Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 8-6-09

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What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans

1. Obama Touts VA’s "Active Outreach," Lifetime Electronic Record.  
2. With House: New GI Bill Glitch Fixed In California.  
3. VA Making "Ambitious Effort" To Prevent Repeat Crimes By Veterans.  
4. Nonprofit Group Offers Guitar Therapy To Veterans.
5. With Help Of EMRs, Volunteers, VA Clinic In Florida Reaching Out To Veterans.  
6. House Committee Approves Several Veterans-Related Bills.  
7. Veterans Seen As Potential Saviors Of Golf Course.  
8. VA Hospital In West Virginia To Begin Work On Mental Health Clinic, Other Projects.  
9. VA Representative Spreads Word About New Veterans Center In Montana.  
10. Man Reported Missing From VA Hospital Found Safe.

     

1.      Obama Touts VA’s "Active Outreach," Lifetime Electronic Record.   In continuing coverage, the American Forces Press Service (8/6, Miles) reports, "The days of Department of Veterans Affairs officials waiting passively for veterans leaving the military to come" and "seek benefits and services are over, President Barack Obama told military reporters" Tuesday in Washington, DC. Instead, today’s VA "is reaching out, while servicemembers are still in uniform, to make sure they know what their benefits are and what services are available to them, he said during a White House roundtable interview." Obama "called this ‘active outreach’ an important first step in ensuring servicemembers don’t ‘fall through the cracks’ as they transition from the Defense Department to VA systems." The President also "called the new joint virtual lifetime electronic record one of the longer-term answers to promoting a more seamless transition process." VA Secretary Eric Shinseki "and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates proposed the measure to improve care and services to transitioning veterans by smoothing the flow of medical records between the two departments."

2.      With House: New GI Bill Glitch Fixed In California.   In continuing coverage, the Navy Times (8/6, McMichael) reports, "A semantic change has erased a glitch in the ability of California-based service members and veterans to gain full tuition benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the White House announced Tuesday." The glitch "is one of a number of issues unaccounted for when legislators enacted the generous new education benefit last year that the Obama administration and its Department of Veterans Affairs say they are fixing." In a news release, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said the fix announced Tuesday "will allow all veterans who want to attend a California school the same benefits as any other" US veteran. Meanwhile, another "kink" in the new GI Bill "involves the apparently inadvertent exclusion of National Guardsmen who were activated for homeland defense missions during the past eight years under the control of their state governor." President Obama "pledged Tuesday to change that," and "said his aides are trying to work out how to fund the fix with lawmakers on the congressional appropriations committees." KTVU-TV San Francisco, CA (8/5, 6:10 p.m. PT) and KGTV-TV San Diego, CA (8/5, 11:38 a.m. PT) were just two of the many local TV stations in California airing reports that noted Tuesday’s announcement.

3.      VA Making "Ambitious Effort" To Prevent Repeat Crimes By Veterans.   The AP (8/6, Banda) reports, "Bracing for an influx of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Department of Veterans Affairs has launched an ambitious effort to locate veterans who’ve had minor brushes with the law and offer them treatment to try to prevent repeat crimes." The VA began "its Veterans Justice Outreach Program early this year – before public attention intensified on a handful of Fort Carson, Colo.-based soldiers accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter after returning from a deployment where they faced intense combat. Most of the soldiers had" been arrested "before the slayings." The AP notes that under its new program, the "VA is training 145 specialists at its hospitals nationwide to help veterans who are in jails awaiting trial or serving misdemeanor sentences. Other VA programs aim to prevent homelessness and help veterans readjust after serving prison terms for serious crimes." The VA is "also…participating in 10 ‘veterans courts’ to help former service members accused of crimes get into treatment programs in exchange for reduced sentences or

dismissed charges. More than 40 such courts are planned across the country, including one near Fort Carson," said Jim McGuire, the "Los Angeles-based director of the VA’s incarcerated veterans outreach programs." The courts "are patterned after drug courts where defendants are offered treatment instead of jail."

4.      Nonprofit Group Offers Guitar Therapy To Veterans.   The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (8/6, Martin, 235K) reports that on Tuesday afternoons at the "Clement J. Zablocki Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s domiciliary in Building 123," a "small group of veterans and civilians sits in folding chairs clutching and strumming guitars," taking part in a program called Guitars 4 Vets, which is "’about expressing emotions,’ says co-founder Patrick Nettesheim, a Milwaukee-area guitar teacher and musician." The "idea for the nonprofit group was launched in the summer of 2007 when one of Nettesheim’s students, Dan Van Buskirk, a Vietnam veteran being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, recognized the therapeutic value of taking guitar lessons." A "social worker by training, Van Buskirk suggested that the pair create Guitars 4 Vets as a complementary therapy or outreach to veterans receiving mental health and medical services through the VA system." According "to Nettesheim, Guitars 4 Vets is presently serving veterans through VA facilities in Milwaukee, Madison, La Crosse and Tomah," but "word about the group is spreading." Nettesheim "says requests are coming in from other states, including Illinois and Arizona, to start up these therapeutic programs. ‘We really need volunteers to help us grow,’ he says."

