Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 5-15-09

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What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans

1. VA To Locate Health Center In San Joaquin County.  
2. VA Doctor Writes Book About Surviving The Khmer Rouge.  
3. Posting For VA Under Secretary Spotted On Craigslist.
4. Mullen: US Must Provide Better Mental Healthcare To Soldiers.  
5. VA, HUD Struggling To Sell Houses
6. VA Hospital In Wyoming Marks 75 Years.  
7. New GI Bill Benefits Spark Concerns About "Military Exodus."   
8. Huntington VAMC To Honor Tuskegee Airmen, Medal Of Honor Recipients.  
9. Overton Brooks VAMC To Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.  
10. Yoga Therapy Offered At VA Hospital In Colorado. 

     


HAVE YOU HEARD?
To date, VA has received more than 25,000 claims for education benefits during the first two weeks that veterans and servicemembers can apply online for the new Post-9/11 GI Bill. The number of education benefits’ applications submitted in the first week was more than three times the rate of benefit applications usually received through the Veterans Online Application system (VONAPP). VONAPP is used for all education benefit programs, as well as for submission of applications for VA disability compensation and pension benefits. The unprecedented volume of first-day applications slowed the system for some, but by the next morning performance was fully restored. Veterans can apply on-line through the GI Bill Web site at www.GIBILL.VA.gov. Additionally, paper applications are accepted at VA regional processing offices located in Muskogee, Okla.; Atlanta, Ga.; St. Louis, Mo.; and Buffalo, N.Y. Veterans applying now receive a “Certificate of Eligibility” and information about their benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Applicants may expect to receive their certificate within 24 days of submission. VA cannot pay benefits until Aug. 1, 2009.


 

1.      VA To Locate Health Center In San Joaquin County.   The Oakland (CA) Tribune (5/15, Richman) reports, "The Department of Veterans Affairs has decided that San Joaquin County will be the home of an expanded outpatient clinic and nursing home for veterans," US Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA) "announced Thursday. The lawmaker "said the decision marked ‘a great day for our region’s veterans and for San Joaquin County,’" which had been competing with Stanislaus County for the clinic and nursing home. McNerney, who "has been lobbying past and current VA secretaries to pick" San Joaquin, "added he’s hearing elation from county supervisors and local mayors." Meanwhile, "there apparently is no movement on McNerney’s plea that the VA reconsider its decision to shutter" the VA hospital in Livermore. In December, McNerney wrote to Eric Shinseki, the current VA secretary, "urging him to consider using Livermore as a site for expanded post-traumatic stress disorder and major-depression treatment." The Contra Costa (CA) Times (5/15) and the San Jose (CA) Mercury News (5/15) run the same story.
      The AP (5/15) reports the VA "says the new facilities" in San Joaquin County "will bring long-term care and expanded medical services closer to the 80,000 veterans living in the Central Valley." The AP adds that McNerney "says the center will bring 900 jobs to the area. Consultants will decide where in the county to build the nursing home and clinic this summer." The Stockton (CA) Record (5/15), Lodi (CA) News-Sentinel (5/15), and the KXTV-TV Sacramento, CA (5/14) website publish similar stories.
      The Modesto (CA) Bee (5/15) reports, "The VA is shooting to complete the valley health center" in San Joaquin County by "2015 but is promising expanded health care for Stanislaus County veterans much sooner." In addition, Kerri Childress, a VA spokeswoman, "said that officials are in the process of doubling the size of the Modesto VA clinic with additional mental health and primary care services. ‘We hope to have that completed by the end of this year,’ Childress said."
      Stanislaus County Official Disappointed By VA’s Decision.   A separate Modesto (CA) Bee (5/15, Carlson) article focused more on Stanislaus County losing "its bid for a major health care center to serve veterans." Rick Robinson, chief executive officer of Stanislaus County, said the VA’s decision "is very disappointing," but according to the Bee, "San Joaquin County appeared to make the louder pitch for the center. McNerney held a rally in French Camp in January, and the county supported its cause by circulating petitions and flooding the VA with letters."

