Free Tax Preparation for Military

Military personnel and their families have access to a variety of tax preparation and filing services for free.

 VA’s Top Doctor Named Among Top 20 Most Influential People in Healthcare

Dr. Carolyn Clancy selected by Modern Healthcare Magazine from reader and editor recommendations

Modern Healthcare Magazine recently ranked Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Interim Under Secretary for Health, as number 19 in its annual “100 Most Influential People in Healthcare” poll. Dr. Clancy has appeared on the publication’s notable list for 11 straight years.

“This is a well-deserved recognition of Dr. Clancy’s expertise, knowledge, judgment and informed approach to developing and implementing new initiatives here at VA,” said VA Secretary Robert McDonald.  “As anyone who knows and works with Dr. Clancy can attest, she is a person of enormous integrity, tireless work ethic and a deep love and respect for Veterans. As VA undergoes a transformation focused on delivering the best outcomes for patients, Dr. Clancy brings a dedication to quality and safety that is exemplary.”

As Interim Under Secretary for Health at VA, Dr. Clancy oversees the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the Nation’s largest integrated healthcare system. VHA provides care for millions of Veterans at 1,700 hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities and Readjustment Counseling Centers.

Dr. Clancy most recently joined VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald in launching VA’s Blueprint for Excellence. The Blueprint outlines the steps VA will be taking to improve performance, promote a positive culture of service, advance healthcare innovation for Veterans and the country and increase access to care and accountability.

Prior to assuming the duties of the Interim Under Secretary for Health, Dr. Clancy joined VA in August of 2013 as Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health, for Quality, Safety and Value, where she served as the Chief Quality Management Officer for VHA. A general internist and health services researcher, Dr. Clancy is a graduate of Boston College and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Dr. Clancy holds an academic appointment at George Washington University School of Medicine (Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Medicine) and serves as Senior Associate Editor, Health Services Research and is a member of numerous health-related editorial boards. A link to Dr. Clancy’s complete biography and career highlights can be found here.

 VA Implements National Hypoglycemic Safety Initiative

Empowering Veterans to Personalize their Diabetes Care 

As part of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) ongoing effort to improve Veterans’ access to healthcare, VA is announcing the launch of a national Hypoglycemic Safety Initiative (HSI) to encourage diabetic Veterans receiving VA care to seek support to lower the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). The new initiative will enable Veterans living with diabetes to work more closely with their VA clinicians to personalize health care goals and improve self-management of the disease.

“The Hypoglycemic Safety Initiative is designed to enable Veterans and their families, partners and caregivers to create a personal plan for blood sugar management based upon the Veteran’s unique health goals,” said Dr. Carolyn Clancy, Interim Under Secretary for Health. “Our objective is to change how diabetes is managed in VA and the United States, and to help patients improve their personal well-being, not just manage their numbers.” 

Diabetes is one of the most prevalent diseases among older Americans, with one in four Veterans suffering from the disease. Recent clinical studies indicate that when diet, exercise and stress reduction are not successful, the benefits of achieving intensive blood sugar control with medication are less effective.  This is especially true for hypoglycemic agents (pills or insulin) used for those patients who have had diabetes for many years and those who have additional serious health conditions.

HSI’s key elements emphasize shared decision-making and universal health literacy to ensure Veterans understand the health information provided by their VA health care team. This includes the “teach back method” where Veterans and their caregivers are asked questions to be certain they understand and can act on key elements of self-management, including diet, exercise, glucose monitoring, managing medications, and insulin injections. The focus of the HSI is to help raise awareness among patients who may be at risk. 

“Hypoglycemia has only recently been prioritized as a national public health issue, but Federal agencies are taking a leadership role in addressing the problem. We are proud to note the collaboration of VA with Department of Health and Human Services in aggressively addressing this problem,” Dr. Clancy added.

For more information about VA health care, please visit

VA to Pilot IBM Computer Technology to Assist Physicians in Caring for Patients

Two-Year Pilot Program Places Emphasis on Evidence-based Clinical Decisions

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has begun a two-year pilot to study innovative approaches to quickly search electronic medical records and medical literature for relevant published studies. During the pilot, VA will assess how the technology may accelerate evidence-based clinical decisions.

“Physicians can save valuable time finding the right information needed to care for their patients with this sophisticated and advanced technology,” said Interim Under Secretary for Health Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. “A tool that can help a clinician quickly collect, combine, and present information will allow them to spend more time listening and interacting with the Veteran.  This directly supports the patient-centric medicine VA is committed to delivering every day.”

The IBM Corporation was selected to provide the system which uses its “Watson technology” made famous on Jeopardy! in 2011. Today, IBM is working with several healthcare organizations to apply Watson’s cognitive capabilities in helping doctors identify and analyze cancer treatment options. Learning about the opportunities and challenges these next-generation technologies may have is part of an ongoing effort for VA to advance the quality of healthcare provided to our Nation’s Veterans. During the pilot, clinical decisions will not be made on actual patient encounters, but instead will use realistic simulations. The notice can be found here:

For more information, visit

 VA Implements Second Phase of Choice Card Program

Cards sent to Veterans waiting more than 30 days for care

Washington, DC – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that it began mailing Veterans Choice Cards on November 17 to Veterans currently waiting more than 30-days from their preferred date or the date that is medically determined by their physician for an appointment at a VA facility.

