Friday, November 30, 2018

URGENT Bay Pines Cemetery won't have enough wreaths unless you help

Bay Pines Cemetery struggles to put wreath on every veteran's grave


FOX 13 News
Catherine Hawley
November 29, 2018
Right now, Bay Pines is at 5 percent of its goal, meaning more than 32,000 graves won't get a wreath.

ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) - Each December, volunteers place hundreds of thousands of evergreen, live wreaths on the graves of veterans.
The program started at Arlington National Cemetery in 1992 and now takes place in more than 1,400 cemeteries across the country, including in the Bay Area.

For Ronalee Klase, her brother, Billy's grave couldn't be more perfect.

"I always kid, I say it’s right on the edge just where he lived life," Klase said.

Billy Klase was a Vietnam vet, a martial arts expert, and an avid skydiver. He was laid to rest at Bay Pines National Cemetery in St. Petersburg 14 years ago.

"We try to come out on the anniversary of his death and put some flowers down for him," said Klase.

She also makes sure he gets a wreath during the holiday season.

The cemetery is one of hundreds across the country taking part in Wreaths Across America. Every December, volunteers lay evergreens on the graves of our fallen soldiers, saying every name out loud.
read more here

Vietnam veteran left behind estate for veterans

Montevideo to celebrate major veterans home donation from late veteran's estate


West Central Tribune
Tom Cherveny
November 30, 2018
"This is God working in a mysterious way,'' said Jim Williams of his late brother's donation. Jim said he had mentioned the effort in Montevideo for a veterans home to his brother months ago when his late brother was in the process of developing a trust fund.

Courtesy photos The family of the late Steve Williams, shown here in photos shared by his brother, will make a major donation to the Montevideo Veterans Home. Details will be announced next week.
MONTEVIDEO — A major donation from the family of a late Vietnam veteran is helping make possible the Montevideo Veterans Home, and will be the cause for a special celebration on Dec. 5.

The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs and the city of Montevideo will announce the major gift from the family of the late Steve Williams at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the American Legion Club in Montevideo. Jim Williams, his surviving brother, will join them to announce the details of the gift.

Before Steve Williams died unexpectedly, Jim Williams said his brother had set aside his entire estate to the trust fund with instructions to donate the proceeds to a variety of charitable organizations, five of them serving veterans.

Steve Williams' death came as he was in the process of amending the trust to include the Montevideo Veterans Home as a beneficiary. Family members conferred with the five veterans groups, and an agreement was reached with them to make possible the donation that will be announced Wednesday.

Jim Williams said his late brother had been a frugal man and had invested wisely. He had been married only briefly. The surviving family is hoping to make possible the trust fund donations to all of the organizations chosen by Steve Williams before the year's end, with the Montevideo Veterans Home project being the first to be named, said Jim.
read more here

81 year old veteran living out of his car met guardian cop!

OFFICER GOES ABOVE AND BEYOND JOB DUTIES TO HELP OUT 81-YEAR-OLD HOMELESS VETERAN


Beloit Daily News
Austin Montgomery
November 29, 2018
"I felt so compelled that he should not be living out of his car as a veteran any longer," Rohrer said.
Austin Montgomery/Beloit Daily News Veteran patrol officer Eric Rohrer helped a homeless Korean War veteran get out of the cold last week. Rohrer said he's always looked to help Beloit area residents over his 11 years with the department.

BELOIT - Over the course of his 11 years with the Beloit Police Department, patrol officer Eric Rohrer has always looked to help others.

Last week his commitment to service was on full display after Rohrer, who works the department's second shift, was dispatched to the Beloit Clinic on Huebbe Parkway to help a homeless veteran find shelter as temperatures dropped on Monday night.

After speaking with the 81-year-old named Peter and trying to find temporary housing to no avail, Rohrer took it upon himself to buy the man two night's accommodation at the Rodeway Inn in Beloit.

"It's not something I want recognition for, but it's something that I honestly believe any of my brothers and sisters that I serve with would have done the same thing in that circumstance," Rohrer said.

