Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 4-15-09


What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans

1. Shinseki Appointment Cited As Example Of Obama’s Good Judgment.  
2. US Military Putting "Special Focus" On Suicide Prevention Training.  
3. Report Warning Of Rightwing Extremism, Including From Vets, Sparks Criticism.
4. Sexual Trauma Victims Express Themselves In Art Project At VA Clinic.  
5. Mental Healthcare Provider Seeking Stimulus Money So It Can Help Vets.  
6. Man Pleads Guilty To Stealing Computers From VA Hospital.  
7. VA Hospital Director Kisses Goat For Charity.  
8. VA Team Set Up To Review Mobile Technology Security.
9. VA Urged To Convert Old Code For New Record System.
10. More Veterans Living In Rural America.


1.      Shinseki Appointment Cited As Example Of Obama’s Good Judgment.   After praising President Barack Obama’s handling of the recent Somali pirate hostage situation, Ed Rollins, a senior political contributor for CNN, wrote in a column on the CNN (4/14) website that "so far," he applauds what Obama "has done regarding our armed services," including appointing "Eric Shinseki, a former four-star general and chief of staff of the Army," as Veterans Affairs secretary.

2.      US Military Putting "Special Focus" On Suicide Prevention Training.   KRCG-TV Columbia, MO (4/14, 5:42 a.m. CT) broadcast that "140 soldiers took their lives in 2008, and in the first four months of 2009, that number" has "already reached 54. That’s why" the US military "is putting a special focus on training its member how to spot the signs a fellow soldier is considering suicide, and how to find help if they feel troubled themselves." KCRG added, "For some," war zone stress "will lead" to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is a "risk factor for suicide," but others, like Iraq and Afghanistan veteran John McClellan of Columbia, incur a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Veterans Affairs therapist Michael Moore was shown saying that for those "who have had some sort of TBI," their "ability to problem solve or adjust to the changes around them can be impaired," and if that is the case, they "can be at increased risk to harm themselves."
      VA Assisting Veterans At Risk For Suicide.   In a related story on its website, KRCG (4/14, Snow) reported, "The US military is dealing with a growing number of suicides. The major risk factors include having multiple deployments, suffering from post traumatic stress" or a TBI, "and drug and alcohol abuse. Army Veteran Wayne Dyle" blames "that last factor, drug and alcohol abuse" for his unsuccessful suicide attempt. After the attempt, however, Doyle entered "an intensive rehab program at the Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital in Columbia," and as a result, "he’s been clean and sober for four years." KRCG added, "The VA wants all veterans to know where to find counseling and treatment and that’s why they are holding programs to train non-patient care workers to spot the signs someone is considering suicide."
      Stress Said To Be A Factor For Two Iraq Vets In Trouble With Law.   On its website, WTAJ Johnstown, PA (4/14, Manning) noted that Iraq veteran Nicholas Horner "is in the Blair County Prison," charged with "two counts of murder." Horner’s friends "say he is suffering" from PTSD, and that he has been getting treatment at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Altoona. Counselors "there can’t talk about the specifics of anyone’s case," but officials at the hospital "say they have individual and group therapy for all kinds of mental illnesses, including seven PTSD groups."
      The KETV-TV Omaha, NE (4/14) website reported, "The attorney for a Douglas County Corrections officer who’s accused of getting drunk and chasing deer with his pickup truck said his client is remorseful about the event and is taking action to address

some issues." Those issues, "according to the suspect’s father, include stress from war zone experience in Iraq," but "Matthew Hagen, the corrections officer, hasn’t been diagnosed" PTSD. Hagen’s attorney, however, "said the disorder is a possibility that’s being checked out" as Hagen undergoes "a full evaluation at the Veterans Affairs medical center in Omaha."

3.      Report Warning Of Rightwing Extremism, Including From Vets, Sparks Criticism.   Reports of a warning about "rightwing extremism" issued by the Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis have been met with widespread criticism among conservative talk show hosts, with many describing the document as overly broad. Meanwhile, highlighting the reaction of the American Legion, which took issue with suggestions "that some soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan could be recruited by right-wing extremists to participate in violent actions," the Washington Times (4/15, Hudson) reports David K. Rehbein, national commander of the veterans organization, said in a letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano that he thought it "important for all of us to remember that Americans are not the enemy. The terrorists are."
      The AP (4/15, Sullivan) reports that DHS "officials said there was no specific information about an attack in the works by right-wing extremists," and "spokesman Sean Smith said the report is one in a series of assessments issued by the agency’s intelligence and analysis unit. The agency describes these assessments as part of a series published ‘to facilitate a greater understanding of the phenomenon of violent radicalization in the United States.’" The Politico (4/15, Barr) reports DHS "is especially concerned with attempts to ‘radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat.’"

4.      Sexual Trauma Victims Express Themselves In Art Project At VA Clinic.   The Eugene (OR) Register-Guard (4/15, Palmer) reports, "The hand-painted words crowd each other on some T-shirts, appear sparsely on others," but "perhaps the most powerful T-shirt in the Clothesline Art Project" at the Eugene Veterans Affairs Clinic "is a black one with no words. Its creator, a sexual trauma victim, expressed the lasting impact of the violation with a simple red outline of a heart, a jagged hole cut through its center. Victims often find it difficult to talk about sexual abuse, said…clinic social worker Sonia Fry, who counsels area" vets "suffering the painful aftermath. The art project, set up in a small room at the clinic, is a way to give them a voice, she said." KIRO-TV Seattle, WA (4/14, 6:39 p.m. PT), KTVL-TV Medford, OR (4/14, 6:17 p.m. PT), and KVAL-TV Eugene, OR (4/14, 12:15 p.m. PT) broadcast similar reports on this story.

