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News & Events: Chapter and Community News


Passing of Toni Casciato

In Loving Memory of Toni Casciato, First Lady of the Museum, June 27, 1953 - May 17, 2020

Toni Casciato passed away on May 17, 2020.

She brought creativity, tireless work, positive energy, her beautiful smile and her joyful laugh to the museum and everywhere she went.

05/20/20/ WNC MOAA/ Personal/

VBA Education Service consolidating to two Regional Processing Offices by October 1, 2020

Dear Veteran Leaders,

The Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Benefits Administration’s, Education Service is reallocating the resources of its St. Louis Regional Processing Office (RPO) and redistributing its workload to the Buffalo RPO. This transition will not impact GI Bill students or the educational institutions they attend.

No action is required from the Veteran or dependent using his or her education benefits. Educational institutions will continue to submit enrollment certifications and changes to enrollment to VA. The only change will be the office where the claim is processed. No disruption in service is expected to take place as a result of these changes.

The transition to two offices (Muskogee and Buffalo) processing education claims will improve timeliness, quality, service and operational efficiency for GI Bill students and stakeholders. All impacted St. Louis RPO staff will be given the opportunity to seek employment with the Veteran Service Center in St. Louis or continue with Education Service in Buffalo or Muskogee. There is no impact to the overall FTE levels within education claims processing only a jurisdictional change. This transition will also enhance benefit administration and the beneficiary experience for those with and seeking disability claims as additional staffing resources will shift to the St. Louis Veterans Service Center.

St. Louis RPO workload will begin to transition to the Buffalo RPO in the coming months through a phased approach. By October 1, 2020, the St. Louis RPO will no longer support Education claims processing and all staff will have transitioned. In the interim, Education Service will provide updates as necessary to students, schools and stakeholders.

If you are aware of any GI Bill Beneficiaries who require assistance, please have them contact the Education Call Center at 888-442-4551 between 7 a.m. - 6 p.m. Central Time, Monday-Friday to speak with a representative.

Paul R. Lawrence, Ph.D.

Under Secretary for Benefits

For more information:

Michael (Mike) Stoddard

VBA Veteran Organization Liaison

Under Secretary for Benefits

Department of Veterans Affairs

Email: michael.stoddard2@va.gov

Office Phone: 202-461-9079

Mobile: (202) 891-9168

05/18/20/ WNC MOAA/ Serious/

The Education Call Center (ECC) now has a dedicated phone line for GI Bill beneficiaries

The Education Call Center (ECC) now has a dedicated phone line for GI Bill beneficiaries who are a surviving spouse or child of an active duty Servicemember who died in the line of duty and need assistance with their education benefits.

Starting today, May 11, 2020, a child or surviving spouse can contact the ECC at 1-888-442-4551 and select Option 5. The ECC is available Monday – Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET.

05/11/20/ WNC MOAA/ Serious/

VA kicks off online campaign emphasizing mental health support

Goal is to build awareness of resources available to Veterans

WASHINGTON — In recognition of Mental Health Month, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced the launch of the “Now Is the Time” campaign.

The focus is on getting Veterans the support they need from family and friends through professional mental health treatment.

“As VA’s health care environment continues to evolve, the department is working to serve as many Veterans as possible by reaching Veterans where they are, said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “This May, VA encourages everyone to explore Mental Health Month resources at MakeTheConnection.net/MHM. Veterans and their families can help themselves or someone they love learn about the support that can improve their lives.”

Read the entire article here. Also available in PDF format to the right.

05/11/20/ WNC MOAA/ Serious/

Virtual Memorial Day Ceremony May 25

Good afternoon. The following is information about our Virtual Memorial Day Ceremony that will be broadcast live 11:00 AM, Monday May 25 from City of Asheville Live You Tube Channel. The flyer for the event is attached below. The channel can be accessed at the following website, and clicking on the video at the top of the page marked “Live Now” for the live event.

