Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 8-20-09


What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans

1. Shinseki Vows To Do Right By Those Who Served In Iraq, Afghanistan, Homeless Vets.  
2. New Vet Centers To Be Located In Washington State, Utah.  
3. VA Chooses Two Companies To Work On Pennsylvania Cemetery.  
4. Vet Involved In Standoff With Police Unlikely To Be Charged.  
5. Jindal Hands Out Louisiana Veterans Honor Medals.  
6. Research Seen As Potentially Improving Recovery Of Wounded US Soldiers.  
7. Wisconsin To Welcome Vietnam Vets Home.  
8. Doctor Associated With VA "Mystified" By Talk Of Death Panels.  
9. EPA Fines Two VA Hospitals.  
10. At Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, Senator Praises New North Dakota Clinic.


1.      Shinseki Vows To Do Right By Those Who Served In Iraq, Afghanistan, Homeless Vets.   The Oregonian (8/20, Sullivan, 291K) reports Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki "vowed Wednesday to ‘do better’ for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans than the agency that was still debating Agent Orange 40 years after Vietnam. ‘We must do better,’" Shinseki "told standing-room-only crowds at two appearances in Portland. The Obama appointee said that within 60 days, he will act on a July report linking Agent Orange to Parkinson’s and heart diseases." Shinseki "also outlined plans to bring millions more into the VA system, cut the six-month delay for disability claims, and in admittedly the most ambitious undertaking discussed almost anywhere Wednesday, end homelessness for veterans. ‘We are going to take 131,000 veterans off the street in the next five years,’ he told" the Blinded Veterans’ Association (BVA). Shinseki’s remarks were "delivered at the BVA national convention and later at a Portland State University roundtable." The AP (8/20, Kost) publishes a similar story, although it states that during his remarks to the BVA, Shinseki "spent most of his time…focusing on homelessness among veterans. He said it’s important to catch warning signs, such as depression and poor health, before they drive someone to the streets."
Willamette (OR) Week (8/20, Mendelson) reports, "Shinseki…visited Portland" Wednesday "to co-host a roundtable at Portland State University with vets turned students about the new Post 9/11 GI Bill. Other co-hosts were" US Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski. The Week adds, "Most of the questions…from the 80 or so people attending revolved around ensuring that the new bill would be easily accessible and navigable for returning soldiers. Shinseki said it would, promising listeners that ‘the tone and culture in the VA is changing.’" The Oregon Public Broadcasting (8/19, Baer) website, which also noted Shinseki’s attendance at the roundtable, said the Secretary "told the group that benefits in the latest upgrade of the GI Bill are in high demand." The website added, "Shinseki has so far declined to comment publicly on the plight of Oregon soldiers exposed to lethal levels of sodium dichromate in Iraq. He was hustled out of the event before reporters could ask about it."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (8/18, Malloy, 218K), meanwhile, noted that Shinseki appeared Monday "in Moon to tout the new Post-9/11 GI Bill and take questions. About 100 people showed up to a conference room at Robert Morris University to see Mr. Shinseki and his host," US Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), "and most of those who asked questions wanted help navigating VA benefits. Mr. Shinseki directed specific queries to local aides who could attack individual problems." The Post-Gazette added that Specter’s "opponent in the 2010 Democratic primary," US Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), "held his own roundtable sessions with veterans in Philadelphia and then at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall in Oakland." Sestak, who "has made veterans’ issues a key part" of his platform, "praised VA health care and emphasized that it will be untouched as part of the House legislation on health care reform."
Beaver County (PA) Times (8/18, Bauder) reported, "Robert Beahr was recovering from back surgery in a Pittsburgh veterans hospital when the VA wrote him, asking for the location of the hospital and the name of his doctor." The
34-year-old Iraq "wasn’t alone in expressing frustrations with VA bureaucracy during a forum at Robert Morris University hosted" by Specter and Shinseki. More "than a dozen veterans voiced similar dissatisfaction with situations ranging from disability benefits to treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and care for homeless veterans. Several," however, "described the care they received in VA hospitals as outstanding," while Specter and Shinseki "had staffers on hand to deal individually with veterans who offered personal problems. Both promised that President Barack Obama has classified the VA as a priority for his administration." 

