Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 7-15-09

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What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans

1. Shinseki Says National Veterans Wheelchair Games "Change Lives."  
2. VA Investing In Clean Energy, Conservation.  
3. VA Criticized For Its Treatment Of Women Veterans.  
4. Returning Vets Face Difficult Job Market.  
5. Lawsuit: New Orleans Mayor Exceeded His Authority With VA Hospital Agreement.  
6. VA Agreement Means New Hampshire Vets Will Have Improved Access To In-State Care. 
7. Consul Of France Honors WWII Veteran.  
8. Virginia’s Wounded Veteran Internship Program Receives Grant.  
9. House Committee To Mark Up Omnibus Veterans Legislation.  
10.     Code Red.

     1.      Shinseki Says National Veterans Wheelchair Games "Change Lives."  
      Games, VA Therapists Show Athlete What Is Possible.  
The Spokane (WA) Spokesman-Review (7/15, Boggs) also runs a story on the Games, profiling 38-year-old Sean Halsted, who "is among the 620 athletes competing this week at the 29th National Veterans Wheelchair Games." Halsted "said the Games have provided him more than an adrenalin boost and spirit of competition over the years. Through the example and camaraderie of friends, he has seen that he, too, could be a father, could be an athlete," and "could achieve anything he wanted to." The Spokesman-Review adds, "After her husband’s injury, Sarah Halsted said, recreational therapists at Seattle’s VA medical center gave him back his life by showing him what was possible."
      Participants Excited To Be Competing.   A separate article in the Spokane (WA) Spokesman-Review (7/14, Leaming) said that while the "proud families, supporters and thousands of volunteers may have been misty-eyed" this week as athletes participating in the Games "wheeled out state by state" during the event’s opening ceremonies, "but the more than 600 athletes were all smiles and ‘oorahs!’" Those "athletes range in age from 18 to over 80. ‘We really look forward to it every year,’ said David Bradbury, a disabled Army veteran…from South Carolina."
      The Midlothian (VA) Exchange (7/14) published a story with content "courtesy of VA National Programs," which stated, "Veterans participating in the Wheelchair Games have served during a number of different periods, including Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom." They are competing in an event that "is designed to encourage veterans to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle, despite the challenges they may face," and to provide the veterans with an opportunity to "showcase their individual talents in front of family, friends and spectators."
      The Arizona Republic (7/15, Miranda, 364K) reports, "John Tuzzolino is going for the gold this week at the 29th annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Spokane, Wash. Hailed as the largest annual wheelchair sports event in the world," the Games are open to US military veterans "who use wheelchairs due to spinal cord injuries, certain neurological conditions, traumatic brain injuries, amputations or other mobility impairments." Tuzzolino is "one of four Valley athletes competing in the Games."

2.      VA Investing In Clean Energy, Conservation.   In continuing coverage, the Lake County (CA) News (7/14) said that as "part of a clean-energy transformation," the Department of Veterans Affairs "is targeting nearly one-quarter of its $1.4 billion in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to investments in clean energy generation and energy conservation. ‘These investments help spur new energy savings and…reduce our environmental footprint,’" VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki "said. ‘The president is leading us in a new direction away from our dependence on foreign oil and the destabilizing effects of a changing climate. Since hospitals use such large amounts of energy, we need to step up our efforts to transition to clean-energy technologies." The News noted that the VA "will direct more than $68 million to renewable sources…and has dedicated nearly $238 million toward retrofitting existing buildings to use energy and water more efficiently."

3.      VA Criticized For Its Treatment Of Women Veterans.   The AP (7/15, Hefling) reports, "Veterans Affairs Department hospitals and clinics aren’t always making sure female veterans have privacy when they bathe and receive exams, government auditors said Tuesday. As thousands of women return from Iraq and Afghanistan and enter the VA’s health system, the Government Accountability Office reported that no VA hospital or outpatient clinic under review is complying fully" with Federal privacy requirements. Meanwhile, female veterans told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee "that VA workers need to be better educated about combat situations that women face in the two ongoing wars." Patricia Hayes, "chief consultant of the veterans strategic health care group at the VA, said the VA recognizes the care given to women isn’t as good as what’s offered to men, but it’s made changes and will continue to do so." An earlier version of this AP (7/15) story adds, "VA officials told the auditors that space constraints pose challenges, but it’s working on improvements."
      The CNN (7/14, Levine) website, meanwhile, noted that GAO investigators "found wide variation" in VA "medical centers’ facilities and programs for female veterans," a point which was emphasized by Kayla Williams, an author and an Iraq vet who testified at Tuesday’s Senate hearing, when she wrote in an opinion piece for the Huffington Post (7/14) that the Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom "Integrated Care Clinic and newly-opened Women’s Clinic" at the VA medical center in Martinsburg, West Virginia, "are models worthy of emulation, and I truly believe that with continued

 

advocacy and oversight, all facilities can provide the same standard of care." Williams adds that in "order to best meet the needs of all veterans, I also urge the development of enhanced relationships not only between" the Department of Defense "and VA but also with those community organizations that are ready and willing to fill gaps in services."

