Rick Stoehr - Commander
Julie Stoehr - President
Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States
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Whats Happening


What's Happening in the 8th District

The MACV will be hosting a Standdown event at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center August 26 from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. All Veterans are Welcome. For monre information, visit the MACV website or print this flyer.

The MACV will be hosting a Standdown event at the Miners Memorial Building August 25 from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. All Veterans are Welcome. For monre information, visit the MACV website or print this flyer.
The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill the House approved last week with my support includes measures to ensure that the commitments Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Bob McDonald has made to fix the Veterans Choice program and the antiquated VA telephone system will be kept. Military Veterans who attended our 8thDistrict Veterans roundtables repeatedly cited problems in both areas, and Congressman Tim Walz and I followed up and relayed their concerns personally to Secretary McDonald.
In a later meeting with me and other members of the Minnesota Congressional delegation in Minneapolis, Secretary McDonald assured us that by the end of this year, military Veterans in crisis who call any VA phone line would indeed be able to connect with a trained counselor without having to hang up and dial the VA Crisis Hotline.The phone fix is especially critical for those who served during the Vietnam era. They constitute the largest portion of the estimated 22 Veterans’ suicides that tragically occur every day. The legislation we passed last week also requires the Secretary to ensure that the VA Crisis Hotline itself adheres to the highest professional standards for suicide counseling. As Secretary McDonald pointed out at our meeting, the VA has already hired an experienced manager to oversee the Hotline and implemented advanced training for counselors. He also assured us that the VA’s eight separate “800” telephone lines will be consolidated into one by December 31st.
During our meeting in Minneapolis, Secretary McDonald also promised that by year’s end the Veterans Choice program will be doing what Congress intended it to do – providing fast, top-quality local health care services for military Veterans who live far away from VA clinics. This is especially important for large rural districts like Minnesota’s 8th (bigger than 10 states) where Veterans would otherwise be required to travel hundreds of miles for care at a VA facility. The Veterans bill we passed last week requires the VA to officially report its plan and progress in fixing the Veterans Choice program to Congress.
While the VA portion of the legislation fails to meet the President’s funding requests in a number of areas, it does boost overall support for military Veterans to $73.5 billion, which is $2.1 billion above the 2016 level. Key numbers include $66.3 billion for VA medical services, $663 million for Medical and Prosthetic Research, $4.2 billion for construction of new VA facilities and $4.2 billion to improve information technology.
We will keep you posted as events proceed. Meanwhile, I want to hear your thoughts. Feel free to contact any of our offices listed below or send me an email.
More than 2.1 million Americans suffer substance abuse disorders related to powerful opioid pain medications, and last week the House passed my bipartisan amendment to give active soldiers and military Veterans representation on an important new federal task force that will review and update best practices for prescribing and controlling these drugs. Our measure came as part of a package of 15 bills providing new grants, studies and pilot programs designed to address opioid addiction and advance treatments.
As I told my colleagues, the simple fact is that soldiers and military Veterans use opioid painkillers far more frequently than civilians because of the horrific and painful injuries they all too often suffer in combat and training. In fact, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reports that half of all our troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer chronic pain. As a result, half a million military Veterans are now prescribed opioid medications. That’s an increase of 80% in little more than a decade. What’s more, the American Public Health Association reports that the opiate overdose rate among VA patients is twice the national average.
So it’s clear we have a serious crisis on our hands with respect to the use and misuse of opioid pain medications in our military health care system. The situation is made worse when Veterans are unable to schedule their monthly prescription renewal appointments in a timely manner at VA health care facilities. We have seen reports that Veterans in these situations sometimes feel forced to turn to the streets and buy illegal heroin to manage their pain.
Our heroes deserve better. VA Secretary Robert McDonald has assured us that the appointments backlog is being addressed through the hiring of more than 2,000 new VA medical personnel. Meanwhile, thanks to our amendment, military Veterans and active duty soldiers will have an extremely valuable voice on our Nation’s new opioid task force, and the recommendations they put forth will undoubtedly save many precious lives.
We will keep you posted as events proceed. Meanwhile, I want to hear your thoughts. Feel free to contact any of our offices listed below or send me an email.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald has assured me that by the end of December, the VA will have fixed an antiquated and convoluted telephone system that does not allow Veterans in crisis to immediately connect with an expert counselor on any call - a factor undoubtedly contributing to the fact that some 22 U.S. military Veterans commit suicide every day. He promised that military Veterans will have the option of reaching a counselor by simply pressing a button, without having to hang up and dial the special Veterans Crisis Line. The phone fix is especially critical for those who served during the Vietnam era who constitute the largest portion of tragic Veterans' suicides.
Congressman Tim Walz - a leader on the House Veterans Affairs Committee - and I first brought the urgent need to improve the VA phone system to Secretary McDonald's attention at the request of military Veterans who packed our roundtables in Duluth and Brainerd. As one person pointed out at the time, "You can't expect someone with a telephone in one hand and a gun in the other to hang up and dial another number to get the help they need that very minute to save their life."
 Fixing the Veterans Choice program is another top VA priority, McDonald said at the meeting Congressman Walz arranged with the Minnesota Congressional Delegation last week. Congress established the program to assure military Veterans who live far away from VA clinics can receive medical care at private facilities closer to home. However, those attending our roundtables in Duluth and Brainerd told story after story of frustrating and confusing delays and billing problems, which we also brought to Secretary McDonald's attention.

