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How The VA Is Partnering With The Private Sector To Solve Its Biggest Problems
For the last year, the Department of Veteran Affairs has been trying to implement some of the private sector’s best practices, namely innovation and entrepreneurship. On Aug. 15, a mix of employees, veterans, and senior leaders in the department gathered to discuss the results of those efforts during an innovation demonstration in Washington, D.C.
The main focus was on the VA’s Innovators Network, which launched eight sites across the country over the course of the year. Innovation specialists at these sites work with other VA offices and clinics, providing training, support, and seed funding to help get their ideas off the ground. The VA has innovation sites in Portland, Oregon; San Francisco, California; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Atlanta, Georgia; Chillicothe, Ohio; Boston, Massachusetts; and two in Mississippi.
“We wanted to arm them with the tools through innovation to really see and solve problems and use tools that you see often in the private sector, like human-centered design and entrepreneurship, but bring that to the VA,” said Andrea Ippolito, who leads the Innovators Network at the VA, in an interview with Task & Purpose.
Support for new projects follows a tiered system reminiscent of the startup industry. Funding is broken down into three tiers: Spark funding allots between $5,000 and $10,000 to get a proof of concept off the ground; seed grants are awarded after enough evidence is gathered to validate that a concept works, and amounts to roughly $50,000 to help pay for a pilot project; and spread grants are between $100,000 and 500,000, and are used to expand a program to other sites.
“For us, innovation is not just important to do, it’s actually essential,” said David Shulkin, the under secretary of health for the VA, during his opening remarks. “Much like every healthcare organization, if you are involved in the delivery of medical services to Americans, you have to be rethinking what you’re doing, reinventing, and innovating to be able to survive. Those that don’t will find themselves increasingly irrelevant.”
David Shulkin, under secretary of health for the Department of Veteran Affairs, makes his opening remarks at the VA Innovation Demo in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 16.Department of Veteran Affairs photo.
At the demonstration, 33 projects were presented, some of which are in their early stages, like the one in Jackson, Mississippi, that provides emergency room care for patients with acute mental health issues. Other projects and innovations were more tech-based, such as the smartphone app developed by the VA in Atlanta, Georgia, that allows patients to receive cardiac rehabilitation and support from home.
A few even focused on reshaping the way their VA clinic works, by making their veteran patients the driving force behind their own treatment.
“When we noticed that veterans weren’t responding to the mental health treatment the way we wanted to see, we conducted focus groups to figure out what we could do better,” explained Grishelda Hogan, a founder of one of the projects showcased that day.
This led Hogan to start the Center for Integrated Wellness and Self-Expression in Boston, Massachusetts. The program is co-run by both the veterans who attend and the VA staff, explained Hogan. The studio offers alternative methods to help with mental health and wellness, as well as doubling as a kind of communal hub for attendees.
“They wanted a program they could attend not only when something was wrong, but when it was right,” Hogan told Task & Purpose. “They wanted to share with their peers; they want to come in on the day they need the service; they don’t want to wait for the service; and they wanted an alternative pathway to mental health and wellness.”
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico has deployed almost 15,000 soldiers and National Guard in the north of the country to stem the flow of illegal immigration across the border into the United States, the head of the Mexican Army said on Monday.
Mexico has not traditionally used security forces to stop undocumented foreign citizens leaving the country for the United States, and photographs of militarized police catching Central American and Cuban women at the border in recent days have met with criticism.
Mexico is trying to curb a surge of migrants from third countries crossing its territory in order to reach the United States, under the threat of tariffs on its exports by U.S. President Donald Trump, who has made tightening border security a priority.
Packages containing suspected heroin were found in the home of the driver charged with killing seven motorcyclists Friday in the North Country, authorities said Monday.
Massachusetts State Police said the packages were discovered when its Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section and New Hampshire State police arrested Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, at his West Springfield home. The packages will be tested for heroin, they said.
Zhukovskyy faces seven counts of negligent homicide in connection with the North Country crash on Friday evening that killed seven riders associated with Jarhead Motorcycle Club, a club for Marines and select Navy corpsmen.
'It just happened' — the Iraq War’s first living Medal of Honor recipient recalls his harrowing fight against 5 insurgents
On Nov, 10, 2004, Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia knew that he stood a good chance of dying as he tried to save his squad.
Bellavia survived the intense enemy fire and went on to single-handedly kill five insurgents as he cleared a three-story house in Fallujah during the iconic battle for the city. For his bravery that day, President Trump will present Bellavia with the Medal of Honor on Tuesday, making him the first living Iraq war veteran to receive the award.
In an interview with Task & Purpose, Bellavia recalled that the house where he fought insurgents was dark and filled with putrid water that flowed from broken pipes. The battle itself was an assault on his senses: The stench from the water, the darkness inside the home, and the sounds of footsteps that seemed to envelope him.
With the Imperial Japanese Army hot on his heels, Oscar Leonard says he barely slipped away from getting caught in the grueling Bataan Death March in 1942 by jumping into a choppy bay in the dark of the night, clinging to a log and paddling to the Allied-fortified island of Corregidor.
After many weeks of fighting there and at Mindanao, he was finally captured by the Japanese and spent the next several years languishing under brutal conditions in Filipino and Japanese World War II POW camps.
Now, having just turned 100 years old, the Antioch resident has been recognized for his 42-month ordeal as a prisoner of war, thanks to the efforts of his friends at the Brentwood VFW Post #10789 and Congressman Jerry McNerney.
McNerney, Brentwood VFW Commander Steve Todd and Junior Vice Commander John Bradley helped obtain a POW award after doing research and requesting records to surprise Leonard during a birthday party last month.
Hundreds of Marines will join their British counterparts at a massive urban training center this summer that will test the leathernecks' ability to fight a tech-savvy enemy in a crowded city filled with innocent civilians.
The North Carolina-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will test drones, robots and other high-tech equipment at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, in August.
They'll spend weeks weaving through underground tunnels and simulating fires in a mock packed downtown city center. They'll also face off against their peers, who will be equipped with off-the-shelf drones and other gadgets the enemy is now easily able to bring to the fight.
It's the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them.