VA hosts music therapy retreat in Nashville to help Veterans heal

‘Operation Song’ connects professional songwriters, former service members to help participants improve their lives

WASHINGTON — Aimed at helping former service members process some of their military experiences, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the nonprofit Operation Song launched the first of a series of national music therapy retreats Nov. 14-17 in Nashville, Tennessee.

In collaboration with VA Voluntary Services and Veterans Canteen Service, the four-day songwriting retreat connected Veterans from around the country with professional songwriters and VA therapists, as they translated their service experiences into songs, which will be recorded in a music studio for the Veterans to keep.

“VA is always striving to find unique ways to help Veterans build on their military experiences, and music therapy is just one component of VA’s robust Recreation Therapy programs, which serve Veterans around the country,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Music can provide an outlet for expression of feelings, as well as be an avenue of communication for those who find it difficult to express themselves.”

Founded by Grammy and Dove Award-nominated songwriter Bob Regan in 2012, Operation Song brings professional songwriters together with Veterans to help create music from often difficult experiences. To date, Nashville-based Operation Song has created more than 600 songs with Veterans of nearly every military conflict, to include World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Veterans who wish to participate in the Operation Song retreat program must be referred by their VA health care provider. Operation Song officials said no musical background is necessary to participate in the program; Veterans only need a desire to tell their story.

For more information about VA’s Recreation Therapy programs, visit https://www.prosthetics.va.gov/rectherapy/index.asp. For more information about VA Voluntary Service, visit https://www.volunteer.va.gov/For more information about Operation Song, visit http://www.operationsong.org/.

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VA News Release

 
 
05/12/2017 05:42 PM EDT

 Secretary David Shulkin Announces Establishment

of Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection

and Names Peter O’Rourke as its Senior Advisor and Executive Director

WASHINGTON -- Today U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin announced that he has established the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection in the Department, and that Peter O'Rourke will serve as Senior Advisor and Executive Director of the Office, reporting directly to the Secretary. 

This announcement implements the requirements in President Trump's Executive Order signed at the Department on April 27, 2017 in one third of the 45-day timeframe required by the Order.

 As detailed in the Executive Order, the Executive Director will:

  • Advise and assist the Secretary in using, as appropriate, all available authorities to discipline or terminate any VA manager or employee who has violated the public’s trust and failed to carry out his or her duties on behalf of Veterans.
  • Advise and assist the Secretary in recruiting, rewarding, and retaining high-performing employees.
  • Identify statutory barriers to the Secretary’s authority to discipline or terminate any employee who has jeopardized the health, safety, or well-being of a Veteran and to recruit, reward, or retain high-performing employee and report such barriers to the Secretary for consideration as to the need for legislative changes.
  • Work closely with relevant VA components to ensure swift and effective resolution of Veterans’ complaints of wrongdoing at VA.
  • Work closely with relevant VA components to ensure adequate investigation and correction of wrongdoing throughout the VA, and protect employees who lawfully disclose wrongdoing from retaliation.
  • Consider redundancies and the possibility of combining the office with existing VA components to improve the VA’s efficiency, effectiveness, or accountability.

O’Rourke is a veteran of both the US Navy and Air Force and has held executive roles in non-profit, consulting, and the federal government.

“I am pleased to announce the establishment of this office, fulfilling one of my highest priorities at the Department.  We need to hold our employees accountable for their actions if they violate the public trust, and at the same time protect whistleblowers from retaliation,” said Dr. Shulkin.  “Setting up this office under the strong leadership of Peter O’Rourke will give us the tools to do just that.”

 

VA realigns several program offices to improve efficiency in meeting Veterans’ health care needs

 

WASHINGTON — As part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) modernization efforts to improve efficiency in care coordination for Veterans and meet a presidential executive order for reorganizing the executive branch, VA plans to realign several programs within its Veterans Health Administration (VHA) into four offices. 

VA’s Benefits Delivery at Discharge program improves service to Veterans

 

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) program has made significant improvements in disability claim processing over the past year, with most service members who submitted claims through the program receiving decisions within 30 days of discharge.

BDD allows service members to file a claim for disability between 90 and 180 days prior to discharge from active duty, which provides time for paperwork review and medical exams prior to leaving. 

“This is an important program for our service members as they transition to Veteran status,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “The faster we can connect our Veterans with the benefits they deserve, the smoother their transition.”

In fiscal year (FY) 2018, the first full year of the revamped program, more than 36,000 service members submitted claims through BDD and about 53 percent of completed claims received a decision on their claim within 30 days. In the first month of FY 2019, 3,437 claims were completed with 57.7 percent completed within 30 days.

Throughout FY 2018, the program made continuous improvements, which include:

  • Expanding BDD claim review from two locations, to processing at any regional office 
  • Enhanced software partnerships with the Department of Defense to improve record transfers
  • Additional claim training and performance standards for military service coordinators.

By participating in BDD, service members ensure that their disability medical exams become part of their service treatment record and that service connection for their conditions may be established as early as possible. Medical conditions can get worse over time and establishing eligibility at discharge may make it easier to increase disability ratings in the future.

For more information on the BDD program, visit www.benefits.va.gov/predischarge/claims-pre-discharge-benefits-delivery-at-discharge.asp.

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VA amends regulations on VA pension and other needs-based programs

 

WASHINGTON — 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.”