Standing Together to Empower Military Sexual Trauma Survivors
Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is an annual campaign in April to raise public awareness about sexual assault. In its SAAM campaign, VA focuses in particular on sexual assault and sexual harassment occurring during military service – also known as “military sexual trauma” or “MST.” This year, VA’s national theme for SAAM activities is “Standing Together to Empower Military Sexual Trauma Survivors”.
Reflecting on the theme, Timiko Ilion, LPMHC, the MST Coordinator at the Jackson (MS) VA Medical Center, comments that it is about “people from all walks of life embracing one another and providing encouragement to all survivors of military sexual trauma….letting them know that they are not alone and that there is hope, strength, and solidarity for better days ahead.” Rebecca Robinson, LCSW, the MST Coordinator at the White River Junction VA Medical Center, notes that the theme reminds her of the work she does throughout the year to include survivors’ voices in any outreach or educational efforts she engages in. “Veterans in my groups offer thoughts that I subsequently read to the participants I’m presenting to. It gives survivors a chance to speak for themselves and advocate, and feel empowered to be part of our MST response in Vermont.”
In VA, Veterans who experienced MST have access to a wide range of services to assist them in their recovery. MST-related treatment is available at all VA medical facilities and all treatment for physical and mental health conditions related to experiences of MST is provided free of charge. Veterans may be eligible for free MST-related care even if they are not eligible for other VA services, and service connection (VA disability compensation) is not required. No documentation of MST experiences is required. In addition, every VA healthcare system has an MST Coordinator who serves as a contact person for MST-related issues at the facility and can help Veterans access relevant VA services and programs.
Sadly, about 1 in 4 women and 1 in 100 men seen for VA health care report a history of MST when screened by a VA provider. Although the percentage among women is much higher, given the far greater number of men in military service, there are significant numbers of both men and women who have experienced MST. In fact, over 40% of the Veterans seen in VA who disclose MST are men.
Because of this, MST Coordinators and other VA staff make special efforts during SAAM to show support for Veterans who experienced MST, by hosting awareness-raising and educational events. Also, VA’s Make the Connection website has video clips of Veterans sharing their stories of recovery, as a reminder that survivors are not alone in having experienced MST or in having the strength to recover.
For more information, Veterans can speak with a VA health care provider, contact the MST Coordinator at their nearest VA medical center, or contact their local Vet Center. A list of VA and Vet Center facilities can be found at www.va.gov. VA staff can find information on the VA intranet at http://vaww.mst.va.gov.
Military sexual trauma (MST) is the term that the Department of Veterans Affairs uses to refer to sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that occurred while the Veteran was in the military. It includes any sexual activity in which one is involved against one’s will – he or she may have been pressured into sexual activities (for example, with threats of negative consequences for refusing to be sexually cooperative or with implied faster promotions or better treatment in exchange for sex), may have been unable to consent to sexual activities (for example, when intoxicated), or may have been physically forced into sexual activities. Other experiences that fall into the category of MST include unwanted sexual touching or grabbing; threatening, offensive remarks about a person’s body or sexual activities; and/or threatening or unwelcome sexual advances.
Both women and men can experience MST during their service. All Veterans seen at Veterans Health Administration facilities are asked about experiences of sexual trauma because we know that any type of trauma can affect a person’s physical and mental health, even many years later. We also know that people can recover from trauma. VA has free services to help Veterans do this. You do not need to have a VA disability rating (i.e., “service connected”) to receive these services and may be able to receive services even if you are not eligible for other VA care. You do not need to have reported the incident(s) when they happened or have other documentation that they occurred.
With the wind blowing steady through dozens of American flags, the Veteran and Gold Star Families community in central Kentucky dedicated a new memorial Tuesday in honor of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation.
The Get Excited and Move program is designed to enhance and improve muscular strength and endurance, coordination, agility, flexibility, speed work, and voice command for those with Parkinson’s and other movement disorders.
It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. All it takes is an email to us with as much information as you can put together. Click on the picture to the left for an overview of how to put together a great #VeteranOfTheDay package.
Posted: February 4, 2017
On January 19, 2017, Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL) introduced H.R. 303, the Retired Pay Restoration Act. This bill would end the unfair policy of forcing many military longevity retirees to forfeit some of their retired pay in order to receive equal amounts of disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The effect of this policy means military retirees are paying for their own disability with their military retired pay. This unfair policy has adversely impacted disabled veterans and their families for more than a century, but was partially repealed by Congress in 2004. Under current law disabled veterans with 20-plus years of active military service who are also in receipt of a VA disability determination of 50 percent or higher may retain both military retirement pay and their VA compensation.
