Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 6-30-09


What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans

1. Shinseki, Altmire Meeting Seen As Part Of Effort To Implement White House Agenda. 
2. Infections At VA Hospitals.  
3. Homelessness Said To Be On The Rise For Iraq, Afghanistan Vets.  
4. Fort Carson Introduces Disability Evaluation System.  
5. Health And Wellness Clinic Offering Free Treatments To Returning Vets.  
6. US Army Ends Retiree Deployment Program. 
7. Speakers Stress Importance Of National Health Information Network.  
8. DOD, VA Hoping To Lower Smoking Rates Among Servicemembers, Vets.  
9. Doctor Defends Cancer Treatment Administered At Philadelphia VAMC.  
10. Prescott VA Hosting Traveling Lincoln Exhibit.  


1.      Shinseki, Altmire Meeting Seen As Part Of Effort To Implement White House Agenda.   The Washington Post (6/30, Murray, Balz, 652K) reports, "Hoping to succeed where other presidents have struggled in implementing their agenda, the Obama White House has attempted to work Capitol Hill with a blend of agenda-setting and deference. Obama outlines ambitious objectives, then leaves lawmakers largely in charge of their final shape." At the "same time, Obama and a team of top White House officials…have been extraordinarily attentive to individual lawmakers, showering them with invitations and responding quickly to requests, concerns and criticisms." The Post adds, "Along with House and Senate leaders," White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel "and his team are sharply focused on new lawmakers most likely to become Republican targets. Rep. Jason Altmire, elected in 2006, was invited to a breakfast in March with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki to discuss issues related to the large population of veterans in Altmire’s western Pennsylvania district. Altmire’s office and the VA now communicate regularly."

2.      Infections At VA Hospitals.   In a letter to the editor of the Lakeland (FL) Ledger (6/29), veteran Charles W. Wood wrote, "Recently the news media has reported several" Veterans Affairs "hospitals had infected some patients by inadequate sterilization of colonoscopy equipment." Wood added, "While I have limited knowledge of other VA hospitals, I know for sure the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa is among the finest in all America." It "and the Lakeland VA outpatient clinic are critically important in providing health care to veterans."

3.      Homelessness Said To Be On The Rise For Iraq, Afghanistan Vets.   The Los Angeles Times (6/29, Chong, 797K) said that while "veterans and homeless advocates have long grappled with homelessness in previous generations of veterans," Luis Pinto, who since the end of March "has been living" at the Salvation Army’s shelter in Bell, California, "appears to be part of a new, building wave of the problem among those coming back from the latest wars in Iraq and Afghanistan." Toni Reinis, "the executive director of New Directions Inc.," an organization "that offers substance abuse treatment and other services to homeless veterans, said the number of clients from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars grew from 12 in 2007 to 24 in 2008." And in the "first six months of this year, the group has already seen 20, she said." The Times added, "New Directions and other organizations said they are working to put programs in place to deal with the expected increase in veterans needing help."
      VA Funding Oversight Reportedly A Problem For Some Nonprofit Groups.   In a related story, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (6/30, Rose, 268K) reports "complaints are not uncommon among nonprofit groups that see the oversight that comes with VA funding as a hindrance to helping homeless veterans." The VA "relies on nonprofit groups and faith-based organizations for much of its groundwork, but some are being driven away from seeking funding, organizers say." The VA, however, "is aware of such criticism and has an internal committee ‘trying to make sure we’re being reasonable,’ said Pete Dougherty," the agency’s homeless program coordinator.

4.      Fort Carson Introduces Disability Evaluation System.   On its website, KRDO-TV Colorado Springs, CO (6/29, Moon) noted that on Monday, Fort Carson, a US Army base in Colorado, "officially introduced its new" Disability Evaluation System (DES), which "will help soldiers get disabilities benefits faster." The Fort Carson DES, "one of 18 pilot sites nationally," is the "largest and the only one that has its own medical staff." KRDO added that the "current process requires troops to get separate evaluations from the Department of Defense" and the Department of Veterans Affairs. That process "could take up to two years. Now, that time could be cut in half."

5.      Health And Wellness Clinic Offering Free Treatments To Returning Vets.   Texas’ The Courier Of Montgomery County (6/30, Meyer) reports Conroe Family Chiropractic (CFC), a "Conroe-based health and wellness clinic," has "a unique offer for former military personnel returning from deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan." The clinic "is offering one free year of services" to such veterans. According to the Courier, Dr. H. Kala Eulitt of CFC said, "The Veterans Administration doesn’t provide all of the services and treatments some former military personnel need."

