Empowering Veterans to Address Mental Health Challenges

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America's Warrior Partnership Operation Deep Dive-team members stand together in front of poster board for support group

By Jim Lorraine, President and CEO of America’s Warrior Partnership

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and while veterans and their families are leaders in navigating stressful situations, there are times when they can use some help to overcome a challenge. Whether the severity of a mental health issue ranges from mild to critical, there are programs and services tailored to help veterans navigate their unique situation.

During times like this, it is important to connect with resources that are available to help.

Accessing Mental Health Support

First and foremost, as I have, you should memorize the number to the Veterans Crisis Line. Any veteran who is experiencing an urgent crisis should call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, or text 838255. The Veteran’s Crisis Line enables veterans to reach caring and qualified responders with the Department of Veterans Affairs. These counselors can help veterans who may be feeling anxious, lonely, or are thinking about suicide. Veterans in crisis or need of help can reach out to the hotline for connection and immediate support.

For situations that are less urgent but no less severe, there are physical and virtual resources that veterans may be able to use. For example, in your community, there could be a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital, Community Based Outpatient Clinic, or Vet Center. In addition to these programs, there are community behavioral health and health centers that can address many less urgent stressors. A great point of contact in the local community would be your local County Veteran Service Officer. They likely know of local resources and can facilitate your connection. Lastly, you may seek peer support from local Veteran Serving Organizations, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Team Red, White, and Blue, or the American Legion.  However, if you are unable to navigate your community resources, you can contact the America’s Warrior Partnership Network, who will reliably connect veterans with a service provider from outside of their community, such as Vets4Warriors or the Cohen Veterans Network that specialize in peer and mental health support.

Advocating for New Resources and Programs

In addition to raising awareness of existing resources, one of the most important things that veterans can do this month – and throughout the rest of the year – is to advocate for new policies that will better support their brothers- and sisters-in-arms who live with a mental illness. One of the most cutting-edge pieces of legislation is Senate Bill 785, also called Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019. This bill unanimously passed the Senate and is one of the most significant pieces of legislation to improve mental health and end veteran suicide. We strongly encourage a bipartisan and bicameral approach to make this bill law.

Advocacy is especially critical in the national fight to reduce suicide and self-harm among veterans. One of the initiatives contributing to this effort is Operation Deep Dive, a four-year study currently being conducted by America’s Warrior Partnership and researchers from The University of Alabama with support from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. The project is examining community risk factors involved in suicide and non-natural deaths among veterans in 14 communities across the country. By the study’s completion, researchers will develop a methodology that any community can implement to identify the unique risk factors of suicide among their local veterans and then address those factors through a customized support program.

As part of this study, Operation Deep Dive researchers are currently interviewing individuals who have either lost a loved one, friend, or acquaintance who was a veteran to suicide or a non-natural cause of death. These interviews will enable researchers to examine how a veteran was engaged within their community before their death, and more importantly, what can be done to better support veterans in the future.

To participate in an interview, individuals must be 18 or older and live within one of the 14 communities where Operation Deep Dive is taking place (the veteran must also have lived in that same community before their death). More information about the interviews and details on how to participate are available online.

By advocating for new policies and supporting essential programs, veterans can ensure their fellow service members who struggle with mental health challenges can build the quality of life that they have earned through their service.

About the Author

Jim Lorraine is President and CEO of America’s Warrior Partnership, a national nonprofit that empowers communities to empower veterans. The organization’s mission starts with connecting community groups with local veterans to understand their unique situations. With this knowledge in mind, America’s Warrior Partnership connects local groups with the appropriate resources to proactively and holistically support veterans at every stage of their lives. Learn more about the organization at AmericasWarriorPartnership.org.

Free Legal Answers now offers help to veterans

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Veteran looking up something on his smartphone

The American Bar Association online program ABA Free Legal Answers, which lets qualifying users ask civil legal questions to volunteer attorneys, has expanded to offer help on immigration and veterans’ questions.

The project, called Federal Free Legal Answers, fills a critical need for legal help during the pandemic, when many lawyers cannot meet clients in person and many Americans are suffering through the recession and the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a collaboration of the ABA Commission on Immigration, the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel, the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono & Public Service, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

The new service started this month at abafederal.freelegalanswers.org.

