Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 5-28-09


What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans

1. Alaska Vets Said To Need Closer Healthcare.  
2. Holiday Holds Deep Meaning For Afghanistan Vet Working At National Cemetery.  
3. "Alarming" Suicide Figures Lead To Stand-Down At US Army Base.  
4. After Undergoing It, Chicago Talk Show Host Says Waterboarding Is Torture.  
5. Proposed Apartments On Sepulveda VA Land Creating Controversy.  
6. City Planning Commission Session To Discuss Planned New Orleans Hospitals.  
7. Doing More For America’s Troops.
8. Recession Hurting Veterans’ Service Groups In Some State Budgets.  
9. Medicare And The VA.
10. County In Maryland Honors WWII Vets, Renames Area Patriot Plaza.


1.      Alaska Vets Said To Need Closer Healthcare.   The Fairbanks (AK) Daily News-Miner (5/28) editorializes that members of Alaska’s "legislative delegation to Juneau deserve thanks for completing legislation, signed by Gov. Sarah Palin," that "should bring a veterans cemetery to Interior Alaska. The cemetery still needs to move up" on a Federal "waiting list, and it will need" Federal funding, but "with so many veterans and such long distances between communities, Alaska should be able to demonstrate the need." But progress "on the cemetery…carries a touch of irony" because "Department of Veterans Affairs regulations force some" living veterans "to travel to Anchorage or even Seattle to obtain certain medical procedures. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, recently raised this issue again in a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki." The News-Miner adds, "A veterans cemetery to honor, in death, those who served our nation is a worthy goal. So, too, is a health care system that honors them in life."

2.      Holiday Holds Deep Meaning For Afghanistan Vet Working At National Cemetery.   Long Island Newsday (5/24, Polsky) reported, "The 34 war dead from the Iraq and Afghanistan engagements lie at the…western edge of Section R at the Long Island National Cemetery, Pinelawn. Jack Novielli, 47," a mechanic at the facility, whose "335,000 interments" make it the "largest military burial ground" in the US, "does not pass by that section casually since he returned to work last month after 10 months as an Army reservist in Afghanistan." Novielli commented to Newsday about his job, saying it has increased his appreciation of the "actual meaning" of Memorial Day.
      Cemetery’s Director Treasures All Who Are Buried At Facility.   The New York Times (5/24, Feuer) reported, "The Long Island National Cemetery…is a beautiful and solemn place of sweeping grass interspersed by bright white marble graves. Spread over 364.7 acres, it is the second-largest…of the country’s 128 national cemeteries," but it "has the most graves, with more than 243,000 headstones marking the remains of 334,700 people, mostly military veterans and their spouses. ‘People always ask me if we have anyone important buried here,’ said William Rhoades," the cemetery’s director "and a 27-year veteran of the Coast Guard. ‘I always say: ‘Of course, we do. All of them.’"

3.      "Alarming" Suicide Figures Lead To Stand-Down At US Army Base.        The AP (5/28) reports Fort Campbell, "which leads the Army in suicides this year," began the "stand-down…so soldiers can focus on suicide-prevention training." In commenting on the situation, Brig. Gen. Stephen Townsend said, "This is not a place where Fort Campbell and the 101st Airborne Division want to be." He added, "We don’t want to lead the Army in this statistic." The WTVQ-TV Lexington, KY (5/27, Snowden) website published a similar story.
      Army Urged To Follow VA Approach To Suicide Prevention.   The CNN (5/27) website reported, "Townsend’s message — called a Second Suicide Stand-Down event — is likely to be ineffective, said Dr. Mark Kaplan, a professor of community health at

