Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 6-16-09


What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans

1. Researcher Hopes VA Grant Will Help Wounded Vets.  
2. With Help From VA, Other Sources, Family Able To Break Ground On New Home.  
3. Kansas Vets Compete In Golden Age Games.  
4. Ohio Vet, Others Hope To Win Agent Orange Exposure Benefits.  
5. Veteran Waiting For Disability Benefit Payments.  
6. VA Doctor Using Theoretical Autopsies To Help Living Patients.  
7. Meeting Reveals Some Agreement On Diabetes Research.  
8. Psoriasis Linked To Higher Risk Of Heart Attack, Stroke, Death.  
9. VA Hospital To Celebrate 75 Years Of Service To Veterans.  
10. VA Relocating Illinois Clinic.  


Memorial Day 2009 is a memory but it’s also important to remember the vital role VA National Cemeteries play in hosting Memorial Day observances and focusing public attention on the true meaning of a national holiday dedicated to honoring and remembering the ultimate sacrifice a citizen – a veteran – can make on behalf of our Nation. Nearly 150,000 people attended Memorial Day observances and activities at VA National Cemeteries that honored the more than one million men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military during periods of war and hostility — 655,000 in battle. All these observances were meaningful, but some were unique. At VA’s busiest National Cemetery in Riverside, Calif., volunteers read aloud the names of 150,000 veterans buried there. Seven-hundred volunteers read the names during around the clock half-hour shifts. As more than one National Cemetery director put it in discussing Memorial Day preparations with news media, “Every day is Memorial Day at a VA National Cemetery.” 

1.      Researcher Hopes VA Grant Will Help Wounded Vets.   The Wichita (KS) Eagle (6/16, Wenzel) reports, "The Wichita scientists who hope to improve orthopedic medicine worldwide in the next few years also hope to heal and restore wounded veterans from the bone injuries many have suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last month, a team of Wichita scientists," led by Paul Wooley, "won the first installment of a $20 million state grant to invent medical implants in Wichita." And just last week, Wooley "finished writing another grant proposal, this one for about $900,000" to the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Crystal Lindaman, "a spokeswoman for the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita, said VA officials are sure that Wooley’s research will benefit not only orthopedic medicine worldwide but also soldiers in combat and in VA hospitals."

2.      With Help From VA, Other Sources, Family Able To Break Ground On New Home.   The Fort Wayne (IN) Journal-Gazette (6/15, Haynie) noted that companies, "organizations and individuals from northeast Indiana have pledged more than $30,000 to help" the family of 32-year-old disabled Iraq veteran Tom Davis "build a five-bedroom home where Tom can turn circles under wide doorframes and roll quickly across wood floors. With that money, along with a $140,000 construction loan and a $50,000" Veterans Affairs grant, "approved after appeal, the family recently broke ground on a 2-acre lot in Fremont."

3.      Kansas Vets Compete In Golden Age Games.   In continuing coverage, the Leavenworth (KS) Times (6/16) reports, "Three veterans from Leavenworth spent the week of June 1 in Birmingham, Ala., as competitors in the 23rd National Veterans Golden Age Games. Joseph Bauer, Ronnie Grigsby and Thurman McKnight competed against nearly 700 veterans" in the "largest sporting event in the world for senior veterans. All participants" are US military veterans "from across the country who are 55 years old and older, receiving medical care through the Department of Veterans Affairs."

4.      Ohio Vet, Others Hope To Win Agent Orange Exposure Benefits.   The Cambridge (OH) Daily Jeffersonian (6/15, Davis) noted that Edward L. Roberts, a resident of Cambridge, "said he is not alone in his fight for military benefits due him because of exposure to Agent Orange. In fact, said…Roberts, as many as 300,000 former naval personnel could be affected by their exposure to the defoliant during the Vietnam War." The Federal government, however, "has refused to grant Roberts the disability benefits he said is due both him and many others because of the costs involved in compensation." So, a "lawsuit was filed. As lower courts ruled in favor of the veterans," but in "May of lat year," the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit "overturned…lower court rulings" that had gone in favor of the veterans. The "issue may be heard by the Supreme Court," but for now, "Roberts and thousands of other veterans must continue to wait and hope for their case to fall on a sympathetic ear."

5.      Veteran Waiting For Disability Benefit Payments.   On its website, KRDO-TV Colorado Springs, CO (6/15, Wurtz) said US Army veteran Clayton Wingfield "says he’s missing out on thousands of dollars in benefits and says now he’s at risk of losing his home." Wingfield, who has "been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI)," applied "for his disability benefits at the end of 2008." He says the Department of Veterans Affairs has "already rated me 70% disabled, but there’s a competency issue and they say I’m not competent enough to control my own funds." KRDO added, "Wingfield says the Army is going to start up disability pay July 1 of about $1,000 a month until things are straightened out with the VA." KRDO (6/15, 10:09 p.m. MT) also aired a report on this story.

