Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 3-9-09


Today’s Local News for Veterans 

What’s Inside

1. Facility At Dorn VAMC To Treat Iraq, Afghanistan Vets.  
2. VA Breaks Ground On New Clinic In Arkansas.  
3. Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony Held For VA Clinic In Colorado.
4. Afghanistan Vets Honored During Ceremony At VA Facility.  
5. VA Reps To Speak At Presentation For Vets, Families.  
6. Disabled Vet Hoping Special Flag Will Be Adopted As National Symbol.  
7. VA Benefits Allow The Elderly To Enjoy Superior Facilities.
8. Oregon National Guard Veterans Told They May Have Been Exposed To Hexavalent Chromium.  
9. Funds Collected For Wounded Veteran’s House.  
10. NBC Nightly News To Spotlight VA Medical Center In Georgia.


It’s “Step-Up” week at VA medical centers and clinics across the nation. During the week, VA medical facilities will conduct a special safety training campaign to ensure VA staffs follow the highest standards for patient safety. The nationwide Step-Up is the culmination of a VA education program to implement stronger procedures and better accountability at VA health care facilities. The training was triggered by VA inspections that found reprocessing of endoscopic equipment did not follow the manufacturer’s exact instructions at two VA medical centers. Normal activities will continue during the Step-Up at all VA facilities, but with extra emphasis on safety and proper processing protocols. Specific efforts will include retraining on reprocessing endoscopes, establishment of easily-tracked accountability for instrument processing, and training on standard operating procedures by facility leadership. “The safety of our patients is our foremost concern at VA,” said Dr. Michael J. Kussman, VA’s Under Secretary for Health. “Therefore, I am ordering all of our centers and clinics to re-examine their procedures and safeguards so we know that veterans will not be put at risk by the people they have come to trust.” 

1.      Facility At Dorn VAMC To Treat Iraq, Afghanistan Vets.   In continuing coverage, the lead story in the Rock Hill (SC) Herald‘s (3/9) "In Brief" column reports, "The federal government will build a new $3 million center" in Columbia, South Carolina, "to treat Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. Officials told The State of Columbia that the 10,000-square-foot center" at the Dorn Veterans Affairs Medical Center "will offer primary and mental health services." Construction on the facility "is expected to begin in the fall. Officials say VA clinics around South Carolina have treated 3,366 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in the past year, and those numbers are expected to rise."
      The websites for WOLO-TV Columbia, SC (3/8, Macari) and WJBF-TV Augusta, GA (3/7, Powell) published similar stories, as does the AP (3/9). WCNC-TV Charlotte, NC (3/8, 7:36 a.m. ET) and WYFF-TV Greenville, SC (3/8, 6:04 a.m. ET) also aired reports on this story.

2.      VA Breaks Ground On New Clinic In Arkansas.   In continuing coverage, the KNWA-TV Fayetteville, AR (3/7) website reported, "Local veterans may soon be making fewer trips" to the Veterans Affairs medical center in Little Rock, because the VAMC "in Fayetteville is adding…a new clinic. The VA held a special ground breaking ceremony Friday," at which US Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) "was the keynote speaker." The clinic "will take about three years to complete."

3.      Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony Held For VA Clinic In Colorado.   In continuing coverage, the Loveland (CO) Reporter-Herald (3/7, Dailey) reported, "A lack of space and a growing number of veterans with health needs in Northern Colorado have prompted the opening of a larger Veterans Affairs medical clinic with more services. On Friday morning," the new facility "at 2509 Research Blvd. was filled with the smiling faces of veterans and other supporters celebrating its ribbon-cutting." Although "Friday marked the grand opening, the clinic moved into the new space the last week of January and has been open for business since Feb. 2." The Fort Collins VA "clinic was in its former location on Lemay Avenue between Mulberry Street and Riverside Avenue for about 10 years."

4.      Afghanistan Vets Honored During Ceremony At VA Facility.   The Kennebec (ME) Journal (3/9, Adams) reports, "For spending nine months training Afghan National Army soldiers in combat operations, vehicle maintenance, personnel management and logistical support, members of the Maine Army National Guard were saluted by friends, relatives, fellow soldiers and numerous veterans" on Saturday during a "’Freedom Salute’ held…at Veterans Affairs Medical and Regional Office Center at Togus." Brian G. Stiller, "medical center director at Togus, said a number of veterans from the Togus nursing home came to the auditorium to witness the ceremony." The Portland (ME) Press Herald (3/9) and the Central Maine Morning Sentinel (3/9) publish the same story.
      The AP (3/9) notes that Maine Gov. John Baldacci, "members of Maine’s congressional delegation and veterans from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War were on hand for Saturday’s ‘Freedom Salute.’" WLBZ-TV Bangor, ME (3/8, 7:04 a.m. ET) and WCSH-TV Portland, ME (3/8, 7:04 a.m. ET) aired similar reports.

5.      VA Reps To Speak At Presentation For Vets, Families.   The Buffalo News (3/9) reports, "Daemen College’s social work department will sponsor a presentation titled, ‘Identifying the Needs of Returning Veterans and their Families: Implications for the Western New York Community,’ from 6 to 8 p.m." March 25th "in the Wick Center Social Room on campus." The "event, which is part of National Social Work Month, is free and open to the public. Among the presenters will be representatives of the…Department of Veterans Affairs," who "will talk about the physical, emotional, psychological and financial difficulties facing returning veterans and their families."