“Many veterans, immigrants and asylum-seekers have problems that can’t be solved easily without a lawyer’s help,” ABA President Patricia Lee Refo said. “Fortunately, they can now turn to a trusted source for help. Many volunteer lawyers are standing by, ready to assist.”

For immigrants and asylum-seekers, lawyers at Free Legal Answers can answer questions about such subjects as deportation, green cards, DACA and naturalization. For veterans, eligible dependents and survivors, lawyers can answer questions about VA benefits, discharge upgrades and other issues.

Users are pre-screened for financial eligibility and can ask up to three questions a year, or up to five during the pandemic, when needs are greater. Legal guidance takes place online and is limited to civil matters. Users cannot be serving a criminal sentence and cannot ask questions about criminal matters.

Free Legal Answers began in 2016 with a single website in Tennessee and has since expanded to 45 states and territories. To date, it has received more than 136,000 inquiries and more than 8,600 lawyers have volunteered to answer questions.

“The Free Legal Answers website is a great resource to the public,” said Jocelyn Dyer, AILA’s senior pro bono counsel. “It’s so important for people who are seeking advice to be able to get accurate answers to their questions, especially during the pandemic, when legal service providers might have more restricted hours, intake and availability.

Attorneys can volunteer at  www.ABAFreeLegalAnswers.org and selecting “Volunteer Attorney Registration.”

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at www.americanbar.org/news and on Twitter @ABANews.

Source: American Bar Association

Feeding an army in D.C.: Chef José Andrés steps in to help feed huge influx of National Guard

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National guard wearing a black protective face mask takes a plate a food from a food booth outside Capitol Hill

By Kevin Rector LA Times

Early Saturday afternoon on a partially cordoned-off street in Washington, D.C., Peter Baca pushed a big stack of boxes containing thousands of cookies toward the doors of Jaleo, a Spanish-inspired tapas restaurant that famed chef and humanitarian José Andrés opened in 1993.

Inside, workers with World Central Kitchen — Andrés’ emergency response nonprofit — were busy assembling meals for thousands of troops guarding the city in anticipation of President-elect Biden’s inauguration Wednesday and in reaction to the pro-Trump mob that on Jan. 6 stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Baca, of the veteran-focused Dog Tag Bakery in Georgetown, said his cookie gift was “a small token to say how much we appreciate their service to our country.”

Federal officials are scrambling to catch those responsible for the deadly attacks — five people, including a Capitol police officer, died — and prevent future violence by turning downtown Washington into a fortress, with more than 20,000 National Guard troops and thousands more police officers and federal agents manning roadblocks and checkpoints.

The swiftness of the mobilization resulted in less-than-perfect circumstances for the soldiers, with hundreds of Guard members forced to rest on the marble floors of the U.S. Capitol in between shifts.

World Central Kitchen’s CEO Nate Mook said when he and Andrés saw viral images of the sleeping troops, they felt like they had to do something.

“This is a situation that nobody’s had to face before; it’s being figured out minute by minute,” Mook said. “And we know — because we see this in all types of crises and emergencies — that food can sometimes be an afterthought, and sometimes people are left working long shifts without food.”

So, they reached out to government leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and offered to tap their expertise in feeding large groups of people at a moment’s notice, as they did after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017.

The officials took them up on their offer. They started handing out meals Friday night. By Saturday evening, the organization had distributed about 4,000 meals. They planned to repeat the effort Sunday, and don’t plan on halting the special mobilization until Inauguration Day, he said.

In a show of thanks, Pelosi joined Andrés on Saturday in passing out meals and thanking the troops, who seemed surprised and elated to be getting a free lunch from a famed chef instead of a pre-packaged military meal.

“This is a really difficult time; folks are working long shifts,” Mook said. “They were so happy to get some fresh food to eat.”

Photo Credit: LA Times

Read the full article on LA Times.

The Bob Woodruff Foundation Releases Best Practices for Organizations Providing Emergency Assistance to Veteran and Military Families

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Young couple looking at family finance papers

The COVID-19 pandemic and resultant economic downturn have had a profound financial impact on millions of Americans, including our nation’s veterans and military families.

The Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF) quickly pivoted their 2020 grantmaking plans to get critical funding into the hands of their partners, enabling emergency financial assistance (EFA) for veterans when and where it was needed most. Based on insights gathered from their grantees, BWF has now released “Emergency Financial Assistance: Best Practices,” the latest issue in their Stand SMART for Heroes research series, to share key findings that can help organizations minimize risk and maximize impact for veterans and their families.

