VA News Service
Engaging. Not a word which many Veterans typically use to describe their relationship with the Department of Veterans Affairs. A more common word associated with VA and its interaction with Vets? Adversarial.
It's disappointing, but that's the reality. For too many Veterans (and families), communicating with VA can be such a hassle that it affects the Department's ability to carry out its mission of providing benefits and services to America's former service members. If Veterans and VA are talking past each otherâ€”or not talking to each other at all, then two things happen: Vets don't know what they're entitled to or how to get it, and VA doesn't know what needs Veterans have.
At VAntage Point, the official blog of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, that same old way of communicating (or not communicating) goes out the window. Here, VA employees will provide Veterans with a wealth of information. We will talk about things you might not have been aware of and we'll break down and explain processes which might have bewildered you. But it doesn't end there. If you're a student on the GI Bill, a Vietnam Vet, a VA employee, the spouse of a VA patient, or anything else, you'll have the opportunity to contribute. We've opened the comments section of each of our front-page posts and we have a special section for â€œGuest Postsâ€ where you can submit your own writing for publication.
For us at VA, this is just a start. It's the beginning of a new relationship between the Department and those we serveâ€”where we strive to get the right information to the right Veteran at the right time. And we hope you'll join us in making it happen.
Gary Hicks is a public affairs specialist in VA's Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs and serves as the editor of the Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors handbook; senior writer for VAnguard magazine as well several internal and external print communications products used throughout VA. Prior to joining OPIA, Gary worked for VA's Center for Veterans Enterprise as a community liaison officer and small business specialist assisting Veteran entrepreneurs with starting and expanding small businesses. Prior to joining VA, he was the director of command information at the National Guard Bureau and served as the editor of the Army and Air National Guard's flagship publication, The OnGuard. Gary began his public affairs career as and Army photojournalist, deploying to Bosnia-Herzegovina. After the deployment, he landed a job as a staff writer at a daily newspaper eventually worked his way up the ladder becoming the youngest managing editor in the paper's 111-year history as well as the parent company's chain of 300 newspapers. He served on active duty in both the Army and the Air Force before retiring from the National Guard in 2006. Gary is also a military spouse.
Tim Hudak joined the VA digital engagement team in December 2013. Tim, a Chicago-land native enlisted in the Marine Corps straight out of high school. As an intelligence analyst he was stationed in Hawaii and deployed to Al Anbar province, Iraq with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363 in 2006 and 2008. In addition, he traveled to several other Pacific Rim countries in support of various exercises. After the Marine Corps, Tim used the GI Bill to earn a degree in Intelligence Studies from Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa., and co-founded the university's first student Veteran organization. He previously worked at the Department of Agriculture as a Web Analytics Specialist in the Office of Communications. Tim is active in many Veteran organizations, stays current in digital content technology, and enjoys wrestling his German shepherd, Capone (who wins more often than you would think).
Reynaldo Leal joined the VA Public Affairs team Aug. 2013 as a writer/photographer. The native Texan is best known for the images he took while deployed to the Al Anbar Province with 3rd Battalion 5th Marine Regiment in 2006. He also took part in some of the heaviest fighting during Operation Phantom Fury in 2004. Before coming to D.C., he worked as a photojournalist for the Standard-Examiner in Ogden, Utah, and freelanced for the Texas Tribune. His work can be seen in the War/Photography exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and has been published in the New York Times, Virginia Quarterly Review and Oxford American.
Megan joined the VA in May 2013 as the Director of Digital Media Engagement. Prior to joining VA, Megan worked at the U.S. Secret Service, overseeing a wide range of media and public relations activities. She served as press secretary to Adm. Thad Allen on the Deepwater Horizon response, and was the Director of Radio and Television Production for the White House Press Office. Megan also worked as a radio and television reporter, producer, and director, and is the recipient of several Ohio Associated Press awards and regional Emmy nominations. She holds degrees from Miami University (BS, Mass Communications) and Johns Hopkins University (MA, Management). A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Megan is a proud military spouse, and daughter and granddaughter of Army and Navy veterans who served in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Megan is also a certified Irish dance instructor and an animal rescue volunteer.
Jennifer Sardam is a VA public affairs specialist and a U.S. Army Veteran who served as an Army journalist during Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn. She currently serves in the Maryland Army National Guard with the 29th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment based out of Baltimore.
As VA's New Media Technologist, Josh Tuscher serves as the team's creative director and ensures the Department uses the most current communications platforms to engage with Veterans. Prior to joining VA, Josh worked as a graphic designer and web developer in the private sector. During that time, he served for eight years as an infantryman in the New Hampshire Army National Guard and Army Reserve. In 2004, Josh deployed to Balad, Iraq with the 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Regiment. After returning in 2005, Josh again mobilizedâ€”this time for duty in New Orleans assisting with relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina. While in Iraq, Josh kept extensive video footage, later contributing it to the combat documentary â€œThe War Tapesâ€ (for which he received a credit). The film went on to win â€œBest Documentaryâ€ at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival. Josh graduated in 2006 with a BFA from Keene State College.