Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 3-3-09


Today’s Local News for Veterans 

What’s Inside 

1. Shinseki Said To Have Been Shaped By Hawaii’s "Multitude Of Cultures."
2. VA Anticipating Hiring Surge Under Obama’s Budget Plan.
3. Guard Attempting To Notify Troops About Chemical Exposure Risk.  
4. Local Group In Michigan To Host "Healing The Wounds Of  War" Forum.  
5. New Location Expected To Help Vet Center Cope With Increasing Caseload.  
6. VA Hopes Town Hall Meetings With Drum Up Support For Salisbury Plan.  
7. VA Opens New Clinic In California.  
8. DeBakey VAMC Operating Telehealth Program.  
9. Open House At Chillicothe VAMC Raises Heart Disease Awareness.  
10. Canandaigua VAMC To Display Veterans’ Artwork.  


Guard looking for GIs possibly exposed to toxin
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia National Guard is still trying to locate about 25 guardsmen who were potentially exposed to a toxic chemical at an Iraqi water treatment plant in 2003.
Spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Cadle said Monday that the Guard learned in November that as many as 150 members were in the Basra area and potentially exposed to hexavalent chromium. He says that number has since been narrowed to about 125. The Guard wants the soldiers to get health screenings.
About one-third of the members are still with the Guard and contacting them was simple. But those no longer with the Guard aren’t required to maintain contact. Cadle says efforts to reach them have proven difficult.  

1.      Shinseki Said To Have Been Shaped By Hawaii’s "Multitude Of Cultures."   In a story on the diversity of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, UPI (3/3) notes Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki’s "ties with the unique Asian-American culture found in Hawaii. A cousin of Shinseki explained that to understand Shinseki one has to understand Hawaii and its multitude of cultures." But while "his identity as a Japanese-American born and raised in Hawaii is visible, it is also clear that Shinseki," the "first Asian-American to become a four-star general" in the US Army, "identifies himself most of all as a military man."

2.      VA Anticipating Hiring Surge Under Obama’s Budget Plan.   In continuing coverage, a front page story in the Washington Post (3/3, A1, Rucker) says President Barack Obama’s proposed budget, which was released last week, "is so ambitious, with vast new spending" on healthcare, "energy independence, education and services for veterans, that experts say he probably will need to hire tens of thousands of new federal government workers to realize his goals." Several "major agencies said they are already making plans to grow their workforces, some significantly. Officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs, for instance, said they expect to hire more than 17,000 new employees by the end of the year, many at hospitals and other facilities to fulfill Obama’s pledge to expand veterans’ access" to healthcare. The "agency — whose budget will grow by 11 percent, to $56 billion, under Obama’s plan — will add about 7,900 nurses, 3,300 doctors, 3,800 clerks and 2,400 practical nurses, spokeswoman Josephine Schuda said." The Everett (WA) Herald (3/3) publishes the same story.
      VA Funding Would Increase By $25 billion Over Next Five Years.   In continuing coverage, the Air Force Times (3/3, McMichael), near the end of a story on President Barack Obama’s "first federal budget," notes that the 2010 budget proposal would increase "Veterans Affairs Department funding by $25 billion over the next five years. The budget would restore eligibility" for VA healthcare "to veterans who have at least modest incomes and do not have service-connected conditions. These ‘Category 8’ veterans have been barred from enrolling in VA’s" healthcare system "since 2003." The Times says the budget would also fund "expanded VA mental health screening and treatment services" and expand "Pentagon and VA pilot programs to expedite the processing of injured troops through the Disability Evaluation System."
      Mack Hoping To See Money For Clinic In Florida.   The Fort Myers (FL) News-Press (3/3, Yousif-Bashi) reports, "Funding for the $131 million Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic set to be built in Cape Coral is waiting on the 2009-2010 federal budget. President Barack Obama will be turning in his federal budget in April" and US Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL) "is hoping the $131 million will be included. ‘We’ll look at it carefully to see if the VA clinic will be funded,’ said Stephanie DuBois, press secretary for Mack. DuBois added that if the funding is not included," Rep. Mack "will do all he can to find the appropriate funds."
      Paper Cautiously Optimistic About Budget.   In an editorial headlined "A Scared Trust," Florida Today (3/3) says that during the presidential campaign last year, Obama "promised to boost veterans’" healthcare to "fulfill the sacred trust often neglected between the government and those who have served. His new budget follows through on that pledge in a major way that helps veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and those who have fought in past conflicts." But "that doesn’t mean we don’t have concerns. The rumor mill says the administration may want to charge the private insurance companies of disabled vets for treatment of their service-connected injuries instead of the VA paying, which has always been the case." The concern "is veterans would be forced to pay premiums for care for which they already have ‘paid in

blood and service,’ said David Gorman, executive director of the Disabled American Veterans, according to Congressional Quarterly. If really in the offing, it cannot be allowed to occur."