In April 2020, BWF released a pivotal research paper, “Veterans and COVID-19: Projecting the Economic, Social, and Mental Health Needs of America’s Veterans,” indicating that half of veterans between the ages of 25 and 44 had less than $3,000 to $4,000 in savings before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Additionally, 15% of veterans were employed in industries that were most likely to be impacted by the pandemic.

In anticipation of increased need, BWF leveraged their findings and expedited their 2020 grants to provide direct support to the military and veteran population during the pandemic, broadening their usual granting criteria to include applications from programs providing EFA. At the same time, BWF developed a survey to evaluate applicants for risk and professionalism. The results of that survey formed the basis for this latest research paper publication.

“Providing support to cover rent, groceries, home or vehicle repairs, or other unexpected expenses can help veterans maintain stability in the short term, so that they can thrive in the long term,” said Anne Marie Dougherty, Chief Executive Officer of the Bob Woodruff Foundation. “By sharing what we’ve learned from our network through our latest issue of Stand SMART for Heroes, we’re shining a light on this urgent need while also providing an important resource to organizations that want to help.”
For more information, and for funders interested in supporting emergency financial assistance programs, please visit bobwoodrufffoundation.org/stand-smart-for-heroes/.

About the Bob Woodruff Foundation:
The Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF) was founded in 2006 after reporter Bob Woodruff was wounded by a roadside bomb while covering the war in Iraq. Since then, the Bob Woodruff Foundation has led an enduring call to action for people to stand up for heroes and meet the emerging and long-term needs of today’s veterans, including suicide prevention, mental health, caregiver support, and food insecurity. To date, BWF has invested over $76 million to Find, Fund and Shape™ programs that have empowered impacted veterans, service members, and their family members, across the nation. For more information, please visit bobwoodrufffoundation.org or follow us on Twitter at @Stand4Heroes.

Tens of thousands of veteran caregivers now eligible for the coronavirus vaccine through VA

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Hands of a doctor in latex gloves fill a syringe from vial of covid vaccine going to give an injection isolated on white

By Leo Shane lll
Military Times

Tens of thousands of caregivers providing critical medical support to disabled veterans will be eligible to receive coronavirus vaccine doses soon under a new policy announced by the Department of Veterans Affairs this week.

The move comes after a coalition of veterans groups lobbied for the caregivers to be pushed to the top of the vaccine list, arguing that they deserved to be included in the first wave of medical professionals being protected against the deadly illness.

In response, Dr. Richard Stone, executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, released a memo this week asserting that individuals registered with the department’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers can be given the vaccine “in a coordinated manner with the veterans for whom they provide care.”

More than 6,700 Veterans Affairs patients have died from virus complications in the last 10 months.
Leo Shane III

Specifics on an exact timeline for vaccinations was not released. The memo states that decisions will be made “in balance with site-specific resources, needs, vaccine availability, hesitancy to accept the vaccine, and status of the pandemic locally.

In an interview with Military Times, Stone said that he is shifting many of those vaccination decisions to local officials, in an effort to provide coverage to more individuals.

“We need to leave it up to people at the besides, to make sure they are making the best decisions for veterans,” he said. “When someone brings a veteran in to give them the vaccine, they can easily identify what the other needs are.”

For caregivers like Jennie Beller, the news is welcome relief.

Read the full article on militarytimes.com

Operation Coming Home Gifts War Veteran with Mattamy Home

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Service-disabled war veteran stands with family and friends in side the livingroom of his new home

The recipient of Hero Home 23, Marine Staff Sgt. Matthew Polizzi was surprised with the ultimate gift, just in time for Christmas.

Polizzi and his family have been selected to receive a brand new Mattamy home for free through Operation Coming Home.

Polizzi served for fourteen years, deployed four times, and received the Purple Heart from an injury in Afghanistan. Together, Polizzi and his wife have three children, all under the age of 10. For the past 10 years, they have constantly moved, having lived in eight different homes during the time span.

Operation Coming Home has been building Hero Homes since 2008 in Wake County through a partnership with the Home Builders Association of Raleigh and Wake County and the US Veterans Corps.

“Since Operation Coming Home began in 2008, our team has had the privilege to support and contribute to this exceptional cause,” said Bob Wiggins, President of Mattamy’s Raleigh Division. “Operation Coming Home is a project that the Mattamy team in Raleigh is very passionate about. It is an amazing feeling being able to give something as special as a home to individuals who have risked their lives to protect our freedom.”

