Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 11-12-08

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Today’s Local News for Veterans

What’s Inside 

1. Peake Says VA Has Met Challenges.   
2. Obama Lays Wreath At Memorial In Chicago.  
3. Families Of Wounded Veterans Seek Caregiver Compensation.  
4. Veterans Groups Sue VA Over Delayed Benefits Adjudication.  
5. VA Consultant Supports Nebraska Effort To Build New Cemetery.  
6 Holiday Highlights Support For Veterans.  
7. Holiday Said To Be A Reminder Of Troubles Faced By Vets.  
8. Veterans Day Ceremony Focuses On Women.  
9. Despite Holiday, Vets Still Concerned About Indiana Hospital’s Fate.
10. Veterans Day Ceremonies Held At National Cemeteries

     

1.      Peake Says VA Has Met Challenges.   UPI (11/11) reported, "The Veterans Administration has met the challenges of a new generation of veterans, Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake said Monday. In his 2008 Veterans Day message released Monday," Secretary Peake "said President George Bush and Congress provided the Veterans Affairs Department with a 98 percent increase in funding, guidance ‘to enable (the) VA to honor America’s debt’ to military personnel, provide medical and financial assistance, and build and maintain national cemeteries ‘to perpetuate their memory and their accomplishments.’"
      Peake Delivers Keynote Address At Veterans Day Ceremony.   The Washington Times (11/11, Bauder, Drost) noted that Arlington National Cemetery was scheduled to "hold its customary wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns at 11 a.m." Tuesday. Immediately following that event, Secretary Peake was scheduled to "deliver the keynote address" at a "ceremony in the Memorial Amphitheater, adjacent to the tomb."
      Peake Says Veterans Day Is An Opportunity For Reflection.   In a letter to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (11/11, Peake) Peake wrote, "It is important, on Veterans Day, for all Americans to reflect on the service and sacrifice of our veterans." Their "bravery, their resourcefulness and their patriotism mark them as our nation’s finest citizens." Peake also said he is "proud" of the VA’s "great record of accomplishment."
      Peake Calls Salute Provision A Recognition Of Honor.   The Air Force Times (11/12) reports, "A new law took effect this month that allows veterans and active-duty military not in uniform to render a military-style hand salute during the national anthem. … ‘The military salute is a unique gesture of respect that marks those who have served in our nation’s armed forces,’ Secretary of Veterans Affairs James B. Peake said. ‘This provision allows the application of that honor in all events involving our nation’s flag.’"

2.      Obama Lays Wreath At Memorial In Chicago.   The AP (11/12, Sidoti) reports, "President-elect Obama honored fallen troops Tuesday by placing a wreath" at the "bronze soldiers memorial between the Field Museum and Soldier Field in Chicago." Obama, "who will inherit wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from President Bush," also made a "Veterans Day pledge to the many Americans who have served in the military. ‘Let us rededicate ourselves to keep a sacred trust with all who have worn the uniform of the United States of America: that America will serve you as well as you have served your country,’ Obama said in a statement. ‘As your next commander in chief, I promise to work every single day to keep that sacred trust.’"





3.      Families Of Wounded Veterans Seek Caregiver Compensation.   In a front page story, the New York Times (11/12, Kaufman, 1.12M) reports "a growing group of veterans’ families…are asking to be compensated in place of a caregiver." Today’s "families are less likely than those of previous generations to just accept" such a situation, "said James B. Peake," the secretary of Veterans Affairs." The Times adds, "In the last session of Congress, families and veterans groups persuaded lawmakers to introduce legislation that…would allow families of soldiers with traumatic brain injuries to be paid for their caretaking after training and certification by the Veterans Affairs Department." Families think the bill "stands a better chance next year because President-elect Barack Obama has endorsed other supportive legislation."
      Veterans, Active Duty Soldiers Honored In Various Parts Of Country.   After noting the Veterans Day appearances made by Bush, Cheney, and Obama, USA Today (11/12, Jones, 2.28M) reports, "Elsewhere, in parades across the country, veterans and active soldiers took center stage, the cheers of spectators and music of marching bands echoing behind them."

