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New VA Bill Chops Tuition Costs

By Bob Brewin // August 18, 2014

zimmytws/Shutterstock.com

While focused primarily on reform of the Veterans Health Administration, the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014 also provides good news for vets attending state-funded schools under the post-9/11 GI Bill.

Vets covered by that bill will qualify for lower in-state tuition, no matter their state of residence and school location, which works out to substantial savings. The University of New Mexico, for example, charges out-of-state students $11,568 vs. tuition for in-state students of $7,274 – a $4,298 difference.

Section 702 of the bill is written in confusing language and multiple clauses that say VA will not pay state schools if they charge out-of-state residents more than in-state residents.  

Ah Congress, why use one short sentence when hundreds of words with multiple clauses will suffice...

(Image via zimmytws/Shutterstock.com)

Here Comes the Pink Camo Food Truck

By Bob Brewin // August 15, 2014

Team Military Moms is comprised of Michele Bajakian, Carol Rosenberg and Wendy Newman, as seen on Food Network's, The Great Food Truck Race Season 5.
Team Military Moms is comprised of Michele Bajakian, Carol Rosenberg and Wendy Newman, as seen on Food Network's, The Great Food Truck Race Season 5. // U.S. Army

Three Army spouses from Ft. Drum, New York, will compete in the Food Network’s “Great Food Truck Race” at 9 p.m. EDT this Sunday with a vehicle that pays a nod to the military with its unique pink camouflage paint scheme.

Team Military Moms, which consists of Ft. Drum spouses Carol Rosenberg, Wendy Newman and Michele Bajakian, said the camo ties into their military background while the pink on the 24-foot-long, 8-foot-wide vehicle is empowering.  

And it’s a customer magnet. "People followed it just because it was pink camo," Newman said.

"All the little girls loved it. It was quite different. Everybody noticed us,” during a road trip for the contest, Rosenberg said.

The military theme extends to the food the trio serves, which includes Sgt. Cheesy, a grilled cheese sandwich with bacon and spicy jam; the Pvt. Jelly, a grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich with fresh berries; and the Charlie Foxtrot, a spicy version of a sloppy joe.

This truck would do real well parked near Veterans Affairs HQ on Vermont Ave in Washington.

New VA Chief Freezes Central Health Office Hiring

By Bob Brewin // August 14, 2014

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald // Rick Scuteri/AP

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald said he has put a freeze on the hiring of personnel for the headquarters staff of the Veterans Health Administration in Washington and headquarters of the 21 regional Veterans Integrated Service Networks around the country.

Dr. Ken Kizer, who served as VA undersecretary for health in the 1990s, and Dr. Ashish K. Jha, who works in the Boston VA hospital, reported in a July article in the New England Journal of Medicine the size of the VHA headquarters staff had soared from about 800 in the late 1990s to nearly 11,000 in 2012.

McDonald, speaking at the AMVETS convention in Memphis yesterday, said VA needs to fix its antiquated and cumbersome computerized patient scheduling system, but did not provide a date for installation of a new system.

Health Care for Vets on Nantucket

By Bob Brewin // August 12, 2014

CristinaMuraca/Shutterstock.com

The 124 veterans eligible for health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs who live on the island of Nantucket 30 miles off the coast of Massachusetts truly illustrate the problem rural vets face in accessing VA clinics and hospitals – they need to take a one-hour ferry trip before hitting the road to a VA clinic in Hyannis, Mass., or the VA hospital in Providence, R.I.

That problem has now been solved, the Boston Globe reported today, through an agreement with the island’s Nantucket Cottage Hospital for services that could include primary care, specialty visits and emergency treatment.

Allowing vets to use private health care is one of the key provisions of the $16.3 billion VA bill signed Aug. 7 by President Obama – with language that covers rural veterans. 

(Image via CristinaMuraca/Shutterstock.com)

Zeroing in on the Elusive ‘Contractor Sustainment Re-Vector’

By Bob Brewin // August 11, 2014

The Schriever Space Complex is home to the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center.
The Schriever Space Complex is home to the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center. // U.S. Air Force

On July 10, I reported my frustration with trying to figure out what exactly the Air Force bought for the $38.8 million increase to its Advanced Extremely High Frequency contract with Lockheed Martin for something dubbed “System Interim Contractor Sustainment Re-vector.”

I sent a query to the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center on July 2 on this confusing topic – who ever heard of a re-vectored contract and what does it mean? – and finally received an answer Aug. 4.

A Military Satellite Communications Directorate spokesperson gave me a real simple explanation: Re-vectoring means additional work under the contract for some software modifications.

Hard to believe it took 33 days to generate this answer.

Evidently, the public affairs folks at SMC have not heard of social media let alone the 24-hour cable news cycle.