Portland State University in Oregon, who has researched veterans’ suicide and served last year" on a Veterans Affairs "blue-ribbon panel on suicide risk. ‘It sounds like an order,’ he told CNN in a telephone interview. I’m not sure that a command like this is going to alter the course of somebody who is on a trajectory of self-harm.’" Kaplan "suggested the Army might want to adopt" the US VA "model. ‘They’re dealing with a comparable problem with a similar population,’ Kaplan said. ‘They have infused more sensitivity to their approach to suicide prevention as opposed to this. This is like any other order.’"
      Fort Campbell "Diligently Working" To Prevent Suicides.   The Clarksville (TN) Leaf Chronicle (5/28, Lowary) notes that while Fort Campbell "has the highest suicide rate" in the Army, "some say it is also at the forefront of addressing the problem." Joe Varney, the suicide prevention manager at Fort Campbell, said, "We’ve been diligently working on this issue for quite some time." According to the Leaf Chronicle, "Varney and Emilee Owens, the Fort Campbell health promotions officer, work side by side evaluating the problem at Fort Campbell." The Leaf Chronicle adds that last week, Scott Ridgway, "executive director for the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, said…Fort Campbell is ‘doing a better job than they ever have’ at addressing the suicide problem, but there are still many unknowns."
      Research Says Women Vets More Likely To Commit Suicide Than Female Civilians.   Medscape (5/28, Cassels) says according to a study presented at this year’s annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, women veterans "are two to three times more likely to commit suicide" than non-veteran women. Meanwhile, a second study presented at the same meeting found that "female veterans are more likely to be young and use firearms to commit suicide compared with their civilian counterparts, who tend to choose other methods – commonly drug overdose."
      Website Part Of DOD Campaign To Destigmatize Mental Health Care.   According to NextGov (5/27, Brewin), the Defense Department has "launched a multimedia campaign" which includes a website "designed to reduce the stigma that combat" vets "and their families say they feel when seeking mental health care." The "site went live on May 21 on a dot-net domain, an address where developers hope troops and their families feel it is safe to look for mental health information as opposed to looking for the same information hosted on a dot-mil domain, said Army Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton," director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.
      Memorial Pays Tribute To Troubled Iraq Vet.   The Santa Cruz (CA) Sentinel (5/27, Kelly) reported, "Red, white and blue flowers now mark the oceanfront spot where" a US soldier "shot himself Friday, as people paid tribute to the accomplished infantryman. Cards and notes at the scenic spot along West Cliff Drive thank" 28-year-old Iraq veteran Roy Brooks Mason Jr. "for his service to the country and convey condolences to his family." In commenting on the story, VA spokeswoman Kerri Childress noted that her agency "has inpatient and outpatient programs for post traumatic stress disorder, depression and other mental needs." Such "programs would get a boost under President Obama’s 2010 budget" for the VA, "Childress said." The San Jose (CA) Mercury News (5/27) ran the same story.

4.      After Undergoing It, Chicago Talk Show Host Says Waterboarding Is Torture.   The AP (5/28, Bauder) reports the "offer for a donation" from MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann if Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity "undergoes waterboarding is off the table, the money gone instead" to Chicago "radio host Erich ‘Mancow’ Muller’s charity of choice after Mancow’s disquieting experience

with the interrogation technique." Waterboarding "has been a hot topic on talk TV and radio the last several weeks. The liberal Olbermann…contends it’s torture," while "the conservative Hannity…says it’s not. Olbermann leaped on it when Hannity said on the air last month that he’d be waterboarded for charity," but "Muller did it in his Chicago studio last Friday," saying afterwards that it is torture. Muller "went on Olbermann’s MSNBC show…to talk about his experience, after Olbermann pledged $10,000 to Veterans of Valor, an organization formed by Iraq War veteran Klay South to help injured veterans."

5.      Proposed Apartments On Sepulveda VA Land Creating Controversy.   The Los Angeles Times (5/28, Simmons) reports, "Developers of a proposed veterans housing complex in North Hills have until today to appeal a city zoning department ruling that would block the project, which has been mired in controversy for almost seven years." The "Homes for Heroes project seeks to convert two vacant earthquake-damaged medical buildings at the Sepulveda Veterans Affairs complex into 147 studio apartments for homeless and disabled veterans." The Federal "housing authority has made provisions to allow the apartments to be rented to military ‘veterans only,"" but "opponents of the project, including some veterans, are not convinced that the developers will honor the lease and rent only to former service personnel."
      The San Fernando Valley (CA) Sun (5/28, Chavez) says, "Hands shot up quickly at the end of The Greater Los Angeles Veterans’ Summit held May 20 at New Horizons on Parthenia St. in North Hills, when an informal vote was taken regarding the VA’s plan to develop 149 housing units for veterans on its Sepulveda campus in North Hills." And the "approximately 100 people who attended were nearly unanimous in opposing the plan."

