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  • Joint EU-U.S. Statement following the EU-U.S. Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Meeting

    Joint EU-U.S. Statement following the EU-U.S. Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Meeting



    (November 9, 2018) - - Today, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security published the following information:

    On 9 November 2018, the EU-U.S. Ministerial Meeting on Justice and Home Affairs took place in Washington DC. The United States of America hosted the meeting and was represented by the U.S. Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker and Secretary for Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen.

    The European Union was represented by the Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos, as well as by the Austrian Federal Minister for the Interior Herbert Kickl, the Austrian Federal Minister for Constitutional Affairs, Reforms, Deregulation and Justice Josef Moser, the Romanian Minister of the Interior Carmen Daniela Dan and the Romanian Secretary of State for Justice Sebastian Costea on behalf of the current and incoming Presidencies of the Council of the European Union.

    The United States and the European Union reaffirmed their commitment to jointly address common challenges in the areas of justice and home affairs and praised the excellent level of exchanges and operational cooperation, for the benefit of the security of citizens on both sides of the Atlantic.

    The United States and the European Union underlined the importance of effective information sharing for their shared efforts to combat terrorism, focusing on battlefield information, Passenger Name Records (PNR) and aviation security. Participants emphasised the importance of PNR information sharing as a tool for the prevention of terrorist travel and agreed to prepare for a joint evaluation in 2019, in compliance with the provisions of the EU-US PNR Agreement. The United States and the European Union recognised the need to enhance their efforts to address the challenge of terrorists’ use of the internet to direct and inspire attacks, while respecting individual rights, including freedom of speech. Both sides shared information on their respective initiatives, including efforts to better engage and partner with service providers.

    The United States and the European Union recognised that electoral systems in democratic states face unprecedented challenges that require innovative and comprehensive solutions, as well as cooperation and best practice exchanges between like-minded countries. On that topic, participants briefed each other on current actions to build more resilient electoral systems. In order to promote exchanges between relevant experts from both sides on current challenges to elections, including such challenges as disinformation campaigns and other forms of online and offline interference, the United States and the European Union agreed to set up a regular dialogue on these matters, the details of which should be developed at the next Senior Officials meeting in 2019.

    The United States and the European Union reiterated the priority they attach to fighting cybercrime and enhancing cybersecurity. They recognised the need to maintain a global, open, stable and secure cyberspace for the promotion of economic and social development and, in this context, stressed the valuable contribution of joint work conducted by U.S. and EU law enforcement agencies to combat, deter and prevent cybercrime and called for the expansion of such cooperation, as appropriate. Participants also acknowledged the challenge in obtaining timely and lawful access to encrypted data, in accordance with individual rights and civil liberties, by those investigating and solving criminal offenses and exchanged views on their respective practices to counter such challenges. Participants took note of the dialogue that took place in Brussels between the cybersecurity experts at DHS and the EU and agreed to continue to collaborate to strengthen the cybersecurity posture on both sides of the Atlantic.

    The United States and the European Union agreed on the importance for both law enforcement and judicial authorities of swift cross-border direct access to electronic evidence, as demonstrated by recent legislation approved or under examination in the United States and the EU. Participants further recognised the benefit of exploring, and agreed to discuss, the possibility of an EU-US agreement to facilitate access to electronic evidence.

    The United States and the European Union exchanged information on developments in the area of migration and border management, with a particular focus on efforts to prevent and combat migrant smuggling and trafficking of human beings. The United States and the European Union agreed on the importance of advancing towards reciprocal visa free travel under their respective legal frameworks and, following the most recent tripartite meeting on visa reciprocity, welcomed the progress of the five concerned Member States towards meeting the statutory requirements of the Visa Waiver Program, in order to be considered for designation in the programme.

    The United States and the European Union underscored their shared concerns about the major international drug-control threats posed by illicit synthetic opioids , including fentanyl and its derivatives. Both sides took note of the U.S.-EU Political Dialogue on Drugs held on October 18, 2018.

