Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Agency Plans Due for Implementing President Obama’s Executive Order on Hiring and Retaining People with Disabilities in the Federal Government


President Obama signing the new Executive Order

On July 26, 2010 President Obama signed the Executive Order on Employment of People with Disabilities in the Federal Government to mark the historic 20th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The Executive Order requires Federal agencies to increase the hiring of people with disabilities by 100,000 over the next 5 years.

Agencies had 120 days to develop a plan that will detail how they intend to accomplish their part of the goal.

People with disabilities seeking employment are encouraged to apply for positions through USAJOBS or by sending your resume directly to the agency with a job opening for which you would like to apply.

If you want to send your resume directly to a Federal agency, contact that agency's Selective Placement Program Coordinator (SPPC). A list of SPPCs' by agency can be found here.

Friday, November 26, 2010

VA: Exposure Assessment for Troops Exposed to Burn Pits

Open-air burn pits have operated widely at military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many returning Veterans are concerned about their exposure to smoke from burning trash and human waste.

Learn about:

Exposure to Smoke from Burn Pits

Man throwing trash into a burn pit

Photo by U.S. Department of Defense

Smoke produced by the burn may spread a variety of pollutants through the air that blows into working and living areas.

These toxins can include dioxin, particulate matter, hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, hexachlorobenzene, and ash.

The make-up of the smoke depends on what is being burned, which is not consistent from one burn pit to another, or from one time period to another at the same burn pit.

Health effects depend on a number of factors, such as the kind of waste being burned, individual susceptibility, duration of exposure, air flow patterns, and closeness to the pit.

You may be at greater risk if you burned waste at the pit compared to those were only in the vicinity of the smoke.


Possible Health Effects

Exposure to toxins may affect the skin, eyes, respiration, kidneys, liver, nervous system, cardiovascular system, reproductive system, peripheral nervous system, and gastrointestinal tract.

Most of the irritation related to solid waste burning exposure is temporary and resolves once the exposure is gone. These include:

  • Eye irritation and burning
  • Coughing and throat irritation
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Skin itching and rashes


Type of Waste Burned

Waste products in burn pits include, but are not limited to:

  • Chemicals
  • Paint
  • Medical and human waste
  • Metal/aluminum cans
  • Munitions and other unexploded ordnance
  • Petroleum and lubricant products
  • Plastics and styrofoam
  • Rubber
  • Wood
  • Discarded food


VA’s Request for Health Effects Study

At the request of VA, the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine began an 18-month study in November 2009 to determine the long-term health effects of exposure to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. The study will compare the health of 30,000 combat Veterans deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan to 30,000 non-deployed Veterans. The report is due out by summer of 2011.


Exposure Assessment for Veterans

At this time, research has not shown long-term adverse effects from exposure to the burn pits, but VA takes this issue seriously. You may find out more about your exposure by getting an exposure assessment offered by VA's War Related Illness and Injury Study Centers.

The War Related Illness and Injury Study Centers (WRIISCs) provide clinical expertise for Veterans with deployment health concerns or difficult-to-diagnose illnesses. WRIISCs are in three locations: Washington, DC, East Orange, NJ, and Palo Alto, CA.  For an appointment at a WRIISC, a VA primary care doctor must make a referral. Learn how to get a referral to a WRIISC.


VA Benefits

Veterans who were exposed to toxins released by burn pits during military service may be eligible for:


More Information on Burn Pits


SOURCE: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/burnpits/index.asp

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New Personalized Veterans Health Benefits Handbook Planned for Fall 2011

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is piloting new, personalized Veterans Health Benefits Handbooks.  The handbooks are tailored to provide enrolled Veterans with the most relevant health benefits information based on their own specific eligibility.  In essence, each handbook will be written for the individual Veteran. 

“These handbooks will give Veterans everything they need to know and leave out everything that doesn’t apply to them,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “Our Veterans will now have a comprehensive, easy to understand roadmap to the medical benefits they earned with their service.” 

In addition to highlighting each Veteran’s specific health benefits, the handbook also provides contact information for the Veteran’s preferred local facility, ways to schedule personal appointments, guidelines for communicating treatment needs and an explanation of the Veteran’s responsibilities, such as copayments when applicable.

“Enhancing access isn’t just about expanding the kinds of services VA provides. It also includes making sure we do everything we can to ensure Veterans have a clear understanding of the benefits available to them so they can make full use of the services they have earned,” Shinseki said.

The new handbooks will initially be available only to certain Veterans in Cleveland and Washington, D.C., areas.  Following the pilot phase, full implementation is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2011 for across the county.