The program will consist of the following and last about 40-45 minutes:

Master of Ceremony: Allan Perkal, Chair, Buncombe County Veterans Council, USAF, Vietnam

· The National Anthem will be sung by Ric Ledford, USMC, Followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by Ted Minnick, US Army, Vietnam

· Our next presenter will be Stephanie Young, Director, Charles George VA Medical Center

· The Keynote Speaker is Anne Adkins, Gold Star Mother whose Son, Matthew, made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq.

· There will be two readings from the Brothers and Sisters Like These Veteran writing group (Ron Toler, USAF Pilot, Vietnam; Issac, Son of Tommy Cannon, US Army, Iraq will read a Memorial Day tribute)

· Followed by the playing of taps by Ric Ledford which will then conclude our ceremony.

05/08/20/ WNC MOAA/ Fun/

Suspension of Group Gatherings (ongoing)

10 March 2020

Blue Ridge Honor Flights suspended until further notice.

12 March 2020

Buncombe County Veterans Council (BCVC) : April BCVC meetings - remote only

15 March 2020


We Honor Veterans pinning ceremonies suspended

Four Seasons Volunteer Services will notify WNC MOAA President when pinning ceremonies will resume – stand by for updates

16 March 2020

VRQ Teams meal prep and serve activities are suspended – stand by for updates.

16 March 2020

Haywood County Veterans Council (HCVC) April meeting will be held remotely.

18 March 2020

MOAA Smoky Mountain Satellite Event scheduled in Franklin for 7 April 2020 was canelled. As the coronavirus is mitigated, we shall establish a new date, time and location and proceed to "Never Stop Serving!"

David E McCracken



03/16/20 20:02:26/ WNC Webmaster/ COVID-19 News/

This Marine Widow Turned Tragedy to Triumph

From HuffPost - Dr. Vivianne Wersel, now head of WNC-MOAA's Legislative Affairs team, ensured that no service member's death is discounted.

When Vivianne Wersel was starting her career as an audiologist — a health care professional who evaluates hearing and related medical concerns — she hardly thought that her career and life choices would eventually make her a fixture in the nation’s capital.

In fact, the realities of being married to an active duty Marine meant that Wersel had to restart her career every time that her family moved to a new base. “We had so many duty stations that I had to apply for a new license in every single state,” she says.

Read the entire article here .

04/21/20/ WNC MOAA/ Personal/

Charles George VA Medical Center

Western North Carolina VA Health Care System copes with COVID-19 restrictions, continues great care

By Vance Janes

Charles George VA Medical Center Public Affairs Officer

The current environment created by the COVID-19 pandemic has provided unique opportunities for VA healthcare providers to go above and beyond in serving Veterans - even if it means catching up with them while they’re turkey hunting.

New Ways to See Veterans

Dr. David Wells, a Charles George VA Medical Center Primary Care physician, recently completed a phone visit with a 51-year-old Western North Carolina Veteran on Turkey Tuesday.

“He was sitting in a tree stand turkey hunting, and told me to wait a minute,” Wells said. “It might have been because he saw a turkey.”

Brittany Brannigan, Facility Telehealth Coordinator. said that while it may seem like a funny little story, it’s indicative of how Western North Carolina VA Health Care System employees are adapting to the changes which have taken place because of the COVID-19 situation.

Virtual care and telehealth have become commonplace due to social distancing, and a lot of effort has been focused on ensuring that our Veterans still receive the highest quality of care. In some cases, the additional vigilance that comes with telehealth pays off.

In one example, Occupational Therapist Patrick Meler was performing a Video Connect appointment with a Veteran when he noticed something visibly concerning. Meler notified Dr. Wells, who took immediate action. After talking with the Veteran and coordinating an urgent MRI, the Veteran was discovered to have a serious condition requiring a referral to a neurosurgeon.

