Category Archives: Veterans Affairs

VA Launches Hotline to Answer Questions on VA Health Care and Benefits for Women Veterans

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 23, 2013

VA Launches Hotline to Answer Questions on VA Health Care and Benefits for Women Veterans

1-855-VA-WOMEN (1-855-829-6636)

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs has launched a new hotline — 1-855-VA-WOMEN — to receive and respond to questions from Veterans, their families and caregivers about the many VA services and resources available to women Veterans. The service began accepting calls on April 23, 2013.

“Some women Veterans may not know about high-quality VA care and services available to them,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “The hotline will allow us to field their questions and provide critical information about the latest enhancements in VA services.”

The hotline is staffed by knowledgeable VA employees who can provide information about benefits including health care services for women. Callers can be linked to information on claims, education or health care appointments as well as information about VA cemeteries and memorial benefits. Staff can answer urgent questions and provide referrals to homeless and mental health services as well as provide Vet Center information.

Women make up nearly 15 percent of today’s active duty military and 18 percent of National Guard and Reserve forces. The population of women Veterans using VA benefits including health care is growing rapidly. Since 2000, the number of women using VA health care more than doubled, from nearly 160,000 in 2000 to more than 354,000 in 2012. Based on the upward trend of women in all branches of service, the number of women Veterans— and female VA users—will keep climbing.

VA is committed to making improvements for the growing population of women Veterans, including the way it communicates with them. In 2010, VA established an outbound call center to contact women Veterans and encourage them to enroll in VA health care.

“In VA health care alone, women constitute only 6 percent of VA patients, but those Veterans have a high perception of the quality care they are receiving,” said Irene Trowell-Harris, director of VA’s Center for Women Veterans. “Many women who served don’t self-identify as Veterans and therefore don’t think they qualify for VA benefits. We need to correct existing misinformation and misperceptions so we can serve more women Veterans with the benefits they’ve earned.”

Women Veterans are entitled to apply for the same benefits as their male counterparts, which include health care and pharmacy benefits as well as education benefits, disability compensation, home loans, employment assistance and more.

The hotline (1-855-VA-WOMEN) joins numerous other VA hotlines that provide critical information and assistance to Veterans, such as those for Veterans in crisis and in danger of becoming homeless. Veterans can also receive information and apply for benefits online at VA’s www.eBenefits.va.gov and manage their health care at MyHealtheVet.va.gov.

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Changes to the Military Pension System

On August 14th, we received an email from 1LT Nicholas Knudtson, a U.S. Army Officer currently serving in Afghanistan.  He passionately expressed in an email his concerns, as well as the feelings of many of America’s fighting men and women, about the current debate to restructure the military pension plan.  Below is a copy of his email:

“Sir or Ma’am
I am a Lieutenant in the United States Army, currently serving in Afghanistan and on my third deployment since 2006.  I am writing to voice my concerns over a proposal to change the retirement and pension structure for 20 year career military service members.  The government has been under pressure to cut costs and reduce spending due to the national debt and this pressure has been passed on to the Department of Defense.  The proposal has been to eliminate the pension for 20 year career Service Members and instead have a 401k plan with matching funds in a corporate model.  The 20year pension has been virtually eliminated in the civilian sector as cost prohibitive; however, there are fundamental difference between the civilian sector and the military.  There are basic freedoms that are sacrificed such as the freedom of speech and assembly.  Soldiers do not have the freedom to choose where to live, no civilian employed can force you to relocate (sometimes out of the country) or be subject to criminal prosecution, soldiers also sacrifice the freedom to quit whenever they chose.  The most obvious difference is that Civilians are not asked to willingly die in the service of their employer.
This has been a Hot Topic of conversation lately.  My concern is not for my own pension when I retire in 14 more years, but for the well being of the Force and the Country.  The vast majority those whom I have spoken over the past few weeks are of the opinion that they will not stay in if this proposal passes.  These are E-6 Staff Sergeants, E-7 Platoon Sergeants, and Captains with 5 to 9 years of service, who were intending to stay for 20 years not first or second term privates and Sergeants.  Senior NCO, Junior Officers, and lower enlisted who can and will make up the senior ranks of the military, will not stay in for the duration of a full career, causing an atrophy of the fighting quality of our forces.
This is an issue that affects the military as a whole.  The traditional 20 year pensions are one of the few incentives that the military has to retain highly trained and experienced men and women in the service.  The Naval fleet would useless without the highly trained nuclear reactor technician.  The Seamen who maintain the reactors are so highly train that the contract is a minimum of 6 years with 2 years of schooling before they reach the fleet for 4 years of service.  These highly trained and skilled personnel   would have no incentive to continue service in the Navy and would take their 401K and go to the civilian sector and work in a power plant making several times more in salary.  The Air Force would not be able to retain the well trained aircraft mechanics who maintain the jet aircraft that provide sir superiority.  The Army would not be able to retain the Logistics Officers who maintain the force and would serve their mandatory 3 years and take their 401k and become a civilian making more money with considerably less rick.  These Service Members are only a small portion of the highly trained and skilled personnel that the military must retain to be functional as a fighting force.  The “voluntary professional military” will certainly become a thing of the past.
It is the professional Soldier, which makes our military the best in the world, not the weapons and technology that they use.   It is not the night vision that the Rifleman uses to see in the dark but the profesional Platoon Sergeant and Staff Sergeants with years of schooling, training, and experience who lead them that makes the U.S. Army the best in the world.  It is not the F-22 Raptor (nearly 2 billion a piece) but the Pilate with hundreds of flight hours that gives America air superiority in all conflicts.  It is not the nuclear powered fleet that are the sea power of the nation, but the men and women on the ships that maintain the technology away from their families for months at a time, that gives America the ability to project it’s power around the globe.  The men and women and families whom are willing to bear the burden of protecting our country are the true strength of our nation and must be valued over all other recourses.
Please take this matter under serious consideration.   While budget issues are serious we cannot sacrifice the strength of our nation, which is the Service Member who serves the nation.   I myself do not know if I can justify to my family staying in the Army after my contract is up in the spring, and subjecting them to another (my 4th) deployment next year, if I cannot retire in 14 more years and finally have the ability to catch up on all of the time I have lost with them.  All of my compatriots are in the same position.  This issue does not just affect the Soldiers, but their families, and ultimately the welfare of the country as a whole.  Attached is a Letter I submitted to Senator Roy Blunt of Misouri, I urge you to contact your Senators and Congressmen in regards to this matter and forward the e-mail to others who are concered with the future of our nation.

Respectfully,

Nicholas J. Knudtson
1LT, IN
3rd PLT, D Co, 2-4 INF
4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division”

If you are moved to do so, leave a reply that tells how you feel about this matter.  Share this blog link with your friends and family.  And most importantly, write or call your Senators and Representatives and let them know that you do not support any measures that would fundamentally destroy the pensions of our servicemen and women.