Veterans homelessness percentage drops

The percentage of homeless veterans dropped 24 percent since 2010, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced recently.

The new report, which also showed an 8 percent reduction between January 2012 and January 2013, keeps the Obama administration on track to meet the goal of ending veteran homelessness in 2015.

"We are on the right track in the fight to end homelessness among veterans. While this trend is encouraging news, we know that there is more work to do," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. "As President Obama said, we’re not going to rest until every veteran who has fought for America has a home in America. The results in the latest report are a credit to the effort given by our dedicated staff, and our federal, state, and community partners who are committed to ending veterans’ homelessness."

The 2013 Point-in-Time estimates of homelessness, prepared by HUD, estimates there were 57,849 homeless veterans on a single night in January in the United States, an 8 percent decline since 2012 and a 24 percent decline since 2010. VA has made ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015 a top priority, undertaking an unprecedented campaign to dramatically increase awareness of VA services for homeless veterans and veterans at-risk of becoming homeless.

In other news:

Legion challenges VA’s numbers: The American Legion testified at a Dec. 4 hearing on Capitol Hill that examined VA’s track record in processing complex disability claims that deal with conditions such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and military sexual trauma (MST).

Zachary Hearn, deputy director of benefits for the Legion, appeared before the House Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee on disability and memorial affairs; he also submitted written testimony for the record.

New VA website launched: Veterans and their families have a new online resource for getting their earned benefits. VA has a new website called Explore VA where you can learn about many kinds of benefits: health care, education, job services, home loans, housing, life insurance, pensions, service-connected disability compensation and more. You can also apply for those benefits through the site and track the status of your claim. In addition, there are social networking tools to help veterans ask for more information or to contact fellow veterans.

Human rights summit: National Security Division staff attended the annual human rights summit in Washington, D.C., to honor the recipient of the Beacon Prize. The Beacon Prize is awarded annually during the Human Rights Summit in Washington to an individual or organization whose work embodies the best in the tradition of American leadership on human rights.

The American Legion was recognized during the event for its in assisting with the ratification of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Treaty. The treaty would ensure better access for disabled veterans living and traveling abroad.

Read more here.

Resolution 80: Ratify Disabilities Treaty

TRICARE Beneficiaries News: On Dec. 1 TRICARE added a new function to its website that should give beneficiaries better access to its customer service features. The home page added a new "I want to…" section that provides beneficiaries a gateway to links where they can access various self-service features for managing their health care coverage.

Letter of support: On Nov. 26, The American Legion sent a letter of support to Rep. Bill Foster of Illinois for H.R. 3600, the GI Education Benefits Fairness Act. This measure would amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for clarification regarding the children to whom entitlement to educational assistance may be transferred under the Post-9/11 Educational Assistance Program. The measure would change current law to bring VA’s definition of a "child" in line with Department of Defense (DOD) regulations. The definition of a "child" under DOD includes "foster children" and "wards," while VA regulations do not. [Resolution 27-2013 Fall]

Jacob Gadd, deputy director for health care, represented The American Legion on Dec. 3 at a Veteran Service Organization (VSO) panel at the National Veteran Treatment Court conference. The purpose of the VSO panel is to provide updates to national, state and local veteran treatment courts representatives on VSO programs and services. The American Legion has been a staunch supporter of Veteran Treatment Courts since their inception in 2009 by Judge Robert Russell in New York. The American Legion adopted Resolution 119: Veteran Treatment Courts.

Claims: During the week ending Nov. 29, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals reached dispositions on 127 American Legion represented appeals. Of those dispositions 64.5 percent of the denials were overturned with outcomes favorable to the veteran. In 28 cases, the board granted benefits outright after considering The American Legion’s arguments. In 64 cases, The American Legion was able to point out errors in the development of the veteran’s claims that mandated corrective action under the law. Of the total number of dispositions, 25 (19.7 percent) were outright denied.

POW/MIA Update: Army Technician Fifth Grade Oneal Rush, 24, of Galivants Ferry, S.C., was buried on Oct. 26, in his hometown. In August 1944, Rush, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers soldier, and six other servicemembers were aboard an C-47A Skytrain aircraft that departed from Shingbwiyang, Burma to Myitkyina, Burma, on an air supply mission. Rush and the six servicemembers were reported missing in action when the airplane failed to reached its destination.

On March 10, 2003, Burmese officials informed the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) team of a crash site and a local villager handed over material evidence that correlated to two crew members aboard the Skytrain. JPAC investigated this site in November 2004, and recovered Rush’s remains, aircraft wreckage and cargo.