Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 8-4-09

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What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans

1. Obama Touts Rollout Of New GI Bill, Says Vets Will Boost The Economy.  
2. Vets Group Leader Says Some Healthcare Reform Concerns Have Been Soothed.  
3. VA, HUD Team Up To Assist Homeless Veterans In Oregon.
4. VA Helps Disabled Iraq Vet Get Involved With Handcycling.  
5. Columnist Concerned About Fate Of Walter Reed Music Therapy Program.  
6. US Army "Scrambling" To Help Marriages Imperiled By War.  
7. Mental Health Services To Be Housed In Expanded VA Clinic.  
8. New VA Clinic Now Open In Michigan.  
9. Hospital Relocation Establishes Site For Planned VA Clinic In Tennessee.  
10. Tomah VAMC Planning To Expand Home Based Primary Care Program.

     


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This year, the Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis received the Endoscopy Unit Recognition Award from the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE). The award was created in 2008, when the ASGE launched an effort to increase quality in endoscopy in medical facilities across the United States. The award recognizes units that are following ASGE guidelines on quality assurance, privileging, endoscopy reprocessing, and CDC infection. In order to receive the award, a unit must not only meet or exceed the ASGE guidelines, but must also send a representative to complete ASGE training reviewing those quality guidelines. The training focuses on several central themes — improving patient satisfaction, preventing endoscopy-related infections, endoscope reprocessing, understanding quality metrics, designing and implementing a quality improvement plan, training and credentialing, and quality in sedation and monitoring. The Roudebush VA Medical Center is one of only 56 endoscopy units throughout the nation to receive this award, and the only VA facility whose commitment to excellence is documented by ASGE Endoscopy Unit Recognition.


1.      Obama Touts Rollout Of New GI Bill, Says Vets Will Boost The Economy.   In continuing coverage, the AP (8/4, Pace, Hefling) reports, "President Barack Obama said Monday a new GI Bill for those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan is an investment in both a new generation of veterans and the future of America. The Post-9/11 GI Bill is the most comprehensive education benefit offered to veterans since" 1944’s original GI Bill, and in the "next decade, $78 billion is expected to be paid out under it. ‘We do this not just to meet our moral obligation to those who sacrificed greatly on our behalf, on behalf of the country,’ said Obama, speaking at a celebration rally at George Mason University. ‘We do it because these men and women must now be prepared to lead our nation in the peaceful pursuit of economic leadership in the 21st century.’"
      The Wall Street Journal (8/4, Pulizzi, 2.01M) notes that Obama also "said there is a broader lesson to be learned from the veterans who will benefit from the new GI Bill. ‘We’ve lived through an age when many people and institutions acted irresponsibly, when service often took a backseat to short-term profits, when hard choices were put aside for somebody else, for some other time,’ he said. ‘While so many were reaching for the quick buck,’" veterans "were heading out on patrol. While our discourse often produced more heat than light, especially here in Washington, they have put their very lives on the line for America."
      The Air Force Times (8/4, McMichael) reports, "Obama, who was introduced" at Monday’s rally "by Marine Staff Sgt. Jim Miller, an Iraq war veteran who has enrolled in the Post-9/11 GI Bill program, was accompanied on stage" by Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, who, according to the Washington Post (8/4, Rucker, 652K), "told the veterans’ gathering that the bill signifies the nation’s ‘respect and appreciation for your service and your sacrifice.’"
      The Washington Post‘s (8/3, Rucker) "44" blog also noted Shinseki’s remarks, while CNN’s Newsroom (8/3, 1:14 p.m. ET), Fox News Channel’s Happening Now (8/3, 11:22 a.m. ET), WJAC-TV Johnstown, PA (8/3, 5:31 p.m. ET), NC8-TV Washington, DC (8/3, 5:06 p.m. ET), WRDW-TV Augusta, GA (8/3, 12:19 p.m. ET), and KGMB-TV Honolulu, HI (8/3, 5:58 a.m. HT) all aired brief reports noting that he appeared at Monday’s rally. Meanwhile, stories pointing out that benefit applications under the new GI bill are now being processed by the VA were broadcast by many local TV stations in various parts of the country, including WWTV-TV Traverse City, MI (8/3, 11:20 p.m. ET), WUSA-TV Washington, DC (8/3, 12:03 p.m. ET), and KMAX-TV Sacramento, CA (8/3, 9:35 a.m. PT).
      The Washington Times (8/4, Weber, 74K) reports that while speaking before a "crowd of roughly 350 people" attending Monday’s rally, Obama said the new GI Bill "was a hero’s reward and a call for troops now to lead the country’s economic recovery." The Times adds, "The Post-9-11 GI Bill…took effect Aug. 1," and the VA "began distributing tuition payments over the weekend to public universities in the program."
      The Los Angeles Times (8/4, Silva, 797K), meanwhile, says that while the new GI Bill has "been widely praised by veterans groups, concerns also have been raised that universities and the VA could be overwhelmed because of the complexity of the benefit." In addition, there "have been complaints that veterans attending private schools in states that offer low public tuition face a huge disparity in what they can collect." The Los Angeles Times (8/3, Neuman, 797K) also took note of the new GI Bill in its "Top Of The Ticket" blog, which focused solely on Obama’s remarks at Monday’s rally.
      Stars And Stripes (8/4, Shane), however, notes that Shinseki also spoke at the rally, urging those using GI Bill "money to ‘make it count for your country.’" But veterans