    Reiterating the progress made and the need to face global challenges together, the European Union and the United States remain committed to reinforce their partnership and meet again in the first half of 2019 in Bucharest, Romania.





    Credit: U.S. Department of Homeland Security
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  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs takes Key Step to Improve its Website to provide Veterans an Enhanced Digital Customer Experience

    U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs takes Key Step to Improve its Website to provide Veterans an Enhanced Digital Customer Experience


    Washington, DC - - (November 13, 2018) - - This week the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) took a key step in its digital modernization effort by revamping its website accessed by 10 million customers per month who use VA’s tools and content online.

    To improve this experience VA’s Veterans Experience Office and VA Digital Service gathered feedback from more than 5,000 Veterans, service members, their families, caregivers and survivors.

    Many customers said they were having a frustrating experience, encountering a complicated collection of websites, forms, logins and tools. Through feedback, VA learned that many of them struggled to find what they needed. By listening to Veterans and working across VA organizational boundaries, the new VA.gov website shifts from a “VA as an organization” to a “customer-first” platform.

    “Veterans, their families, caregivers and our many customers have successful online transactions in their day-to-day lives,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “They should expect the same exceptional digital experience when coming to VA. Our customers will receive a more simple and intuitive experience when accessing our online front door – the new VA.gov.”

    The new site contains homepage content that focuses on the top 20 tasks that 80 percent of VA’s customer’s need, the ability to login to receive a personalized experience and easy to understand plain language content. Logged in customers will find a dashboard summarizing the current status of services they receive from VA, whether those services are provided by the Veterans Health Administration – such as prescription refills or the Veterans Benefits Administration – such as claim status. Customers can also update their contact information in one location rather than visiting multiple VA websites or making multiple calls.

    VA is demonstrating that it is possible for Federal agencies to give the American people the online experience they expect and deserve. VA has been identified as the “co-lead” of the White House cross-agency priority goal on improving customer service.





    Credit: U.S Department of Veterans Affairs
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  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says it is returning Medical Professionals currently serving Unions to serving Veterans

    U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says it is returning Medical Professionals currently serving Unions to serving Veterans




    (November 8, 2018) - - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) published (today) the following information:

    Today the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it will be moving nearly 430 medical professionals from taxpayer-funded union work back to health care jobs serving Veterans.

    The move, which will improve VA’s ability to deliver health care to Veteran patients, will take effect Nov. 15 when VA repudiates certain provisions of master collective bargaining agreements VA accepted during the Obama administration with the following unions: American Federation of Government Employees, National Federation of Federal Employees, National Association of Government Employees and National Nurses United.

    VA has a separate employment system under title 38 of the U.S. Code for medical employees. The repudiation will apply to all of VA’s nearly 104,000 title 38 employees, eliminating all forms of taxpayer-funded union work for the following professions:
    • Physician
    • Dentist
    • Podiatrist
    • Chiropractor
    • Optometrist
    • Registered Nurse
    • Physician assistant
    • Expanded-Duty Dental Auxiliary
    “It’s common sense,” VA Acting Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and Administration Jacquelyn Hayes-Byrd said. “Allowing health care workers to do taxpayer-funded union work instead of serving Veterans impacts patient care negatively. President Trump has made it clear – VA employees should always put Veterans first. And when we hire medical professionals to take care of Veterans, that’s what they should do at all times. No excuses, no exceptions.”

    As an example of the negative effect taxpayer-funded union time has on Veteran care, one VA registered nurse who was elected as a local union official receives 100 percent taxpayer funded union time. Although she no longer provides patient care, she continues to receive a nurse’s salary, which at VA averages more than $90,000 per year.

    Department-wide in fiscal year 2016, VA employees spent more than a million hours doing taxpayer-funded union work at a total cost of more than $49 million.

    VA is in the process of renegotiating several of VA’s national collective bargaining agreements to ensure official time allocations are putting Veterans first. The negotiations are guided by federal law that permits VA to set taxpayer-funded union work (also known as official time) amounts contractually that are reasonable, necessary and in the public interest.




