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Suicide Hot Line Begins Operations

The Department of Veterans Affairs national suicide prevention hot line for veterans has begun operations. The toll-free hot line number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). VA's hot line will be staffed by mental health professionals in Canandaigua, N.Y. who will take toll-free calls from across the country and work closely with local VA mental-health providers to help callers. To operate the national hot line, VA is partnering with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services.

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5 Must Know GI Bill Facts

The GI Bill is a benefit you earned. Here are 5 must know facts that will help you better understanding how it works.

1) You have 10 years to use your benefits. Once you have separated from the service you have 10 years to use it - or loose it.

2) The GI Bill is not Federal Financial Aid. College and University financial aid departments do not consider the MGIB financial aid because it is normally paid directly to you, not the school. This also means that you are eligible for student loans, (http://tracking.military.com/cgi-bin/outlog.cgi?url=http%3A//aid.military.com/scholarship/search-for-scholarships.do&code=VR_081307_Scholarships) scholarships, and Pell Grants along with the GI Bill.

3) You can stop and start using the MGIB as needed. Unfortunately, many people believe that once you apply for benefits you have to remain enrolled in school to get the full benefit. Thankfully that's not true.

4) A "month" of benefits doesn't always mean a month. The GI Bill benefit provides 36 months of education benefits. The term "months" can often be confusing. The "36 months" of benefits does not mean you have only 36 months to use it, nor does it mean you must use it all in one 36 month period. (http://education.military.com/money-for-school/gi-bill/5-must-know-gi-bill-facts) Learn more about the way payments are broken down here.

5) The GI Bill pays according to the number of credits you take. The GI Bill payment rates are based on several factors, the biggest being your credit load. For example a fulltime student will get up to $1075 a month while a half-time student will only get half that amount.

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VA-DoD Disability Reforms
The President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors, in releasing its final report, recommended getting "DoD completely out of the disability business" by giving VA sole responsibility for setting disability ratings and awarding compensation. Disabled service members would see the current "confusing, parallel systems of ratings and compensation" replaced by a single, simple and more generous system. To learn more, (http://www.military.com/features/0,15240,143756,00.html) read the article at Military.com.

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House Passes Two Vet Health Care Bills
The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed Veterans Health Care Improvement Act of 2007 ( (http://capwiz.com/military/issues/bills/?bill=10164671) H.R. 2874). The bill would provide financial assistance for low-income veterans residing in permanent housing and support services as they transition from homeless to housing. The bill also addresses the needs of veterans living in rural areas by providing program grants for transportation to VA medical facilities. The Hospice Care ( (http://capwiz.com/military/issues/bills/?bill=9993876) H.R. 2623) bill also passed the House. It would prohibit the collection of copayments for all hospice care furnished by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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VA Considers Recovery Coordinators
One of the recent recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors is to assign recovery coordinators or case managers to severely wounded servicemembers and veterans to help them access benefits and ongoing care. Defense and VA officials have agreed that the concept of a full-time patient-recovery coordinators would greatly help severely wounded warriors and veterans access needed services. A recent joint Defense Department/Veterans Affairs July meeting at the Pentagon also addressed non-clinical care management issues affecting severely wounded servicemembers and veterans.

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Army's Hot Line Aids Soldiers, Families
The Army's four-month-old "Wounded Soldier and Family Hot Line" provides a more direct way for wounded soldiers and their families to obtain information for medical issues. Since its inception in March, 2007, the hotline has fielded more than 5,000 calls, involving more than 1,300 issues. Callers' issues are distributed to subject-matter experts for resolution. The hotline staff later contacts callers to ensure they have been helped. The hot line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Army's Wounded Soldier and Family Hot Line can be accessed at 1-800-984-8523. Overseas customers can call the hotline via the Defense Switched Network, or DSN, at 312-328-0002.

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VA Announces Nursing Initiative
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is launching a new initiative that joins the Department's world-class health care system with four of the country's finest nursing schools. VA selected the nursing schools in Florida, California, Utah and Connecticut for special partnerships with local VA health care facilities as part of the new VA Nursing Academy. The Academy's "Enhancing Academic Partnerships" pilot program will enable these nursing schools to expand the number of nursing faculty, thus increasing student enrollment by about 1,000 students and promoting innovations in nursing education. Further information about the pilot program can be obtained from VA's (http://www.va.gov/oaa) Office of Academic Affiliations website.

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VA Dedicates New Office at Ft. Bragg
VA and Ft. Bragg have opened a newly expanded facility at the post's Soldier Support Center. Staff at the VA office can explain to separating servicemembers the full range of health care, disability, home loan, vocational and educational benefits offered by VA. They can also help file a claim for benefits, provide a medical examination to record any disabilities, and plan a program of education and training that will help them return to productive employment after discharge. The Benefits Delivery Office is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. weekdays. Information on VA benefits can also be obtained by calling toll-free 1-800-827-1000, or by visiting the (http://www.va.gov/) VA website.

