News From Headquarters

AMERICAN LEGION TRAINING TUESDAY

Attn: Post Adjutants and Commanders,

Introducing Training Tuesdays. American Legion National Headquarters staff will present 60 to 90-minute sessions on topics aimed at post commanders and adjutants. To access the training link Presented via Microsoft Teams Open Meet Up link. Join us for AMERICAN LEGION TRAINING TUESDAY. Join live event at: https://www.legion.org/training/training-tuesdays

Training Schedule

  • Tuesday November 24, 2020 — 7:00pm EST - Post Administration — Presented by Russell Myers, Department Adjutant of Maryland Things you should know and learn to make sure your term as Post Adjutant is a success.
  • Tuesday December 29, 2020 — 7:00 PM EST — HELPING VETERANS Information on American Legion national assistance programs presented by staff liaisons. National Emergency Fund (NEF) Temporary Financial Assistance (TFA) Mission Blue PAP (Post Assistance Program) Grant Operation Comfort Warrior (OCW)
  • Tuesday January 26, 2021 — 7:00 PM EST — REPRESENTING THE AMERICAN LEGION BRAND

New to attending live events? Learn how easy it is to join our Training Tuesdays via Microsoft Teams.


Happy Holidays and Opportunities Greg Jackson, Department Commander

Season Greetings

(Nov 23, 2020) How many of us look as a glass and think it is half full as opposed to being half empty? Opportunities are the same way. Often, we look at them and say no, I do not want to take the chance or risk. Then sometimes we jump at the chance and great things happen. Many times, an opportunity may be right before us, yet we miss it due to the distractions that everyday life presents us.

The dictionary defines opportunity as “A set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something." The Holiday season is nothing short of providing that opportunity.

Since March 1, 2020, we have constantly been presented with many distractions that affect our everyday lives, both personally and professionally. These distractions have also provided huge opportunities towards a better future.

Let's talk about our future as The American Legion. Discuss with friends, family and especially veterans from across your community and find what we can do better as an organization to engage them and to better serve our communities. Between social unrest, an epic pandemic, increased unemployment, increasing homelessness, increasing suicides, and still combating a 20-year war in Afghanistan, I am seeing nothing but increasing opportunities to do good things for a better tomorrow.

We (The American Legion) can help in many ways, from education and tutoring to providing comfort for our elderly. As the second wave of COVID-19 hits this country and with winter on the way, I ask that we come together especially during this Holiday Season and stand united in making a difference in our communities and providing support to those that are in need of comforting.

Remember JFK once said, "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country”. As both veterans and Legionnaires we have a duty to find ways to help strengthen and support our communities with our programs. This year support may mean more to our communities than you think. As our esteemed Adjutant, Pat Smith coined a couple of years ago “Work the Programs” and we will grow both personally and as an organization.

How, you ask? Our lives evolve around the world of ever-changing technological advancements. We now can use our phones, tablets and computers to video conference with up to 1,000 members at a time. We can create "how-to" videos and find videos on how to do just about anything. We also have many forms of Social Media to promote, educate and share what it is The American Legion does and is doing today. We can even do fundraisers and video chats (brings a whole new meaning to Buddy Checks).

Our technology allows us to reach a greater audience quickly and efficiently. When conducting Buddy Checks we can send an email, or call and of course snail-mail. Sometimes we still need to get out and knock on a door and make sure our veterans and their families know without doubt we are there to help them even if it is only a casual conversation over coffee. During this time of year many of our veterans and their families look forward to our Posts having holiday dinners, if COVID-19 restrictions are preventing this maybe consider putting a dinner to-go or something similar to help bring everyone together.

Please reach out to your local posts if you need assistance or would like to volunteer and help "Keep the Flame of Patriotism Burning!"

Deb and I wish you a Safe and Happy Holiday Season.

The American Legion, Department of Colorado Officers and Staff want to wish you and your family a very Happy Holiday season and a blessed New Year.

Thank you for what you do to improve the lives of our veterans.

Greg Jackson, Commander, Charles "Pat” Smith, Adjutant; Tom Bock, Deputy Adjutant; Tom Florez NEC; Jay Bowen, ANEC; Elaine Bock, Office Manager, Susan Abeyta, Bookkeeper; Darrell Myers, Observer; Chip Kossow, Sr. Vice Commander Dean Casey, Service Officer, Will Davis Service Officer, Ir. Vice Commander's: Annette Johnson; Shane Hasert Anthony Jones; Mike Crow; Lee White. Marvin Weaver, Jr., Finance Officer, Stan Hamamoto, Chaplain; Tony Abbott, Sgt-At-Arms; Joseph Schmidt & Darrell Stilwell, Asst. Sgt-At-Arms


VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System Update

News & Announcements

(Nov 24, 2020)Due to the holiday, we will not be holding our regularly scheduled meeting this Thursday. However, we’ve passed a lot of information in the last few months, so I wanted to wrap up with an overview before we meet again on December 10th.