    Credit: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs...
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  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Recognizes Vietnam Veteran with first Medal of Honor Medallion during Ceremony at Mississippi Cemetery

    U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Recognizes Vietnam Veteran with first Medal of Honor Medallion during Ceremony at Mississippi Cemetery



    Washington, DC - - (November 2, 2018) - - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) furnished the first Medal of Honor (MOH) Medallion for the private headstone of Pfc. Milton L. Olive III, a decorated Vietnam-era war hero, during a ceremony Nov. 1 at West Grove Cemetery in Lexington, Mississippi.

    With the passage of Public Law 114-315 on Dec. 16, 2016, Congress authorized VA’s National Cemetery Administration (NCA) to issue, upon request, a medallion, headstone or marker signifying a Veteran as an MOH recipient who served on or after April 6, 1917, and is buried in a private cemetery with a private headstone or marker.

    VA Secretary Robert Wilkie saluted Olive for his selfless bravery during a battle in the Vietnam conflict.

    “Private First Class Olive was posthumously awarded a Medal of Honor for his service during the Vietnam War after he heroically used his body to cover a grenade to save the life of his fellow soldiers,” Wilkie said. “The Medal of Honor Medallion illustrates VA’s commitment to ensuring all who see this symbol will know of the courageous sacrifice of our nation’s distinguished service members.”

    For information on applying for the MOH Medallion, visit this link. Information on all types of VA headstones, markers and medallions can be found at this link

    VA operates 136 national cemeteries and 33 soldiers’ lots and monument sites in 40 states and Puerto Rico. More than 4 million Americans, including Veterans of every war and conflict, are buried in VA’s national cemeteries. VA also provides funding to establish, expand, improve and maintain 111 Veterans cemeteries in 48 states and territories including tribal trust lands, Guam, and Saipan. For Veterans not buried in a VA national cemetery, VA provides headstones, markers or medallions to commemorate their service.




    Credit: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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  • U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Celebrates National Family Caregivers Month

    U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Celebrates National Family Caregivers Month



    Washington, DC - - (November 1, 2018) - - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is commemorating National Family Caregivers Month this November by honoring the service of 5.5 million family members and friends who have dedicated their lives to providing much-needed care for chronically ill, injured or disabled Veterans.

    “Caregivers make tremendous sacrifices to address the daily needs of Veterans who served our nation,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “These mothers, wives, fathers, husbands and other loved ones deserve our recognition and support for all they do to care for Veterans.”

    Caregivers provide a valuable service to Veterans by assisting them beyond the walls of VA medical facilities with much-needed support, such as accessing the health care system, providing emotional and physical support and enabling many injured Veterans to stay in their homes, rather than living their lives in an institutional setting.

    The recent passage of the VA MISSION Act of 2018 will expand eligibility for VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to Veterans of all eras of service — fulfilling President Trump’s commitment to help Veterans and their families live healthy and fulfilling lives.

    The expansion will occur in two phases, starting with eligible Veterans who incurred or aggravated a serious injury in the line of duty on or before May 7, 1975, with further expansion to follow.

    Currently, VA is developing an implementation plan for the MISSION Act and encourages all caregivers and Veterans to learn about the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, as well as the many additional resources already available to all caregivers by visiting http://www.caregiver.va.gov or by calling the Caregiver Support Line toll free at 855-260-3274.





    Credit: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Amends Regulations on VA Pension and other Needs-based Programs

    U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Amends Regulations on VA Pension and other Needs-based Programs


    Washington, DC - - (October 30, 2018) - - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently amended its regulations governing entitlements to VA pension and Parents’ Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, which are need-based programs.

    “The amended regulations bring consistency to the pension process and ensure benefits are available for Veterans and survivors with financial need,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “They will help maintain the integrity of and provide clarity to our needs-based pension program.”

    VA’s pension program provides monthly benefit payments to eligible wartime Veterans and their survivors with financial need.

