— By JIM VINES
Ministers responsible for Veterans Affairs and officials from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States completed a series of meetings April 8-11 at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., discussing the latest research, best practices and various areas of collaboration to address the growing needs of veterans.
The Ministerial Summit is an event held every 18-24 months and the objectives are to address challenges facing veterans communities. As host of the 2014 Summit, the United States and the welcomed guests, discussed the importance of collaborative research in the areas of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), transition and employment initiatives, strategic communications, women’s health and memorial affairs.
Providing services and honoring veterans is one of the foundational strengths of the alliances. All participating governments at the summit have programs aimed at the growing needs of their veteran populations. Research continues to play a vital role in further understanding the array of issues veterans face both when they return from the battlefield, and when they transition to civilian life. Close collaboration on these shared values allows each country to continue to provide quality care to their veterans.
While each nation has unique challenges in providing services to veterans, they all are committed to finding solutions to improve the quality of service for service members, veterans and their families. As a result, each country places great emphasis on the sharing of research methods, findings and best practices. This spirit of cooperation and collaboration ensures the departments have the understanding and ability to help our nation’s heroes as they take off the uniform and enter civilian life.
With the impending end of major military operations in Afghanistan, participants emphasized the importance of continuing collaborative efforts through information exchanges and research so agencies can continue to provide insight into the issues that face our veterans and their families. With the vast knowledge and expertise of each participating country, the alliance can continue to share findings and look for ways to enhance services for veterans and their families.
Representatives at the 2014 Ministerial Summit included:
• Canada – The Honorable Julian Fantino, minister of Veterans Affairs.
• New Zealand – The Honorable Michael Woodhouse, minister of Veterans Affairs.
• United Kingdom – The Right Honorable Anna Soubry, minister of State for Defense.
• United States – The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki, secretary of Veterans Affairs.
• Australia – Secretary Simon Lewis, secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Secretary Eric Shinseki stated, “I am pleased to collaborate and share information with our international partners in order to ensure that our veterans have access to quality health care services and benefits they have earned. The discussions that occurred during the Summit, help provide insight into how we can address the complex issues facing today’s veteran sand their families.”
Speak to you again next week. Have a Happy Easter.
Jim Vines is commander of AmVets Post 133.