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Top 10 Stories from VA Health Care in 2014

Man shows his ID card to a woman at a desk

The new Veteran Health Identification Card was introduced in 2014.

By Hans Petersen, VA Staff Writer
Monday, December 29, 2014

1. New Identification Cards

VA began introducing a new, secure identification card called the Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC) replacing the Veteran Identification Card (VIC) introduced in 2004. As part of a phased rollout, on February 21, 2014 VA began issuing the newly designed, more secure VHIC to newly enrolled and other Veterans who were not issued a VIC. In September, an update let Veterans know that two forms of identification would be needed to request the new Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC). Read more about the Veteran Health Identification Card

2. Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry

The use of burn pits was a common waste disposal practice at military sites outside the United States such as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Smoke from these pits contained substances that may have short- and long-term health effects. VA is conducting research on the issue and has created the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry for Veterans and Servicemembers. Read more about the registry

3. Vet’s Request for Help Leads to National TV Appearance

A homeless Veteran goes from living in a tent to starring in the popular nationally-televised cooking show, Chopped. The story of Robbie Myers, an Army Veteran who medically retired after serving two brutal tours in Afghanistan, struck a chord with thousands of readers. Read more about Robbie Myers

4. Silent Enemy Affects More than a Million Veterans

A look at the battle with an enemy that is quietly maiming and killing thousands of Americans who have served their country. Not posttraumatic stress, depression, or traumatic brain injury. It’s Type 2 diabetes which is at epidemic proportions among the Veteran population. Diabetes — and with it, the risk of heart disease, stroke, blindness, renal disease and amputation — affects more than one million Veterans at any given time. Read more about diabetes

5. Free Transportation for Veterans in Rural Areas

Thousands of Veterans who live in highly rural and remote areas now have free transportation to their VA medical appointments to receive the health care they need and have earned through service to our country. VA awarded grants to organizations that will receive up to $50,000 per highly-rural area to help operate or contract for free transportation services for Veterans to-and-from VA medical facilities and, when authorized, to non-VA facilities. Read more about transportation in rural areas

Black and white photo of the USS Arizona aflame in Pearl Harbor

6. Pearl Harbor Survivor Recalls Day of Infamy

Veteran Lonnie Cook’s remarkable recall of his experiences on December 7, 1941, received a lot of likes and thank yous from our readers. Cook, one of the lucky survivors, spent the night in a bomb shelter on nearby Ford Island. The next day, he volunteered to immediately go back to sea. Read more about Lonnie Cook

7. The Importance of Programs for Family Caregivers

On the occasion of National Family Caregivers Month in November, we saluted the family caregivers who have an immeasurable impact on the lives of those they assist. Because it can be an extremely demanding job and many caregivers experience isolation and burnout, we featured VA’s Caregiver Support Program’s educational programs to assist caregivers in developing new skills sets and understanding the importance of self-care, which helps caregivers achieve a sense of balance to their lives. Read more about Caregivers Month

8. Dental Care for Millions of Veterans and Their Families

Eligible Veterans and CHAMPVA family members can now purchase affordable dental insurance. This new program, a partnership between VA, Delta Dental and MetLife, affects more than eight million Veterans enrolled in VA health care who can now choose to purchase one of the offered dental plans. Participation does not affect entitlement to VA dental services and treatment. An update in November noted that more than 64,000 eligible Veterans and CHAMPVA beneficiaries had taken advantage of the discounted dental insurance plans. Read more about dental care

9. Training Dogs to Help Veterans Cope with Distress

At the Palo Alto VA’s Menlo Park campus, they’ve been using dogs for the last five years to help Veterans overcome symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Always open to creative and non-traditional ways to better serve our Veterans, the medical center was offered the opportunity to implement a service dog training program designed to help Veterans with PTSD. The training process benefits not only the dog, but the Veteran who is doing the training. Read more about service dog training

Close-up of an orange cat sitting in a hallway.

10. Tabby Cat a Comforting Distraction in VA Hospice

In a VA hospice unit in Salem, Virginia, an orange tabby cat named Tom is a comforting distraction for dying Veterans and their families. One Veteran’s daughter described Tom as her lifeline on the difficult day her dad passed away. “When Tom put his paw in daddy’s hand, it was like God was telling me he had ahold of my dad and that everything was OK. That’s how I felt. I felt a peace come over me.” Millions of readers felt the same way after reading the story. As did several national news organizations who helped to spread Tom’s story. Read more about Tom the tabby cat