Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 4-2-2009


What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans

1. Hundreds Of Vets Attend Winter Sports Clinic.  
2. Senate Confirms Gould As Deputy Secretary For VA.  
3. VA Leaders, Lawmakers Attempting To Modernize Care And Benefits For Vets.  
4. Shinseki Expects Big Impact From New GI Bill.  
5. Private Colleges Offer Veterans Free Tuition.  
6. Iraq Veterans’ Plight Draws Attention To Non-Combat Traumatic Brain Injury.  
7. VA Reaching Out To Troubled Vets.  
8. Veteran Fights VA Ruling Regarding Radiation Exposure From Nuclear Blasts.   
9. Paralyzed Vet Determined To Walk Again.  
10. South Dakota Veteran Suffering From PTSD Sues Employer.  


1.      Hundreds Of Vets Attend Winter Sports Clinic.   In continuing coverage, the Aspen (CO) Daily News (4/4, Frey) profiled several of the 400 veterans who took part in the recent National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic. Hosted by the Veterans Affairs Department, the "annual event is the largest of its kind in the world, open to severely injured veterans who receive care at a VA medical facility or military treatment center. This year, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki attended the event."
      Vets From Ohio, Georgia Took Part In This Year’s Event.   The second story in the Youngstown (OH) Vindicator‘s (4/5) "Armed forced digest" column noted that Don Crago of Lowellville, Richard Ackerman of North Bloomfield, and Darrel McCauley of Warren, participated in this year’s clinic. The event "promotes rehabilitation by teaching downhill and cross-country skiing to veterans with significant physical or visual impairments. Veterans are also introduced to other adaptive activities such as rock climbing, scuba diving and sled hockey, and can attend educational workshops." The Savannah (GA) Morning News (4/4, Dominitz) profiled Savannah resident Mark Schreiber, who also participated in this year’s event.

2.      Senate Confirms Gould As Deputy Secretary For VA.   In continuing coverage, the second item in Al Kamen’s Washington Post (4/6, A13) notes, "The Senate confirmed 14 nominees last week for top posts" in the Obama Administration, including "W. Scott Gould as deputy secretary of veterans affairs."

3.      VA Leaders, Lawmakers Attempting To Modernize Care And Benefits For Vets.   On its website, WBIR-TV Knoxville, TN (4/4, Yaukey) said, "For years, government care and benefits for veterans were often hard to get because of bureaucratic or geographic hurdles," but "that may be changing. Veterans’ advocates — including lawmakers and the newly appointed leaders of the Veterans Affairs Department — are pushing sweeping reforms in benefits and management practices to modernize the system." Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel Akaka (D-HI) "is shepherding a raft of legislation that would enhance education benefits, increase access to medical care and raise income ceilings that cut off access to services. ‘This legislation expands insurance programs and secures cost-of-living increases for certain benefits, some of which have not been updated for decades,’ Akaka said." The activity "comes as the VA is facing new challenges dealing with wounded veterans from two ongoing wars." WBIR added, "The VA’s new secretary, former Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, has promised to modernize the agency and streamline the delivery of benefits."

4.      Shinseki Expects Big Impact From New GI Bill.   The American Forces Press Service (4/5, Miles) reported, "All systems are on track for this summer’s rollout of the new Post-9/11 GI Bill, which Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said he expects to have as monumental an impact as the original World War II-era GI Bill of Rights." Shinseki, "who served as Army chief of staff from 1999 to 2003, told American Forces Press Service he understands the excitement over the new program that goes into effect Aug. 1." Shinseki said the original GI Bill changed "the course of our history and the latter half of the 20th century," and the Post-9/11 version "has the opportunity to create in the 21st century the same kind of impact for development," social "change [and] leadership across a lot of institutions." This, "he said, sends a strong, unmistakable message. ‘I think young veterans who come back and participate in [in the Post 9/11 GI Bill] will begin to understand how much they are valued.’"

5.      Private Colleges Offer Veterans Free Tuition.   The Pittsburgh Tribune Review (4/5, Zlatos) reports, "At least nine private colleges and universities in the region have announced they will join the Yellow Ribbon Program of the new GI Bill, which offers free tuition to post-9/11 veterans at private institutions. Private schools are expected to officially sign up with the recent release of new rules for implementing the program. ‘The vast majority of public and private colleges and universities will be enthusiastic participants in the new GI BiIl, including the Yellow Ribbon plan,’ said Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C. ‘This is a certifiable big deal.’ Since Robert Morris University announced in February that it plans to join the program, at least eight other area private schools have said they will participate. They are La Roche, Westminster, Thiel and St. Vincent colleges; and St. Francis of Loretto, Chatham, Carlow and Seton Hill universities. Under the GI Bill, the federal government pays each participating school an amount equal to the highest in-state tuition charged by a public university in that state plus with the most expensive fees of any public school in that state. The full amount alone doesn’t cover tuition costs at most private schools, so under the Yellow Ribbon program, the federal government will match whatever the school kicks in — up to 50 percent."

