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:

  • Memorial Day 2024: Remember and Honor Our Fallen Heroes
  • Preserving Veterans’ Memories and Stories
  • Telehealth and Virtual Tools for Veterans
  • The Change Healthcare Cyber Breach and How It Affects Veterans Receiving VA Health Care
  • U.S. Supreme Court GI Bill Ruling
  • Vet Centers

Memorial Day 2024: Remember and Honor Our Fallen Heroes

Later this month, on Monday, May 27, we will mark the solemn occasion of Memorial Day. 

It is important to remember the uniqueness of this day because it is when we honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our nation with dignity, bravery and distinction.

There is a sign in my office with a quote attributed to John Wayne that says, “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.”

Those who have stepped between us and those who would destroy America and what it stands for have demonstrated their courage in the face of that fear.  Those we honor in our Memorial Day ceremonies are for whom those fears – fears they overcame – were justified. 

They did it for you, they did it for me and they did it for our children. They deserve to be honored!

Today and every day, remember the valuable contributions and tremendous sacrifices members of our armed forces have made for our country and the freedoms we deeply cherish. The legacy of the veteran cannot be lost.

Preserving Veterans’ Memories and Stories

Every veteran has a unique story and memories. Each day, veterans from all military experiences pass away, leaving their rich history untold. The simple act of asking to hear a veteran’s story can make it possible to carry their stories on for future generations.

In 2022, Anit Tyagi, research assistant at Rocky Mountain Regional VA, started recording stories through interviews with his project Remembering Our Veterans. VA’s Center for Development and Civic Engagement supports this video memoir program, which uses VA volunteers to interview veterans.

In the first year of the program, 61 videos were completed. Remembering Our Veterans videos appear on the VA’s YouTube channel and Tyagi submits interviews to the Library of Congress to be digitized and archived for online viewing.

The hope is the program will be expanded nationwide. Until such time, if you know a veteran who is willing to tell his or her story, take the time to listen. If they are comfortable with you recording it, either just the audio or by way of video, take the opportunity to do so – documenting meaningful conversations about a veteran’s military service and other significant life experiences can not only be helpful for the veteran who tells their stories, but it also is priceless to all who can hear it now and into the future.

Telehealth and Virtual Tools for Veterans

More than 4.4 million Veterans in the United States reside in rural areas. That is almost one-quarter of the nation’s Veteran population. In 2023, about 40% of veterans who used VA health care received some of their care through telehealth.

Veterans in rural areas often face unique health care challenges not shared by their suburban and urban counterparts. Rural communities tend to have longer travel times to medical centers, fewer local specialists and limited access to broadband internet.

VA is working to address these disparities and expand access to care in rural communities. VA’s Office of Connected Care helps veterans in rural areas receive care through telehealth and other virtual tools:

  • VA Video Connect is VA’s secure videoconferencing app for video telehealth appointments.
  • My HealtheVet is VA’s online patient portal that enables Veterans to manage their VA care.
  • The VA App Store hosts more than 50 mobile apps that connect veterans with their VA care team and enable them to manage medical conditions, such as Annie – the VA’s automated text messaging system that sends veterans reminders to take their medications, instructions for upcoming appointments and more – and the PTSD Coach app provides tools for managing and tracking PTSD symptoms.
  • The Digital Divide Consult lends internet-connected tablets to veterans to help them connect with their VA care team and enable them to join virtual appointments through VA Video Connect.

To learn more about VA virtual care options, visit the Office of Connected Care website.

The Change Healthcare Cyber Breach and How It Affects Veterans Receiving VA Health Care

According to the VA, the recent Change Healthcare (CHC) cybersecurity breach did not impact the VA’s healthcare systems.

The VA noted that CHC is one of its vendors, but as soon the VA became aware of the breach they took action to disconnect from all known systems with CHC. The VA has confirmed no malicious activity or irregularities in their system.

However, CHC indicated “a substantial portion of the people in America” could have had some protected health information leaked because of this incident. With no official confirmation that veteran data was or wasn’t leaked as part of the breach, the VA is providing veterans with information they could need to protect themselves:

  • CHC is offering credit monitoring for all impacted individuals – more information can be found here.
  • General information on how to protect yourself from fraud is available on the VA website “Protecting Veterans From Fraud.” The website includes a fraud protection toolkit, frequently asked questions, information about how to be vigilant about scams, and much more.
  • The Federal Trade Commission offers resources to help protect your identity – more information can be found here.

U.S. Supreme Court GI Bill Ruling

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month regarding veterans education benefits could provide an extra year of federal tuition payments to millions of student veterans. However, when that change might occur – or even if it will – isn’t clear.

The court said veterans can use both the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits and Montgomery GI Bill benefits to pay for college classes if they meet eligibility for both programs. Veterans attending college classes had been required by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to choose one and forfeit the other.

While the VA continues to review the ruling and determine what guidance they will offer, lawyers involved in the case have told various media outlets that as many as 1.7 million veterans could qualify for more education benefits due to the ruling, though federal law still limits any individual from receiving two education benefits at the same time and to receiving no more than 48 months of benefits. Those who brought the successful lawsuit also acknowledged it could be a while before anyone sees any extra money.

To be eligible for the full Post-9/11 benefits – which could exceed $200,000 depending on an individual’s school and housing situation – veterans need to have served at least three years on active duty since 2001. Eligibility to transfer the benefit to a spouse or child requires additional years of service.

To be eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill program benefit – which could total about $113,000 for a four-year degree – veterans needed to serve at least three years on active duty and pay into the Montgomery GI Bill program, at a cost of $100 a month for their first year in the ranks.

Until the VA decides how it will react to the ruling, the matter remains in limbo and veterans will have to wait to see how they might be affected by the court decision.

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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