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said, "Congress provided clear guidance to the VA when it passed the bipartisan Mission Act" to protect the VA's existing health care system while making it "simpler for veterans to access the care they need."
In a statement to Military.com, Brownley said she is concerned about "White House insistence that private medical care be 'paid for' through cuts to VA programs." "The administration should know that I will hold them accountable to pursue the best care for our veterans, not inferior care driven by political ideology," Brownley said.
Major veterans service organizations said they expect Wilkie to honor his pledge against privatization, but also said they are waiting on the new access standards before making a final judgment.
"There are no indications that the VA is going to be privatized," said Chanin Nuntavong, director of the American Legion's National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division, but "we're waiting for the president to decide what the access standards are going to look like."
"We don't believe privatization is the intent here" under the reforms of the Mission Act, said Carlos Fuentes, director of National Legislative Services for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. But "specifically, we want to see the access standards."
In a statement, Randy Reese, executive director of the Washington headquarters of Disabled American Veterans, said the organization remains "optimistic that Secretary Wilkie will honor his commitment to improve care for our nation's veterans not just by expanding access, but also by focusing on long overdue modernization of the VA health care system, filling employee vacancies and rebuilding infrastructure."
"We've learned from the experience of Choice that providing additional access outside of VA actually leads to increased demand for health care inside VA as well," Reese said. "We also know that the private sector has neither the expertise nor the capacity to absorb such a large and complex patient population."
Late last month, the VA began awarding the first of several regional contracts under the Mission Act for the new Community Care Network that will replace various private-sector care programs for veterans. The contracts could cost a total of $55.2 billion through 2026, if all the options are exercised, the department said.
The VA announced Dec. 28 that it awarded management contracts for three regions covering 36 states, plus Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; and the U.S. Virgin Islands, to Optum Public Sector Solutions Inc., a government-services arm of Optum, the health services arm of United Healthcare.
NOTE: The West Coast is scheduked for Mission Act activation in December of 2019.
House lawmakers have reintroduced the "Blue Water Navy" bill to expand Department of Veterans Affairs Agent Orange health care and disability benefits to about 90,000 sailors who served off the coasts of Vietnam during the war.
A similar bill failed last Congress when Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, blocked a Senate vote in December in the face of overwhelming bipartisan support for the legislation.
Rep. Mark Takano, D-California, the new chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said in a statement Tuesday after introducing his version of the bill, "We must get to work and finally secure the benefits our Blue Water Navy veterans earned over 40 years ago."
He said failure to pass the bill last year was a "disservice to the 90,000 Navy veterans who served in the coastal waters of Vietnam, and an insult to all veterans who served with the expectation that their country would care for them if they were wounded while serving."
On Jan. 3, the first day of the new Congress, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., the committee's ranking member, introduced a similar bill, saying the veterans deserve such benefits.
"I hope my colleagues in the House and Senate waste no time in passing this bill and sending it to President Trump so we can ensure that Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans receive the benefits they deserve," he said.
The initial bill passed the House last year by a vote of 382-0 and appeared headed to easy passage in the Senate with the backing of Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, but the legislation ran into opposition from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
At a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing last August, Paul Lawrence, the undersecretary for benefits at the Veterans Benefits Administration, said, "The science is not there" to show that the fresh water systems of Navy ships were contaminated by dioxin from Agent Orange defoliants widely used in Vietnam.
"It's difficult to hear from veterans who are ill" as they file claims, Lawrence said, but "there is no conclusive science" from a report by the Institute of Medicine to show a service connection.
The VA also expressed concern over the potential cost of adding the Blue Water sailors who served on aircraft carriers, destroyers, cruisers and other Navy ships off Vietnam to the list of veterans eligible for Agent Orange health care and benefits.
The Congressional Budget Office had estimated that about 90,000 sailors could be covered by the bill, which would likely cost about $1.1 billion over 10 years.
At the August hearing, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, said those who served on the ground and on the rivers of Vietnam are already able to claim Agent Orange benefits, and "it doesn't make any sense" to exclude the Blue Water sailors.