4.      Veterans Groups Sue VA Over Delayed Benefits Adjudication.   US News and World Report (11/11, Ruggeri) reported, "Coming on the heels of the discovery that veterans’ benefit claims forms may have been shredded in regional offices nationwide, two veterans’ organizations have filed a lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs. They’re attacking a related and, they say, similarly egregious problem: the time it takes for the VA to make a decision on a disability claim." The magazine noted that "former VA Secretary Jim Nicholson says that during his tenure from 2005 to 2007, he pushed for a system that would expedite claims and allow interim benefits," but said the system "didn’t have enough support inside the administration or on the Hill."
      On its website, CNN (11/11) reported that "the lawsuit, filed by the Vietnam Veterans of America and Veterans of Modern Warfare" in US District Court in Washington, "seeks to force" the VA "to provide an initial ruling on every veteran’s claim for disability benefits within 90 days and to resolve appeals within 180 days. The veterans’ groups also are seeking interim benefits for veterans whose claim rulings take longer than those time periods." The Springfield (OH) News-Sun (11/11, Deans) and Army Times (11/11, Maze), which published similar stories, noted that "VA spokesman Phil Budahn said the department generally does not respond publicly to lawsuits and he had no response to this one." 

5.      VA Consultant Supports Nebraska Effort To Build New Cemetery.   The Omaha (NE) World-Herald (11/12, Dejka) reports, "A group pushing to build a national veterans cemetery in Nebraska is hailing a report" prepared by a Department of Veterans Affairs consultant which "recommends relaxing federal eligibility rules to allow construction of a national veterans cemetery in eastern Nebraska." The report "calls for lowering the threshold" for unserved veterans populations "to 110,000, which would qualify the Omaha metropolitan area." If the VA does adopt the new standard, Secretary Peake must still "approve the recommendations," and "Congress would need to authorize a cemetery and approve funding."

6.      Holiday Highlights Support For Veterans.   Veterans Day was a prominent theme on Tuesday’s editorial pages. The Washington Post (11/11), the New York Times (11/11), the Washington Times (11/11), the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (11/11), the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (11/11), the New Hampshire Union Leader (11/11), the Salt Lake Tribune (11/11), and the Austin American Statesman (11/11) all published editorials about Veterans Day, as did many local newspapers. Editorials were overwhelmingly supportive of veterans and governmental veterans’ benefits, and frequently called upon readers to make more personal efforts to help veterans in their communities.
      A few editorials, however, criticized the Department of Veterans Affairs. The St. Petersburg (FL) Times (11/11) published its editorial under the headline, "VA Puts Credibility Through Shredder," and argued that the VA must remedy "the culture of carelessness that seems endemic." The Pacific Daily News (11/11), meanwhile, argued that "the federal government must make it easier for Guam’s veterans to get the health care and other benefits," and said "the bureaucratic process is too difficult and painful" for veterans.
      A number of senators and congressman wrote columns and op-eds for Veterans Day. The KXO-AM San Diego (11/11, Filner) website published a letter by Congressman Bob Filner, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, in which he outlined recent Congressional actions in support of veterans, and said, "In the next Congress, we will redouble our efforts to strengthen our military, support our troops and their families, and provide services to our veterans worthy of their sacrifices and valor." Meanwhile, the Johnstown (PA) Tribune-Democrat (11/11, Murtha) published a letter by Rep. John Murtha, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. Senators Tom Harkin and Herb Kohl also wrote op-eds, published by Iowa Politics (11/11,) and the Eau Claire (WI) Leader-Telegram (11/11,), respectively.
      The Chicago Tribune (11/11, Duckworth) published a letter from Tammy Duckworth, director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, in which she said the "government can’t [support veterans] alone," and asked businesses to "hire a veteran." Similarly, the Tomah (WI) Journal (11/11, Black) published a letter from Kenneth B. Black, the acting Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.
      There were a variety of other editorial letters and columns on Veterans Day published Tuesday. Many focused on personal stories about local veterans, or called for an increase in particular forms of veterans’ benefits. The Austin American Statesman (11/11, Van Boven), the Anchorage Daily News (11/11, Cloe), the Concord (NH) Monitor (11/11, Vaughan), the Washington Times (11/11, Dempsey), the Baltimore Examiner (11/11, Freihage), and The Nation (11/11, Glantz) all published such columns.  

