Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 7-22-09


What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans

1. Shinseki, Baker Praised For Suspending IT Projects.  
2. Study Reveals "Striking" Increase In Mental Illness For Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans.  
3. Stimulus Provision, Canandaigua VA Offer Employment Assistance To Veterans.  
4. Athlete Featured On Cheerios Box Wins More Wheelchair Games Gold.
5. DOD Looking To Expand Personal Health Records Pilot Test, Collaborate With VA.  
6. VA Investigated Treatment Received By Palo Alto Eye Patients.  
7. Stockton Or French Camp, California, To Get New VA Medical Facilities.  
8. VA Clinic In Nebraska To Celebrate One-Year Anniversary.  
9. Access To Convenient Parking Seen As A Problem At Dingell VAMC.  
10. Blood Drives To Be Held At VA Facilities.


The world is meeting VA through YouTube. VA’s YouTube channel at is registering more viewers every day and that means more veterans are using this fresh, new, visual communications channel to connect with their benefits and VA programs that serve them. The hottest video right now introduces the “New GI Bill” Post 9/11 education benefits program due to start August 3, but you’ll also find videos on VA prosthetics, suicide prevention, telemedicine and other topics, as well as inspiring stories about veterans dealing with the challenges of war and its aftermath. You can’t reach YouTube through the VA network, but you can (and probably do) from home. So check the VA YouTube channel, become a subscriber and comment on what you see; and let veterans know about VA on YouTube.

VA Connecticut Healthcare System will host a Veterans Roundtable on Aug. 26 at VFW Post 9452, 28 Spicer Road, Preston, Conn.  Event is open to all veterans especially targeting veterans who are eligible but currently not enrolled at the healthcare system.  The roundtable will include presentations on eligibility, pharmacy services, primary/specialty/mental health services, homeless outreach and My Healthy Vet.  Family members and caregivers of our newest veterans are especially encouraged to attend.

Lunch will be served.  We are requesting that participants RSVP by Aug. 19 to 203-932-5711 ext. 2617.  Event is scheduled for 11am to 2pm.  Directions to VFW Post 9452 are available at

1.      Shinseki, Baker Praised For Suspending IT Projects.   In continuing coverage, Robert Charette wrote in his "Tech Insider" blog for NextGov (7/21) that while he does not "know if Roger Baker is a ‘rock star’" chief information officer, he does think Baker "is an extremely competent one who seems intent, along with his boss, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki, on creating a new standard for IT governance, risk management and project accountability" in the Federal government. According to Charette, last week, Shinseki "announced that the VA ‘will temporarily halt 45 information technology projects which are either behind schedule or over budget. These projects will be reviewed, and it will be determined whether these projects should be continued.’" Charette added, "That total is the most IT projects ever stopped at once by any governmental agency or department ever, at least in the last 30 plus years that I can remember, and probably is as many that have been stopped for review across all of government IT in the past decade, if not longer. To which we say, ‘Well done,’ along with, ‘It’s about time.’"
      In his ZDNet Healthcare (7/21) blog, Dana Blankenhorn links to Charette’s blog, saying that while reaction to the IT project halts is "mostly positive," as "Charette notes, it is one thing to call a halt to what is not working, something else to plan a path that does." Blankenhorn adds that the result of the VA’s coming reviews on these projects "could be some shuffling of personnel, or contracts may actually be cancelled. If they are, the question then becomes how the VA will get the work done." Blankenhorn asks if the VA has "the nerve to just hire programmers and release the resulting code?"
      Bob Brewin, who noted in his "What’s Brewin’" blog for NextGov (7/21) that he discussed the suspended IT projects with the VA’s Baker, wrote, "In a line that will earn him kudos" from Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) "programmers, who are as fanatical as the fans of Apple computer products and gizmos, Baker said the tight involvement of end users in the development of VistA software was reflected in the user driven development of iPhone applications." Baker "wants to harness the energy and passion that drove VistA development (and iPhone development) to developing VA systems of today. Who knows, maybe someday there will be VistA iPhone apps."

2.      Study Reveals "Striking" Increase In Mental Illness For Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans.   In continuing coverage, the Oregonian (7/17, Sullivan, 291K) reported, "About two in five Iraq or Afghanistan veterans" have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) "or depression, abuse alcohol or have other serious problems, such as homelessness, researchers reported Thursday" in the American Journal of Public Health. The study, which analyzed "290,000 soldiers who received" Veterans Affairs healthcare between 2002 and 2008, "showed a striking jump in mental illness from findings reported two years ago and indicates that veterans’ problems continue to emerge years after they return home." The Oregonian noted that Jim Sardo, "a psychologist who directs the PTSD and substance abuse clinics" for the VA in Portland, said the researchers’ "findings show that more study is needed, ‘particularly for those soldiers now on their fourth or fifth deployment.’"

3.      Stimulus Provision, Canandaigua VA Offer Employment Assistance To Veterans.   The Canandaigua (NY) Daily Messenger (7/22, Sherwood) reports, "A new tax break for businesses hiring new veterans and a program at the Canandaigua VA are among the initiatives aimed at helping those who served find work. Three of four new veterans are having trouble transforming their military experience into a civilian job, according" to US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), "with unemployment among young veterans far exceeding the national average. Gillibrand said her office is notifying communities through business chambers and other means of the new provision recently signed into law by President Barack Obama encouraging companies to hire new veterans." Meanwhile, Kai Chitaphong, the "Canandaigua VA program manager for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, was an organizer of an event at the VA to help new veterans find jobs." The job fair was "part of the VA’s ongoing effort to help veterans make a successful transition from military life to the job market, Chitaphong explained in an e-mail."