2.      VA Doctor Writes Book About Surviving The Khmer Rouge.   On its website, KPBS-FM San Diego, CA (5/14, Cavanaugh, Walsh) said, "There are many physicians" at Veterans Affairs "hospitals who treat combat veterans" with post-traumatic stress disorder. But "few of those doctors have the deep and profound experience of the trauma of war that rests in the memory of…Dr. Sopheap Ly," who was "caught up in the national nightmare that overtook Cambodia in the 1970s — the takeover by the Communist Khmer Rouge." Dr. Ly, a "physician with the VA of San Diego," lived "through the nightmare and has now written" a book about it called "No Dream Beyond My Reach." The book is "due out later this month. KPBS posted a link to audio from an interview with Dr. Ly on its website.

 

3.      Posting For VA Under Secretary Spotted On Craigslist.   The WRC-TV Washington, DC (5/14) website reported, "The Department of Veteran Affairs is hiring a health official, and they’ve taken their search to the recently cleaned up classifieds site Craigslist. Vogue Republic spotted the listing for under secretary of health of the Veterans Health Administration, an appointed position the Senate must sign off on, on Craigslist." The position is "also listed on Facebook, where a post last month announced the retirement of former Under Secretary for Health Dr. Michael J. Kussman." 

4.      Mullen: US Must Provide Better Mental Healthcare To Soldiers.   In continuing coverage, the AP (5/15, Jakes) reports, "The nation’s highest-ranking military officer says the United States has to do a better job of taking care of soldiers’ mental health. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says the killing of five people at a Baghdad mental health clinic appears to back him up. The alleged shooter" was a US Army "sergeant said to have mental health problems," and on Thursday, "Mullen told Congress…there’s still a stigma attached to mental health treatment within the military." The AP notes that the Obama Administration "wants to expand treatment with its new budget proposal." The NPR (5/14) and CBS News (5/14) websites also noted Mullen’s comments.

      VA Clinic Has Treated Hundreds For PTSD.   The website for KCSG-TV St. George, UT (5/14, Cull), website reported, "After a shooting" this week that "killed five" US soldiers at a combat stress clinic in Iraq, US officials "are saying the incident is an isolated situation." Still, the local VA clinic "is taking all the steps they can to make sure our local veterans are getting the treatment they need. They say they’ve seen close to 300 people" for PTSD. The VA "also says they’ve seen a high success rate for those soldiers who come in for help for PTSD."
      Vets Urged To Seek Treatment.   After noting that Amarillo psychiatrist Matthew Houseal was one of the people killed during the clinic shooting, the KFDA-TV Amarillo, TX (5/14) website said US troops "returning from tours overseas have more treatment options available than ever before," but "many soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan aren’t receiving the treatment they need. ‘What I’ve noticed with a lot of the newer vets, the younger veterans, is that they come home and they want to be alone, they want to be left and sometimes that’s not the best thing for them,’ said David Crabtree, Amarillo VA Patient Representative. ‘They need to get out and start doing things again and they need to get in and get evaluated.’"
      In a similar story, the WTOV-TV Wheeling, WV (5/14) website, which also noted the clinic shooting in Iraq, reported that "John Looney, a team leader" at the Wheeling Vet Center, "said any soldier who experiences combat suffers from some degree of PTSD." But Looney also "said there is plenty of help locally to allow soldiers to cope."
      The Dallas Morning News (5/15, Tarrant) reports, "Two years ago, the Dallas VA Medical Center set up a Mental Health Trauma Services clinic to treat military personnel" for PTSD. Such "clinics are located at VA medical centers across the country and are part of an array of services offered by military and veterans organizations in recognition that the lengthy wars and repeated combat rotations have caused widespread mental health problems within the military’s ranks."
      Iraq Vet Says Courage Is Needed When It Comes To Getting Help.   The KUTV-TV Salt Lake City, UT (5/14) website interviewed Iraq veteran Luke Nielsen, who said, "It takes more courage to go tell someone you need help than it takes to go to Iraq and Afghanistan and do what you have to. KUTV added that the VA hospital in Salt Lake City "welcomed Nielsen, and is now providing him with medicines and treatment that helps him combat…PTSD."
      Program Providing Service Dogs To Troubled Vets.   The Zanesville (OH) Times Recorder (5/15, Thompson) reports Iraq veteran Allen Hill and his dog Frankie "are going to appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show on Friday." Hill "is crediting Frankie…with giving him the treatment he needs to deal with his PTSD." The Times Recorder notes that Hill got Frankie through a program called "Dog Tags: Service Dogs for Those Who’ve Served Us," which "donates fully trained service dogs to wounded soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. The program gives dogs to those veterans coming back with not just physical injuries but those with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries."