In talking with staff at the Beloit Clinic and learning the man's background, he found out that Peter had served in the Korean War and had been living out of his car for the last two years.

"He was well-spoken, and at the age of 81 he should not have been living out of his car," Rohrer said. "I don't make all the money in the world, but I am blessed enough to pass my fortunes along to others."
read more here

Sgt. 1st Class Eric M. Emond killed on 7th tour

Sgt. 1st Class Eric Emond, Co-founder of Massachusetts Fallen Heroes, killed in Afghanistan

WCVB 
November 28, 2018


One of the special forces soldiers killed Tuesday in Afghanistan was a co-founder of a Massachusetts organization that provides support for veterans and gold star families. 

Sgt. 1st Class Eric M. Emond, 39, succumbed to wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device struck their vehicle during operations in Ghanzi province, the Department of Defense announced Wednesday. 

Also killed were Captain Andrew P. Ross, 29, and Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan J. Elchin, 25. Emond and Ross were both members of the 3rd Special Forces Group out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. 

Emond was a native of Boston who had more than 21 years of military service in the Marine Corps and Army. He was on his seventh overseas tour. read more here

$600,000 meant for veterans taken by woman who ran charity

Ex-director of DC-based military charity found guilty of fraud, tax evasion


WTOP
Mike Murillo
November 29, 2018
Driscoll resigned in July 2016 after 12 years at the military charity after media reports alleging mishandling of funds. In a tax filing, the foundation reported it had "become aware of suspected misappropriations" by Driscoll totaling about $600,000 from 2006 to 2014.
FILE — Armed Forces Foundation president Patricia Driscoll is shown during an interview at the Venetian hotel-casino Sunday, May 25, 2008, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/ Ronda Churchill)
WASHINGTON — The former executive director of the now-defunct Armed Forces Foundation has been convicted Thursday by a jury of stealing from the charity that helped military veterans and their families.

Patricia Driscoll, 40, of Ellicott City, Maryland, was the executive director of the D.C.-based charity until 2015. During her 12-year tenure, federal prosecutors claimed she used money donated to the organization for herself and to pay expenses for her for-profit business.

In federal forms for the nonprofit, she is accused of falsely categorizing and having others falsely categorize money she spent on herself as money used to benefit veterans, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for D.C. She was also accused of failing to report benefits she received from fundraising, which included commissions.

While allegedly cooking the books, prosecutors said Driscoll also sent fraudulent federal forms to members of the organization’s boards and the Internal Revenue Service in an attempt to cover up her crimes.

A jury found Driscoll guilty on two counts of wire fraud and tax evasion, as well as one count of first-degree fraud. She could face more than 30 years in prison when sentenced.
read more here

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Stop letting suicide awareness take away hope!

Out of Nevada, there is this reminder of what it is like for far too many veterans thinking about committing suicide. 

Nevada is the 6th highest rate for veterans committing suicide in the nation.


Hopelessness, feeling like there's no way out


Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness, mood swings

Feeling like there is no reason to live


Rage or anger

Engaging in risky activities without thinking

Increasing alcohol or drug abuse

Withdrawing from family or friends

Frequently talking about death or suicide

Self-destructive behavior such as drug abuse, weapons, etc.

The presence of these signs requires immediate attention.
If one of these "awareness" raisers wonders what they are doing wrong...you just got the answer everyone needs to be made aware of! Reminding them of veterans giving up, does not give them hope back. It just takes it away!


Someone robbed from future home of amputee veteran

Thieves steal materials from disabled veteran's future home

KIRO 7 News 
By: Shelby Miller 
Nov 28, 2018 

“I lost both of my limbs, obviously. Both of my ear drums blew out, my left eardrum was 100 percent, my right eardrum was 25 percent. The blast threw me back,” he said. “It gave me a traumatic brain injury because I hit my head so hard and it also gave me two bulging discs in my lower spine,” said Sawyer. Since then, the retired army veteran has overcome the unthinkable. Now, he has to deal with even more. 

