Veterans

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

The Veterans Affairs scandal over delayed medical appointments and secret wait lists is still unfolding. And there’s been plenty of evidence that there are systemic problems at VA medical facilities throughout the U.S.

Yet, even the VA’s toughest critics note that most of the VA medical staff are hardworking, dedicated professionals.

Mark Schreiner / WUSF 89.7 News

This Friday will mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the historic military landing at Normandy during World War II. 

This week on Florida Matters, we'll take a look at D-Day through the eyes of a C-47 pilot who was there.  First Lt. Gerald “Bud” Berry was among those who flew paratroopers behind enemy lines in the hours before the beach invasion. 

WUSF Public Media

How to do you plan to observe Memorial Day - a day set aside to remember service members who have fallen in battle and others who are no longer living.

Kurt Rotar, director of the Florida National Cemetery at Bushnell and Bay Pines National Cemetery in St. Petersburg, suggested visiting your nearest national cemetery to pay tribute. There are planned ceremonies or you can just walk among the veterans buried there.

Gov. Rick Scott has rejected a request from Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater to consider a search for a new head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Scott wants the cabinet to consider changes at the departments of insurance regulation, financial regulation, and revenue. The exchange comes as Democratic lawmakers call for an investigation into the ouster of former FDLE head Gerald Bailey.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Gov. Rick Scott, a Navy veteran and son of a veteran, convinced Congress to hold a field hearing to delve further into care being provided at Florida’s VA hospitals.

All this came after state regulators spent most of April conducting unannounced visits to Florida’s VA hospitals, and were denied access to their federal records.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Have you ever taken a photograph and the camera flash turned the person’s eyes into red or white dots? That bane of amateur photographers is becoming a useful tool for physically impaired veterans.

Rick Archer, an assisted technology therapist at the James A. Haley VA Polytrauma and Rehabilitation Center, has  a typical laptop computer in front of him. Attached to it is a black device, the size of a toothbrush case, called Eyegaze.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

It’s not your father’s VA anymore as evidenced by just one look inside the Department of Veterans’ Affairs new Polytrauma and Rehabilitation Center at James A. Haley VA Hospital at 13000 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., Tampa.

There’s a putting green, a two-story climbing wall, and an aquatic center for recreational therapy. Each of the 56 new private rooms has large windows for natural light, lush wood paneling, wheelchair accessible bathrooms, a desk and a large-screen TV so veterans and active duty personnel have direct access to education programs and entertainment.

The Veterans Administration has been fending off reports that military veterans have died needlessly because of long waits and delayed care at veterans’ hospitals. Today, Florida Senator Bill Nelson came to Tampa - looking for answers.

Nelson got a couple of answers - but other bigger issues were still left hanging. Like whether it's true that least 19 veterans have died because of delays in simple medical screenings at various VA hospitals or clinics across the country.

USF Psychological Services Center

Family therapy, couples therapy, individual therapy, even weight management groups are all services that have been available at the USF Psychological Services Center for decades. Now, the center’s director, who served 10 years in the U.S. Army, is reaching out to the veteran and military families offering help.

“We know that there are veterans, for whatever reason, are still hesitant about seeking services in the VA,” said Jack Darkes, director of the University of South Florida Psychological Services Center.

www.cemeteryprints.com

A memorial is being held Saturday morning to honor those who served in the Spanish American War.

The Veterans Museum Committee of Hillsborough County is hosting the event that will unveil a new Spanish American War memorial in Veterans Park. Hillsborough County was a main embarkation port for the American army and naval units destined for Cuba in 1898.

Coordinator for the event, John Werner says this memorial is something everyone should be proud of.

Nathan Powell

On Saturday,  thousands showed up at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell for a ceremony to honor the nearly 100,000 veterans buried there.

Wreaths Across America is a nationwide effort to place wreaths on the headstones of fallen veterans.

Vietnam Veteran Bob Grimshaw called the ceremony "moving."

"It is deeply moving to me as a veteran, because I remember those that didn't return from Vietnam and all of the others from the other wars combined together, it is a deeply moving ceremony." Grimshaw said.

Wreaths Across America Facebook

The tradition of placing Christmas wreaths on the graves of fallen soldiers and veterans started in 1992 at Arlington National Cemetery. Wreaths Across America has grown to include cemeteries in all 50 states and more than 20 cemeteries overseas.

But this year, the program is experiencing a dramatic drop in donations at Arlington and other veterans’ cemeteries.

VA.gov

Veterans in Florida can now get a flu shot at any of more than 800 Walgreens locations and the drug store will electronically forward their immunization record to the VA.

It's a pilot program being tried out in the Veterans Integrated Service Network 8 (VISN8) which includes all of Florida, southern Georgia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It requires no paper record, no remembering at your next VA health care appointment.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Every day, 22 veterans take their own lives.  That's according to a report released earlier this year by the Department of Veterans Affairs.  And that number could actually be higher. 

The rate of veteran-suicide is much higher than for the general population.

The Veterans Crisis Line was established six years ago to try and slow the flood of veteran suicides.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Throughout Florida and the nation, events and special showings are scheduled to recognize the sacrifice of those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces and those who are currently serving. Keep checking back for updates.

A map of Veterans Day observances throughout the United States is provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs: Celebrate our Veterans this Veterans Day.  Participate in Veterans Day events across the country on Nov. 11, and join VA as we #ThankAVet on social media.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

As more and more active-duty military enter the civilian workforce, the number of career and job fairs for veterans has grown.

But very little so far has been offered to those veterans and military families who want to work for themselves.

Enter Pinellas SCORE and its Veterans Initiative. For a second year, the free business mentoring group has planned a Start-Up Business Resource Expo for veterans, active-duty members and their families.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Farrington / U.S. Navy photo

An estimated 2.3 million men and women have served during the nation’s last 12 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. And as they transition out of the military, the veterans will need care for immediate and long-term conditions like post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.

And many from health care professionals to retired military are concerned that the neglect of past veterans is not repeated with this new generation.

Stetson University

Legal experts from Stetson University College of Law, the St. Petersburg Bar Foundation and the Community Law Program are offering free assistance with simple wills and advanced directives to veterans of World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars and their spouses in the Tampa Bay area.

To be eligible, veterans must have limited assets and low incomes and must make an appointment by Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013. There will be no walk-ins allowed. To schedule an appointment, call 727-562-7800 x 7315 or 727-562-7393.

Wounded Warriors Project

The Florida-based Wounded Warriors Project (WWP) plans to open its coffers should the congressional stalemate continue and VA payments cannot  be made to veterans with disabilities and families of fallen service members.

The non-profit organization - which has assisted some 40,000 injured veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan war - has committed $20 million to help its alumni according to the WWP website.

Carlos Bongioanni/Stars and Stripes

World War II veterans on an Honor Flight from Mississippi pushed their way through barricades to visit Washington, D.C. memorials Tuesday, the first day of the federal government shutdown, according to the Stars and Stripes.

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