Critics Wrong to Ignore MyVA Reforms


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tom-phipottMilitary Update: Before Donald Trump or House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) or a panel of health industry executives called this month for a leadership makeover to save VA healthcare, a separate committee of VA advisors asked critics this election year to stop ignoring an unprecedented transformation occurring across the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Veteran service organizations echo a similar message, noting, for example, that key parts of Trump’s 10-point plan to improve VA healthcare, unveiled Monday in Virginia Beach, were embraced months ago by VA and are being implemented or awaiting new authorities or funding from Congress.

In an era of bitter partisanship, politicians can shine no light on achievements by the opposition party, even on issues critical to veterans. The risk of such strategy, the MyVA Advisory Committee suggests, is that politics will steal momentum from real reforms, and return VA to crisis mode, even as candidates vow that their highest priority is to help veterans.

MyVA Advisory Committee is a dozen leaders and subject matter experts on veteran issues, business and higher education. The twelve were appointed in March 2015 to advise VA on implementing Secretary Bob McDonald’s “MyVA initiatives” with its goal to create “a high-performing and customer-focused culture” across VA. Though McDonald appointed them, MyVA committee members operate independent of VA, tracking and evaluating progress for improving access to benefits and quality care.

Given the drumbeat of criticism still being leveled at VA, and a feint by the congressionally chartered Commission on Care to propose dismantling VA healthcare and have veterans rely solely on for-profit care, the advisory committee released a preliminary report card on MyVA three months early.

Its members unanimously agreed “the change we have witnessed over the past 15-months – at all levels of the Department – is unprecedented.” Though significant challenges remain to modernize VA, the committee said, the transformation underway “is right, appropriate and does set a course for long-term reform and excellence across the department.”

The committee “strongly urges those who would…politicize the ongoing reform at VA to consider first…the debt of honor that’s been earned” by veterans and “how a grateful nation best pays on that debt.”

The committee chair is retired Army Major Gen. Josue (Joe) Robles, Jr., former president and chief executive officer of USAA, an insurance and investment association for military and veterans. Its vice chair is Air Force veteran Michael Haynie, vice chancellor at Syracuse University and executive director of its Institute for Veterans and Military Families.

In a phone interview, Robles and Haynie confirmed that their worry election-year politics and the Commission on Care report might derail current reforms had sparked the MyVA progress report months ahead a fall deadline.

“This is the political season and I know there’s a lot of pressure on a lot of people to make statements or take positions,” said Robles. “And we wanted to make sure it’s clear the direction we’re heading” on assessing VA.

Haynie said he wouldn’t have supported releasing the statement last week if he had seen only marginal changes to VA programs and performance.

“Instead, what we have seen has truly been fundamental change in accountability, in transparency and in culture. It’s the kind of change that really does set a long-term direction for VA that is drastically different from the course VA was on two years ago.”

“We all agree,” Haynie added, “that the worse thing we can do is politicize veterans issues such that veterans are last folks people are thinking about.” Inside VA, he said, a wave of reforms has been driven by “authentic and purposeful focus on how do we do better by veterans.”

Nothing merits or demands a collaborative approach to developing good policy, programs and services than those aimed at veterans, Haynie said. So it serves everyone, regardless of political orientation, that the VA transformation “not be political or parochial or motivated by self-interest. It the definition of where citizenship should be the prevailing logic.”

Trump and Miller, who introduced Trump at his Monday speech, had other goals in mind. Miller, who is retiring, has led criticism of VA for years, including through the wait-time scandal that found scores of VA executives protecting their bonuses by hiding lists of patients waiting for care.

Despite a near wholesale change in top VA leadership, Miller and GOP colleagues are keeping the focus on fresh pockets of executive abuses, and rail against VA’s inability to fire or swiftly discipline career bureaucrats.

Trump signaled that Miller might be his nominee for VA secretary. In his introduction to Monday’s speech, Miller said veterans have been ill served by VA, not for lack of budget dollars, which have “quadrupled” since 2001, but due to scandal after scandal allowed by failed leaders.
He called VA “a model of government dysfunction” and tagged former senator and secretary of state Hillary Clinton “a career bureaucrat” who would allow more scandals.

Trump, Miller said, “doesn’t view VA’s problems as a fantasy that’s been created by the opposition party. He knows that they’re real.”