Thieves in Maytown, Thurston County, stole more than $5,000 worth of building materials from the construction site of a disabled veteran’s future home. 

“When you feel like you’re not really worthy of a home in the first place and then you come out here and you find somebody’s broken into a box and stolen a bunch of materials, you know, from your project that have been donated for free - that just makes me feel even worse,” said Sgt. Jereme Sawyer.
The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office said the theft happened at 4022 150th Ave. SW.

Those who’d like to help can donate to Homes For Our Troops. Anyone with information is asked to call the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office at 360-704-2740. read more here


Man convicted of selling fentanyl to veteran with PTSD

Kalamazoo man convicted of selling fentanyl to veteran with PTSD, causing his death


FOX 17 News
BY BOB BRENZING
NOVEMBER 29, 2018

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A Kalamazoo man has been convicted in federal court for distributing the drug fentanyl to a veteran with PTSD, causing his death.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office announce that Deondray Abrams, 26, was convicted by a jury Wednesday evening after a two-day trial in the death of Brandon Demko. Abrams is scheduled to be sentenced on April 8 and faces life imprisonment due to prior convictions.

The U.S. Attorney says that Abrams sold fentanyl as heroin to Demko on March 21, 2017. Demko used the drug thinking it was heroin and lost consciousness. Responding officers from Kalamazoo DPS and Life EMS were not able to revive Demko and he died.

Demko was a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
go here for more

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer Suicide Inquest hard to digest

Late RCMP officer's supervisor breaks down in tears at coroner's inquest


THE CANADIAN PRESS
Updated: November 28, 2018

Ward said he would have spoken to Lemaitre after the Dziekanski incident but there were no discussions about correcting the information because once it was out in the media, there was not much that could be done about it.
A supervisor of an RCMP officer who took his own life in 2013 broke down Wednesday as he read the last few emails exchanged between the two men to a coroner’s inquest.

RCMP Supt. Denis Boucher, who was Pierre Lemaitre’s supervisor when he was moved to the traffic division, tells him they could meet up for coffee and chat in one of the emails.

“Hope you’re making progress in your recovery,” Boucher said, reading from one of his exchanges with Lemaitre. “I just wanted to let you know that I’ll always help you if I can.”

A few people in the courtroom also wiped away tears as they listened to the interaction between them.

Lemaitre was a sergeant and a media spokesman for the RCMP when he released inaccurate information, which the inquest has heard he wasn’t allowed to correct, about a man who died after a confrontation with police at Vancouver International Airport in 2007.

Lemaitre’s former family doctor and psychologist have told the inquest he had post-traumatic stress disorder from dealing with victims of crime but the incident involving Robert Dziekanski increased his depression and anxiety.

A former media strategist for the Mounties accused the department of betraying Lemaitre, testifying that he had been “hung out to dry” by his superiors who wouldn’t allow him to set the record straight. Atoya Montague told the inquest that Lemaitre was used to tell a false story about the death of Dziekanski, a Polish man who couldn’t speak English and became agitated after wandering around the airport arrivals area for 10 hours.
Boucher said he was aware that Lemaitre was suffering from PTSD and depression. He also described him as someone who had a strong work ethic.

Meanwhile, Lemaitre’s supervisor in the media division said Lemaitre didn’t seem overly stressed about the misinformation he gave the media after Dziekanski’s death.

John Ward, a retired staff sergeant, said part of the job of a communications officer is to trust that the information going out to the media is largely correct.

He was asked by a juror whether the RCMP was generally aware when it gave out incorrect information.

“I can’t recall where we gave out wrong information,” he replied. “We were careful about the information we gave out.”
read more here


‘They want to disappear’: psychiatrist speaks to Mounties’ PTSD struggle

GI Bill Forever a headache for veterans!

Today there was this release from the VA.
Statement by Secretary Robert Wilkie on Forever GI Bill Housing Benefit Payments

To clear up any confusion, I want to make clear that each and every post-9/11 GI Bill beneficiary will be made 100 percent whole – retroactively if need be – for their housing benefits for this academic year based on Forever GI Bill rates, not on post-9/11 GI Bill rates.