    The pension regulations, which were updated Oct. 18, cover the following:
    • Establish a clear net-worth limit for income and assets for Veterans to qualify for pension,
    • Establish a 36-month look-back period to review asset transfers at less than fair market value that reduce net worth and create pension entitlement,
    • Establish up to a five-year penalty period to be calculated based on the portion of the covered assets that would have made net worth excessive, and
    • Updates medical expense definitions for consistency with VA internal guidelines.

    The changes are intended to ensure VA only pays benefits to those Veterans with a genuine need.

    For more information on VA’s pension program, visit www.benefits.va.gov/PENSION/ .




    Credit: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Prioritizing all Pending Veterans Benefits Appeals Claims for Victims of Hurricanes Florence and Michael

    U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Prioritizing all Pending Veterans Benefits Appeals Claims for Victims of Hurricanes Florence and Michael



    Washington, DC - - (October 30, 2018) - - Veterans impacted by recent hurricanes Florence and Michael will now have their pending appeals claims for benefits prioritized by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), department officials announced.

    VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals has determined that the significant effects of hurricanes Florence and Michael were sufficient cause for the Board to advance the appeals for counties in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia determined to be disaster areas by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

    “Accelerating the decision process on pending appeals claims for those Veterans and their families affected by hurricanes Florence and Michael is the right thing to do,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

    By regulation, the Board may advance appeals on its docket by a motion of the chairman if sufficient cause is shown. All Veterans and other appellants with an appeal currently pending before the Board whose addresses of record are in one of the affected counties will have their appeal automatically advanced on the Board’s docket. No action from Veterans or appellants are needed if their addresses are current. Visit the list of counties affected by hurricanes Florence and Michael at this link: https://www.bva.va.gov/.

    The advancement on docket (AOD) for these two storms is expected to last for six months from the date of the events. Therefore, Florence counties will be AODed from Oct. 1, 2018, to March 31, 2019; and counties affected by Hurricane Michael will be AODed from Nov. 1, 2018, to April 30, 2019. The Board will reassess AOD for these two storms once the six-month periods end.

    The Board’s mission is to conduct hearings and decide appeals in a timely manner. For more information about VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals, visit www.bva.va.gov/.




    Credit: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Joins Military Spouse Employment Partnership

    U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Joins Military Spouse Employment Partnership



    Washington, DC - - (October 29, 2018) - - Today the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) announced it is advancing employment opportunities for military spouses by joining the Department of Defense (DOD) Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP).

    MSEP is a career program connecting military spouses with more than 390 affiliated employers who have committed to recruit, hire, promote and retain military spouses in portable careers.

    “By developing skills, knowledge, and abilities that can be used in high-demand industry sectors, military spouses – especially those who face frequent relocations – can achieve employment continuity and increased opportunities for upward career mobility,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “BVA is committed to delivering better services to Veterans and their families, and we understand that military spouses offer unique perspectives that can help us deliver on our promise to care for Veterans.”

    The Board’s mission is to conduct hearings and decide appeals properly and in a timely manner.

    The MSEP is part of the DOD’s broader Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) program, which seeks to reduce the 23 percent unemployment rate experienced by military spouses and 25 percent wage gap experienced by military wives. SECO provides education and career guidance to military spouses worldwide and offers free, comprehensive resources and tools related to career exploration; education; training and licensing; employment readiness; and career connections. SECO also offers free career-coaching services six days a week.

    To learn more about SECO, visit Military OneSource or call 800-342-9647 to speak to a SECO career coach.

    For more information on the MSEP and the 350,327 active job postings for military spouses, visit https://msepjobs.militaryonesource.mil .




    Credit: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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  • U.S. Veterans Affairs Study on Cholesterol Genetics could Lead to New Treatments for Heart Disease, Diabetes

    U.S. Veterans Affairs Study on Cholesterol Genetics could Lead to New Treatments for Heart Disease, Diabetes



    Washington, DC - - (October 10, 2018) - - In the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) drive to help improve lives of Veterans through health care discovery and innovation, a team led by VA researchers recently identified three genetic mutations that govern cholesterol levels, which could lead to the development of new drugs to treat cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

    Detailed results of the study can be found in the Oct. 1 issue of Nature Genetics, a scientific journal.

