Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 2-18-09


Today’s Local News for Veterans 

What’s Inside

1. VA Should Have Implemented Nursing Home Law By Now.
2. Montana National Guard Part of Army’s Suicide Awareness Initiative. 
3. Gould’s Wife Nominated For High DOD Post.  
4. Iraq Vet’s Death Sparks Questions About Burn Pit Exposure.  
5. Vets Groups "Adamant" In Support Of Military Coffin Photo Ban.  
6. Two US Soldiers Given Final Sendoff At Arlington National Cemetery.  
7. Second Solider Succumbs To Meningitis In Missouri.  
8. VA To Open New Clinic In Iowa.  
9. VAWNYHS Clinic To Move To New Location.  
10. Bath VAMC To Co-Host Open House. 


Veterans are independent by nature and VA’s new medical foster home (MFH) program is helping them stay that way even when too old or infirm to live alone. Under the MFH initiative, VA finds qualified caregivers in the community willing to take veterans into their homes to provide 24-hour supervision and personal assistance. The program is designed to help veterans who have lived independently through the years with VA home care and assistive devices when they reach the point when it is no longer save for them to live alone. Until MFH, the only option was a nursing home. Now in place at seven VA facilities, VHA plans to expand MFH to 31 more sites. More than 400 veterans have been placed in MFH homes thus far.

1.      VA Should Have Implemented Nursing Home Law By Now.   Long Island (NY) Newsday (2/18, Evans) reports, "Speaking to a cheering group of veterans at a Stony Brook nursing home" Tuesday, US Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) "excoriated the Department of Veterans Affairs for failing to implement a two-year-old Congressional mandate requiring it to pay for severely disabled veterans living in nursing homes." The Veterans Benefits, Healthcare, and Information Technology Act of 2006 "provides nursing home coverage for veterans who have a 70 percent or greater service-related disability and who require nursing home care." VA "spokesman Terry Jemison said yesterday morning that he was looking into the status of the program. At 5 p.m. he said he still could not find an answer."
      New York’s Times Beacon Record (2/18, Proven) reports, "Request for comment at the federal VA office was not returned by press time but, according to a Long Island State Veterans Home release, ‘VA staff has indicated to Sen. Schumer’s office that the regulations are undergoing the Office of Management and Budget review process.’"
      In its "LI Biz Blog," the Long Island (NY) Business News (2/17, Samuels) said Schumer "is calling" for the VA "to follow a law passed in 2006 that would increase the per diem rate to State Veterans Homes in order to provide greater access to nursing home care for patients with 70 percent or more service-connected disabilities." In a news release, Schumer quoted Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University Executive Director Fred S. Sganga, who stated, "Since Congress passed this law," we "have had three different" VA secretaries. So, Sganga added, it "is my hope that" current VA Secretary Eric Shinseki "will make this one of his top priorities early in his tenure."

2.      Montana National Guard Part Of Army’s Suicide Awareness Initiative.   The AP (2/17) reported, "Preventing suicide among soldiers is the focus" of a US Army "initiative that includes the Montana National Guard. The Army has begun a 30-day period intended to heighten awareness of the suicide problem, and says that will be followed a four-month program of training to identify and help soldiers at risk. The Montana National Guard says every unit in the state will be trained in suicide prevention." Meanwhile, top senators "on the Veterans Affairs Committee recently asked the secretaries of defense and veterans affairs to convene a joint committee on military suicides."

3.      Gould’s Wife Nominated For High DOD Post.   In its "FedBlog," Government Executive (2/17, Munz) said the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense "are notorious for being hampered by coordination issues when it comes to veterans. Maybe" news about W. Scott Gould "will help." Government Executive then pointed out that the White House recently "announced its intention to nominate…Gould" to "be VA deputy secretary under retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, the former Army chief of staff recently named to head" the VA. Gould "is married to Michelle Flournoy, whom Obama has nominated to be undersecretary of defense for policy."