6.      City Planning Commission Session To Discuss Planned New Orleans Hospitals.   The New Orleans Times-Picayune (5/28, Eggler) reports, "After months of calling for such a meeting, critics of plans for new Veterans Affairs and Louisiana State University hospitals in New Orleans will get a chance Thursday to voice their opinions" to the New Orleans City Planning Commission. Many "of the critics, however, are likely to be disappointed with the results and even the format of the session," because under "special rules approved Tuesday by the commission, members of the public wishing to speak" will "be limited to three minutes each and may not ask to allocate their time to another speaker." In addition, the "commission has emphasized that it does not have jurisdiction over the $2 billion hospital projects in lower Mid-City and does not intend to take any action as a result" of Thursday’s session.

7.      Doing More For America’s Troops.   In continuing coverage, Grace Vuoto, the "editor of Base News, a citizen-journalism project of The Washington Times for America’s military community," writes in a Washington Times (5/28) column that actor Gary Sinise "was grilled" by editors and reporters from the Times "for more than an hour on Memorial Day about his work on behalf" of US troops. But in "the end, the normally hard-nosed crowd gave a unanimous round of applause to a man whose commitment to America’s service members clearly is authentic. The endorsement was more heartfelt than any I have seen extended to leading" US politicians "and distinguished foreign leaders who have graced our Green Room in the past." Vuoto goes on to say that Sinise "was at a loss for words when asked why there are not more celebrities who are equally involved with the military community. ‘I don’t know; I wish I knew,’ he said, especially because ‘it’s a dangerous world’ and the work of the troops is indispensable."

8.      Recession Hurting Veterans’ Service Groups In Some State Budgets.   The AP (5/28) reports, "The wail of bagpipes at Memorial Day events honoring servicemen killed in Iraq and Afghanistan rang hollow for some military veterans this year," because in "Michigan and elsewhere, once-sacrosanct veterans’ programs are no longer safe from the knife as tax revenues continue sliding in the recession. In a recent budget-cutting order," Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm "and legislators slashed $1 million, or 25 percent, of funding for 11 groups that help veterans through a maze of paperwork and bureaucracy to get disability and pension benefits" from the US Department of Veterans Affairs. The "cut is forcing layoffs and likely will be carried over to the next budget, too." South Carolina is planning similar cuts in its budget, and "Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn recently outlined a ‘doomsday’ budget that would close all four of the state’s veterans’ home if an income tax increase is not passed."

9.      Medicare And The VA.   In "The Conscience of a Liberal," Paul Krugman’s New York Times (5/27) blog, Krugman said there have been "lots of opinion pieces declaring that Medicare is doomed" and "entitlements are out of control." But in the Veterans Affairs system, "we…have a real live case of impressive cost control in health care." Krugman added, "So if you really think…Medicare as it is is doomed, why not propose converting it to a VA-type system as opposed to simply declaring it bankrupt and shutting it down?" But "you know that the entitlements scaremongers won’t bite on this solution – because they don’t want to make social insurance affordable, they want to kill it."

10.    County In Maryland Honors WWII Vets, Renames Area Patriot Plaza.   The Towson (MD) Times (5/28, Thompson) reports Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith "kicked off Memorial Day a bit early on May 22 in a ceremony honoring Baltimore area World War II veterans." In addition, a Baltimore County plaza containing two monuments that "memorialize members of the county fire and police departments who have died in the line of duty" was officially renamed during the ceremony. That "plaza will now be called Patriot Plaza, honoring the men and women of the armed forces as well." Smith "credited David Phillips of the county Office of Budget and Finance with the idea for the plaza’s new name," and after Friday’s ceremony, "Brig. Gen. James Adkins, secretary of Veterans Affairs for Maryland," gave Phillips a keepsake coin in recognition of his efforts. The coin, which Adkins "said he had designed…himself," is "decorated with the Maryland seal, and the image of a militia man."



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