The original bill failed in December when Enzi voiced an objection to it, suggesting that his colleagues wait for the outcome of a study on the issue. "On this bill, many of us have been made aware of the potential cost growth and the budgetary and operational pressures that would happen at the VA," if the bill were to pass," he said.
Rep. Annie Kuster, D-New Hampshire, co-sponsored the new Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019.
"This legislation would expand veterans benefits for 90,000 Navy veterans who served in the coastal waters of Vietnam and are impacted by toxic exposure as a result of their service," she said Tuesday.
U.S. military assets, mostly special operations forces, continue to aid Philippine forces in hunting down ISIS.
The Philippine military said Friday its joint defense and security activities with U.S. forces, including annual combat exercises, will increase next year in a show of the treaty allies' continuing robust relations. Top U.S. and Philippine military officials agreed to increase the number of joint security activities next year to 281 in areas that include counterterrorism, maritime security and humanitarian aid. There are 261 such joint activities this year, military spokesman Col. Noel Detoyato said.
Despite a siege last year that retook a major city in the Philippines and killed an estimated 1,000 ISIS fighters, reducing their ranks to about 200 in the area, Pentagon spending on the military mission there has nearly tripled, according to a recent report.
And most of that money is being spent on running a fleet of drones to monitor terrorist activities while supporting ground patrols to clear out ongoing contested areas of the country.
Nearly $5 million is to fund the Marine Corps to “advise, plan and execute missions in support of Philippine counterterror operations,” according to the report.
Most of those 1,000 ISIS fighters killed in the operation were likely targeted, in part, by Marine Corps special operations forces.
Justice officials are wrapping up work identifying troops whose homes were wrongfully foreclosed on. A foreclosure services company has agreed to pay up to $750,000 to service members who lost their homes due to alleged illegal foreclosure.
According to the settlement agreement, Northwest Trustee Services Inc., of Bellevue, Washington, completed 28 foreclosures on homes owned by service members between January 2010 and July 31, 2017, without obtaining the required court orders, in violation of the Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The company will pay compensation of up to $125,000 to each of the service members.
The SCRA prohibits foreclosing on the home of a service member during military service, or for one year afterward. In many cases this applies to reservists and Guard members called to active duty.
May / 9 / 2018 Washington, D.C.
The Marines are making strides to become more lethal and agile based on the threats of the future battlefield.
Last week at the annual Ground Awards Dinner, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller, offered his recent decisions to many of the Corps’ top officer and enlisted ground combat leaders.
Click on the picture to review the generals extended details of the Marine Corps’ war-fighting capability, redefining the structure of the Marine rifle squad; Sniper Rifle Upgrades and much more!!!
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. --
The 31st Annual Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium kicked off Thursday, June 21, at the San Diego Convention Center where more than 1200 service members gathered to discuss current issues in the military. The Marine Corps sent more than 200 officer and enlisted Marines, more than three times previous years, coinciding with the Marine Women’s Centennial.
Hosted by the Sea Service Leadership Association, the event brought together women from all U.S. service branches and 20 other countries. The theme of the symposium, "The Power Within You," included question and answer panels, service-specific breakout sessions and lengthy discussions with the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Glenn M. Walters and the Commander of Marine Forces Cyber Command, Maj. Gen. Lori M. Reynolds, the Corps’ senior female Marine.
Reynolds expressed the ultimate goal of the symposium is for women Marines to be encouraged and reminded they are not alone.
“Being a woman in this organization is not always easy, so it helps to have somebody out there fighting for you and with you,” said Reynolds. “This is an opportunity that you can make your voice matter."
Walters thanked everyone, including the few men in the crowd, for attending and spoke about the distinct value of women in the military.
“All women serving are unique,” said Walters. “Throughout our history you’ve always been volunteers.”
Walters discussed benefits of the Marine Corps’ recent policy change which opened the door for women to join combat military occupational specialties.
“Integration is not only the right thing to do, integration is essential to winning our nation’s battles to maintain our freedom, all in an environment where only 29% of our population is qualified to serve,” said Walters.