Point one of Trump’s 10-point plan to fix VA healthcare, Trump said, is to appoint a VA secretary of “great competence” and “not be a political hack,” as he labeled McDonald, a West Point graduate, former Army Ranger and former chief executive of Proctor & Gamble Corp.

Trump promised to give “every veteran” in America access either to VA or private sector health care, a move veterans service organizations oppose, fearful that ballooning costs would put the entire VA health system at risk, a special concern for severely disabled veterans on rely on VA the most.

Other Trump ideas that had vet groups confused were his call to move veterans to the front for visas, and to relax “confinement rules,” perhaps a reference to criminal sentences given veterans who are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress or service-related brain injury. But Trump didn’t elaborate.

Send comments to Military Update, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA, 20120, email or twitter: Tom Philpott @Military_Update.

Bend Town Hall Identifies Several Issues

The MyVA Cascadia Board held a town hall meeting in Bend, OR at Central Oregon Community College on May 9, 2016 to discuss on-going issues with veterans and families in the region. The following is a list of issues and concerns discussed.

The Board will be meeting later in June to begin discussions as to how address these issues in both the short- and long-term. More information will be provided as solutions, partnerships, and ideas are formulated. If you have ideas regarding these issues, please weigh in!


Bend, Oregon
Category Need Resolution
Benefits The claims process.  It seems that disabled Veterans are guilty until proven innocent.  The VA demands expert opinions from a private doctor, but Veteran is already disabled so they are struggling emotionally and financially Laws need to be changed where when it is obvious based on where they were stationed in combat, the wounds make sense.
Continuity of Care My son’s doctor left and clinic did not set up an appointment with his new doctor.  They said it was my son’s responsibility (TBI, PTSD).  Couldn’t get through on phone line so went into clinic Keep track of Veterans and contact them to see if they need appointment with new doctor
Benefits The DOD sends soldiers into battle and order them to perform unhealthy tasks and as a result they are wounded.  DOD then sends them to VA.  DOD should take the blame  
Benefits How do I get a HIPAA? There are instances when you can help.  Sometimes you have an ethical duty to reach out to help.
Benefits Law needs to be changed so it is not worked for claims, “as likely as not”  
Health Care The Choice program is good in general.  I try to help my son find a mental health provider but I’m not sure how to use Choice as his advocate.  Can he use an outside provider  
Health Care Walk in care Find PA or local doctors to volunteer one day a month to assist with walk-ins
Benefits New to VA system.  Still learing about VA and what they offer, and learning about what others have experienced with the system  
Transportation The continuation of the Central Oregon Veterans Medical Transportation program.  50-120 Veterans per month will not make it to medical appointments Interested and caring volunteers, alternate funding sources, smart ideas
Mental Health Coordinator for making appointments for mental health.  Called over a period of several months with no return calls.  MH not notifying Veteran of appointment  
Health Care Continuous rotation of caregiver at CBOC Increase their pay so it meets local pay scale
Health Care Dental care – 90+day wait; cardiology care – have to go to Portland Persuade congress to change rules
Transportation Getting drivers certified to drive to Portland or just around central Oregon We can now get physicals in Bend, but can’t do fingerprinting in area
Health Care Hiring people who care An evaluation once a year
Coordination of Care Who is the Veteran’s advocate with direct access to COO/CEO of St. Charles Health System or Bend Memorial Clinic? Develop this person to have the personal relationship to problem solve the myriad of access issues
Benefits Allow for more % for travel pay to cover the loss of work, child care, fuel Policy Change
Health Care Walk in care Hire extra staff and rotate doctors into walk in care
Beneft Allow Veterans to use their GI bill benefits no matter how long it has been.  We paid for it. Policy Change
Housing Access to affordable housing for students Partner with developers who focus on and offer affordable housing
Health Care Bend health care has almost all of the medical resources without going 150 miles away Fund the VA to provide people and resources as needed
Benefits Timely processing of claims/benefits applications; 6-8 weeks to see a VSO Additional funding for VSOs and assistants
Health Care The Choice program is a joke for Bend/Redmond residents.  Very little services at the clinic, but that prevents us from using outside doctors Allow Choice for specialties not available at clinic
Resources   Suggest offering a publicized service to Veterans helping them find volunteer opportunities to help other Veterans
Health Care Access to medical care/PCPs turnover of doctors and morale Increase funding/staff/capacity and care for front line staff
Coordination of Care Smooth transition from purchased care to Choice.  Too many Veterans confused/unsure of how to access care Education forums or open house to explain how it works
