Off The Base

Off The Base
7:46 am
Fri January 30, 2015

Making Strides for Paralyzed Veterans

(April 2014) Lead therapist Michael Firestone adjusts the Exoskeleton computer backpack for veteran Josh Baker, paralyzed after a motorcycle accident.
Credit Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Tampa’s James A. Haley VA Hospital is using cutting edge technology to help injured veterans rehabilitate.

One of the devices, at the Spinal Cord Injury Center, helping paralyzed veterans stand and walk again is the Exoskeleton.

Using a computer backpack, robotic leg braces and a walker, veteran Josh Baker demonstrated the Exoskeleton during the April 2014 ceremonial opening of Haley’s new Polytrauma Center.

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Off The Base
9:38 am
Tue January 27, 2015

Florida Is For Veterans Begins Defining Mission

Florida is for Veterans Chair Jim Bagby

Originally published on Mon January 26, 2015 6:24 pm

Plans are taking shape in the agency tasked with pitching Florida to newly discharged veterans.  Florida is For Veterans held its second strategy meeting Monday in Tallahassee.

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Off The Base
9:19 am
Fri January 23, 2015

Lessons Learned as Director at Tampa's VA

After close to four years overseeing one of the busiest VA medical centers in the nation, Kathleen Fogarty is leaving for a less hectic post in Kansas City.
Credit Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Tampa’s James A. Haley VA Medical Center will soon have a new director. Marjorie Hedstrom, the medical center director at the VA in Popular Bluff, Mo., will take over in just over a week.

The current director, Kathleen Fogarty, is leaving Haley by choice.

She’s taken the same position at a smaller, less hectic VA hospital in Kansas City. That’s after almost four years at one of the nation’s busiest veteran medical centers serving some 200,000 veterans living in the Tampa Bay region.

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Off The Base
10:37 am
Fri January 16, 2015

Navy Pilots Train at Tampa's Air Base

Navy AM3 Jessica Clayton is an airframe structural mechanic 3rd class.
Bobbie O'Brien WUSF Public Media

A hush will fall over Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015, when 14 Navy Hornets and Super Hornets take off for a final time.

Flying the F-18 aircraft will be Navy pilots who just finished two weeks of daily exercises at the Avon Park Air Force Range. The Navy contingent from Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia includes 14 pilots in training, 22 instructors and 150 maintainers - or maintenance crew.

Navy Lt. Nate Miller said MacDill and the nearby bombing range are ideal for the 14 pilots he’s in charge of.

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Off The Base
1:34 pm
Tue January 13, 2015

Haley VA Director Leaves 'To Go Home'

(July 2014) Youth volunteer Mairyn Harris, 14, and James A. Haley VA Medical Center Director Kathleen Fogarty inside the new USO Day Room.
Credit Tessa Wiseman

Tampa's VA hospital director Kathleen Fogarty is leaving her post permanently to take a similar position with the Kansas City VA Medical Center.

She made the announcement, she said, so that VA could begin hunting for Haley's new leader.

Fogarty has been absent from James A. Haley VA Medical Center since November. That's when she was tapped to temporarily take over as the acting network director responsible for the Phoenix VA which had documented cases of delayed veterans care and long claims waiting lists. That assignment was going to last at least three months.

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Off The Base
2:11 pm
Mon January 12, 2015

CENTCOM Twitter and YouTube Hacked


Either a group or an individual claiming to be a part of the Islamic State, hacked the two social media accounts belonging to US Central Command, which oversees Department of Defense operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and the rest of the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, according to Politico.

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Off The Base
7:02 am
Fri January 9, 2015

Veteran Suicide: Beyond the Numbers

Credit Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

There’s a statistic on veteran suicide that is repeated often: VA officials say an average of 22 veterans commit suicide every day. But what is not widely known about that statistic is that a majority of veterans committing suicide are older and did not serve in combat.

