Vet Centers of America Search by ZIP CODE

There are more than 300 Vet Centers across the United States and U.S. Territories whose primary function is to help veterans and their families adjust to civilian life after combat.

Vet Centers help overwhelmed VA hospitals by providing Veterans with valuable services such as counseling for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Military Sexual Trauma, bereavement counseling, marriage and family counseling, and resources like VA benefits information and suicide prevention referrals.

To search by zip code for a Vet Center in your area click here

If you do not find a Vet Center near you, check out the Mobile Vet Centers.  There are 50 motorized vehicles – resembling super-sized recreational vehicles – that are driven to far-reaching rural areas as part of an “On the Road” outreach program

VA Targets Faster Claims Processing with New Segmented Lanes Process and Fully Developed Claims Program

Segmented Lanes is a new process that has been implemented at 16 VA regional offices, and will be adopted by all VA regional offices throughout 2013. When a veteran files a claim or sends evidence to support their claim, the VA’s Intake Processing Centers will now sort that claim into one of three Segmented Lanes:

  • Express
  • Core, or
  • Special Operations.

Separating claims immediately allows Veterans Benefit Advisors to identify (at the earliest possible point) any Veteran who requires expedited handling.  Expedited cases include any Veteran experiencing financial hardship, a homeless Veteran, a Veteran over the age of 75 or a Veteran who has a terminal illness.

The goal of Segmented Lanes is to help get benefit claims processed faster by placing each claim immediately in the hands of the right processor.  Doing so will increases processing accuracy because it “standardizes” the process across all of the VA regional offices. This means that a claim submitted at the New Orleans Regional Office will be processed in the same manner as a claim submitted to the Salt Lake City Regional Office.

The lanes break down like this:

  • Express Lane: This lane is for claims that have one or two contentions, or fully developed claims (read more about FDCs below).  An example would be if a Veteran files for an increase in compensation for a back issue and is also seeking to have her left hip condition service connected.
  • Core Lane: claims that have three or more contentions, or any claim that does not meet the criteria for the Express or Special Operations Lanes.
  • Special Operations: All claims that require special handling because of their nature (examples are Post Traumatic Stress Disorder associated with Military Sexual Trauma, former Prisoners of War, Traumatic Brain Injury).

Each lane has a dedicated claims processors whose skills and expertise match the lane to which they are assigned. This is how VA will process claims more quickly and more accurately. While no claim is the same, certain aspects of processing are alike.  Assigning processors dedicated to working similar claims will speed up the process and increase the quality of the determination.

Veterans Service Officer Catherine Trombley said,

“When I worked at the [Board of Veterans Appeals], I often worked several claims in a row for disorders that resulted from a Military Sexual Trauma because some of the same regulations applied to those claims (like rating criteria), even though the claims themselves varied dramatically. Not having to refer to different parts of the regulations saved time, but I also became really good at claims resulting from MST. If I worked at a regional office today, I would probably be in the Special Operations lane.

Another way the lanes are ensuring speed and quality is through the Fully Developed Claims  .program. Fully Developed Claims (FDCs) are assured faster processing because the Veteran certifies at the time they submit the claim that he or she has provided all evidence. That certification allows VA to move immediately forward on processing, without waiting the mandatory waiting period for the Veteran to submit evidence.

Veterans can opt to file an “informal claim” stating they intend to file a claim for benefits using the FDC program.  Doing so will allow the veteran to preserve an effective date while giving them sufficient time to collect evidence. The VA has assigned these claims to the Express lane, which expedites a determination to an average of 100 days.

Both Segmented Lanes and Fully Developed Claims processing are part of the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Transformation Plan to standardize and speed up processing by 2015.  Veteran Service Organizations are available to help Veterans, their families and survivors file claims using both the traditional process and the Fully Developed Claims process. They provide this service whether you are a member or non-member. Let them help you.

