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Retirement Savings: Focus on Starting Today

If you’re just beginning to put money away for retirement, start saving and investing as much as you can now and let compound interest have an opportunity to work in your favor. The more you can invest when you’re young, the better off you’ll be. If a 25 year old starts investing $75 per month, they will have more money by age 65 than someone that starts at 35 years old investing $100 per month due to interest.

  • Rather than thinking, “I will start my retirement for a New Year’s resolution,” START NOW!
  • Make sure to at least match your employers’ 401k contribution percentage.
  • Check with your HR department to see if you employer offers Roth and Traditional 401k plans and see which better suits your retirement plans by asking more questions.

Another way to start saving for retirement is to rein in your spending. Examine your budget and see where you are spending too much money and what you could start saving for the future. This will also help you to set up a realistic spending plan for when you are retired.

Healthy Relationship Tips

We all know that relationships can be difficult at times, and that taking time to show others that we care about them can sometimes fall to the back burner. But we also know that strong, healthy relationships influence our long-term health in the same ways that adequate sleep, a good diet, and not smoking can.

Harvard Health writes “Scientists are investigating the biological and behavioral factors that account for the health benefits of connecting with others. For example, they’ve found that it helps relieve harmful levels of stress, which can adversely affect coronary arteries, gut function, insulin regulation, and the immune system. Another line of research suggests that caring behaviors trigger the release of stress-reducing hormones.

Research has also identified a range of activities that qualify as social support, from offers of help or advice to expressions of affection. In addition, evidence suggests that the life-enhancing effects of social support extend to giver as well as to receiver.”

There are plenty of ways to show care and love for someone special to you without spending a dollar or taking much time from your day, and they’ll actually improve your relationships over the long haul. Try a few of these simple relationship tips to improve and show love to both friends and loved ones.

  1. Loving someone else starts with YOU. Take responsibility for your own feelings and needs.  When we accept our own faults and work to improve them, we avoid blaming others for our own struggles.  Work on improving your own skills and attitude toward life. Read books, travel, take care of yourself and while you grow, your relationships with grow too.
  2. Be fully present when you’re with someone you care about.This means putting your cell phone down and listening to what they have to say with eye contact. Schedule a dinner with Mom but keep the cell phone tucked away and on silent. You’ll survive 2 hours without it.
  3. Make an effort to be intimate with your partner at least once per week. Intimacy has positive effects on both the body and mind and helps you maintain a connection with your partner. Once per week also is realistic to achieve, even if you navigate a busy life.
  4. Say, “Thank you.” When you speak those two words with meaning, you make that person feel appreciated. The power of thank you is beyond that of just a simple compliment. The more often we show our gratitude toward others, the better those relationships become.

Time to Change VA Enrollments

My appointment at the VA La Jolla medical center is in 68 minutes. Google is telling me with current traffic that it will take 33 minutes. I just want to get enrolled with the local VA system and get a picture taken for my Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC). So, total time burn to accomplish this will be about two hours. Last week, I spent 90 minutes trying to get this done at the Mission Valley VA Clinic. I had not made an appointment (I tried calling but got caught up in auto attendant hell) and the clinic only had one guy doing enrollments. Five guys were in front of me. With each enrollment taking 45 min, the math looked bad and I left. There’s got to be a better way.

And there is. VA Secretary Bob McDonald’s MyVA initiative has five objectives to include “Improving the Veteran experience.” I see in the near future a system where Veterans video conference with a VA enrollment specialist through their home computer. After processing the enrollment paperwork, the ID picture can be taken thru the Veteran’s webcam and sent directly to the VHIC card processing vendor. The whole process should take 30 min max, and in my case, saves me 90 minutes and 44 miles on my car. I know this future system will be developed because Three Wire has explored and is currently architecting such a system using readily available commercial products that conform to the Veteran Administration’s security requirements. And I know there are hundreds of other innovative companies out there that are coming up with similar ideas. So if is not Three Wire, it will be some other company that will come up with unique ideas to address this important objective of the MyVA initiative. Either way, the Veteran wins, and that’s what’s important.

Veterans In-Sync

The winds of change are blowing within VA. With the advent of the Patient-Centered Community Care (PC3) and the Veterans Choice Act there is a clear call by VA to offer increased access to health care. In fact, this is a key initiative of VA Secretary Bob McDonald’s MyVA concept. Secretary Bob’s 2016 stretch goal is to consolidate and streamline its non-Department provider network and to improve relationships with community providers and core partners. Metrics are associated with this goal, check out his testimony given in January 2016. VA is moving quickly, look no further than the recently released Care in the Community (CITC) RFI which creates the foundation for consolidating seven non-VA health care offerings as well as expanding the non-VA provider network. I expect the big boys of the health care world to be keenly interested in this concept as it provides a similar model as that of TRICARE. But it is the small companies with established VA track records that will move the innovation needle. For example, Three Wire’s holistic Veteran care management concepts can be employed with our big business partners to bring years of technology-driven Veteran case and care management into the new health care system that Secretary Bob envisions. Veteran needs have changed and I see changes happening at VA that are designed to bring health care to the Veteran.

Military Cultural Competency and Civilian Treatment Providers

In a “there’s bad news but also good news” scenario, the Rand Corporation released the results of a survey of civilian mental health care specialists last month, showing that only 13 percent met the survey’s criteria for military “cultural competency.” That’s the bad news: an overwhelming majority of non-VA mental health care providers lack an understanding of military mores, language, and culture and were unfamiliar with proven treatments for PTSD and post-combat depression.

This is particularly alarming in light of the provision in the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act allowing veterans access to non-VA mental health care if they live more than 40 miles from a VA facility. Good news for those receiving mental health care from the VA is the fact that 70 percent of the civilians surveyed who work at a military or VA treatment center had a high degree of military cultural competency.

Although the VACAA is a positive step in the right direction for allowing rural veterans access to mental health care, what’s clear is that providers must be trained in military culture and in proven treatments for combat-related mental disorders. This is why VetAdvisor coaches, 70% of whom are veterans, have more than 300 years of combined military experience. We know how important it is to have a full understanding of those we serve, as well as what treatment methods have been proven effective.

There was some good news released last month as well. Telemedicine — counseling and therapy provided to patients via a computer link or telephone — appears to hold promise for veterans in rural areas, according to research published in JAMA Psychiatry.

A study of 265 veterans with PTSD found that 55 percent who were engaged with their providers via telemedicine received cognitive processing therapy, an evidence-based treatment for PTSD, compared to 12 percent of patients engaged in “usual care.” The results also showed that those in the Telemedicine Outreach for PTSD group had larger declines in scores on PTS diagnostic tests.

VetAdvisor’s platform was purpose built to be multi-modal, allowing veterans access to coaching services in the manner they prefer: by phone, email, message, chat, or in our virtual world. We have evidence demonstrating the efficacy of telehealth platforms like VetAdvisor, but are nonetheless heartened to see confirmation of the benefit of multi-modal communications in providing veterans behavioral health services.

The next thing we at VetAdvisor would like to see is a much greater understanding of military culture by civilian mental health providers. We do provide such training – just contact us to learn more. Either way, the importance of an understanding of military culture by civilian treatment providers can’t be overstated.

For a full discussion of the Rand Corporation survey, click here.