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Press Releases

TDVA Veteran’s Homes All Receive 5-Star Ratings from U.S. News & World Report

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs; March 6, 2015:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder joins the Tennessee State Veterans Homes (TSVH) Board in celebrating the announcement from U.S. News & World Report 2015 which names the Tennessee State Veterans Homes in Murfreesboro, Humboldt and Knoxville among the best in the country.

U.S. News and World Report rated more than 16,000 nursing homes using data research on nursing home safety, health inspection and staffing. The source of the data originates from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In 2014, CMS issued five star ratings to the Tennessee State Veterans Home in Murfreesboro, the W.D. “Bill” Manning Tennessee State Veterans Home in Humboldt and the Senator Ben Atchley Tennessee State Veterans Home in Knoxville.

“Tennessee State Veterans Home residents are among some of the most fascinating and precious people I have ever met and they deserve the most compassionate and highly qualified care possible,” Grinder said. “I applaud the hard working and caring administrators and staff of each home for their commitment to excellence in care.”

“The federal rating system has been revamped to raise performance targets for care and I am proud that our staff not only makes the grade, but they make a difference,” TSVH Executive Director Ed Harries said. “Raising the bar on quality care is what our residents need and deserve and we are committed to continue this tradition.”

“Five stars will get these high quality homes noticed, but it is the residents and their stories of heroism that motivate the staff to offer nothing short of their best,” TSVH Board Chair Mayor Rogers C. Anderson said. “The warmth of these homes make them unique, memorable and worthy of national recognition.”

The future Brigadier General Wendell H. Gilbert Tennessee State Veterans Home at 250 Arrowood Drive in Clarksville is expected to open in the summer of 2015.

The waiting list for admissions has been opened and interested potential residents can contact Admissions Director Brittany Irvin at (615) 895-8850 ext. 1013. Eligibility requirements are listed on the Tennessee State Veterans Home website.

Applications for open positions at the new Clarksville location are now being accepted. Information regarding open positions will be listed on www.tsvh.org and will also be posted at the Tennessee Career Center at Clarksville at 523 Madison Street, Suite B.

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Press Releases

Austin Peay to Host Inaugural Veteran Education Academy March 10

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs; March 6, 2015:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder in partnership with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC), Drive to 55, the Governor’s Veterans Education Task Force and Austin Peay State University will host the inaugural Veteran Education Academy.

Senior campus leaders, student affairs personnel and student veteran organization representatives from more than 50 higher education institutions will attend the event with the objective of learning to support student veterans success in Tennessee.  The one day event will include presentations from Student Veterans of America, the American Council on Education and discussions to create or improve action plans to recruit, retain and support student veterans through to graduation.

  • WHO: TDVA Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder,  Tennessee Promise Executive Director Mike Krause, Austin Peay State University President Alisa White and representatives from more than 50 higher education institutions
  • WHAT: Inaugural Veteran Education Academy
  • WHEN: Tuesday, March 10, 2015, 9:00 a.m.-3:45 p.m. (CDT)
  • WHERE: Austin Peay State University, Morgan University Center, 601 College Street, Clarksville

For more information, visit the department’s web site at www.tn.gov/veteran, facebook/myTDVA or twitter @TNDVA.

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Press Releases

Haslam Announces 5th State Veterans Cemetery in Parkers Crossroads

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs; July 24, 2014:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder today announced the future site of the fifth state veterans cemetery will be in Parkers Crossroads.

The 132-acre Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery at Parkers Crossroads will be located at 693 Wildersville Road and will serve more than 45,000 veterans and their families within 17 counties in west Tennessee.

The Tennessee counties within a 75 mile radius of the proposed cemetery include Benton, Carroll, Chester, Crockett, Decatur, Gibson, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, Henderson, Henry, Lewis, McNairy, Madison, Perry, Wayne, and Weakley counties.

“Right now veterans and their families in this part of the state have to drive more than two hours to the nearest state veterans cemetery,” Haslam said. “We want veterans in the more rural parts of the state to have access to these resources that also serve as a symbol of our gratitude for their service to our country.”

Haslam was also joined by state Rep. Steve McDaniel (R-Parkers Crossroads), state Sen. Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), Parkers Crossroads Mayor Kenneth Kizer, Henderson County Mayor Dan Hughes and West Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery Steering Committee Chair Chris Dangler.

