Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News

From the VA:

Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News

1. Vets Criticize Webb’s Questioning Of Disability Payments To Vietnam Vets. CQ Weekly (6/28, Young) reports, “Virginia’s senior senator, Democrat Jim Webb,” who two years ago “successfully spearheaded a $62 billion expansion of GI education benefits,” is “known as a champion for veterans, military personnel and their families. But lately,” Webb’s “been criticized by some veterans…for questioning whether there’s enough scientific evidence to justify disability payments to Vietnam War veterans in connection” with ischemic heart disease, a “common heart condition” that the veterans claim is the result of exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange. Veterans’ groups have “applauded” efforts by Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to “expedite the bureaucratic steps needed to allow payments” to such veterans, but Webb and US Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, “want to know more about the links between the dioxin-containing Agent Orange and the heart ailment, and have started to ask questions.”

2. Class-Action Targets Burn Pits As Health Risk To Iraq, Afghan Personnel. The CBS Evening News (6/26, story 5, 3:40, Glor, 6.1M) reported that some 400 military personnel have filed a class-action lawsuit against contractor KBR over “base burn pits” in Afghanistan. CBS interviewed a woman who “battled stomach cancer in 2008 and then doctors discovered another tumor in her lung” that she “believes…is connected to the months that she spent inhaling smoke from base burn pits.” Another woman died “at the age of 30,” and her husband “blames his wife’s leukemia on the burn pits she was exposed to in Afghanistan.” CBS added, “The military authorized more than 100 burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan,” and one doctor treating soldiers exposed to the pits said, “I don’t think there’s any doubt that the burn pits emit toxins. … It’s a practice that’s essentially outlawed in the United States.” CBS added, “Congressman Tim Bishop pushed legislation to force the military to shut down many burn pits, but 40, including 11 KBR pits, are still in operation.” The account closes by noting that the American Lung Association “this week recommended an end to the burning of trash in open-air pits in war zones. Veteran Affairs has launched a study of the long-term health effects.”

3. Navy Researchers Study Possible Effects Of Sand Inhalation. Politics Daily (6/26, Kaplan) reports that American forces in Afghanistan, “who already face roadside bombs and insurgent attacks, may be dealing with an environmental enemy as well — toxic sand that can damage their brains, according to a recent Navy study. In a presentation at a neurotoxicology conference in Portland, Ore., earlier this month, Palur G. Gunasekar, a senior scientist with the Navy Environmental Health Effects Laboratory, said that dust kicked up in sandstorms contains manganese and other metals.” The Navy says its results are still preliminary and have not established a definitive link between sand inhalation and brain damage, and would not release further details. The research also found a link between lung damage and exposure to sand.

4. On 60th Anniversary Of Korean War Outbreak, Dwindling Ranks Of Veterans Are Honored. NBC ‘s “Saturday Evening News” (6/26, Holt, 6:49 p.m. EDT) reports, “This weekend markings the 60 anniversary of the Korean war often called the ‘forgotten war.” Today there was a special commemoration for those who fought in that war at the simple and moving Korean War Memorial on the Washington Mall. The inscription: ‘Freedom is not free.'”
NPR‘s “Weekend Edition” (6/26, Xaykaothao) recounts the remembrances of Korean War veterans who returned to Korea for observances there.
The Boston Globe (6/27, Lupkin, 325K) reports, “Because the veterans are aging and dying, the crowd at the Massachusetts Korean War Memorial in Charlestown was smaller than the one that attended in 2000, said Frederick Carnes, treasurer of Korean War Veterans of Massachusetts. Although the group was expecting 1,000 attendees, about 100 veterans and their families surrounded the hexagonal memorial bearing the names of fallen soldiers on six pillars.”

5. Orlando Nonprofit Paws For Vets Sees Pets As Reducing PTSD. The Orlando Sentinel (6/26, Santich, 222K) reports that a locally-based non-profit group, Paws For Vets, is a “grassroots attempt to provide psychiatric service dogs, canine trainers and supplies to servicemen and women in need.” Founded by a local woman who recovered from depression with the help of a pet, she discovered that soldiers and veterans with PTSD and other psychological wounds were already were using pet animals to help calm and reorient themselves. The account also notes that the Defense Department “has awarded a $300,000 grant to study the issue,” and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center has already begun a pilot project that teaches “soldiers with psychological wounds to train service dogs for veterans with physical handicaps.”

6. Illinois DVA Sponsors Helping Hometown Heroes Event. The Mt. Vernon (IL) Register-News (6/26, McCoy, 8K) reports that a “Helping Hometown Heroes event held Friday: in Mt. Vernon, “sponsored by the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, not only honored veterans of all ages, but also offered information from local area agencies about services and resources available.” The local veterans services officer says that the greatest interest among veterans is learning more about health care and service-related resources, and the event also drew over a dozen interested agencies and companies.

7. VA Plans To Seek Help With Virtual Call Center. (6/25) reports, “It looks like the Department of Veterans Affairs is ready for some public sector help setting up a Virtual Call Center (VCC). Last week the VA said in a FedBizOps notice it intends to award a contract for a prototype VCC.” The agency says it’s looking for ideas from industry of the best ways to route veterans’ calls on claims and benefits, and wants to award a contract by the end of August.

8. VA Staff Take Part In South Carolina Training For Non-Profits. WBTW-TV Myrtle Beach, SC (6/26, 11:07 p.m. EDT) reports that SC Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) and House majority whip Jim Clyburn (D) “spent part of the day in Columbia. The pair hosted a symposium on faith-based and neighborhood partnerships. The goal was to teach non-profits about several local initiatives and grant opportunities available. Staff members from the U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs were all at today’s talk.”

9. VA Chaplains Profiled. The Alexandria (LA) Town Talk (6/26, Dinsmore, 30K) talks with two chaplains at the Pineville VAMC. Chief of chaplains Rev. Doug Wigginton, a 30-year military chaplain who also oversees an accredited, one-year chaplain training program, supervises a staff of five full-time and three resident chaplains who provide religious services, pastoral care, Bible studies and group discussions for patients in the VAMC’s community living, chemical dependency and psychological treatment departments, as well as bereavement services for veterans’ families. Fr. Steve Brandow, a chaplain for 14 years, notes that chaplains can “help create a sense of spiritual community for those who might feel isolated due to an illness or condition.”

10. Female Veteran Says She Was Refused Ambulance Service. The website of WKBN-TV Youngstown, OH (6/25) reports that a Warren, OH woman veteran who works for the state assisting veterans, recently released from the Cleveland VAMC after two weeks’ treatment for pneumonia, says she was unable to get an ambulance when she first fell ill. She says that a Medstar dispatcher responding to her call reporting a very high fever and dizziness initially was refused transportation. By the time Medstar reversed itself and sent an ambulance, the woman had already driven herself to a hospital. The mayor of Warren says that the city is reviewing its emergency services.


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