Archive for the 'Health & Living' Category

StoryCorps Shares One Veterans Story, in Cartoon Form

Dec 09 2014

Published by under Health & Living

If you’re familiar with StoryCorps, then you know how poignant and moving some of the interviews truly can be. This one is no exception – and StoryCorps has crafted it into cartoon form.

Back in 2005, Marine Lance Cpl. Travis Williams was the sole survivor when his squad was ordered to go on a rescue mission in Iraq and became the victims of a roadside bomb.

In this animated video, Williams recalls the events of the day and how he’s managed to move on.

Read More: Iraq War Vet Tells His Tragic Story in Cartoon Form

A must-watch:


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Veteran’s Treatment Courts

Nov 25 2014

Published by under Health & Living


The Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency (CSOSA) recently produced a recent radio program on Veteran’s Treatment Courts, a component of the highly successful drug court concept. Veteran Treatment Courts are growing rapidly throughout the United States with early indications of success. You can listen to the program online here.

Panelists on this discussion include:

  • Greg Crawford is a Correctional Program Specialist, on the Community Services Division, at the National Institute of Corrections (NIC). Greg’s work at NIC includes Veterans, Children of Incarcerated Parents, and he also manages the Community Corrections Collaborative Network, a network that represents the leading national and international associations for pretrial, probation, parole and diversion programs.
  • Actor and activist Melissa Fitzgerald is the Senior Director for Justice for Vets. Melissa may be best known for her 7-year role as Carol on the NBC smash hit The West Wing. Off-screen she is widely recognized as a courageous advocate for people in need; which includes her work as co-founder of Voices in Harmony, a mentoring outreach program that uses theater to work with at-risk teens.
  • Bernard Edelman is Deputy Director for Policy and Government Affairs for Vietnam Veterans of America. He edited the ENDURING Dear America:  Letters Home from Vietnam. He was associate producer of the Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning documentary feature based on his book; he was co-producer of the documentary short, “Memorial:  Letters from American Soldiers,” which was nominated for an Academy Award.

Check back for additional information, including a Veterans Treatment Court White Paper expected out in December 2014. See

If you’re looking for resources or assistance, visit the MOAA Caregiver Guide for legal advice on the Veterans Justice Outreach Initiative.

For further discussion, watch the panel “Life at Home – Tackling Education, Employment and Justice” from the 2014 Warrior-Family Symposium:


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Friday Fun: A Veterans Best Friend

Nov 21 2014

dogWhen Best Friends Animal Society staff members pulled a pretty, golden-colored pit bull terrier mix from a busy Los Angeles city shelter, no one knew she’d soon find her true calling – twice.

Chata the dog’s incredibly sweet, loving and calm demeanor made her stand out to an adopter in search of a therapy dog to bring to school, where she worked with special- needs children.

Chata went home with the adopter, got certified as a therapy dog and it looked as though she’d found her forever home. But then her adopter was transferred to a different school, one that did not allow pit bull terriers. Despite her gentle nature and special training, Chata wasn’t welcome there.

Her adopter faced a conundrum. Chata thrived in her therapeutic role. Not allowed at the school, she would have to stay home alone all day, instead of being with someone and doing the service work she loved. Her adopter felt the best thing would be for Chata to go back to the Best Friends adoption center, where she could be matched up with someone who needed her.

One week after Chata returned, military veteran Joseph Stanberry came in looking for an emotional support dog. Best Friends adoption specialists immediately told him about Chata, but there was a problem. Joseph had his heart set on a Labrador retriever, having grown up with a Lab who’d been his best friend for years, but he couldn’t find that one who really tugged at his heartstrings. So, he agreed to meet Chata.

When Chata entered the room where Joseph was waiting, she immediately walked up to him, sat down and let him pet her. Upon meeting her, Joseph said, “I just felt like I couldn’t leave there without her,” and with his girlfriend soon decided Chata was the one.

Joseph took his new dog home, complete with her service vest from her former adopter. He renamed her Summer and enrolled her in a training program for dogs and veterans. Summer fulfills her line of duty just by being herself; as Joseph put it, “She helps me with anxiety and depression. I’m also going to have her trained to help me hear (better), because I have a significant amount of hearing loss due to explosions and gunfire in the military.”

dog2Summer now rocks her service uniform and accompanies Joseph nearly everywhere, bringing a sense of calm and duty wherever they go. When Joseph stops, she halts and awaits her marching orders from her captain.

And so Summer and Joseph found a home in each other.

Learn more about how Best Friends helps pets.

Photos courtesy of Joseph Stanberry

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“Video Game for Good” Free to U.S. Veterans Until Year’s End

Nov 19 2014


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.

TogetherStrong_logo_stacked_standardAs 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,  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.

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VA’s “Road to Veterans Day” Report

Nov 10 2014

Published by under Health & Living

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.

50to64testsTo 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.

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