In line with DAV resolution 110, adopted at our most recent National Convention assembled in Atlanta, Georgia, July 31-August 3, 2016, we support the Retired Pay Restoration Act. H.R. 303 would end the longstanding and unfair practice of the government's withholding of military longevity retired pay in exchange for VA disability compensation, regardless of disability rating. DAV believes what is unfair for a veteran rated 50 percent disabled or higher by the VA is equally unfair for a disabled veteran rated 40 percent disabled or lower. Disabled military longevity retirees should not be unfairly penalized by the government for any reason.
This legislation was referred to the House Committee on Armed Services in addition to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Please use the prepared email, or draft your own message, to request that your Representative support this important bill and ask that it be brought to the floor for a vote and passed as soon as possible.
Thank you for all that you do for veterans and their families. We need your grassroots action to gain Congressional enactment of this important legislation.
PRINT | E-MAILThe Department of Defense announced a policy change that will extend limited online military exchange shopping privileges to all honorably discharged veterans of the military.
The veterans online shopping benefit will be effective this Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
While shopping privileges exclude the purchase of uniforms, alcohol and tobacco products, it includes the Exchange Services’ dynamic online retail environment known so well to service members and their families. This policy change follows careful analysis, coordination and strong public support.
“We are excited to provide these benefits to honorably discharged veterans to recognize their service and welcome them home to their military family,” said Peter Levine, performing the duties for the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
“In addition, this initiative represents a low-risk, low-cost opportunity to help fund Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs in support of service members’ and their families’ quality of life. And it’s just the right thing to do,” Levine added.
The online benefit will also strengthen the exchanges’ online businesses to better serve current patrons. Inclusion of honorably discharged veterans would conservatively double the exchanges’ online presence, thereby improving the experience for all patrons through improved vendor terms, more competitive merchandise assortments, and improved efficiencies, according to DoD officials.
“As a nation, we are grateful for the contributions of our service members. Offering this lifetime online benefit is one small, tangible way the nation can say, ‘Thank you’ to those who served with honor,” Levine said.
Applications to be accepted for 2017 National Veterans Golden Age Games - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will accept applications from Veterans interested in competing in the 2017 National Veterans Golden Age Games beginning Feb. 1. Veterans ages 55 and older and enrolled in VA health care may complete applications online at www.veteransgoldenagegames.va.gov. Applications will be accepted through March 1. (1/9/17)
VA Urges National and Local Partners to Act Now to End Veteran Homelessness - Robert A. McDonald, Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) Secretary today announced a concentrated 30-day effort by VA staff and partners to house as many homeless Veterans in their communities as possible. To accomplish this, Secretary McDonald charged VA’s network of federal, local and nongovernmental partners to target available housing and supportive services to the nation’s most vulnerable Veterans. (1/5/17)
New Members Appointed to VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans - Four new members have been appointed to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Advisory Committee on Women Veterans, an expert panel that advises VA’s Secretary on issues and programs impacting women Veterans. Established in 1983, the committee makes recommendations to the Secretary for policy and legislative changes. (1/3/17)
VA Grants Full Practice Authority to Advance Practice Registered Nurses - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that it is amending provider regulations to permit full practice authority to three roles of VA advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) to practice to the full extent of their education, training, and certification, regardless of State restrictions that limit such full practice authority, except for applicable State restrictions on the authority to prescribe and administer controlled substances, when such APRNs are acting within the scope of their VA employment. (12/14/16)
VA Announces Funding Opportunity for Community Partners Working to End Veteran Homelessness - Building on President Obama’s commitment to end Veteran homelessness, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is announcing the availability of funding for non-profit organizations and other groups that serve Veterans through VA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. The SSVF program assists very low-income Veteran families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. These SSVF grants are available to current grantees seeking renewals and make new funding available for eight high-need communities. (12/13/16)
VA Recommends 14 Future Sites for Fisher House Construction - The Fisher House offers unique accommodations when a family member is receiving treatment at a VA medical center or military hospital. Located near the medical center or hospital, Fisher Houses offer the comforts of home at no cost to families while treatment is underway. To enable Fisher Houses to expand their good work, Department of Veterans Affairs’ Secretary Robert A. McDonald recommended 14 VA medical centers become priority sites for future Fisher Houses. (12/12/16)
