Off The Base

Off The Base
7:46 am
Fri February 27, 2015

Meet the 53rd Brigade NCO of the Year

SSG Aidana Baez with the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
Bobbie O'Brien WUSF Public Media

The top Non-Commissioned Officers from the Florida Army National Guard this weekend are at Camp Blanding vying for the title of “Florida NCO of the year.”

It is two days of physical competitions, weapons and skills contests, a six-mile “ruck” march and tests on Army regulations.

Representing the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, headquartered in Pinellas Park, is Staff Sergeant Aidana Baez. She won NCO competitions at the company level and  battalion level to earn the top brigade honor.

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Off The Base
3:31 pm
Tue February 3, 2015

Veterans Suicide Prevention Act Passes

Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, US Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), during a committee hearing.
Credit House Committee on Veterans Affairs

A bill aimed at improving veteran accessibility to mental  health care has passed the US Senate and now only needs President Obama's signature to become law.

The US House passed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act on January 12, 2015 for a second time.

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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
9:19 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

Credit Twitter.com

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 / VA.gov

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
4:22 pm
Wed December 31, 2014

The VA Scandal Played Out in Florida

U.S. Rep. David Jolly talks with a "Tin-Can" sailor about the VA refusing to give his shipmates coverage for Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War.
Credit Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

The audio is a compilation of six stories that exemplify coverage of the VA scandal over delayed veterans’ health care and benefits claims as it unfolded nationally and in Florida.

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

Best Continuing Coverage VA Scandal

U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, stands to the left of new VA Secretary Bob McDonald during a news conference at James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa.
Credit Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

The audio is a compilation of five stories covering the VA scandal over delayed veterans’ health care and benefits claims as it unfolded nationally and in Florida.

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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
12:00 pm
Wed December 31, 2014

Best Series Reporting - Off The Base

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
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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