Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 6-19-09

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What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans

1. Baker Orders Information Technology Management Overhaul.  
2. Shinseki, HUD Secretary Announce Homeless Vets Program.  
3. Various Schools Will Participate In Yellow Ribbon Program.  
4. VBA Official, Report Differ On Number Of Unprocessed Claims.  
5. After Signing Of Interagency Agreement, More Vets Seeking PTSD Counseling.  
6. More US Army Soldiers Enrolling In Substance Abuse Treatment Programs.  
7. Institute Students Will Study Gulf War Syndrome, TBI.  
8. Board Kills Land Purchase For Veterans’ Housing Proposal.  
9. Minnesota Officials Considering Sites For New State Veterans Cemetery.  
10. Veterans Services Office Opened At College In Illinois.

     

1.      Baker Orders Information Technology Management Overhaul.   The Washington Post (6/19, Vogel, 652K) reports, "The Department of Veterans Affairs said it is overhauling its information technology management to try to more quickly correct problems with its computer systems, officials said" Thursday. The "overhaul is in part a response to major problems with the computerized scheduling system used at VA hospitals. ‘By halting programs that fail to meet their delivery milestones, we will prevent wasteful spending and demand accountability from everyone involved in delivering and supporting the technologies that will help transform the VA,’" VA Secretary Eric Shinseki "said in a statement. Roger Baker, the VA’s assistant secretary for information and technology, who ordered the overhaul, "said he was uncertain what impact the changes would have on the backlog of unprocessed disability claims, which is approaching 1 million cases and has drawn the ire of members of Congress and other critics."

2.      Shinseki, HUD Secretary Announce Homeless Vets Program.   The Air Force Times (6/19) reports the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program, a "new partnership between the departments of Veterans Affairs" and Housing and Urban Development, "aims to provide housing and assistance to an estimated 10,000 homeless veterans across" the US, Guam, and Puerto Rico. The program "is funded with $75 million allocated to public housing authorities, allowing local officials to give out about 10,000 rental assistance vouchers specifically aimed at homeless veterans in their communities." The Times notes that when VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced the program, Shinseki said, "No one, especially veterans who have faithfully served our country should become homeless."
      Housing Authority In Illinois To Apply For Program Vouchers.   The Danville (IL) Commercial-News (6/19, Bailey) reports the Danville Housing Authority (DHA) "will apply for 35 housing choice vouchers through" the HUD-VA Supportive Housing program, which "combines HUD rental assistance for homeless veterans with case management and clinical services provided by the VA." On Thursday, "DHA Executive Director Greg Hilleary told the DHA board…that the DHA has confirmed its willingness to administer the vouchers. It now must complete a funding application within two weeks."

3.      Various Schools Will Participate In Yellow Ribbon Program.   The Deseret (UT) Morning News (6/19, Leonard) reports, "At least a dozen colleges and universities with multiple campuses in Utah joined more than 700 nationally this week, saying they’ll commit to the Yellow Ribbon Program that gives Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans additional incentives to go back to school." Under the program, part of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which is "effective Aug. 1," the Federal government "will match any financial aid that participating schools provide to veterans over the cost of the most expensive public college in each state."
      The Raleigh (NC) News & Observer (6/18) said eligible veterans "pursuing a degree at Duke University will receive as much as $770,000 in new annual financial support from the university, along with matching support" from the US VA, "through a new partnership announced Wednesday. All of Duke’s schools have agreed to provide new scholarships through the Yellow Ribbon Program of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which

encourages schools to provide enhanced aid for veterans and their families who meet the requirements." Duke President Richard Brodhead "discussed the program in Washington recently" with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, a "Duke alumnus."
      The Nashville (TN) Business Journal (6/19) reports, "Vanderbilt University is teaming" with the Federal government "to offer veterans a college education at a significantly reduced price. The university is participating in the Yellow Ribbon GI Educational Enhancement Program, which gives soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan access to a college degree with reduced tuition and fees."

4.      VBA Official, Report Differ On Number Of Unprocessed Claims.   In continuing coverage, Stars And Stripes (6/19) reports, "The Veterans Affairs Department is facing close to 1 million unprocessed claims, appeals and administrative issues." As of this past Monday, the VA "had not processed 722,527 compensation and pension claims, and another 172,493 claims were pending appeal, according to a recent" Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) report. But in "prepared testimony Tuesday, a VBA official said the number of unprocessed claims was less than reported in the VBA report. Michael Walcoff, deputy undersecretary for benefits, told lawmakers the VA had 622,938 unprocessed claims as of the end of May." Stars And Stripes notes that VA spokesman Terry Jemison said, "I’m told the difference between the 722K and the 623K basically has to do with administrative issues which are not ‘claims’ for financial benefits directly but miscellaneous things such as responding to correspondence from a veteran who wants to know if VA has his service file." Jemison added, "These are not unimportant matters and all the administrative workload is significant to us."