"groups at the event…noted that significant work still needs to be done" on the new GI Bill because "tuition payouts are based on the most expensive public school in each veteran’s home state. As a result, the actual value of the new GI Bill is different from one veteran to the next, depending on where they live. Members of the Student Veterans of American and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America have already begun lobbying Congress for a simpler approach, but one that still ties payouts to the ever-rising cost of a college education."
      Thousands Of Guardsmen Frustrated By Glitch In New GI Bill.   The Hill (8/4, Tiron), which also notes that Shinseki "marked the implementation" of the new GI Bill at Monday’s rally, says up to 30,000 "National Guardsmen did not share President Barack Obama’s enthusiasm Monday" for the bill, "frustrated by a glitch that is keeping them from receiving" the new educational benefits. The Guardsman "were activated under a provision in the law – Title 32 – that is federally funded but classifies them under the control of the state governors whom they usually serve." However, only "those who served on active duty – under Title 10, which is funded and controlled federally – are eligible for the post-9/11 GI Bill." The "administration and Congress will likely fix the problem in the fiscal 2011 budget, sources said. That would add to the bill’s $78 billion price tag over the next decade."
      Shinseki: New GI Bill Demonstrates America‘s "Abiding Respect" For Veterans.   Meanwhile, after noting that the "Yellow Ribbon Post-9/11 GI Bill, a program to improve financial aid to veterans, went into effect Saturday, with four local institutions and 65 statewide taking part," the Clarksville (TN) Leaf Chronicle (8/4, Smith) reports that in a new release, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said, "The president and I know that the nation’s courageous service members and their families have shouldered the heaviest burden for our country’s security and safety over the past eight years," and this "new GI Bill is a way for a grateful nation to tangibly demonstrate our heartfelt appreciation and abiding respect for their service." The Springvale (AR) Morning News (8/4), meanwhile, reports, "Thirteen Arkansas colleges and universities will partner" with the VA "to provide scholarships to military veterans under the new GI Bill, the White House announced Monday."
      Many Vets Attending "Welcome Home" Event In California Interested In New GI Bill.   The website for KPBS-TV San Diego, CA (8/3, St. John) reported, "Combat veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan showed up at a ‘Welcome Home’ event" at the VA medical center "in La Jolla over the weekend. Many of them were looking for information on the new" Post-9/11 GI Bill. The "’Welcome Home’ event reflects a Federal effort to help new veterans avoid the pitfalls that befell Vietnam vets, who got very little support when they returned home. The busiest booth was the one handing out information about" the new GI Bill, which went into effect August 1."

2.      Vets Group Leader Says Some Healthcare Reform Concerns Have Been Soothed.   The Hill (8/4, Tiron) reports, "A leading veterans group said on Monday its concerns that healthcare reform would jeopardize the care of millions of veterans have been partly alleviated," after US Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN) "successfully offered…amendments" to ensure "that veterans receiving VA healthcare could also enroll for additional health insurance and that the VA secretary would retain full authority to operate the VA healthcare system without interference from any new organizations or agencies established by the legislation." However, "one sticking point remains: ensuring that veterans who are participating in the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system would not be subject to a tax for uninsured or underinsured individuals." And until "that issue is fixed ‘our concerns are not fully

resolved,’ said Raymond Dempsey, the National Commander of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV)," which "was among six high-profile veterans groups that sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week expressing ‘grave concerns’ over the House healthcare reform bill and warning that they would actively oppose it if several changes were not made." The Hill notes that House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman "said that he would allow Buyer to offer" an amendment on the tax for uninsured or underinsured individuals "when the bill is considered on the House floor later this year." Meanwhile, in a statement, Dempsey said "Buyer’s ‘amendments and bipartisan support from Chairman Waxman are big steps in the right direction," but the "DAV will continue to do more analysis of this voluminous bill."

3.      VA, HUD Team Up To Assist Homeless Veterans In Oregon.   The Medford (OR) Mail Tribune (7/31, Fattig) said a "collaborative program between" the US Department of Veterans Affairs and the US Housing and Urban Development has been able "to help get homeless veterans" like 59-year-old Dave Baker "back on their feet" in Oregon. Baker "is among the formerly homeless veterans taking advantage of 35 rental-assistance vouchers the VA’s Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics in White City received last summer." And just last month, "HUD announced 70 more rental-assistance vouchers are available with $354,333 in funds allotted to the local program. The vouchers are part of what is officially known as the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) program," under which the VA "provides support services and case management to eligible homeless veterans."