In addition to the symposium, Thursday evening Walters joined the Women’s Museum of California in their celebration of “100 years of women serving in the Marine Corps.” Walters, on behalf of the Marine Corps, presented artwork to the museum, inscribed with “Honoring the thousands of women who earned the title Marine.” The art will be displayed at the museum, located in downtown San Diego.
The Women’s Museum of California is located at 2730 Historic Decatur Road, Suite 103 San Diego, CA 92106 For more information visit: http://womensmuseumca.org/
March 13, 2018
President Donald Trump visited Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and addressed the Marines stationed there...
"...your courage fills our enemies with dread. And your example inspires countless young Americans who dream of being the best, to some day wear the uniform of the United States Marines..."
To see the entire address, click on the picture.
March 6, 2018
With a focus on improving access to mental health care for Veterans living in rural areas, today the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it has launched a pilot telehealth program that will give rural Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) remote access to psychotherapy and related services. The Telemedicine Outreach for PTSD (TOP) program will deliver therapy and other care through phone and interactive video contact.
Dr. John Fortney, a research health scientist at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle, Washington, is leading the project.
“Long travel distances to urban areas can be a major barrier to care for rural Veterans,” Fortney said. “In a prior trial, we were able to use telehealth technologies successfully to engage Veterans in evidence-based, trauma-focused therapy without their having to travel to a distant VA medical center.”
To date, more than 500 rural Veterans who are not receiving specialty PTSD care have enrolled in the study. The participants may choose between the two main forms of evidence-based, trauma-focused psychotherapy used in VA: cognitive processing therapy and prolonged exposure therapy.
Veterans participating in the program receive frequent phone calls from a care manager who helps them access services provided by off-site psychiatrists and psychologists. The psychotherapy is delivered via interactive video from a VA medical center to a community-based outpatient clinic (CBOC) or to the Veteran’s home. The telephone care manager also monitors the Veterans’ progress and helps them overcome barriers to care.
The program results, which will be available in 2020, will lay the groundwork for national implementation of the TOP program.
The Town Hall meeting was held on March 15, 2018 at the Stanislaus County Veterans Center. The current Director of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, Mr. Timothy Fitzgerald, addressed the Veterans and guests in attendance.
An update was provided on the Livermore Realignment Project including the Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) and a 120-bed Community Living Center (CLC) at Manthey Rd., French Camp, CA.
Actual construction is not scheduled to begin until the Winter 2018/2019 and the First Patient admissions are scheduled in the Summer of 2022.
The CLC schedule is not available at this time.
Services now committed include Primary care, Mental Health, Functional Restoration (fundamentally Therapy), Labs and Dental Services(for CLC patients only).
Pharmacy will not be available until the CLC is opened.
The MOVE organization is looking for a few good Marines (and other volunteers) to volunteer a few hours of their time to assist our fellow veterans by becoming qualified to drive vehicles get our Veterans to their appointments.
MOVE will work with your schedule, even if your hours are limited !
Within a very brief-time at the CVSO Offices, MOVE will certify volunteers with a valid Drivers Lic-nse, pay for a background check, and provide training to qualify you.
Contact MOVE at 209-522-2300, or
AARP and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service have launched Operation Protect Veterans to help raise awareness of common scams targeting veterans.
Here are some of the scams to watch out for.....
Benefits buyout scam: Scammers offer an upfront payment of cash in exchange for a veteran's future disability or pension payments. These buyouts are typically a fraction of the value of the benefit.
Investment/pension scam: Unscrupulous investment advisers claim the veteran may be able to claim additional government benefits by overhauling their investment holdings. Get credible information on how to qualify for veterans' benefits by contacting your state veterans' affairs agency. Visit www.nasdva.us and click on "Links."
Veterans Choice Program scam: Scammers have set up a phone number nearly identical to the number veterans dial to find out if they are eligible to use approved health care providers outside of the VA system. Veterans call the fake number and a message prompts them to leave their credit card information in return for a rebate. They debit your account, and the vet gets nothing in return. Make sure to dial the correct number for the VCP: 866-606-8198.
Charging for records: A scammer attempts to charge for access to a veteran's military records or government forms. Never pay for your records: all information is free through your local VA.
