VAA Dispatch
Jul. 23, 2013

Veterans: We're interested in hearing from you
In an effort to enhance the overall content of VAA Dispatch, we'd like to include peer-written articles in future editions. As a member of VAA, your knowledge and experience in the industry can be of great help to your fellow members. And we're hoping you'll share this expertise with your peers through well-written commentary. Because of the digital format, there's no word or graphical limit, and our group of talented editors can help with final edits. If you're interested in participating, please contact Ronnie Richard to discuss logistics.More

Bill to protect veterans against discrimination
If you are a veteran looking for a job in Washington state, employers can't refuse to hire you because of your military status. That's because of a 2006 law protecting veterans against discrimination. But in most states that's not the case. United States Congressman Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., wants to change that. KUOW-FM's Ross Reynolds talks to Kilmer about how his bill would protect all veterans and service members from employer and housing discrimination nationwide.More

VA speeds up veterans education benefit processing
The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that it significantly has reduced processing times for Post-9/11 GI Bill veterans' education benefit claims cited in a May 2013 Government Accountability Office report. According to former VA assistant secretary, the VA has fully automated its formerly paper-based education benefit claims processing system and now can process supplemental benefit payments for currently enrolled student veterans in an average of eight days — compared to 23 days in the fall of 2012.More

House panel examines changes to veterans retraining program
Navy Times
A House subcommittee is considering legislation to fix one of the many problems with a year-old veterans training program many say is underused. More than 105,000 veterans have applied to use the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, which provides a year of monthly GI Bill benefits for a veteran to attend a full-time training program to learn a new and marketable skill. But only 52,228 are enrolled in school.More

For veterans, a fight for college credit
The Texas Tribune
Texas Army veteran Ryan Rafols worked as a missile defense engineer during his time in the U.S. Army, operating military defense systems, calculating targets and maintaining computer systems. But when Rafols came back to Texas and applied to the engineering school at the University of Texas at Austin, he was told none of his experience would count toward his degree. That made no sense to him.More

VA offers interactive courses on rural veteran outreach and more
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Rural Health has partnered with the VA eHealth University, My VeHU, to deliver interactive live broadcasts of rural health specific content. Sponsored by ORH's Rural Health Professions Institute, these courses cover post-deployment care integration, facilitating co-managed care, rural community collaborations and veteran outreach, cultural competence and more. MyVeHU trainings are recorded for viewing on-demand. More

Survey finds health overhaul a mystery to vets
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
An ongoing nationwide survey found that almost 76 percent of American military veterans don't know that delaying enrollment in a special Medicare program can trigger punishing late fees. "This is really important for veterans to understand: If they don't sign up for Medicare Part B at age 65, and they're no longer working, they could incur a 10 percent penalty on the premium for every month they delay, and this lasts for the rest of their lives," said 65 Incorporated founder Diane Omdahl, a registered nurse who helps retiring vets transition to post-work health care coverage.More

How the Pentagon's payroll quagmire traps soldiers
Reuters via The Denver Post
As Christmas 2011 approached, U.S. Army medic Shawn Aiken was once again locked in desperate battle with a formidable foe. Not insurgents in Iraq or Taliban fighters in Afghanistan – enemies he had already encountered with distinguished bravery. This time, he was up against the U.S. Defense Department. Aiken, then 30 years old, was in his second month of physical and psychological reconstruction at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, after two tours of combat duty had left him shattered. His war-related afflictions included traumatic brain injury, severe post-traumatic stress disorder, abnormal eye movements due to nerve damage, chronic pain and a hip injury. But the problem that loomed largest that holiday season was different.More

Bill to reform VA's budget planning introduced
Veterans Today
Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, Ranking Member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, announced the introduction of H.R. 2704, the "Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Planning Reform Act of 2013," a bill he wrote to require the VA to institute a more analytical and transparent budget development process. The bill requires a quadrennial veterans review to ensure the VA's strategy will meet current and future veteran needs, and a five-year program with expected outcomes, milestones and resources. More

Federal government struggles to unload surplus property
The Baltimore Sun
Two years after the Obama administration relaunched an effort to get rid of surplus federal buildings, almost all of the excess property identified in Maryland remains in government hands, a review by The Baltimore Sun has found. Red tape, lack of congressional action and inadequate funding have left federal agencies stuck with at least 200 vacant or underutilized properties in the state. More

The House GOP won't defend a ban on veterans' benefits for gay couples
Government Executive
House Republicans will no longer defend a law that bars married, same-sex couples from receiving veterans' benefits available to married heterosexual couples. Recently, Buzzfeed reported that the House, responding to a deadline in a federal lawsuit challenging the veterans' benefits provision, asked to "withdraw as a party defendant" from the case. More

The VA's backlogs epidemic
The Hill
Everyone in Congress knows by now that the Department of Veterans Affairs has a massive claims backlog problem that has outraged the American public. But many do not yet realize that while dents are being made in one backlog, other backlogs are forming within the VA. More

A helping hand for military veterans
The Huffington Post
You've seen them on street corners and freeway entrances and exits: the unkempt, sunburned men and women who ask for your help and pocket change while holding a sign that says, "veteran."More

Federal benefits won't extend to domestic partners under DOMA ruling
The Washington Post
The Obama administration will not extend federal-worker benefits to domestic partners under the Supreme Court ruling that overturned part of the Defense of Marriage Act, meaning the government will treat civil unions differently than legal same-sex marriages.More

Bill would outlaw job, housing discrimination for troops, vets
Military Times
A bill protecting current and former service members from discrimination in housing and employment was introduced Thursday in the House and Senate.More