4.      VA Helps Disabled Iraq Vet Get Involved With Handcycling.   USA Today (8/4, Shatzen, 2.29M) profiles Iraq veteran Joe Beimfohr, who, with the "help of the Veterans Association" and US Paralympics, "was introduced to the sport of handcycling shortly after he completed rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington in July 2008." A little over a year later, he "has joined the ranks of several other disabled veterans who have received coaching and training support in a program funded by a grant" from the US Paralympic Military Program, which "provides sports opportunities for more than 700 injured service men and women in the Washington area. There are also handcycling programs in Chicago, San Antonio and San Diego." USA Today adds that Beimfohr "was drawn to handcycling after" the Department of Veterans Affairs and US Paralympics "sent him to a camp for wounded veterans where he was able to try out several sports."

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5.      Columnist Concerned About Fate Of Walter Reed Music Therapy Program.   In her Washington Post (8/4, A17, 652K) column, Anne Applebaum notes that after he "went to Walter Reed Army Medical Center" and "rigged up a drum set" for a veteran who had lost a leg in Iraq, "classically trained pianist" Arthur Bloom "founded a program, Musicorps, designed to teach music to disabled soldiers." In "pursuit of this idea," Bloom "persuaded donors to give him instruments, got Apple’s Steve Jobs to donate computers and set up what looks like a mini-recording studio in one of the residential houses at Walter Reed." Applebaum added, "So far more than a dozen veterans have been helped by Musicorps; dozens more want to join. Thousands

more could benefit," but "nothing involving professional musicians can run on volunteer energy forever." So, while entrepreneurs "like Bloom can come up with new solutions; the question is whether our health-care system, and our philanthropic organizations, have become too ossified to support them. In its narrow way, the fate of Bloom’s program will tell a lot about how well we are going to care for the thousands of men and women severely wounded in the wars of the past decade, men and women who will go on needing care for many decades to come."

6.      US Army "Scrambling" To Help Marriages Imperiled By War.   USA Today (8/4, Zoroya, 2.29M) reports, "As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to demand long and multiple deployments of soldiers," the US Army "high command is focusing more attention on a tragic consequence to military families. Soldiers and their spouses are learning to live separate lives – the soldier at war, the spouse at home with the children – and it is becoming more difficult with each deployment to get back together." The Army is "scrambling to address the issue" by "providing more counselors to help couples address their marital issues" and by "expanding a program run by chaplains that offers marital therapy retreats." But "many fear that the damage done to marriages is lasting. ‘What families are dealing with are the cumulative effects of nearly eight years of war … effects (that) are not easily reversed,’ Sheila Casey, wife of Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey, told a Senate subcommittee in June."

7.      Mental Health Services To Be Housed In Expanded VA Clinic.   In continuing coverage, the Lufkin (TX) Daily News (8/4, Alford) reports, "Staff at the new Charles Wilson Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic were hard at work Monday putting the finishing touches on the facility a day before its official opening. The 37,000 square-foot" facility "at 2206 N. John Redditt Drive replaces both the former medical clinic on Frank Avenue and the former mental health clinic on Ellis Avenue." Operations "at the old clinic shut down at noon on Friday of last week and both clinics had to transfer all of their equipment to the new building to be ready for opening day today. ‘The move has gone incredibly well,’" said "Dr. Anthony Zollo, the clinic’s chief medical officer," who added, "I couldn’t be more proud of everyone for doing so much in only 26 hours after shutting down." Zollo "also credits the staff at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Clinic in Houston for lending their expertise and personnel to aid in the transition" to the new clinic, which includes a coffee bar and "large flat-screen televisions" that "display when prescriptions are ready."

8.      New VA Clinic Now Open In Michigan.   The Escanaba (MI) Daily Press (8/4, Mead, 80K) reports, "Schoolcraft County veterans, of which there are thousands, can finally get primary care close to home" now that the Manistique Veterans Outreach Clinic is in operation. The facility, "which opened last week," was "funded by the Veterans Health Administration Office of Rural Health." The Daily Press adds, "Prior to the creation" of the clinic, "veterans in Manistique and surrounding communities, had to travel an hour or more, to receive their primary care."

9.      Hospital Relocation Establishes Site For Planned VA Clinic In Tennessee.   On its website, WVLT-TV Knoxville, TN (8/3, McLamb) reported, "East Tennessee veterans may soon have a shorter drive to a veterans clinic" because plans "are now being drafted to bring a veterans clinic to Sevier County." WVLT added, "Many of the details of services available are still being worked out," but Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters expects the Fort Sanders Medical Center "will relocate in February of 2010 and the county will be able to make the building available" as a VA clinic "sixty to ninety days later." A date, however, "is not set for when veterans services would begin."

10.    Tomah VAMC Planning To Expand Home Based Primary Care Program.   The Tomah (WI) Journal (8/4, Medinger) reports, "One year after" the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center "launched Home Based Primary Care (HBPC)," the program, which "features primary care given to veterans with chronic illnesses in the comfort" of their homes, "continues to grow." Dr. Katherine Pica, "M.D., is the Associate Chief of Staff at the VA and the medical director of the HBPC program. She said that the program has been helpful to many veterans in need of long-term care," and that as the "needs of the program grow, we will continue to expand." The Journal adds, "The program has been a feature at other VA hospitals around the country."

 

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