5.      Mental Healthcare Provider Seeking Stimulus Money So It Can Help Vets.   In continuing coverage, the Colorado Springs Gazette (4/15, Newsome) reports, "In what may seem to be a strange role" for a mental healthcare provider, "Pikes Peak Behavioral Health Group is pursuing millions" in Federal stimulus money "for two programs to help veterans, regardless of whether they are mentally ill. The plans reflect the organization’s long-held philosophy that many mental illnesses are preventable or at least better treated when people are given training, jobs, and some stability in their lives, said Chief Operating Officer Paul Sexton." To this end, Pikes Peak Behavioral Health Group is hoping for "at least $4 million to buy a foreclosed 37-unit townhome complex" and "hire and train veterans to renovate" it.
      The Denver Post (4/15, Brown) reports, "The number of soldiers diagnosed with anxiety and stress at Colorado’s Fort Carson is soaring – so much that a private clinic where soldiers are treated is seeking" Federal stimulus money "for innovative programs such as providing construction jobs, housing and more therapists. ‘If I had 10 more therapists, I could keep them busy,’ said Davida Hoffman, director of First Choice Counseling Center, part of the Pikes Peak Behavioral Health Group," which is also seeking Federal funds "to hire more…’peer navigators,’" who "help soldiers leaving the Army find help for stress, enroll in college or get a job."

6.      Man Pleads Guilty To Stealing Computers From VA Hospital.   The Indianapolis Star (4/15) reports a 51-year-old "Speedway man has pleaded guilty to theft for stealing three computers from the Roudebush Veterans Affairs Medical Center." Joseph Radican "was sentenced to 18 months" of "probation after entering the plea Tuesday in Marion Superior Court. Radican also agreed to supply information that will help authorities recover the computers, said Mario Massillamany, spokesman for Prosecutor Carl Brizzi. One of the missing computers contained" personal information on "more than 11,000 veterans," but VA officials "said there is no indication the patients’ information has been used." The VA and the FBI have, however, "posted a $10,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of the computers."

7.      World War I Memorial Needs Nation’s Attention.   In a Torrance (CA) Daily Breeze (4/14), op-ed, Pamela R. Wills, "a public affairs specialist for the Department of Veterans Affairs and a 20-year resident of the South Bay," noted that in 2003 and 2006, the District of Columbia World War I Memorial "was named as one of the most endangered places in Washington by the District of Columbia Preservation League, a nonprofit organization that promotes historic preservation in the capital." Recently, US Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) "introduced the Frank Buckles World War I Memorial Act to renovate" the memorial "and rededicate it as a national shrine in 2018, when America observes the 100th anniversary of the end of the ‘war to end all wars.’ The act is named after the last surviving American World War I veteran." Wills added, "I’m hoping that if they do renovate it, they will include a place to sit. It seems like a place to ponder those who were lost in The Great War but also to feel their spirits there."

8.      VA Team Set Up To Review Mobile Technology Security.   FedTech Magazine (3/3, Roberts) said that when it comes to mobile technology security, a "24×7 approach to risk is the direction that information assurance teams are increasingly taking in government, says Thomas Oscherwitz, vice president of government affairs for identity intelligence consultant ID Analytics of San Diego. Agencies are deploying tools that continuously monitor for malicious actions, and then they rank incidents based on expected network behaviors and on data value, he says." The Department of Veterans Affairs "has a team whose job is just as Oscherwitz describes: It reviews all reported incidents and does triage to determine the department’s response and remediation plan, according" to Kathryn Maginnis, the VA’s "associate deputy assistant secretary for risk management and incident response." A "chief benefit" of the VA "drawing so much attention because of the now-infamous data breach of two years ago is that the department created an enterprise incident-reporting process, she says, and it encourages people to report any and all incidents."

9.      VA Urged To Convert Old Code For New Record System.   In continuing coverage, NextGov (4/15, Brewin) reports, "Two software companies claim the Defense and Veteran Affairs departments could spend a fraction of the billions of dollars they say they need to develop an electronic health records system from scratch if they converted old software to new open-source code. As a way to answer" President Barack Obama’s "call last week to create a joint Defense-VA electronic health record system, the departments should consider a project that converted decades-old software in a legacy health records system operated by VA into open-source Java programming language, said Greg Tablock, vice president of sales for The Software Revolution Inc., which conducted the conversion." The VA "awarded the company a contract in 2005 to convert 300,000 lines of old code in the time-keeping application of the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA)," which the VA "uses to manage the health records of veterans and their families. Software Revolution, based in Kirkland, Wash., converted the legacy code, known as the Massachusetts General

Hospital Utility Multi-Programming System (MUMPS), to the Java programming language in seven minutes, said Phillip Newcomb, the company’s chief executive officer."

10.    More Veterans Living In Rural America.   The Sioux Falls (SD) Argus Leader (4/15) reports, "With Vietnam War-era veterans hitting retirement, the veteran population of urbanized areas across the country is eroding, even as veteran numbers are growing rapidly in some rural parts of the nation." At the "start of this decade, less than a quarter of America’s veterans lived in rural areas. Now, even though there are 3.2 million fewer veterans than in 2000, 1.3 million more of them live in rural America, a 20 percent increase, according" to US Department of Veterans Affairs data. Because "veterans leaving the service tend to settle near a military installation, one likely driving force for the shift is the closure of bases on the West Coast and in the Midwest and the concentration of remaining bases in the southeast, said Dat Tran, director of the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics at the VA. He predicts the trend will continue."



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