September 2016

Vets Views

Page 3 


Retirement Services Officers (RSOs)

Do you have questions on benefits, SBP, Retiree Appreciation Days or anything else retirement-related? Then contact the RSO for your area or go to the Army Retirement Services website (Note: That’s the number 1 after the g).

Sister Service Retiree Publications

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Marine Corps Semper Fi:, then click on “Semper Fidelis Online” under “News and Features” Navy Shift Colors:


August 18, 2016

VA provides service dog benefits to Veterans with mental health disorders

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today that it is piloting a protocol to implement veterinary health benefits for mobility service dogs approved for Veterans with a chronic impairment that substantially limits mobility associated with mental health disorders. “We take our responsibility for the care and safety of Veterans very seriously,” said VA Under Secretary for Health, Dr. David J. Shulkin.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is committed to providing appropriate, safe and effective, compassionate care to all Veterans. Implementing the veterinary health benefit for mobility service dogs approved for Veterans with a chronic impairment that substantially limits mobility associated with mental health disorders may prove to be significantly beneficial for some Veterans. The Service Dog Benefits Pilot will evaluate this premise.”

VA has been providing veterinary benefits to Veterans diagnosed as having visual, hearing or substantial mobility impairments and whose rehabilitation and restorative care is clinically determined to be optimized through the assistance of a guide dog or service dog. With this pilot, this benefit is being provided to Veterans with a chronic impairment that substantially limits mobility associated with a mental health disorder for whom the service dog has been identified as the optimal way for the Veteran to manage the mobility impairment and live independently.

Service dogs are distinguished from pets and comfort animals because they are specially trained to perform tasks or work for a specific individual with a disability who cannot perform the task or accomplish the work independently. To be eligible for the veterinary health benefit, the service dog must be trained by an organization accredited by Assistance Dogs International in accordance with VA regulations.

Currently, 652 Veterans with approved guide or service dogs receive the veterinary service benefit. This Pilot is anticipated to provide the veterinary service benefit to up to 100 additional Veterans with a chronic impairment that substantially limits mobility associated with a mental health disorder. The VA veterinary service benefit includes comprehensive wellness and sick care (annual visits for preventive care, maintenance care, immunizations, dental cleanings, screenings, etc.), urgent/emergent care, prescription medications, and care for illnesses or disorders when treatment enables the dog to perform its duties in service to the Veteran.

Additional information about VA’s service dog program can be found at  


August 23, 2016

Tri-Agency Partnership Working to Tailor Cancer Care Based on Genes, Proteins VA, DoD and NCI Create Nation’s First Targeted Screening Program for Cancer Patients

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is partnering with the Department of Defense (DoD) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to tailor cancer care for patients based on the genes and proteins associated with their tumors. The tri-agency program will create the nation’s first system in which cancer patients’ tumors are routinely screened for gene and protein information, with the goal of finding targeted therapies for each individual patient. The process will also continually generate new information to boost clinicians’ ability to treat the disease.

This new program, the Applied Proteogenomics Organizational Learning and Outcomes consortium, or APOLLO, is part of the wider national Cancer Moonshot initiative. APOLLO will initially focus on lung cancer in patients at VA and DoD medical centers, with plans to eventually include other forms of cancer. Some 8,000 Veterans are diagnosed with lung cancer each year in the VA system alone. “APOLLO will create a pipeline to move genetic discoveries from the lab to VA clinics where Veterans receive cutting-edge cancer care,” said VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald. “This is an example of how we are striving to be an exemplary learning health care system. We are proud to join our federal partners in this exciting initiative, and we expect it will lead to real improvements in the lives of those affected by cancer.”

APOLLO complements other Cancer Moonshot initiatives involving VA. One is a partnership between VA and IBM, in which IBM’s supercomputer Watson will help interpret the results of tumor sequencing by recommending therapies and clinical trials. Also in the works is a partnership between VA and the Department of Energy (DoE, known as MVP CHAMPION (Computational Health Analytics for Medical Precision to Improve Outcomes Now), in which researchers will leverage DoE’s high-capacity computing network to help analyze data from VA’s landmark Million Veteran Program.

Prostate cancer is among the health conditions to be targeted in the early phases of that work. The new effort centers on “proteogenomics”—a blend of genomics (the study of genes and their role in health) and proteomics (the downstream effects of genes), that has recently been demonstrated in NCI’s Clinical Proteomic Tumor Analysis Consortium (CPTAC).

CPTAC’s “proteogenomics” approach was successful in demonstrating the scientific benefits of integrating proteomics with genomics to produce a more unified understanding of cancer biology and possibly therapeutic interventions for patients. APOLLO researchers and clinicians will classify Veterans’ lung tumors based on changes in genes in the tumors, and in the levels of proteins. They will use the findings to recommend targeted therapies or refer patients to appropriate clinical trials. The proteogenomics approach promises more precision than looking at genes alone. As the knowledge base grows, it will be widely shared with clinicians and the global cancer community such as through NCI’s Genomic Data Commons to help them learn how to better treat cancer patients in the future.