Health Care Increasing the availability to contact providers Get rid of telephone line to Portland
Health Care Timely hiring of providers and staff within the VA system along with wages Decrease the bureaucracy of the HR system
Benefits Knowledge of what’s available to Veterans: services, benefits, etc. Increase advertising to create awareness
Resources Sharing resources (non-profits) that want to help fill in the gaps that VA has Start a resource list that is easy to follow and share
Resources Caregiver support meetings Allow VA to share information if caregivers give okay.  Set up meetings so caregivers can meet and start group
Benefits Have VA left hand talk to right. Communicate better on benefits
Health Care Communication – it takes several tries to get through to VA, put on hold and then disconnected.  Calls not returned, no follow-up Hire competent, knowledgeable people who actually care.  This includes, but not limited to receptionists, technicians, providers
Health Care The Bend CBOC mentions how busy they are, but visiting with staff members state otherwise. Needs to be more transparency with CBOC and let their community know what is happening
Benefits   Hire one person for Central Oregon who can navigate VA, Choice program, claims, updates, transportation.  Someone who will advocate for Veterans
Benefits   It would be nice to have people in place to assist with filing claims, other than VSOs
Resources Travel that Central OR Veterans have to endure to get specialty care Consider an additional inpatient/speciality facility for local community
Health Care Not reaching out to local practitioners to fill gaps in Choice program Reach out to physician organizations with Choice details
Health Care Communication about processes and procedures with Choice program Partner with VSOs to liaison between Veteran needing care
Communication Misinformation and lack of information to Veterans Every Oregon Veteran gets a subscription to ODVA newsletter
Resources Each community has a bunch of Veteran organizations that do not communicate or advocate Each community establish a Veterans council consisting of VSOs, AL posts, etc to get updates from MyVA Cascadia
Health Care Communication via phone Need human voice on VAPORHCS telephone options
Health Care When calling Choice or any VA facility, VA rep should be in your areas and not on the east coast Break areas of service into local centers
Benefits Access to benefits, problems with constant change in caregivers  
Resources Food for homeless and affordable housing Central Oregon Kitchen wants to help
Health Care Creating trust between VA and service user.  This is especially true with MST survivors Clinicans need to use trauma informed interventions
Health Care Access issues; compressed tours for leadership in local clinic  
Resources Lack of support to family members who live with a Veteran with PTSD Allow counseling for marital individual and children
Benefits Travel reimbursement, length of time for disability claim reassessment, too long to see a specialist  
Resources Immediate emergency medical care, affordable housing, local drug/alcohol rehab options Effective networking at every government and local level
Health Care Veterans with PTSD are still being prescribed multiple medication instead of receiving quality mental health care Allow more trauma informed interventions
Coordination of Care Tri-West and Choice problems. 30 days to get an appointment through them Communication
Health Care Same day appointments Pay local providers more or inform local providers they can help Veterans
Benefits Stopping benefits for Veterans who go on active orders when they request it and not 8 months later Honor the requests of the Veterans when they are made
Health Care Same day appointments Get more doctors for the Bend clinic or work with local doctors to handle the workloads
Benefits Sufficient funds for the VBA and VHA and Vet Center operations so they can do their jobs timely Properly report shortcomings to congress and OMB
Health Care Not enough mental health providers and funding.  Veterans coming back from combat are generally waiting a month or longer to be seen Pay providers more money, fund mental health before issues become so profound
Resources A phone book number for a special clearing house of any veterans issues
Health Care The long distances that Veterans have to travel from Bend for specialty care Allow Veterans to use local hospitals and doctors
Benefits A better information filing system – it should not be difficult to change marital status or address Electronic filing system that is better than current one
Health Care Appointment times that work for people with full time jobs A better appointment making system; more flexible hours
Transportation VA Driver Certification  
Health Care A long wait time for doctor’s appointments Need 48 hour appt options
Health Care Dental Care Change the rules
Health Care Doctors bills denied and sent to collections  
Health Care Pain meds being shut down without notice  
Transportation Transportation to VA hospitals Change the rules



SECVA: Transformation Underway with Measurable Results

WASHINGTON – Today Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald and Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D. Gibson updated the Commission on Care laying out the current state of VA and the transformation that is underway to deliver better customer service and results for America’s Veterans.