5.      VA, HUD Struggling To Sell Houses.   USA Today (5/15, Heath) reports, "The combination of a deep recession and a foundering housing market has left" the US government "with more than 50,000 houses on its hands." And now, Federal "records show it’s struggling to unload the houses and facing billions of dollars in losses." Both the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs "are trying to speed up sales to cut the number of homes they own," but "with prices falling, every sale also means deeper losses." But Bill Apgar, a senior adviser to Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan, and Mark Bologna, director of the VA’s Loan Guaranty Service, "note that the government has faced such challenges before, particularly in the late 1980s, when another real estate downturn prompted a spike in foreclosures."

6.      VA Hospital In Wyoming Marks 75 Years.   On its website, KGWN-TV Cheyenne, WY (5/14) said the Veterans Affairs medical center in Cheyenne "first opened its doors to provide health services for veterans in May of 1934." And as part of a recent anniversary celebration, "military re-enactors rose an American flag at the same location as the VA’s opening 75 years ago. Many were on hand not only to celebrate, but to thank the VA for all of its support to veterans."

7.      New GI Bill Benefits Spark Concerns About "Military Exodus."   The Christian Science Monitor (5/15, Lubold) said on its website that veterans "are scrambling to sign up for a generous new GI Bill," but "there are questions about whether the government’s magnanimity will create a military exodus. Since May 1, more than 25,000 veterans have signed up" for the new benefits, and when the Department of Veterans Affairs "opened the online registration site two weeks ago, the system crashed from the weight of interest," and the "concern is that the program could be so enticing that many service members will leave the military to go to school." Pentagon personnel officials, however, "won’t have a sense of the impact of the new GI Bill until a few months after the Aug. 1 start date, when trends should become clearer. But one provision added to the bill could encourage members of the military to remain in the force for at least one more four-year term." Because if "they do, they can transfer the benefits of the GI Bill to an immediate family member." In "addition to improving retention, the transferability clause of the GI Bill could also be a strong recruiting tool."

8.      Huntington VAMC To Honor Tuskegee Airmen, Medal Of Honor Recipients.   The Huntington (WV) Herald-Dispatch (5/14) reported, "A special program will honor Tuskegee Airmen and Congressional Medal of Honor recipients at 11 a.m. Monday, May 18," at the Huntington Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

9.      Overton Brooks VAMC To Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.   The Shreveport (LA) Times (5/14) noted that Shreveport’s Overton Brooks Veterans Affairs Medical Center "will present its annual Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Program Monday at 12:30 p.m. in its second-floor Education Center." The theme "for this year is ‘Leadership to meet the Challenges of a Changing World.’" The "guest speaker" will be "Dr. Abid Nazeer with Mental Health Service."

10.    Yoga Therapy Offered At VA Hospital In Colorado.   The Grand Junction (CO) Free Press (5/15, Sullivan) reports "occupational therapist Susan Crosby" has been teaching "yoga classes…once a week in the conference room" at the Veterans Affairs medical center in Grand Junction. Crosby, who has "worked at the…hospital for almost six years," has been treating "people with yoga therapy as part of her work at the VA for the past four years. She said her supervisor was supportive when she wanted to add yoga therapy to her job. ‘Lots of VAs are doing yoga,’ Crosby said," adding, "There are pockets of complimentary, alternative medicine present in the VA system."

 

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