Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 7-27-09


What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans

1. Agent Orange Exposure Linked To Parkinson’s, Heart Disease. 
2. Report Suggests Possible Link Between Agent Orange And Parkinson’s, Heart Disease. 
3. VA Researcher, Others Concerned About Some Americans’ Chemical Fears.  
4. Shinseki Says New GI Bill Could Spur "Social Change."
5. Schools, VA Providing Tuition Assistance To Veterans.
6. Humor Part Of Healing Process For Some Wounded US Soldiers.  
7. After Returning From Iraq, US Combat Unit Plagued By Crime, Suicide.  
8. Returning Veterans Often Prone To Dangerous Driving.  
9. San Diego Stand Down Event Attracts 950 Homeless Veterans.  
10. Detroit Complex Will House 150 Homeless Veterans. 


Did you know that the VA has placed speeches made from the Secretary, Deputy Secretary and other VA Executives on VA website?  Go to, under Public Affairs and click on speeches.


1.      Agent Orange Exposure Linked To Parkinson’s, Heart Disease.   The AP (7/25, Lardner) reports, "Medical researchers say there may be a link between exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange and other herbicides used during the Vietnam War and an increased chance of developing serious heart problems and Parkinson’s disease. A study from the Institute of Medicine released Friday contains several caveats, but suggests there is a stronger connection than previously thought about the health risks to Vietnam veterans." The AP notes that "the research was sponsored by the Veterans Affairs Department, which will decide what to do with the findings. A VA spokeswoman said the department is reviewing the study to determine the full extent of the toxic effects of Agent Orange so exposed Vietnam veterans get the disability benefits they are entitled to."
      According to the New York Times (7/25, A12, Lorber), "The results, though not conclusive, are an important first step for veterans groups working to get the government to help pay for treatment of illnesses they believe have roots on the battlefield. Some other conditions linked to Agent Orange already qualify. … Since 1994 the Institute of Medicine committee has found 17 conditions associated with exposure to the chemical, 13 of which qualify veterans for service-connected disability benefits provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. In its latest report, the committee found ‘limited or suggestive evidence’ linking the herbicide to Parkinson’s and ischemic heart disease. In the past, that has been enough evidence of a link to prompt benefits for some conditions but not for others. The group Vietnam Veterans of America plans to write a letter to the secretary of veterans affairs, Eric K. Shinseki, asking for extended benefits, said Bernard Edelman, the organization’s deputy director for policy and government affairs."

2.      Report Suggests Possible Link Between Agent Orange And Parkinson’s, Heart Disease.   In continuing coverage, HealthDay (7/25, Gardner) reported, "Exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides that were sprayed far and wide" by the US military "during the Vietnam War might put veterans at increased risk for heart disease and Parkinson’s." An Institute of Medicine (IOM) report released on Friday "finds ‘suggestive but limited’ evidence of an elevated risk for these two conditions among soldiers who served in that conflict." The "IOM’s report is the seventh update in a series requested" by the US Department of Veterans Affairs "and mandated by Congress."
      Bloomberg News (7/25, Waters) noted that Bernard Edelman, deputy director for policy and government affairs of Vietnam Veterans of America, "said his group ‘applauded’ the new report and its finding. ‘This is something we’ve been working on for a long time and we will be petitioning’" VA "’to add these conditions to the list of diseases the agency considers to carry enough risk that they’ll grant disability compensation,’ Edelman said in a telephone interview" Thursday. The fifth item in the Los Angeles Times’ (7/25) "Science Briefing" column also noted the IOM report, as did a story aired by NEWS13-TV Orlando, FL (7/26, 12:26 p.m. ET).

3.      VA Researcher, Others Concerned About Some Americans’ Chemical Fears.   The Los Angeles Times (7/27, Ravn, 797K) reports "millions of Americans…believe that sprays meant to freshen the air actually pollute it, that chemicals meant to beautify our yards in fact poison them, and that many of the products and materials that make modern life fast and convenient also make people sick." But "some researchers worry that consumers’ fears are getting ahead of the scientific evidence," with some consumers going so far as to rip "out carpets to avoid chemical releases" or renounce "miracle fabrics in favor of natural fibers. Many people have concerns about perfumes, shampoos, soaps and other products that produce odors, says Dr. Ware Kuschner, an associate professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine who practices" at the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Kuschner, who "does research on the health effects of indoor and outdoor air pollution," says the "link between exposure to these products and serious adverse health effects is often quite tenuous."

