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White House Budget Office Announcement
Vets Healthcare Exempt from Sequestration Cuts
Funding for veterans' healthcare programs is not subject to sequestration, the White House budget office announced Monday, ending months of speculation about how across-the-board budget cuts could be applied early next year if Congress cannot find a way to avoid fiscal disaster. Sequestration, looming because Congress and the White House failed to reach an agreement on a 10-year, $1.2 trillion deficit-reduction plan, also will not cut veterans' benefits, leaving only administrative expenses of the Veterans Affairs Department subject to reductions, according to legal opinion issued Monday by the White House's Office of Management and Budget.
The announcement came in a letter to the Government Accountability Office, which had asked the White House for clarification about the automatic cuts' effect on VA.
The Budget Control Act of 2011, which set up mechanism for cutting federal programs if a deficit spending agreement wasn't reached, specifically exempted veterans' benefits but had no clear statement about what might happen to veterans' medical care expenses. While the letter clarifies the situation for veterans' programs, the fate of military benefits remains unclear. The Budget Control Act allows, but does not require, the Defense Department to shield all military personnel programs from sequestration. It appears the military would face a cut of about $57 billion, roughly 18 percent for each account, under sequestration. If personnel programs are exempt, the Defense Department would still have to save $57 billion, and would be forced only to make deeper cuts in its other programs.
Vietnam Veterans of America Applauds VA Decision To Hire More Mental Health Professionals
(Washington, D.C.) "We salute VA Secretary Shinseki for taking action to hire 1,600 new mental health clinicians to move toward better meeting the needs of veterans of every generation," said John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America, in response to the announcement that he has ordered the Department of Veterans Affairs to immediately hire an additional 1,600 mental-health professionals and 300 administrative support staff at VA Medical Centers around the country.
"It is very important that the Secretary ensure these clinicians are properly oriented to the needs of veterans, particularly those with combat-related Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Military Sexual Trauma," Rowan said. "The ongoing medical education of the VA staff is critical to their effectiveness in the treatment and care for veterans suffering from neuropsychiatric wounds.
Over the weekend of April 20-22, Vietnam Veterans of America took part in the Annual Earth Day festivities on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Spearheaded by Quentin Butcher, Business Director, VVA staff and volunteers manned the VVA/Clothingdonations.org booth, helping spread the word about the environmental benefits of recycling. Despite the torrential rain, Debra Menich, VVA New York Donation Director; VVA staffer Deborah Williams; Al Williams; Quiana Butcher; and Stephanie Menich were there to spread the word about www.clothingdonations.org and to encourage all to go green and donate their used clothing.
Time Magazine Report
PTSD and Addiction to Painkillers
After officials determined that more than 35 percent of wounded OIF/OEF soldiers have become addicted to pain medication, the U.S. Army's Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, in early March of this year, addressed the pain-management task force that was created in 2010 to look into alternatives to the use of pain medications in the treatment of PTSD.
"I do believe we're on the right track," Horoho said. "We've seen a decrease in the reliance of polypharmacy—multiple drugs--and many of our warriors have used yoga, acupressure, acupuncture, mindfulness, and sleep management [instead of] vice narcotic pain medicine. We're seeing better patient outcomes." However, a recent report in Time magazine puts such efforts into a different perspective; click here to read the report.
April Is Sexual Assault Awareness Month
Sexual violence is a serious public health problem in the United States, where 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men report that they have been raped or experienced an attempted rape. These figures don't reflect victims of other types of sexual violence or the many victims who fail to report such crimes. If you are being victimized, please seek help. You can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673; visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN); or find resources in your state.
VA Hospital Comparisons Website
VA Launches New Website for Performance Comparisons
VA's OIG Issues Report on Mental Health Wait Times
In response to questions raised by several veterans service organizations, including Vietnam Veterans of America, Congress and the VA Secretary requested that the OIG determine how accurately the Veterans Health Administration records wait times for mental health services for both new patients and established patients visits and if the wait time data VA collects is an accurate depiction of the veteran's ability to access those services. The OIG found that VHA does not have a reliable and accurate method of determining whether they are providing patients timely access to mental health care services. VHA did not provide first-time patients with timely mental health evaluations, and existing patients often waited more than 14 days past their desired date of care for their treatment appointment. As a result, performance measures used to report patient's access to mental health care do not depict the true picture of a patient's waiting time to see a mental health provider.