6.      VA Doctor Using Theoretical Autopsies To Help Living Patients.   In its July 2009 issue, National Geographic magazine reports, "For the past 15 years," Philip Mackowiak, chief of medicine at the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center, "has supervised the ultimate postmortem: a conference that challenges participants to deduce the cause of death for historical figures like Pericles, Columbus, and Mozart. Using evidence drawn from diaries, historical records, and contemporary accounts, presenters perform theoretical autopsies, which help them refine their ability to diagnose living patients."

7.      Meeting Reveals Some Agreement On Diabetes Research.   In a story on the "American Diabetes Assn. meeting" held recently in New Orleans, the Los Angeles Times (6/16, Maugh, 797K) reports, "Doctors already knew that tight control of blood sugar levels is an effective method of preventing cardiovascular and other complications of Type 1 diabetes," but the "situation is more complicated for Type 2, which affects the vast majority of the 24 million diabetics" in the US. Researchers "and clinicians had always believed that aggressively lowering sugar levels is beneficial, until two major studies released last year muddied the waters." One of the studies, "called Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes or ACCORD, suggested that aggressively lowering blood sugar caused a 20% increase in deaths…or subnormal blood sugar levels." The second study, "the Veterans Affairs Diabetes Trial or VADT, found no increased risk of deaths, but no overall benefit from aggressive treatment. New analyses of the data presented" at the New Orleans meeting "fail to answer the question of why some researchers saw increased risks while others didn’t. Two important conclusions they did reach, however, were that diabetics should avoid hypoglycemic episodes…and that aggressive treatment should begin as soon as possible after diagnosis."

8.      Psoriasis Linked To Higher Risk Of Heart Attack, Stroke, Death.   HealthDay (6/16, Edelson) reports, "People with psoriasis face an increased risk of major cardiovascular disease and death, a new study finds. The research, which included data" from a Veterans Affairs "medical facility study to compare 3,236 people suffering from the skin disease to 2,500 psoriasis-free individuals, found a 78 percent higher incidence of heart disease, a 70 percent higher incidence of stroke and a 98 percent higher incidence of peripheral arterial disease (blockage of arteries in the legs) in the psoriasis group. The overall death rate for those with psoriasis was 86 percent higher than for those without the disease." HealthDay says the findings of the new study appear "in the June issue of the Archives of Dermatology." WebMD (6/16, Hitti) runs a similar story.

9.      VA Hospital To Celebrate 75 Years Of Service To Veterans.   The Batavia (NY) Daily News (6/16) notes that the Department of Veterans Affairs medical center "at Batavia will celebrate 75 years of service to veterans June 27 at the facility at 222 Richmond Ave." Assemblyman Stephen Hawley "will emcee the program with William F. Feeley, director, VA WNY Healthcare System, delivering the keynote address."

10.    VA Relocating Illinois Clinic.   WAND-TV Champaign, IL (6/15, 6:01 p.m. CT) broadcast, "Veterans in the city of Springfield will soon have a new place to go for medical care, but they may have to travel farther to get it." The Department of Veterans Affairs’ clinic "on North Seventh Street will soon close its doors. The facility will re-open in a larger space a few miles south of Springfield, near the Toronto Road exit of Interstate 55." Renovation "of the new VA site is set to be completed in mid-August."

Priority Group 8 Enrollment Relaxation Changes

VA eligibility rules changed on June 15, 2009, making it easier for more Veterans to enroll in VA’s health care system. Under this new regulation, VA relaxed income restrictions on enrollment for health benefits. While this new provision does not remove consideration of income, it does increase income thresholds. A web–based calculator is available for Veterans to enter their income information, dependents, and zip code to assess if their income would fall within the proposed income threshold adjustments. Veterans are encouraged to contact VA’s Health Resource Center at 1–877–222 VETS (8387) or visit the VA health eligibility website for more information.

Healthcare Inspection Reprocessing of Endoscopy Equipment

There has been many reports about the reprocessing of endoscopy equipment at VA Medical Facilities.  The Department of Veterans Affairs’ number one priority is the well being of our Nation’s Veterans and we deeply regret that any of our Veterans may have been exposed to harm. When we identified a problem related to the reprocessing of endoscopy equipment that stemmed back to 2003, we immediately initiated an internal, national review process to evaluate the standard of health care our Veterans are receiving within the VA Healthcare System and directed the Inspector General to identify the depth of the problem. We are outraged at these results, of course, and are taking aggressive action to fix this problem quickly and effectively. VA is strictly enforcing a requirement that each facility verify that they are implementing correct standard operating procedures. While the risk of cross contamination and exposure to these infections is exceptionally low, we are treating all Veterans potentially affected, regardless of risk, and regardless of cause. Our Department will use the knowledge we have gained from these events to further improve our ability to provide the best possible health care for our Veterans.

The VA has recently posted on the VA’s website the IG report concerning the use and reprocessing of flexible fiberoptic endoscopes at VA Medical Facilities for your information.





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