4.      Shinseki Says New GI Bill Could Spur "Social Change."   The Republican (MA) (7/26, Graham) reports, "Edward C. Ortiz may one day take advantage of the newly revamped version of the GI Bill to further the education of his two sons. Ortiz, an Army combat veteran and single father from Chicopee, says money is tight for his family, and the new bill – a descendent of the GI Bill of Rights that helped millions of veterans in the wake of World War II – could help his two teenage sons should they choose to go to college. … As the bill is due to take effect Aug. 1, many Western Massachusetts institutions of higher learning, from Springfield Technical Community College to Western New England College, have signed onto a provision of the legislation in which they use their own funds to supplement the new bill’s benefits." The Republican notes that "like the 1944 version of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act which President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law, this bill allows eligible veterans to transfer benefits to a spouse or offspring. Back then, the U.S. Veterans Administration was made responsible for providing the benefits that along with education and training also included a loan guaranty for homes, farms or businesses as well as unemployment pay. … Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki says the new bill is the most extensive educational assistance program authorized since the original bill was passed. Subsequent GI Bill programs, including the Montgomery Bill for active-duty soldiers, remain in effect." Shinseki "said the new bill ‘has the potential to create the same kind of impact for development, social change and leadership across America in the 21st century.’"

5.      Schools, VA Providing Tuition Assistance To Veterans.   WVIR-TV Charlottesville, VA (7/26, 11:18 p.m. ET) broadcast, "Mary Baldwin College is stepping up to help post-9/11 veterans and their families afford a college education. The school is one of nearly 60 colleges and universities in Virginia partnering with the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide tuition assistance to those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan." Students at Mary Baldwin "will be eligible for $9,000 a year from the college. Those funds will be matched by the Federal government."
      The Worcester (MA) Telegram & Gazette (7/26, Welch) reported, "Nine local institutions are among the 68 colleges, universities and schools in Massachusetts that have entered into Yellow Ribbon Program agreements" with the VA "to improve financial aid for veterans participating in the Post-9/11 GI Bill program: Anna Maria College, Assumption College, Becker College, Clark University, College of the Holy Cross, Mount

Wachusett Community College, Nichols College, University of Phoenix and Worcester Polytechnic Institute."
      The Austin (TX) American-Statesman (7/25, Summers) reported, "Austin Community College is among colleges and universities nationwide that expect to see a boom in veteran enrollment this year as a new GI bill with revised college tuition benefits takes effect Aug. 1." The US VA "estimates that the new benefits will bring more than 460,000 veterans to college campuses nationwide, an increase of 20 percent to 25 percent. Experts say this is the largest overhaul" of the GI Bill "since it was established."
      In a related story, the Daily Texan (7/27, Longoria) reports, "Austin Community College held a veterans’ appreciation and open house event Saturday that provided veterans with information regarding" the US VA, "post-traumatic stress disorder and a new GI bill that will go into effect August 1."

6.      Humor Part Of Healing Process For Some Wounded US Soldiers.   In a front page story, the Washington Post (7/27, A1, Davenport, 652K) reports, "Although doctors and therapists" at Walter Reed Army Medical Center "can patch up the physical wounds of war" suffered by US soldiers, "it is often…humor" that "can heal as well as the best medicine." The Post says that while "not every wounded warrior is able to crack jokes," for "others, it’s the ultimate palliative as they move from denial to anger to acceptance."
      Disabled Golfer Attempts To Inspire Vets Who Have Lost Limbs.   The New York Times (7/27, D1, Pennington, 1.06M) profiles veterans Don Vickery, a golf teaching pro in Georgia who recently "became the first double amputee to earn" Professional Golfers’ Association of America membership. The Times notes that last summer, members at the Wilmington Island Club in Savannah, where Vickery works, along with the "larger Savannah community, began a fund-raising drive…to pay for Vickery to visit the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, so he could meet with" and inspire "American war veterans who had lost arms and legs." Vickery "said he planned to make another visit to Walter Reed in September."

