On 12 March 2018, Governor Tom Wolf announced that 13 Pennsylvania county veterans’ affairs offices and 18 nonprofit organizations will receive in grants from the Veterans’ Trust Fund (VTF), which is administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA). (more…)
On 1 December 2016 at Penn State – Lehigh Valley, the Northampton County Bar Association will hold a forum entitled, “Lehigh Valley Veterans: Their Story, The Challenges and How We Can Work Together.” The event is open to the public and, for the first time in the Lehigh Valley, provides the opportunity for both veterans and the legal community to converse on this important subject. (more…)
The Lehigh County Veterans’ Mentorship Program, a beneficial county effort which plays shortstop to a full Veterans’ Treatment Court as practiced in other states and a few counties of this Commonwealth, is holding a special Veterans Forum partially as a result of recent veterans’ suicides in the area. It is entitled, “Hope, Healing and Returning Home.” Its purpose is to provide information regarding: suicide prevention, the Veterans’ Mentorship Program itself, and other support services. It will be held on 7 November, between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., at the former Veterans Sanctuary site at 24 S. Fifth St., Allentown. (more…)
SWINFARD ADDRESSES COUNCIL
Dr. Ronald W. Swinfard, M.D., President and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Health Network (LHVN) spoke to the Council at its business meeting on 19 October. During the Vietnam War, he served in the Medical Service Corps as a Battalion Surgeon (a lieutenant position) of an Aid Station (a platoon equivalent organization) in 195th Brigade of the Americal Division (23rd Infantry Division), circa 1970. After a short stint as a high school teacher, upon return from service and decommissioning, he embarked on a career as a doctor, first training in internal medicine and later dermatology as a specialty. In 2003, Swinfard was hired by the Lehigh Valley Health Network as Chief Medical Officer (CMO) after serving at fifteen years at the Harry S. Truman VA Medical Center in Columbia, Missouri, eventually rising to the position of Section Chief for Dermatology. He was also a key figure in the University of Missouri Hospital – Columbia. In November of 2010, he was selected for his current position. He stated that he is ever mindful of the sacrifice of others who gave their lives and because of them, believes we should celebrate our lives and make them useful in the service of others.
In his talk, “The Downstream Health Effects of War,” he observed that few doctors are veterans and hence a learning curve is often required when it comes to their care. He noted that that LHVN sees a lot of veterans in their Emergency Rooms; and that while the organization has done some work with the local VA Clinic, it intends to do more on the behalf of our local veterans. (more…)
Speaker: On 17 August, BG (PA) Michael Gould, the Deputy Adjutant General for Veterans Affairs in the Commonwealth, spoke to the council. He explained that most states have a Secretary of Veterans Affairs but in this state the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs has the responsibility. He is one of three deputies and serves at the pleasure of the Governor, though he sees his responsibility is in serving first the veterans.
His Office of Veterans Affairs is primarily consumed with the operation of six state veterans homes, requiring some 1800 employees. Its other functional responsibilities, in comparison, are relatively small. For example, the Office of Veterans Affairs has three small field offices of veterans service officers located in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Ft. Indiantown Gap which file VA claims on behalf of veterans and work in confederation with the County Directors of Veterans Affairs.
This does not mean he is not busy. He has an open door policy for any veteran and has traveled approximately 63,000 miles on veterans business in the last year.
General Gould pointed out that his office manages six benefits programs, such as a paralyzed veteran pension and an emergency assistance fund, to the tune of $1 million but these touch only 1 to 2 per cent of the state’s veterans and as constituted are mostly redundant, considering the federal programs available for the same purposes.
He believes changes are necessary in his office (more…)
Speaker: Ann Friedenheim, Clinical Supervisor for Confront Services, Treatment Trends, Inc. spoke about a new program to be launched by Treatment Trends and called, “Supporting the Homefront: Educational Footing for Families of Veterans and Active Duty Men and Women.”
After three years of planning and effort, (more…)
Speaker: On 15 June, Paul Hoffecker, founder and CEO of Renovating Hope (www.renovatinghope.org), spoke to the Council on the topic of “Renovating Hope … Finding a Better Way” and of his organization’s ambitions.
About three years ago he was asked to help a veteran in fixing his home. Shortly afterwards, ten more requests followed. From this experience Renovating Hope, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization was born.
Renovating Hope is not an “Extreme Makeover” giveaway program [editor’s comment]. Instead it provides basic housing rehabilitation services (roofing repairs, plumbing, electrical and HVAC/ appliance purchases and installations, and the like) to those who are or have given military service and are in immediate need and in financial difficulty (and the widows of KIA). Those to receive the offer of help must first demonstrate they have been unsuccessful, after sincere effort, in securing sufficient funds to hire help and/or to effect the repairs to their homes themselves.
Renovating Hope is also about community working together to solve problems. It is an alliance between contractors (typically members of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry) and suppliers and those being helped under the thoughtful guidance and negotiating power of Renovating Hope.
Veterans Diversion Courts: The Veterans Affairs Committee is looking into Veterans Diversion Courts at this time. It has observed what has gone on in Philadelphia and notes that there are now such courts in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Lackawanna Counties of this state. It is going to start off by getting a speaker or two on the subject to come to a council meeting so the council and our community have a better understanding of what it is about and what is involved. It’s not a parole program. It has to do with steering a life back before prison time, not after. Judges, attorneys, mental health professionals, the VA, police, and others must all be involved to make it successful.
Scholarship Program: The scholarship program has been revamped as was reported at the last council meeting. It’s a major overhaul of the program to keep up with the changing times. If we guessed wrongly, we will readjust, but currently there is renewed emphasis on veterans seeking employment and their children plus those willing to make an active duty service commitment while in college (ROTC). A new business plan has been developed and a new brochure and application forms have been created. The new scholarship committee will meet 22 February to start off the new cycle. See LVMAC Scholarship Program Brochure .
Homelessness: The VA Summit at the Allentown Clinic was cancelled …