5.      With Help Of EMRs, Volunteers, VA Clinic In Florida Reaching Out To Veterans.   Florida’s Space Coast Medicine & Healthy Living (8/5, Harwood) said Vietnam veteran William Wright, who "attends a group counseling session at Brevard County’s" Veterans Affairs clinic "as he fights his long battle" with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is "concerned that today’s Gulf War veterans face a similar fate. ‘I think a lot of these young guys are going to try to tough it out just like we did until it becomes so bad that either they recognize it or their spouse looks for help,’ worries Wright." But the healthcare teams at the Brevard County VA Clinic "are determined not to let that happen." At the clinic, "and across the VA system, special outreach efforts are underway to convince new veterans, including those from the National Guard and Reserves, to take advantage of the health care benefits available during the two-year period following their discharge date." Medicine & Healthy Living added, "Computers also play a key role" in the Brevard County VA Clinic’s "approach to quality. Fully electronic medical records are now a hallmark of the VA system and they’ve been in place at Viera since the day it opened." Meanwhile, over "200 active volunteers, many, but not all of them veterans, support the clinic by donating their time."

6.      House Committee Approves Several Veterans-Related Bills.   The last item in the syndicated "Sgt. Shaft" column, appearing in the Washington Times (8/6, Fales, 74K), notes that the House Veterans Affairs Committee "has approved an amendment by Rep. Steve Buyer, Indiana Republican and ranking committee member, to extend to all civilian World War II groups designated as veterans a benefit the House approved earlier this year for Word War II merchant mariners." Buyer’s "amendment to a draft bill would provide a $1,000-a-month benefit to all World War II civilian groups that were given veterans status under" the GI Bill Improvement Act of 1997. The "committee also approved" several other bills, including HR 1293, which "would provide significant increases in the amounts payable under" the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Home Improvement and Structural Alteration program, HR 2379, which "would allow veterans to purchase additional amounts of Veterans Group Life Insurance," and HR 3155, which "would improve and increase services to support family caregivers by expanding outreach, education, respite care, travel benefits and mental

health counseling. The bill also would recognize the unique needs of severely wounded Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom warriors by providing a stipend to certain family caregivers, and it would extend the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs eligibility to those without health insurance."

7.      Veterans Seen As Potential Saviors Of Golf Course.   The Washington Post (8/6, Spivack, 652K) reports, "Montgomery County Council member Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring) has proposed keeping imperiled Sligo Creek Golf Course open by setting up a partnership with the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs to provide special access to military veterans and therapeutic golf for wounded soldiers returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq. Ervin hopes to pattern her plan after the American Lake Veterans Golf Course in Washington, where military hospital in-patients have first priority on the course and play for free," while veterans "and active-duty military personnel with identification cards pay to play. The Washington course is operated and maintained by an all-volunteer force and sustained by funds from annual passes, daily greens fees, and a nonprofit fundraising organization." The "Montgomery County Revenue Authority, which operates Sligo, plans to close it Oct. 1, saying it is too expensive to maintain. But County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said last week that he would ask the County Council to appropriate money to keep it open for at least a year."

8.      VA Hospital In West Virginia To Begin Work On Mental Health Clinic, Other Projects.   The AP (8/6) reports, "Work will begin soon on a nearly $6.5 million mental health clinic" at the Veterans Affairs medical center in Martinsburg. Acting associate director Timothy Cooke "says the clinic will consolidate outpatient mental health services in one building and provide more efficient service." Cooke "says other capital improvements include expanding the emergency room and replacing the air-handling system for the medical center’s 178-bed nursing home."

9.      VA Representative Spreads Word About New Veterans Center In Montana.   Montana’s Lake County Leader & Advertiser (8/6, Niles) reports, "There are about 1,500 veterans on the Flathead Indian Reservation, both tribal members and non, J. Lloyd Jackson, a representative of Veterans Affairs, said during a meeting at the newly-established" Veterans Center in St. Ignatius. Jackson recently "met with vets to discuss the VA benefits they were receiving, and what benefits they are eligible for. ‘You have to have someone working for you. That’s why I’m here,’ Jackson said." The Leader & Advertiser notes that the St. Ignatius Veterans Center "is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from about 12-5 p.m."

10.    Man Reported Missing From VA Hospital Found Safe.   The Tulsa (OK) World (8/5) reported, "A 64-year-old man who was briefly the subject of a Silver Alert has been located." Nita McClellan, spokeswoman for the Veterans Affairs medical center in Muskogee, "said that Joseph Morrissey was found safe around 3 p.m. Tuesday." The "alert was issued after Morrissey had been reported missing after last being seen" at the hospital "at about 11:30 p.m. Monday." The Muskogee (OK) Phoenix (8/5, 16K) published a similar story.

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