    “This is fantastic news, not just for Veterans, but for all Americans suffering from these diseases,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “VA researchers have been improving the lives of Veterans and all Americans through health care discovery and innovation for decades. Their groundbreaking research has resulted in three Nobel prizes and numerous other national and international honors.”

    Using data from VA’s Million Veteran Program (MVP), the researchers found that three genes — PDE3B, PCSK9 and ANGPTL4 — could be targets for treatment of heart disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm and diabetes, respectively. VA research showed that those with specific mutations to the genes had better cholesterol and triglyceride levels than those without the mutations.

    The PDE3B mutation appears to protect against heart disease. A mutation in PCSK9 seems to decrease the risk not only of heart disease, but also abdominal aortic aneurysm — a condition in which the aorta is enlarged, which could lead it to rupture and cause life-threatening bleeding. The ANGPTL4 mutation was linked to lower risk of Type 2 diabetes. The research was supported by VA, the National Institutes of Health and Stanford’s Department of Medicine.

    MVP is a national, voluntary research program funded by VA’s Office of Research and Development. MVP partners with Veterans receiving care in the Veterans Health Administration to study how genes affect health. As of late September 2018, MVP had enrolled more than 700,000 Veterans. It is already one of the world’s largest databases of health and genomic information.

    The Nature Genetics publication is one of the first major papers describing scientific findings from MVP. The publication highlights the power of researchers having access to data from large numbers of individuals. In this instance, researchers were able to identify several novel genetic factors that affect people’s blood lipid [cholesterol and triglyceride] levels. Such findings may lead to new approaches to diagnose people at risk for cardiovascular disease, as well as identify candidate therapeutic targets.

    To learn more about VA research, including MVP, visit www.research.va.gov.




    Credit: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Debt Management Center Reduces Average Wait Times for Veterans Contacting Call Center

    U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Debt Management Center Reduces Average Wait Times for Veterans Contacting Call Center




    (October 23, 2018) - - Today, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs published the following information:

    Washington, DC - - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Debt Management Center (DMC) reached a recent milestone this July when it reported it had lowered the average wait times for Veterans contacting the call center, from over 21 minutes in fiscal year (FY) 2016 to under five minutes during FY 2018.

    “The team at the DMC has enhanced services to our Veterans,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “It’s our mission to take care of our Veterans, no matter what their needs are. DMC is in concert with our priority of improving customer service and will continue to gather customer feedback through direct feedback, surveys and outreach in FY19 to further enhance the Veterans’ experience.”

    For the past three years, DMC received around 1 million calls annually with an average call wait time of about 21 minutes. In FY 2017, DMC launched a series of internal efficiencies and process improvements to enhance contact center capabilities.

    Initiatives included enhancing staffing levels to meet demand, enhancing contact center technology, focusing on employee development and engagement, and implementing an automated 12-month payment plan.

    These Veteran-focused initiatives represent a 79 percent reduction over two years to the average time for waiting and a 40 percent increase of actual calls taken. These are all indicators of successful initiatives providing a better experience for Veterans and VA employees.

    The DMC’s inbound contact center serves as the central point for Veterans and their family members to make payment arrangements, or receive guidance regarding the collection process on overpayments which could include debts created from education or pension payments.

    Debt counselors at the DMC work with callers in a professional and service-oriented manner to help them understand their options to address overpayments with Veterans either through extended repayment plans, the dispute process, compromise process or waiver process

    DMC’s contact center provides debt counseling for the Veterans Benefits Administration, and consolidated collection services of non-health care debt for Veterans Health Administration and National Cemetery Administration, enabling these entities to focus resources on accomplishing their core missions.

    DMC has provided centralized debt collection programs of Veteran benefit overpayments since 1975 and became a fee-for-service Enterprise Center in 1996.




    Credit: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Forms Search Commission to Locate Candidates for the Under Secretary for Health

    U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Forms Search Commission to Locate Candidates for the Under Secretary for Health



    Washington, DC - - (October 4, 2018) - - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on Oct. 1 established a search commission, who will help identify candidates for the Under Secretary for Health position, which oversees the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).

