VAA Dispatch
Apr. 28, 2015

What Congress' 1st 100 days meant for veterans
The Hill
No matter the organization or interest, benchmarks are used as a way to measure the success or failure of an agenda. Since the 114th Congress just passed its first 100 days, its agenda as it relates to veterans and veteran issues should be examined. One of the first pieces of legislation Congress and the Veteran Affairs Committees wrote and passed was the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act.More

VA Choice Card eligibility expands
Military Times
More veterans will be able to use the Veterans Affairs Choice Card program as of April 24 under a change that redefines the 40-mile distance standard established as a requirement for care. In a final rule published in the Federal Register, VA made good on a promise it made in March to change the mileage requirement from a straight-line, "as the crow flies" measure to actual driving distance from a VA medical facility.More

Veterans sue the VA over access to medical records
Defense One
Seven veterans from across the country have sued the Veterans Affairs Department claiming the agency has unlawfully ignored requests for documentation necessary to obtain disability benefits. The vets — who are from Florida, Kentucky, Colorado, Virginia and Wyoming — want to apply for additional programs that could result in more disability compensation, but are unable to do so because they're still waiting for the VA to send them documents from their claims files.More

VA in tests to make x-rays, other images available to veterans online News
The Veterans Affairs Department is field testing two new programs to give veterans using VA health care electronic access to additional records, including X-rays and MRIs. The images would be available for download via the "Blue Button" feature on the VA's My HealtheVet website, though VA also is working on a way for veterans to personally transmit the images to another health care provider, including non-VA doctors, when necessary.More

The VA blocks veterans on painkillers from using medical weed
LA Weekly
War veterans of Los Angeles wait patiently to be given the freedom to toke up. A VA policy known as VISN-22 was modernized to let veterans use medical marijuana as well as opioids while getting care, a blessing to vets who suffer pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, anger issues and suicidal tendencies. The policy change came after California NORML, Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access and affiliated groups started getting calls from veterans who had been denied their pain medications. More

Sen. Cotton: Vets' 'intangible skills' key to civilian employment
Military Times
Former soldier and current Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas says that employers need to think outside of the box when considering whether or not to hire veterans transitioning into the civilian working world. While speaking as part of a panel discussion on veteran issues recently in Washington, D.C., Cotton called for an increased focus on "post-traumatic growth" and for employers to take into account during the hiring process the "intangible skills" veterans have gained in the field. More

Veteran hiring and veteran preferences gaining steam
The National Law Review
This past March, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez issued a News Release announcing the overall unemployment rate for all veterans has dropped for the fourth consecutive year — this is great news. In an effort to assist in the employment of veterans, covered federal contractors are required to set a protected veteran hiring benchmark as part of their affirmative action obligations.More

Military retirement overhaul on fast track
WLTX-TV via Military Times
The old, reliable military retirement system is about to be retired. House and Senate lawmakers are moving ahead with dramatic plans to replace the current 20-year, all-or-nothing deal with a "blended" compensation system, complete with a 401(k)-style investment plan that promises all future troops will leave the service with some money for retirement.More

Texas Senate panel OKs education benefit cuts for vets' children
The Associated Press via Military Times
Texas veterans and their children would see their higher education benefits sliced significantly under a plan heading to the Senate floor. Tuition exemption costs under the so-called Hazlewood Exemption have skyrocketed from $24.7 million in fiscal year 2010 to $169 million in fiscal year 2014. Texas' higher education institutions shoulder the bulk of those costs.More

Panel approves bill giving veterans in-state tuition
A House panel has approved a measure allowing military veterans who have been honorably discharged to get in-state tuition at South Carolina state colleges and universities as soon as they become residents of the state. The approval recently by members of the House Higher Education Subcommittee moves the bill to the full Education Committee later in the day.More

Mayor: San Francisco will end chronic vet homelessness this year
The Huffington Post
San Francisco is on track to reach a major milestone in its fight against homelessness, according to its mayor. During a stop at the city's veterans memorial recently, Ed Lee announced the Golden Gate City would house all of its chronically homeless veterans this year "by committing the resources necessary," the San Francisco Chronicle reported. More

Mortgage-free homes to be built for veterans in need
Local realtors in Orange County, Florida, are paying it forward to those who have served our country. "There are a lot of veterans that were just overlooked," said Steve Chitwood with the Florida Real Estate Foundation. "Because of injury or whatever, they couldn't get a job to be able to afford a house, we knew that was a lot of need for it."More

Tri-City veterans to get federal housing assistance
Tri-City Herald
Low-income Tri-City veterans will be getting help paying the rent, thanks to new federal funding announced recently. The state will receive funding for 240 housing vouchers, totaling more than $1.5 million, with 12 of the vouchers going to the Walla Walla Housing Authority for use in the Tri-Cities. Linda Wondra, spokeswoman for the Walla Walla Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said the vouchers totaling $49,687 will be in addition to the vouchers 96 veterans already receive in the Tri-Cities. More