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Military Connection: VA Extends AL-TBI Program: By Debbie Gregory

AL TBI ProgramOn October 21, 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it is accepting proposals for the extension of its Assisted Living for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury (AL-TBI) pilot program.

Through the AL-TBI program, eligible wounded Veterans are placed in private sector TBI residential care facilities that specialize in neurobehavioral rehabilitation. In the care of these facilities, Veterans are offered team-based care and assisted living.

The AL-TBI pilot program was originally slated to end this year, but through the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, it has been extended through October 6, 2017. There were 187 wounded Veterans enrolled in the pilot program that was offered in 46 different facilities in 22 states.  There are currently 94 wounded Veterans still enrolled in the program.

With the VA announcing the extension of the program, opportunities are available for care providers to participate in the program. The VA is accepting proposals through November 20, 2014.

To be eligible for the AL-TBI program, contractor facilities must meet state, federal as well as local standards, and must also be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) in Residential Rehabilitation/Brain Injury Program.

Contracts for the extended program are expected to be awarded in February, 2015.

For more information about the AL-TBI Request for Proposal, visit the AL-TBI solicitation announcement on the Fed Biz Ops website, or visit www.fbo.gov

In addition to the AL-TBI extension, the VA is also in the process of the following measures:

Extending the pilot program of Project ARCH (Access Received Closer to Home) through March 31, 2015, and exploring additional contracting options to execute the remaining 18 months of the pilot program;

  • Awarding a contract to the MITRE Corporation, Alliance to Modernize Healthcare, a private not-for-profit company, to support the Independent Assessment of VA health care processes; and
  • Expanding the Fry Scholarship Program to include surviving spouses of service members killed on active duty.

Military Connection: VA Extends AL-TBI Program: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Caregiver Support: By Debbie Gregory

caregiverThe federal government provides support to family members who care for severely injured Post-9/11 Veterans under the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides support through their Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program.

To be eligible for this VA program, Veterans must have sustained a serious injury in the line of duty, on or after September 11, 2001. These injuries include traumatic brain injury, psychological trauma, or other mental disorders. Veterans must also be in need of personal care services due to an inability to perform one or more activities of daily living, and/or need supervision or protection based on their symptoms. This could also include neurological impairment or injury. They must also be enrolled in VA health service to qualify.

It should be noted that illnesses contracted in the line of duty do not qualify a Veteran, and any Veteran with injuries that occurred in the line of duty prior to September 11, 2001 does not necessarily make a Veteran eligible.

The VA’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program provides a multitude of benefits and services for Veteran families that require a spouse or other family member to serve as a caregiver. These benefits include a monthly stipend, access to healthcare insurance (if needed), mental health services, VA caregiver training, respite care, and, in some cases, travel expenses that can include lodging and per diem allotments while accompanying Veterans undergoing care.

While this program is a great resource for thousands of Veteran families, it cannot meet the demand. The VA has projected that it can support no more than 4,000 caregivers through fiscal year 2015. There are currently approximately 16,000 caregivers who have been approved for the Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program.

With the program running at full capacity and only servicing 25% of those eligible, inefficiency and failures are rampant. A review of the program was recently conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and the findings were dismal.

According to the GAO review, VA facilities are ill-equipped to meet the demands, especially when it comes to providing primary care physicians and nurses. These healthcare professionals are charged with forming teams to visit the homes of applicants in order to assess healthcare needs and determine appropriate levels of caregiver support.

Officials from the VA claim that their department does not have enough staff to successfully administer the program. In many regions, there is only one VA Caregiver Support Coordinator for every 250 caregivers. Participants in the program have complained about a lack of training as to how to handle their Veteran’s needs, not being visited by medical professionals, and a multitude of unreturned phone calls.

As it is with many VA programs, the Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program is being assessed for improvement. The VA agreed with recommendations made by the GAO to fix the program so that eligible caregivers get the services they need. It is unclear, at this time, where the improvements will be made, and how long it will take to get the program on track.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Caregiver Support: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Wounded Warrior Project Survey: By Debbie Gregory

Wounded Warrior SurveyOn September 16, 2014, the Wounded Warrior Project released the results of their 2014 Annual Alumni Survey. The organization surveyed more than 21,000 wounded Veterans in an effort to determine the areas where these Veterans struggle after they separate from the Military. The intention is that the data provided by the survey can be used to improve support and benefits for wounded Veterans.

The survey found that the two most common problems in accessing both physical and mental healthcare were 1. Difficulty in scheduling appointments,  and 2. Inconsistent treatment due to canceled appointments and switches in providers. The survey found that this was not just among VA healthcare patients, but among Veterans seen by private providers as well.

The survey revealed that the primary type of current health insurance or coverage cited included Veterans Affairs at 59.2%. This stat was up from 52.7% in 2013.

The percentage of Veterans receiving VA disability benefits is 72%, which is up from 62.8% in 2013.

The number of Veterans with a VA disability rating of 80% or higher rose to 42.6% in 2014, up from 36.2% in 2013.

The study also found that the top five reported injuries and health problems experienced during post-9/11 service were:

  1. Sleep disorders (75.8%)
  2. Post-traumatic stress disorder (75.2%)
  3. Back, neck, and shoulder problems (72.3%)
  4. Depression (67.1%)
  5. Anxiety (64.2%) or

Other important findings from the survey include:

  • The unemployment rate for respondents in the labor force is 13.9%
  • 82.3% of warriors are overweight or obese
  • 75% of warriors reported the memory of an upsetting military experience has haunted them in the past month.
  • 59.2% of warriors say talking with another veteran is in their top five ways for coping with stress
  • 43.2% of warriors report having a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

This is the fifth consecutive year that the Wounded Warrior Project has conducted this survey. The data will allow the organization to identify trends and compare this data with surveys from other military populations.

