Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 5-27-09


What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans

1. Funding Aims To Improve Rural Vets’ Care.  
2. Memorial Day Ceremony Held At Six Flags.  
3. Judge Trying To Establish Veterans’ Court In California.  
4. National Cemeteries Host Memorial Day Ceremonies
5. Blue Star Mothers Meet With Lawmaker.  
6. Vet Accused Of Violating Stolen Valor Act    
7. VA Doctor: Good Elderly Health Begins With Steps Taken In Middle Age.  
8. Tomah VAMC Commemorates Memorial Day.  
9. Golf Tournament Raises Money For VA’s Therapeutic Recreation Program
10. Interest High In Newly Opened Texas State Veterans Cemetery.


1.      Funding Aims To Improve Rural Vets’ Care.   The lead story in Ron Seman’s syndicated "Veteran’s Beat" column, appearing in Ohio’s News-Leader (5/27) reports, "The Department of Veterans Affairs has provided $215 million in competitive funding to improve services specifically designed for veterans in rural and highly rural areas. The announcement was made in a May 21 news release," in which VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said, "These funds will allow VA to establish new outpatient clinics, expand collaborations" with Federal "and community partners, accelerate the use of telemedicine deployment, explore innovative uses of technology and fund pilot programs." Seman adds, "The new funding is part of an ambitious VA program to improve access and quality of health care…for veterans in geographically rural areas, with an emphasis on the use of the latest technologies, recruitment and retention of a well-educated and trained health care workforce and collaborations with non-VA rural health community partners." Modern Healthcare (5/25, Zigmond) also took note of this story.

2.      Memorial Day Ceremony Held At Six Flags.   In continuing coverage, the Chicago Daily Herald (5/27, Pierri) reports "a Memorial Day ceremony" was held at "Six Flags Great America in Gurnee" Monday, where almost "200 vets participated in the 2nd Annual Welcome Home Celebration." The event was staged by the "North Chicago Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Great Lakes Naval Station…as a way" to thank those "who have served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom."

3.      Judge Trying To Establish Veterans’ Court In California.   On its website, KGO-TV San Francisco, CA (5/26, Wang) reported, "Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Gary Medvigy…thinks the district attorney’s office has been too aggressive in its prosecution of veterans," so he is "trying to establish a veterans’ court." So "far, the effectiveness of veterans’ courts is based on limited results. But in Buffalo, New York, where the first one" was established, "only two out of 100 veterans failed the program."

4.      National Cemeteries Host Memorial Day Ceremonies.   In continuing coverage, the Roseburg (OR) News-Review (5/27, Harshman) reports, "Hundreds of Douglas County residents attended the annual" Memorial Day Tribute at the Roseburg National Cemetery Monday. During the tribute, Tracy Weistreich, "chief nurse executive for the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center, read President Barack Obama’s Memorial Day proclamation and Ozzie Garza, public affairs director for the VA’s Dallas Regional Office, spoke about the country’s tradition of honoring the defenders and protectors of the United States."
      The Alexandria (LA) Town Talk (5/27, Brown) reports, "Tiny flags waved back and forth in the breeze from their spots in front of each of the thousands of non-descript gravestones at the Alexandria National Cemetery" as "Monday’s Memorial Day program" was held there. The "rows of seats set up on the center of the cemetery were full, and people spilled out leaning against trees and in lawn chairs."
      The South Florida Sun-Sentinel (5/27, Pensa) reports, "More than 1,000 veterans, family members and friends endured sweltering heat to attend" Monday’s second annual "Memorial Day ceremony at the South Florida National Cemetery." The WPEC-TV West Palm Beach, FL (5/26, Weber) website also noted Monday’s ceremony.
      The Salisbury (NC) Post (5/26, Wineka) said, "A large crowd…put their holiday weekend plans on hold Monday…to attend the ‘Memorial Day Remembrance’" at the Hefner Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s National Cemetery Annex. The Post added that Hefner VAMC’s director, Carolyn Adams, "reminded her Salisbury audience that everything enjoyed by Americans today was paid for by those who died and by 23 million veterans still living who stepped in harm’s way" for their country.
      The Muskogee (OK) Phoenix (5/26, McMahan) noted that Rudy Klopfer, "associate director of the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center in Muskogee," was "among several speakers" Monday at the Fort Gibson National Cemetery’s Memorial Day service.
      The online Seattle Post-Intelligencer (5/26, Pulkkinen) said "hundreds of veterans joined families and friends Monday at Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent to remember the nation’s war dead." The VA-run cemetery "has seen 26,000 veterans interred there since it opened in 1997."
      Computer Crash Knocks Out Grave Locator Kiosks.   The Springfield (MO) News-Leader (5/27, Penprase) reports, "People visiting the Springfield National Cemetery over the Memorial Day holiday discovered finding veterans’ graves a tougher battle than usual because a computerized grave locator was out of action. It wasn’t a problem occurring only at the Springfield cemetery," however, because 66 "national cemeteries equipped with computerized kiosks were affected by a computer crash at the National Cemetery Administration in Quantico, Va., according" to the VA officials. The News-Leader says a "new hard drive has been installed, but more work needs to be done and the task might not be finished until Wednesday," according to VA spokeswoman Jo Schueda.5.      Blue Star Mothers Meet With Lawmaker.   The San Antonio (TX) Express-News (5/26, Ludwig) noted that on Monday, "advocates from Blue Star Mothers of America, a group for mothers with children serving in the military, gathered" in the San Antonio office of US Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX) "to bring up concerns," including "removing the stigma attached to mental health issues." The Express-News added that Rodriguez "said he is supporting a host of proposed laws to ease the burden on soldiers and their families, including one that would require across-the-board counseling and prohibit discrimination against veterans being treated" for post-traumatic stress disorder.