5.      After Signing Of Interagency Agreement, More Vets Seeking PTSD Counseling.   The Navajo Times (6/19, Shebala) says that since "the signing of an interagency agreement between the Northern Arizona Veterans Administration Health Care System and the Navajo Area Indian Health Service in April, the Fort Defiance IHS is seeing a gradual increase in veterans seeking" post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) counseling. That is "according to George Lawson," a member of the Fort Defiance PTSD outreach team. Lawson "said on Wednesday that the PTSD counseling is primarily for the younger men and women returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars," but he "said he’s seeing veterans from the Korean War, Vietnam War and a few from World War II."

6.      More US Army Soldiers Enrolling In Substance Abuse Treatment Programs.   USA Today (6/19, Zoroya, 2.29M) says according to information gathered from US Army "statistics and interviews," the "rate of Army soldiers enrolled in treatment programs for alcohol dependency or abuse has nearly doubled since 2003," a possible "sign of the growing stress of repeated deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan." The data, which "cover the first six months of the fiscal year that began in October," indicate that the rate of "soldiers diagnosed by Army substance abuse counselors with alcoholism or alcohol abuse, such as binge drinking, increased from 6.1 per 1,000 soldiers in 2003 to an estimated 11.4 as of March 31." Army vice chief of staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli said that "identifying and treating substance and alcohol abuse

7.      Institute Students Will Study Gulf War Syndrome, TBI.   The Tampa Bay (FL) Business Journal (6/19) reports, "Roskamp Institute announced the first enrollment" of three "students in its three-year Ph.D. program through which students will conduct full-time laboratory research with direct mentoring from internationally-recognized scientists." The "first class of students in the program will pursue dissertation research on Gulf War syndrome, traumatic brain injury and Alzheimer’s disease." The Bradenton (FL) Herald (6/19, Wolfrum) publishes a similar story.

8.      Board Kills Land Purchase For Veterans’ Housing Proposal.   The Houston Chronicle (6/19, Snyder, 449K) reports, "The Harris County Housing Authority board killed a $4.9 million land purchase for a veterans’ housing development this week, forfeiting $25,000 in earnest money by terminating a contract the agency’s executive director had executed without its approval." The board, however, "remains committed to the development, a $165 million master-planned community known as Patriots on the Lake, board chairman Casey Wallace said Thursday. It paid $6.5 million for a 91-acre site for the first phase this year but canceled the contract to buy land for a planned second phase because it has not secured approval from the Department of Veterans Affairs to move certain facilities to Patriots on the Lake."

9.      Minnesota Officials Considering Sites For New State Veterans Cemetery.   On its website, WDIO-TV Duluth, MN (6/18, Kennedy) reported, "With the closest state veterans’ cemetery over 100 miles away," the Federal government "says there should be one" in Minnesota’s Northland. Plans "to build near Jay Cooke State Park fell through when property owners refused to sell land that was needed," so state officials are now "looking at three potential sites in Northeastern Minnesota, all of which are publicly owned. State Veterans’ Cemetery Director Dave Swantek would not say where exactly the sites are located, but all three lie between the Highway 53 and Highway 33 intersection in southern St. Louis County, and Jay Cooke State Park in northern Carlton County. ‘The veteran population of St. Louis County and some of the other counties up in Northeastern Minnesota certainly qualifies us, without question, as being eligible for a grant opportunity,’" said Swantek. Local veterans, meanwhile, "say it’s about time."

10.    Veterans Services Office Opened At College In Illinois.   The Springfield (IL) State Journal-Register (6/18, Dettro) noted that on Wednesday, "Lincoln Land Community College…formally opened" its new Veterans Services Office (VSO), "one of nine such offices at universities and colleges throughout the state. ‘Transitioning from combat to civilian life isn’t an easy thing,’ said Dan Grant, director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, who attended an open house to mark the opening of the VSO. ‘We’re committed to coming to them.’" The Journal-Register added that the VSO "will provide one-on-one assistance to veterans and help them with the state" and Federal benefits "available to them. It also will serve as a liaison between the state" and US departments of Veterans Affairs.

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