In laying out the key pieces of the transformation underway – MyVA – Secretary McDonald said, “MyVA is our framework for modernizing our culture, processes, and capabilities – combining functions, simplifying operations, providing Veterans a world-class, customer-focused, Veteran-centered enterprise. I know transformational change is not easy but it is our commitment to the Veterans we serve in order to bring them the customer service and the care and benefits they have earned.”

Secretary McDonald outlined the five MyVA strategies focused on customer-service excellence: improve the Veteran experience, improve the employee experience, improve internal support services, establish a culture of continuous improvement, and expand strategic partnerships. He also provided updates on progress made to date of VA’s 12 breakthrough priorities.

“We have challenges in VA and we own them, but the transformation that Bob talked about is well underway and already delivering measurable results for improving access to care and improving the Veterans experience,” said Deputy Secretary Gibson.

Deputy Secretary Gibson laid out the roadmap for VA to transform from a loose federation of regional systems to a highly integrated enterprise and integrated provider and payer model and presented the following metrics showing that transformation is underway and having positive impact on Veterans care.

  • In a nationwide, one-day Access Stand Down VHA staff reviewed the records of more than 80,000 Veterans to get those waiting for urgent care off of wait lists and into clinics. They identified just over 3,300 patients waiting for more than seven days on the Electronic Wait List (EWL) for an appointment in a Level One clinic. By the end of the day, 80 percent were given an appointment immediately, and 83 percent were given an appointment within two-and-a-half weeks.
  • Real-time customer-satisfaction feedback collected in our medical centers through VetLink—our kiosk-based software—tells us that about 90 percent of Veterans are either “completely satisfied” or “satisfied” getting the appointment when they wanted it.
  • Annual clinical work has increased among VA providers seeing Veterans by almost 18 percent in the last three years; 20 percent when VA and non-VA providers are calculated together.
  • With changes already underway to leverage our scale and build a world class end-to-end supply chain, we have already redirected $24 million back towards activities providing better Veteran outcomes.

These results build on the elements of excellence already in place in VA’s health care system that must be maintained and, in many cases, expanded upon.

  • According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, VA has outperformed the private sector in customer service for a decade.
  • According to a February article in the Journal of American Medicine, 30-day risk-standardized mortality rates are lower in VA than those of non-VA hospitals for acute myocardial infarction and heart failure.
  • The American Journal of Infection Control found that in five years methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections declined 69 percent in VA acute care facilities and 81 percent in spinal cord injury units thanks to VA’s aggressive MRSA prevention plan.
  •  The Independent Assessment found that VA performed the same or significantly better than non-VA providers on 12 of 14 effectiveness measures in the inpatient setting.
  • The Independent Assessment also found that VA performed significantly better on 16 outpatient HEDIS measures compared with commercial HMOs and significantly better on 15 outpatient HEDIS measures compared with Medicare HMOs.
  • A 2015 study found that VA mental health care was better than private-sector care by at least 30 percent on all seven performance measures, with VA patients with depression more than twice as likely as private-sector patients to get effective long-term treatment.
  • Another 2015 study found that outcomes for VA patients compared favorably to patients with non-VA health insurance, with VA patients more likely to receive recommended evidence-based treatment.

Secretary McDonald and Deputy Secretary Gibson were joined by VHA’s Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Community Care, Dr. Baligh Yehia, who outlined the history and evolution of VA’s partnering with medical providers in the community to include the Department of Defense, Indian Health Service, several academic medical partner hospitals, and a growing number of private sector providers. He outlined the path forward for the Veterans Health Administration to become an integrated payer and provider, much of which depends on a legislative proposal currently working through Congress.

VA offered demonstrations of three management tools showcasing new technology to improve the way Veterans schedule appointments and how VA health care practitioners can see and interact with patient data, all of which improve outcomes for Veterans and take into account feedback from Veterans and employees. This includes a cell phone app currently in development that will allow Veterans to schedule their own appointments as well as a program that has existed in all VA medical centers for a year-and-a-half that allows VA physicians to view a patient record that integrates information from VA, the Department of Defense and community health partners in one screen.

