Senator Dush E-Newsletter

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If you know a veteran, please forward this issue to them (you can sign up for my mission reports here). There are some important updates, resources and information they can use.

In this Update:

  • VA Leads the Way in Improving Surgical Outcomes for Frail Patients
  • Applications Being Accepted for 2024-25 Virtual Student Federal Service Internship Program
  • 2024 NatCon Focuses on Supporting Student Veterans
  • Safeguarding Your Identity and Veterans Benefits from Theft
  • Help is Available for Struggling Veterans
  • What are Vet Centers?

VA Leads the Way in Improving Surgical Outcomes for Frail Patients

Physicians who treat elderly patients have long been aware of how a patient’s strength or frailty can affect the outcomes of surgeries and the patient’s quality of life.

For several years, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System surgeon and researcher Dr. Daniel Hall has been looking at the impacts of patient frailty and if frailty screening of patients before surgery can help to improve health care outcomes.

Recently, the Joint Commission and National Quality Forum (NQF) recognized Dr. Hall’s Surgical Pause initiative with a 2023 John M. Eisenberg Patient Safety and Quality Award for its reduction of six-month mortality of patients determined to be “frail” from 25% to 8% at three VA medical centers. A 2023 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Surgery reported that from July 1, 2016 to May 31, 2019, one-year mortality fell from 20% to 16% after implementing the Surgical Pause in a sample of more than 50,000 patients.

Under the initiative, providers implemented routine frailty screening using risk analysis to identify patients at the highest risk of postoperative complications, loss of independence and death. For patients found to be frail, a brief “pause” permits further evaluation. For patients who pursue surgery, multidisciplinary care plans are implemented to reduce frailty-associated risks before surgery, shifting the paradigm and effort to strengthening the frail patient and mitigating potential complications before they happen.

Since its initial use at three VA medical centers, the initiative has been implemented at 50 VA facilities and is rolling out across the nation.  

Applications Being Accepted for 2024-25 Virtual Student Federal Service Internship Program

The VA, in collaboration with the Department of State, has opened applications for the Virtual Student Federal Service (VSFS) Internship Program for the 2024-25 academic year.

This virtual internship opportunity is designed for U.S. citizens who are passionate about serving our nation’s veterans while gaining professional experience in digital communications and beyond.

Hundreds of positions are available, with the internships covering a wide range of things, including but not limited to writing and editing articles, digital media research, graphic design, prompt engineering (AI), web analytics, social media content creation, social media management and analytics, leadership and project management.

More information about the internship program can be found here.

2024 NatCon Focuses on Supporting Student Veterans

The 2024 Student Veterans of America (SVA) National Conference, also known as NatCon, was held in Nashville in January, and, as always, to continue its efforts supporting student veterans.

The annual conference serves as a focal point during the academic year to share ideas, best practices and networking opportunities for student veterans, military-connected students and their families, supporters and allies, including government, corporate and nonprofit partners.

According to the organizers of the SVA NatCon, the conference offers the opportunity for student veterans to connect with like-minded people with shared experiences, fostering a sense of community that encourages student veterans to build relationships with peers who understand the unique challenges they face. This support network plays a vital role in their transition from military service to higher education.

You can find more information about Student Veterans of America or find a chapter near you here.

Safeguarding Your Identity and Veterans Benefits from Theft

While we don’t always think about it, safeguarding your identity is key to protecting your finances, and it’s very important for veterans wanting to keep safe their VA benefits.

In the world in which we live, identity theft is a more likely occurrence than home burglary or car theft. As a veteran, you hold more sensitive information than an average citizen, necessitating careful protection of your personal accounts, Veteran ID, account login and any benefits you may receive, such as disability compensation and education benefits. Veterans are highly susceptible to fraudulent activities, online scams and deceitful individuals.

Identity theft occurs when hackers obtain sensitive personally identifiable information (PII), like credit card details, to sell on the dark web or use for their own gain. Identity theft is a difficult crime to prevent, but there are several measures you can take to safeguard yourself and your VA benefits, including staying vigilant and familiarizing yourself with the frequently occurring common online scams.

You can find more information about all of that here and here. Our state government also offers plenty of helpful information about protecting yourself online and preventing identity theft – you can find it here.

If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, you should contact the Federal Trade Commission here.

Help is Available for Struggling Veterans

Like anyone, veterans and their families can face unexpected circumstances that impose financial burdens.

To help veterans who are facing challenging times, the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs administers the Veterans Temporary Assistance (VTA) Program.

The VTA provides temporary financial assistance of up to $1,600 in a 12-month period to veterans or their surviving spouses who reside in Pennsylvania for food, shelter, fuel and clothing.

Learn more about how to qualify and apply.

What are Vet Centers?

I’ve been asked this question by several of my fellow vets and feel it’s important to provide an answer to those who haven’t reached out yet.

VA Vet Centers provide free and confidential readjustment counseling for War-Zone Veterans and their families, World War II to the current Global War on Terror.