4.      Athlete Featured On Cheerios Box Wins More Wheelchair Games Gold.   In continuing coverage, the WALA-TV Mobile, AL (7/21, Lombard, Nelson) website profiled disabled veteran Patrick Peterson, who "just returned home" to Fairhope, Alabama, "after a seven day competition in Spokane, Washington. Peterson competed against 600 other athletes in the 29th Annual Veterans Wheelchair Games, and brought home a gold medal for weight-lifting." Peterson has competed in the Games "for four years, and has taken home seven gold medals. Although he’s thrilled about winning the medals, he says what’s perhaps his most cherished possession" is a box of Cheerios "that was released earlier this year" with his picture on it.
      Volunteer: Games Were "Amazing!"   In a related story, a volunteer at the Games wrote in a reader blog for the online Seattle Post-Intelligencer (7/21, 116K) that the Games were "amazing! The athletes were incredible and the ‘fleet’ of volunteers, officials, VA staff, family, friends, local supporters, coaches, therapists and medical staff were stupendous!" The blogger also noted that the high temperatures in Spokane lat week, adding, "Dr. Ken Lee, who oversaw the Games, continued to remind" her and her fellow volunteers "to drink water and more water, at least one bottle an hour."
      Mother Wishes Spokane Businesses Would Continue Accommodating The Disabled.   And, in another related story, Jennifer Quantock, a resident of Spokane, wrote in a letter to the editor of the Spokane (WA) Spokesman-Review (7/21) wrote that while it "was wonderful to read about all" local business owners providing "an appropriately spaced aisle" to the "athletes in town" recently for the Games, "I truly wish that Spokane would remember there are plenty of people who live right here in our great city who would benefit" from such accommodations.

5.      DOD Looking To Expand Personal Health Records Pilot Test, Collaborate With VA.   InformationWeek (7/22) reports MiCare, a "personal health records pilot test" conducted by the Department of Defense, "has been successful, and the military is now determining how to expand it more widely." The DOD "is also working with the Department of Veterans Affairs to determine how the two agencies can collaborate on the initiative."

6.      VA Investigated Treatment Received By Palo Alto Eye Patients.   The San Jose (CA) Mercury News (7/22, Bernstein-Wax) reports the US Department of Veterans Affairs "has confirmed its Palo Alto facility put the chief of optometry on administrative leave and reassigned another optometrist while it investigated the treatment of hundreds of eye patients, some of whom experienced significant vision loss under the department’s care. In February, the VA Palo Alto Health Care System initiated a three-month internal review of 381 charts and determined 23 glaucoma patients experienced ‘progressive visual loss’ while receiving treatment in the hospital’s optometry department, the Veterans Affairs office" in Washington, DC, "told the Bay Area News Group. The VA informed seven of those patients that improper care might have caused their blindness. At issue is whether" the Palo Alto "optometry department failed to follow VA policy requiring it to consult with medical doctors on glaucoma cases – possibly costing the patients their vision." The Mercury News adds, "Of the seven blind patients contacted, two have filed lawsuits, the VA said, noting it settled one claim and the other is pending." Meanwhile, as "a result of the probe, the ophthalmology department now handles all glaucoma cases and is supervising the optometry department, the VA said."

7.      Stockton Or French Camp, California, To Get New VA Medical Facilities.   The Stockton (CA) Record (7/22) reports, "A proposed new medical facility and 120-bed nursing home for veterans will be in the Stockton or French Camp area, according to a Tuesday announcement" from US Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA). In May, the US Department of Veterans Affairs "selected San Joaquin County for the home of the $250 million facility to expand medical care to the region’s veterans, but Tuesday’s announcement…further narrows the scope of the final location. The VA is expected to recommend a specific location later this year, according to McNerney’s office." The Record notes that local officials "have pushed hard to locate the facilities adjacent to San Joaquin General Hospital, citing the proximity to existing medical facilities and major transportation corridors connecting to veterans in San Joaquin County and beyond."

8.      VA Clinic In Nebraska To Celebrate One-Year Anniversary.   On its website, KHGI-TV Kearney, NE (7/21) reported, "Veterans and community members are encouraged to visit the Holdrege Veterans Affairs Community-Based Outpatient Clinic" on Tuesday "to celebrate its one-year anniversary and to learn more about VA health care services. The clinic employees will host an open house and offer tours from 1 to 4 p.m. at the facility located at 1118 Burlington Street in Holdrege." KHGI added, "The Holdrege clinic opened in June 2008. It was the first of four clinics the VA opened or expanded in the past year in Norfolk and Bellevue, Neb., and Shenandoah, Iowa."

9.      Access To Convenient Parking Seen As A Problem At Dingell VAMC.   On its website, WXYZ-TV Detroit, MI (7/21) said veterans like 84-year-old Neil Devine have trouble finding a good parking spot at the John D. Dingell Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Detroit. Devine was quoted as saying that this problem occurs because the "people who run" Dingell, "unlike any other VA facility we know" of in the US, "believe they and other employees are more deserving of a close-in covered space to park." However, Annette Walker, the hospital’s associate director, told WXYZ that while she is "not going to deny there’s a problem," she thinks the hospital is trying to allow veterans to have first crack at the closer parking spaces.

10.    Blood Drives To Be Held At VA Facilities.   The second item in the Murfreesboro (TN) Daily News Journal’s "Local Briefs" column notes, "A blood drive will be held from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m." Tuesday at the York Veterans Affairs Medical Center, "Building 107, located at 3400 Lebanon Road in Murfreesboro," while the Iowa City Press-Citizen (7/22) reports, "The Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center will conduct a blood drive from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. July 29 at the VA Iowa City Health Care System."


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