3.      Guard Attempting To Notify Troops About Chemical Exposure Risk.   The AP (3/3, Raby) reports, "The West Virginia National Guard is still trying to locate about 25 troops who may have been exposed six years ago" to the toxic chemical hexavalent chromium "at an Iraqi water treatment plant, a Guard spokesman said Monday." A lawsuit filed last December "by 16 Indiana National Guard soldiers against defense contractor KBR Inc. claims the troops now have respiratory system tumors associated with exposure at the site." In November, the West Virginia National Guard "was notified…that as many as 150 members were in the Basra area and were potentially exposed to hexavalent chromium in 2003. Lt. Col. Mike Cadle said that number has since been narrowed to about 125," but Cadle "says efforts to reach" no longer active "have proven difficult. The Guard wants the soldiers to get health screenings through the Department of Veterans Affairs." West Virginia Public Broadcasting (3/3, Finn) runs a similar story.

4.      Local Group In Michigan To Host "Healing The Wounds Of War" Forum.   The White Lake (MI) Beacon (3/3) reports, "Prolonged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken their toll on soldiers, families and citizens across the nation." So, a "coalition of Muskegon area groups and mental health experts are pooling their efforts to begin healing the scars caused by these wars during a Saturday, March 21, forum called Healing the Wounds of War," in Muskegon, Michigan.

5.      New Location Expected To Help Vet Center Cope With Increasing Caseload.   The Lowell (MA) Sun (3/3, Perry) reports, "The Lowell Vet Center, which offers free counseling and referral services to all veterans who served during periods of combat, is going to need the larger, remodeled space" it just moved into, "says the center’s team leader, Jacob Romo. Counselors Romo and Shaw Tilton left behind their former space at 73 East Merrimack St., last Friday," and moved to the Gateway Plaza building, where they anticipate embracing "an ever-increasing wave of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. ‘Unfortunately,’ says Romo, ‘we are a growth industry.’"

6.      VA Hopes Town Hall Meetings With Drum Up Support For Salisbury Plan.   On its website, WFAE-FM Charlotte, NC (3/3, Rose) reports the Veterans Affairs medical center "in Salisbury has begun town hall meetings to drum up veteran support for a plan to eliminate emergency room and acute services the hospital in 2013." The VA "originally planned to shut the ER" at the hospital" last year, but outrage from patients and employees pushed the change back to 2013. Meantime, hospital administrators are working to convince veterans it will be a positive change, since they’ll be treated at private hospitals closer to home." Patients, however, "worry they’ll have to wait longer and get less personal care in a private ER. Members of the hospital employees union are also critical, and President Essie Hogue says many are already leaving. ‘Some of our ER doctors have left,’ says Hogue, a nurse at the Salisbury VA hospital. ‘Some of the acute care doctors have left. Surgeons have left. And the nurses are putting in for jobs in Durham and other places where they can get acute care experience."

7.      VA Opens New Clinic In California.   The Ventura County (CA) Star (3/3, Kisken) reports, "As patients filed into a new" Veterans Affairs "clinic that opened Monday in Oxnard, James McDuffy scoped out the walls. Some of them are made of glass, allowing McDuffy to sit in the waiting room and gaze down hallways deeper into the clinic." That is "important because he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder dating back to his 16 months with the Marines in the Vietnam War." The Star adds, "The primary care and mental health clinic opened in a corner of The Palms shopping center off Highway 101." It is operated by the US Department of Veterans Affairs "in partnership with Valor Healthcare, which manages 15 similar facilities across the nation."

8.      DeBakey VAMC Operating Telehealth Program.   The Conroe (TX) Courier (3/1) reported, "Veterans with chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart failure can be monitored at home using special telehealth technologies provided to them" by the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston. Veterans are using the "Health Buddy," a "simple piece of equipment similar to an answering machine that can be placed anywhere in a veteran’s home where there is a power outlet and a working telephone jack." The Courier added, "Since the DeBakey Medical Center began the Care Coordination/Home Telehealth program in December 2005, 499 veterans have enrolled in the program, with 294 veterans currently actively using the system."

9.      Open House At Chillicothe VAMC Raises Heart Disease Awareness.   The Chillicothe (OH) Gazette (3/3) reports, "The Chillicothe Veterans Affairs Medical Center recognized National Heart Health Month in February with an open house to raise awareness for heart disease." The Gazette adds, "The VA advocates a need to educate all women, men and their medical care providers about the importance of heart health, risk factors, and what they can do to lower those risk factors."

10.    Canandaigua VAMC To Display Veterans’ Artwork.   The Canandaigua (NY) Daily Messenger (3/3) reports, "Artwork by veterans will be on display from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 11," at the Canandaigua Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Over "50 pieces of art from among 25 different categories will be exhibited, including paintings, drawings, sculptures and photography, ceramics, woodcarving, needlework and leatherwork. Local artists will judge the artwork the day before," with first-place pieces advancing "to the national level, where they will compete with entries from veterans at other VA facilities around the country."



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