Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 8-5-09


What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans

1. Obama: VA Will Need Years To Full Ready To Address Vets’ Mental Health Issues.  
2. Agreement Allows California Students To Receive Improved GI Bill Benefits.  
3. Shinseki Stresses VA’s Willingness To Help Vets Succeed In Business.  
4. Congregations Using Spirituality To Help Troubled Veterans.  
5. Guardsman Testifies About Dangers Posed By Water Treatment Facility In Iraq.  
6. Mobile Vet Center To Offer Its Services At Powwow.  
7. Women Veterans Informational Fair Held At VA Hospital In New Hampshire.  
8. VA Clinic In Minnesota To Host Open House.  
9. VA Grant Funding "Cutting-Edge" Heart Research.  
10. Lawmaker Announces Grant For State Veterans Cemetery In Mississippi.


1.      Obama: VA Will Need Years To Full Ready To Address Vets’ Mental Health Issues.   Stars And Stripes (8/5, Shane) reports, "As thousands of troops bearing mental scars stream back from fighting two major wars, President Barack Obama," participating in a "White House roundtable with Stars and Stripes and other military" reporters, "acknowledged Tuesday that it will take years before Veterans Affairs officials are fully ready to address their complex emotional issues." Obama "and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said they are focused on the issues of stress and suicide among returning troops, and have committed millions in new funding to dealing with problems" like post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries, a "move the president called one of his biggest successes in office." Shinseki, meanwhile, "noted that the VA employs more than 18,000 counselors, including new employees at suicide hot lines and mental health outreach programs."
      Obama Promises That Burn Pits Will Not Become Another Agent Orange.   Stars And Stripes (8/5, Shane) notes that during Tuesday’s roundtable, Obama also "promised…that health concerns related to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan will not become another Agent Orange, with the military denying their dangers for decades." Obama "said he is tracking reports from the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments about the burn pits, still in use at a number of bases in Iraq and Afghanistan to dispose of various equipment and supplies. He said officials are still working to get an ‘objective’ view on the problem." The issue was also addressed by Shinseki, who "said officials in his department may implement a burn-pit health screening, similar to the one vets undergo to check for brain injuries and stress disorders, in order to better track the potential problem."

2.      Agreement Allows California Students To Receive Improved GI Bill Benefits.   The AP (8/5) reports, "Military veterans who attend college in California" under the Post-9/11 GI Bill "will receive the same educational benefits as their counterparts in other states under an agreement announced Tuesday between the state and the Department of Veterans Affairs." Under the "new agreement, the VA said it would use the fees charged at public universities to calculate benefits for the state’s veterans, who will be able to receive $287 per credit. ‘This solution will allow all veterans who want to attend a California school the same benefits as any other veteran across the nation," VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said. The AP adds, "Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a nonprofit group, pushed for the change." The third item in the Los Angeles Times‘ (8/5, Gordon) "California Briefing" also notes the agreement California and the VA, as does the Los Angeles Times‘ (8/4, Gordon) "LA Now" blog.
      Shinseki Estimates Many Vets Will Benefit From New GI Bill.   Inside Higher Ed (8/4) said a "much-expanded Post-9/11 GI Bill is, as of Saturday, newly law in the land," and on Monday, Shinseki and President Obama "marked the milestone in a celebratory ceremony at George Mason University." Inside Higher Ed added that Shinseki "estimated Monday that about a quarter of a million veterans will benefit from the newly expanded GI Bill by 2011." The NPR (8/4, Sanchez) website also noted Monday’s ceremony.
      New Jersey Schools Preparing For "Influx" Of Veterans.   The Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger (8/5, Dinges) reports, "New Jersey colleges and universities are ramping up their efforts to receive an expected influx of veterans as a result" of the new GI Bill. Schools "are initiating programs to help transition the soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan

into their classrooms by developing campus-specific websites for the veterans, hiring campus veteran liaisons and establishing mentoring programs. Some schools are updating policies to accept academic credit for military service, while others are actively-recruiting veterans." The Star-Ledger adds, "Since May, 112,000 veterans nationwide have applied for the educational benefits offered by the new bill, according" to the US VA.

