Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 6-18-09


What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans

1. Shinseki Pledges To Assist Rural Veterans In Alaska.  
2. VA Said To Be On Verge Of One Million Claims Milestone.  
3. New Mobile Vet Center To Be Unveiled In California.  
4. Veteran Creates Social Networking Site.  
5. CTVHCS To Form Partnership With Darnall Army Medical Center.  
6. Appeals Court Sides With VA Hospital In Security Breach Lawsuit.  
7. Eligibility Changes Expand Access To VA Care.  
8. Medical Device Maker Indicted For Conducting Unapproved Study Of Bone Cement.  
9. VA CIO Praised For Linking Privacy Concerns To EHRs.
10. Committee Approves Funding For New VA Hospital.  


1.      Shinseki Pledges To Assist Rural Veterans In Alaska.   The Cordova (AK) Times (6/18) reports, "Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki acknowledges Alaska’s unique geography makes it difficult to provide VA health care access to veterans in rural Alaska but he has pledged to find ways to remedy the situation." Shinseki "made his comments before a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Veterans Affairs Subcommittee last week." According to the Times, US Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), "a member of the panel, was following up on a meeting she had with Shinseki last month in which she underscored that many Alaska veterans are effectively disenfranchised from utilizing their earned VA healthcare benefits due to the distance between their homes and the nearest VA facility."

2.      VA Said To Be On Verge Of One Million Claims Milestone.   The AP (6/18, Hefling) reports, "The Veterans Affairs Department appears poised to hit a milestone it would rather avoid: 1 million claims to process. The milestone approaches" as the VA "scrambles to hire and train new claims processors, which can take two years. VA officials are working with the Pentagon under orders from President Barack Obama to create by 2012 a system that will allow the two agencies to electronically exchange records, a process now done manually on paper." But veterans, "some of whom were severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, continue to endure financial hardship while their claims are processed." The AP adds, "Last year, Congress passed legislation that sought to update the disability rating process. A hearing Thursday by a House Veterans Affairs subcommittee will look into whether the law’s changes are being implemented and whether the VA will be able to handle a million claims."

3.      New Mobile Vet Center To Be Unveiled In California.   The Salinas Californian (6/17) noted that on June 22nd, US Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Veterans Affairs officials "will help unveil the new Veteran Center Community Outreach Vehicle at the Stillwell Community Center Parking Lot, 288 Gigling Road, Seaside." The event "will be followed by a tour of the mobile vet center and a VA services open house." The Californian said the "state-of-the-art" outreach vehicle, which was paid for by the US VA, "will visit communities throughout" Central California "and will be staffed by a social worker, an outreach specialist to assist with VA claims and a counselor."

4.      Veteran Creates Social Networking Site.   On its website, WFOR-TV Miami, FL (6/17) noted that Florida resident Bill Carney, a Vietnam vet who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, has created, a "social networking site specifically targeting" US veterans. The "goal is give soldiers and veterans a place to heal from the after affects of combat." The "Florida Department of Veterans affairs supports" the website, saying in a statement that Carney’s "vision to use blogs, mobile technology, telemedicine technology and web-based psychological treatment programs is cutting edge and would enable evaluation and treatment to remote area veterans."

5.      CTVHCS To Form Partnership With Darnall Army Medical Center.   The Temple (TX) Daily Telegram (6/18, Gibbs) reports, "On Wednesday, the heads of Central Texas Veterans Health Care System and Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center signed a letter to form a partnership looking for opportunities to share resources in order to maximize care for the soldier and veteran, and reduce costs for both organizations." The "biggest collaboration… will be a VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Fort Hood’s new hospital," according to Thomas Smith III, "director Central Texas Veterans Health Care System, which includes the Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Center."