6.      Disabled Vet Hoping Special Flag Will Be Adopted As National Symbol.   The Norman (OK) Transcript (3/9, Rieger) noted that disabled Gulf War veteran "and his seven wheels — three on the hand-cycle and four more on his trailing wheelchair — are on a journey" to Washington, DC. Baker is "carrying a laptop and a petition urging Congress to adopt the Honor and Remember flag as a new national symbol by passing HR Bill 1034. He hopes to get one signature for every soldier killed in Iraq."

7.       VA Benefits Allow The Elderly To Enjoy Superior Facilities.   The Shamokin News-Item (3/8, Carta) reports, "Liz and Doug Pursley were overjoyed when they realized money from the Veterans Administration (VA) would help pay for their mother’s residence at an assisted living facility. With a monthly price tag of well over $1,000, Doug’s mother would never have been able to afford to live at Serenity Gardens. ‘It was a Godsend, because now she was able to move into the assisted living facility,’ Liz Pursley said of her mother-in-law, Nancy Pursley. Nancy Pursley is not alone. In fact, more than 50 percent of the 85 residents at Serenity Gardens are receiving money from the VA to help pay their rent. … There are many veterans or their surviving spouses that may believe there is no way they can afford to live in such a facility. Though it may be imperative that they have assistance, money limitations can cause an elderly person to live at home alone longer than is safe." 

8.      Oregon National Guard Veterans Told They May Have Been Exposed To Hexavalent Chromium.   The Oregonian (3/8, Finch) reports, "Larry Roberta, who served in the National Guard in the Middle East, takes so many daily medications to manage shortness of breath and other problems, he needs a plastic tote box to keep them organized. ‘That’s not the man I sent,’ says his wife, Michelle. The soldiers worried about Saddam Hussein loyalists, not the dust. Dust coated the Oregon Army National Guardsmen’s combat boots and caked their skin as they protected Halliburton KBR contractors restoring oil flow in Iraq in 2003. Dust poofed from the soldiers’ uniforms as they crowded into vans at the end of the day and shared tents at night. When the dust blew onto Spc. Larry Roberta’s ready-to-eat meal, he rinsed the chicken patty with his canteen water and ate it. Six months later, doctors discovered the flap into Roberta’s stomach had disintegrated. Six years later, the Marine and former police officer can no longer walk to the mailbox or work. Another Oregon soldier, Sgt. Nicholas Thomas, died of complications of leukemia at age 21. Three others have reported lung problems to headquarters. Five more told The Oregonian they suffer chronic coughs, rashes and immune system disorders." According to the Oregonian, "The same Oregon Guard soldiers who went into Iraq without adequate body armor or up-armored Humvees face another dubious first: exposure to hexavalent chromium, which greatly increases their risk of cancer and other diseases. It was in the orange and yellow dust spread over half the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant by fleeing Saddam supporters. … Ninety-three Oregon soldiers may still not know that they have been exposed to hexavalent chromium. The Oregon Guard sent registered letters notifying them Friday, six years after their deployment."

9.      Funds Collected For Wounded Veteran’s House.   The Gloucester County (NJ) Times (3/8,Driscoll) reports, "Since Marine Cpl. Raymond Hennagir returned to New Jersey in September 2007, he’s made a lot of important strides. … Hennagir was nearly killed by an explosive device in June 2007 in Zaidon, Iraq. He lost both legs and four fingers on his left hand in the blast and was treated at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., before moving to outpatient care at Walter Reed, where he received prosthetics. He gets physical therapy at Walter Reed during the week and often returns to his parents’ house in Deptford on weekends. … The home Hennagir hopes to buy in Deptford requires quite a bit of work to make it handicapped-accessible and to ensure that it meets standards set by the Office of Veterans Affairs. The purchase is likely to be a long process, he said, with renovations followed by furnishing. According to Bob Simcox, a family friend and treasurer of a fund set up for Hennagir, the donated funds are safe from the risks of the current economy."

10.    NBC Nightly News To Spotlight VA Medical Center In Georgia.   In the Augusta Chronicle (3/8) Perry Smith, a retired U.S. Air Force major general and secretary of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, writes, "On the morning of Friday, March 13, the Active Duty Rehabilitation Unit at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center will be visited by an NBC TV crew. Led by NBC-TV military analyst and Medal of Honor recipient Jack Jacobs, this crew will highlight the work of this unit, which is giving such great care to our wounded warriors. The segment will be shown on the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams sometime in the near future. When the idea of focusing attention on this unit was presented to Williams, he immediately engaged his staff. He understood the powerful nature of this story and told his executive producer to set it up and to send Jacobs to Augusta to lead the team."

Schedule for Week of March 9, 2009 

Tuesday, March 10 at 2 p.m. – 334 Cannon House Office Building

**Full Committee Hearing

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2010

Witness List

Panel 1
·       The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Panel 2
·       Carl Blake, National Legislative Director, Paralyzed Veterans of America
·       Kerry Baker, Assistant National Legislative Director, Disabled American Veterans
·       Dennis M. Cullinan, Director, National Legislative Service, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States
·       Raymond C. Kelley, National Legislative Director, AMVETS

Panel 3
·       Steve Robertson, Director, National Legislative Commission, The American Legion
·       Rick Weidman, Executive Director of Government Affairs, Vietnam Veterans of America
·       Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
·       Paul Sullivan, Executive Director, Veterans for Common Sense

Thursday, March 12 at 9:30 a.m. – 106 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Joint House and Senate Full Committee Hearing

Legislative Presentation of AMVETS, Fleet Reserve Association, The Retired Enlisted Association, Vietnam Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America, National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, Air Force Sergeants Association, Non Commissioned Officers Association, and Military Order of the Purple Heart


**Link to webcast available here:

Keep updated on the committee schedule here: HVAC Website





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