Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 2-24-09


Today’s Local News for Veterans 

What’s Inside

1. Lingle Meets With Shinseki.  
2. Group Seeks Input On Canandaigua VAMC Lease Plan.  
3. Official Says Evaluation System For Seriously Injured Vets Has Been Reformed.  
4. Cincinnati VA Hospital, Local College Respond To Needs Of Troubled Vets.  
5. "Debilitating" Headaches A Common Complaint Of Some Vets.  
6. Veterans, Especially Women, Said To Need Better Healthcare, Benefits.  
7. Federal Government Attempting To Move Electronic Medical Record Process Along. 
8. Report On Army Emergency Relief Charity Upsets Advocates.  
9. Amputee Achieves Milestone By Graduating From Army Jumpmaster Course.  
10. Facility Consolidates Mental Health Services Provided By VA In St. Louis.  


Chaplain Lowell S. Kronick, Associate Director for Education for the VA National Chaplaincy Center in Hampton, Va., received the 2008 William A. Nelson Award for Excellence in Health Care Ethics from Under Secretary for Health Michael Kussman, M.D., at the VHA National Leadership Board meeting in Washington, DC. Chaplain Kronick is responsible for the continuing education of approximately 1000 VA chaplains and worked with VHA National Center for Ethics in Health Care to develop a week-long course in health care ethics offered annually at the National Chaplain Training Center. Due to that program, chaplains throughout the VA health care system now actively serve veterans through their local health care ethics committees. The annual award was established four years ago to honor Dr. Bill Nelson, a chaplain and educator who devoted 30 years of his life to federal service with VA. He worked in the National Center for Ethics in Health Care from its founding in 1991 until his retirement in 2003.

 1.      Lingle Meets With Shinseki.   In continuing coverage, the Honolulu Advertiser (2/24, Camire), at the end of a story on Hawai’i Gov. Linda Lingle’s comments about how the economic stimulus package will affect her state, says Lingle recently "met with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki." Lingle, who is "attending the winter meeting of the National Governors Association" in Washington, DC, and "Hawai’i National Guard Adjutant General Robert Lee urged Shinseki to increase the $300 the VA pays the state when a veteran is buried in a state or county cemetery because no federal cemetery is available." Lingle "and Lee also asked Shinseki about VA restrictions on benefits based on how many years pass before a veteran claims mental illness as a result of military service. ‘Now, the limit is five years, but anyone who works in this field knows it doesn’t always pop up that quickly,’ Lingle said. ‘We asked him to look at not having … an artificial limit on our veterans getting help with mental health issues.’"

2.      Group Seeks Input On Canandaigua VAMC Lease Plan.   The Canandaigua (NY) Daily Messenger (2/24, Sherwood) reports, "A newly formed advisory group is tapping veterans from around the nation to weigh in on a plan to lease a building" at the Canandaigua Veterans Affairs Medical Center "to a private developer. Sharing their experiences and offering advice via teleconference during a meeting Saturday…will be veterans from Long Island, Texas, Florida, Washington state and California. All the veterans have experience with VA hospitals that are considering or participating in lease agreements with private developers or other outside groups, said Marine Corps veteran Gene Simes," who "heads a committee called Veterans Council for Enhanced Resource Allocation. Advocates in the Finger Lakes region formed the committee to oppose any redevelopment" of the Canandaigua VAMC "buildings for uses unrelated to veterans." The goal of Saturday’s meeting is to write a report with "recommendations for leasing to a private developer, said Simes," who added that the report will be sent to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki "prior to a public hearing on the lease plan set for Feb. 26 at 7 p.m."

3.      Official Says Evaluation System For Seriously Injured Vets Has Been Reformed.   The American Forces Press Service (2/24, Carden) reports, "Two years is much too long to determine service disabilities, especially when the injuries obviously qualify a servicemember for full benefits and compensation, a senior Defense Department official said" in an interview Monday. Until "recently, that’s how long it took all military members to reach 100-percent-disabled status in terms of their disability compensation and medical benefits through the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs," according to "Air Force Maj. Gen. Keith W. Meurlin, acting director of the Defense Department’s transition policy and care coordination office." Now, however, "veterans seriously wounded in combat and identified as ‘catastrophically wounded’ go through an expedited disability evaluation process that lasts about 100 days to begin receiving benefits." Eventually, "all servicemembers transitioning to veteran status may benefit from the changes the expedited disability evaluation system offers," because the "current system may be completely reformed to a one-year process by cutting out the military evaluation altogether, much like the expedient version. The pilot program for such a process is under way, but no decisions have been made yet, Meurlin said."