In terms of our providers’ increased reliance on the use of telehealth, Melissa Edwards, Chief of Community Based Outpatient Clinic and Telehealth said, “our providers were initially hesitant. But with one-on-one training, providers are now feeling confident with the process. They’re requesting to keep VA Video Connect and Virtual care options moving forward after COVID-19.”

Stop and Trust

Craig Holbert, Chief Supply Chain Officer, said things may have changed, but the staff is supportive.

“The majority of responses from the staff have been appreciative and helpful,” Holbert said. “Most of them understand the need to be teamwork-oriented and in doing so, are supportive of such changes.”

He also said that as time continues to pass, flexibility is key.

“Our ‘business as usual’ has had to become a completely new type of ‘business as usual,’” he said. “The one thing that has remained the same is how much our staff members are always willing to go above and beyond into the new, next best plan for the good of the Veterans we serve.

“I’ve been continually impressed by their willingness to be reassigned to new positions, to work in new places around the hospital, and in helping to collaborate and invent new procedures to maintain the highest level of professionalism and safety in the midst of these uncertain circumstances.”

Holbert said times of crisis can make things feel uncertain, but for him, the cure for that uncertainty is all around him.

“My advice is to stop and trust,” he said. “The reason I can do that so easily is because I truly believe that everyone walking in this hospital has the best intentions to take care of each other – especially to pay back our heroes for what they’ve already given for us.”

Everyone’s committed

Christine Cooper, CGVAMC Local Recovery Coordinator, echoed others’ sentiments and said changes in mental health services were quick but handled efficiently.

“I’ve been so impressed with the adaptability of my team, the Peer Specialists, and with the Veterans we serve,” she said. “We fully transitioned from in-person group meetings to telephone and video-conference meetings in one day.”

Cooper said that even in these challenging times, Peer Specialists are starting new groups and finding ways to connect inpatient Veterans to telehealth resources. Peer Specialists and Recreational Therapists have also developed comprehensive mailings of detailed community resources to be available for Veterans.

“We miss seeing the Veterans we serve in person,” Cooper said, “but everyone is committed to continue providing excellent service through any changes we may face.”


Safe Mental Health Care During the COVID-19 Outbreak

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Now more than ever, the Western North Carolina VA Health Care System is committed to providing high-quality mental health care while keeping Veterans safe from exposure to the coronavirus. To help reduce the risk of infection at the facility, Charles George VA Medical Center asks that Veterans use VA’s online resources for routine or non-urgent mental health care and questions. This will help protect Veterans from contracting COVID-19 while enabling CGVAMC providers to focus on care for Veterans with the most acute needs.

“Due to COVID-19 precautionary measures, and out of concern for our local Veterans, we are honoring current physical distancing guidelines,” said Dr. Laura Tugman, the Mental Health Services assistant chief here. “Through VA’s virtual care tools, we are able to leverage available technology to make sure that our patients and staff are as safe as possible during this time

VA offers Veterans a variety of at-home resources, including the following:

Telephone or Video Appointments – Veterans should maintain their existing mental health appointments — and may receive care at home — using VA Video Connect on their computers, smartphones, or tablets. To set up telephone or video appointments, Veterans can send their health care provider a secure message on My HealtheVet by visiting myhealth.va.gov or call CGVAMC’s Mental Health clinic to schedule at (828) 298-7911 ext. 2519. Veterans can learn more about VA Video Connect here .

Mental Health Peer Support Specialist Groups – Veterans can continue to stay connected with our Veteran recovery community by attending our Peer-led groups including Wellness Recovery Action Planning, Navigating Relationships and Veteran “X” in a virtual platform. For more information on how to attend a Peer-led group, contact your current Mental Health provider.

Prescription Refills and Safety – Veterans should continue taking all medications as prescribed and talk to their mental health provider if they have any concerns. Veterans may request prescription refills and order shipments of medications to their homes using My HealtheVet or the Rx Refill mobile app, which can be downloaded here . VA’s Safe Home Environment handout provides information on safely storing medications in the home.