Today’s presentation to the Commission on Care follows a presentation less than a month ago from VA’s Under Secretary for Health, Dr. David Shulkin who laid out actions already underway at the Veterans Health Administration and the vision to move it into the future that embraces an integrated community care model.

Dr. Todd Burnett Named Acting Director VAPHCS

Dr. Todd Burnett, Director of Behavioral Health for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN 20) has been named Acting Director of the VA Portland Health Care System; the appointment is effective March 21, 2016. Dr. Burnett replaces Joanne Krumberger, who has held the post since May 2014. Ms. Krumberger is being detailed to VISN 20, where she will assist in critical strategic planning and systems redesign efforts.

As an experienced clinical psychologist, Dr. Burnett brings exceptional skills and experience to the new position. Ms. Krumberger has been employed by VA for the past 37 years, where she began her career at VA as a staff nurse, where she worked in a myriad of positions including critical and intensive care.

Having worked with Director Krumberger for the past several months, the MyVA Cascadia Board wishes her nothing but success and joy as she moves forward to the VISN. Director Krumberger has been a driving force behind MyVA Cascadia and her efforts are not only appreciated but will be the foundation for all the work this board does well into the future.


Portland Town Hall Work Groups

After holding its first town hall meeting and public work session on veteran issues, the MyVA Cascadia Board met to discuss next steps in early March. The following steps are being taken to address issues brought to the attention of the board.

Resource Directory

One of the most difficult issues to address since the beginning of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has been a central resource directory for veterans and families. Attempts have been made, such as the Oregon National Guard’s Fort Oregon website and the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs Resource Directory. However, we were told during this first town hall meeting that information still is hard to find and much more much be done to educate people as to where they can find these resources.

The MyVA Cascadia Board is going to take another shot at developing a centralized resource list for the Portland VA Health Care System catchment area. It is not that resources don’t exist – they do! That is the good news. The hard part is ensuring everyone knows about them. Once we compile a list of resources we know are stable and long-standing (in the past transient organizations coming and going have confused the issue) we will work on communication, including using the federal VA to send information to veterans enrolled in its programs.


We are blessed to have Tonja Pardo from the United States Department of Labor on our board. Tonja and her crew routinely do job fairs, but two issues were brought to light. First, getting the word out beyond the regular target audience, which is mostly the National Guard, so that other veterans can attend these events. Second, including more employers, which means reaching out to the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Clubs, the Portland City Club, the National Federation of Independent Business, and the Associated Oregon Industries.

Another idea was to couple job fairs with Stand Downs and other veteran events, including town halls so that one event is drawing more veterans who have opportunities to plug into more things. Obviously scheduling is the issue with that idea but it certainly is being explored.

Veterans Administration

A number of comments were made about VA services, ranging from the Veterans Choice Program to barriers accessing services and benefits. In our discussions with the hospital and regional office we learned that many of these issues are indeed being worked by subcommittees currently in place. What is not happening is the results of those subcommittees being communicated beyond the VA. With that realization, the directors of both the regional office and the hospital have committed to determine the results of these meetings and get the information out to the veteran community both through their own communications process and through MyVA Cascadia.

Homeless Veterans

As some may know, there is a 30-bed facility in Salem that has been designated for veteran transitional housing. Unfortunately, there are no operating funds for this private facility because VA no longer funds transitional housing and instead has a “Housing First” model using HUD-VASH voucher. The need for transitional housing, however, has not necessarily gone away even if the funding has. The Board determined that we need to work with the group in Salem to find alternative means of providing operating funds for this potential shelter, including using other types of VA funding, private funding, and potential strategic partnerships.  This issue will be more difficult to fix in that there is no dedicated funding for such a facility within the VA structure at this point.

To address these and other issues, the Board has put together subcommittees which are working on finding solutions to implement at the community level. We anticipate some issues taking weeks while others taking months to develop. However, the Board is committed to continuing its work building strong community partnerships to address all the issues discussed during the town hall.

That said, the Board is planning its second town hall in Bend, OR tentatively scheduled for May 9 at Central Oregon Community College. More information will be forthcoming as details are firmed up.

Portland Town Hall Findings


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The MyVA Cascadia Board held its first town hall meeting in Portland at the Montavilla Baptist Church on February 25, 2016. Discussion was robust and the board will begin analyzing comments for action at its March 6, 2016 board meeting.

