Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 5-1-09


What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans 

1. Duckworth To Raise Awareness About New Education Benefits  
2. Bionic Arm Presented During Veterans Affairs Research Week.  
3. Money Withheld From VA Nursing Home Contactor. 
4. Walter Reed Marks 100 Years.  
5. Vet Center Attempting To Get The Word Out About Its Services.  
6. Stimulus Package Aims To Model VA’s Success With Digital Records.  
7. VA Doctors Treat Swine Flu Patient In Nebraska.  
8. Tomah VAMC Physical Therapy Patient Tests Mechanical Horse.  
9. VA Co-Sponsoring Job Workshop.  
10. 2011 National Veterans Wheelchair Games To Be Held In Pittsburgh.


VA starts accepting applications for the Post 9/11 GI Bill today, May 1, 2009. We will issue Certificates of Eligibility for eligible applicants, and begin making payments August 1, 2009, the first day benefits can be paid under this law. Veterans, service members, reservists, and National Guard members with active duty service since September 11, 2001, may be eligible for this benefit. Individuals may apply on-line through the GI Bill website at The Post 9/11 GI Bill marks the most expansive increase in veterans’ education benefits since World War II. Not only does it provide eligible individuals with college tuition assistance, but for many participants it also provides a housing allowance, a stipend for books and supplies, and the option of sharing these benefits with family members. Information about the new program and VA’s other educational benefits can be obtained through the website or by calling 1-888-GIBILL-1 (1-888-442-4551).

1.   Duckworth To Raise Awareness About New Education Benefits.   After similarly noting that Duckworth was scheduled to join Obama and Shinseki at Thursday’s White House event, Ed O’Keefe said in his "Federal Eye" blog for the Washington Post (4/30) that Duckworth, one of the Administration’s "most visible faces on veterans issues," has only been on the job for four days. But her "first big project launches" Friday, "when the VA starts accepting applications" for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which includes a Yellow Ribbon Program. O’Keefe noted that Duckworth’s alma matter, George Washington (GW) University, recently announced it will participate in the program.
      In related stories, the second item in Justin Palk’s "Military Intelligence" column for the Frederick (MD) News-Post (4/30) also noted that the VA will begin "taking applications for the Post-9/11 GI Bill" on Friday, while the GW Hatchet (4/30, Grossman, Middleberg) said, "Many veterans will not have to pay a penny to attend" GW "under the Yellow Ribbon Program — a provision of the new GI Bill — University President Steven Knapp announced at an event in Kogan Plaza Tuesday morning." At Tuesday’s announcement, Knapp "was joined by…Duckworth, a GW alumna who lost both her legs while serving in Iraq."
      Inside Higher Ed (5/1, Redden), meanwhile, notes, "The deadline for colleges to sign up as Yellow Ribbon institutions has been extended from May 15 to June 15." And "it’s a good thing, too, as many colleges are still grappling with the program’s many complexities."
      VA "Set To Go" On New GI Bill.   The Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot (5/1, Eisman) reports, "Up to half a million veterans are expected to begin seeking" Federal college aid Friday "as the largest GI Bill program since the Vietnam War hits its first critical milestone." The VA "was to start accepting applications this morning from Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans for assistance under" the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The VA "also is collecting applications from vets seeking help under the new law’s predecessor, the Montgomery GI Bill. ‘We are set to go,’ said Keith Wilson, the VA’s director of education services." Wilson’s "agency has hired 500 people to process applications, anticipating a 25 percent jump in the number of vets who will seek school aid. Funds will begin to flow to those vets and their colleges in August."
      DOD Attempting To Spread Word About Bill’s Transferability Provisions.   The American Forces Press Service (5/1, Miles) says that with the VA "ready to begin accepting sign-ups for the Post-9/11 GI Bill May 1, the Defense Department is working to get word out on its proposed policy regarding the bill’s transferability provisions to help

service members decide if the new benefit is right for them." The "rules for Post-9/11 GI Bill transferability are in the final stages," and Bob Clark, the Pentagon’s assistant director for accessions policy, "said DoD expects few changes, if any." The AFPS notes that "details about the Post-9/11 GI Bill are posted" on the DoD and VA websites, "and the Pentagon’s proposed transferability policy" is on the DoD. The Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger (5/1, Dinges) also notes the latest news on the new GI Bill.

2.      Bionic Arm Presented During Veterans Affairs Research Week.   The Navy Times (5/1, Kennedy) reports, "In the past, most amputations have involved lower limbs, which means researchers focused on prosthetic legs and feet while avoiding arms." But "in a presentation during Veterans Affairs Research Week, scientists grinned as they demonstrated a new bionic arm that can do everything from picking up a grape without smooshing it to tossing a ball to reaching for an item on a high shelf." In commenting on the technology, Army Col. Geoffrey Ling, "who manages the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Revolutionizing Prosthetics Program, which funded the project in conjunction with the Veterans Affairs Department," said, "Our goal was not to create a robotic arm, but to improve function." Meanwhile, Linda Resnick, a research health scientist at the Providence VA Medical Center "said 22 percent of amputee veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have lost upper limbs."