House Passes Military Construction/VA Funding Bill 407-12

House Passes VA Funding: By a vote of 407-12, the House Thursday night overwhelming passed the Military Construction/VA funding bill despite threats of a veto by “the Administration”. The bill, H.R. 5854, provides $146.4 billion dollars for FY 2013, which is a 10-percent increase above last year’s levels. VA funding includes $54.5 in Advanced Appropriations for medical care, a boost for medical services and increases for jobs and disability programs for veterans.

House members voted to withhold funding on the DOD-VA integrated medical record project until both departments implement recommendations made by GAO earlier this year. It also provides:

  • * $6.2 billion for mental health services
  • * $5.8 billion for homeless veterans programs
  • * $35 million for continued research on the effects of PTSD and TBI
  • * $174 million for expansion of Arlington National Cemetery
  • * $1.1 billion for major and minor construction projects
  • * $1.7 billion for family and military personnel housing

To see how your representative voted, visit
For the committee press release and a list of amendments, go to

Hidden Wounds Provides Relief for Combat Stress Faster than VA

The mission of Hidden Wounds is to provide peace of mind and comfort for military personnel suffering from combat stress injuries such as PTSD and TBI until the Veteran’s Administration or Veteran’s Affairs agencies can deliver long-term services to their clients through government programs.

Hidden Wounds was formed in response to a tragedy involving its founder, Anna Bigham.  Anna’s brother, Lance Corporal Mills Palmer Bigham, served four years of active duty for the United States Marine Corps.

Lcpl Bigham served two tours of duty in Iraq with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment.  He was released on October 18, 2008, with an honorable discharge and new rank, Combat Veteran.

Immediately, Anna recognized her brother was not the same young man she once knew.  Lcpl Bigham sought treatment for war trauma, depression, and anger through numerous trips to the local VA hospital. He was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), however he was not given the treatment he deserved.  Anna made countless phone calls to check on his status for receiving those services, but each time there was very little to no response.

Anna supported her brother, battled for the right of his treatment, and cared for him during the long and horrific nights. It was too little, and too late. Mills took his own life waiting for those services on October 19, 2009.

Here is a description of the services provided by Hidden Wounds according to their Facebook Page

-Interim Counseling
Our main thrust is to provide counseling to soldiers who are in the enrollment process at the VA, or other agencies, or system of services, but who are waiting for confirmation of availability and treatment needs. These services are available until such time as the client is finally taken into the care of the VA, or alternate agencies.

-Emergency Counseling
Referring agencies too overwhelmed to respond, and families who are suddenly faced with a crisis situation, are invited to call Hidden Wounds. Our goal is to find a counselor in our network that could respond immediately to defuse the situation. From there, Hidden Wounds, works to find a properly equipped place for the veteran to safely stay until the crisis is passed, danger is contained and further treatment can be instituted.

-Family Support
Hidden Wounds provides resource materials and information to help family members of PTSD victims deal with their concerns and knowledgably support their veteran.

-VA Strategies
Hidden Wounds can provide strategic counseling services to support the Veterans Administration in the areas of intake, assignment of benefits, required paperwork, navigating a network of personnel, and other support advice while dealing with the VA

Contact Info:

Email Address:
Mailing Address: Hidden Wounds
7001 St Andrews Road PMB 323
Columbia, S.C. 29212

Description:501c3 non profit organization
General Information

1-888-4HW-HERO or 803-403-8460

Related Article: Veterans Step Forward to Report Retaliation for Whistleblowing and Lack of Support Services read more>>

Related Post: The Million Veteran March on the VA read more>>

Mt. Rainier Shooting Suspect was Military Veteran with Possible PTSD

Authorities found the body of who they believe to be Benjamin Colton Barnes, a 24 year old United States Veteran, at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State today.  The former veteran was found face-down in the snow without any I.D.   Benjamin Barnes is suspected of shooting and killing a 34-year-old female park ranger, Margaret Anderson, on Sunday morning…New Year’s Eve.

