FROM WASHINGTON: News for the Enlisted, August 17, 2015

FROM WASHINGTON:  News for the Enlisted, August 17, 2015

With Congress out of town, news on legislative issues is slow, but there are other items we hope will be of interest to you. There’s a new claim that the VA is denying health care to combat veterans because of a computer error, there’s a way you might be able to get free tickets to some event you’d like to attend, and the VA has announced new training programs.
In addition, the VA has made an announcement about the problem of chemical exposure in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, something that went on from the 1950’s through 1987 and exposed thousands of people to dangerous chemicals. Anyone who was stationed at Camp Lejeune during those years needs to read the article below.
1.  Is There a Concert You’d Like to Attend? Check Out
2.  Article Says VA is Denying Health Care Enrollment to 35,000 Combat Veterans –
VA Denies the Accusation
3.  VA Launches New No-Cost Training Programs

4.  VA Expands Review of Chemical Exposure in Drinking Water at
Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune


1.  Is There a Concert You’d Like to Attend? Check Out

If there’s a concert, sporting event or other public event that you’d like to go to, but you either can’t afford the tickets or the tickets are already sold out, you just might be in luck.
The Veteran Tickets Foundation is a military charity with a remarkably straightforward mission: they distribute tickets to concerts, sporting events, performing arts and other family activities to active duty military, veterans and their families (and the families of those killed in action) via their website.
The organization works with promoters, artists and teams to pair seats that might otherwise go empty with its members. VetTix was founded by veterans Mike Focareto and Eddie Rausch after they sat next to an empty seat at the 2008 Super Bowl. The charity has grown quickly and has distributed over 1.1 million tickets in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Many of those seats go to families who could never afford to purchase them on their own. VetTix may not be focused on the biggest issues facing men and women who serve, but the organization is creating opportunities for military families to have the kind of shared experiences that create lifetime memories.
VetTix is a nonprofit that collects tickets to sporting events, concerts, theaters, plays, basically anything that takes a ticket to get into. Those tickets get donated by season ticket holders, organizations, individuals. They get those tickets in the hands of currently serving military and honorably discharged veterans. That’s honorably discharged veterans of all eras, so they have people on their site from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, as well as those who served in the current campaigns. They also give those tickets away out to families of those killed in action.
Who does VetTix serve?
ALL Branches of our Military and their Families:
  • ALL Immediate Family of any Troops Killed-In-Action.
  • ALL Currently Serving Military and their Families.
  • ALL Honorably Discharged Veterans and their Families.
Signing up is easy. Go to to create a free account and request events you’re interested in.

2.  Article Says VA is Denying Health Care Enrollment to 35,000 Combat Veterans –

VA Denies the Accusation

Last week an article was published by the that claimed the Department of Veterans Affairs is denying health care enrollment to 35,000 combat veterans, most of whom served in Iraq or Afghanistan, or both. According to the article, a whistleblower reported that the 35,000 are being denied enrollment because the VA’s computer program erroneously flagged them as needing to complete a “means test” statement.
However, while certain categories of veterans do need to complete a means test evaluation in order to enroll in VA health care, combat veterans are automatically eligible for five years of free health care.
According to the article, about 16,000 of the enrollment applications have been pending for more than five years which, if true, would mean their five years of free health care has expired. The article also says the VA has known about the problem since April 1, but nothing has happened to correct the problem.
The article also claims that VA personnel are telling combat veterans that they must fill out another form stating that they agree to co-pays for treatment of non-military related ailments. But, again according to the article, those veterans already agreed to the co-pays when signed their original health care application.
After the article appeared, a spokeswoman for the Department of Veterans Affairs denied that a computer error caused the problem. Instead, she said the problem is because the veterans’ applications were incomplete because they either did not answer questions on income eligibility or else did not agree to cover co-pays when applicable.
The spokeswoman further explained that the financial questions are intended, in part, to provide veterans with low incomes additional benefits, including travel expenses and exemption from the co-pays. She said when veterans decline to answer those questions their applications go into a pending file. And she said the VA is currently trying to reach those whose applications are pending by both telephone and mail.
These allegations are being investigated by the veterans committees of both the House and Senate and TREA will follow this story as events unfold. We want to make sure the problem is corrected if there is, in fact, a computer error. We also want to make sure that those who have been waiting five years or more are not denied care they are entitled to if the error is on the part of the VA.