3.      Money Withheld From VA Nursing Home Contactor.   The Amarillo (TX) Globe News (5/1, Pittman) reports, "General contractor Plains Builders in Amarillo will lose out on more than $100,000 it was owed for a project" after the US Labor Department "withheld the funds to pay back wages to 90 underpaid construction workers," the Federal agency announced Wednesday. The Veterans Health Administration had "contracted with Plains Builders to build" a Veterans Affairs nursing home in Amarillo, but according "to the Labor Department and Plains’ attorney, a subcontractor" that Plains hired for the project "classified carpenters as laborers and did not pay those workers required wages, overtime and fringe benefits." The Labor Department "withheld money due Plains for the project to pay those workers."

4.      Walter Reed Marks 100 Years.   In continuing coverage, the AP (5/1, Lane) says the Walter Reed Army Medical Center "will reflect on…its history" Friday "as it marks its centennial anniversary." The hospital, which "has been a home away from home for more than more than 10,000…service members" wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan, "sponsored a symposium of its history on Wednesday. It plans to hold a formal ceremony and ball Friday to wrap-up the celebration."

5.      Vet Center Attempting To Get The Word Out About Its Services.   After noting that the "Vet Center program was established" by Congress "in 1979 out of recognition that a significant number of Vietnam veterans were still experiencing readjustment problems," the Bossier (LA) Press-Tribune (4/30, Reed) reported, "Today there are over 200 Vet Centers across" the US, "in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam that serve" all "combat veterans and their families." Yolanda Burnom, a clinical coordinator for the Shreveport-Bossier Vet Center, "said that although the Vet Center is great program, it is under utilized due to a lack of information being available to veterans in the community about their services." So to "help educate the community, the Vet Center hired Garrett Juneau as a readjustment counselor technician."

6.      Stimulus Package Aims To Model VA’s Success With Digital Records.   The Kansas City Star (5/1, Bavley) says Mark Plautz, a "critical-care specialist, can pull up his patients’ complete medical files from computer terminals throughout" the Kansas City Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The "world of health care…is one of the last bastions of paperwork – files and orders written by hand, stuffed into folders and stored on shelves." But that is "all about to change," because tucked into the Federal stimulus package" is $19 billion to computerize the nation’s health care system. The goal: For every hospital and doctor’s office to do what the Department of Veterans Affairs has been doing successfully for years – put patients’ records into computer files and share them electronically when patients visit other doctors and hospitals."

7.           VA Employee Tests Negative For Swine Flu.   In continuing coverage, the Muskogee (OK) Phoenix (5/1) reports, "Nita McClellan, public affairs officer for the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center, said" Thursday "that an employee who returned from a vacation in Mexico" with swine flu-like symptoms "is in the clear. ‘We received the test results from the Oklahoma State Department of Health,’ she said. ‘All the tests have come back negative for any type of influenza."

8.      Tomah VAMC Physical Therapy Patient Tests Mechanical Horse.   The La Crosse (WI) Tribune (4/29, Hubbuch) said 76-year-old disabled veteran Galen Sheridan, a competitor in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Golden Age Games, "has done physical therapy at the Tomah VA Medical Center for years." His "usual routine involves a recumbent stationary bicycle," but on Tuesday, he "climbed on a mechanical horse and went for a ride." Sheridan "was trying out" the Ride-Tutor, new technology donated to the hospital by "BodyOrbit, a Taiwanese maker of fitness machines. Eric Chuang, the company’s sales manager, traveled from Taiwan to witness the machine in action." The Tribune added that kinesiotherapist Carmilla Schneider "said patients already are asking if they’ll get to ride the horse."

9.       VA Co-Sponsoring Job Workshop.   The lead story in Justin Palk’s "Military Intelligence" column for the Frederick (MD) News-Post (4/30) said a free Federal job-search workshop will be held at "Fort Detrick on June 4." Palk noted that the US Department of Veterans Affairs Acquisition Academy is co-sponsoring the event.

10.    2011 National Veterans Wheelchair Games To Be Held In Pittsburgh.   In continuing coverage, the last item in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s (4/29) "In Brief" column said Pittsburgh "is the designated host city for the 2011 National Veterans Wheelchair Games, and the designated co-hosts" are the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System and the Keystone Paralyzed Veterans of America, who "are hoping to raise money to offset the cost of the event."


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