6.      Vet Accused Of Violating Stolen Valor Act.   The Marine Corps Times (5/27, Lamothe) reports, "The California Department of Veterans Affairs honored former Cpl. Eric Piotrowski in 2007, presenting him with a Silver Star for his actions 16 years earlier during Operation Desert Storm." But Piotrowski "never earned the medal, according to military documents and the FBI, which arrested and charged him May 8 with one misdemeanor count of violating the Stolen Valor Act and one felony count of lying to agents investigating the case." Piotrowski "pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on $10,000 unsecured bond, said Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman" for the US Attorney’s Office in Sacramento. Meanwhile, at the "California VA, Piotrowski’s case has made officials rethink how they research veterans" they consider honoring.

7.      VA Doctor: Good Elderly Health Begins With Steps Taken In Middle Age.   The New York Daily News (5/27, Charles) reports, "As the Ellen and Howard Katz chairman of the Geriatrics Department at Mount Sinai" and the Bronx Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Dr. Al Siu "runs a department that treats almost 5,000 elderly patients a year, 2,500 of them on an outpatient basis and 2,000 inpatient." Siu "includes himself in the generation that can hope to achieve unprecedented longevity: ‘The goal of most of us is to live into our 80s and 90s in good health.’ But you shouldn’t wait until you have Medicare benefits at 65 to start thinking about how to maximize health in old age," because "health and lifestyle habits in middle age will play a major role in affecting your health decades later. ‘People age 35-50 should have discussions with their doctor about their long-term health,’ says Siu. ‘Don’t wait until you’re 65, when you have your welcome-to-Medicare visit.’"

8.      Tomah VAMC Commemorates Memorial Day.   The Tomah (WI) Journal (5/26, Medinger) noted that on Friday, the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center "paid tribute to past and present American soldiers that have lost their lives during" a ceremony "commemorating Memorial Day. The VA also remembered the ongoing sacrifices being made by soldiers overseas."

9.      Golf Tournament Raises Money For VA’s Therapeutic Recreation Program.   The Battle Creek (MI) Enquirer (5/27, Kowalski) reports Ron Beurmann, "the head professional at the Country Club of Jackson, shot an 8-under par 60 on Tuesday to win the 56th annual VA/PGA Tournament at Custer Greens Golf Course on the grounds" of the Battle Creek Veterans Affairs Medical Center. As "is the case every year at the event that’s played the day after Memorial Day," the "West Michigan PGA makes donations to the VA’s therapeutic recreation program. This year, the donations included…$600" to "the VA’s Golden Age Games fund. Additionally," Tom Harding, who finished tied for third in the tournament, "made a $150 personal donation for the Golden Age Games."

10.    Interest High In Newly Opened Texas State Veterans Cemetery.   The Abilene (TX) Reporter-News (5/27, Levesque) reports, "Clint Lynch, director of the new Texas State Veterans Cemetery at Abilene, was ready when the office opened for business for the first time Tuesday. Sure enough, calls about funeral arrangements started pouring in and visitors started dropping" by the facility, "which was dedicated on Memorial Day."
      Dedication Ceremony Held On Memorial Day.   The AP (5/26) reported, "A crowd of nearly 1,500 people attended a dedication ceremony" Monday for the cemetery. A spokesman for Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson "says the first burials are expected June 1." The Abilene (TX) Reporter-News (5/26, Fields) published a similar story.


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