Have A Heart: Help A Mom With A Son Soon To Deploy

Cadet Nelson Lalli After being Recognized with his mother, Dorie Griggs and sister, Chelle.

Cadet Nelson Lalli After being Recognized with his mother, Dorie Griggs and sister, Chelle.

Some of the most popular postings to Off the Base have been written by Dorie Griggs. She chronicled her journey as a mother, new to military jargon and life, from when her son entered the Citadel to later joining the U.S. Army.

One entry, written in July 2013, has received a lot of traffic: Lessons Learned from a Son’s First Deployment. And that’s where I found this comment and plea for help from today, Feb. 14, 2017.

My son is set to deploy in two weeks. He is married and has two children. His wife is his first priority and I support that wholeheartedly but is there a way for me to keep up with what is going on? Can I still be on his Family List to receive updates? I don’t want to ask him or his wife because they are already under enough stress.

I am uncertain which military branch her son is serving, but I’m hoping all current active-duty, experienced military parents and veterans can share some insight.

Thanks to the military family, ahead of time, for coming through.

Growing A Community Of Farmer Veterans

Raising chickens is one of many skills veterans will learn at the Veterans Garden under construction in Tampa.

Raising chickens is one of many skills veterans will learn at the Veterans Garden under construction in Tampa.

There’s a growing movement to help veterans transition from the battlefield to a more bucolic setting. Whether it’s a community agriculture initiative or a functioning farm – researchers are finding that raising food can offer veterans both a therapeutic and an economic value.

A garden where veterans can learn to work the land and grow food is under construction at The Sustainable Living Project, on Sligh Avenue, just across from Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. Continue reading

US Central Command: Civilians Killed In Yemen Raid

yemen_map_centcomThere were civilian casualties that may include children during the U.S. military raid in Yemen Jan. 29, 2017 which also killed Navy Seal Team Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens according to a statement from U.S. Central Command.

“Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula has a horrifying history of hiding women and children within militant operating areas and terrorist camps, and continuously shows a callous disregard for innocent lives,” said Col. John J. Thomas, U.S. Central Command spokesman.

Officials add that “valuable intelligence” was gathered from materials seized during the Yemen raid that also wounded three U.S. service members.

One Dead, Four Wounded, Plane Lost During Yemen Raid

centcomlogoA U.S. ground raid against al-Qa’ida in Yemen on Jan. 28, 2017 resulted in the death of a service member and wounding of four more in two different instances, according to a release from U.S. Central Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa.

But the operation did resulted in an estimated 14 al-Qa’ida members being killed and the gathering of information and insight into possible, future terror attacks.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our elite servicemembers,” said Commander of U.S. Central Command Gen. Joseph Votel. “The sacrifices are very profound in our fight against terrorists who threaten innocent peoples across the globe.”

Three U.S. service members were hurt during the raid and another was injured during the landing of an aircraft.

The release stated that the “military aircraft assisting in the operation experienced a hard landing at a nearby location, resulting in an additional U.S. injury.”

The military intentionally destroyed the plane where it landed after it was determined it could not fly.

The name of the service member killed in action is being withheld pending next of kin notification.

Florida VA Nursing Homes Only Meet 20 Percent Of Need

One of Florida's existing VA sponsored nursing homes. Photo courtesy of FDVA.

One of Florida’s existing VA sponsored nursing homes. Photo courtesy of FDVA.

By its own analysis, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs calculates that Florida only has 20 percent of the VA-sponsored nursing home beds it needs to serve aging veterans. And it’s put the state on a “critical” list when it comes to building VA nursing homes.

“I need nursing homes,” said retired Army Lt. Col. Glenn Sutphin, executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs. “The VA says there are two states that have critical needs Texas and Florida. I’m supposed to have 4,049 beds. That’s what they say I should have. I’ve got like 810. I’ve got two nursing homes I’m trying to build. We need to keep building them. But they changed the design. They went from $38 million to $58 million.”

The cost of the nursing home planned for Port St. Lucie, jumped $20 million because of design changes according to an online video, “We have taken a concept of creating a home environment for our residents, for our veterans who live with us. We create an environment where it’s not as institutional as your traditional nursing home creating small neighborhoods where possible.”

That includes private rooms for veterans, a necessity for today’s military according to VA Secretary Bob McDonald. Continue reading

USA Today Opens Up VA ‘Secret’ Ratings System

VA Sec McDonald visit to Phoenix VA

Bob McDonald’s first visit as VA Secretary was to the Phoenix VAMC where he met with veterans and employees like Medical Support Assistant Michael Logie. He also visited the Las Vegas VAMC during the trip. Photo courtesy of the VA blog Vantage Point

Reporter Donovan Slack with USA Today reveals internal ratings from the 2015 fourth quarter where the VA ranked the quality of care at 146 VA medical centers. But when she

But VA Undersecretary for Health David Shulkin told USA Today that the rating system p that uses from one to five stars – might not be understood if it was made public because it was designed to only be an “internal improvement tool.”

But without the star ratings, members of the public — including patients, members of Congress and others outside the agency who could hold it accountable — have no way of knowing whether VA medical centers are improving or declining, except to plow through a dizzying array of hundreds of spreadsheets on the agency’s website.

“The data’s there, but you’d have to be an expert to get through it,” Shulkin conceded.

He said 120 of the 146 medical centers that the VA rates on the star scale have shown improvement since he began overseeing the Veterans Health Administration in July 2015.

The newspaper has set up a searchable

Bob McDonald’s first visit as VA Secretary was to the Phoenix VAMC where he met with veterans and employees like Medical Support Assistant Michael Logie. He also visited the Las Vegas VAMC during the trip. Photo courtesy of the VA blog Vantage Point

database if you want to checkout the star rating of your the VA medical center nearest you. You can read the full USA Today article here.

The VA has published a response to the Dec. 7, 2016 USA Today article about their internal ratings tool called Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning (SAIL). The VA said it worked with the reporter for more than a month on the story and wanted to explain what the ratings represent.

All of us at VA care very much about the quality of care our patients receive. We are committed to continuously improving that quality. In fact, our latest SAIL data indicates that 82% of VA medical centers (120 of 146) have made improvement between the 4th Quarter of FY2015 and the 3rd quarter of FY2016.

You can read the full response and Dr. Shulkin’s comments here.

Law Schools And Students Join Forces For Veterans

stetson_vli_sign_exterior

The Stetson Veterans Advocacy Clinic sits across the street from the College of Law main campus in Gulfport, FL.

There’s a small but growing legal community in the U.S. that’s helping veterans with their benefits claims while working to improve the VA system. And their work continues even as President-elect Donald Trump prepares to name a new VA Secretary to “make the VA great again,” as promised during his campaign.<--break->

Veteran advocacy clinics offer free help to veterans with legal problems. The law school clinics come in many different sizes with many different missions. Continue reading

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