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VA's Suicide Hot Line Begins Operations
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has begun operation of its national suicide prevention hot line for veterans. The toll-free hot line number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). VA's hot line will be staffed by mental health professionals in Canandaigua, N.Y. They will take toll-free calls from across the country and work closely with local VA mental health providers to help callers. To operate the national hot line, VA is partnering with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

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The Border Patrol is recruiting Border Patrol Agents. Apply online at: (http://tracking.military.com/cgi-bin/outlog.cgi?url=http%3A//www.borderpatrolagentsapply.com&code=VR_081307_Job) BorderPatrolAgentsApply.com. Individuals, who have applied for or would like to apply for a Border Patrol Agent position, can also call toll-free: 1-877-BP-INFO-1.

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DoD, VA Work to Integrate Health Records
The Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs took the first step recently toward developing a joint electronic health record system that will better serve wounded servicemembers and veterans. The two departments hired an independent contractor to make an assessment of how best to create the joint system, which will bring together inpatient records from more than 200 hospitals. The Defense Department and VA already share patient information in certain cases. Also, the Defense Department provides all patient records for severely wounded warriors to VA polytrauma centers where they go for treatment.

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Fisher-Price Recalls Toys
A voluntary recall has been announced of 967,000 Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, and other children's toys manufactured by Fisher-Price Inc. Surface paints on the toys could contain excessive levels of lead. The toys were sold in retail stores nationwide May 2007 - August 2007. Consumers should immediately take the recalled toys away from children and contact Fisher-Price. Consumers will need to return the product and will receive a voucher for a replacement toy of the consumer's choice up to the value of the returned product. For additional information contact Fisher-Price at (800) 916-4498 anytime or visit the (http://www.service.mattel.com/us/recall/default.asp?recall_id=52430) Mattel website.

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House Passes Thank You Act
The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed (http://capwiz.com/military/issues/bills/?bill=8682586) H.R. 23, The Belated Thank You to the Merchant Mariners of World War II Act of 2007. The bill would establish a Merchant Mariner Equity Compensation Fund to provide monthly payments in the amount of $1,000 to qualifying members of the United States Merchant Marines who served during World War II. H.R. 23 includes qualifying members of the Army Transport Service and the Naval Transport Service. The Merchant Mariner Equity Compensation Fund would be available only to all qualifying mariners who apply by Oct. 1, 2008.

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Premium Change for Some Retirees
Participants in the Uniformed Services Survivor Benefit Plan for retired military members face some changes. Effective Oct. 1, 2008, SBP participants who reach 70 years of age and have made 360 payments (30 years), will no longer have to pay premiums for continued SBP coverage and will be placed in "Paid-up SBP" status. Also, there will be a paid-up status for participants in the Retired Serviceman's Family Protection Plan once they reach 70 years of age. No action is required of SBP participants to be placed in Paid-up SBP status. More information on Paid-up SBP, should be available at the (http://www.dfas.mil/retiredpay.html) DFAS website within the next several months.

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New VA Clinic Planned for Guam
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced plans to construct a new, $5.4 million clinic on the periphery of the Guam's naval hospital. The plan calls for a 6,000 square-foot outpatient clinic with its own parking area. Patients will not have to pass through Navy security to get to the facility. The new clinic is scheduled to open in the summer of 2009. The new outpatient clinic replaces the existing 2,700 square-foot VA clinic at the naval hospital. VA will still partner with the naval facility for emergency and after-hours health care, acute inpatient care and some specialty services.

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Pentagon Channel Features Wheelchair Games
The Pentagon Channel's new documentary takes viewers to the 27th National Veterans Wheelchair Games, held this year June 19-23 in Milwaukee. Athletes from 45 states competed in more than a dozen different disciplines in what has become the world's largest wheelchair sports event. The games allowed disabled vets coming home from service in Iraq and Afghanistan to meet and compete with veterans from as far back as World War II. "Recon: Wheels of Courage" will air throughout the month of August. The program also is available via podcast and video on demand at (http://www.pentagonchannel.mil/) www.pentagonchannel.mil.

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Translators Offered Big Cash Bonuses
The Army is now offering individuals who speak certain Middle-Eastern languages a $10,000 enlistment bonus for enlisting as a Translator Aide in the U.S. Army Individual Ready Reserve. Individuals without previous military service who enlist in the active Army or Army Reserve may also be eligible for an Army Civilian Skills bonus of $5,000 for the Army or $15,000 for the Army Reserve. These bonuses may also include an additional $20,000 Quick Ship bonus for those who are willing to report to basic training within 30 days. This $20,000 quick-ship bonus may be combined with the Army's other cash enlistment bonuses for a maximum combination of $40,000 for those who enlist for at least four years.

Note: In addition to regular pay and benefits, Army Translators also qualify for up to $1,000 a month in Foreign Language Proficiency Pay.

Contact an (https://secure.military.com/Recruiting/monster/index.jsp?military_specialty=09L) Army Recruiter to learn how you can become an Army Arabic Translator and earn bonuses of up to $40,000.

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Golden Age Games Set for Houston
More than 500 "golden age" veterans will travel to Houston to participate in the 21st National Veterans Golden Age Games August 27 - 31, 2007. Sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Veterans Canteen Service (VCS) and Help Hospitalized Veterans (HHV), the Games' competitions are open to all U.S. military veterans, age 55 or older, currently receiving care at a VA medical facility. For more information, visit the (http://www.veteransgoldenagegames.va.gov/) Golden Age Games website, or call Jenny Tankersley Ballou, National Veterans Golden Age Games public affairs coordinator, at (757) 728-3450 or (757) 254-6058.