6.      US Army Ends Retiree Deployment Program.   The Washington Times (6/30, Waterman, 74K) says the US Army is "ending a program that has allowed military retirees to volunteer for missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, disappointing many former service members who have embraced a second chance to serve their country." Lt. Col. George Wright, an Army spokesman who himself became a program participant in 2007, "said the program is being terminated because the Army had to reduce personnel to reach a congressionally mandated limit on the total number of soldiers." The Times notes that the program "was set up in 2002 under special wartime powers that enable the defense secretary to recall retirees."

7.      Speakers Stress Importance Of National Health Information Network.   Government Health IT (6/30, Mosquera) reports, "The ability of providers to connect to each other through the national health information network," or NHIN, "equates directly to improved medical care for individuals, Dr. David Blumenthal, the national health IT coordinator, said" Monday at a seminar on the Federal "government’s use and development of the NHIN." Other seminar "speakers offered testimonials about the value of a Federal-NHIN gateway," including Sarah Wade, the wife of an injured Iraq war veteran, who "said the ability for physicians to share vital information can make life simpler and safer for the patient. She detailed the real-life burdens she and her husband…experienced in getting care from 15 facilities, including the VA, DOD and private hospitals." Her husband’s "care is detailed in 12 unconnected electronic health records, she said," although "she praised the level of care at VA and DOD facilities."

8.      DOD, VA Hoping To Lower Smoking Rates Among Servicemembers, Vets.   WMTV-TV Madison, WI (6/29, 10:23 p.m. CT) broadcast that the US Department of Defense (DOD) "is looking at phasing in a tobacco ban in the military." The DOD "and the Department of Veterans Affairs want to identify policies and practices that could lower rates of smoking and help servicemembers and veterans quit." WMTV added, "In 2005, 32 percent of active-duty personnel and 22 percent of veterans were smokers. Rates among active-duty personnel have recently increased, possibly because of growing tobacco use by deployed troops."
9.      Doctor Defends Cancer Treatment Administered At Philadelphia VAMC.   In continuing coverage, the Philadelphia Inquirer (6/30, Goldstein, McCullough, 339K) reports, "The doctor at the center of an investigation into medical errors in prostate cancer treatments" at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center, "broke his silence" Monday "morning and mounted an aggressive defense of his actions. At a ‘field’ hearing" of the US Senate Veterans Affairs Committee called by US Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), Dr. Gary D. Kao, who is currently on leave of absence from the University of Pennsylvania, "defended the quality of the brachytherapy radiation program he said he established and led at the hospital." The Inquirer adds, "Kao stopped treating patients at both the VA hospital" and the University of Pennsylvania "after concerns were raised that 114 patients might have had improper amounts or placement of tiny radioactive seeds to destroy prostate cancer cells."
      The New York Times (6/30, A10, Bogdanich, 1.06M) says Kao, "whom regulators accuse of mishandling scores of radioactive seed implants" at the Philadelphia VAMC, told the committee during Monday’s hearing "that while he ‘could have done better’ with some implants, his patients over all received effective treatment for their prostate cancer." After pointing out the Philadelphia VAMC problems "prompted a wider investigation" of VA "facilities, leading to the temporary suspension of…brachytherapy" at "three other veterans hospitals," the Times notes that Dr. Gerald M. Cross, VA’s acting under secretary of health, "said his agency had failed to uncover the problem sooner because complications from radiation did not immediately appear and because the program had been accredited by two organizations, including the American College of Radiation Oncology." But US Rep. John Adler (D-NJ) "said after the hearing" he was "very troubled" that the VA "could not offer a better explanation."
      The AP (6/30, Dale) reports Kao "admits he sometimes missed his target when placing radioactive seeds or gave patients the wrong dosage," but "he says that is not uncommon." The AP also runs a longer version of this story, and includes coverage of it in its AP (6/30) "New Brief" column, which notes the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) "has found that 92 of 116 men treated" in the Philadelphia VAMC’s "brachytherapy program received incorrect doses of…radiation seeds, often because they landed in nearby organs or surrounding tissue rather than the prostate. Kao performed the majority of the procedures under a VA contract with the University of Pennsylvania, where he was on staff."

10.    Prescott VA Hosting Traveling Lincoln Exhibit.   The Prescott (AZ) Daily Courier (6/30) reports, "The Prescott VA is hosting a special traveling exhibition entitled ‘Lincoln’s Legacy at the VA’ as part of its commemoration of the 200th anniversary of…Abraham Lincoln. VA officials said the public can see the free exhibit from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from July 6-10 in the VA’s theater at Building 15, 500 Highway 89 North" in Prescott. The Daily Courier adds, "The exhibit highlights legislation and programs signed into law by Lincoln during the Civil War. The VA still administers those programs, which continue to benefit America’s veterans, VA officials said."



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