Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 4-7-09


What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans

1. Report: Kussman Resigns In Wake Of Problems With Patient Scheduling Program.  
2. Ground Broken On New VA Facility In Texas.
3. VA Clinic In Wisconsin To Begin Using Agency Doctors.
4. VA Hospital Using Real-Life Exposure Therapy To Treat Vets Suffering From PTSD.  
5. Veterans Said To Often Be Victims Of TBIs.  
6. Colin Powell To Thank Vet On Home Makeover Show.
7. CACI International Wind IT Management Support Contract From VA.
8. Company Agrees To Pay Iraq Vet It Once Employed.  
9. VA Helping US Military Target Sexual Assault.  
10. Following Exposure To Contaminated Equipment.


VA Chief Research and Development Officer Joel Kupersmith, M.D., is a member of the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) new Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research. This 15-member council will oversee and manage $1.1 billion in research funds allocated through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Comparative effectiveness studies—head-to-head trials that compare therapies for a defined patient population—are unlike most studies conducted in the U.S., which examine only whether a drug or other medical approach works better than an inert placebo alternative. The VA Research and Development program is uniquely equipped to tackle the question “Which treatment strategy is best for my patient?” because of its position within a comprehensive health care system with cutting-edge electronic medical records, and its proven record of success in this area. By examining the relative benefits of different therapies in defined groups of people, comparative effectiveness research represents an important step toward personalizing care. VA work in comparative-effective research will be highlighted on April 30 at VACO, Sonny Montgomery Conference, as part of National VA Research Week (May 3-9) kick-off events. Learn more at

1.      Report: Kussman Resigns In Wake Of Problems With Patient Scheduling Program.   On his "What’s Brewin’" blog for NextGov (4/6), Bob Brewin reports, "Dr. Michael Kussman, undersecretary for health at the Veterans Health Administration, has resigned, effective in 30 days, well-placed sources have told me." Kussman recently "wrote a memo detailing the near collapse of an eight-year, $167 million effort known as the Replacement Scheduling Application Development Program." Brewin added, "I’m told that Kussman…became the fall guy for the patient scheduling mess." Meanwhile, when VA Secretary Eric Shinseki learned of the program’s problems, he "told staffers to give him a comprehensive review by Thursday…and planned a congressional briefing for Friday, according to internal memos."

2.      Ground Broken On New VA Facility In Texas.   In continuing coverage, KVEO-TV Harlingen, TX (4/6, 10:08 p.m. CT) broadcast, "Several people gathered" Monday to break ground on a Veterans Affairs ambulatory surgery and specialty outpatient center in Harlingen. KVEO noted that both US Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and US Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) attended the groundreaking. KGBT-TV Harlingen, TX (4/6, 11:01 p.m. CT) aired a similar report.

3.      VA Clinic In Wisconsin To Begin Using Agency Doctors.  The Wausau (WI) Daily Herald (4/7, Olson) says changes at the US Department of Veterans Affairs medical clinic in Wausau "should mean a better and broader range of care and increased convenience for local VA patients." Starting this week, "doctors employed by Veterans Affairs will treat patients at the clinic in Wausau, said Joanne Gernhart, who coordinates" the VA’s "community-based outpatient clinics in central Wisconsin. The VA "previously contracted with two companies to provide care. The changes enable the clinic to expand services, saving some patients long trips to Tomah for basic care, said" nurse manager Cheryl Shara. The Daily Herald notes that Chris Zaglifa, a social worker at the clinic, "hopes to reach out to more veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder" as the facility’s "mental health care expands." The WSAW-TV Wausau, WI (4/6, Behrens) website published a similar story.

4.      VA Hospital Using Real-Life Exposure Therapy To Treat Vets Suffering From PTSD.   The Charleston (SC) Post And Courier (4/7, Coley) notes that Dr. Matt Yoder, a clinical psychologist at the Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center, is using exposure therapy in real-life situations to treat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In the "early 1980s, exposure therapy, which has been used for hundreds of years to treat anxiety disorders, was tailored to treat PTSD. Often, therapists ask patients to describe the trauma, and do so again and again, until patients feel as if their memories are no longer dangerous." But using "exposure therapy ‘in vivo,’ or in real-life situations, beyond the hospital walls is a new approach for the Charleston VA, Yoder said." The Post And Courier adds, "Yoder estimated the rate of PTSD among returning vets is between 10 percent and 15 percent. Given the 1.6 million people deployed since 2001, the number" of vets "with PTSD is huge, he said."