I made this clear to Chairmen Isakson and Roe on calls yesterday and want to reassure Veterans and taxpayers that is indeed the case.

Although VA has encountered issues with implementing the Forever GI Bill on Congress’ timeline, we will work with lawmakers to ensure that – once VA is in a position to process education claims in accordance with the new law – each and every beneficiary will receive retroactively the exact benefits to which they are entitled under that law.

And yesterday NBC News reported this.

Veterans Affairs Dept. tells Capitol Hill it won't repay underpaid GI Bill benefits recipients
By Phil McCausland

For weeks, student veterans across the country have raised an alarm about delayed or incorrect GI Bill benefit payments, which the Department of Veterans Affairs has blamed on computer issues.

But on Wednesday, the department told congressional staffers that it would not reimburse those veterans who were paid less than they were owed, two committee aides told NBC News.

The news conflicts with a promise VA officials made to a House committee earlier this month that it would reimburse those veterans who received less than the full amount they were due.

According to the aides, however, the VA said it could not make retroactive payments without auditing its previous education claims, which it said would delay future claims. The aides asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

NBC News previously reported that some veterans were forced into desperate financial straits stemming from a change in calculating housing allowances under the Forever GI Bill, which President Donald Trump signed into law in July 2017. When its computers were unable to process that change, the VA quickly faced a backlog of veterans’ claims three times higher than normal.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Six years later, Suicides After War


Facebook let me know about something I put up six years ago.


Shocker for a couple of reasons. The first is, I hardly ever think about this book and the other is, the numbers are far worse than they were back then.

If you haven't heard of this book, that is Ok since a lot of people haven't. One person liked it.


May 14, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase



Since I write so much on the subject of PTSD and suicides, I forget a lot of things I've written, but the thing is, I remember most of their stories. I had to go back and take a look at this book. Totally sadden by the fact that the military and the VA still has not figured out what people like me learned decades ago.

We learned because it was all too personal to us. It was not just something to research, but it was our lives. What we failed to do, meant someone we loved would suffer, and usually, that meant our entire family. What we succeeded at is what kept us going. Knowing that the other side of all of this is beyond measure. Seeing these magnificent men and women heal is the reason I get up every morning.

Sure it would be great to not have to work a regular job and the do this the rest of the day, but I really think that is one of the biggest reasons I find it so reprehensible that so many are making money, and having fun, because they talk about veterans committing suicide.

We lived it. We have seen so many coffins filled that when I did the first video on suicides back in 2007, I had to call the President of Point Man to help me recover. The heartbreak was tearing me apart.


Anyway, tonight I am sitting here, reminded yet again, of how much we learned over all these years, and how it is all being thrown away, including the veterans all these people claim to be working so hard for. 



From THE WARRIOR SAW, Suicides After War

By the time I finished writing FOR THE LOVE OF JACK, HIS WAR MY BATTLE in 2002, troops had been in Afghanistan for months and there was only talk of sending more into Iraq.  My heart was already breaking knowing what was coming for far too many of the war fighters and their families. Remembering what it was like to feel alone with this struggle, I tried to do something about it for others.  

I started blogs and websites but was getting angry more about the fact I had to search for hours just to find the few stories being covered.  That’s when I decided that I would put all their stories in one place so that no one felt as if they were the only going through all of this.  It was also in an attempt to avert what happened to Vietnam veterans like my husband suffering from PTSD along with the secret we thought we had to keep.  

Wounded Times Blog began in August of 2007, had over 18,000 posts by the time this book was finished and was viewed over 1 million times. There are 2,727 posts on Combat and PTSD, 4,822 on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and 988 on military suicides.

The stigma of PTSD has always been a barrier to getting the help they needed to heal, which was obvious, but what most people did not know was it added to their suffering when they believed it was their fault they had it and there was something “wrong” with them.

