VAA Dispatch
Aug. 5, 2014

US Senate sends VA reform bill to Obama
The Arizona Republic
The U.S. Senate easily passed a $16.3 billion VA reform measure July 30, sending it to the White House for the president's signature and putting in motion changes to repair the embattled Department of Veterans Affairs. Senators voted against a last-minute procedural attempt to block the bill, clearing the way for resounding final approval on a 91-3 vote. The Senate's approval mirrored nearly unanimous approval by the House the previous day.More

Mortgage rate predictions for August 2014
The Mortgage Reports
According to Freddie Mac's weekly mortgage rate survey of more than one hundred banks, the average 30-year mortgage rates dropped one basis point recently to reach 4.12 percent; and the average 15-year mortgage rates dropped three basis points. Mortgage interest rates are near a 14-month low. Homebuyers have benefitted from low rates all year. Now, refinancing households are benefitting, too.More

GM, Raytheon team up to help Army vets get dealership jobs
The Detroit News
General Motors Co., Raytheon Co. and the U.S. Army are teaming up to help soldiers returning to civilian life get jobs at GM dealerships as service technicians. GM has the largest U.S. dealer network with 4,300 and in the coming years will need about 2,500 new technicians. Such qualified staff can be a struggle to find, while the unemployment rate among returning Army veterans is more than twice the national average. The push comes as the Army plans to reduce its size from 574,000 to 450,000.More

Microsoft training program helping veterans as they transition out of military
Microsoft has rolled out a training program at three military bases to help veterans as they transition out of the military. "As soon as I heard about this opportunity, I jumped on it," said Cpl. Joseph Priest. He is one of 18 Marines at Camp Pendleton taking part in a 16-week Microsoft certification program. "70 percent of those who go through the program are working in the tech industry," said Sean Kelly, who is with Microsoft. Kelly is a veteran himself and served in the Navy.More

New benefit for student vets: In-state tuition
Inside Higher Ed
In passing a compromise piece of legislation aimed at reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Senate July 30 also approved a new benefit for student veterans and their families. The proposal, passed on a 91-3 vote, would require public universities that want to continue receiving GI Bill benefits to offer recent veterans in-state tuition. Veterans’ spouses and dependents would also be eligible for the benefit.More

Helping veterans maneuver the VA system: The American Legion stages outreach
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
The American Legion is sending a team of experts to West Virginia in the coming days to help veterans access their Veterans Administration health care benefits and services. The initiative is part of the American Legion’s nationwide System Worth Saving Task Force. A spokesman says the Legion believes in the quality of care at VA medical centers, and that, despite the scheduling scandals that have topped the news, it values and supports the VA medical system. The Legion wants to restore veterans’ confidence in the specialized care they have earned through their military service.More

How 'Choice Card' and $15 billion will help veterans get care
Stars and Stripes
Veterans reading only headlines, hearing only sound bites, might have a few misconceptions about how Congress and the VA plan to use non-VA healthcare providers to ensure more timely and convenient access to care. A magical sounding item called a “Veteran’s Choice Card,” for example, won’t be a limitless credit card given qualified veterans to cover whatever health services they receive from whatever physician they use. And veterans not already enrolled in VA health care won’t gain accelerated access to outside care as promised by the legislation — unless they serve in areas of combat operations within five years of enrollment. The centerpiece of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 is a special $10 billion Veterans Choice Fund. More

Groups sue VA over rules on PTSD claims for sexual trauma
Navy Times
Two advocacy groups are suing the Veterans Affairs Department for what they say are the department’s discriminatory practices regarding compensation claims related to service-connected sexual assault. Service Women’s Action Network and Vietnam Veterans of America filed a second petition in a lawsuit against VA after the department denied a request to change the requirements for veterans to prove their post-traumatic stress was caused by a rape, sexual assault or harassment while on active duty.More

New study looks at veterans with traumatic brain injuries
San Antonio Business Journal
Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio have conducted a new study involving the medical records of veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars who sustained traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs. Among the findings: More than a quarter of the veterans who experienced a mild traumatic brain injury have a greater likelihood of developing epilepsy than individuals without TBIs. The research also shows that veterans who suffered penetrating or severe TBIs have the highest risk of developing epilepsy.More