6.      Appeals Court Sides With VA Hospital In Security Breach Lawsuit.   The AP (6/18) reports a Federal "appeals court says two Vietnam veterans cannot get monetary damages in a lawsuit over a 2007 computer security breach" at the Birmingham Veterans Affairs Hospital. On Wednesday, and 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals panel "ruled…that Jim Henry Perkins and Jessie Frank Qualls had to prove actual damages from the disappearance of a hard drive containing Social Security numbers and healthcare files of 198,000 living veterans. The decision upholds a ruling" by US District Judge Inge P. Johnson of Alabama, "but the appellate panel overturned Johnson’s denial of an injunction against" the VA "intended to prevent a recurrence. It sent the case back to ensure that steps taken by the VA comply with that goal."

7.      Eligibility Changes Expand Access To VA Care.   In continuing coverage, Stars And Stripes (6/17, Shane) reported, "Veterans Affairs officials plan to add more than 266,000 veterans to the health care program by October 2010, part of a new effort by the White House to expand coverage to those left out of the system in recent years." The "eligibility changes apply only to veterans in the department’s lowest priority ranking, Priority 8: Those are veterans without any service-connected disabilities and who make more than $29,000 annually." Philip Matkovsky, "deputy chief business officer for VA member services, said as many as 4,000 new veterans could be enrolled in the next few weeks, and the department will send out letters to nearly half a million others asking them to reapply and see if they qualify under the new rules."
      Sioux Falls VAMC Preparing To Care For New Vets In System.   The KSFY-TV Sioux Falls, SD (6/17) website said that "starting this week, veterans have a little bit more flexibility in the income requirements to enroll in VA care. ‘It’s very timely that the funding came forward so that we can take care of the veterans,’ said Peter Petrich" from the Sioux Falls VA Medical Center. And it is "not just the veterans who are going to be seeing a difference," the hospital "just got some much needed funding so they can keep up with all the new veterans who are going to be coming through their doors. ‘We’re already taking measures to take care of the veterans coming into the system,’ said Petrich."

8.      Medical Device Maker Indicted For Conducting Unapproved Study Of Bone Cement.   Bloomberg News (6/17, Pearson, Feeley) reported, "Synthes Inc., the world’s largest maker of bone-related medical devices, and its Norian Corp. unit were indicted for conducting an unapproved study of the use of bone-mending cement that led to the deaths of three patients. The companies and four Synthes executives conspired to conduct unauthorized clinical trials of Norian-brand cements used in surgeries to repair spinal fractures between May 2002 and late 2004, prosecutors said" Tuesday after a Federal grand jury "in Philadelphia handed down the 52-count indictment." Bloomberg noted that the US Department of Veterans Affairs "was involved in the investigation because ‘some of the procedures were at VA hospitals,’ said Patricia Hartman, a spokeswoman" for the US Attorney in Philadelphia. Officials "aren’t releasing the names of the hospitals, she said."

9.      VA CIO Praised For Linking Privacy Concerns To EHRs.   In his "What’s Brewin’" blog for NextGov (6/17), Bob Brewin said that at a "meeting held by the Health IT policy committee on Tuesday, Roger Baker, the Veterans Affairs Department’s new chief information officer, injected a dose of practical reality to the very wonkish discussion of what ‘meaningful use’ of electronic health record systems means — as required by the 2009 American Recovery and Investment Act." The committee "had somehow missed the issue of patient privacy based on oral and written presentations at its meeting," so "about an hour into the discussion, Baker…forcefully" raised the issue. Patient privacy, "Baker told the committee," is the "’critical piece’ in development of a nationwide electronic health record system and it is the ‘key to adoption.’" Brewin praised Baker "for stating the obvious. I can only hope that in the future, privacy will indeed top the list of any discussions about electronic health records."

10.    Committee Approves Funding For New VA Hospital.   On its website, WFTV-TV Orlando, FL (6/17) reported, "The Congressional Veteran Affairs Committee approved funding for the new" Veterans Affairs hospital "being built near Lake Nona. The committee approved $371 million for the new medical center…on Tuesday," but the "project still has a way to go before it receives any funds. The full appropriations committee must vote on it before it can be brought up as a bill on the House floor." WESH-TV Orlando, FL (6/17, 4:16 p.m. ET) and WRDQ-TV Orlando, FL (6/17, 8:44 a.m. ET) broadcast similar reports



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