Addiction treatment resources for veterans

Dear Sgt. Shaft,

My name is Sasha Boyd. I was doing some research about addiction, and noticed you mention the FMLA, or the Family and Medical Leave Act on http://www.bavf.org/shaft/120207.htm. Thank you for mentioning them. Many people don't realize that this act covers addiction treatment as well.

I work with a handful of agencies. One of which is the USA Addiction Treatment Partnership, a Florida based non-profit. We are working hard to put together one of the top resources regarding substance abuse withdrawal, and addiction.

I recently had the honor of helping to publish an article about the FMLA. It may be of interest to your audience. You can check it out here http://www.rehabilitation-center.org/whitepapers/fmla/. Any share, like, or mention goes a long way in helping us achieve our goal.

Thank you so much, keep up the great work, and stay in touch.

Sasha Boyd
Outreach Director

Dear Sasha,

I hope that by printing your letter, vets and their families will know where to get help.

Shaft Notes

• In a continuation of her efforts to put our veterans back to work, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) has called on the House to reauthorize two currently expired tax credits for businesses that prioritize hiring veterans. Bustos’ call comes on the heels of news that the House Ways & Means Committee is working on a package of so called “tax extenders” similar to one recently put forth in the U.S. Senate, which, following her outreach to key Senators, now includes the veterans hiring credits.

“The unemployment rate for our veterans remains far too high,” said Bustos. “Democrats and Republicans should work together to renew these job-creation tax credits that help put our veterans to work and provide our businesses with talented, skilled and dedicated workers.”

In December, with input from her week-long “Standing up for our Veterans” tour across Illinois’ 17th District, Bustos introduced the Jobs for Heroes Act. This bill would extend and expand two federal business tax credits designed to spur veteran employment. Because Congress failed to act, these federal tax credits expired at the end of December, but can still be restored retroactively.

Earlier this month after Bustos’ urging, the Senate Finance Committee included both these tax credits in their tax-credit extender legislation.

• American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger reacted with serious concern following Thursday night’s Arizona Republic story that a second Phoenix Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care System doctor has stepped forward to corroborate allegations of patient-care failures at the facility.

VA Dr. Katherine Mitchell reported to The Republic that she received a call last Sunday from a VA employee who said records were being destroyed at that very moment at the facility, which is now the subject of VA Inspector General’s investigation into the deaths of as many as 40 veterans whose names were allegedly kept on a secret list and went unreported.

“These shocking allegations, if true, are further proof that something is terribly wrong at the Phoenix VA facility,” said Dellinger, leader of the nation’s largest veterans service organization. “VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has taken the proper steps in placing the facility’s director, associate director and another employee on administrative leave while this investigation is ongoing. But if it is determined that there was willful negligence on the part of the staff that resulted in the deaths of veterans, any ensuing cover-up or destruction of records that could assist in the investigation, employee terminations and criminal charges must be brought against those responsible.

“I also want to acknowledge those who have stepped forward to bring this situation into the public eye – knowing fully that by speaking up, they could be jeopardizing their careers with VA. If allegations of record destruction are proven, their courage and commitment to our nation’s veterans should be commended.”

• Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) recently supported passage of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) funding bill for Fiscal Year 2015. The $71.5 billion legislation supports military construction projects in Hawaii, and provides funding to reduce the VA claims backlog and to confront the epidemic of veteran suicides.

“We have a responsibility – even in the toughest of budget years – to provide for a robust national defense and honor the veterans who have sacrificed so greatly for our nation,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who serves on the Armed Services Committee. “The FY2015 MilCon-VA funding bill provides nearly $200 million for Hawai‘i projects that will serve our larger security interests in the Asia-Pacific region. It also continues funding to prevent veteran suicides, which have become a tragic epidemic among our young Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and supports ongoing efforts to eliminate the VA claims backlog as quickly as possible.”

To reduce the veterans’ benefits claims backlog, the bill also fully funds the President’s budget request of $173.3 million for the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) and provides an additional $20 million to the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) for digitizing records and staffing needs.

Representative Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Vice Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, applauds the House’s passage of H.R. 4486, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for FY2015.

“The MilCon/VA appropriations bill the House passed represents a $7 billion increase from FY2014, and includes a number of different provisions to protect our nation’s veterans. This legislation includes full funding for disability claims processing, to give the VA additional resources to reduce the backlog,” Bilirakis said. “Disability compensation and education benefits for veterans are also fully funded, as are vital resources for veterans returning to civilian life. H.R. 4486 increases funding for suicide prevention among veteran populations; one suicide is simply one too many,” continued Bilirakis.

H.R. 4486 provides a total of $165 billion for military construction and veterans affairs. This includes $64.7 billion in funding set on a yearly basis by Congress for veterans, an increase over FY2014 levels.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or email sgtshaft@bavf.org.