7.      After Returning From Iraq, US Combat Unit Plagued By Crime, Suicide.   In Part I of a two-part story, the Colorado Springs (CO) Gazette (7/25, Philipps) said the "4th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team…fought in some of the bloodiest places in Iraq, taking the most casualties of any Fort Carson unit by far. Back home, 10 of its infantrymen have been arrested and accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter since 2006," while others "have committed suicide, or tried to." The Gazette added that this "month, Fort Carson released a 126-page report by a task force of behavioral-health and Army professionals who looked for common threads in the soldiers’ crimes. They concluded that the intensity of battle, the long-standing stigma against seeking help, and shortcomings in substance-abuse and mental-health treatment may have converged with ‘negative outcomes,’ but more study was needed."
      In Part II of its story, the Gazette (7/25, Philipps) reported that the US Army "is seeking new ways to care for returning soldiers and keep the violence from returning – crucial now, because" the 4th Brigade Combat Team "shipped out in May to Afghanistan, where the monthly coalition casualty rate has doubled since the beginning of the year." The Gazette went on to say that Maj. Gen. Mark Graham "made mental health a focus after taking command of Fort Carson" in 2007. The AP (7/27), which notes the Gazette’s two-part story, says the Colorado paper "based its report on months

of interviews with soldiers and their families, medical and military records, court documents and photographs."

8.      Returning Veterans Often Prone To Dangerous Driving.   The Boston Globe (7/26, Macquarrie) reports, "Dangerous driving is often a byproduct of military bravado. … But among survivors of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the practice is now seen as a deadly crisis, prompting the Department of Veterans Affairs to take unprecedented preventive action. In the first years after returning from deployment, veterans of the two wars are 75 percent more likely to die in motor vehicle accidents than civilians of comparable age, race, and sex, according to a 2008 VA study. The rate for motorcycle deaths is an astounding 148 percent higher. The tragic result is that motor vehicle crashes – which already are the top killer of Americans ages 16 to 34, according to the latest federal safety data – are killing newly returned veterans at a devastating rate. The 2008 study, which has yet to be released, analyzed fatalities through 2006. ‘You have to look at the situation they’ve been in," said Mel Tapper, who manages the Center for Returning Veterans, based at the VA Medical Center in Jamaica Plain. ‘They’ve been in an extremely tense, life-threatening situation, where there’s adrenaline that goes through people constantly." Once veterans return to the safety of home and loved ones, that tension – sometimes life-saving in war, but often debilitating in peace – can continue for months or years."

9.      San Diego Stand Down Event Attracts 950 Homeless Veterans.   The New York Times (7/26, A13, Eckholm) reports, "The future mix of homeless veterans was signaled here last weekend at Stand Down, an annual three-day tent city that provides respite and aid to former members of the armed forces whose lives have collapsed. The number of homeless veterans who made their way to a high school’s athletic fields for the gathering reached a record high, some 950 compared with last year’s record of 830. The job-devouring recession is pushing up the numbers, but organizers said they were also starting to see younger veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, some with traumatic brain injuries or psychological stresses, who had fallen through the safety nets with unusual speed. Stand Down, which in military parlance means time out from combat to allow rest and re-equipping, started 21 years ago here in San Diego and is duplicated on a smaller scale in other cities. It still draws a preponderance of Vietnam-era men, many fighting alcohol and drug problems. A ragtag group of veterans, some with overstuffed shopping carts or backpacks, stay here for three days for hot food, haircuts, massages, dental care, legal aid, referrals to drug programs and federal benefits, and above all, for some, a bit of relief from the streets."

10.    Detroit Complex Will House 150 Homeless Veterans.   The Detroit News (7/26, Esparza) reports, "A housing complex for homeless veterans is rising from the ashes of a former Studebaker plant destroyed in a 2005 fire. The complex, called Piquette Square, will house 150 homeless veterans selected by the state in 100,000 square feet at 285 Piquette. The $21 million complex is the largest of its kind in the state and one of only two such developments in Michigan, according to owner Southwest Housing Solutions. The developer is the housing arm of Southwest Solutions, which provides housing and counseling services for patients of low-to-moderate incomes."


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