Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 4-30-09


What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans 

1. Budget Resolution Adopted In Congress Allows For Advanced VA Funding.  
2. Iraq Vet Selected To Run Detainee Affairs At Pentagon.  
3. VistA’s Ability To Be Of Use To Commercial Hospitals Disputed.  
4. VA Doctor Urges People To Be Prepared For Swine Flu.  
5. Filing Fee Waived For Proposed Veterans Home In Alabama. 
6. Lawmakers Praise Recently Deceased World War I-Era Vet.
7. Man Arrested For Illegally Obtaining VA Property.  
8. 100 Days On Veterans: A Reason To Hope.
9. Who Speaks For Veterans?
10. California VA Secretary To Retire. 


The prestigious William S. Middleton Award and Secretary’s Diamond Award will be presented this morning by Secretary Shinseki to two of VA’s most outstanding research pioneers. The 2008 Middleton Award will be presented to Stephen G. Waxman, MD, PhD, in recognition of his extraordinary contributions to the understanding of the causes and treatment of spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, and chronic neuropathic pain. The Diamond Award will be presented to Thomas Starzl, MD, PhD, for his life time achievement in transplantation medicine. Both Dr. Waxman, who has worked as a VA clinician-scientist for more than 30 years, and Dr. Starzl, who devoted nearly 50 years of his career to VA, have made exceptional contributions to the health and care of Veterans and Americans generally.  Dr. Waxman has dedicated himself to bridging science and medicine, building on the “genomic revolution” to develop new strategies for restoring function after spinal cord, nerve, and brain injury. Among his findings are a number of seminal discoveries about the basic molecular biology of sodium channels and their involvement in normal and neurological disease states. Dr. Starzl has come to be called the “Father of Transplantation” by revolutionizing the field of organ transplantation. His research on the basic science of immune regulation and transplantation immunology, as well as immunosuppressive drugs, led to his discovery of methods to prevent rejection of transplanted organs.


1.      Budget Resolution Adopted In Congress Allows For Advanced VA Funding.   In continuing coverage, CQ (4/30, Clarke) says that when the House and Senate both adopted a nonbinding fiscal 2010 budget resolution on Wednesday, veterans’ groups "won a long-sought goal," because the "budget would allow advance appropriations to be provided for Department of Veterans Affairs medical accounts." The groups "have contended that doing so would allow the VA to plan better and not have to be concerned about whether its annual appropriation is completed on time."

2.      Iraq Vet Selected To Run Detainee Affairs At Pentagon.   McClatchy (4/30, Rosenberg) reports the Obama Administration "has chosen" 33-year-old attorney Phillip E. Carter, an "Iraq war veteran who has denounced" US detention policy, "to direct detainee affairs at the Department of Defense." After noting that in 2004, Carter criticized "a White House decision to ‘shred the Geneva Conventions,’" McClatchy says Carter will occupy a post that was created by the Bush Administration "to oversee and develop detention policies after the public saw leaked photos of guards brutalizing detainees at Abu Ghraib, Iraq."

3.      VistA’s Ability To Be Of Use To Commercial Hospitals Disputed.   The Wall Street Journal (4/30, A11, Landro) reports, "At a time when" the Obama Administration "will penalize hospitals for not bringing their information technology out of the dark ages, a bright spot has emerged: free software created" by the US Department of Veterans Affairs "that still costs money to install and maintain, but often less than the offerings from private vendors." Such vendors, however, "say that they can provide a more reliable soup-to-nuts system and offer many features that users" of the Veteran’s Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture, or VistA, "have to tack on, notably billing and financial programs that commercial hospitals need to run their business."

4.      VA Doctor Urges People To Be Prepared For Swine Flu.   In continuing coverage, the Miami (FL) Herald (4/30, Dorschner) reports, "Now that the World Health Organization says that a global outbreak of swine flu may be imminent, you should treat it like a storm warning, experts say. ‘What do you do when the hurricane is coming?’ asked Gordon Dickinson, chief of infectious diseases at the Miami VA Medical Center. ‘You want to pay attention to the newspapers and television and be prepared,’" and that is "what people should be doing now with swine flu." The Herald adds, "That means don’t panic, but take simple precautions. Wash hands frequently and avoid contact with sick people," and if "you have flu symptoms — fever and fatigue, possibly with diarrhea and vomiting — see a doctor."
      VA BHHCS Officials To Evaluate Swine Flu Plan.   The Rapid City (SD) Journal (4/30, Holland) reports, "The planning is in place and discussions about how to proceed if the swine flu outbreak worsens have begun" at the Veterans Affairs Black Hills Health Care System (VA BHHCS), and on Thursday, VA BHHCS officials "will meet…to evaluate their plan. ‘We will be talking about what is our next step, and are we ready for it,’ said Deb Eiring, Public Affairs Specialist for the VA." Eiring, who "said the VA has been working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Homeland Security," and Health and Human Services, added, "We have done a lot of internal