3.  VA Launches New No-Cost Training Programs

Programs Designed to Help Transitioning Servicemembers and Veterans Develop New Skills and Credentials
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has launched two new no-cost training programs, Accelerated Learning Programs (ALPs) and VA Learning Hubs, to help transitioning Servicemembers and Veterans from all eras learn skills, earn credentials, and advance in civilian careers following separation from service.
ALPs and Learning Hubs are part of VA’s Veterans Economic Communities Initiative (VECI), promoting education and employment opportunities for Veterans through integrated networks of support in 50 cities. VA launched the VECI program in response to the President’s August 2014 challenge to help Veterans and families integrate with their communities and find meaningful jobs that can lead to economic success. Under VA Secretary Robert McDonald’s MyVA transformation, VECI is now in place in cities across the United States.
“My message to transitioning Servicemembers is simple: Plan early and stay engaged, because transition is the mission,” said McDonald. “These two new resources provide no-cost opportunities for our transitioning Servicemembers and Veterans to learn new skills and earn credentials, which can increase their competitiveness during their transition.”
ALPs offer transitioning Servicemembers and Veterans the opportunity to build on their world-class training and technical skills gained through their military service, and earn certifications in high-demand fields.
VA is piloting ALPs this summer with seven courses focusing on building skills and certifications needed to advance in high-demand careers in information technology (IT), as part of the President’s TechHire initiative. Each ALP course is offered at no cost and includes free referral and support services..
The first ALP cohort includes seven courses covering a range of IT-related topics, including:
  • Coding/Programming Boot Camps;
  • 80+ IT Certifications in Hardware, Software, Networking, Web Services, and more;
  • Network Support Engineer Job Training and Certification;
  • Cybersecurity Training and Certification;
  • IT Help Desk Job Training; and
  • IT Boot Camps for Desktop Support and Windows Expertise.
Transitioning Servicemembers and Veterans from any era are invited to apply to their choice of courses. Applications will be accepted starting this week – seats in the pilot cohort are limited; applicants are encouraged to apply early. ALPs do not involve use of the Post-9/11 GI Bill..  Students are able to participate in these programs while also pursuing other programs of study using Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. Visit the ALP website to learn more about each program and apply.
VA is also launching Learning Hubs in 27 cities across the country this year in partnership with the American Red Cross, The Mission Continues and Coursera, an online education platform.
Transitioning Servicemembers and Veterans can take advantage of both online and in-person study. Each week, online course modules will be completed outside the classroom while class sessions, led by Learning Hub facilitators, provide opportunities to discuss course materials with peers, hear from subject matter experts, and network. Upon completion of the program, Servicemembers and Veterans may elect to receive one free verified certificate issued by Coursera.
For more information about the VECI or to learn more about VA ALPs and Learning Hubs, contact

4.  VA Expands Review of Chemical Exposure in Drinking Water at
Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune

As part of VA’s ongoing commitment to provide care to Veterans and their families, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced earlier this month that it will start the process of amending its regulations to establish presumptions of service connection for certain conditions resulting from exposure to contaminated drinking water at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
This process is in addition to the healthcare VA already provides for 15 conditions to eligible Veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 as a result of the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012.  VA also provides reimbursement of healthcare expenses for those 15 conditions to eligible family members who resided at Camp Lejeune during that time period.
The Secretary of Veterans Affairs recently met with Senators Isakson, Burr and Tillis and the Director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to discuss the creation of presumptions of service connection for diseases associated with the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.  The diseases that are currently being reviewed for potential presumptive service connection include kidney cancer, angiosarcoma of the liver, and acute myelogenous leukemia, which are known to be related to long-term exposure to the chemicals that were in the water at Lejeune from the 1950s through 1987.  The chemicals are Benzene, Vinyl Chloride, Trichloroethylene and Perchloroethylene, which are known as volatile organic compounds, used in industrial solvents and components of fuels.  ATSDR and VA representatives will meet at ATSDR offices on August 19 to begin discussions on establishing these presumptions.
VA will also work with ATSDR and potentially the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate the body of scientific knowledge and research related to exposure to these chemicals and the subsequent development of other diseases. VA will carefully consider all public comments received when determining the final scope of any presumptions.
Veterans with health problems they believe are related to exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune may file a claim for disability compensation online at, or call 1–800–827–1000 for assistance.
For more information, Veterans and family members should contact the nearest VA healthcare facility by calling 1–877–222–VETS (8387) or visit For further information on Camp Lejeune: VHA Office of Public Health has a Website on Camp Lejeune historical water contamination at:
The U.S. Marine Corps encourages all those who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune before 1987 to register for notifications regarding Camp Lejeune Historic Drinking Water at