For our series Off the Base, WUSF reporter Bobbie O’Brien talked with Dr. Larry Schonfeld,  a professor in the Department of Mental Health Law and Policy at the University of South Florida’s Florida Mental Health Institute.

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Off The Base
3:25 pm
Fri January 2, 2015

Will Veteran Homelessness End in 2015?

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
Credit VAntage blog /

The year 2015 could bring about some momentous changes for veterans.

First, it is the year that the Department of Veterans Affairs set as the deadline for ending veteran homelessness according to a 5-year plan adopted in 2009.

“As that deadline fast approaches, I’m pleased to report that the VA has succeeded in reducing veteran homelessness by approximately 33 percent,” said US Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL).

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Off The Base
12:00 pm
Wed December 31, 2014

Best Series Reporting

Off the Base is a weekly news series featuring the stories - the successes and the struggles - of veterans, active-duty military and their families in the Tampa Bay area.

1- (Sept. 19, 2014) - Army Ranger Cory Remsburg returns each year to James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa to show the staff his progress. He was severely injured in 2009 and spent two years recovering at Haley’s Polytrauma Center.

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Off The Base
12:00 pm
Wed December 31, 2014

Best Continuing Coverage: VA Scandal

This is a compilation of three stories about the VA scandal over delayed veterans health care as it unfolded nationally and in Florida.

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Off The Base
8:34 am
Fri December 26, 2014

2014 Major Changes for Veterans, Military

U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, during a hearing in May where the committee voted to subpoena VA records because their requests were being stonewalled.
Credit House Committee on Veterans Affairs

It’s been a transformative year for veterans and those serving in the military. We’ve seen the resignations of both the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Secretary of the Department of Defense.

And there have been changes at the state and local levels too. Here are some of the major stories from 2014:

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Off The Base
8:52 am
Fri December 19, 2014

When Fishing Is About More than the Fish

One of the free outings offered by the Central Florida Chapter of Heroes on the Water.
Credit Heroes on the Water Central Florida Chapter / Facebook

The number of Gulf War era veterans is growing as is the list of non-profit organizations formed to help returning service members.

Heroes on the Water is a top-rated, all-volunteer non-profit organization formed specifically to provide free therapeutic recreation to veterans of all eras, active-duty military and their families.

Florida has seven chapters many of which offer events year round.

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Off The Base
8:41 pm
Tue November 25, 2014

A Way for Veterans to Help Their Families

Credit Department of Veterans Affairs

Military service involves more than the person wearing the uniform – families are always a part of that equation.

A team of three University of South Florida psychology doctoral students and a graduate of the School of Social Work are conducting a research study looking at how reintegration affects military veterans and their children.

Their focus looks at how veterans are “reintegrating” to both civilian and academic life and also examines the student veterans’ well-being and that of their children.

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Off The Base
11:27 am
Fri November 21, 2014

Leave No Veteran Behind Smart Bikes

Rob Walk of Leave No Veteran Behind shows the YouTube video of their Smart Bike at the Sarasota Veterans Legacy Summit.
Bobbie O'Brien WUSF Public Media

Bringing together veterans’ service organizations to share ideas and create networks was one of the goals of The Patterson Foundation’s Veterans Legacy Summit that concluded last weekend in Sarasota.

It brought one veteran to Florida to share how he’s using his mechanical background to inspire kids on Chicago’s Southside.

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Off The Base
7:34 am
Fri November 14, 2014

Combat Vet to Commemorate Patriot Plaza

Army combat veteran Wes Moore is a New York Times bestselling author, executive producer for the PBS Series "Coming Back with Wes Moore," and the keynote speaker commemorating Sarasota's Patriot Plaza.
Credit Courtesy of Wes Moore

Saturday in Sarasota they’re holding the national commemoration of Patriot Plaza. It’s the 2800 seat amphitheater and art installation built to honor veterans and their families at Sarasota National Cemetery.

The keynote speaker for the capstone event is best-selling author Wes Moore – a former paratrooper and veteran of the Afghanistan War.

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