In October of 2007 psychiatrists with the American Psychiatric Association published a study on stigma and found “RESULTS: Stigma was portrayed as a major disadvantage to treatment seeking. Yet most participants indicated that people would be supportive of treatment seeking. Reducing symptoms was a major advantage of care. Barriers, especially those viewed as "self-induced," such as pride, not being able to ask for help, and not being able to admit to having a problem, were considered major impediments. CONCLUSIONS: The findings suggest that interventions developed to engage veterans in care must be directed toward cognitive factors that motivate treatment seeking. “

By the time that study was released I had been putting videos up on YouTube for a year to make sure veterans knew what PTSD was all about and do it in terms that put it simply without all the psychiatric jargon I had to suffer reading when there was absolutely nothing else to learn from.  No self-help books in the 80’s, no Internet in homes and no one in the civilian world were talking about any of this.

So why are we reading reports on Military Suicides reaching an all time high in 2012 after all these years? Because average people had no way of knowing what it was, what to do about it and very few knew how to save their lives.  We relied on the media to inform us and they let us down.



How do I begin to tell you the story of what happens after war when too few even know what it is like for them during it?  We didn’t pay attention when our parents and grandparents came home and wanted to tell us stories while we were growing up.  We got bored.  It didn’t dawn on me that while I was reading about the Korean War and WWII in school, I had veterans of those wars in my own family.  It was not until I grew up and fell in love with a Vietnam veteran in 1982 that I started to care enough to learn.

Maybe that is the way to start this.  To make it all personal to you dear reader you need to know the men and women just as much as you need to know the numbers.  You need to know where we are, how we got here and what can be done about it. So we’ll start with some numbers.

The Gulf War lasted six months.  It claimed the lives of 382 US troops. Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, 2001-2013 has claimed 2,178 US troops so far. 310 of them were killed in 2012. Operation Iraqi Freedom 2003-2012 had claimed 4,486 US troops. 1 was killed in 2012. Yet the deadliest year was in 2012 and claimed more lives connected to military service than any other year, but their deaths were by their own hands. 

This nation has spent about a billion dollars on efforts to prevent suicides but after all these years evidence proves they did not work.  Congress kept funding programs no matter what happened and then they had to hold countless hearings listening to family members plead with them to do something about war fighters killing themselves.

These are the deaths from suicides for 2012.
Army 182
Army National Guards 96
Army Reserves 47
Marines 48
Air Force 59
Navy 60
492 total reported suicides from one year alone. 

Added onto those suicides came news that at least 22 veterans take their own lives everyday. Every major media outlet continued to use the wrong numbers while declaring headlines like “the worst year” when their numbers were only 349.  CNN had the Army total right but left out the other branches. “325 Army Suicides in 2012 a record” reported by Tom Watkins and Maggie Schneider on February 2, 2013. The issue there is it left people wondering about the others in the Marines, Marine Reservists, Navy, Air Force and Air National Guards. 

In February those numbers were revised to add a soldier to the 7 reported in January another Army National Guardsman. This news was buried in the report from the Department of Defense news release for January suicides, 19 “potential” soldiers, 6 Army National Guardsmen and 8 Army Reservists.

That is where we are.  How did we get here? What went so wrong they were surviving in combat but not coming home? How do we change what happens to them so they stop finding life more dangerous here than it was in combat? This war after war requires something that cannot be purchased like the newest and latest weapon the Pentagon drools over. It requires something that is freely given because it was received freely.  It requires us to make the difference for them.

Bill Gates didn’t start Microsoft until 1975 and most households did not have a personal computer until the 90’s.  Things were going on the same as they are now only people didn’t have Facebook to share their heartaches or find support groups to turn to.  There was no way to track stories across the country because no one was going to subscribe to every newspaper and there were a lot more of them back then.  National news on TV was actually national news but time limits didn’t allow for anything more than what producers considered the top stories while now we have 24-7 cable news stations.  The producers of these “shows” don’t seem too interested in the veterans because stunningly most Americans thought the troops were out of Afghanistan a long time ago.