6.      Iraq Veterans’ Plight Draws Attention To Non-Combat Traumatic Brain Injury.   Stars and Stripes (4/5, Mraz) reports, "A football player from Vilseck High School strikes the ground during a football game at Heidelberg last October. As many as 3.8 million sports- and recreation-related concussions occur in the U.S. each year, according to an article in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation. The signature injury of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is not restricted to those engaged in combat. Mild traumatic brain injury — more commonly known as concussion — can occur in the most benign of places, including playgrounds and playing fields. What may be dismissed as kids just knocking their noggins, getting their bells rung or seeing stars could signal a more serious injury, requiring medical attention. Traumatic brain injury experts from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany are raising awareness of head injuries in youth sports by meeting with coaches and children. … On the military side, nearly 30 percent of all patients with combat-related injuries seen at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington from 2003 to 2005 sustained a TBI, according to a Department of Defense Web site. The Landstuhl experts, who screen about 600 patients a month from Iraq and Afghanistan for TBI, said they often encounter troops with the ‘suck it up, keep going, soldier on’ mentality. The troops want to get back to their units despite their injuries."

7.      VA Reaching Out To Troubled Vets.   The Jackson (MS) Clarion Ledger (4/6, Pettus) says a suicide prevention hotline called Contact the Crisis "is not just for veterans, but it and others like it, including the Veterans Affairs Suicide Prevention Lifeline, may get busier as more troops return from Iraq." Meanwhile, at the G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery VA Medical Center "in Jackson, Angela Worthy has encountered the guilt of returning veterans. ‘We see it quite often,’ said Worthy, the head of the center’s Post Deployment Clinic program, which tries to help troops readjust to civilian life. ‘Many also don’t seek help because they don’t want that stigma on their record.’" The VA, however, "is trying to reach out to those who need help now, or who may need it one day, said Jeffrey Bennett, a patient advocate in the post-deployment program. About 4,000 veterans have enrolled in the clinic over the past four years," and the "goal is to up that by 10 percent within the next six months, he said."

8.       Veteran Fights VA Ruling Regarding Radiation Exposure From Nuclear Blasts.   The Danbury News Times (4/5) reports, "In the 1950s and ’60s, Wayne McCormick was haunted by nightmares nearly every night. But when his wife, Agnes, asked him what was wrong, he’d lie. … He could have been arrested for telling her the truth — that his Navy service included a six-month stint in a tiny chain of islands in the Pacific Ocean, where he saw hydrogen bombs exploding in the sky. The 1958 mission was top-secret. Until 1994 — when the Clinton administration began declassifying the information — witnesses could have been prosecuted for telling what they knew. Some of the bombs he saw — 23 in all — were small scale. Some were roiling megaton blasts that scorched McCormick’s face with their heat, blew shock waves against him, and filled the sky with wild colors and vast mushroom clouds. … McCormick, 73, of Southbury, is an atomic veteran — one of hundreds of thousands of members of the U.S. Armed Services exposed to the radiation at weapons test sites between 1945 and 1963." McCormick "suffers from prostate cancer, bone cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and gall bladder problems. But the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs has refused his application for compensation, saying that according to its calculations the radiation exposure he received was not enough to account for his illnesses. McCormick is appealing that decision. Two doctors — Dr. Vincent Rella, an oncologist at Danbury Hospital, and Dr. Ben Mobo, chief of the occupational health service for the VA in Connecticut and an assistant professor of medicine at the Yale School of Medicine — have written to the VA in his support." Dr. Victoria Cassano, director of radiation and physical exposures for the VA’s Office of Public Health and Environmental Hazards, "said the VA makes such evaluations by first verifying that a veteran did serve in areas where nuclear testing took place, and then seeing if the veteran has what’s considered a ‘radiogenic’ disease. Those include almost all cancers as well as other diseases. Her office then uses a computer program to determine the level of radiation the veteran might have been exposed to. Cassano said the VA gives veterans the benefit of the doubt by calculating this not to the lower possible levels of radiation, but to the upper levels." 

9.      Paralyzed Vet Determined To Walk Again.   Florida Today (4/6, Moody) profiles42-year-old US Army Sgt. Garry Thompson, who "was left paralyzed from the knees down when on May 28, a suicide bomber attacked his unit’s compound near Khowst, Afghanistan." Thompson, however, "is determined to get rid of his wheelchair. ‘My goal is just to walk,’ he said. ‘After that, who knows?’" Florida Today adds, "After about five months in hospitals, including the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Thompson" has begun "a rigorous rehabilitation and workout regimen to help him reach his goal of walking." Thompson "said he wants to be an inspiration to young soldiers returning home injured. He said he wants to counsel them, help them transition into their civilian lives and help them cope with their injuries."

10.    South Dakota Veteran Suffering From PTSD Sues Employer.   The Sioux Falls Argus Leader (4/5, Young) reports, "Ryan Boddicker came home wounded from the war in Iraq, but not from any gunfire, home-made bomb or rocket-propelled grenade. The damage to the Naval reservist’s psyche was inflicted by a supercharged confrontation at his security post, with an intruder he thought was trying to kill him. The episode was so intense that it was seared into his memory. In time it evolved into crippling post-traumatic stress. Now it is at the heart of a lawsuit Boddicker has filed in federal district court against his former employer, Esurance, claiming he was forced out of his job because of his PTSD. … In the broader scheme, the issue is important across South Dakota and the nation. According to Army and Department of Defense studies, a significant percentage of the 1.8 million soldiers who have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan either have returned or will return from battle suffering from mental health problems. One Army survey indicated that 20 percent of returning soldiers suffered from clinical anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. The extent to which those problems are coming into South Dakota workplaces is difficult to gauge. But experts say they don’t think Boddicker’s case is isolated."



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