Veteran's Beat: VA Preparing for Dramatic Expansion of Its Services

The agreement, which creates nearly 24,000 new construction and permanent jobs, calls for VA to lease its Brecksville campus to Veterans Development L.L.C.

The facility will be used for medical research, offices and higher education.

In exchange for the lease, VA will receive the used of 115,000 square feet of office space, 2,000 parking spaces and 122 housing units for homeless Veterans -- all adjacent to VA's Wade Park campus.

Savings from the transaction will be used to fund a new blind rehabilitation center, a comprehensive rehabilitation center, a spinal cord injury nursing home, expanded poly-trauma services and an outpatient clinic in Parma.

The consolidation stems from a comprehensive VA plan, announced May 7, 2004, to modernize and improve its health care system. That process was called CARES, for "Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services."

Last year, VA spent more than $4.1 billion in Ohio on behalf of the state's 960,000 veterans. In addition to the two facilities affected by the Nov. 30 announcement, VA operates major medical centers in Chillicothe, Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton, plus about 30 outpatient clinics, five Vet Centers and two national cemeteries in Ohio.

For all of these beneficial actions by the VA, which focus on making the lives of Ohio veterans a bit more tolerable, we thank the taxpayers, who at least in this case can see some good come of their donations.

Tobacco not welcome

Correction: In last week's column where I talked about the Care packages being prepared by the USO of Northern Ohio for shipment to our troops in the Middle East, included in the list of donated items requested was the mention of tobacco products.

I have since been made aware that the USO's Donation Acceptance Policy states, "The USO does not accept in-kind donations of alcohol and tobacco."

Thanks to Deb Fisher, executive director of the USO in Cleveland, for making us aware of this concern.

Veteran households surveyed

shinseki announced Dec. 3 that the Department of Veterans Affairs has launched a national survey of Veterans, active duty service members, activated National Guard and Reserve members, and family members and survivors to learn if they are aware of VA services.

"By hearing directly from Veterans and their family members, we gain valuable information to help us serve them better. We hope those who receive the survey will respond to it," he said.

In addition to assessing awareness levels, the National Survey of Veterans will collect important health care, benefits, employment, and demographic information that VA will use to inform policy decisions and improve benefits. Recognizing a broader client base than just Veterans, this is the first time VA has included others such as Veteran family members, in its survey population.

VA is mailing out survey "screeners" to more than 130,000 households to identify potential survey participants. The screener asks if anyone in the household is a member of one of the identified survey groups -- Veterans, family members and survivors, active duty, Guard or Reserve members. Eligible survey participants then may be requested to participate in a full-length survey.

Participants will be able to select a preferred survey method through U.S. mail, telephone or a password-protected internet address. VA expects approximately 10,000 Veterans to complete the full-length survey.

This is the sixth VA National Survey of Veterans since 1978. The information collected will help VA in is efforts to design and conduct outreach to Veterans. And, it will provide a clearer picture of the Veteran population's characteristics to help evaluate existing programs and policies and measure that impact. Data collection is expected to be finished by the end of February; with final report released by December 2010.

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