4.      Returning Vets Face Difficult Job Market.   The Fort Worth (TX) Star-Telegram (7/14, Schwartz) reported, "As service members return from America’s twin wars, a flow accelerated by President Barack Obama’s troop reductions in Iraq, they are swelling the ranks of the jobless. According to the Labor Department, the unemployment rate for veterans younger than 24 was 14.1 percent in 2008, outpacing the general population’s rate of 11.6 percent for the same age group," and the "department’s unpublished, non-seasonally-adjusted numbers for the second quarter of 2009" are even worse for "veterans younger than 24." Meanwhile, the "unemployment rate for all veterans serving since 9-11 was 10.3 percent, compared with 8.9 percent for nonveterans. And returning veterans who do find jobs earn an average of $5,736 less a year than their civilian counterparts, according to the Veterans Affairs Department." However, veterans do "receive preference in hiring for some" Federal "jobs, and the Obama administration’s stimulus package includes $2,400 tax credits for employers who hire them."

5.      Lawsuit: New Orleans Mayor Exceeded His Authority With VA Hospital Agreement.   The New Orleans Times-Picayune (7/15, Barrow, 178K) reports, "Mayor Ray Nagin exceeded his authority under the New Orleans City Charter when he obligated the city to provide land" for a Federal hospital "in Mid-City, four residents assert in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Orleans Parish Civil District Court. Wallace Thurman, Sheila Joseph, Veda Manual and Brad Ott are asking Judge Ethel Julien to order the city not to carry out any part of its agreement" with the US Department of Veterans Affairs, "including the initial November 2007 deal and later amendments. If successful, the suit would represent a major setback to the proposed 200-bed medical complex slated to open in 2012 on 34 acres bound by Tulane Avenue, South Galvez Street, Canal Street and South Rocheblave Street."
      The WDSU-TV New Orleans, LA (7/14) website also covered this story, as did the WWL-TV New Orleans, LA (7/14) website, which noted, "City Attorney Penya Moses-Fields issued a statement Tuesday evening saying that the city had allowed extensive public scrutiny of the project and adding that the city would defend against the ‘thirteenth-hour legislation.’" Fields "also said that the complaint…would only ‘delay the City’s most important, post-Katrina public health and safety project.’" WNOL-TV New Orleans, LA (7/14, 9:00 p.m. CT) also aired report on this story.

6.      VA Agreement Means New Hampshire Vets Will Have Improved Access To In-State Care.   In continuing coverage, WFFF-TV Burlington, VT (7/14, 8:36 a.m. ET) broadcast, "New Hampshire veterans will no longer have to travel to Vermont or Massachusetts for expanded hospital care," because the "Department of Veterans Affairs says it’s entered into a contract with Concord Hospital to provide acute care for veterans. New Hampshire has been the only state without a full-service VA hospital or comparable services through a military facility."

 

7.      Consul Of France Honors WWII Veteran.   The WIVB-TV Buffalo, NY (7/14) website said it was a "very proud day" Monday for Joseph Pawlik, a local World War II veteran "who put his life on the line many years ago to free a foreign nation. The Consul of France stopped by" the Veterans Affairs hospital "in Buffalo Monday morning…to honor" Pawlik "as ‘Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.’ French President Nicolas Sarkozy recognized Pawlik’s fearless participation in the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944." Chevalier "is the equivalent of ‘knight’ in English."

8.      Virginia’s Wounded Veteran Internship Program Receives Grant.   The Richmond Times-Dispatch (7/14, Bacqué, 167K) noted that the "Virginia Department of Transportation has received a $1.2 million" Federal "job-training grant for its Wounded Veteran Internship Program. The funds from the economic stimulus package are aimed at providing on-the-job training in transportation, engineering or construction for underrepresented or disadvantaged people, according" to the US Transportation Department, which "singled out Virginia’s wounded-veterans initiative, started in 2006, as a successful example of the training programs. The state program helps wounded active-duty military personnel develop or improve job skills while they recover from their injuries."

9.      House Committee To Mark Up Omnibus Veterans Legislation.   CQ (7/14, Johnson) reports the House Veterans Affairs Committee "is scheduled to mark up four bills on Wednesday, including draft omnibus legislation that aims to improve veterans insurance and health care benefits. The draft legislation, sponsored" by US Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), the committee’s chairman, "includes language from three bills previously approved by the Disability Assistance and Monument Affairs Subcommittee and five bills already approved by the Health Subcommittee. Measures in the omnibus include" HR 1546, which "would establish the ‘Committee on Care of Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury.’" This committee "would be responsible for assessing and making recommendations about the Veterans Health Administration’s ability to treat and rehabilitate veterans with traumatic brain injury." CQ adds, "Aside from the omnibus legislation, the committee also is scheduled to mark up three other bills," including HR 2770, which "aims to update the law applicable to Veteran Affairs Department-affiliated nonprofit research and education corporations."

10.    Code Red.   In an op-ed for Washington Monthly (7/15) magazine, Phillip Longman, the "author of Best Care Anywhere: Why VA Health Care Is Better Than Yours," notes that the "stimulus bill President Obama signed in February contains a whopping $20 billion to help hospitals buy and implement health IT systems." But as "anybody who’s lived through an IT upgrade at the office can attest, it’s difficult in the best of circumstances. If it’s done wrong, buggy and inadequate software can paralyze an institution." Longman goes on to praise the IT system adopted by Midland Memorial Hospital in Texas. That system, according to Longman, is "based on software originally written by doctors for doctors at the Veterans Health Administration."

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