The following is a list of issues discussed by those in attendance:

Responses from MyVA Cascadia Town Hall Participants




Counseling/ Social support (8 comments)

Nutrition counseling

Marriage counseling/Family Counseling (like military chaplain services)

Access to “military informed” counseling services

Financial Coaching and counseling

Financial planning

Family counseling and mental health resources when Veterans are in crisis

Support groups for families

Support groups for caregivers

Mental Health (8 comments)

Long-term mental health services

Case management services for chronic mental health issues

Services to address life change events that cause crises

Families with children with mental health challenges

Suicide prevention

PTSD Veterans need another Vet help with application process

Wrap around services when Veterans are in crisis

No cost family support services for mental health concerns

Employment (7 comments)

Need more employers hiring Veterans /jobs needed(3)

Financial help needed while Veterans are trying to locate employment

Recognize companies that hire Vets and support the National Guard employment Effort

Jobs needed for students during school breaks

Family wage jobs

Special populations

OEF/OIF Veterans

  • Community action and lobbying needed
  • More youngerVeterans involvement needed


  • Women Veterans need gender specific services
  • Difficult to identify women Veterans


  • Spouses with PTSD need to have access to services
  • Families transitioning from active duty lose health care
  • Assistance for families of incarcerated Veterans
  • Marriage counseling/Family Counseling (like military chaplain services)
  • Family counseling and mental health resources when Veterans are in crisis
  • Support groups for families


  • How do we reach out to widow who are surviving on widow’s pension benefits

Financial (5 comments)

Financial help needed while Veterans are trying to locate employment

Difficulty paying rent, food, electricity, utility bills

Finances in general

Financial coaching and counseling

Eligibility for HUD VASH should be based on net income

Needed resources/services/opportunities (13 comments)

Food insecurity, food boxes and food stamps eligibility (2)

Clothing needs

Vet care for service animals

Complementary and Alternative Health therapies

Dental Care

Place to volunteer in our neighborhood

Babysitting services

Recreation opportunities

Military families gathering with other military families

A weekly meeting for Veterans to get together and visit

Place to exercise (2)

Culture/community perception (2 comments)

Negative image of Veterans

After solving a crisis, there needs to be a focus on the underlying issues

Transportation (7 comments)

Transportation in general (2)

Emergency transportation

Inefficiency and limited transportation options to appointments

Transportation –rides to Salem CBOC

Need buddies to accompany Veterans to medical appointments including transport

Need bikes for Veterans in VA alcohol treatment program.

Coordination (4 comments)

Community partner coordination/ remove duplicate organizations

VA, OHP, and Medicare services are confusing-need coordination

Coordination with the VA and community partners for dental

Resource Coordination needed- partner with 211

VA services (11 comments)

VA does not point of contacts for community and private resources

VA doesn’t communicate available resources – need website, promotion, pamphlet

VA call time is a barrier to accessing resources

VA mental health services – need to avoid triggers for people accessing MH services

VA doesn’t have clear lists of the services it provides or the services in the community

VA needs to communicate the availability of dental services

Benefit outreach – rural

Need better communication of relationship between VHA and VBA, i.e. enrollment

Coordinating Veterans services when Veterans move- streamlined process needed

On-site child care at the VA to support women Veterans

Choice program communication between VA, Triwest, and Vets

Don’t understand VA repayment process

Housing (7 comments)

HUDVASH and VSTS income threshold is too low

Affordable housing needed (2)

Veterans at risk of being homeless

30 bed facility available but no per diem grants

Gender specific housing needed for women Veterans

Homeless Veterans West Santiam Canyon

Legal Services (3 comments)

Legal services for civil matters (3)

As the board begins wrestle with these and other issues it will reach back out to the community for help with problem-solving and implementation. The board also will hold future town halls through the entire Portland VA Health Care System catchment area.

DOL-VETS Announces Availability of $13 Million for HVRP Grants

Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program funds to provide employment assistance for approximately 6,000 vets  

The U.S. Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training Service (DOL-VETS) has announced the availability of Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program funding of $13 million to provide an estimated 6,000 veterans with job-driven training for in-demand jobs to help them successfully transition from homelessness to sustainable housing and good civilian jobs. Homeless veterans may receive occupational, classroom, and on-the-job training, as well as job search and placement assistance, including follow-up services.

