Senators Urge VA Chief to Fix Veterans Choice Card Program

A coalition of 41 bipartisan senators is pressing Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald to remedy the implementation of the Veterans Choice Card program that allows veterans to seek private medical care.

Read more: http://bit.ly/1zhHVvA and related article http://abcn.ws/1zj70pQ

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VA officials want a Base Realignment And Closure (BRAC) option

Veterans Affairs Department officials want their own version of a base closure process, targeting aging hospitals and clinics they no longer need.  VA Secretary Bob McDonald said the department has 336 buildings nationwide that are less than half-occupied, and many are completely unused. The inventory includes not just historic sites but also aging, out-of-date locations.  But closing any facilities will require support from lawmakers, who have fought viciously against Defense Department requests to close facilities in their districts.

Read more: http://bit.ly/1E46y5i

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New rules on narcotic painkillers cause grief for some veterans

New federal rules that make it harder to get narcotic painkillers are taking a toll on veterans who depend on these prescription drugs to treat a wide variety of ailments, such as missing limbs and post-traumatic stress.  The restrictions, adopted last summer by the Drug Enforcement Administration to curb a national epidemic of opioid abuse are for the first time requiring veterans to return to the doctor every month to renew their medication.

Read more: http://wapo.st/1A6OFkw

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Veterans Administration Health System on GAO’s high risk list

Citing the growing demand for health services among disabled and aging veterans, as well as the challenges of managing a new $10 billion program designed to let former service members receive care from non-VA doctors, the Government Accountability Office listed VA health care as one of the federal government’s “high-risk” programs for 2015.  VA Secretary Bob McDonald said being on the GAO’s high risk list is actually part of his plan to fix the VA.  “I want to be on that list. I want to …

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Veterans, scientists and VA administrators discuss Gulf War illness

Veterans, scientists and VA administrators met in Washington DC to discuss Gulf War illness, a complex disorder that affects some 250,000 veterans of the 1990–91 military operations in the Gulf. After 24 years, the condition is still the subject of intense controversy.

An extensive article in the international science journal Nature covers the issues in detail:http://bit.ly/1xHblqq

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Veterans Affairs Budget Supports Transformation

At a February 11 hearing before the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald and several veteran service organizations spoke on the department’s budget for the coming fiscal year.  McDonald’s remarks focused primarily on efforts at changing the VA’s culture and improving its health and benefits systems. The $169 billion budget proposed by the president aims to address the expanding need for health care and services, improving the efficiency of claims processing, and eliminating veterans’ homelessness.

Read more:http://bit.ly/1E2MbW8

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Wounded Warrior Transition Units Remain Vital

The military may be winding down from more than 13 years of war, but military wounded warrior programs remain a top priority within the Pentagon, officials told Congress recently.  About 14,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are involved or enrolled in warrior care programs, including reserve and Guard members, according to the Department of Defense.  Since the introduction of these programs they have played an important role in helping troops transition to civilian life or return to duty, officials said.

Read more at:  http://bit.ly/1CxLxQU

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Clay Hunt suicide prevention bill becomes law

President Barack Obama signed into law Thursday the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, a bill aimed at reducing military and veterans suicides and improving their access to quality mental health care. Under the new law, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ suicide prevention and mental health treatment programs will be subjected to outside evaluations; an interactive website will be set up with the department’s various resources; allows the VA to collaborate with nonprofit mental health organizations on suicide prevention; incentives will be offered to recruit and retain …

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Veterans want healthcare outside of the VA

A new poll from Concerned Veterans for America shows strong support for health care options outside of Veterans Affairs Department facilities, despite a new announcement from VA officials about plans to cut back on those programs.

Read more: http://bit.ly/1zaWp4G

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Compensation and Retirement Commission Testifies on Health Issues

Health care recommendations by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission would improve health services for military families and actually save lives, commission members told lawmakers in separate hearings.  Members of the House Armed Services Committee grilled members who recommended abolishing Tricare, the healthcare system for service members.  Senators on the Armed Services Committee appear open to recommendations of the Commission, suggesting that the proposals could be adopted in next year’s defense budget.

Read more: http://bit.ly/1u3VsuB and http://bit.ly/1Ki1PhT and http://bit.ly/1DHaFBD

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