If you’re wondering why suicides went up after the Suicide Prevention Hotline went into effect, after bills were passed by Congress, which there were many, after the Department of Defense put into practice prevention programs beginning with Battlemind replaced by “Resilience Training” then you are not alone.  The truth is, after over 40 years of researching what combat does to those we send, the Congress, Department of Defense, the VA and “mental health professionals” have arrived to fight this enemy unarmed.

If you want to read it, go to the link but if you have been reading this site since 2007, when it went up, you probably know everything in the book already.

All of this goes into why I started PTSD Patrol. Someone has to be reminding all of you that you are so worth every effort, and a hell of lot more than you have been getting.

So I will leave this post with this message...Let this be your alive day! (PS old video when the VA said it was 18 veterans committing suicide. We know the truth better now than we did back then.)

Indiana changing the conversation from suicide to actually preventing them

Vets helping vets


CNHI News Indiana
By Haley Cawthon
2 hrs ago

Tackling mental health issues, one conversation at a time
“I served in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, during the Cold War and then during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, so there’s that connection with my fellow veterans in terms of deployments, missions and that sort of thing. In the Army they have this thing called your battle buddy, in the Navy it’s your shipmate, in the Air Force it’s your wingman — it’s the concept of leaving nobody behind and we are all in this together.” Ken Gardner

In a divisive time in the United States, almost all politicians and civilians can find common ground when it comes to supporting the troops. Yet, veterans are still dying daily due to a lack of mental health services.
In 2016, 6,079 veterans died by suicide across the country, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Seventy of those deaths occurred in Indiana, and more than half of those veterans were 55 or older.

As bleak as those statistics are, there is somewhat of a hidden silver lining: Indiana’s veteran suicide rate of 16.7 percent is significantly lower than the national rate of 30.1 percent, and even the Midwestern region suicide rate of 28 percent.

So while there is still room for improvement, the Hoosier state appears to be leaps and bounds ahead of the nation. What sets us apart?

Recognizing the signs

Part of the solution to improving veterans’ mental health lies within another persons’ ability to notice the veteran is struggling before a crisis occurs, said Brandi Christiansen, a Navy veteran and executive director of Mental Health America of North Central Indiana. If no one intervenes, a veteran struggling with mental illness can become dangerous to themselves or others.

“We are waiting too long. We are waiting too long to have difficult conversations, we’re waiting too long to get help and identify those warning signs and symptoms,” Christiansen said. “I think we have become complacent as a society.”

According to the VA, about 11 to 20 out of every 100 Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom veterans have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). About 12 out of every 100 Gulf War veterans and 15 out of every 100 Vietnam veterans also suffer from PTSD.
read more here

Con-combat veteran Marine nabbed by honorable one

Man's tip led to arrest of US Marine accused of posing as decorated combat veteran


KOMO News
Al Pefley
November 27, 2018
Finally, he got Haerlin’s military records that show although he was in fact a Marine, Haerlin never served in combat and he was discharged “under other than honorable conditions.”

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (CBS12) — A Port St. Lucie man is accused of posing as a decorated combat U.S. Marine veteran who served overseas.

This case started a few months ago, when sheriff’s detectives got a tip.

The tip came from a real U.S. Marine veteran who says he had information that bothered him so much, he had to go to law enforcement.

“It is a shame, in every sense of the word. It’s a shame,” said Robin Barker, a Port St. Lucie resident.

Barker spent two years in the Marine Corps in the 1970’s.

He’s the man who went to the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office and provided a tip that led to the arrest this week of 56-year-old Cary Haerlin.