Mental Health Information and Resources – VA provides information on ways for Veterans and their families to maintain and enhance their mental health and well-being during the COVID-19 outbreak. Information about managing stress and anxiety, as well as mental health resources, are available here.

Text Message Reminders – Veterans can use Annie’s Coronavirus Precautions protocol to send automated text messages with information about COVID-19. This application helps Veterans monitor their symptoms and can assist those who need to contact their VA facility for care. Veterans may enroll in the app here.

Mental Health Month – This May, VA is observing Mental Health Month by emphasizing that “Now Is the Time.” Even during the coronavirus outbreak, Veterans can still prioritize their mental health. Veterans and their families can visit here to learn more about mental health resources and hear stories of recovery from other Veterans.

For more information on ways Veterans can maintain and enhance their mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak, visit here. For the most up to date information follow the CGVAMC on Facebook at @AshevilleVAMC or visit the website.

04/15/20/ WNC MOAA/ COVID-19 News/

Charles George VA Medical Center


While our facilities remain under restrictions, here are some good links for setup with MyHealtheVet for Veterans. MHV allows for premium account access, so Veterans can reorder prescriptions online, get health records and other services through MyHealtheVet.

If you need assistance accessing MyHealtheVet or enrolling in it you can contact the My HealtheVet Coordinator, Scott Pittillo email Scott

The MyHealtheVet Service Page on our website explains the process and here are a couple of PDFs that explain the online upgrade process:

Quick Remote Proofing Guide

MHV Reference Document

03/17/20 20:17:58/ WNC Webmaster/ COVID-19 News/

Charles George VA Medical Center Update Tuesday May 5 2020

* Our CLC residents and hospitalized Veterans have received over 500 virtual visits through supportive cards - THANK YOU!!!

* We are working to support the national blood shortage by continuing our scheduled blood drives - employees only are scheduled at the drive at this time, with social distancing measures in place.

* Our traditional summer youth program has been cancelled, however, we are working with past students to create meaningful virtual positions and ways to connect with our CLC residents.

* We have partnered with the Buncombe County Public Library System to provide library resources and activities for our CLC/Hospitalized Veterans. They are delivering a resource box from Friends of the Library containing books, handouts for internet resources, puzzle books, letters, notes and postcards. The box is updated weekly with needed items and resource information to share. We also have secured library cards that allow on line access to books/movies/magazines via the internet for our hospitalized Veterans.

* We have coordinated the purchase of no-contract phones for 25 homeless Veterans, allowing these Veterans to continue with their medical appointments.

* Voluntary Service is working/planning our reintegration plan for when we are able to start bringing volunteers back. Through our weekly calls, we have been told that the reopening of our VA will open at a slower rate than our community.

* Voluntary Service is still connecting with our Veteran Service Officers to ensure dissemination of all critical information/updates are reaching their counties and Veterans. We are conducting our regularly scheduled meetings virtually.

* Attached are the latest stay at home activities/ideas.

* Veterans having procedures are now being asked to arrive early and are having a COVID 19 test on the day of their procedure. Test results are received within 1 hour.

* All Veterans entering our facilities are issued a mask to wear while receiving services. Veterans are asked to bring a mask with them to their appointments.

* Reminder - We are still asking for homemade cloth masks for issuing to Veterans, our goal is to have enough masks for mailing to all Veterans we serve. Thank you to those who have already donated!


Today's video (below) is our second weekly operational update. I've heard loud and clear that you appreciate learning where the organization is on our fight against this pandemic, so I intend to do an operational update each Friday. Please keep your feedback coming; I know your time is valuable and want these to be helpful.

As of this morning, we have completed over 105,000 COVID-19 tests, with a little more than 7,500 positive results. The vast majority of Veterans whom we have treated have been recovering in an outpatient status. We have also provided care to over 200 non-Veterans across our network.

