TITUSVILLE — The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a new information number to help veterans and spouses with questions.

The new number is (800) MyVa411 (698-2411). Dial the number and press 0.

Some of the things you can get help are: live assistance with general information directory assistance and technical support for VA.gov, VA health care, community health care, national cemeteries, veterans crisis line, debt management, facility locator, benefit assistance, homeless veterans line, and COVID-19 information.

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Last week, first lady Jill Biden announced the priorities of the recently relaunched Joining Forces initiative.

The focus will be on military spouse unemployment and underemployment; increasing access to health care, particularly mental health; and strengthening education for military children.

"We must understand and account for the lifelong impact of service on military-connected children and ensure that children in veteran families, caregiving families and surviving families will also be included in the initiative's work," Biden said.

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Due to the American Rescue Plan Act and other COVID-19-related legislation recently passed into law, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will be able to provide financial assistance for coronavirus-related funeral expenses acquired after Jan. 20, 2020.

Although applications are not yet being accepted, FEMA anticipates beginning the process later this month and is working on establishing a toll-free phone number for applying for assistance.

People who have incurred COVID-19-related funeral expenses are being advised to keep and gather documents, like an official death certificate that shows the death is virus-related and funeral expense documents.

FEMA will also need proof of funds received from other sources such as the VA to determine the amount of your benefit. Beware of scammers — FEMA will not contact people prior to them registering for assistance.

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Veterans, spouses, caregivers or CHAMPVA (Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs) recipients need to sign up to let the VA know you would like to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Once signed up, you will be contacted by the VA as soon as a vaccine is available for you.

Be advised that availability will differ by location. The VA encourages everyone to take the first opportunity you have to receive the vaccine.

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Last week, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) hosted three remembrance ceremonies in three locations across the globe.

The ceremonies marked the 20th anniversary of the April 7, 2001, helicopter crash that killed seven U.S. service members and nine Vietnamese service members while on a DPAA recovery mission in Vietnam.

The ceremonies were held in Vietnam at the memorial site for the crash, in the POW/MIA Corridor at the Pentagon, and on the Heroes’ Green at the DPAA facility in Hawaii.

DPAA’s sacred mission is not without risk and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) honors these amazing people who do this important work.

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Here is this week’s prisoner of war and missing in action update:

• Navy Seaman 2nd Class Howard S. Magers, 18, of Merry Oaks, Kentucky, was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. He will be buried on May 29 in Smith’s Grove, Kentucky.

• Navy Mess Attendant 1st Class Octavius Mabine, 21, was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. Interment Services are pending.

Charlie Castelluccio, a Titusville resident, is chaplain of northwest Pennsylvania’s 28th District of Veterans of Foreign Wars and is a member of Titusville Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5958.

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