Some of the top stories circulating the veteran community.
VA to open emergency rooms to ‘bad paper’ vets on July 5
Leo Shane | MilitaryTimes
Veterans with other-than-honorable discharges will be able to access Veterans Affairs emergency rooms for urgent mental health care starting July 5, under new rules outlined by department leaders on Tuesday.
The move is the culmination of months of review into how to handle the cases of vets who may have been improperly separated from the military due to undiagnosed or untreated problems like post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury or other mental health issues.
In March, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin pledged to find more ways to help those veterans, even if their status makes them ineligible for traditional veterans benefits. The new initiative mandates that veterans with other-than-honorable paperwork may receive care for “a mental health emergency” for up to 90 days.
That may include inpatient services, residential care or outpatient options.
Veterans advocates for years have pushed for some type of mental health care for the estimated 300,000 veterans who have been separated from the military with so-called “bad paper” discharges, arguing that many are reputable veterans whose underlying conditions forced them out of the service.
VA studies estimate that nationwide about 20 veterans a day commit suicide. Of those, the majority are not regular users of VA services.
In a statement, officials from Vietnam Veterans of America praised the announcement.
“Secretary Shulkin leads with the heart of a physician, and takes seriously his oath to ‘do no harm,’” said John Rowan, national president of VVA. “That’s why he’s working to correct the VA’s self-imposed policies, which have denied care to our most vulnerable veterans for decades.”
VA officials said during veterans’ 90-day emergency treatment, Veterans Health Administration officials and Veterans Benefits Administration staffers will work “to determine if the mental health condition is a result of a service-related injury, making the service member eligible for ongoing coverage for that condition.”
The Veterans Crisis Line is also open to all veterans in need of immediate mental health assistance. To access the program, call 800-273-8255 and press 1, text 838255, or visit https://www.veteranscrisisline.net.
Army Vet Hailed A Hero After Sacrificing His Own Life To Save 2 Random Teens
Adam Linehan | Task & Purpose
A 62-year-old Army veteran who saved two teenagers from a vicious assault in Denver, Colorado, and was then killed by the assailant is being hailed a hero, CNN reports.
James Farmer Jr. was asleep in his car on the morning of June 16 when he woke up to 28-year-old Dejuan Stamps, a homeless man, attacking the two teens. Police believe it was a random attack.
“He surely would’ve died had [Farmer] not intervened,” said the father of one of the teens, 18-year-old Aidan Brown, whom Stamps had beaten unconscious before Farmer stepped in.
Farmer, who was in between jobs and living out of his Saab at the time of the incident, drew Stamps’ attention away from the teens. Stamps then turned on Farmer and beat him to death.
When police arrived on the scene they saw Stamps standing over Farmer “continually striking the victim in the chest with force.” Stamps proceeded to charged the officers and injured one before he was subdued, according to CNN.
Farmer, a grandfather of five who was planning to soon rejoin his family in Seattle, died on the scene and an autopsy confirmed that he died from blunt force trauma. Both teenagers were treated for injuries in a Denver hospital.
“He took an oath when he joined the United States Army and promised never to leave a man behind,” a family member told CNN affiliate KDVR. “He heard someone in need and risked his life to save [the] lives of those teenagers.”
The incident occurred near the St. Francis Center, a homeless shelter in downtown Denver, where Farmer had a reputation as “a good man.” A memorial service for Farmer was held at the shelter on June 27.
“People who know what’s right, do what’s right,” a shelter official told KDVR. “And he was one of those people who did it. He stepped up to help. And unfortunately, it cost him his life.”
St. Francis Center said Stamps had been banned from the shelter last month. He is now facing multiple charges, including one count of first-degree murder and one count of first-degree assault, according to CNN.
Cary-Grove AMVETS holds 30th annual picnic to honor veterans
Nate Linhart | Northwest Herald
Wednesday morning showers didn’t deter hundreds of veterans from coming to Fox River Grove to enjoy a day out of the hospital.
The 30th annual picnic for veterans, hosted by Cary-Grove AMVETS Pearl Harbor Memorial Post 245, was held at Lions Park in Fox River Grove.
Despite the early rain, this is a great turnout,” picnic chairman Bob Janu said. “There’s probably more [veterans] here than last year.”
Hospitalized veterans came from Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee, Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago and the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in Hines. After getting off the buses, the first group of veterans was greeted by volunteers holding umbrellas to protect the veterans from the heavy rain.
“The picnic shows that they want to get out,” Janu said. “They’re in the hospital a lot and this allows them to get out and relax.”
The rain cleared about an hour into the event, allowing veterans to enjoy outdoor activities such as bags, fishing and pontoon boat rides. Food and drinks also were offered during the event, along with karaoke and bingo.
Navy veteran Walter McKinley, who came from Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, said this was his second time attending the picnic.
“I think this event is fantastic,” McKinley said. “It makes me feel so good to see people who appreciate veterans here. I really look forward to coming out here.”
During the event, McKinley recited a poem he wrote called “I am a Veteran” in front of an audience.
“It tells people a little of what it’s like being a veteran,” McKinley said. “I recite it every chance I get, and I wrote it when I got home from Vietnam.”
Event volunteers included Boy Scouts Troop 161 in Cary and members from various AMVETS posts from across the state.
“We’ve been doing this forever, and this is just a way to give back to those who have been giving to the country over the years,” said Bruce Domoto, an assistant scoutmaster of Boy Scouts Troop 161. “I know our boys appreciate it. They get to spend some time with the vets, and they really enjoy it.”
Post Cmdr. Gary Foster said the event started 30 years ago with about 40 veterans in attendance.
“This picnic got to be about 600 veterans at one point, so it became pretty large,” Foster said. “And I think we’re somewhere in that category today, even with the inclement weather.”
Foster thanked all the veterans who came out Wednesday and all the volunteers who helped make the 30th anniversary picnic possible.
“I also have to give a special thanks to the Illinois AMVETS Service Foundation, because without their help and all the things that they do, this would not be possible because the Illinois [AMVETS] Service Foundation gives us a $5,000 grant to hold this picnic,” Foster said.