New Regulation Decreases Cost of Outpatient Medication Copay for Most Veterans - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is amending its regulation on copayments for Veterans’ outpatient medications for non-service connected conditions. VA currently charges non-exempt Veterans either $8 or $9 for each 30-day or less supply of outpatient medication, and under current regulations, a calculation based on the medication of the Medical Consumer Price Index (CPI-P) would be used to determine the copayment amount in future years. (12/12/16)
VA Awards Grant for Veterans Employment Pay for Success Program - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Center for Innovation, together with the Corporation for National and Community Service’s Social Innovation Fund, awarded the Veterans Employment Pay for Success (VEPFS) Program grant to the social investment firm, Social Finance, Inc. (12/9/16)
VA National Cemeteries Now Offering Pre-Need Eligibility Determinations - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced it now provides eligibility determinations for interment in a VA national cemetery prior to the time of need. Through the Pre-Need Determination of Eligibility Program, upon request, individuals can learn if they are eligible for burial or memorialization in a VA national cemetery. (12/8/16)
Medical School Association Praises VA’s New National Veteran Health Equity Report - The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), representing medical schools nationwide, is recognizing Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) initiatives to advance equity in health care through VA’s new National Veteran Health Equity Report. The National Veteran Health Equity Report advances understanding of the many factors to be considered when treating Veterans. The report can be used as a tool to set treatment goals for vulnerable Veterans in order to reduce health care disparities they experience. Clinicians in VA and in the private sector are already using the report to understand and better address health issues among diverse patient populations. (12/8/16)
Researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs find both herbicide exposure and military service are associated with high blood pressure (hypertension) among Army Chemical Corps Vietnam era Veterans.
Are you ready to make your choices? Advance Care Planning: Your preferences for future health care. Advance Directive: Tell others your preferences and who you have chosen to be your Health Care Agent.
There is an alternative to a nursing home for eligible Veterans. VA's Medical Foster Home Program is for Veterans no longer able to safely live independently. Here are two couples who participate.
Posted: September 2, 2016
Women's Health Services Depression Campaign
VA’s Office of Women’s Health Services (WHS) is partnering with the Office of Women's Mental Health to increase awareness about depression as it relates to women Veterans. Today’s woman Veterans could be our sisters, aunts, mothers, grandmothers or great-grandmothers, with several generations of women veterans in a single family unit.The generational, geographic and culturally diverse cohorts of women Veterans may have unique mental health needs when it comes to seeking help, services and treatment for depression.
VA seeks to increase awareness about depression and help inform women Veterans of information and services available to help them understand, identify and seek treatment for depression. Depression is the most common diagnosis among women Veterans. It goes largely unrecognized. The good news is that it is treatable.
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES FOR WOMEN VETERANS
VA offers a full range of mental health services for women Veterans, including outpatient, residential and inpatient services. Women Veterans can call the Women’s Call Center at 855-829-6636, or download and read VA’s Mental Health Guide(see page 17) to learn more about the available services, which include assessment and evaluation, medication management, and individual and group psychotherapy. Specialty services are available to target diagnoses such as PTSD, substance abuse, depression, conditions related to military sexual trauma (MST), and homelessness.
VA’s rule establishes presumption of service connection for diseases associated with exposure to contaminants in water supply at Camp Lejeune
VA to provide disability benefits for related diseases
WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) regulations to establish presumptions for the service connection of eight diseases associated with exposure to contaminants in the water supply at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, are effective as of today.
“Establishing these presumptions is a demonstration of our commitment to care for those who have served our nation and have been exposed to harm as a result of that service,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Dr. David J. Shulkin. “The Camp Lejeune presumptions will make it easier for those Veterans to receive the care and benefits they earned.”
The presumption of service connection applies to active-duty, reserve and National Guard members who served at Camp Lejeune for a minimum of 30 days (cumulative) between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987, and are diagnosed with any of the following conditions:
• Adult leukemia
• Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
• Bladder cancer
• Kidney cancer
• Liver cancer
• Multiple myeloma
• Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
• Parkinson’s disease
The area included in this presumption is all of Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River, including satellite camps and housing areas.
This presumption complements the health care already provided for 15 illnesses or conditions as part of the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012. The Camp Lejeune Act requires VA to provide health care to Veterans who served at Camp Lejeune, and to reimburse family members or pay providers for medical expenses for those who resided there for not fewer than 30 days between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987.