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Veterans

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.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

The U.S. military is downsizing. The war in Iraq is over, and combat troops are due out of Afghanistan by the end of next year. That means more than 1 million service members will be entering the civilian workforce in the coming years.

That’s why two veterans are on a mission to help employers and the community in general separate fact from fiction when it comes to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Florida is home to around 1.6 million military veterans. That's a point of pride among state officials who like to say Florida is the "most veteran-friendly state in the nation.”

Florida offers a number of tax breaks and services to veterans and now, a new honor. Governor Rick Scott has created a state medal to recognize their service.

Sgt. Fredrick Coleman, USMC / U.S. Central Command Communication Integration

How do parents of adult children deal with the stress and uncertainty when their child volunteers to go off to war?

Jean Cicero is married to a police officer, now retired. She said it was no surprise that her son, Rick,  joined the Army and served in the first Gulf War or that he became a police officer when he returned home.

“It was kind of hard to decide which was more difficult, which made me crazier,” Jean said. “I would talk to him and he’d go ‘Mom, you’ve got to be brave because if you’re brave then I’m brave.’”

Wheelchair Athletes Test Access

Jul 18, 2013
Lottie Watts / WUSF

More than 550 wheelchair athletes are in Tampa for the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games.  Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, public places have to be accessible to them. But one group of athletes from South Florida found some places are more accommodating than others. 

Shannon Buchholz traveled from Aventura with a group of athletes that included her husband Harvey, who has multiple sclerosis and uses a motorized wheelchair. Shannon said she made a reservation for 10, including four people in wheelchairs and one service dog, at Bern's on Saturday night after opening ceremonies for the games. 

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

This week, the Tampa Bay region is hosting more than 600 elite athletes, their coaches and families.

Opening ceremonies for the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games were held this weekend at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Outside, under an inflatable arch, the first event, a hand-cycling race for 5K and 10K, started and finished.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Whether they’re offering predatory car loans or trying to sell burial services at the VA National Cemeteries  – there are scammers who prey on active-duty military and veterans.

Monday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed HB 1223 that gives service members an added layer of protection from fraud and scams in state law.

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