Lending Program Aims to Help Vets Start Businesses

veteran-owned-small-businessesFAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Veterans could find a smoother transition into the workforce through a nationwide initiative to make loans more available.

The head of the U.S. Small Business Administration announced the new Veteran Pledge Initiative during a news conference Tuesday on Fort Bragg. National, regional and community lenders who are participating will increase their lending for veterans. The goal is for lending to grow by 25 percent during a five-year period to aid veterans looking to become entrepreneurs or small-business owners. That could mean $475 million more in loans for veterans, the SBA said.

Soldiers and veterans at Fort Bragg have been among the first in the U.S. to have the program available to them, said Thomas McCollum, a Fort Bragg spokesman.

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VA and Veterans Service Organizations Announce Claims Initiative to Reduce Claims Backlog

Joint Effort Aimed at Promoting Use of Fully Developed Claims

WASHINGTON – Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), and The American Legion announced a new partnership to help reduce the compensation claims backlog for Veterans. The effort—the Fully Developed Claims (FDC) Community of Practice—is a key part of VA's overall transformation plan to end the backlog in 2015 and process claims within 125 days at 98% accuracy. VA can process FDCs in half the time it takes for a traditionally filed claim.

"VA prides itself on our ongoing partnership with organizations that represent Veterans throughout the claims process," said Undersecretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey. "A Fully Developed Claim is the most effective way to ensure a Veteran's claim never reaches the backlog—and is the basis for this new initiative between VA and what we expect will be an ever-increasing number of Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) and others who represent Veterans at various points of the claims process. "

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VA Mandates Overtime to Increase Production of Compensation Claims Decisions

WASHINGTON – As part of its ongoing effort to accelerate the elimination of the disability compensation claims backlog, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is announcing today that it is mandating overtime for claims processors in its 56 regional benefits offices. This surge, which will be implemented through the end of fiscal year 2013, will be targeted to eliminating the backlogged status of claims. The additional overtime hours that will be worked during this period will be used to help eliminate the backlog with continued emphasis on high-priority claims for homeless Veterans and those claiming financial hardship, the terminally ill, former Prisoners of War, Medal of Honor recipients, and Veterans filing Fully Developed Claims.

"VA is dedicated to providing Veterans with the care and benefits they have earned and deserve," said VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki. "This increased overtime initiative will provide more Veterans with decisions on their claims and will help us achieve our goal of eliminating the claims backlog."

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VA, DoD and HHS Partner to Expand Access to Mental Health Services for Veterans, Service Members and Families

Inter-Agency Effort to Increase Access to Mental Health Services Responds to Executive Order

WASHINGTON – Today, the Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA), Defense (DoD) and Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the progress made to date on initiatives called for in President Obama's August 31, 2012, Executive Order to Improve Access to Mental Health Services for Veterans, Service Members, and their families.

"We have made strong progress to expand Veterans' access to quality mental health services, and President Obama has challenged us to do even more," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "Our ongoing, joint efforts reflect our commitment to the health and well-being of the men and women who have served the Nation."

"One of the great challenges we face as a nation is how to provide quality, accessible, long term, mental health care for service members, veterans and their families. Using the combined resources and expertise from across the government we are advancing services for those who have sacrificed so much for our nation," said Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

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Film Explores Life After Military for Female Vets

when women come marchingIn 1992, Angela Arellano, then a 19-year-old Marine based in Okinawa, told military police that a noncommissioned officer had raped her after an evening spent watching a football game on television.

The investigation did not result in a prosecution. Instead, Arellano was accused of lying and disciplined for an after-hours violation.

"They said he was an outstanding Marine and I was trying to smear his good reputation," recalls Arellano of Tumwater, Thurston County. "I was given two weeks of restrictions, two weeks of extra duty and two months of reduced pay."

Arellano is one of eight military women whose stories are told in the documentary "Service: When Women Come Marching Home."

The documentary will air May 26 on PBS.

In recent weeks, the scope of military sexual assaults -- and the difficulties victims face in reporting these crimes -- has been on the front burner in Congress, generating bipartisan anger and calls for changes in the military justice system.

But the problem has been festering for decades. A Department of Veterans Affairs report cites 23 percent of the women seeking health care from the department report experiences of military sexual trauma.

Arellano waited until 2005, when she says she felt "something just wasn't right inside of me," to seek help.

Read more: Film Explores Life After Military for Female Vets

Anonymous - Philadelphia, PA

"I am the wife of a Viet Nam Veteran. My husband started going to PVMSEC 10 years ago for help. No mere words could ever express how much his life and in turn our family life has changed for the better in those years. I am and always will be grateful for the wonderful care he has received at the Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service Center & Education Center."

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