Funds are being awarded on a competitive basis to state and local workforce investment boards, local public agencies and nonprofit organizations, and tribal governments, including faith-based and community organizations.

The full solicitation for grant applications can be found here. Applications are due March 23, 2016.

“Finding gainful employment can change the life of a homeless veteran,” said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “The men and women who have served our country with distinction should not have to struggle to find and keep good jobs. We are committed to helping homeless veterans, as well as those who are incarcerated or recently incarcerated, find jobs that can lead to stable housing and improved quality of life.”

Town Hall Meeting TONIGHT!!!

Don’t forget tonight is MyVA Cascadia’s first town hall meeting at the Montavilla Baptist Church, 9204 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97216! From 4-6 p.m. the Federal VA will have representatives on hand to help with any individual claim or VA issue. From 6-8 p.m. MyVA Cascadia will hold a “work session” during which we work with you to identify and solve existing gaps and problems with veteran and family resources and benefits. Hope to see you there

Town Hall Meeting Thursday February 25, 2016


News Release from VA Portland Health Care System (VAPORHCS)
Posted on FlashAlert: February 22nd, 2016 9:07 AM

MyVA Cascadia Board holds Veteran Town Hall with VA leadership
Media Availability scheduled prior to event at 5:30 pm, Thursday, Feb. 25 in East Portland

WHAT: The MyVA Cascadia Board will hold a public town hall meeting for Veterans, their families, and community leaders to brainstorm new strategies to existing Veteran issues. Events are co-hosted by the MyVA Cascadia Board Chairs, Tom Mann and Kim Douthit. Fellow board members including directors of the VA Portland Health Care System, Veterans Benefits Administration Portland Regional Office, and Willamette National Cemetery will also be participating in the event.

WHERE: Montavilla Baptist Church, 9204 SE Hawthorne Blvd, in Portland

WHEN: Thursday, February 25, 2016
4 — 6 p.m. — VBA will be hosting a Claims Clinic where claims specialists will sit one-on-one with Veterans to discuss their specific claims. VA Portland will also have Patient Advocates on site to answer VA health-related questions or address concerns.
5:30 p.m. — a media availability is scheduled for (please RSVP to contact below)
6 — 8 p.m. — Veteran Town Hall

For more information about the MyVA Cascadia Board, please go to

MyVA Cascadia Charter

The MyVA Cascadia Board recently approved its Charter. Please find it here and on the site:


MyVA Cascadia

Mission Statement

My VA Cascadia is dedicated to developing meaningful resource partnerships with established community organizations and programs focused on meeting the needs of the diverse veteran population in the VA Portland Health Care System catchment area. We will work to ensure that veterans of all eras have access to healthcare, supportive services and information and benefits earned through their military service.

Organizational Vision

My VA Cascadia will realize the mission by:

Facilitating town halls throughout the catchment area to gain comprehensive feedback from veterans and their family members.

Social media outreach

Utilizing formal and informal networks to support veterans

Gathering feedback from Veterans that helps to initiate changes at the VA

Educating stakeholders about VA programs and services

Educating VA about available community programs and services

Forwarding concerns from partner organizations and others to the VA.

Core Values of MyVA Cascadia


  • We respect every veteran’s service and sacrifice without exception.
  • We recognize the sacrifice of dependents and families of Veterans and honor dependents and families for their dedication and support of their Veteran.
  • We believe Veterans are not adversaries when seeking veteran benefits.


  • We take seriously VA’s original mission stated by President Abraham Lincoln, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.”
  • Anyone who has served in the armed forces (no matter era, duty station, discharge status, gender, or geographical location) is a valued member of our community and will not be left behind.
  • The quality of a Veteran’s life matters and our goal is to ensure the highest quality of life for every Veteran we serve.


  1. Identify and establish relationships with the following community sectors: business, non-profit, public, faith-based, community service, and education.
  2. Establish a resource and referral system within the VA Portland Health Care System catchment area to provide Veterans easy access to both VA and community resources. Create a “No Wrong Door” philosophy with partners that dictates that when a veteran is looking for service the veteran is never told, “You’re in the wrong place.” Instead, the Veteran is given a “warm handshake” to the right provider.
  3. Expand VA outreach to meet Veterans where they are, whether in their communities, at their worksites, or at a VA outreach location. Survey these Veterans to determine their needs from their point of view. Take seriously their complaints and issues. Determine if issues are anecdotal or systemic and then apply the appropriate solution.


