Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 4-20-09


What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans

1. Shinseki To Attend First Meeting Of Diverse Cabinet.  
2. Defense Vision Center Director Praises VA’s Cooperation.  
3. US Army Researchers Concerned About Incorrect TBI Diagnoses.  
4. Elite Universities Mull Participation In GI Bill’s Yellow Ribbon Program.  
5. Homeland Security Secretary Urged To Spend Time Getting To Know Some Vets.  
6. Texas Attempting To Improve Mental Healthcare Efforts For Vets.  
7. Iraq Veteran Tests Battery-Powered Artificial Knee.  
8. Court Says Vet Was Wrongly Denied A State Handgun Buyer’s Permit.  
9. VA Investigating Hospital In South Carolina.  
10. "Finishing Touches" Being Put On Cincinnati VAMC’s Mobile Health Unit.   


“Laboratory Professionals Get Results” is the theme of the 34th National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week (NMLPW), April 19-25. There are approximately 300,000 practitioners of clinical laboratory science in the United States and up to 85 percent of decisions about patient diagnosis and treatment are based on laboratory test results they conduct. At VA, 6,719 pathologists, laboratorians, and related administrative and clinical support staff generated 240,317,107 billable tests last year used in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease. National Medical Laboratory Week focuses on the role of the laboratory professional as a partner in good healthcare. Throughout this week, contributions that VA laboratorians have made to the profession will be highlighted. The Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Services National Director, Enforcement Office and Program Management Office salute the thousands of VA laboratory professionals who contribute immeasurably to the delivery of quality healthcare services to our nation’s veterans.


1.      Shinseki To Attend First Meeting Of Diverse Cabinet.   USA Today (4/20, Wolf) reports, "Three months after taking office," President Barack Obama "will convene his first Cabinet meeting on Monday – still one seat short of a complete Cabinet. Eager to promote budget-cutting efforts by all" Federal agencies, Obama "will hold the meeting a day before the Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to vote on his last nominee, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, as secretary of Health and Human Services." If "she is confirmed by the Senate, Sebelius will complete a Cabinet that experts say is the most diverse in history. It will have seven women and nine racial and ethnic minorities among its 21 members – and only eight white men." The oldest Cabinet member "is Eric Shinseki, 66, who heads the Department of Veterans Affairs."
      VA One Of Several Agencies Said To Be Reining In Costs.   The Washington Post (4/20, Fletcher) says that at Monday’s meeting, Obama "will order" Cabinet members "to identify a combined $100 million in budget cuts over the next 90 days, according to a senior" Administration official. The Post added that in "his radio and Internet address Saturday," Obama "said he is serious about reining in deficits over the long term, and some agencies are already moving in that direction," the Administration said. For example, the VA "has canceled or delayed 26 conferences, opting for less costly alternatives such as video conferencing, saving nearly $17.8 million."

2.      Defense Vision Center Director Praises VA’s Cooperation.   Stars and Stripes (4/19, Shane) reports, "The head of the Defense Vision Center of Excellence says planning and operations for the new program are now on track, after more than a year of delays and inattention from Pentagon officials. Dr. (Col.) Donald Gagliano, executive director of the center, said creation of a new eye injury registry is under way, with staff under contract to begin coordinating the basic data needed to track different patients, wounds and types of treatment. T he first system to share information with service and VA doctors could be ready next year. ‘From just a month ago, we’ve made huge leaps,’ he said. ‘The Defense Department is taking this seriously now.’ Last month, lawmakers criticized defense health officials for slow progress on the new center, designed to coordinate research and treatment options for troops with serious eye injuries. Gagliano admits that most of his time on the job so far has been spent focused on funding instead of patients and clinical data." Gagliano "said officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs have been very cooperative in the effort, setting aside funds early and working closely with him on setup for the registry. ‘What we haven’t had until now is the Defense Department stepping up to the plate,’ he said."

3.      US Army Researchers Concerned About Incorrect TBI Diagnoses.   In continuing coverage, the Army Times (4/20, McMichael) reports, "Inexact post-deployment questions about service members’ health are leading to incorrect diagnoses of mild" traumatic brain injury (TBI), "resulting in troops sometimes receiving the wrong medications and inappropriate treatment while other maladies go untreated, two leading Army TBI researchers conclude in a paper published April 16 in the New England Journal of Medicine. Moreover, the doctors say….mistaken diagnoses carry negative connotations that can convince a service member who does not have mild TBI that he in fact does suffer from a concussion – the term the researchers prefer over ‘mild TBI’ – creating a self-fulfilling prophecy." The Times adds, "Paul Sullivan of the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Veterans for Common Sense said he’s pleased that the military continues to study TBI," but "warned that the Pentagon and the
Department of Veterans Affairs have a history of downplaying serious medical problems, such as Gulf War Syndrome, and called for outside organizations to perform independent studies."

