In response to high numbers of U.S. veterans who face emotional and other challenges in civilian life but resist getting help, a New York City tech company has just launched a unique interactive learning experience designed to make a difference. Available online, or as a downloadable app, Together Strong uses gaming technology and interactive role-plays with virtual humans to help veterans practice conversation skills they can later use to motivate a friend to access health care, counseling, or other support if needed.
With its peer-to-peer focus, Together Strong taps into the bonds of never-leave-a-buddy-behind military culture.
As a public health service, Kognito, the developer, is making the program available for free, nationwide, from Veterans Day until the end of the year. The goal is to get hundreds of thousands to download the app or use the online version, which are available at JoinTogetherStrong.com, iTunes and Google Play Store. A version in Spanish is forthcoming.
Together Strong was originally developed by the Veterans Affairs of NY/NJ Healthcare Network and Kognito.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that the “Road to Veterans Day” initiative, announced on September 8th by Secretary Robert A. McDonald, has resulted in significant progress for Veterans over the past 3 months. During that time, VA has taken deliberate actions to improve service delivery for Veterans, rebuild trust, increase accountability and transparency and put the department on the path to long-term excellence and reform.
To improve service delivery, VA has prioritized efforts to accelerate veterans off of wait lists and into clinics through the Accelerated Care Initiative begun by Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson this summer. Significant improvements have resulted nationally:
- Scheduling more than 1.2 million more appointments in the past four months than in the same period last year. In total, VA medical centers have scheduled over 19 million veteran appointments from June to October 1, 2014.
- Reducing the national new patient Primary Care wait time by 18 percent.
- Completing 98 percent of appointments within 30 days of the Veterans’ preferred date, or the date determined to be medically necessary by a physician.
- Authorizing 1.1 million non-VA care authorizations, a 47 percent increase over the same period last year.
Another component of the “Road to Veterans Day” initiative that will continue past Veterans Day is the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) “Blueprint for Excellence,” which lays out strategies for transformation to improve the performance of VA health care now —making it more Veteran-centric by putting Veterans in control of their VA experience.
As part of the “Road to Veterans Day,” Secretary McDonald has reaffirmed VA’s homelessness program and the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Claims Transformation Strategy. VA remains committed to working with its federal, state and local partners to end homelessness among Veterans, which has been reduced by 33% since 2010. With the backlog of disability claims reduced by 60% since its peak in March of 2013, VA is also on track to eliminate the backlog in 2015 and will continue to expand online claim-submission capability in all programs.
Read the full “Road to Veterans Day” report.
Read the full press release from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
MOAA is supporting the Veterans’ Cancer Screening Week again this year, along with the Lung Cancer Alliance (LCA), Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), and American Veterans (AMVETS).
The purpose of this initiative is to educate America’s veterans on their individual risk of developing lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer deaths, and the life-saving benefits of early detection using low-dose CT scans.
The initiative, which has 16 medical centers across the nation this year will be held the week of Veterans Day, Monday, November 10 through Friday, November 14. November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and Veterans Day is November 11.
Through the program, participating screening centers will educate veterans on their risk of lung cancer, offer free risk assessments and help arrange for screenings when necessary. Each participating center is part of LCA’s broader National Framework for Excellence in Lung Cancer Screening and Continuum of Care.
Veterans are at increased risk for lung cancer because of higher smoking rates and exposures during their military service to known cancer-causing agents, such as Agent Orange, asbestos and battlefield combustibles. Screening those at high risk with low-dose CT scans can identify lung cancer at an early and most curable stage even before symptoms occur.
Visit the Lung Cancer Alliance website for the list of medical centers that will be participating in the initiative.
When dealing with issues like military-related stress, PTSD, TBI, sleep issues, self confidence or other problems, there are different tactics and forms of therapy. SPIRIT Serving Veterans is another resource to consider if you or someone you love is looking for an outlet.
Located at the base of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, SPIRIT Serving Veterans provides services in a quiet, private setting. SPIRIT Serving Veterans helps clients become more self aware, and to learn to trust their own intuitions and abilities in an emotionally safe environment.
Participants can include:
- Veterans of any era
- Members of the Virginia National Guard
- Members of the Armed Forces Reserves
- Family members of veterans and service members
Something to take a look at if you’re looking for alternative forms of therapy, though SPIRIT Serving Veterans also offers in-office psychotherapy sessions with a licensed mental health professional, too.
Check them out at http://spiritservingveterans.org for more information on their equine therapy program and even “meet” the horses online!
Photo of actual therapy horses from the SPIRIT Serving Veterans website.
The Dare County Arts Council is seeking applications for a creative writing workshop that will be taught by veterans, for veterans and active duty service members. The workshop returns again to the Outer Banks for the second year on November 15 and 16 and will be absolutely free, accommodating up to twenty-five participants. Registration for the workshop can be found at www.obxvwp.org or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The program first came to the area in 2013 and was met with success. Led by Ron Capps and the instructors of the DC-based Veterans Writing Project, a non-profit foundation that teaches combat veterans to express their military experiences through literature. Modeled after their vision, the goal of the Outer Banks Veterans Writing Project (VWP) is to teach enrolled applicants the art of writing. This program will add a special element to a series of veteran-friendly events sponsored by the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau during November’s Outer Banks Veterans Week, resulting in many moving literary works composed by workshop writers.
For more information on the Outer Banks Veterans Writing Project, including information on how to apply for the upcoming workshop, please visit www.obxvwp.org. Interested parties may also follow the project on Facebook at www.facebook.com/obxvwp.
From the MOAA archives (login required) – Writing to Overcome Trauma: Whether it’s during wartime or decades later, many veterans find writing helps them come to terms with traumatic experiences.