Mattamy Homes will build Hero Home 23, located in one of the Division’s newest communities, Oak Park in Garner, North Carolina. This is the second home donated by Mattamy Homes and the 10th from the Royal Oaks team, which was acquired by Mattamy Homes in 2017.

“The Polizzi family’s new home will be conveniently located in the desirable area of White Oak,” said Donna Kemp, Vice President of Sales for Mattamy Homes. “We’ve chosen a beautiful home site for the family, and they get to come in and choose all design selections and personalize the home just for them. It’s humbling and extremely rewarding to give back, especially to a deserving veteran and his family. To be able to provide a life changing gift such as a home is an amazing feeling.”

Polizzi and his unit were on a security patrol in Afghanistan in 2010 when they came under heavy enemy fire. Polizzi quickly created and detonated a bomb that saved his entire unit, allowing them to pass only later to come under fire again. Polizzi was shot in the leg. He was treated for five weeks at an airbase, then finished his deployment.

The Polizzi family’s new home is anticipated to begin construction in February 2021 and be ready for move-in during the summer of 2021.

About Operation Coming Home

Operation Coming Home (OCH) is a partnership between members of the Triangle Veterans Association (TVA) and the Home Builders Association of Raleigh/Wake County. Made up of Veterans and non-Veterans, this team is honoring the sacrifices of the severely wounded Veterans of recent Middle Eastern Wars by building custom homes for them, at no charge.

About Mattamy Homes

Mattamy Homes is the largest privately owned homebuilder in North America, with 40-plus years of history across the United States and Canada. Every year, Mattamy helps more than 8,000 families realize their dream of home ownership. In the United States, the company is represented in 11 markets – Dallas, Charlotte, Raleigh, Phoenix, Tucson, Jacksonville, Orlando (where its US head office is located), Tampa, Sarasota, Naples and Southeast Florida – and in Canada, its communities stretch across the Greater Toronto Area, as well as in Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton. Visit www.mattamyhomes.com for more information.

Ray Chavez, Oldest Pearl Harbor Vet, Will Get Post Office Dedicated in His Honor

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Ray Chavez, oldest Pearl Harbor vet, smiles at 106th birhday party wearing a lei

By Brenda Gregorio-Nieto and NBC 7 Staff

Ray Chavez, the oldest veteran survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor will have a San Diego post office dedicated in his honor after congress passed a bill introduced last year by Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52).

The bill, H.R. 3005, was proposed to rename the Poway Post Office on 13308 Midland Rd. as the “Ray Chavez Post Office Building” in honor of the American hero who died in 2018 at the age of 106.

The bill was recently signed by President Trump after it passed in both the House and Senate without amendment, and with unanimous consent.

“When I found out he was the oldest [Pearl Harbor] survivor in the country, passed away in November [2018], I thought, what a fine tribute this would be not just to him and his family and his community, but to all the veterans who served,” Peters said last year.

Chavez’s daughter, U.S. Navy veteran Kathleen Chavez, said her father would have been humbled by the honor, just as he was in life when he received attention for his service.

Read the full article onNBC Los Angeles.

Photo Credit: NBC LA

2020 USO Service Member of the Year Honorees Announced

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USO honorees pictured together in a collage

ARLINGTON, Va. — Each year, the United Service Organizations (USO) honors the heroism of junior enlisted service members, E-5 or below, with the USO Service Member of the Year Awards.

Service members from each branch of the military are nominated by their command leadership for performing acts of valor that go above and beyond the call of duty and who embody the standards and values of the Armed Forces and the USO.

“These men and women have brought great honor to their respective branches of service and to the country. They exemplified bravery and courage in the face of danger and placed service above self,” said USO CEO and President J.D. Crouch II. “Putting the mission first and doing the right thing embody the core values of the USO. We congratulate this year’s honorees for their outstanding contributions and for being a force for good in the world.”