3.      Shinseki Stresses VA’s Willingness To Help Vets Succeed In Business.   In the lead item for his "Veterans’ Corner" column in New York’s The Saratogian (8/5), Robert Mitchell notes, "More than 1,000 veterans who own small businesses and seek to do more contracting" with the Federal "government recently heard Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki extol the importance of small businesses and reaffirm the commitment" of the VA "to help veterans start or expand their companies. ‘If veterans tell us their definition of success, we’ll put our capabilities behind them,’ Shinseki said July 21 at the government-sponsored National Veteran Small Business Conference in Las Vegas." Shinseki "said last year VA spent more than $2 billion with veteran-owned small businesses – 15 percent of its procurement dollars, up to 5 percent from the previous year."

4.      Congregations Using Spirituality To Help Troubled Veterans.   USA Today (8/5, MacDonald, 2.29M) reports, "As soldiers return home from Iraq and Afghanistan, congregations are discovering how spirituality can help veterans afflicted with postwar stress." For example, Point Man International Ministries, an "independent non-profit," has set up support groups "led by veterans." Such groups "have grown from 219 in 2007 to 250 today." Post-traumatic stress-disorder (PTSD), however, "poses challenges even for well-intentioned congregations because" a "veteran with the disorder may appear fine in worship, but at home he may obsess about security, struggle to sleep, panic at loud noises or become easily enraged. Such symptoms manifest in certain trauma survivors, including some who have experienced the horrors of war up close, says Matthew Friedman of the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the Department of Veteran Affairs."
      Study Suggests Vets With PTSD More Prone To Heart Risk Factors.   HealthDay (8/5, Doheny) reports, "Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts who have mental health problems" such as PTSD "are also at higher risk for having cardiovascular disease risk factors, a new study" published in the Aug. 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association "suggests. While previous studies have found that those with PTSD, a common mental health problem among veterans who have seen combat, are at increased risk of developing and dying from cardiovascular disease, risk factors for heart attack and stroke have not been evaluated in this group, said Dr. Beth E. Cohen," a staff physician at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, who "led the study." HealthDay adds, "A related study, from researchers at Alliant International University in California, found that more than half of those vets who had served in Afghanistan or Iraq reported significant problems with sleep."

5.      Guardsman Testifies About Dangers Posed By Water Treatment Facility In Iraq.   West Virginia’s The Intelligencer (8/5) reports Russell Powell was "among those testifying to a Senate panel Monday about illnesses suffered since being exposed to hexavalent chromium during military service in Iraq." Powell "is one of a group of West Virginia National Guardsmen who have filed a lawsuit alleging that defense contractor KBR knew hexavalent chromium was present at a water treatment facility in southern Iraq, where the guardsmen served to protect KBR employees who were rebuilding the plant." The lawsuit "is similar to suits brought by guard members from other states." The Intelligencer adds, "Monday’s hearing was held" by the US Senate Democratic Policy Committee "to determine if the Army’s response to the exposure of troops to hexavalent chromium has been appropriate."
      Bill Would Make Vets Exposed To Health Hazards Eligible For Treatment At VA Hospitals.   The Beckley (WV) Register-Herald (8/5, Porterfield), which notes Powell "told a Senate hearing this week that he still struggles with shortness of breath and periodic nose bleeds and skin rashes," reports US Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Robert C. Byrd, both Democrats from West Virginia, "joined by three other members of the Democratic Policy Committee," have "crafted SB642," which "would devise a registry of members and former members of the armed forces who encountered occupational and environmental health hazards. The bill would require the Department of Defense to conduct a scientific review of evidence that draws parallels between medical conditions and hazardous substances, and makes such veterans eligible for treatment of those conditions at Veterans Administration hospitals."
      CongressDaily (8/5, Master) reports US Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) "called the Army’s response to soldiers exposed to a highly toxic carcinogen in Iraq ‘inadequate’ and said the Democratic Policy Committee will request a report from the Pentagon’s inspector general on the matter. Five soldiers who served at an Iraqi water injection facility in 2003 testified before the committee on Monday, outlining symptoms believed to be the result of exposure to sodium dichromate spread across the facility." The "five soldiers who testified asked the committee to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes the symptoms and will classify symptoms as service-related disabilities."