 “VA continues to focus on implementation of this new temporary benefit so that Veterans receive the timely quality care they need in a way that reduces confusion and inefficiencies,” said Secretary Robert A. McDonald, who penned an open letter to Veterans announcing the implementation of the Choice Card program.

The Choice Program is a new, temporary benefit that allows some Veterans to receive health care in their communities rather than waiting for a VA appointment or traveling to a VA facility. The first round of cards along with a letter explaining the program was issued on November 5 to Veterans who are eligible based on their place of residence. VA is now engaging in the next phase of its rollout –eligibility explanation letters are being sent to Veterans waiting more than 30 days from their preferred date to be seen or considered medically necessary by their physician.

To improve service delivery, VA has prioritized efforts to accelerate Veterans off of wait lists and into clinics through the Accelerated Care Initiative begun over the summer. Through this initiative, VA medical centers have increased access to care inside and outside of VA, added more clinic hours and work days, deployed mobile medical units and shared their best practices from VA’s high-performing facilities throughout the organization.

 Significant improvements have resulted nationally:

  • Scheduling more than 1.2 million more appointments in the past four months than in the same period last year. In total, VA medical centers have scheduled over 19 million Veteran appointments from June to October 1, 2014;
  • Reducing the national new patient Primary Care wait time by 18 percent;
  • Completing 98 percent of appointments within 30 days of the Veterans’ preferred date, or the date determined to be medically necessary by a physician;
  • Authorizing 1.1 million non-VA care authorizations, a 47-percent increase over the same period last year; and
  • Increasing the amount of time providers could deliver care to Veterans by increasing the amount of clinic hours in primary and specialty care and through adding weekend and evening clinics at our medical centers.

 VA is America’s largest integrated health care system with over 1,700 sites of care, serving approximately 9 million Veterans enrolled in health care services.  The Choice Program is part of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA), enacted nearly three months ago, to enable VA to meet the demand for Veterans’ health care in the short-term.

 For more information about the Choice Program, call 1-866- 606-8198 or visit

New Members Appointed to VA Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced the appointment of five new members to the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans. The committee was chartered on November 2, 1994, and advises the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on the needs of the nation’s 4.7 million minority Veterans with respect to compensation, health care, rehabilitation, outreach and other benefits and programs administered by the VA.   The Committee assesses the needs of Veterans who are minority group members and recommends program improvements designed to meet their needs. The committee members are appointed to two or three-year terms. Minority Veterans comprise nearly 21 percent of the total Veteran population in the United States and its territories.

The new committee members are:

  • Patricia Jackson-Kelley: Lt. Col. (US Army-Ret) of Los Angeles, California; Served as one of the first full time Women Veteran Program Coordinators at the Los Angeles VAMC.  Currently serves as a member of the LA County Veterans Advisory Council; Board Member of Military Women in Need Organization and LA County Council Commander of the American Legion.
  • Librado Rivas: Command Sgt. Maj. (USA-Ret) of Manassas, Virginia; State Commander of the DC Chapter, American GI Forum of the United States; National Liaison Officer in Washington, DC,  for the National Office of the American GI Forum, and Director of the Army Lean Six Sigma.
  • Rebecca Stone: Staff Sgt. (USA-Ret) of Columbia, Maryland; served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and was medically retired under the Wounded Warrior Program through Warrior Transition Units.  She is a certified suicide negotiator/first responder.  She was also the recipient of the National Association of Female Executives (NAFE) Women of Excellence Award. 
  • Cornell Wilson, Jr.:  Maj. Gen. (USMC-Ret) of Charlotte, North Carolina; currently serves as Military Advisor to the Governor of North Carolina, where he also advises state agencies and Veteran’s organizations on the needs of Veterans. 
  • Anthony Woods: Army Veteran of University Park, Maryland; currently serves as the Senior Manager at Cisco System’s Consulting Services and consults with the Department of Defense and the Army on IT transformations. Mr. Woods also volunteers with organizations such as Got Your 6 and Hiring Our Heroes.

The new members join current members:

Marvin Trujillo, Jr., Committee Chairman, Marine Corps Veteran

Richard de Moya, Lt. Col. (USA-Ret)

Elisandro (Alex) Diaz, Navy Veteran

Many-Bears Grinder, Col. (USA-Ret)

Harold Hunt, Army Veteran

Sheila Mitchell, Air Force Veteran

Teresita Smith, Sgt. First Class (USA-Ret) 

In addition to working closely with the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans, VA is improving its services for Veterans who are minority group members:

  • Establishing the Office of Health Equity Research and Promotion, which assesses health equity and health disparities within the health care system to ensure adequate policies are in place to reduce disparities in vulnerable minority Veteran populations.
  • Funding projects focused on Pacific Rim Veterans, including Spinal Cord Injury outreach and treatment in Hilo, Kona, Maui, Molakai, and Kauai; leveraging telehealth technology to provide clinic based tele-mental health care on the island of Kauai.
  • Conducting a 3-year project through VA’s Office of Rural Health to establish a collaborative National Native Telehealth Training and Consultative Service which aids in the replication of tele-mental health clinics for use by rural Native American Veterans.