    VA has identified individuals who possess the expertise and willingness to serve on this important commission, with experience that is broad, relevant and consistent with the requirements established by law.

    The following individuals were appointed to serve as members of the commission to identify the best qualified candidates to serve as VA’s Under Secretary for Health:
    • Jim Byrne, VA acting deputy secretary
    • Anthony Principi, chairman of the search commission as designated by the VA Secretary
    • Dr. Don Wright, deputy assistant secretary for Health, Director Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Department of Health and Human Services
    • Dr. James Adams, senior vice president and chief medical officer, Northwestern University
    • Thomas McCaffery, principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense Health Affairs, U.S. Department of Defense
    • Sarah Verardo, executive director, Independence Fund
    • Garry Augustine, executive director, Disabled American Veterans
    • Dr. Jonathan Simons, president and CEO, Prostate Cancer Foundation
    • Dr. Jon Perlin, chairman of the Special Medical Advisory Group.

    “We are committed to selecting the best nominee to lead America’s largest integrated health care system,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “This commission has a significant mission and I am confident they will use all their collective talents to make a strong recommendation.”

    Candidates for the Under Secretary for Health position must demonstrate the knowledge, vision and dedication to lead VHA in strategic change efforts to realize President Trump’s vision of transforming VA. By law, the appointment is made without regard to political affiliation and solely on the basis of demonstrated ability in the medical profession, health care administration and policy formulation, or in health care fiscal management; and substantial experience in connection with VHA programs or programs of similar content and scope.

    With an annual budget of about $74 billion, VHA provides care to more than 9 million Veterans enrolled in VA health care programs at 1,243 facilities, including 172 VA Medical Centers and 1,062 outpatient sites of varying complexity. VHA is the nation's largest provider of graduate medical education and a major contributor to medical and scientific research.

    Completed applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. (EST) on the closing date of Oct. 17, 2018, to be considered. Interested applicants can apply online at the federal government’s USAJOBS website at https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/512725400 . Applications can also be emailed to VAUSH@va.gov .




    Credit: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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  • Department of Veterans Affairs and Partner Organizations Launch Innovative Approach Using Long-term Employment to Improve Lives of Veterans with PTSD

    Department of Veterans Affairs and Partner Organizations Launch Innovative Approach Using Long-term Employment to Improve Lives of Veterans with PTSD



    Washington, DC - - (October 3, 2018) - - With research showing that Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) face significant barriers to employment, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and several state, city and nonprofit organizations recently created a first-of-its-kind “Pay for-Success” project to improve employment outcomes for such Veterans.

    The Veterans Coordinated Approach to Recovery and Employment (Veterans CARE) project was launched Oct. 3 by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the City of Boston, New York City partners and the nonprofit organization Social Finance, which stemmed from VA’s grant award to the organization, and will serve 480 Veterans over three years in New York City; Boston and Brockton, Massachusetts; and Central and Western Massachusetts.

    “This project demonstrates that supporting Veterans depends on networks of collaborative partnerships, as well as great research and innovative ideas,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Research and innovation are fundamental to improving the health care and benefits for our nation’s Veterans.”

    According to research, PTSD interferes with a person’s ability to thrive in the workforce, and has been found to impact sustained employment and income negatively. In addition, a negative cycle exists between unemployment and PTSD — persistent unemployment often is linked to negative health conditions, including depression, which can exacerbate PTSD symptoms.

    Further, VA research noted that up to 20 percent of Veterans from recent tours of duty have PTSD, and a 2015 analysis found that Veterans’ labor force participation had declined over the previous 35 years, in close correlation with a growth in service-connected disability.

    The Veterans CARE project will involve local VA medical centers to deliver Individual Placement and Support (IPS), an evidence-based approach to supported employment, to program participants. The Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center (TVAMC) will oversee and monitor the project.

    “The Veterans CARE project will take our work from the research arena into real-world settings where we plan to achieve the highest level of impact of IPS at full scale,” said Veterans CARE Study Chair Dr. Lori Davis. “Sustained meaningful work is a key part of the recovery plan for Veterans living with PTSD.”