4.      Cincinnati VA Hospital, Local College Respond To Needs Of Troubled Vets.   The Cincinnati News Record (2/23, Kern), the University of Cincinnati’s student newspaper, reported, "There were more deaths in the military resulting from suicide" than "combat in January 2009, according to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America." In addition, military "suicide rates have continued to increase in the last four years." In response to the trend, the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Hospital "created in June 2007 a suicide hotline providing 24-hour care for military personnel at risk. Carol Jackson, the hospital’s suicide prevention coordinator, credits the hotline with saving more than 2,600 lives." Efforts "are also being made at the University of Cincinnati to cater to the needs of students who are veterans or in the military."
      College In California Also Offering Assistance To Vets.   In a related story, the California State University Northridge Daily (2/23, Gordon) reports, "Dr. Tony Johnson, a University Counseling Services staff psychologist" at California State University Northridge (CSUN), "said that young veterans returning to college must, ‘readjust to a life that they have put behind them.’ To aid in that adjustment, University Counseling Services oversees the CSUN’s Servicemen’s/Women’s Opportunity Project (SOP)," which "includes academic and mental health support groups as well as individual and couples counseling."
      VA, Army Said To Be Addressing Problem Of Military Suicides.   In another related story, the Springfield (MA) Republican (2/22, Contrada) noted, "Last month," the US government "agreed to pay…$350,000" to settle a wrongful death suit with the family of Jeffrey M. Lucey, a veteran who killed himself after returning home from Iraq. The government also "promised to make ‘important changes’ in the VA system to help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder." Also in January, the US Army "announced it would hold a ‘stand down’ to address the skyrocketing number of suicides by active duty troops."

5.      "Debilitating" Headaches A Common Complaint Of Some Vets.   HealthDay (2/24, Gardner) reports, "Headaches have become a common complaint among soldiers who suffered mild head trauma while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan." The headaches "tend to be debilitating, mirroring migraines in intensity, according to research released Monday that is to be presented next month at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Seattle." Experts such as Keith A. Young, genetics core leader at the Veterans Affairs Center of Excellence for Research on Returning War Veterans, "noted the new findings should help doctors be on the lookout for these cases."

6.      Veterans, Especially Women, Said To Need Better Healthcare, Benefits.   The Vallejo (CA) Times-Herald (2/24, Burchyns) says Gulf War veteran Delphine Metcalf-Foster and "hundreds of other veterans" affiliated with the nonprofit Disabled American Veterans were on Capitol Hill Monday, advocating for better healthcare "services and benefits for those returning from deployments overseas." On Tuesday, the veterans "will address the House Committee on Veterans Affairs," and the unique healthcare "needs of female veterans is one topic the group will address" because greater "numbers of women are serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, including in combat roles." In fact, women "soon are expected to account for 15 percent of all veterans," which led Metcalf-Foster to say, "The Department of Veterans Affairs should be more vigilant in talking to women … and adjusting their hospitals to women’s issues. A lot of women don’t use the system.’" The Vacaville (CA) Reporter (2/23, Burchyns) runs the same story.

7.      Federal Government Attempting To Move Electronic Medical Record Process Along.   The Las Vegas Business Press (2/24, O’Reiley) reports, "Years after many other industries have moved their record keeping to hard drives, medicine clings doggedly to paper. Everyone connected with electronic medical records say they have long moved out of the prototype stage, at least in part because organizations like Kaiser Permanente" the Department of Veterans Affairs "have already spent millions of dollars to work out the kinks. The result, electronic advocates contend, are numerous software packages that should improve efficiency and quality of care at every level of the system. Yet, the expense of installing" computer systems, "privacy issues and a desire to stick with…folders and charts" have "so far carried the day." However, the $787 billion "economic stimulus legislation signed into law last week by President Obama has set aside $19.2 billion to jumpstart the adoption process."


8.      Report On Army Emergency Relief Charity Upsets Advocates.   In continuing coverage, the AP (2/24, Donn) reports, "Veterans advocates are venting anger and frustration toward the biggest charity within" the US military "after revelations that it has been packing more money into reserves than it has spent on aid during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. ‘We have so many soldiers, reservists and National Guard who are in dire need, and for the Army to be holding this much money in reserve is despicable,’ chairman Bob Handy of Veterans United for Truth, of Santa Barbara, Calif., said Monday." Handy "was reacting to an Associated Press investigation that examined five years of tax returns" by Army Emergency Relief (AER) and found that from 2003 to 2007, the charity "packed $117 million into its own reserves while spending just $64 million on direct aid." The AP adds, "Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense…said AER should rework its policies to help more veterans."

9.      Amputee Achieves Milestone By Graduating From Army Jumpmaster Course.   The Army Times (2/24, Naylor) profiles 33-year-old Afghanistan veteran John "Mikey" Fairfax, who last year "became the first amputee to graduate from any Army jumpmaster course."

10.    Facility Consolidates Mental Health Services Provided By VA In St. Louis.   The AP (2/21) reported, "The Department of Veterans Affairs is consolidating some of its services at a new location in St. Louis." The new VA Hope Recovery Center, which "was dedicated Friday," will "serve veterans of all ages who have mental health needs. The center consolidates programs that were located at two VA hospitals in St. Louis city and county." The KWMU-FM St. Louis, MO (2/21, Lippmann) website and the St. Louis (MO) Beacon (2/21, Leonard) also covered this story.


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