The USO is proud to name the 2020 USO Service Members of the Year and share their stories:

  • Nolan P. McShane | USO Marine of the Year 2020 (pictured bottom right): Sgt. Nolan P. McShane was overseeing a training exercise in Twentynine Palms, California, when a Marine became severely wounded. Without hesitation, McShane controlled a chaotic site, confirmed tourniquet placement and inspected pressure dressings to help stabilize the wounded Marine before he was evacuated to a local hospital. McShane serves with the U.S. Marine Corps’ 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
  • Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren J. Singer | USO Sailor of the Year 2020 (pictured bottom middle):Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren J. Singer was traveling over the Coronado Bridge near San Diego, California, when her heroic actions prevented a motorist from taking his own life. Singer serves with the U.S. Navy’s Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 14 and is from Williamsburg, Virginia.
  • Staff Sgt. Nigel C. Archer, Jr. | USO Airman of the Year 2020 (pictured bottom left):Staff Sgt. Nigel C. Archer, Jr., displayed quick thinking, exemplary leadership and heroism when he noticed a vehicle had driven off a roadway and overturned near Comayagua, Honduras. Undeterred by the terrain and the language barrier, Archer quickly jumped into action and slid down a 50-foot embankment to rescue all nine passengers. Archer serves with the U.S. Air Force’s 728th Air Mobility Squadron and is from Havelock, North Carolina.
  • Mary Ehiarinmwian | USO Soldier of the Year 2020 (pictured top middle):While Sgt. Mary Ehiarinmwian was driving to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, the vehicle in front of her rolled over several times before coming to rest upside down on a steel property gate, almost impaling the driver. Without hesitation, Ehiarinmwian extracted the driver from the smoking vehicle and brought him to safety. Ehiarinmwian serves with the U.S. Army’s 523rd Engineer Support Company and is from St. Robert, Missouri.
  • Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew J. Fleming | USO Coast Guardsman of the Year 2020 (pictured top left):When Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew J. Fleming learned of a capsized recreational fishing vessel off the coast of Georgia, he quickly responded and resuscitated one of the mariners. He wrapped the other mariner who was exhibiting signs of hypothermia in his own jacket to retain body heat. Additionally, during the height of COVID-19, Fleming led efforts to establish protocols for a remote facility inspection program, safeguarding personnel from exposure to the virus. Fleming serves with the U.S. Coast Guard’s Sector New York and is from Lawrenceville, Georgia.
  • Airman 1st Class Sikander S. Rahman | USO National Guardsman of the Year 2020 (pictured top right):Airman 1st Class Sikander S. Rahman exemplified great bravery during an off-base motor vehicle crash near Hartford, Connecticut, when his rescue efforts ensured the driver was removed in a safe and timely manner. Rahman serves with the Connecticut Air National Guard’s 103rd Maintenance Squadron and is from Windsor, Connecticut.

Learn more about the 2020 USO Service Members of the Year here.

“On behalf of the USO, we commend the USO Service Members of the Year for their unwavering commitment to helping others in their time of need,” said SgtMaj Carlton Kent, 16th Sergeant Major of the U.S. Marine Corps and member of the USO Board of Governors. “Their selflessness and bravery—not only during the events they were nominated for but also throughout their everyday lives—epitomize what it means to serve. We are grateful for them and for all of our service members who sacrifice so much to protect us.”

Due to the pandemic, 2020’s USO Service Members of the Year will be honored via celebrations hosted by their commands or local USO centers throughout the month of December. Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren J. Singer will be honored as USO Sailor of the Year on Wednesday, December 16 and Sgt. Nolan P. McShane will be honored as USO Marine of the Year on Thursday, December 17.

Join us in expressing appreciation for all our nation’s service members this holiday season by sending them a message of thanks and support.

About the USO:
The USO strengthens America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation. At hundreds of locations worldwide, we are united in our commitment to connect our service members and their families through countless acts of caring, comfort and support. The USO is a private nonprofit organization, not a government agency. Our programs and entertainment tours are made possible by the American people, support of our corporate partners and the dedication of our volunteers and staff. To join us in this important mission, and to learn more about the USO, visit USO.org or at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Source: PRNewswire

WWII veteran becomes first VA patient to get COVID-19 vaccine

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female VA patient receiving vaccine

Less than three days after the first COVID-19 vaccine received government authorization, a World War II veteran in Massachusetts became the first Veterans Affairs patient in the country to get the shot.

The VA Bedford Healthcare System’s shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived Monday morning and the facility began to administer doses within a few hours.

Margaret Klessens, a 96-year-old resident of the Community Living Center in the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, received the shot Monday at 12:07 p.m., the VA Bedford Healthcare System announced in a statement.