For additional information, go to www.va.gov/healtheligibility or call VA’s toll-free number at 1-877-222-VETS (8387).

Marine Veterans Stationed at Camp Lejeune: Register for Drinking Water Notifications

If you were stationed or worked at Camp Lejeune before 1987, you may have been exposed to dangerous contaminants in the drinking water supply.

To register for water testing notifications, read about previous studies and receive more information, visit the Camp Lejeune Historic Drinking Water website.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Council on Veterans Programs Set to Craft Governing Rules

Posted by Anthony Hardie, DAV-WI Representative to the Council on Veterans Programs

(DAV-WI) - In a step by the Wisconsin Council on Veterans Programs (COVP) that shows its growing recognition of its independence from the Board of Veterans Affairs it advises, an ad hoc committee of the COVP will meet in Madison on Friday to hash out comprehensive new governing rules for itself.

Currently, the COVP is governed by just two paragraphs in the governing rules of the Board of Veterans Affairs -- once seen as the COVP’s parent body -- and a page-and-a-half-“Protocol” document enacted by the COVP in February.

The comprehensive rule-writing effort was initiated by the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Department of Wisconsin.  At the COVP’s October meeting in Rhinelander, the COVP voted to create a seven-member ad hoc committee to review DAV’s 21-page proposal and work to integrate it and the “Protocol” into a new document to provide comprehensive bylaws and rules for the COVP.

The DAV’s proposed draft is divided into the following thirteen articles: 

ARTICLE I – Principal Office

ARTICLE II – Members

ARTICLE III – Officers

ARTICLE IV – Meetings & Minutes

ARTICLE V – Committees & Subcommittees

ARTICLE VI – Advising the Board and the Department

ARTICLE VII – Reports, Studies & Recommendations

ARTICLE VIII – Educational Materials


ARTICLE X – Public Availability & Accessibility

ARTICLE XI – Amendments

ARTICLE XII – Custodian of Records & Department Designated Staff Person

ARTICLE XIII – Miscellaneous

The COVP has publicly announced a meeting of the ad hoc committee at 10 a.m. this Friday November 19, 2010 at the WDVA central office, 8th floor Board room, 30 W. Mifflin St., in Madison, Wis.  The meeting is open to the public with an opportunity for public comment.

Members of the ad hoc committee include the following COVP members: 

  1. Russ Alsteen – Navy Club
  2. Roger Fetterly – Military Officers Association of America (MOAA); COVP Vice-Chair
  3. Paul Fine – Army Navy Union; COVP Secretary
  4. Mark Grams – Marine Corps League
  5. Anthony HardieDisabled American Veterans (DAV)
  6. Charles Roloff – The American Legion; COVP Chair
  7. Tim Thiers – AMVETS

The DAV’s draft proposed rules for the COVP are below.

DAV - Draft COVP Rules and Bylaws -

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day Message from the National Commander: “Celebrate and Remember”


National Commander Roberto Barrera

2010-2011 National Commander
Wallace E. Tyson

The holiday season is a time of joy, for celebration of family, a time to give thanks for all with which we are blessed. I wish you and your family the very best through this special time and into the new year.

As we know, there are many who will not have the opportunity to partake in the merriment of these holidays. Hundreds of thousands of America’s finest are serving in some of the most dangerous places around the globe, sacrificing their time with family and friends to protect our freedom and way of life.

It is never easy to serve in desolate outposts throughout the world, but it is especially difficult during the holidays. Emails, letters and phone calls are no substitute for the joy of being with family in the warmth and love of a home.

There are others still who no longer serve in uniform but sacrifice daily due to injuries or illnesses sustained in our nation’s defense. Many will spend this holiday season in a hospital, a nursing facility or at home but bedridden.

I ask that you set aside time to remember and honor those who are forsaking their holidays so others do not have to. The United States owes them all a debt of a gratitude that cannot be fully repaid.

Enjoy the holidays and our freedom to worship as we choose. But again, give thanks that we are stronger and safer because of those who are hunting for the enemy in the freezing mountains of Afghanistan and under the desert skies of Iraq.

As we ring in 2011, please keep in mind that a new Congress will soon begin work critically important to us all. We must all stand together to ensure that the change that comes will benefit our veterans.

The new year will bring greater opportunity to fulfill our mission of building better lives for disabled veterans and their families.

While we have lately enjoyed great success legislatively, there is still a great deal of work that needs to be done to ensure every disabled veteran and family member receives the care and benefits earned through service and sacrifice. We must continue leading the way in shaping the change our nation is undergoing.