“We are grateful to the members of the West Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery Steering Committee, the mayors of the seven counties who invested local funding and support as well as the Governor, Rep. McDaniel and Sen. Gresham who have supported this effort from the beginning,” Grinder said. “We still have several funding hurdles to jump through before this project becomes a reality, but we are excited to announce we are one step closer to opening the fifth state veterans cemetery to better serve veterans in southwest Tennessee.”

“The rich history of Parkers Crossroads is a perfect location for a future State Veterans Cemetery,” McDaniel said. “We have anxiously waited to hear this news and we welcome the opportunity to offer a reverent backdrop to this future field of honor.”

“Veterans are buried at no charge in these pristine cemeteries that offer a place of reflection and reverence,” Gresham said. “We look forward to adding another jewel to the existing four state veterans cemeteries.”

There are currently two state veterans cemeteries in Knoxville, one in Nashville and one in Memphis. Veterans and eligible dependents can pre-register for burial by visiting the State Veterans Cemetery page http://tn.gov/veteran/burial_elg.shtml.

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Many TN Veterans Facing Tough Employment Prospects

At an event near the Capitol in Nashville to honor Tennessee veterans, Gov. Bill Haslam said last week that men and women who served in the military are typically well-suited for the workforce, but often they encounter unique challenges in actually finding jobs.

“You have folks who are coming back looking for maybe a specific employment opportunity that might not exist. Or maybe they had the right training and maybe they didn’t in the military, and they need to access the training,” Haslam told reporters Nov. 6 after a Governor’s Veterans Day ceremony in which he delivered a statement of gratitude to four long-term state employees who previously served in the armed forces.

The governor said he’s sensitive to difficulties vets often face in the job market. He indicated his administration is trying to link veterans’ with steady-wage prospects as well as lend them assistance developing skills that are in demand if someone who’s left the military is lacking in that area.

Haslam said jobs with companies the administration is recruiting to locate “advanced manufacturing” facilities here are also helping vets earn paychecks.

His ongoing efforts to encourage Tennesseans to pursue paths in learning beyond high school is aimed at returned service members, too, Haslam said. “It’s one of the reasons we’re working really hard to increase adult access to post-secondary education, because a lot of our veterans are saying, ‘I need a different skill set than what I thought I needed when I first went into the military,’” he said.

Currently, more than 3,000 state government employees have also served in the United States military, which the governor said reflects a commitment on his administration’s part to take specials steps to hire former members of the armed services whenever possible. “About 10 percent of our total state workforce are veterans, and it matches up with the almost 10 percent of Tennesseans who have served in the military as well,” Haslam said.

In 2012, the the Haslam administration won legislative passage of the Tennessee Excellence, Accountability and Management Act, a civil-service system revamp that reformed state government hiring and firing practices. One of the TEAM Act’s requirements is that the state give “interview preference” to veterans and their spouses when considering “appointments and promotions.” The idea is that “if there are two candidates with equal qualifications, knowledge, skills, etc., preference will be given to the veteran,” according to an administration press release issued when the governor signed the law a year and a half ago.

Tennessee has generally struggled with higher unemployment the past few years. The state’s rate, most recently 8.5 percent, has stubbornly hovered above the national average, now 7.3 percent. Volunteer State veterans as a subset of Tennessee’s total population look to be faring better, with a 2012 rate of 7.3 percent.

But for veterans who served in the military after the attacks of September 11, the picture is much bleaker.

A report issued last spring that indicates job prospects for veterans are improving in the nation as a whole also shows that in 2012 Tennessee had one of the highest unemployment rates for “post-9/11 veterans” of any state in America.

Joblessness among post-9/11 veterans in Tennessee neared 21 percent last year, more than five points above any neighboring state, according to research compiled in May by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee‘s Vice Chair Amy Klobuchar, a Senate Democrat from Minnesota.

  • Tennessee – 20.7
  • Mississippi – 15.3
  • Georgia – 13.9
  • Kentucky – 13.2
  • North Carolina – 12.4
  • Alabama – 6.7
  • Missouri – 6.7
  • Arkansas – 5.4
  • Virginia – 3.7

Haslam said he wasn’t aware Tennessee’s unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans was that high. But the governor’s veterans affairs chief said that with respect to state government jobs, the administration is doing all it can to carry out the TEAM Act’s stipulations on preferential hiring for former armed services members.

“Since the TEAM Act went into effect in October of 2012, the state has hired 717 veterans,” said Many-Bears Grinder, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Veteran Affairs, who has 35 years of experience in the National Guard.