Thirteen minutes later, Andrew Miller, a housekeeper in the environmental management services became the first employee to get the jab.

Elsewhere in Massachusetts, shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were arriving and hospitals are preparing to begin administering them to staff this week.

Boston Medical Center said Monday it received its first shipment of 1,950 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID19 vaccine.

Continue on to wvcb.com to read the complete article. Department of Veterans Affairs photo via Twitter.

VA announces initial plans for COVID-19 vaccine distribution

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scientist holding vile of vaccine for covid

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently announced a preliminary plan for distributing COVID-19 vaccinations it will implement once the Food and Drug Administration issues an emergency use authorization for a vaccine.

VA has worked in close coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Operation Warp Speed to plan for COVID-19 vaccination of VA staff and Veterans.

VA will first provide vaccinations to front-line VA health care workers and Veterans residing in long-term care units in 37 of its medical centers across the country.

The centers, listed below, were chosen for their ability to vaccinate large numbers of people and store the vaccines at extremely cold temperatures.

Health care workers will be among the first to receive vaccinations because they are at high risk for contracting and spreading COVID-19 to other staff members and patients, and their health is critical to ensuring the continued care of Veterans.

Veterans in VA’s long-term care facilities will be the first patient group to be vaccinated. As vaccine supplies increase, additional Veterans will receive vaccinations based on factors such as age, existing health problems and other considerations that increase the risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.

VA anticipates a limited vaccine supply immediately after FDA’s approval, but expects more supplies to be available in short order.

“VA is well prepared and positioned to begin COVID-19 vaccinations,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Our ultimate goal is to offer it to all Veterans and employees who want to be vaccinated.”

The 37 VA sites chosen for initial distribution of the vaccine will closely monitor patients and staff for side effects and log this information in its vaccine monitoring and tracking system. This is the same system VA uses to monitor reactions to all vaccines, including those for the flu and shingles.

VA will report directly to the CDC data on all vaccine doses administered by VA. The department will also provide general, public updates on the number of people who receive the vaccination at these sites, similar to how VA posts COVID-19 testing figures.

The 37 VA sites are spread throughout the country and include:

Birmingham (AL) VA Health Care System

Phoenix (AZ) VA Health Care System

Greater Los Angeles (CA) VA Health Care System

Palo Alto (CA) VA Health Care System

Eastern Colorado (CO) VA Health Care System

Connecticut (West Haven Campus) VA Health Care System

Washington DC VA Health Care System

Orlando (FL) VA Health Care System

Augusta (GA) VA Health Care System

Edward J. Hines Jr. VA Hospital (IL)

Lexington (KY) VA Health Care System

Southeast Louisiana (New Orleans) VA Health Care System

Maryland (Baltimore) VA Health Care System

Bedford (MA) VA Health Care System

Ann Arbor (MI) VA Health Care System

Minneapolis (MN) VA Health Care System

Harry S Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital (Columbia MO)

St. Louis (MO) VA Health Care System

Omaha (NE) VA Health Care System

Southern Nevada (North Las Vegas) VA Health Care System

Raymond G. Murphy (NM) VA Health Care System

New York Harbor (Brooklyn) VA Health Care System

Western New York (Buffalo) VA Health Care System

Durham (NC) VA Health Care System

Cleveland (OH) VA Health Care System

Oklahoma City (OK) VA Health Care System

Portland (OR) VA Health Care System

Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center (Philadelphia PA)

Pittsburgh (PA) VA Health Care System

Caribbean (Puerto Rico) VA Health Care System

Memphis (TN) VA Health Care System

Dallas (TX) VA Medical Center

Michael E. DeBakey VA Health Care System (Houston TX)

Audie L. Murphy VA Hospital (San Antonio TX)

Richmond (VA) VA Health Care System

Puget Sound (WA) VA Health Care System

Milwaukee (WI) VA Health Care System

Veterans seeking additional information should visit the VA COVID-19 vaccine webpage, contact their care team or visit their facility website.

Source: VA.gov

Former record producer switches buttons to join U.S. Army

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Future U.S. Army Soldier Kenny Oliver (right), poses with his recruiter

In 2011, Kenny Oliver was on top of the music world.  At just 20 years old, he found himself producing and co-writing the massive hit ‘Sexy and I Know It’ by LMFAO, a track that would sell upwards of 8 million copies and become a number one hit around the world.

