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The support line will provide information regarding new caregiver benefits, referrals to local caregiver support coordinators as well as emotional support to those concerned with their ability to provide care to loved ones who are veterans.

The National Caregiver Support Line will be open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., Eastern time; and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Eastern time. Licensed VA social workers and health technicians will staff the support line.

Local caregiver support coordinators are available to assist veterans and their caregivers to understand and apply for VA’s many caregiver benefits. VA also features a Web page,, with general information on other caregiver support programs available through VA and the community.

Access to the National Caregiver Support Line was also identified as a significant need in a November 2010 study on caregivers of veterans published by the National Alliance for Caregiving.

• The VA has also announced the creation of a new Office of Tribal Government Relations to ensure the more than 200,000 veterans who are American Indians, Alaska natives, Hawaiian natives, or work at Alaska native corporations, receive the VA benefits they have earned.

“There is a long, distinguished tradition of military service among tribal peoples,” Mr. Shinseki said. “VA is committed to providing these veterans with the full range of VA programs, as befits their service to our nation.”

About 200,000 veterans are represented by the 800 tribal governments officially recognized by the United States. Although the VA has long provided benefits to veterans in tribal lands, the new office will further strengthen and expand that relationship.

Stephanie Elaine Birdwell, an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation from Oklahoma, has been selected as the office’s first director. A former social worker, she has spent nearly 15 years working on tribal issues with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and, most recently, the Bureau of Indian Education.

She will oversee a six-person office responsible for “establishing, maintaining and coordinating a nation-to-nation, federal-tribal relationship,” according to a VA briefing.

The office has a charter that officially extends to veterans who are American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Alaska Native Corporations.????

• Suicide rates in the military continue to cause concern, and a new public service announcement being filmed this week by members of the Creative Coalition, aims to help service members, veterans and their families reach out for help.

Using the arts as a powerful vehicle to create public awareness, the Creative Coalition was asked to take on the project by Blue Star Families (BSF), Health Net and Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).

The Creative Coalition will begin shooting the public service announcement (PSA) campaign this week in Park City, Utah, during the upcoming Film Festival week. The spot, with the theme “I don’t know what it’s like…” will be directed by actor Tim Daly and feature celebrities reminding service members and their families that they are not alone, and that help is available.

“Suicide is a community issue, not just a military issue. This public service announcement sends an important message — which is that the American people care about our service members and want those in trouble to get help,” said Bonnie Carroll, founder and president of TAPS, who recently served as the co-chair of the Department of Defense Task Force on Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or e-mail