Special deals for veterans scam: Scammers offer discounts for veterans on a range of products, like loans & car purchases. Often, the products aren't discounted at all, or they don't actually exist. Check out offers carefully, and never wire money to someone you don't know.
Rental scam: A scammer posts a fake rental property on a classified ad website offering discounts for active duty military & veterans. You just need to wire transfer a security deposit to the landlord. Only there is no rental property and you just lost your security deposit.
Identity Theft Scams: VA phishing: Scammers call veterans claiming they work for the VA & ask for personal information to update their records.
If you get an unsolicited call from the VA, hang up.
Available to all honorably discharged veterans of U.S. armed forces, the military exchanges are launching the Veterans Online Shopping Benefit on Nov. 11. Veterans need to be "Verified" to begin shopping at the online military exchange websites as of Oct. 30, 2017, which was approved by the Defense Department in January. Veterans should verify their eligibility before trying to shop.
Any eligible shopper can shop at any of the websites. Actual exchange prices aren’t visible until you log in as an authorized shopper, and you don’t have to add sales tax.
CLICK on the image to apply for your verification.
Courtesy of California Department
Much of region 2 is in flames and many of us know of people who are or will be in need of assistance. Please remember your fellow Marines who have lost homes or loved ones in this tragedy that we find ourselves in. Look for ways to assist and remember your “Brothers” who are in need. In Detachment 686 alone, so far, we have two or three members who have lost everything as their homes have been burned to the ground. I’ve seen the home site of our JA and his neighborhood looks like an “atomic bomb” was detonated. He will obviously need assistance in rebuilding/replanting and site cleanup. While I’m sure that insurance will cover much of that, it won’t cover everything. Fortunately the loss of life has been minimal. In the 4 counties surrounding the northern parts of region 2, as of yesterday, there are 10 confirmed deaths with many more missing.In the meantime, these friends and brothers will be living “who knows where or how” and assistance that probably won’t be covered by insurance will be needed. Be ready to support them with food, hot meals, a place to stay (if possible), immediate cash, emotional support and work parties when needed.
Above all else, remember them and their families in your prayers.
Capt. Natalie Poggemeyer, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit
The Marines and Sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) aboard amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) wrapped up their relief efforts in Key West in the wake of Hurricane Irma, this week.The blue-green team was on the ground in Key West for five days conducting Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA), assisting in relief
Camp Pendleton, Calif. - At approximately 09:33 a.m.m (PST), a land-based training accident occurred involving an amphibious landing vehicle on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton injuring 15 Marines from 1st Marine Division. The Marines were conducting scheduled battalion training at the time of the incident.
All Marines are currently being treated for injuries. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Marines and their families as they receive medical care.Officials are investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident at this time.
Today your MCL team put together a plan to deal with National Disasters impacting our Marines. The process will help our Marines in areas where disasters occur. We established a disaster donate and request for aid process and it will be put in place for Texas, Louisiana and any disaster in the future. The Foundation will lead the process and will provide relief to MCL Departments and Detachments. Send donations to Marine Corps League Foundation and mark the donations "Disaster Relief fund". Departments and Detachments are our boots on the ground for vetting and delivering aid. In the near future you will see a new Quick Reaction Team, mobilized as required, for handling these disasters.
The Corps Report stated that US Marines arrived in Texas, Florida and the Virgin Islands to help Hurricane relief efforts. As hundreds of thousands of Floridians trek north to escape Hurricane Irma, tens of thousands of military personnel are heading south for rescue and recovery efforts.
MV-22 Ospreys and Marines arrived at Pensacola Naval Air Station as part of a massive relief effort for southeast Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey's devastating blow. The Pensacola base serves as a staging area for the Marines while the Navy's USS Kearsarge and USS Oak Hill move into positions to provide medical support, security and humanitarian aid for hurricane victims.
U.S. Navy (USN) and U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) aircraft have conducted medical evacuations in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), USS Wasp (LHD 1) and USS Oak Hill (LSD 51), along with the Marines of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, are conducting a large offload of relief supplies in the U.S. Virgin Islands while continuing to conduct air operations.
U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) continues its support to St. Martin for evacuation and humanitarian assistance, and the strategic lift of commodities to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
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