communication with employees and clinical staff about what we know, areas of the country that are being impacted and symptoms."
      VA Employee One Of Two Being Tested For Swine Flu In Oklahoma.   The Muskogee (OK) Phoenix (4/30, Purtell) reports, "Two Muskogee hospitals confirmed that they have tested people for possible swine flu infection." Laurie Hoog, spokeswoman for Muskogee Regional Medical Center, "said the hospital is awaiting test results from the Oklahoma State Department of Health." Meanwhile, at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center, "spokeswoman Nita McClellan said they have run the same test on an employee. The Tulsa (OK) World (4/30, Archer) reports the VA employee "became ill after returning from a trip to Mexico and is now at home undergoing treatment with an antiviral medication," according to McClellan. The KJRH-TV Tulsa, OK (4/29, Grubbs) website also covered this story.

5.      Filing Fee Waived For Proposed Veterans Home In Alabama.   The Birmingham (AL) Business Journal (4/29, DeButts) said that "in an emergency ruling" announced Tuesday, the State Health Planning and Development Agency, Alabama’s healthcare regulatory agency, waived the $18,611filing fee "for a proposed 260-bed veterans home in Pell City because of the state’s budget crisis. The waiver request said the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs has been deprived of the funds needed to pay the Certificate of Need application fee." According to the Journal, such a certificate is "required before health care providers build new facilities or add services."

6.      Lawmakers Praise Recently Deceased World War I-Era Vet.   The Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal (4/30) reports, "Robley Rex, a Louisville" World War I-era veteran "who died Tuesday at age 107, was praised on the floors of Congress" Wednesday "by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Rep. John Yarmuth, D-3rd District. McConnell said the state and nation ‘have lost one of our last links to a bygone era.’" He added, "Decades after his own active service ended, he continued to serve his fellow soldiers by volunteering at the Louisville Veterans Affairs Medical Center, right up until the last years of his life." Meanwhile, in "his remarks, Yarmuth said, ‘The veterans who had the good fortune to spend some time with him, during his many volunteer visits" to the VA hospital, "spoke with a man who…helped blaze the trail for their service."
      In a separate story, the Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal (4/30, Shafer, Burba) notes that Kentucky VA Commissioner Ken Lucas also commented on Rex’s passing, saying, "I think he was sort of a sterling example of a veteran that continued to give. … Of course he’s legend about helping" at the Louisville VAMC. Mary Jane Crowder, the hospital’s director of volunteer services, agreed, saying "Rex ‘was very much a role model to veterans, and we hear that over and over.’"
      Hospital To Commemorate Vet’s Life.   The AP (4/30) reports, "A planned birthday party" for Rex "will instead be an occasion to remember him." When Rex died, he was "just four days short of his 108th birthday." Sen. McConnell, who "noted the death during a speech Wednesday" in Washington, "said a birthday celebration planned next month" at the Louisville VAMC "will instead be ‘an opportunity to remember how much Robley
meant to us.’"

7.      Man Arrested For Illegally Obtaining VA Property.   The Dublin (GA) Courier Herald (4/30, Wolf) says, "The sign nailed to a tree that read ‘Police Enforced’ seemed ironically prophetic Tuesday" as Federal detectives and "Dublin police investigators descended on the property" of 53-year-old Gregory Christian, "the East Laurens man who has been doing business" as Veterans Helping Veterans (VHV). Christian "was arrested Tuesday on a felony warrant and…charged with theft by deception for illegally obtaining government property belonging" to the Carl Vinson Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The Courier Herald adds that an "internal investigation at the VA revealed that on February 25, 2009, Christian allegedly obtained the property by presenting fraudulent documentation…claiming VHV was a certified nonprofit agency."

8.      100 Days On Veterans: A Reason To Hope.   An opinion piece from the Huffington Post (4/29) by Iraq veteran Jon Soltz, the co-founder of

9.       Who Speaks For Veterans?   An op-ed in the Washington Times (4/30) by Iraq veteran Gabe Ledeen, a "senior fellow with Vets For Freedom."

10.    California VA Secretary To Retire.   In its "Capitol Alert" blog, the Sacramento Bee (4/29, Yamamura) noted that California Veterans Affairs Secretary Tom Johnson "will retire May 13, according to an announcement" Wednesday "by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger," who said, "I want to thank Tom for all of his hard work to tackle the important issues facing California’s veterans and ensure the state of California honors those who have fought for our protection and security." Schwarzenegger added, "As Tom moves into retirement, my office will search for someone to…carry on his commitment and dedication to serving California’s veterans and their families."

      Rex Remembered Fondly By VA.   The WLKY-TV Louisville, KY (4/29) website said that while Rex, "Kentucky’s last surviving World War I veteran," was at the VA hospital, he "received the respect and admiration reserved for a five star general." And, in a Tuesday release, that admiration continued when Louisville VAMC Director Wayne Pfeffer said Rex’s "thoughtfulness, cheerfulness and sense of humor were treasures to those of us who had the privilege of knowing and/or working with him."



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