VA’s Fourth Mission

At this time the state is projecting a surge of COVID-19 cases around the first week of December, and then again after Christmas. VA ECHCS is proactively reaching out to our community partners, to include FEMA, to assess needs among Colorado hospitals. At this time, we have not received a formal request to activate our Fourth Mission, but we stand ready to support increased bed capacity should our neighbors call on us. More information on VA’s Fourth Mission.

ECHCS Hot topics:

COVID testing is completed at:
  • The Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center Emergency Department 24/7 Bldg P at RMR is open for drive-up testing 7 days a week from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. (Effective Monday, November 30, hours will change to 7:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.). This test site should be utilized by Veterans needing testing, who are NOT in need of medical attention. Bldg P is located at 1999 N. Fitzsimons Pkwy, Aurora, CO 80045, on the North end of the campus.
  • PFC Floyd K. Lindstrom Clinic in Colorado Springs M-F 0830-1500 (weather dependent). Clinic information to include testing availability can be found at www.denver.va.gov/emergency/index.asp
  • Ear Looped procedural masks (we will provide upon entry) continue to be required at all VA ECHCS sites of care. Visitor Policy - our outpatient visitor policy allows for one Medically Necessary Caregiver only.
    • This means that patients with disabilities (Which is defined by the ADA as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairments) who require help with the provision of medical or behavioral health care, activities of daily living, speaking for the patient or keeping the patient safe, may have a designated assistance person.
    • For inpatients, the only visitation permitted in the medical center will be for end-of-life visitation of COVID-19 negative patients. (End-of-life visits for COVID-19+ patients will continue to be facilitated through video connect.)
Digital COVID-19 Screening Tool

This is mandatory for all Veterans, caregivers, visitors, employees, and contractors to gain entry to any of our sites of care. You can access this digital screening tool by texting SCREEN to 53079. You may also access the screening tool by going to www.va.gov/covid19screening. Medication delays – VA ECHCS continues to work with USPS – Please make sure to order your medications early, track on MyHealtheVet

Flu Shots

  • Available during face-to-face appointments with your provider
  • Available through Community Care
    • Community retail pharmacies and urgent care.
    • In addition to availability at VA medical facilities, eligible Veterans can receive the seasonal flu vaccination through Community Care Network (CCN) in-network retail pharmacies or urgent care locations. Click on the VA Community Care Regions link below to find where the Veteran is located. The chart shows what VA medical facility or community in-network location availability is for Veterans to receive their flu shots.
    • Veterans should call ahead to make sure the flu shot is available at the location of their choosing.
    • These no-cost flu shots are available Sept. 1, 2020, through March 31, 2021, to eligible Veterans. Vaccines are subject to availability and may be in limited supply after March 1, 2021.
  • No appointment or VA referral is required - Eligible Veterans do not require a VA referral. Veterans can go to an in-network retail pharmacy or urgent care location, present a valid government-issued identification (e.g. Veterans Health ID Card, Department of Defense ID card, state-issued driver's license or ID card, etc.) and receive their flu shot Eligible Veterans can receive a no-cost standard-dose (quadrivalent) or high-dose flu shot.
  • How do Veterans locate an in-network retail pharmacy or urgent care location near them? Veterans who live in CCN Regions 1 – 4 can locate an in-network retail pharmacy or urgent care location by using the VA Locator HERE.
  • Other community providers and pharmacies - Many local retail pharmacies offer flu shots that may be covered by private insurance or programs such as Medicare. There may be a charge for a Veteran’s flu shot at these locations. If Veterans do not have insurance, and receive a flu shot at a retail pharmacy that is not in VA's Community Care Network, there will usually be a charge.
  • Eligibility - Retail pharmacies: Veterans must be enrolled in the VA health care system. Urgent care locations: Veterans must be enrolled in the VA health care system and have received care from a VA or in-network community provider in the past 24 months. To check eligibility, Veterans should call their local VA medical facility OR call 844-MyVA311 (844-698-2311), select option 1, and then select option 1 again.
  • Copayments - Eligible Veterans whose visit to an in-network urgent care location that consists of only a flu shot do not incur a copayment. In addition, flu-shot only visits to an in-network urgent care location does not count toward the first three visits per calendar year that determines copayment rates based upon the number of visits and the Veteran's VA eligibility priority group.

2020 Copays and Billing Statements

Monthly patient billing statements that have been on hold since April 6, 2020 will resume for payment in January 2021. Any questions or appeals should be directed to the appropriate POCs listed in the letter.

24/7 Call Center Operations:

VA ECHCS Call Center is now live with 24/7 call center operations effective 11/08/2020. Veterans now be able to schedule appointments, refill medications and speak with a Nurse 24 hours a day, 7 days week. This was not an option before. One few VAs that have this operation. This creates a level of continuity and quality of care, improving Veteran satisfaction.

Virtual Mental Health Care:

We are working to better improve patient satisfaction when it comes to the shift in virtual care. Quote from VSignals: “Thank you for moving these appointments to virtual so I can continue treatment without risking being exposed to COVID-19. My provider is excellent.”