    Pay for Success is a public finance model that harnesses the power of the capital markets to address critical social and environmental challenges and improve the lives of those in need. In this Pay for Success project, BNP Paribas, Northern Trust, The Dakota Foundation, Deutsche Bank and Robin Hood Foundation provided $5.1 million in impact capital to fund the project.

    “We are excited to launch the first Pay for Success project globally to support Veterans, who have served our nation so honorably,” said Tracy Palandjian, CEO and co-founder of Social Finance. “The Veterans CARE project is about bringing the public, private and social sectors together to help Veterans with PTSD secure meaningful employment and lead healthier, happier lives.”

    VA’s Center for Innovation and the Corporation for National and Community Service’s Social Innovation Fund are providing $3 million, which is matched by local government partners, to repay project investors if the project achieves measurable results for Veterans.

    For more information about the Veterans CARE project, including additional quotes from project partners and a fact sheet, go to http://socialfinance.org/focus-areas...s-care-project .




    Credit: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Awards New Leases to Provide Health Care Facilities to Veterans

    U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Awards New Leases to Provide Health Care Facilities to Veterans



    Washington, DC - - (October 2, 2018) - - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently awarded 13 major leases to improve access to care and deliver health care facilities to Veterans.

    These awards are a result of VA’s leasing business transformation effort to improve the timeliness of the lease procurement process.

    “These awards are the next step in increasing access for our Veterans across the country,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “VA stands firm in ensuring our Veterans are treated in state-of-the-art facilities and continue to access the high quality of care VA is able to provide.”

    The transformation effort aims better to align VA’s lease procurement processes with those of the private sector and other federal agencies, with an emphasis on increased competition, cost savings and speed to market. The following developers and locations were selected after a competitive lease procurement process:
    • Charleston, South Carolina, Primary Care — Size: 75,000 Net Usable Square Footage (NUSF). Developer: Carnegie Management and Development Corp.; site location: Corner of Rivers Avenue and Hanahan Road, North Charleston, South Carolina
    • Chattanooga, Tennessee, Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOC) — Size: 75,000 NUSF. Developer: U.S. Federal Properties Co., LLC; site location: 6401 Shallowford Road, Chattanooga, Tennessee
    • Houston, Texas, Research and Development — Size: 47,942 NUSF. Developer: Texas Medical Center; site location: 2450 Holcombe Blvd., Suite 1, Houston, Texas 77021
    • Lincoln, Nebraska, CBOC — Size: 72,000 NUSF. Developer: Johnson Development, LLC; site location: 600 South 70th St., Lincoln, Nebraska 68510
    • Lubbock, Texas, CBOC — Size: 94,000 NUSF. Developer: U.S. Federal Properties Co. LLC; site location: Northeast corner of Fourth St. and Knoxville Avenue in Lubbock, Texas
    • Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, CBOC — Size: 84,000 NUSF. Developer: GuvCar, LLC; site location: Northwest corner of Howard Avenue and Airpark Drive, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
    • New Port Richey, Florida, CBOC — Size: 114,000 NUSF. Developer: SASD Development Group LLC; site location: 7932 Little Road, New Port Richey, Florida 34654
    • Phoenix, Arizona, CBOC — Size: 203,000 NUSF. Developer: U.S. Federal Properties Co. LLC; site location: 32nd Street and east Van Buren Street, Phoenix, Arizona
    • Ponce, Puerto Rico, CBOC — Size: 107,388 NUSF. Developer: AJM Management LLC; site location: State Road PR-14 Km. 3.7, Manchuelo Abajo Ward, Ponce, Puerto Rico 00716
    • Redding, California, CBOC — Size: 77,000 NUSF. Developer: SASD Development Group LLC; site location: 3455 Knighton Road, Redding, California 96002
    • San Antonio, Texas, CBOC — Size: 190,800 NUSF.; Developer: U.S. Federal Properties, LLC; site location: East Corner of Rogers Road and Texas Highway 151
    • Tulsa, Oklahoma, CBOC — Size: 140,000 NUSF. Developer: SASD Development Group LLC; site location: 8965 S. Mingo Road, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74133-5716
    • Bakersfield, California — Size: 30,100 NUSF. Developer: SASD Development Group, LLC; site location: Vacant land located along Knudsen Drive, where Oliver Drive and Knudsen Drive intersect; address to be determined.
    VA is committed to delivering these projects as quickly as possible, while continuing to comply with all federal procurement laws and regulations.

