Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 4-16-09


What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans

1. Lawmakers Hoping Kessler Hospital Will Be Reopened By VA, AtlantiCare.  
2. Soldier Concussions Said To Be Overdiagnosed By US Government.  
3. Vietnam Vet Receives Belated Purple Heart.
4. Alexandria VAMC Sponsoring Diabetic Education Class For Women.   
5. Loans A Problem For Some House-Hunting Vets In Minnesota.  
6. Philadelphia VAMC Expanding Services Offered In New Jersey.  
7. VA Officials To Discuss New Orleans Hospital Plans With Public.  
8. Louisiana VA Secretary At Military Order Of The Purple Heart Meeting.  
9. Council On Stimulus Research Spending Holds First "Listening Session.
10. Bilirakis Praised For Attempting To Lessen Tax Burden On Military Families.


The VA Capitol Health Care Network (VISN 5) has been awarded the prestigious Maryland Quality Gold Award for 2008 as part of the Maryland Performance Excellence Awards Program. Since 1983, Maryland’s U.S. Senators and the University of Maryland have joined together to honor organizations that successfully implement performance improvement strategies and achieve excellent results. Award recipients are evaluated rigorously by an independent board of examiners using the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, which measures an organization in seven areas: leadership; strategic planning; customer and market focus; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; workforce focus; process management; and results. “This award reflects the superb performance and contributions of the more than 7,000 employees throughout the VA Capitol Health Care Network,” said Sanford M. Garfunkel, network director. “Following the site visit and review process, several of the examiners noted the commitment of network employees to serving the needs of our nation’s veterans.” The VA Capitol Health Care Network serves over 200,000 veterans in Maryland, the District of Columbia and portions of Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. A team of more than 7,000 employees and over 2,600 community volunteers work together throughout the network “to honor America’s veterans as heroes by providing the highest quality health care.”

1.      Lawmakers Hoping Kessler Hospital Will Be Reopened By VA, AtlantiCare.   The Press Of Atlantic City (4/16, Spahr) reports, "A trio of lawmakers want" the closed Kessler Memorial Hospital "to be turned into a veterans hospital operated" by the US Department of Veterans Affairs "and AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center." But AtlantiCare officials "and the state legislators who actually represent Hammonton say they did not hear about the plan until they were sent copies of the request. State Sen. Jeff Van Drew and Assemblymen Nelson Albano and Matthew Milam, all D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, made the request in an April 7 letter" to US "Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, both D-N.J." 

2.      Soldier Concussions Said To Be Overdiagnosed By US Government.   The AP (4/16, Stobbe) reports, "Mild brain injuries…in returning" US military troops "are being overdiagnosed because the government is using soft criteria instead of hard medical evidence," Dr. Charles Hoge, a "top Army doctor," and two other Army "officials contend" in an article "published in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine." The three, who "are taking aim at Department of Veterans Affairs’ rule for treating such veterans and determining" disability pay, "want to call many mild cases ‘concussions’ rather than ‘brain injuries.’"
      USA Today (4/16, Zoroya) reports Hoge and Col. Carl Castro, another Army mental health researcher who co-authored Thursday’s article, "say the military should scrap screening questions meant to uncover cases of mild" traumatic brain injury (TBI) "among troops returning from combat," because most "troops who suffered a concussion in battle have recovered, they say. Any more symptoms are due to depression, post traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse, Hoge and Castro say, so troops do not get care they need because of an overemphasis on mild TBI." Their "arguments have convinced the Army’s surgeon general, Gen. Eric Schoomaker, that the screening should be changed, says Schoomaker’s spokeswoman, Cynthia Vaughan. But they also drew criticism from government and private brain-injury researchers."
      Recovering Vets May Soon Have Access To Computerized Monitoring Systems.‘s (4/15, Drummond) "Danger Room" blog said the US military "is throwing money into just about anything as it tries to treat the tens of thousands of soldiers coming home with post-traumatic stress and brain injuries." And soon, "recovering vets may…have their own computerized pal to monitor their health and track their day-to-day lives – right down to reminding them of that 3 o’clock acupuncture session. The Defense Department recently handed out contracts to three companies to design independent living systems for injured vets." Two "of the systems being developed, from Ingenium Care, LLC and Camris International, use a wireless network packed with touch screens, motion detectors and wearable, pre-programmed schedulers."