Bipartisan Agreement Reached on VA Reform Bill

Here I am in the crowd at one of our recent veterans round tables, listening to a Hibbing-area veteran talk about his experience with the VA.

Over the weekend, I called on Speaker Boehner to postpone the upcoming August recess until Congress has voted on a compromise version of the Veterans Access to Care Act (H.R. 3230) to assure that each and every one of our heroes receives excellent and timely care and service as close to home as possible.
Today, I am pleased to tell you that House and Senate negotiators have announced an agreement that paves the way for such a vote.
While we don’t yet have all the details, it’s clear the bill will allocate substantial new resources to allow veterans who live in rural areas – like much of our Eighth District – to receive outside care if they reside more than 40 miles from a VA facility. That measure alone will ease travel stress for vets, save taxpayer dollars for travel reimbursement, and reduce appointment backlogs at VA clinics by allowing rural vets to receive care at non- V.A. facilities. The bill will also provide greater VA transparency by requiring outside independent assessment, allow for the hire of more doctors and nurses at existing VA clinics, make VA physicians' credentials publicly accessible, and implement new performance metrics.
Moreover, the bill will result in the addition of 27 new VA facilities across the nation, and the hiring of new staff to improve both care and service.
I will keep you posted as we know more. Meanwhile, I want to again thank the veterans and their families who took time to attend my Veterans Round Tables earlier this summer in Duluth, Brainerd, Hibbing and Little Falls. I conveyed your concerns to the conferees on this legislation, and clearly, you made a difference.

Health Care Befitting Our Heroes

I spoke to veterans at a recent round table in Hibbing about improving access to health care close to home, strengthening mental health care programs, and expanding access to chiropractic care through the VA. - Rick Nolan

Our veterans are America's heroes, and heroes deserve (1) access to care close to home, without having to travel long distances,(2) access to the best mental health care we can provide, with no limits based on when symptoms of illnesses such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) manifest themselves, and (3) timely consideration and processing of their benefits claims. In summary, that's the message I've just conveyed in a letter to my colleagues on the House-Senate conference committee ironing out the final version of the Veteran Access to Care Act of 2014.
The bill contains important and long-overdue improvements to greatly reduce waits for appointments and expand access to care to accommodate the huge influx of veterans from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Special thanks to all the veterans and family members who attended my recent series of veterans round tables in Duluth, Brainerd, Little Falls, and Hibbing. Watch for more veterans round tables in your area of Minnesota's 8th Congressional District in the weeks ahead.