Co-Chairs and board members work in collaboration with the larger Veteran stakeholder community to improve Veteran outcomes through board meetings, public forums, and solution development by leveraging networks and enhanced understandings of Veteran issues. Co-Chairs and board members have no additional authorities by virtue of board membership. VA representatives on the MyVA Cascadia board function under the limitations outlined in their respective positions. The MyVA Cascadia board has no implicit or explicit authority to change the function and/or policies of any governmental or non-governmental entity. The MyVA Cascadia board is a forum for open communication and community engagement between board members and the Veteran stakeholder community

Desired Outcomes:

MyVA Cascadia will promote and support opportunities to benefit Veterans and the community. MyVA Cascadia will ensure an open line of communication between Veterans, VA, and community stakeholders. Veterans and local community members will be informed about local VA and community strategies and initiatives. The MyVA Cascadia Board will identify and address issues relevant to Veterans in the VA Portland Healthcare System catchment area. Examples of specific issues the MyVA Cascadia may address include, but are not limited to: Women Veterans’ issues, homelessness, mental health resources, Veteran employment, and Student Veterans issues.

Membership: The Board will consist of 15-20 members. The Board will have a representative from VHA, VBA, and NCA. Additional participants may be included in meetings by invitation of the MyVA Cascadia. Board members will be appointed for 2-year terms and have the opportunity to serve consecutive terms. Co-chairs will serve 3-year terms with the opportunity to serve consecutive terms. For initial formation of the board, Co-chairs will be appointed by the Directors of VBA, VHA, and NCA. Subsequently, co-chairs will be appointed by MyVA Cascadia Board members. To fill a board vacancy, the co-chairs and three board members will select a prospective board member. To promote diversity, board members will be selected based on their service background, area of expertise and geographic location

Meetings/Town Halls

MyVA Cascadia will hold a minimum of six board meetings per year and host a minimum of two town halls per year. Meetings can be conducted as regular meetings, special meetings, and via the internet or telephone as long as there is a quorum of 8. Proxies may be counted in the quorum. Proxy holders may vote on all questions if the proxy is a general proxy.  If the proxy is a limited proxy, they may vote only on all questions listed on the limited proxy. A special meeting can be called by Co-Chairs. Regular board meetings will not be open to the public. The Board may invite subject matter experts into meetings when appropriate. Board members may add issues to the agenda via the Co-Chair, ideally submitted in writing a minimum of 24 hours prior to the meeting. Minutes will be taken at each board meeting.

Town Halls are inclusive of all stakeholders, service providers, Veterans, and other interested parties, regardless of membership in the MyVA Cascadia board. Town Halls will be rotated among public venues within the geographic boundaries of the VA Portland Health Care System catchment area to ensure opportunity for maximum participation. Town Halls will be held in a recognized public place which is easily accessible with adequate parking and public transportation in urban areas. Locations will have handicap access. Town Halls will be held after business hours.

Board Member Conduct:

  • Always be polite and respectful to other board members and the public
  • Never question the motives of another board member
  • If at all possible, discuss issues with which you disagree with board members before board meetings in an attempt to hash out differences
  • Always put what is best for the Veteran first in all decision making
  • Remember that you represent the board and Oregon Veterans in general in all you do so act professionally at all times
  • Once a vote has been made, the full board will do work together to implement the results regardless of an individual board member’s position before the vote.
  • Board members will ensure that their personal agendas do not interfere with the work of the board
  • If a board member has a conflict of interest in some area on which the board is working, that board member will announce the conflict and recuse himself/herself from voting
  • Board members will refrain from disparaging any organization – including VA – or individual veteran


Co-Chairs may appoint subcommittees to the Board. These subcommittees meet at their discretion. Decisions of the subcommittee will be brought to the full board for discussion and approval.


MyVA Cascadia will publicize public forums through various venues including posting information through online mediums (e.g. email listservs, social media) and in physical locations through the use of promotional materials and other collateral. MyVA Cascadia will also leverage local public affairs professionals and other professional networks to promote maximum attendance.

Board members consent to having their image used as part of MyVA Cascadia promotion activities. Photos and audiovisual recordings of Board members may be released to the media as well as utilized on MyVA Cascadia websites, blogs, and social media sites.