Much of our Mental Health Care is now virtual (video or telephone) In October 2020, ECHCS completed 12,507 visits; 9,940 virtual – 79% virtual! Compare to October 2019, where only 8% were virtual Virtual care will continue to be used and increased beyond COVID-19.

Caregiver Support Expansion:

Caregiver Support Program changes went into effect on October 1, 2020, per VA MISSION Act of 2018 Regulatory changes include:
  • Expansion to include Veterans with 70% or higher SC, where injuries occurred prior to May 7, 1975 or after Sept 11, 2001. Veterans between May 7, 1975 and before Sept 11, 2001 will be eligible two years after this current regulatory change.
  • Includes Illness OR Injury as qualifying condition, and does not require that need for a caregiver is due to the SC condition
  • Clarification regarding what “in need of personal care services” means, and focuses on moderate to severe needs
  • Centralizes all eligibility determinations by interprofessional teams at each VISN.
  • Development of IT system for administrative and record keeping (requirement of MISSION Act)
  • Includes legal referral and financial planning services
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All current participants will undergo re-evaluation after the official implementation date. No change for current participants in stipend (unless eligible for increase) 1 year from final rule effective date. Applications for those who meet eligibility expansion will need to be done on or after the final rule effective date – projected 10/1/2020; applications received prior to this date will be determined using prior eligibility.

Projects

  • PTSD-RRTP - Construction contract has been awarded. Should break ground in the next 4 weeks.
  • Castle Rock Clinic - ECHCS has twice solicited the public for Requests for Lease Proposals (RLPs), however, none of the submitted proposals met the minimum requirements. ECHCS has now been approved for a ground up new build clinic in the Castle Rock area.
  • Replacement Aurora Clinic - ECHCS is seeking a 32,000 sq.ft. replacement clinic for the Aurora VA Clinic. The Sources Sought Solicitation for the Aurora Replacement Clinic went out twice. Nothing met the needs of the clinic. We are considering developing this site of care as a build to suit as well.
  • As-Built Lease (El Paso County) - ECHCS is almost at completion with the Union Boulevard Clinic, the new primary care clinic in Colorado Springs. The clinic is projected to see patients December 8, 2020.
  • DVAMC (Decommissioning) - ECHCS is actively securing the campus in an effort to safely decommission the campus and its major systems. Furthermore, the campus is approved to be parceled and partially disposed of. ECHCS, in partnership with General Services Administration and the VA Office of Real Property are actively working through the report of excess process.
  • Colorado Springs - We have experienced unprecedented growth of enrollment in ECHCS services in El Paso County over the last 10+ years. ECHCS will soon open the Union Blvd. VA Clinic in Colorado Springs – a clinic providing desperately needed PC and MH services. We estimate the first patient day to be December 8, 2020. ECHCS has maximized its available resources while advocating for strategic investment of new resources in the market. We recently had the opportunity to share what we are seeing in the market with the SECVA and Senator Cory Gardner. They both agreed that ECHCS is under resourced.

    Sen. Gardner introduced legislation that, if approved, would authorize the construction of a major medical facility for VA in Colorado Springs. We are currently developing our business case for this concept, with the intent being to submit for approval through our normal capital planning process. We are also actively engage with our DoD partners to identify opportunities for partnership on this concept and others as we pursue a Joint Venture.

Vaccine Trials

On Nov 2, 2020, VA-ECHCS enrolled their first patient in ENSEMBLE, a study of the COVID vaccine being developed by Johnson and Johnson.

ENSEMBLE is a randomized, placebo controlled trial, which is the highest scientific standard for a clinical study. The study is open to Veterans and ECHCS employees. The study aims to enroll 500 participants at the ECHCS site. Veterans and employees at southern Colorado sites who are medically eligible for the study will have an opportunity to enroll at their local CBOCs.

You can’t get COVID-19 from vaccines in clinical trials. That’s because the vaccine does not contain any live or killed virus. Participants in vaccine clinical trials may be exposed to the virus in their everyday lives, but not through the study.

Black and Hispanic Americans are nearly three times as likely to become infected with COVID-19 compared to white Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Veterans and ECHCS employees may get more information by phone call 720-723-3098 or e-mail echcovidvaccine@va.gov

I’m so thankful for all of you! With the many uncertainties this year has thrown at us, you’ve all remained a constant source of advocacy and assistance to our Veterans. You never stopped being there. Thank you so much for all you do – For our Veterans, for ECHCS, and for me. I hope you all have a safe a relaxing day off. Happy Thanksgiving!

Teresa DiBella | U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Congressional Liaison |VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System

(11/04/2020 01:30 PM EST) VA ECHCS selected for COVID-19 vaccine trial. VA ECHCS began a clinical trial for the single-dose investigational COVID-19 vaccine developed by Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. This is the fourth large-scale COVID-19 vaccine trial in the U.S. Read the full story.