We are working diligently on our plans for re-opening our facilities, and as you can imagine, this is a complex task. Every VAMC, CBOC, and Vet Center will be a little different, and we are working through that now to keep you, our Veterans, and their families safe. You'll be hearing more on that soon.

Thank you for everything you are doing for our nation, and enjoy your weekend.

Richard A. Stone, MD

Executive in Charge

04/17/20/ WNC MOAA/ COVID-19 News/

VA Loan Information

Click on image at right to enlarge original flyer

We realize you may be dealing with difficulties during the COVID-19 crisis. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) may be able to help.


If you have....

- New VA debt, We will temporarily stop debt payment collections. You don’t have to act.

- Existing VA debt, You can request a temporary collection suspension or an extended repayment plan. Call 1-800-827-0648.

After the national emergency ends, we will resume debt collection activities.

OTHER VA DEBT-RELATED EFFORTS • VA will not refer delinquent debts to credit reporting agencies during the crisis. • VA Home Loan applications will continue for Veterans with unresolved debt payment issues.

For help or to confirm whether this information applies to your VA benefit debt, contact the Debt Management Center at 1-800-827-0648.


When possible, we’re moving in-person services to virtual platforms. We’re also granting extension requests for late-filed forms, when the extension request is based on COVID-19. For assistance with benefit-related claim support, please contact 1-800-827-1000 or visit benefits.va.gov.

We’re working to find additional ways to serve you during this crisis. Please follow national and local guidelines to stay healthy and safe.

04/13/20/ WNC MOAA/ COVID-19 News/

North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans Affairs

March 20 2020

The safety and well-being of North Carolina’s veterans, their families, and our staff is the number one priority of the NC Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

In response to Governor Cooper’s Executive Order and preparedness plan to slow the spread of COVID-19, the NCDMVA has implemented the following policies and procedures at all of our service offices, veterans homes, and memorial cemeteries.

All NCDMVA offices, veterans homes, and cemeteries, will operate at reduced capacity until further notice. Our service offices are taking appointments on an individual basis for immediate emergency needs only. Walk-ins are prohibited. All offices are operational, but veterans should call their local facility for assistance. Our service officers are prepared to help veterans via remote delivery services by phone and other electronic means. To find a local office, please visit NCDMVA offices.

In person visits at our veterans homes are suspended, with accommodations provided in exceptional cases by management on an individual basis. NCDMVA is encouraging visitors to communicate with veterans home personnel and family members via video conferences and or telephone. Modified operational procedures are in place to ensure the safety and health of all residents and staff at our veterans homes.

Currently, all NCDMVA memorial cemeteries continue to remain open for burials. At this time, visitation of the cemetery grounds is permitted, however, public committal services are suspended. Walk-Ins are not permitted at cemetery offices. Families should call staff at the cemeteries for assistance with burials. For more information regarding burials or eligibility, please click here to contact the cemetery staff.

Please note that the NCDMVA may implement additional changes to operations and procedures as this public health crisis continues to develop. NCDMVA will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates on a continuing basis.

For more information about North Carolina’s response to COVID-19, visit NC 2-1-1 and NCDHHS .

03/23/20/ WNC MOAA/ COVID-19 News/

Veterans Benefits Offices to Close March 19

Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) Regional Offices will be closed to the public starting March 19.

Regional offices will remain open, but will no longer accept walk-ins for claims assistance, scheduled appointments, counseling and other in-person services. This decision protects our older Veterans and those with underlying conditions as well as our employees.

Veterans can continue to get information about benefits or file a claim for benefits by visiting our website at www.va.gov . Veterans with claims specific or other questions may request information via Inquiry Routing & Information System (IRIS) or telephone at 1-800-827-1000.

VBA benefits and services provided to Veterans, families, and survivors will continue to be delivered throughout the duration of COVID-19 impacts.

Please continue to check www.va.gov for updates. You may also follow us on Facebook and Twitter .

03/18/20/ WNC MOAA/ COVID-19 News/
Western North Carolina Chapter of the Military Officer's Association of America.
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