VA Loan Benefit

The Veterans Administration (VA) home loan guaranty benefit helps you buy, build, repair, retain, or adapt a home. VA home loans are provided by private lenders such as banks and mortgage companies, with VA guaranteeing a portion of the loan. This gives the home buyer more favorable terms. Download a free VA Loan Guide today.

Who is Eligible for a VA Loan?

  • Veterans
  • Active Duty Personnel
  • Current or Former Reservists/National Guard members
  • Some surviving spouses

What are the Benefits of a VA Loan?

  • Purchase a home at a competitive interest rate often without requiring a down payment or private mortgage insurance, which gives you more savings
  • Cash Out Refinance options allow you to take out cash out of your home equity to take care of concerns like paying off debt, funding school, or making home improvements
  • If you have a service-related disability, you may qualify for waived funding fee, reducing closing costs
  • Borrowers can often refinance to a lower rate within the VA program without requalifying for the program
  • You can reuse the benefit

How Do I Get a VA Loan?

You can apply for a VA loan with any mortgage lender that participtes in the VA home loan program with a Certificate of Eligibility from VA.

How Much of  a Loan Can I Get?

There are county limits that determine the VA’s maximum guaranty amount for a loan. Generally, you can get a loan up to $417,000 with no money down and up to $1,094,000, in some high-cost places.

VA to Accept Proposals for New Scheduling System

New system will replace 30-year-old legacy scheduling system


WASHINGTON – As part of The Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) ongoing effort to improve Veterans’ access to healthcare, VA announced it has issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a new Medical Appointment Scheduling System (MASS)..  The new MASS technology will help improve access to care for Veterans by providing schedulers with state-of-the-art, management-based scheduling software.

“When it comes to the care of our Veterans, we want the best technology the American marketplace can provide,” said VA Secretary Robert McDonald. “A new and innovative scheduling system is an essential tool we must have in place to enable us to provide our Veterans with timely and high quality health care.”

The new system will replace a legacy scheduling system that has been in use at VA since 1985.  VA’s acquisition approach for the new scheduling solution remains full and open; any qualified vendor may compete. Potential bidders are not required to have prior experience working with VA.  Proposals are due on January 9, 2015.

VA released a draft “Performance Work Statement” to maximize industry and stakeholder input.  The feedback received from industry has been used to refine the requirements included in the final RFP.

“We are seeking vendors who will work closely with us and can meet our timeline,” said VA Chief Information Officer Stephen Warren.  “We are dedicated to finding the right partner to help us create and implement our modern scheduling system.”

The RFP requires industry to demonstrate technical capabilities via two methods; submission of a written proposal and participation in a structured product demonstration to evaluators (which include VA scheduling staff).  VA expects to award the contract by the spring of 2015.  The selected bidder will be tasked to provide a system that focuses on an achievable schedule to deliver core capabilities to all VA medical facilities within the first two years of the contract.  Remaining capabilities will be implemented nationally in a series of incremental enhancements throughout the contract period of performance. In addition to industry and stakeholder engagement, VA officials also worked with Veteran Service Organizations and the Northern Virginia Technology Council to better understand the needs of Veterans and incorporated the group’s feedback in the design of the RFP.

 To improve services to Veterans, VA also made several near-term modifications to its current system:

  • VA awarded a contract to improve the existing scheduling interface, providing schedulers with a calendar view of resources in lieu of the current text-based, multiple-screen view.  The update is scheduled to begin rollout January 2015
  • VA is developing mobile applications allowing Veterans to directly request certain types of primary care and mental health appointments (scheduled to begin deployment December 2014)
  • VA rolled out new clinical video telehealth capabilities in 2014 providing service to more than 690,000 Veterans.

 Other accomplishments of note to improve Veterans access to care include:

  • Implementation of the Choice Program: a new, temporary benefit that allows qualifying Veterans to receive health care in their communities rather than waiting for a VA appointment or traveling to a VA facility: The first round of cards was issued on November 5; the second round of cards was issued on November 17 to Veterans waiting more than 30 days from their preferred date or in cases considered medically necessary by the Veterans’ physician
  • Scheduling more than 1.2 million more appointments in the past four months than in the same period last year.  In total, VA medical centers have scheduled over 19 million Veteran appointments from June to October 1, 2014
  • Reducing the national new patient Primary Care wait time by 18 percent
  • Completing 98 percent of appointments within 30 days of the Veterans’ preferred date, or the date determined to be medically necessary by a physician
  • Authorizing 1.1 million non-VA care authorizations, a 47-percent increase over the same period last year
  • Increasing the amount of time providers can deliver care to Veterans by increasing the amount of clinic hours and adding weekend and evening clinics at VA medical centers.

Information about the RFP may be found at  The RFP number is VA118-15-R-0715.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>