4.      Elite Universities Mull Participation In GI Bill’s Yellow Ribbon Program.   Newsweek (4/27, Ephron, 3.11M) reports, "Elite universities throughout the country…will decide in the coming weeks whether to help veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan study for free, using their own funds to supplement the new GI Bill, which goes into effect in August. But for many universities, faced with shrinking endowments and a rising pool of financial-aid applicants, this is no easy decision. … According to the GI Bill passed into law last year, veterans can study at the most expensive public university in their state, with the government covering full tuition and many fees, or they can apply the money to tuition at a private or out-of-state university. But veterans who choose an Ivy League school, for instance, will be left with a hefty bill. To close the gap, the government has offered to split the difference with these universities under a ‘Yellow Ribbon’ program."

5.      Homeland Security Secretary Urged To Spend Time Getting To Know Some Vets.   In continuing coverage, Bob Brewin writes in his Government Executive (4/20) "What’s Brewin’" blog says he wrote in 1975 about Vietnam veterans being negatively portrayed on US TV shows, and now, it is "2009, and we…have a bunch of new veterans demonized once again" by the US Homeland Security Department in a report "which surfaced this week." Brewin argues, "I think that" Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano "and whoever wrote the report…need to spend some time getting to know some veterans." She "might learn a bit about the post-war reality that all veterans face, which…amounts to a daily struggle to live in a society that has little grasp of the horrors of combat."
      NextGov’s "Tech Insider" (4/17, Nagesh), meanwhile, said, "The Internet is buzzing about" the recent release "of a controversial report from DHS’ Office of Intelligence and Analysis detailing the threat of returning military veterans being recruited by radical right-wing groups."

6.      Texas Attempting To Improve Mental Healthcare Efforts For Vets.   The El Paso (TX) Times (4/20, Kreighbaum) reports state senators in Texas recently "advanced bills that would provide a support network for combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder or other psychological problems." In addition, Gary Larcenaire, "chief executive officer of El Paso Mental Health Mental Retardation, has started a program to train" US veterans in mental health counseling, while the VA "in El Paso is starting to see progress in soldiers who seek treatment, said Dr. Merranda Miran, who leads the post-traumatic stress disorder clinical at the VA."

7.      Iraq Veteran Tests Battery-Powered Artificial Knee.   In continuing coverage, the WAVY-TV Norfolk, VA (4/18) website said veteran Greg Gadson, a resident of Chesapeake, Virginia, recently "rolled out a new generation of the world’s first battery-powered artificial knee," which is "designed to make walking a lot easier for those with prosthetics." Gadson "lost both legs to a roadside bomb in Iraq two years ago and says that after just a few days with the new artificial knees he can walk a mile at a time." WAVY added, "The first version of the power knee cost $70,000, but no price tag’s been put on the new version."

8.      Court Says Vet Was Wrongly Denied A State Handgun Buyer’s Permit.   The Omaha (NE) World-Herald (4/18, Hammel) reported, "An Omaha man who once expressed homicidal and suicidal thoughts was wrongly denied a state handgun buyer’s permit by the Douglas County sheriff, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Friday." Joseph D. Gallegos, a veteran who "sought voluntary treatment" in 2001 at the Veterans Affairs hospital "in Omaha for post-traumatic stress syndrome and depression," had "never been ‘committed’ to a mental institution under the definition of the 1968" Federal gun law, "according to the court’s unanimous opinion. He should not, therefore, have been denied a handgun permit in 2007, the court said." Deputy Douglas County Attorney Renee Mathias "said the ruling will affect only a few cases."

9.      VA Investigating Hospital In South Carolina.   In continuing coverage, South Carolina’s The State (4/19) said the US Department of Veterans Affairs "is investigating one of its South Carolina hospitals." VA news secretary Katie Roberts recently "told The Post And Courier of Charleston…the agency is investigating" the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston. Roberts "says the agency is looking into management practices." The AP (4/18) published a similar story.

10.    "Finishing Touches" Being Put On Cincinnati VAMC’s Mobile Health Unit.   The Cincinnati (OH) Enquirer (4/20, Wilkinson) reports the "finishing touches are being put" on a mobile health unit for the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The unit "will be wheeled out for the first time on May 16, Armed Services Day," at the Cincinnati VAMC’s "Welcome Home Celebration at Lunken Airport, an event expected to draw thousands of military veterans and their families." The Enquirer adds, "Only six mobile health units are in use among the 153 medical centers" in the US VA healthcare system. The Cincinnati one "is the only one paid for by private funds," according to Todd Sledge, "who heads the office of community affairs at the VA Medical Center in Corryville."



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