“He was wearing T-shirt, a pair of jeans and one tennis shoe. That was it,” said Pierce County Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer, according to The Associated Press.

Anyone looking for triggers to this horrible incident need look no further than the recent events in the life of Benjamin Barnes.  ABC News reported that, “Barnes is a military veteran who has a history of criminal violence, including threatening the mother of his child with guns during a bitter custody battle, according to court documents obtained by ABC News.”

Why?  That’s it?  That’s all there is to this story?  I think not.

Benjamin Barnes was an Iraq War Veteran who was involved in a severe custody battle with his ex-wife in the summer of 2011.  PTSD should be ringing the bells of anyone looking for a why in this senseless killing, and everyone around him asking themselves how they failed to notice the signs.

The photo, posted by ABC News and many others, was obviously chosen to depict Benjamin Colton Barnes as some sort of gun-toting animal from the wild.  These are not the facts of his life, they cannot be!  There is more to this young man’s story that define him than the sad act that ended not only his own life, but also the suspected lives of 5 others; including the mother of two young children.

My own son, a Marine Corps veteran, is covered in similarly large tatoos.  He is also now studying to become a Catholic Priest.  My message to the world (in this blog post) is to ask why nobody noticed the signs of what had to be a fairly severe PTSD disorder compounded by the stress of recent events in his life.

Even if they find drugs in this young former soldier’s body, that will only strengthen my theory.  I pray to God every day that more people pay attention to the signs of PTSD, so just in case you’ve missed them in any of my previous blog posts, please learn about them >>HERE

Related Story: Two Navy pilots among those killed in murder-suicide

Graffiti of War Project: Soldiers Using Art to Battle PTSD

“Across 10 years, two fronts, and three million deployments, our troops have chronicled a story few could ever know.  Nearly 50,000 of them have become casualties and almost 3 times that number have battled PTSD.”

Jaeson Parsons is more than a West Virginia native and former combat medic. He is a PTSD survivor who has worked to collect nearly 10,000 pictures of graffiti artwork created by soldiers fighting overseas, mainly those in Iraq.

Murals of 911, dog tags of fighting soldiers, meaningful words in front of haunting images, are all being compiled into a book.

After injuring his back during a tour, Jaeson was forced to leave the battle ground and ended up fighting another battle at home, PTSD.

“I was drinking a lot, I was abusing drugs and in Christmas of 2009 I had to go to a VA center for mental health,” said Parsons. “It took me months before I got to the point where I just saw them (injured soldiers) as a job and not a person,” he said.

With his wife’s encouragement, he founded this project and discovered it eased his emotional pain.

Parsons said unless someone was there to experience it themselves, this (art) is one of the closest things to feeling what those fighting for our country are going through.

Parsons said the proceeds from the book will go to different organizations that help to rehabilitate soldiers suffering from “internal wounds,” like PTSD.

Donations will be directed toward programs outside of traditional therapy that use music, art or animals as pathways toward a good mindset.  For more information on how you can get involved in the “Graffiti of War” Project visit: www.GraffitiofWar. com.

VA Caught Failing Veterans Again

40-year-old Veteran says the VA fails to give former warriors preference in contracting

David Goldstein – McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Rodney Marshall just wanted to sell a few electric griddles to VA hospitals.

Instead, the 40-year-old former Marine ended up in a battle with the Department of Veterans Affairs over whether they’re following a law designed to help companies owned by service-disabled veterans.

“It sickens me that the place that vets go to get help won’t even buy from us,” Marshall said. “They weren’t even considering us.”

Marshall, who returned from the Persian Gulf War with injuries to his knees, hips and back, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder, runs a commercial kitchen supply business in Portage, Mich., with his wife.

Frustrated by not being able to seek a pair of VA supply contracts because the bidding was restricted, Marshall filed a protest against the department with the U.S. Government Accountability Office. He claimed that the VA failed to follow a 2006 law — known as “Veterans First” — requiring it to set aside work for qualifying service-disabled, veteran-owned firms.