“When I realized over a period of time that he was a master at deception, I wasn’t gonna let it go,” he said.
read more here

VA UPDATE on GI Bill

Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs


Post-9/11 GI Bill Housing Payment Rates Update

November 28, 2018
Post-9/11 GI Bill Housing Payment Rates Update
WASHINGTON – Today the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced key changes in the processing of GI Bill benefits payments under the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 (Forever GI Bill).Because of continued information technology difficulties with implementing sections 107 and 501 of the law, both of which change the way monthly housing allowance payments are calculated, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has directed Under Secretary for Benefits Paul R. Lawrence to take the following actions:
  • Effective Dec. 1, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) will reset its implementation efforts for sections 107 and 501 of the law to give the department the time, contracting support and resources necessary to develop the capability to process Spring 2020 enrollments in accordance with the law by December 1, 2019.
  • This includes soliciting bids from contractors for support in the areas of program integration, systems implementation, and software development. 
  • During this time, VBA will pay monthly housing allowance rates for the Post-9/11 GI Bill at the current academic year uncapped Department of Defense (DoD) Basic Housing Allowance (BAH) rates.
  • For many students, this DoD BAH rate will be equal to or higher than their current payment.
  • VBA will also correct retroactively any underpayments resulting from section 107 and 501 implementation problems.
  • If a student was overpaid due to the change in law or because of VBA’s challenges in implementing the law, the student will not be held liable for the debt.
  • Also, for the current academic year (2018-2019), VBA will pay housing allowances based on the location of a school’s main campus, rather than the physical location of the student.
  • This interim policy will terminate by December 1, 2019, upon implementation of a fully developed IT solution for sections 107 and 501 of the law.
  • Finally, VBA will define a training site as a “campus” when the following conditions are true: the physical site of the training is either owned or leased by the school, and the school has ownership or control over the student’s classroom instruction or the faculty conducting the instruction. This approach reduces the administrative burden for schools and students from VBA’s initial interpretation of the law.
As these changes are implemented, VBA will remain in continuous contact with Veterans, Congress, Veterans Service Organizations and other stakeholders to ensure everyone is informed and knows what to expect. 
“Redesigning the way VBA calculates Post 9/11 GI Bill housing rates during a busy academic season was like flying a plane while building it, and that was unfair and frustrating to Veterans and taxpayers. That’s why we are resetting our implementation of the law for the next year to ensure we get the technology and formula right to put Veterans first,” said Secretary Wilkie. “In the meantime, beneficiaries receiving Post 9/11 GI Bill housing allowances will be paid at the DoD BAH rate, which in many cases will be equal to or higher than their current payment.” 
While VBA’s pending education claims inventory was three times higher than normal in early September, that figure is back to normal levels. For more information on VBA’s pending education claims inventory, see here.

VBA strongly encourages schools to begin submitting enrollments immediately for the Spring 2019 term to help VBA process them in a timely fashion. This will ensure that Veteran students receive their housing payments promptly and schools receive tuition and fee payments. VBA expects to maintain timeliness standards of an average 28 days for a new enrollment and 14 days for a re-enrollment.

If students require assistance with their GI Bill benefit or experience a financial hardship due to a delay in payment, we ask them to contact our Education Call Center at 888-442-4551 between 8 a.m. - 7 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday-Friday.  Students may also keep in contact with VA on our social media sites; on Facebook at www.facebook.com/gibillEducation/ or on Twitter at VAVetBenefits.

Share Your Thoughts On New Caregiver Act

Department of Veterans Affairs wants to know what we think about the new Caregiver Act