5.      Veterans Said To Often Be Victims Of TBIs.   In a story on the Northern Kentucky Third Annual Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Conference, which was "held March 27 at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington," the Lisbon (OH) Morning Journal (4/6, Staley) said, "War veterans often are victims, Dr. James Plunkett, who heads" the TBI clinic at "the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said. Eight percent to 20 percent of the 1.5 million veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 to the present return with an injury — trauma, burns, amputations and wounds — he said." The Morning Journal noted that the VA "operates lead centers in Richmond, Va., Tampa, Fla., Minneapolis, San Antonio and Colorado for treatment of various types."

6.      Colin Powell To Thank Vet On Home Makeover Show.   The AP (4/7) reports former Secretary of State Colin Powell "will appear on prime time to thank a disabled Gulf War veteran for his service. Powell will be shown meeting with former Army combat medic Jeff Cooper and his family as part of an episode of ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,’" which ABC will air on May 3rd. Cooper, "of Jamesville, N.C. suffers from multiple sclerosis, immune disorders, a collection of symptoms commonly called Gulf War illness and is confined to a wheelchair. Despite his pain, Cooper…has lobbied to have all vets who served in the Gulf War get a special license plate of recognition."

7.       CACI International Wind IT Management Support Contract From VA.  The fifth story in the Washington Post‘s (4/7) "Contracts Awarded" column reports, "CACI International of Arlington won an $11 million contract from the Department of Veterans Affairs to help improve budgetary and financial processes associated with information technology management." Computer Business Review (4/7) also notes the contract.

8.      Company Agrees To Pay Iraq Vet It Once Employed.   The lead story in George W. Reilly’s "Veterans’ Journal" column for the Providence (RI) Journal (4/6) noted, "In a settlement filed recently in a federal court in Detroit, Ecolab Inc. has agreed to pay $118,000" to Iraq vet Stephen Alasin after refusing to rehire him "upon his return from active service. The Justice Department had filed the suit…after the Department of Labor’s Veterans Employment and Training investigated the complaint."

9.      VA Helping US Military Target Sexual Assault.   The Chattanooga (TN) Times Free Press (4/6, Gregory) said the US military "is targeting a historically taboo subject. Sexual assault reports among" US military "troops rose 8 percent overall last year, an increase attributed to better reporting and a decrease in the stigma associated with reporting such crimes, a Department of Defense administrator said. The Times Free Press noted that Dr. Harry Jackson with the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Chattanooga Vet Center "said he was designated and trained as a ‘military sexual trauma’ counselor about a month ago. ‘I think the military is beginning to take note and realize it’s really a problem,’ he said. ‘They really started working hard on this.’"

10.    Following Exposure To Contaminated Equipment.   In continuing coverage, the AP (4/7) reports, "The Veterans Affairs department says a patient has tested positive for HIV after being exposed to contaminated equipment" at one of its medical facilities. More "than 10,000 veterans have been warned to get blood tests because they could have been exposed to contamination at facilities Tennessee, Georgia and Miami." The VA "reported previously that hepatitis has been found in 16 patients," but the "agency says there is no way to prove the patients contracted the illnesses because of treatment at their facilities." Very similar versions of this AP story appear in the New York Times (4/7, A18) and as the lead story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s (4/7) "Nation: Briefly" column.
      Meanwhile, in another similar, longer article, the AP (4/7, Poovey) notes, "The VA earlier this year warned more than 10,000 veterans to get blood tests because they could have been exposed to contamination while getting colonoscopies in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Miami. The endoscopic equipment in question was also used at an ear, nose and throat facility" in Augusta, Georgia. All "three sites failed to properly sterilize the equipment between treatments."



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