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In This Issue: September 18, 2012 Latest News

Special Notice: If you are a veteran in emotional crisis and need help RIGHT NOW, call this toll-free number
, available 24/7, and tell them you are a veteran. All calls are confidential.

VA Caregiver Hotline

Veterans Health CouncilUpdate

September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month

On September 10, World Suicide Prevention Day, the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Alliance) released its national strategy to reduce the number of deaths by suicide, including those of our active duty military and our veterans. The national strategy details 13 goals and 60 objectives for reducing suicides over the next ten years. The Action Alliance, co-chaired by former Senator Gordon Smith, now C.E.O. of the National Association of Broadcasters, and Army Secretary John McHugh, highlights four immediate priorities to reduce the number of suicides:  integrating suicide prevention into health care policies; encouraging the transformation of health care systems to prevent suicides; changing the way the public talks about suicide and suicide prevention; and improving the quality of data on suicidal behaviors to develop increasingly effective prevention efforts. At the same time, the VA launched "Stand by Them:  Help a Veteran," a joint VA-DoD outreach campaign that includes a new PSA announcement, "Side by Side," that is designed to help prevent suicide among veterans and service members and focuses on the important role of family and community in supporting veterans in crisis. VVA's Dr. Tom Berger, Executive Director of the Veterans Health Council, serves as a member of the Action Alliance's Executive Committee.

What You Can Do if You Believe a Veteran is at Risk of Suicide*

  • Ask them if they are thinking about killing themselves (This WILL NOT put the idea into their heads, or make it more likely that they will attempt suicide)

  • Call the National Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, press 1

  • Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional

  • Remove any objects that could be used in a suicide attempt

  • If possible, do not leave the person alone

*from the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention

White House Press Release

President Signs Executive Order to Increase Behavioral Health Services for Veterans

On Friday, August 31, President Obama signed an executive order directing key federal agencies to expand suicide-prevention strategies and improve access to mental-health and substance-abuse treatment for veterans, service members, and their families. Citing an obligation to “build an integrated network of support capable of providing effective mental health services,” the order includes an array of directions for the VA, Health and Human Services, and other federal agencies. Collaboration with community-based providers – including community mental health clinics and substance-abuse treatment facilities – was specifically required, particularly for areas where the VA has had challenges in providing timely access to services for veterans. In addition, the VA and HHS must expand the capacity of the Veterans Crisis Line by 50 percent and “ensure that any veteran identifying him or herself as being in crisis connects with a mental health professional or trained mental health worker within 24 hours.”

click here to read

Veterans Health Council Update

September is also Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

VHC Logo

September is also Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, the time to encourage men to have an open and frank discussion with their family, friends, and physicians about prostate cancer tests and early detection. Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange and African-American males have the highest rates of prostate cancer, twice as high as the general population, and the risk of developing prostate cancer doubles if your father, brother, or close male blood relative has had the disease. Spread the word and educate men. Prostate cancer may be treated successfully if detected early. We need to detect prostate cancer early, so please, get your routine PSA screenings.

DEA National Take-Back Initiative

September 29 is National Take Back Drug Day

VAD Stamp The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) fifth semi-annual take back drug day will be held Saturday, September 29, from 10am to 2pm your local time. At the last event in April, over 276 tons of unused, expired, or excess medication was collected, bringing the total for the four previous events to 774 tons. Do your part to prevent unused, expired, or excess medications from falling into the wrong hands. For more information, contact your local law enforcement agency.   
VA Report

VA Report Shows Initiative to Eliminate Gender Gap Is Working

On August 28, the VA released a report that shows improvement in gender disparities in 12 out of 14 Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) measures in VA since 2008. HEDIS measures are used by 90 percent of America's health plans to measure performance on important dimensions of care and service, such as screening, prevention, and chronic disease management. VA consistently scores higher than private-sector healthcare on both gender-specific and gender-neutral HEDIS measures. VA began a national initiative to eliminate gender gaps in preventive care in 2008. In 2011, VA asked each healthcare region across the country to review gender disparity data and create and implement an improvement plan. The Comparing the Care of Men and Women Veterans in the Department of Veterans Affairs report released by VA’s Office of Informatics and Analytics (OIA) indicates progress. The report shows that VA improved gender disparities in six performance measures specific to VA, including the screening rate for persistence of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms. VA has also implemented a national initiative to improve care for women Veterans. Some of the components include training VA providers in basic and advanced women’s health care, implementation of women’s health primary care teams at VA facilities nationwide, and ramped-up communications efforts. The Women Veterans Health Strategic Health Care Group, which leads the initiative, also issued a report looking at gender disparities. That report, Gender Differences in Performance Measures, VHA 2008-2011, identifies best practices for eliminating gender gaps based on success in VA networks.  Both reports can be downloaded via www.women shealth.va.gov

AP Report

Fort Detrick receives $100M for PTSD, TBI research

As reported on September 8 by the Associated Press, Fort Detrick will be receiving $100 million in federal grants to fund research into Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and mild traumatic brain injury. According to the Frederick News-Post, the initiative, funded by DoD and the VA, was announced by the Fort Detrick-based Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs.  A White House executive order issued last month called for improved access to mental health services for members of the military and veterans. The work is expected to take place over five years and to involve two consortia, one focused on PTSD and another on brain injury.

DoD Blog Report

U.S. Army and NFL Partnership on TBI

According to DoD’s “ Military Health Systems” blog on September 6, the Army and the National Football League are working together to research and improve awareness of traumatic brain injuries. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell say soldiers and athletes share some of the same traits that may prevent them from reaching out for help. Mental and physical toughness and the desire to put the team first may keep many warriors from seeking treatment for their injuries.The new project aims to educate players and soldiers about TBI, especially mild concussions. The entities will share research, including placing sensors inside the helmets of soldiers and football players to help detect possible concussions. The effort comes as a growing number of NFL players suffer concussions during the season. For service members, recent policies like Directive-Type Memorandum 09-033 also aim to help detect mild brain injuries. That policy stipulates that service members have a minimum of 24 hours of downtime and get a medical clearance before returning to duty following proximity to a blast or vehicle incident. Still, Odierno says more needs to be done to get to the bottom of TBI. He called on platoon sergeants and first sergeants to help soldiers realize there is no penalty in asking for help.

In a related story published September 6 in The Washington Post Inside, the NFL is donating $30 million to the Bethesda (MD)-based NIH to fund research into brain injuries and other medical issues. The research is to be designed to benefit service members and the general population in addition to football players and other athletes. The research could focus, officials said, on concussion treatment and management as well as chronic encephalopathy, or CTE, a progressive, degenerative brain disease.  The first set of NIH initiatives is to focus on “mild” traumatic brain injuries according to the director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, one of the 27 Institutes comprising NIH.

Department of Health & Human Services Press Release

Veterans in rural areas to get expanded access to health care

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Eric K. Shinseki today announced a joint effort to expand health care delivery to veterans living in rural areas. The agreement between the two agencies promotes collaboration between VA facilities and private hospitals and clinics, and is supported by $983,100 in grants to improve access and coordination of care through telehealth and health information exchanges in rural areas.

Veterans Health Administration Update

Prostate Cancer and Agent Orange

Are you a Veteran with prostate cancer who was exposed to Agent Orange during service? You may qualify for VA health care and disability compensation. Learn more.

Visit www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange to find out more about Agent Orange and VA benefits.

Leadership Conference Video

VVA Goes To Texas

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