It is my sincere wish that you and your families have the most joyous holidays possible. I wish you all the blessings of the season. And I know you can be counted as we stand up for veterans in the new year.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month Article

Workforce Flexibility Promotes Employment of People with Disabilities

Robin Shaffert

Robin Shaffert

Senior Director of Corporate Social Responsibility of the AAPD

As we look back on October's celebrations of National Work and Family Month and National Disability Employment Awareness Month, advocates for increasing workforce flexibility and advocates for improving employment outcomes for people with disabilities should recognize the progress we have made. To a far greater extent than a year ago, it is generally agreed today that creating a flexible workplace benefits all employees, but it especially benefits employees with disabilities.

We need to also recognize how far we still have to go to achieve the promise of equal employment opportunity for people with disabilities. A review of data from the American Community Survey presented in the Annual Disability Statistics Compendium 2010, released this week, shows that the percentage of people with disabilities who are employed, 35.3%, is less than half of the percentage of people without disabilities who are employed, 74.3%. Similarly, the unemployment numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for September 2010 reveal the difficulty that jobseekers with disabilities face today. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities stands at 14.8%, which is staggering even when compared to the far too high 9.0% unemployment rate for people without disabilities.

Recognition of the potential for workplace flexibility to play a role in increasing employment of people with disabilities can be seen this year not only in the work of advocates and the voluntary measures taken by employers, but also in the actions of three agencies of the Department of Labor. The missions of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), and the Women's Bureau will all be furthered by promoting increased workforce flexibility. OFCCP is responsible for enforcing, for the benefit of job seekers and wage earners, the contractual promise of affirmative action and equal employment opportunity required of those who do business with the Federal government. ODEP is charged with providing national leadership on disability employment policy. The Women's Bureau safeguards the interests of working women, advocates for their equality and economic security, and promotes quality work environments.

Let's look first at what OFCCP has done this year. In July 2010, while we were celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, OFCCP initiated a regulatory proceeding to modernize the affirmative action regulations for the hiring, retention, and advancement of people with disabilities by federal contractors. OFCCP issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) seeking comment on eighteen listed items, including as item number 9, "To what extent does workplace flexibility, including flexibility in work schedules, as well as job-protected leave, impact recruitment and retention of individuals with disabilities?"

Many of the over 200 comments filed in response to the ANPRM addressed the importance of workplace flexibility. In the comments filed by the American Association of People with Disabilities, we enumerated a number of ways that workforce flexibility can help federal contractors attract, retain, and advance workers with disabilities. In addition to discussing the importance of providing for changes in the standard hours and place of work, we emphasized that federal contractors should pay particular attention to the needs of low wage and hourly workers for flexibility. As we argued, opportunities for meaningful input into schedules (including the ability to decline overtime), advance notice of scheduled hours, and consistency in the number of hours worked can be essential to low wage and hourly workers with disabilities. Lack of input regarding the hours worked, notice in scheduling, or fluctuations in the number of hours for which an employee is scheduled may make it impossible for workers to attend medical appointments, schedule transportation, and attend to other disability-related needs. We also argued that contractors that provide paid and unpaid job-protected leave in excess of that required by law will have an advantage in recruiting qualified candidates with disabilities. Further, we noted that providing job-protected leave promotes retention by allowing experienced employees to return to their jobs rather than encouraging termination when an employee requires more leave than the statutory maximum.

We are optimistic that when OFCCP issues the Final Rule regulating affirmative action for people with disabilities, the rule will recognize the important benefits of a wide range of workforce flexibility options for people with disabilities and will call on federal contractors to make workforce flexibility an aspect of their affirmative action plans.

Let's look next at what ODEP and the Women's Bureau have been doing. On August 9, 2010, the two agencies entered into a Memorandum of Agreement to cooperate in their efforts to expand and promote the understanding and use of workplace flexibility strategies for employees with complex needs, including people with disabilities. In addition to planning a one-day Workplace Flexibility Roundtable Forum focused on flexibility for people with disabilities, the two agencies are creating a roadmap of actions to expand the understanding of, and access to, best practices in workplace flexibility.

We hope that ODEP and the Women's Bureau will explore and promote a wide range of practices to increase workforce flexibility for people with disabilities and for all workers. Flexibility in scheduling (including part-time options) and flexibility in the place of work (including telecommuting) are helping many workers achieve the balance that they need to become or remain productive employees. And, there is room for improvement in and expansion of those practices. We also need to explore more fully the importance of predictability in scheduling and the options for expanded paid and unpaid leave in order to address the needs for flexibility of an even broader group of workers. Let's see how much progress we can make by October 2011.

SOURCE:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robin-shaffert/workforce-flexibility-pro_b_776158.html