6.      Mobile Vet Center To Offer Its Services At Powwow.   The Bennington (VT) Banner (8/5, Whitcomb) reports, "Dancers, storytellers, and Grammy Award-winning musical acts will gather this weekend at Gardner’s Field in part to honor veterans, as well as bring a sense of community to American Indians and non-natives alike." The Banner adds, "’America — Fly Like an Eagle, Forever Free, Honoring Our Veterans, Healing Our Warriors,’ is the theme of this year’s" Rock, Rattle, and Drum Powwow, "and the focus of Saturday’s dance contest will be to honor veterans. The Vet Center Program of Springfield, Mass., will be bringing a 39-foot Mobile Vet Center to the event and will offer free psychological counseling for veterans," according to "organizer Susan Jameson of Healing Winds and Humanity in Concert, a non-profit Native American cultural organization."

7.      Women Veterans Informational Fair Held At VA Hospital In New Hampshire.   In a story submitted by a user, New Hampshire’s Foster’s Daily News (8/5) reports, "The NH Chapter of Women Veterans of America (WVA) sponsored a recent public Women Veterans Informational Fair" at the Veterans Affairs medical center in Manchester. The WVA "worked in concert" with the VA hospital and "regional office personnel from both Manchester and White River Junction, the NH Department of

Health and Human Services, the Red Cross, Liberty House, the Manchester Vet Center, NH Veterans Home, the NH Veterans Cemetery, and the NH State Veterans Council." The Daily News adds, "During the event, WVA members honored World War II Navy veteran Margaret Nally from Newton, NH," who has been a "member of the NH State Veterans Council for 12 years."

8.      VA Clinic In Minnesota To Host Open House.   The Rochester (MN) Post-Bulletin (8/5) reports Rochester’s new Veterans Affairs "Community-based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), 3900 55th St. N.W., will host an open house at 4 p.m. Monday. Many Minnesota residents have served on active duty during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq." And now, the VA "is working to localize medical care for those veterans and others." The Post-Bulletin adds, "Dr. Mike Koopmeiners, CBOC medical director at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, and Minnesota 1st District Congressman Tim Walz, a Democrat, are expected to attend" Monday’s open house.

9.      VA Grant Funding "Cutting-Edge" Heart Research.   The Arizona Daily Star (8/4, Quinn, 102K) reports, "Researchers at Tucson’s veterans hospital are developing a patch that could one day act as a living bandage helping to heal people’s damaged heart muscles." Dr. Steven Goldman, chief of cardiology for the Southern Arizona Veterans Affairs Health Care System, "is leading the research. ‘We’ve been doing work with heart failure for years; we have a specific interest in developing new treatments,’ Goldman said." Funding for the research "comes primarily from an annual grant of $135,000 from the VA Merit Review Program of Washington, D.C., Goldman said. The benefit of this new step in cardiology is important to veterans as well as to the public at large, VA spokesman Pepe Mendoza said," who added, ""It’s cutting-edge research that could extend the lives of your loved ones."

10.    Lawmaker Announces Grant For State Veterans Cemetery In Mississippi.   The Jackson (MS) Clarion Ledger (8/5) reports the Department of Veterans Affairs has awarded "$6.9 million in funding to establish Mississippi’s first state veteran’s cemetery," US Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS) announced Tuesday. The grant "will reimburse the state 100 percent for the cost associated with the construction of phase one of the three-phase development of the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Newton, according to a news release from Harper’s office." The "cemetery is slated to open in spring 2011." WTOK-TV Meridian, MS (8/4, 10:12 p.m. CT) aired a similar report.



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