After an investigation, the GAO agreed. The VA now has two months to respond to the GAO’s recent findings.

The dispute comes as President Barack Obama on Friday announced plans to formally end the 8-year-old war in Iraq. He plans to bring most of the 50,000 remaining troops home by the end of the year and pledged that economic opportunities would be available to them.

But there could be another battle ahead for Marshall and other veterans like him who’ve long complained of the VA’s purchasing practices.

An internal VA memo dated Oct. 17 and obtained by McClatchy states that, because the GAO is part of the legislative branch, the VA was not bound by its decision. It said the issue would likely be decided by the courts.

“The GAO recommendation does not change how VA will acquire goods and services in support of its mission,” the memo stated.

Marshall said the VA was “smacking the law in the face. That’s how a lot of us in the veterans’ business community are taking it, that the decision means nothing.”

Prior to the memo’s release, VA spokesman Josh Taylor had said in a statement: “VA takes its contracts with small business very seriously and will continue to strongly support eligible veteran-owned small businesses who seek to do business with the federal government.”

But the VA also noted that it awards more contracts to service-disabled, veteran-owned businesses than other federal agencies. They received $3.1 billion in VA contracts in fiscal 2010 of the more than $15 billion worth of business the agency does.

Marshall’s company, Aldevra, has one kitchen supply contract with the VA, apart from the others he has been unable to win.

But by prevailing in his protest, the former Marine lance corporal has shed light on VA’s contracting practices that veterans and supporters contend has denied many other former troops turned business owners the opportunity to compete.

“It’s been an ongoing battle,” said Frank Clay, a service-disabled veteran and VA contractor from Olathe, Kan. “Out of all the federal agencies, they (the VA) should rule in favor of the set-aside and try to make the process better.”

Clay, whose Clay Group company distributes medical and janitorial products, said he doesn’t understand why the agency isn’t embracing “the spirit” of the 2006 law.

“The irony is, this is the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Clay said.

Indeed, the GAO’s decision on Marshall’s protest underscores the continuing frustration that a lot of veterans and their supporters sometimes have with VA policies.

They said that for all of the VA’s worthwhile efforts, they were puzzled that an agency whose ostensible purpose is to champion the concerns of veterans seems to occasionally go out of its way to thwart them.

The GAO’s findings, however, are more than just one small businessman’s victory over a massive government bureaucracy, supporters said.

“It’s a significant decision because it will open up additional opportunities to veterans and service-disabled veterans who wouldn’t have had access to those same opportunities,” said Pamela Mazza, a Washington attorney whose firm represents small- and mid-sized government contractors, including many owned by veterans.

The VA buys the bulk of its goods and services — 60 percent, according to the GAO — from a pre-screened list of federal contractors known as the Federal Supply Schedule. It’s a catalogue of companies offering everything from toilet paper to storage tanks.

But getting on that list can be a hurdle for some, particularly newer, less experienced businesses like Marshall’s. He couldn’t bid on the two kitchen supply contracts because they were restricted to contractors on the schedule.

Even the VA’s own website cautions, “Being a contractor can require significant investment of time and expenditure of resources.”

Scott Denniston, former director of VA’s Office of Small Business and Center for Veterans’ Enterprise, said that the agency’s reliance on the schedule has hurt service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses.

“Absolutely,” Denniston said. “If you look at all the things VA is using the Federal Supply Schedule for, you can extrapolate that a lot of that money could have gone to the service-disabled veterans community.”

The VA maintains that its contracting practices were “in the spirit of the Veterans First legislation.”

But according to the GAO, the VA rejected the idea that the Veterans First law, or even the VA’s own rules, required it to first seek eligible veteran-owned small businesses before going to the Federal Supply Schedule to find contractors. Veterans are perplexed by that interpretation of the law.

“‘Veterans First,'” said Rick Weidman, executive director for policy and government affairs at Vietnam Veterans of America, “means you should be considering veterans first.”

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