Download Survey Here.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Wounded Warrior Project Survey: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: New way to Help Wounded Vets by Joe Silva

hotgAs a Veteran, I feel fortunate to live in a time when the American public truly appreciates our military Veterans. Americans feel an even greater responsibility in providing for wounded Veterans, those whose lives will never be the same as a result of their service and sacrifice.

The average citizen who wants to do more for wounded Veterans and their families may not know where to donate or how to help. There are numerous organizations working to improve the lives of our military, once they have completed their service. One non-profit that I can highly recommend is Heels on the Ground (HOTG).

HOTG co-founder Allison Hughes is a former Army Blackhawk pilot, current MBA student, and mother of two rambunctious little boys. Allison is also the primary caregiver for her husband, Special Forces Officer Breg Hughes.  In May, 2012, MAJ Hughes was critically wounded, receiving 3rd degree burns to 50% of his body in an IED strike while serving in Afghanistan. Hughes spent four months in the hospital, including two months in the ICU.

Hughes partnered with former Army officer Katherine Malavenda, a Licensed Professional Counselor with extensive experience working with military families. This Veteran dynamic duo created HOTG with the mission to “improve and enrich the quality of life for caregivers of America’s wounded soldiers by providing local support networks, workshops and holistic retreats.”

The non-profit provides continual support for caregivers, often spouses and family members of wounded war Veterans. HOTG guides caregivers through the healing process, while empowering them to maintain their own well-being so that they can thrive in the face of their challenges. As the caregivers thrive, so will those around them.

Through personal experience and education,  Allison and Katherine have recognized that caregivers, like their charges, face enormous pressures and make tremendous sacrifices.  Yet there are few options and resources for caregivers. HOTG firmly believes that the benefits of peer support groups, education, personal goal setting, meditation, relaxation and physical wellness can greatly improve a caregiver’s ability to cope with stress.  HOTG’s holistic approach combines these methods to promote health and well-being within the caregiver community.

Heels on the Ground hopes to raise $50,000 to cover the cost of hosting 60 caregivers at their first retreat. The retreat will include wellness seminars and classes on stress management, yoga, and meditation. It will also give attendees the opportunity to establish support networks with those who share this common bond. The money will also help HOTG host webinars and establish local support chapters, live quarterly workshops and future retreats.

If you’re looking for a meaningful way to say, “Thanks you for your service,” you have the opportunity to help wounded Veterans by supporting those who love and take care of these heroes 365 days each year. You can also help by spreading the word about Heels on the Ground by posting it on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

DONATE to HOTG here. You can also help by spreading the word about the Heels on the Ground campaign: Post about it on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: New way to Help Wounded Vets! By Joe Silva

Military Connection: New Robotic Arm: By Debbie Gregory

luke armWe’ve all heard the saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” In this day and age, with the various wounds and injuries from war leaving many service members and Veterans in need, advancements in the treatment, care and adaptive equipment are vital.

Innovators from all fields and backgrounds have contributed to improving care for post-traumtic stress, traumatic brain injuries, transporting the wounded and injured, and providing overall healthcare. Segway inventor Dean Kamen is one of the latest innovators to make a much-needed contribution to improve the quality of life for war Veterans.

Kamen invented a prosthetic arm that provides a wide range of motion for amputees. Kamen has nicknamed his invention the “Luke arm,” in homage to the prosthetic arm fitted for character Luke Skywalker in the classic sci-fi saga “Star Wars.”

Amputees can operate the Luke arm through a Bluetooth sensor inside their shoe. The device is about the size of a matchbook, and is designed to mimic the foot’s movements.

Kamen’s company, DEKA, was given a federal grant of approximately $40 million to develop the technology. Kamen took the project on with the understanding that he would not be developing an item for the masses. Kamen knew that he was building this product for Veterans, with the hope that very few people will ever have to rely on his invention

“We didn’t start making these things because we thought it would be a big business,” Kamen said. “We made these things because these soldiers deserve the best possible technology that’s available.”

Kamen saw both a need and a way that he could help. And his invention should improve the lives of the men and women who lost arms from their war wounds. Eventually, all amputees will be able to use Kamen’s invention.

In May, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed DEKA to pursue manufacturing and commercial opportunities for the arm. Kamen said that DEKA is looking for a medical company that would be able take over the manufacturing and distribution of the Luke arm. But he said that his company would pursue the actions on its own if another company can’t be found.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: New Robotic Arm:   By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Great SUPPORT for Vets: By Debbie Gregory

IDEOMany advances in technology and medicine achieved over the last decade have been utilized to improve the care and quality of life for wounded military Veterans. One of the newest innovations is literally helping wounded Veterans get back on their feet.

The device is called an Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeleton Orthosis (IDEO™).  While it looks like a carbon-fiber brace, in actuality, the IDEO does so much more. The IDEO is designed to support and protect lower extremity limb injuries.

IDEO returns considerable functionality to patients who have undergone ankle fusion procedures, and even enables many patients with nerve and muscle loss to forgo ankle fusion *or* tendon transfer. The IDEO device is modular throughout the rehabilitation period to adapt to a patient’s changes in strength and motion. Once the patient has progressed to an adequate level of recovery, the initial modular IDEO™ is replaced with a lighter, more dynamic definitive IDEOsystem.

Several wounded Veterans who were candidates for limb amputations are actually back to running again, thanks to the support of their customizable IDEO device. Using the IDEO, many of these wounded warriors even returned to active duty.

An Army Center for the Intrepid team created the IDEO to increase mobility and decrease pain for wounded service members with lower leg injuries. The design used technology that had previously been used for making prosthetic limbs for amputees.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Great SUPPORT for Vets:   By Debbie Gregory