Request for Information

Through this notice, we are soliciting information on certain changes made to PCAFC by the MISSION Act. We ask respondents to address the following questions, where possible, in the context of the discussion in this document. Commenters do not need to address every question and should focus on those that relate to their expertise or perspectives. To the extent possible, please clearly indicate which question(s) you address in your response. As previously mentioned, responses to this request will inform our updates to PCAFC.
Accordingly, we request comments on the following:
1. How should VA define “a need for regular or extensive instruction or supervision” in the new 38 U.S.C. 1720G(a)(2)(C)(iii)?
a. Should this be based upon frequency of intervention needed by the veteran or level of complexity of intervention? Should this be based upon the impact to the veteran if such instruction or supervision is not provided? If so, how should this be measured?
b. What constitutes “regular” instruction or supervision?
c. What constitutes “extensive” instruction or supervision?
2. How does “a need for regular or extensive instruction or supervision without which the ability of the veteran to function in daily life would be seriously impaired” differ from “a need for supervision or protection based on symptoms of residuals of neurological or other impairment or injury?”
a. How should VA define and assess “a need for supervision or protection based on symptoms of residuals of neurological or other impairment or injury”?
b. Are there established standards VA should model?
3. How should VA assess whether the ability of the veteran to function in daily life would be seriously impaired without regular or extensive instruction or supervision?
a. Are there existing tools or assessments that could be used?
b. How should “seriously impaired” be defined?
i. For example, should there be a standard of time in which a veteran is expected to be able to function without the need for a caregiver, and once that period of time is exceeded, a need for a caregiver is required due to the impairment of the veteran? Is there a minimum period of time lapse that a veteran should be expected to be able to function and upon exceeding that time, might meet this eligibility criterion?
ii. Are there standards that should or could be used to determine when a veteran's ability to function in daily life is considered seriously impaired without regular or extensive instruction or supervision?
iii. How should “ability to function in daily life” be defined?
4. What specific financial planning services relating to the needs of injured veterans and their caregivers should be made available to primary family caregivers under the new 38 U.S.C. 1720G(a)(3)(A)(ii)(VI)(aa)?
a. Should entities provide these services for free?
b. Are there specific financial planning services that should be excluded?
c. How should these services be made available and/or delivered? Should these be provided in person, online, and/or via telephone?
d. Should there be a limit as to how many times a primary family caregiver has access to these services? If yes, should it be an annual limit or lifetime limit? Should it be limited by some other measure?
e. What types of private organizations provide these services?Start Printed Page 60968
i. What services do they provide?
ii. How are the services provided?
iii. Do these organizations provide these services for free?
iv. Do these organizations contract with other entities to provide these services? Do these organizations receive grants to provide these services?
f. What other Federal/state/local agencies offer these services?
i. What services do they provide?
ii. How are the services provided?
iii. Do these agencies provide these services for free?
iv. Do these agencies contract with other entities to provide these services? Do these agencies receive grants to provide these services?
5. What specific legal services relating to the needs of injured veterans and their caregivers should be made available to primary family caregivers under the new 38 U.S.C. 1720G(a)(3)(A)(ii)(VI)(bb)?
a. Should entities provide these services for free?
b. Are there specific legal services that should be excluded?
c. How should these services be made available? Should these be provided in person, online, and/or via telephone?
d. Should there be a limit as to how many times a primary family caregiver has access to these services? If yes, should it be an annual limit or lifetime limit? Should it be limited by some other measure?
e. What types of private organizations provide these services?
i. What services do they provide?
ii. How are the services provided?
iii. Do these organizations provide these services for free?
iv. Do these organizations contract with other entities to provide these services? Do these organizations receive grants to provide these services?
f. What other Federal/state/local agencies offer these services?
i. What services do they provide?
ii. How are the services provided?
iii. Do these agencies provide these services for free?
iv. Do these agencies contract with other entities to provide these services? Do these organizations receive grants to provide these services?

Paperwork Reduction Act

This request for information constitutes a general solicitation of public comments as stated in the implementing regulations of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 at 5 CFR 1320.3(h)(4). Therefore, this request for information does not impose information collection requirements (i.e., reporting, record keeping or third-party disclosure requirements). Consequently, there is no need for review by the Office of Management and Budget under the authority of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.).

Signing Authority

The Secretary of Veterans Affairs approved this document and authorized the undersigned to sign and submit the document to the Office of the Federal Register for publication electronically as an official document of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Robert L. Wilkie, Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs, approved this document on November 19, 2018, for publication.
Dated: November 19, 2018.
Jeffrey M. Martin,
Assistant Director, Office of Regulation Policy and Management, Office of the Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs.
[FR Doc. 2018-25763 Filed 11-26-18; 8:45 am]
Do you think Congress should have figured all this out ahead of time?