Vet Centers are small, non-medical, counseling centers conveniently located in our region. They’re staffed by highly trained counselors and team members dedicated to seeing you through the challenges that come with managing life during and after the military.

Our region is served by the DuBois Vet Center, which is one of 12 Vet Centers in Pennsylvania and over 300 across the country. Whether you come in for one-on-one counseling or to participate in a group session, at Vet Centers you can form social connections, try new things, and build a support system with people who understand you and want to help you succeed. The Dubois Vet Center’ website  is designed to provide veterans, family members, and community partners the ability to see what services the center offers, as well as the center’s Community Access Points with a picture of the entrance so first time visitors have a frame of reference to help guide them in.

From my time in the State House through my current position, I’ve had a strong relationship with the Dubois Vet Center.  They have helped me help many of my fellow vets.

Two Recreational Therapy Groups Available at the Dubois Vet Center

As part of a national competition, the DuBois Vet Center was approved for initial funding for two recreational therapy groups.

One of the groups is an introduction to fly tying for fly fishing, with one of the center’s counselors being an avid fly tyer and fisherman. The other group is a no sew blanket group, which the center hopes will generate interest from women veterans, but the group is open to anyone who would like to join.

The groups will be held at the Vet Center with approximately 4 cohorts to run quarterly with 6 vets in each cohort. The center says it hopes to grow these groups and potentially be able to have them at the center’s Community Access Points (CAPs) in McKean, Centre and Blair counties, with the possibility of adding more recreational therapy groups in the future.

The center noted the initial funding will help them launch the groups, but they will be actively trying to obtain additional funding they can expand on them.

Who is eligible to receive services at Vet Centers?

Vet Center services are available to Veterans at no cost, regardless of discharge character, and without the need to be enrolled in VA health care or having a service-connected disability. If you are a Veteran or service member, including members of the National Guard and Reserve, you can access Vet Center services if you:

  • Served on active military duty in any combat theater or area of hostility.
  • Experienced military sexual trauma (regardless of gender or service era.)
  • Provided mortuary services or direct emergent medical care to treat the casualties of war while serving on active military duty.
  • Performed as a member of an unmanned aerial vehicle crew that provided direct support to operations in a combat theater or area of hostility.
  • Accessed care at a Vet Center prior to Jan. 2, 2013 as a Vietnam-Era Veteran.
  • Served on active military duty in response to a national emergency or major disaster declared by the president, or under orders of the governor or chief executive of a state in response to a disaster or civil disorder in that state.
  • Are a current or former member of the Coast Guard who participated in a drug interdiction operation, regardless of the location.

Contacting your local Vet Center

Even if you are unsure if you meet the criteria to receive services from a Vet Center, please contact a center. From personal experience I can tell you that, if the center can’t help you, they’ll find someone who will.

Center services are also available to family members when their participation would support the growth and goals of the Veteran or active-duty service member. If you consider them family, so does your local center. Bereavement services are also available to family members of Veterans who were receiving Vet Center services at the time of the Veteran’s death, and to the families of service members who died while serving on active duty.

The DuBois Vet Center, located at 100 Meadow Lane, Suite 8, DuBois, PA 15801, can be contacted at 814-372-2095 or toll free 24/7 at 1-877-WAR-VETS (927-8387).

The DuBois Vet Center recently announced counseling and referral services are now being provided at the State College American Legion Post 245, in addition to the many services they offer at their locations in DuBois, Altoona, Bradford, Penn State-DuBois, Smethport and their mobile Vet Center.

The other Vet Center locations in Pennsylvania are:

  • Bucks County Vet Center, 2 Canals End Road, Suite 201B, Bristol, PA 19007, 215-823-4590
  • Erie Vet Center, 240 West 11th Street, Suite 105, Erie, PA 16501, 814-453-7955
  • Harrisburg Vet Center, 1500 N. Second Street, Harrisburg, PA 17102, 717-782-3954
  • Lancaster Vet Center, 1817 Olde Homestead Lane, Suite 207, Lancaster, PA 17601, 717-283-0735
  • Norristown Vet Center, 320 East Johnson Highway, Suite 201, Norristown, PA 19401, 215-823-5245
  • City Center Philadelphia Vet Center, 801 Arch Street, Suite 502, Philadelphia, PA 19107, 215-627-0238
  • Northeast Philadelphia Vet Center, 101 East Olney Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19120, 215-924-4670
  • Pittsburgh Vet Center, 2500 Baldwick Road, Suite 15, Pittsburgh, PA 15205, 412-920-1765
  • Scranton Vet Center, 1002 Pittston Avenue, Scranton, PA 18505, 570-344-2676
  • White Oak Vet Center, 2001 Lincoln Way, Suite 280, White Oak, PA 15131, 412-678-7704
  • Williamsport Vet Center, 49 East Fourth Street, Suite 104, Williamsport, PA 17701, 570-327-5281

For more information, please visit


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