    For more information on VA’s leasing business transformation, visit: https://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pres...se.cfm?id=4016.



    Courtesy: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs...
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  • Department of Veterans Affairs Announces Extension, Expansion of Contract with TriWest for Community Care

    Department of Veterans Affairs Announces Extension, Expansion of Contract with TriWest for Community Care



    Also announces closeout plan with Health Net, extension of dialysis partnerships



    Washington, DC - - (October 2, 2018) - - Today the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it has reached an agreement with TriWest Health Care Alliance (TriWest) on a one-year extension of its current coverage of the Patient-Centered Community Care (PC3) and Veterans Choice Program (VCP).

    The department also announced that it has reached an agreement with TriWest that will expand TriWest’s services to all regions across the country under this program.

    The expansion of TriWest’s role will ensure access to community care where needed until the next generation of community care contracts are awarded and implemented.

    “TriWest has worked collaboratively with VA from the start of the Veterans Choice Program to address implementation challenges and to improve the program to better serve Veterans,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Extending the time and reach of our partnership with TriWest will ensure Veterans get the care they need while the department transitions to delivering care under the MISSION Act next year.”

    Separately, the department has reached an agreement with Health Net Federal Services (HNFS) on the PC3 and VCP closeout plan and associated contract modification. Under this modification, VA and HNFS will continue to partner to ensure a seamless transition of care and services, so Veterans continue to get the care they need.

    Finally, VA has extended its current dialysis contracts with multiple partners for six months, until March 31, 2019. VA will issue a Request for Proposal for the replacement contracts in October 2018, with ultimate contract awards anticipated in spring 2019.




    Credits: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs SAIL Report Scorecard Shows Majority of VA Medical Centers have Improved Over Past Year in Quality of Services Provided to Veterans

    U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs SAIL Report Scorecard Shows Majority of VA Medical Centers have Improved Over Past Year in Quality of Services Provided to Veterans



    Washington, DC - - (September 18, 2018) - - Using a web-based report scorecard that measures, evaluates and benchmarks quality and efficiency at its medical centers, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently released data that showed significant improvements at the majority of its health care facilities.

    Compared with data from the same period a year ago, the July 2018 release of VA’s Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning (SAIL) report showed 103 (71 percent) VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) have improved in overall quality — with the largest gains seen in areas where there were VA-wide improvement initiatives, such as mortality, length of stay and avoidable adverse events. Seven (5 percent) VAMCs had a small decrease in quality.

    “This is a major step in the right direction to improving our quality of services for our Veterans,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Over the past year, we were able to identify our problems and implement solutions to fixing the issues at 71 percent of our facilities. I’m extremely proud of our employees and the progress they have made to raise VA’s performance for our nation’s heroes.”

    Additionally, of the 15 medical centers placed under the Strategic Action for Transformation program (StAT), an initiative that monitors high-risk medical centers and mobilizes resources to assist the facilities, 33 percent (five medical centers) are no longer considered high-risk and 73 percent (11 medical centers) show meaningful improvements since being placed under StAT in January 2018.

    The quarterly SAIL report, which has been released publicly since 2015, assesses 25 quality metrics and two efficiency and productivity metrics in areas such as death rate, complications and patient satisfaction, as well as overall efficiency and physician capacity at 146 VAMCs. It is used as an internal learning tool for VA leaders and personnel to pinpoint and study VAMCs with high quality and efficiency scores, both within specific measured areas and overall. The data is also used to identify best practices and develop strategies to help troubled facilities improve.





    Courtesy: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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