- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

Where can I find this Supreme Court ruling stating that taxes aren’t supposed to be taken out of separation pay?

Willie A.
Via the Internet

Dear Willie:

I have checked my sources, and they all tell me that there is no such Supreme Court Ruling on this issue.

Shaft notes

• Kudos to the Department of Veterans Affairs for leading the nation in breast cancer screening rates and outperforming non-VA health care systems in breast cancer screenings for more than 15 years, with 87 percent of eligible women receiving mammograms in the VA health care system in fiscal year 2010.

In comparison, in 2010, the private sector screened 71 percent of eligible women, Medicare screened 69 percent and Medicaid screened 51 percent, according to Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set, a tool used by more than 90 percent of U.S. health plans to measure performance on important dimensions of care and service.

“We’re proud of our great record on breast cancer screenings and treatments,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said. “We’ll continue to work to improve access and coordination of care for women Veterans.”

Since 2000, the number of female veterans using VA health care has more than doubled, from nearly 160,000 to more than 337,000 in fiscal year 2011. As the number of women veterans increases rapidly, VA not only focuses on improving access to breast screenings and coordination of care, but also trains providers in the latest breast exam techniques.

VA provides mammograms for all veterans, with 45 facilities providing services on-site utilizing digital mammography.

Some facilities offer mammograms to walk-in patients and same-day ultrasounds.VA also offers mobile mammography in some areas of the country. This mammogram technology-on-wheels allows women veterans in rural areas to get screening mammograms and have their mammograms read by a VA breast radiologist, without traveling far from home. All this improves access for more than 337,000 women VA health care users.

“VA is different from other health care systems in that we serve a female population that is spread across the continental United States, located in both rural and urban areas,” said Dr. Patricia Hayes, chief consultant for VA’s Women’s Health Services. “Because of that, we have to be creative and innovative about the way we provide screenings, track a woman’s mammogram results and breast cancer care, and train our providers in the latest diagnostic techniques and breast cancer treatments.”

In many cases, VA is using technology to bridge the distance between providers at facilities in its 21 regions throughout the nation. VA uses simulation technology to train VA providers in the latest breast exam techniques.

VA is also developing a breast cancer clinical case registry to track when a provider orders a mammogram, the results of the test and the follow-up care provided. The system will improve care coordination and help VA track and study breast care outcomes throughout VA. It is expected to be available in 2013.

These efforts in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment are part of a larger VA initiative to enhance all health care services for women veterans. Women make up 6 percent of veterans who use VA health care, but they are expected to make up a larger segment of all VA health care users in the future. VA is preparing for this increase by expanding access to care, enhancing facilities, training staff and improving services for women.

Expanded outreach to women veterans is another goal in the initiative, and VA’s Women’s Health Services regularly creates posters and messages to educate women veterans about key women’s health issues.

In celebration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, VA reminds patients and providers about the importance of early detection.

For more information about VA programs and services for women Veterans, visit: www.va.gov/womenvet and www.womenshealth.va.gov.

• Other efforts by the VA include two U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs public awareness campaigns designed to help veterans who seek mental health care assistance.

These efforts have received 43 industry and association awards for communication and design excellence.

“We are pleased that these campaigns have been recognized for creative and design excellence,” Mr. Shinseki said. “More importantly, they have been effective in helping us address two of our highest priorities — mental health care and suicide prevention.”

The Veterans Crisis Line and Make the Connection campaigns strive to reach veterans and their families and friends wherever they are. Using state-of-the-art online and communications tools, the campaigns have increased awareness of critical VA resources available to veterans and their families and friends dealing with crises or other mental health challenges.

The Veterans Crisis Line has released three PSAs that collectively earned 570 million television impressions since March 2011. The last two PSAs have consistently ranked in the top 5 percent of PSAs tracked by Nielsen. Additionally, through its suicide prevention outreach plan, VA is creating a network of collaborating partners to spread the word, strategically placing advertising, rebranding the website and developing new collateral materials.

More than 650,000 callers have called the crisis line and over 440,000 of these callers have identified themselves as veterans or family members or friends of veterans. There have been more than 23,000 rescues of actively suicidal veterans to date.

Make the Connection is a new, online tool to help veterans and their friends and family members find resources for overcoming life’s challenges and living well. The website, MakeTheConnection.net, has information on a variety of experiences and challenges, such as sleeping trouble, transitioning to civilian life, loss of a loved one and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Since its launch in November 2011, the website has received more than 1 million visits, and the videos have been viewed over 3 million times. In addition, Make the Connection recently launched a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/VeteransMTC), which became the fastest-growing community in the government/military space to date, reaching more than 836,000 “likes” in three months.

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 email [email protected].

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