4.      Iraq Vet’s Death Sparks Questions About Burn Pit Exposure.   The Orlando (FL) Sentinel (2/18, Rippel) says even though the US Department of Veterans Affairs recently determined that the family of Iraq veteran Kevin Wilkins "is entitled to service-connected death benefits," a "bigger question remains unanswered: Was…Wilkins’ brain tumor the result of exposure to burn pits in Iraq?" Collette Burgess, a assistant veteran’s services center manager with the VA, "said approving benefits for Wilkins had nothing to do with possible exposure." Instead, she said Wilkins’ tumor was a "presumptive disability," so his family was entitled to service-connected death benefits. But Kerry Baker, the associate national legislative director for Disabled American Veterans, "said he has heard from hundreds of Iraq war veterans who said they have disabilities caused from burn-pit exposure." Baker "said it’s going to take people like" Kevin Wilkins’ widow to "come forward and tell their stories for more attention to be paid."

5.      Vets Groups "Adamant" In Support Of Military Coffin Photo Ban.   In continuing coverage, the Washington Times (2/18, Harper) reports, "Veterans groups are adamant — the flag-draped caskets of fallen troops should not be turned into yet another photo op." On Tuesday, both "the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars…condemned a proposal to lift restrictions that now prevent the press from photographing caskets as they arrive home from wars overseas." Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates "ordered a review of the policy after President Obama noted last week that he would consider some changes."

6.      Two US Soldiers Given Final Sendoff At Arlington National Cemetery.   The Washington Post (2/18, B3, Berman) reports, "More than 70 mourners gathered in Section 60" of Arlington National Cemetery Tuesday "to say goodbye" to 25-year-old Alex Jimenez and 19-year-old Byron Fouty, two US soldiers who had been listed missing for "almost 14 months" following a May 2007 ambush in Iraq. The soldiers "had separate burials last summer — Fouty in San Antonio" and Jimenez "in New York — but their long journey did not come to an end until" Tuesday, "when remains that could not be positively identified received a group burial in Arlington." Fouty and Jimenez "were the 453rd and 454th casualties from Iraq buried at Arlington."

7.      Second Solider Succumbs To Meningitis In Missouri.   In continuing coverage, the AP (2/18, Salter) reports a "second soldier stationed at the Army’s Fort Leonard Wood" in Missouri "has died of meningitis." Although this soldier and one who died earlier both carried the "non-contagious form of" the disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has "sent four representatives to investigate."
      The "soldiers lived on the same floor and in the same barracks," but base officials say that they "did not catch this from each other," Missouri’s (MO) Ozarks First (2/18, Denman) points out. Nevertheless, everyone in their "unit has been briefed and given medical priority ‘to ensure their medical concerns are immediately addressed,’" the Waynesville (MO) Daily Guide (2/18, Bostwick) adds. Now, investigators will wait for the CDC to analyze the "meningitis strain samples from both soldiers" before determining "if any other steps can be taken to reduce further risk to others." USA Today (2/17, Marshall) also mentioned the story in its "On Deadline" blog.

8.      VA To Open New Clinic In Iowa.   On its website, WOWT-TV Omaha, NE (2/17) reported, "Veterans will soon be able to receive their primary health care at a new outpatient clinic" in Shenandoah, Iowa, "set to open" Monday, February 23rd. The Department of Veterans Affairs "said Monday the clinic brings health care closer to home for veterans living in western Iowa, northwest Missouri and southeast Nebraska."

9.      VAWNYHS Clinic To Move To New Location.   The Buffalo News (2/17) said the Veterans Affairs Western New York Healthcare System’s outpatient clinic "will move to a new location at 610 Third St. on March 2," according to a VA announcement. The clinic is "under a new contract with Sterling Medical Corp."

10.    Bath VAMC To Co-Host Open House.   The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette (2/18) reports the Bath Veterans Affairs Medical Center "and the Charles E. Wescott American Legion will host an open house from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the post, West William Street in Bath." Representatives from the VA hospital, "Bath National Cemetery, Steuben County and New York State Veteran Service agencies will be on hand to answer questions for veterans and their families concerning eligibility for medical care, disability, education, pension, burial and property-tax exemption benefits." In addition, flu shots "and blood pressure screenings will be available for eligible veterans."


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