Nolan Addresses Critical Veterans Affairs Issues

I hope you had a great Fourth of July weekend. In addition to greeting thousands of constituents at celebrations throughout Minnesota's Eighth District, I was honored to meet with some 80 veterans who packed the Servicemen's Quarters in Hibbing on Thursday for another in our series of districtwide veterans round tables. My message to them was simple and direct:  Our veterans are America’s heroes and they deserve to be treated that way.
As the front page of Friday’s Hibbing Daily Tribune (above) attests, we got a real earful from the vets and families in attendance – particularly on health care. Some had good things to say about their experiences with the VA medical system. Yet many others relayed disturbing stories of long waits for appointments, unclean conditions, shortages of basic supplies and medications, and difficulties dealing with staff.
Make no mistake. We will get to the bottom of these problems and fix them once and for all – in Hibbing, and wherever else these reports surface.
Everyone at the Hibbing round table did agree on several things: first, if you’re a veteran, you’re entitled to health care wherever you are. As one vet pointed out, no one should have to travel from International Falls to Minneapolis for an eye exam. Local care saves time and stress for vets, and mileage reimbursements for taxpayers.
The second: if you're a veteran, you're entitled to chiropractic care, which often proves to be a better alternative than prescription drugs for pain management.
I've been working hard to pass two pieces of legislation that would address both of these concerns - the HEALTHY Vets Act (H.R.635), which permits vets in rural areas to receive local care, and the Chiropractic Care Available to All Veterans Act (H.R.921), to make chiropractic care available at all major VA clinics by 2016 or before.
Many vets are also concerned with the quality of mental health care, particularly as it relates to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). And rightly so - on average, 29 vets a day commit suicide. While the physical wounds of war are relatively easy to identify, debilitating psychological scars can be much more difficult to assess, especially when symptoms appear many years later. If you're a vet suffering from PTSD, you should receive treatment. To that end, I am also working hard to pass H.R. 1725, the Veterans Mental Health Accessibility Act. This bill would allow veterans who served in combat from all military operations to seek treatment for service-connected mental illnesses, regardless of when their conditions manifest themselves.
And this week, I'll be communicating these concerns, along with others voiced by vets who attended our round tables in Duluth, Little Falls, and Brainerd, to members of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees for their review and consideration.
Finally, I have this request. If you’re a veteran or family member, and you’re experiencing a problem of any kind related to the Department of Veterans Affairs, VA benefits, or VA health care, please don’t hesitate. Contact me, and my staff and I will leave no stone unturned to make it right. I’m honored to serve those who have served our great nation.

Carlton County Yellow Ribbon Network Proclamation

At 1:00 on Memorial Day, May 26, 2014, in Veterans Memorial Park in Cloquet, MN, representatives from the Governors office, the Mayors of Cloquet and Carlton, the Mission Commander of the 148th Fighter Wing and Officers of Crazy Troop, and more joined together to proclaim Carlton County as a Yellow Ribbon Network.

VFW Commander-in-Chief Visits Minnesota

The VFW National Commander, William (Bill) Thien, visited several VFW Posts throughout Minnesota and even made stops in the 8th District. Although I have yet to receive pictures and information from Deer River or Grand Rapids, I do have pictures from the Duluth visit.

8th District Loyalty Days 2014

Loyalty Day, for the VFW 8th District, is a time of celebration and comraderie, tesitmonials and banquets, and of course, nominations and election of officers. And this year, at the Carlton VFW Post 2962, we did just that. There was commaraderie with fellow Veterans

8th District Voice of Democracy / Patriots Pen Banquet

The 8th District Voice of Democracy and Patriots Pen Banquet held at the Cloquet National Guard Armory turned out to be a huge success. Both First Place winners from the 8th District Voice of Democracy and Patriots Pen winners read their award winning speeches

Town Hall Meeting

At the October District 8 Meeting in Deer River a Steering Committee was formed to explore the possibility of inviting Staff Representatives from the offices of Senators Klobuchar and Franken as well as Congressman Nolan to a Town Hall Meeting hosted by

Voice of Democracy Winner

Molly Deatherage, a Junior at Northwoods School near Cook was District 8's 2013-2014 Voice of Democracy winner. She competed at the Mid Winter Conference against students from 8 other Districts
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