3.      Vietnam Vet Receives Belated Purple Heart.   The AP (4/16) 66-year-old Robert McBride, a resident of Sparks, Nevada, "has finally received" a Purple Heart, "41 years after he was hurt in a mortar attack in the war in Vietnam." John Hansen, "national service officer for the National Disabled Veterans, said he was reviewing McBride’s claim for benefits last year when he noticed that a recommendation was made in his records that he receive the Purple Heart due to his burn injuries." Hansen then contacted US Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)," who joined an effort to correct the record and pinned the medal on McBride Wednesday at the Veterans Administration’s regional office in Reno."

4.       Alexandria VAMC Sponsoring Diabetic Education Class For Women.   The Alexandria (LA) Town Talk (4/16) notes that on Thursday, the Alexandria Veterans Affairs Medical Center "will sponsor an educational class designed to assist women in identifying sources of stress, its effects on those with diabetes as well as reviewing stress management techniques. The diabetic education class, ‘Stress and How It Affects People with Diabetes,’ will be held Thursday, April 16 at 10 a.m." in the hospital’s "Women’s Clinic Conference Room, Building 3, 3rd Floor."

5.      Loans A Problem For Some House-Hunting Vets In Minnesota.   On its website, WCCO-TV Minneapolis, MN (4/15, Collin) noted that "some Minnesota soldiers," such as Iraq veteran Mike Lapadat, "say the credit crunch has hurt their chances of owning a home." The Department of Veterans Affairs "offers a home loan guaranty program. The guaranty means the lender is protected against future losses," but the VA "can’t force" a lender "to make a loan it doesn’t want to make." The VA, however, is "trying to educate lenders about the difficulty some vets are going through." Meanwhile, the office of US Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) "says it’s checking to see if there’s a legislative solution, but any law allowing a loophole for soldiers will take time."

6.      Philadelphia VAMC Expanding Services Offered In New Jersey.   The Gloucester County (NJ) Times (4/15, Counihan) said, "Area veterans will soon have more" healthcare "options available to them, as the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center expands the services offered at its local community-based outpatient clinic in Gloucester County." The clinic "currently offers primary care, behavioral health, social work, cardiology, podiatry and optometry services, according to VA spokesman Dale Warman. The VA plans to expand these existing services," as "well as add audiology," rehabilitation, "and specialized women’s health services, Warman said," adding that the clinic will be rededicated in early May. The VA "is also working to open a new clinic in downtown Camden, with the expectation that it will begin operating in June."

7.      VA Officials To Discuss New Orleans Hospital Plans With Public.   The New Orleans Times-Picayune (4/16, Barrow) reports, "Amid growing questions about proposed hospital complexes for lower Mid-City, the public will have its first opportunity" Thursday "to speak directly" to US Department of Veterans Affairs "officials about preliminary designs for its portion of the project. The meeting, scheduled for 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Grace Episcopal Church, 3700 Canal St., comes as some individuals and organizations representing varying interests are asking government officials to reconsider — or at least slow down — their plans for the adjoining" Federal hospital "and state teaching medical center in a historic but blighted neighborhood. And despite the session being intended only for narrow critiques of schematic designs, the meeting could become a forum for people who would rather see the state make its investment in gutting and rebuilding the old Charity Hospital from within, while finding another space for the VA." There is "no indication," however, "from various levels of government that there will be any deviation from the current plans."

8.      Louisiana VA Secretary At Military Order Of The Purple Heart Meeting.   In continuing coverage, the AP (4/16) notes that in early May, Louisiana Secretary of Veterans Affairs Lane Carson "will speak…at the Military Order of the Purple Heart’s Louisiana meeting in Shreveport." The "order was created to help all veterans work with the Department of Veterans Affairs and file claims for benefits available to them."

9.      Council On Stimulus Research Spending Holds First "Listening Session."   CQ HealthBeat (4/16) reports, "The first ‘listening session’…on how" Federal funds "included in the stimulus law should be used on research to improve" the US healthcare system was held Tuesday at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The session "was organized by the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research, a body created by the stimulus law, to help formulate research priorities." The council, "which includes representatives" from the "Department of Veterans Affairs, is expected to submit a report to President Obama by June 30."

10.    Bilirakis Praised For Attempting To Lessen Tax Burden On Military Families.   The last story in the syndicated "Sgt. Shaft" column, appearing in the Washington Times (4/16, Fales), praises US Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) "for introducing bipartisan legislation, H.R. 1624: the Military Personnel Income Tax Exclusion Act, to improve active-duty military pay and help military families during tough economic times." The bill, co-sponsored by US Rep. Christopher Carney (D-PA) "recognizes the superb commitment of service members and their families to our nation by providing a much-needed reduction" of their Federal income tax.



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