7.      Holiday Said To Be A Reminder Of Troubles Faced By Vets.   The South Florida Sun-Sentinel (11/11, Lewis) reported, "While Veterans Day is a day to celebrate the men and women who have fought in wars to keep America safe, it is also a reminder of the trials and tribulations they face after they come home." The Sun-Sentinel went on to discuss efforts by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Defense to target outreach to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions.
      WWII Veterans Avoid Reliving Experiences On Veterans Day.   The Detroit Free Press (11/12, Damron) profiles several World War II veterans, who, though they appreciate the honors of Veterans Day, "said they’ll face memories they’ve tried to suppress while basking in the recognition of a grateful nation." One veteran said "he wonders how some vets can sit around talking about the war." Still, at least one veterans said he "likes Veterans Day parades."
      MyVetwork Launches As Community For Veterans, Families, And Supporters.   USA Today (11/11, Kornblum) reported on MyVetwork, a service that launched Tuesday, "in honor of Veterans Day." The network is "a non-profit social Web community that seeks to bring together veterans, their families and their supporters." USA Today noted that psychologist Jaine Darwin, "who directs Strategic Outreach to Families of All Reservists, a non-profit providing free mental health support to extended family of those in the Reserve and National Guard who served in Iraq and Afghanistan," said the Internet can make veterans feel safer because they do not face the people they are conversing with. New "veterans who have been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan also are more technologically inclined than their predecessors, she adds."
      Local Assistance Groups Gather To Help Veterans.   On its website, News10Now-TV Syracuse, NY (11/11, Dwyer) reported that as the US prepared "to honor its veterans Tuesday, many people" took "the meaning of Veterans Day to heart." According to News 10, "about 11 North Country assistance groups gathered Monday" to offer "individual counseling, group counseling, family and marriage counseling, bereavement counseling, benefits counseling," and other support services to veterans.
      Local Businesses Help Veterans On Holiday.   The KVAL-TV Eugene, OR (11/11) website reported that while "government offices and banks" were closed for Veterans Day, "at least two businesses" offered free giveaways for veterans. A "local coffee shop and car wash" each offered discounts to veterans. Meanwhile, "a barbecue by and for veterans who are residents of VETLift, the St. Vincent de Paul apartments for homeless veterans" began at noon. KVAL added that VETLift "serves veterans who have been chronically homeless and/or dually diagnosed with mental illness and substance abuse."

8.    Veterans Day Ceremony Focuses On Women.   The Washington Post (11/12, B2, Constable) reports "several thousand people…gathered" at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, DC, Tuesday "to pay homage to the country’s veterans." The "dominant theme" of the annual Veterans Day ceremony "was the once-overlooked role of women…who gave their lives" in US wars. The Post noted that Tuesday "was the 15th anniversary of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, a bronze tableau of three women treating a wounded soldier, just up a grassy slope from the Wall."
      The Washington Times (11/11, Bauder, Drost), which also noted the anniversary of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, reported that on Tuesday, the District was supposed to "play host to a variety of Veterans Day memorial celebrations, with emphasis this year on the sacrifices made by women during the Vietnam War."
      Holiday Leads Female Veterans To Discuss Service.   The Grand Junction (CO) Sentinel (11/11, Mawdsley) reported, "Looking ahead to Veterans Day on Tuesday, three female veterans in the Grand Valley talked about their service in the military and their commitment to continue working with veterans."

9.    Despite Holiday, Vets Still Concerned About Indiana Hospital’s Fate.   The Fort Wayne (IN) News Sentinel (11/11, Long) reported, "When Veterans Day comes Tuesday, veterans may feel honored, but some issues still will trouble their minds. A big one is the future of the Fort Wayne campus" of Veterans Affairs Northern Indiana Healthcare Systems. On October 27th, "a consultant’s report on the need expected of the outpatient services at the local facility, 2121 Lake Ave., was due. It will be looked at by top Veterans Administration officials."

10.    Veterans Day Ceremonies Held At National Cemeteries.   The Memphis (TN) Commercial Appeal (11/10, Callahan) reported "a few dozen people" attended a Veterans Day service held Sunday at Memphis National Cemetery. During the ceremony, "officials paid a solemn tribute to the 43,000 veterans and their family members buried at the cemetery. ‘On Veterans Day, we honor our heroes of every way, every generation, every conflict,’ said Richard Wannemacher, a spokesman for the Department of Veterans Affairs who spoke at the 50-minute ceremony."
      The Cape Cod (MA) Times (11/10, Berry) reported "more than 300 veterans, family members and others from across Cape Cod and around the state" attended the annual Veterans Day ceremony held Sunday at Massachusetts National Cemetery

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