Almost a decade later Oliver finds himself about to shift trajectory and embark on a career far removed from the world of pop music, as he prepares to become a U.S Army Soldier.

For Oliver, it means a chance to serve his country and realize a long-standing ambition, following a music career that saw many highs along the way.

Oliver, 29, was born in Moreno Valley, Calif., in 1991 and spent much of his childhood consumed with soccer, before music came calling.

“My first passion was soccer. My dad played it and we’d watch it together all the time. It was what I grew up on. Once I got to high school, I grew out of that and started going to music festivals when I was 17 and 18,” Oliver said.

“I really got into electronic and house music and I wanted to make my own music. As soon as I got out of high school, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Photo Credit: U.S. Army Photo by Alun Thomas. Future Soldier Kenny Oliver (right), poses with his recruiter Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Moe.

Despite receiving no formal training, Oliver was able to teach himself the basics of creating electronic music and soon started to reap the benefits.

“I was entirely self-taught. I’d watch tutorials on You Tube on how to do certain things,” he said. “I had been a DJ spinning music, but when I started playing my own music, that’s when things started to take off.”

Oliver remixed the track ‘Party Rock Anthem’ by LMFAO and sent it to one of his friends, who had a connection to the band.

“My friend liked it and eventually it found its way to the manager for LMFAO. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. I was working with my dad at his business, painting houses,” Oliver recalls. “I was working with him one morning, when I got an email from LMFAO saying they’d got my remix and wanted to meet me.”

Oliver soon found himself communicating with the band and seeing their relationship escalate from there.

“The band ended up calling me that day, we talked about their music and plans for the future. They’d already had success with some of their songs and 2011 was going to be a big year for them,” Oliver explained. “I went around to their house in Hollywood, where they played me the music they were working on. They kept inviting me over, to the point we were like friends and family.”

When presented with the rough version of ‘Sexy and I Know It,’ Oliver made several changes, which pleased the band and proved successful for all involved.

“They already had an idea for the song, so I made a new beat and gave it to them. They put the vocals over it and that was the final version,” he added. “My name went on the credits as a producer and I got a plaque for it as well. It was financially rewarding and to this day I still get royalty checks.”

Oliver continued to explore his music career, including a collaboration with will.i.am., founder of the Black Eyed Peas.

“At that time, Electronic Dance Music was getting into the mainstream pop scene and everyone was looking for that sound. So I met Will and started working with him doing some production,” Oliver said. “It wasn’t on the same scale of success I had with LMFAO, but I made two beats on one of Will’s songs that was released.”

Oliver decided to concentrate on his own musical career following this, playing the club scene and performing at festivals throughout the South West, but the emergence of COVID-19 affected his live music career.

“I’d been playing festivals and making my own music,” Oliver explained. “But since COVID-19 hit, all those opportunities have disappeared and my passion for the music has gone down a little.”

At a lull and looking for a new challenge, Oliver decided to enlist, something that he had always considered, but never explored.

“I wanted a new challenge for myself and get out of my comfort zone,” he observed. “I moved to Phoenix in 2017 to leave California and have some new scenery and excitement, so joining the Army is an extension of that. But to serve my country is my number one reason for enlisting.”

Assisting Oliver in the recruiting process was Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Moe, recruiter, Arrowhead Recruiting Station, Phoenix West Recruiting Company, who said Oliver has taken a huge step by enlisting.

“Kenny lives around the corner from me, so once I learned he was interested, I set up a meeting,” Moe said. “I didn’t really know his background at all until after he enlisted. I knew he did music, playing shows and traveling, but not the extent of his past and the success he had.”

“I think it’s an amazing thing, to be in that lifestyle for years and then join the Army and serve your country. He’s taking a step up that a majority of Americans aren’t willing to do,” Moe continued.

Oliver decided on becoming a religious affairs specialist and said the nature of the job appeals to him.

“I decided on that job because I want to help people. The duties and responsibilities appeal to me, setting up religious services and just being able to help people and make a difference in their lives,” he said.

As his ship date of Dec. 28 draws closer, Oliver said he’s trying to prepare as best as possible for Basic Combat Training, excited at the journey ahead.

“I’m excited for basic training … I’ve been preparing by watching You Tube videos and getting help from the recruiters,” Oliver said. “I’m trying to learn what to expect. I’m sure on the day I arrive at Fort Jackson, the nerves will hit me.”

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