She added that her agency has formed a partnership with the Department of Economic and Community Development to assist veterans with small businesses. Also, efforts are ongoing to connect work-seeking veterans with employers seeking to hire, Grinder said, such as providing resume tips on the Department of Veterans Affairs website and hooking veterans up with job fairs like the statewide “Paychecks for Patriots” event it hosted on Oct. 17.

As for the TEAM Act and government jobs, the Tennessee State Employees Association executive director, Robert O’Connell, said it doesn’t necessarily or automatically lead to more veterans getting hired. When the TEAM Act took effect it nixed the previous point-system scheme that gave special merit-valuation for prior military service, he said.

When the General Assembly was wrangling over the governor’s civil service overhaul in 2012, TSEA credited itself with successfully lobbying to amend the proposed legislation to restore “veteran’s preference in hiring,” which was absent in the TEAM Act when it was introduced.

State hiring practices are now “more subjective,” said O’Connell, who is also a veteran. Nevertheless, he said it is true that under the TEAM Act, “if the administration wants to hire more veterans, they can.”

“If they wanted to hire only veterans, they could probably end up doing it under this system, whereas they couldn’t do it under the old system,” said O’Connell.

According to figures cited in Sen.  Klobuchar’s report to Congress’s Joint Economic Committee, 257,000 of the Tennessee’s 525,000 veterans are considered to be in the workforce. About 48,000 of those are post-9/11 vets with 10,000 unemployed.

By comparison, Virginia has 143,000 post-9/11 veterans with 5,000 unemployed, Georgia’s has 108,500 with 15,000 unemployed, North Carolina has 89,000 with 11,000 unemployed, Alabama has 52,000 with 3,000 unemployed, Missouri has 37,000 with 3,000 unemployed, Kentucky has 29,000 with 4,000 unemployed, Mississippi has 19,000 with 3,000 unemployed and Arkansas has 16,000 with 1,000 unemployed.

The two states with higher rates of unemployment for post-9/11 veterans than Tennessee were Nevada with a rate of 22.6 percent and Massachusetts with a rate of 23.4 percent. The national post-9/11 veteran unemployment rate was 9.9 percent.

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Press Releases

Haslam Recognizes TN Veterans, Veterans Employed by State

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs; November 6, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam joined Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder and Major General Terry “Max” Haston of the Tennessee Military Department today to recognize four veteran state employees and more than 525,000 Tennessee veterans of all ages and eras. The Governor’s Veterans Day event was held at the Tennessee Tower Plaza in downtown Nashville.

Specialist Gabriella Saulsberry served nearly three years in the United States Army while working as a Personnel Clerk in Heidelberg, Germany. After her military service, Saulsberry began her 28 year career with the Department of Human Services. She has served in several different positions, but is currently a Secretary helping clients with appointments, processing document verifications, contacting caseworkers and connecting clients with community resources in the Memphis area. Saulsberry is recognized for her military service and her 28-year career with the State of Tennessee.

Sergeant N.E. Christianson is currently an Assistant Commissioner with the Tennessee Department of Transportation. He has served in various roles over the course of 46 years with TDOT to include his current position as the head of the Office of Operational Efficiency. Sergeant Christianson enlisted in the United States Air National Guard in 1966 and served as an Administrative Specialist until his honorable discharge in 1972. Christianson has played a key role in executing TDOT’s top to bottom review and is now focused on implementing some of the significant operational changes that were developed during that review. Christianson is recognized for his military service and his 46-year career with the State of Tennessee.

Staff Sergeant John Smalls is currently working as a Correctional Officer at the DeBerry Special Needs Facility Housing Unit in Nashville with the Tennessee Department of Correction. Prior to his current position, Smalls retired from the United States Army after more than 23 years of active duty service to include deployments to Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. He received the Iraq Campaign Medal with two campaign stars, four Army Commendation Medals as well as the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary and Service Medals. Smalls is recognized for his military service and as the state’s newest veteran employee.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 James D. Payne is currently working as an Information Systems Division Help Desk Supervisor. He has been a state employee for 25 years and 16 of those have been with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Payne has served with the Tennessee National Guard for 27 years and transferred to the Army Reserve in October, 2012. While working for the State of Tennessee, Payne has deployed four times to Iraq and Afghanistan for a total of 41 months.

“I am proud of this year’s honorees and the 3,060 veterans currently working for the State of Tennessee, and we also want to recognize the significant military service of the more than 525,000 veterans who call Tennessee home,” Haslam said.

