Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

July 29, 2012

Grant to aid homeless, at-risk vets

Mineral Wells Index

By Jim Vines | jim.helpingveterans@gmail.com

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki announced Tuesday the award of nearly $100 million in grants that will help approximately 42,000 homeless and at-risk veterans and their families.

The grants are going to 151 community agencies in 49 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. This is part of the VA’s commitment to end veteran homelessness in America by 2015.

Under the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, the VA is awarding grants to private non-profit organizations and consumer cooperatives that provide services to very low-income veteran families living in, or transitioning to, permanent housing. Those community organizations provide a range of services that promote housing stability among eligible very low-income veteran families. Homeless providers will offer veterans and their family members outreach, case management, assistance in obtaining VA benefits and assistance in getting other public benefits. Community-based groups can offer temporary financial assistance on behalf of veterans for rent payments, utility payments, security deposits and moving costs.

This is the program’s second year. Last year, the VA provided about $60 million to assist 22,000 veterans and family members. In 2009, President Obama and Secretary Shinseki announced the federal governments goal to end homelessness among veterans and these grants are intended to accomplish that goal. According to the 2011 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report to Congress, homelessness among veterans has declined 12 percent since January 2010. Still a long way to go.

Through the homeless veterans initiative, the VA committed $800 million in FY 2011 to strengthen programs that prevent and end homelessness among veterans. The VA provides a range of services to homeless veterans, including health care, housing, job training, and education. More information about the VA’s homeless programs are available at www.va.gov/homeless and additional details about Supportive Services for Veterans Families can be found at www.va.gov/homeless/ssvf.asp.

PTSD benefit claims

Recent questions regarding proof of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for benefit filing can be answered by a column dated July 18, 2010. Previously, veterans filing for health care and disability benefits for PTSD were required to document in detail the causes of their symptoms. These have traditionally been called “stressors.”

The rules required veterans, who served in combat branches of the military where the likelihood of direct action against an armed enemy was highest, to provide detailed documentation of those engagements. For those not serving in the combat branches, the burden of proof was even higher. In either case, these rules were neither fair nor sustainable.

In July of 2010, a new decision by the VA recognized that wartime service is extremely stressful and dangerous, regardless of military occupational specialty, and that each person internalizes their wartime experiences differently. The VA acknowledges that mental injuries can be just as debilitating as any physical wound and no longer requires veterans to relive their nightmares in great detail. This decision enables more veterans to seek the care that they deserve and have earned.

If a diagnoses confirms PTSD and the stressful (stressors) experience by any physician – VA or civilian – the VA will honor that diagnosis. Streamlining and simplifying the documentation needed to receive compensation for service connected PTSD will help, not just the veterans of recent conflicts, but generations of veterans who have previously served in battle for our nation.

A banner effort

Many “ thanks” to those of you who wrote and called in reference to the flag issue in Mineral Wells at Woodland Cemetery. I was certainly not the only one involved in rectifying the issue. Along with AmVets, local VFW and DAV members represented their respective organizations in resolving this issue. It was a collaboration that included the cemetery board, city council, the public and veterans. When all was said and done, the combined efforts of all laid this problem to rest.

Please contact a local veterans service officer or state veterans representative for filing information.

Speak to you again next week.

Jim Vines is commander of AmVets Post 133 in Mineral Wells.