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Bridging The DOD-VA Gap

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Brian McGough knows the pain of navigating from Department of Defense (DOD) medical care to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) care all too well.

In October 2003, Brian was wounded by a roadside bomb on the outskirts of Mosul. After undergoing surgery to repair his open head wound, he spent several months recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Brian still battles the effects of both his injuries.

But Brian's battle wasn't over when he left the military.

The gaps in transitioning from DOD to VA care were so bad, the byzantine process so confusing, and the paperwork so heavy, that Brian had to spend three months on unemployment, while he waited to be fully transitioned, so he could receive benefits from the VA for his injuries, which made it impossible to work at the time.

Thankfully, Brian's doing better today, and is now the Legislative Director and Vice Chairman of VoteVets.org. As the group's point person on policy, Brian made sure that making a seamless transition from DOD to VA was one of our legislative priorities.

So when the White House called and asked VoteVets to be there today, to hear the president announce a huge initiative to bridge the transitioning gap from DOD to VA care, who do you think we gave the honors?

The announcement from the President that DOD and the VA will create a Joint Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record for all those who serve our nation in uniform will change the way we treat our troops and veterans, for the better, permanently. By doing away with all the paper and moving to electronic records, all pertinent information will follow a servicemember through his or her service, to return, and then to transition to VA care and beyond. Not only does this mean fewer mistakes in diagnosis and treatment, but that a lot of the maze of bureaucracy and paperwork that kept Brian from getting the care and benefits he needed will disappear.

That, along with the president's support for advance funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and opening the department up to many vets who were previously shut out because of their incomes, will help ensure generations to come can get better care with fewer headaches.

And that's the point. Because, the truth is, this is bigger than me, bigger than Brian, and bigger than VoteVets.org. This is about the thousands upon thousands of veterans who are still struggling with this transition, and the millions of troops who will face this transition for many, many years to come.

Though today's announcement was an extremely positive deal, not every problem was fixed today, and we still have a lot of work to do. But, as long as the White House reaches out to us, we'll be there to work with them.

Crossposted at VetVoice.com

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