“In the last year, the State of Tennessee has hired 717 employees who have claimed veteran status,” Grinder said. “It is clear military experience can create excellent, ambitious and disciplined state employees.”

“I am immensely proud of the thousands of Volunteer Soldiers and Airmen who sacrifice time away from their homes and families, often in harm’s way, protecting the freedoms we enjoy,” Haston said. “Along with the honor of serving one’s country, a tremendous sense of responsibility is placed upon our veterans and their loved ones.”

This year’s Veterans Day Ceremony included music from the 129th Army Band with the Tennessee National Guard, the American Legion Post 17 Color Guard from Gallatin, Army veteran and Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter Chaplain Dorothy Barry.

The National Anthem was performed by Marine veteran Stephen Cochran. Cochran was critically wounded while serving in Afghanistan and told he would never walk again. After treatment and physical rehabilitation at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs VA Medical Center in Nashville, Cochran was able to walk, perform and serve as the spokesperson for the federal agency. Cochran is also committed to raising awareness about veteran suicide prevention and the impact of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). During today’s event, Cochran also performed his song “Pieces” which explains the challenges of veterans coming home and coping with PTSD.

World War I officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, however, fighting ended seven months earlier when an armistice or cease fire between allied nations and Germany went into effect in the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. November 11, 1918 is generally referred to as the end of the “war to end all wars.”

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day now known as Veterans Day.

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Press Releases

TN VA Commissioner Appointed to Federal Committee

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs; September 27, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder is honored to accept United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric K. Shinseki’s appointment to the VA Advisory Committee for Minority Veterans.

The VA Advisory Committee for Minority Veterans is authorized to provide advice to the Secretary on the needs of minority Veterans regarding health care, rehabilitation benefits, compensation, outreach and other programs administered by VA.

According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the number of minorities serving in the Armed Forces is increasing, leading to a more socially and ethnically diverse military. However, minority Veterans are less likely to utilize VA Healthcare or file claims for federal benefits.

There are nearly 83,000 minority Veterans and more than 51,000 women Veterans living in Tennessee.

“It is an incredible honor to serve all Tennessee Veterans and this appointment from Secretary Shinseki will not only give minority Veterans another voice, but will also add the spirit of the Volunteer State to the Committee,” Grinder said. “As a woman Veteran of Filipino descent, I am extremely excited to collaborate with other members of the Committee to find solutions to improve how we support, serve and reach minority Veterans,”

For more information, visit the department’s web site at www.tn.gov/veteran, facebook/myTDVA or twitter @TNDVA.

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Press Releases

TN Veterans Homes Among Best in U.S. News Nationwide Rankings

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs; March 7, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder joins the Tennessee State Veterans Homes Board in celebrating the announcement from U.S. News & World Report 2013 which names the Tennessee State Veterans Homes in Knoxville and Murfreesboro among the best in the country.

U.S. News rated more than 15,000 nursing homes using data research on nursing home safety, health inspection and staffing. The source of the data originates from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In 2012, CMS issued five star ratings to the Ben Atchley State Veterans’ Home in Knoxville and the Tennessee State Veterans’ Home in Murfreesboro.

“We are so proud of the continued recognition Tennessee’s State Veterans Homes are receiving for their commitment to excellence in serving our Veterans,” Grinder said. “We look forward to seeing this network of State Veterans Homes grow while continuing to be an example to the rest of the country.”

“Staff at each of the three Tennessee State Veterans Homes are committed to caring for our residents with respect and dignity,” TSVH Board President Mary Ross said. “We believe the W.D. “Bill” Manning Tennessee State Veterans Home will soon receive the same distinction due to the continued strides to improve.”

“We love serving those who served and we come to work excited to do more to enrich the lives and healthcare of our residents,” TSVH Director Ed Harries said. “Tennessee’s Veterans and their families need our compassion, respect and commitment and we are determined to ensure they get our maximum effort each and every day.”

On May 17 at 10:00 a.m. (CDT) the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs and the Tennessee State Veterans Homes Board will host a groundbreaking event for the new Montgomery County Veterans Home on the corner of Arrowood Drive and S. Jordan Drive in Clarksville.

Meanwhile, the state is waiting for approval of federal funding from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs for a new Tennessee State Veterans Home in Bradley County.

For more information on current Tennessee State Veterans Homes visit http://www.tsvh.org/index.html. To meet the staff and tour the facilities click here.