(167) Mashed Potato News: For Veterans and Their Caregivers


Molly's new profile picture Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)

A lot of news popped up recently about services for Veterans. Molly and I decided to mash it up just like mashed potatoes into a creamy mixture guaranteed to bowl, masher, and potatoestantalize even the most finicky palate. Let’s start with the potatoes, an American staple, and go from there.


Given our mashed potato metaphor, here are the topics that deal with the most basic of services to our Veterans.

Action at the Phoenix Facility. The VA issued a notice of removal to three health care executives at the Phoenix medical facility for issues related to falsification of patient records to conceal long waiting times for treatment. While the personnel removal process is pending, all three were reassigned to non-patient care programs in the VA Phoenix facility rather than on paid administrative leave. A new director to the facility was named in late November 2015. The VA hired 700 full-time employees to increase services to Veterans in Phoenix. Two new facilities are to be added, including a designated dental facility. Click here to read about this news.

VA Serving Women Veterans.  On March 22, between 2-3 pm Eastern Time, the VA hosts a Facebook chat about services offered for female Veterans at #ExploreVAFacebook. The live chat is a co-effort of the VA and the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) and can be arranged through the VFW Facebook page. Over 500,000 female Veterans already receive VA services. Click here to read the press release and find links for chat registration.

Combat Veterans given Top Priority for Phone Registration for Benefits. The VA now allows combat Veterans to register for medical benefits and VA services by telephone without a paper application, which can be a hassle. The same service will be available to all Veterans on July 5, 2016. The paper application still remains an option, as does the on-line enrollment. Which is the quickest? Reach out and touch—the telephone. Click here for more information or call the Health Eligibility Center Enrollment and Eligibility Division toll free at 1-855-488-8440.

Hepatitis C Treatment. The VA announced that it now funds care for all Veterans with Hepatitis C for fiscal year 2016 regardless of the stage of the patient’s liver disease. Treatment priority focuses on the patients in the worst condition. Funding is made possible this year due to lower costs of the antiviral medication. Over 60,000 Veterans have been cured with this treatment. The VA expects to spend over $1 billion this year on treatment.


One cannot have mashed potatoes without the milk—another staple of life. Here are a few items to add to our dish.

PTSD Mobile Mood Coach. The National Center for PTSD offers a number of tools to help manage PTSD. It just announced the mobile app called “Mood Coach” for iOS and Android. Check out this link for the Mood Coach and other mobile coaches to help with needs such as smoking cessation and TBI.

Community Care Call Center. If you are a Veteran experiencing problems with private physician billing for services received through the VA Choice program, a new call center has opened to assist you toll free at 1-877-881-7618. The VA recently sunk millions into a new billing and payment system to expedite payments to vendors contracted with for outside services. These services offered through the VA Choice Program are intended to get the Veteran connected to the services they need more quickly than waiting for an appointment at VA facilities.

VA Crisis Hotline and General Technology Improvements. The VA announced improvements to the Crisis Call Hotline due to delays in meeting Veterans’ calls for help. Improvements included technology system fixes and hiring of additional staff to handle calls. The VA also issued 21 contracts totaling $22.3 billion to private vendors to provide technology improvements to VA systems, including information technology infrastructure, cyber security, and operations and network management. Yikes, that’s a lot of milk to add to our mashed potatoes. 


butter dishThe final ingredient for our mash up is butter. Without butter, the quality of mashed potatoes just isn’t there. This applies to many of our Veterans, who depend upon their caregivers to ensure their quality of life.

Caregiver Peer Mentoring Program. The VA offers a caregiver support program for family caregivers of disabled Veterans. Recently, the VA announced the Caregiver Peer Support Mentoring Program. Here is how the VA describes the program. It was “. . . developed to strengthen relationships between Caregivers, to provide an opportunity for networking and to empower Caregivers to help one another. The Caregiver Peer Support Mentoring Program provides an opportunity for Caregivers to receive guidance and to share their experience, wisdom, skills and passion with other Caregivers.” The VA welcomes both mentors and those desiring to work with a mentor. You can find out more about the program at www.caregiver.va.gov or by calling toll free at 1-855-260-3274.

A Bit of Seasoning 

Mashed potatoes might taste bland without a bit of seasoning so here is one that sparks the taste buds.

PGA Hope Program. Earlier this month, the VA and the PGA (Professional Golfers’ Association) announced PGA Hope, which is a therapeutic program to aid in the rehabilitation process for disabled Veterans. The program links the Veteran with golf professionals, an introductory golf clinic, and specialized instruction to get the Veteran back into the community and onto the golf course. Visit www.pgareach.com for details or view the VA partnership announcement here.

Miss Molly’s Mash-Up 

Mollys new buddyWhile mashing potatoes, I whipped up a low-fat beef DSCN1296stroganoff for William. Apparently, wafting smells from the beef attracted neighborhood pups. Molly enjoyed mashing it up with these tiny tikes.


Post your Comments: 

Do you have a favorite Veteran or caregiver program you would recommend to others? Please reply below. 

Photo credits belong to the Golly, Miss Molly Blog

About the blogger 

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her granddaughter.