2.      New Vet Centers To Be Located In Washington State, Utah.   In continuing coverage, the Walla Walla (WA) Union-Bulletin (8/19, Hagar) said Walla Walla "is in line to receive a new community center for veterans, officials said Monday." Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki "announced combat veterans will receive readjustment counseling and other assistance in 28 more communities across the country in 2010. ‘VA is committed to providing high-quality outreach and readjustment counseling to all combat veterans,’ Shinseki said in a news release. ‘These 28 new vet centers will address the growing need for those services.’" The Union-Bulletin added, "The Walla Walla Vet Center will be located either on the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center campus or elsewhere in the Walla Walla Valley, noted Brian Westfield, local VA director." The KNDO-TV Yakima, WA (8/19) website ran a similar story. Meanwhile, the last item in the St. George (UT) Spectrum‘s (8/19) "Local News In Brief" column, which also noted Shinseki’s announcement, said one of the new Vet Centers ""will be in Washington County." 

3.      VA Chooses Two Companies To Work On Pennsylvania Cemetery.   The AP (8/20) reports, "A long-awaited veterans cemetery in suburban Philadelphia is getting closer to reality." On Tuesday, the Department of Veterans Affairs "said…it is awarding two contracts worth a total of $8.7 million to prepare the new Washington Crossing National Cemetery for its first burials." Eric Shinseki, the VA secretary, "says a veteran-owned small business in Detroit is going to prepare a 20-acre tract that will provide burials for two years while the main cemetery is being developed. A Philadelphia company was picked to prepare construction documents outlining roads, landscaping and other details." The Philadelphia Inquirer (8/20, Wood, 339K) publishes a similar story.  

4.      Vet Involved In Standoff With Police Unlikely To Be Charged.   The Orange County (CA) Register (8/20, Hernandez) reports Nathan Vazquez, a "27-year-old former Marine who held dozens of sheriff’s deputies at bay for about five hours while barricaded in an Aliso Viejo apartment Tuesday," will "likely not be booked in county jail, authorities said, but he will remain in a Veterans Affairs hospital for at least 72 hours." Vazquez "was turned over to a hospital in Long Beach, where he will undergo a psychological
evaluation, said Lt. Bill Griffin, incident commander for the standoff." He "is not expected to be charged with any crimes when he is released." 

5.      Jindal Hands Out Louisiana Veterans Honor Medals.   The Monroe (LA) News Star (8/20, Hilburn) reports, "Thomas Shoemaker said Gov. Bobby Jindal couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate place to award Louisiana Veterans Honor Medals than the Northeast Louisiana War Veterans Home." On Wednesday, the 45-year-old Shoemaker, who "served in Afghanistan" and Iraq, "was one of more than 130 veterans, some bed bound, who Jindal presented with Louisiana Veterans Honor Medals." The News Star adds, "Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Lane Carson said the Northeast Louisiana War Veterans home is among the best in the country. ‘There are more residents in this home than any other in the state, and it’s in the top 10 percent nationally in providing the most service at the least cost,’ Carson said." 

6.      Research Seen As Potentially Improving Recovery Of Wounded US Soldiers.   USA Today (8/20, Zoroya, 2.29M) reports US military "scientists have identified genes and proteins called biomarkers that could enable doctors to tailor personalized treatments for troops suffering traumatic injuries, such as those caused by roadside bombs," which are responsible for "nearly 65% of the wounds suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Pentagon statistics." Researchers "hope the troops will heal and recover faster, says Navy Cmdr. Eric Elster, a surgeon who co-authored the recent studies."  

7.      Wisconsin To Welcome Vietnam Vets Home.   The WBAY-TV Green Bay, WI (8/19, Alexander) website said, "Nearly 35 years after the Vietnam War ended, plans" have been "announced to officially welcome home Wisconsin’s Vietnam veterans" during a three-day event next May "at Lambeau Field. More than 50 Vietnam veterans attended Wednesday’s announcement at the Packers stadium." The "Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, the Wisconsin Historical Society, and Wisconsin Public Television have partnered to host the welcome home event called ‘LZ Lambeau.’"  

8.      Doctor Associated With VA "Mystified" By Talk Of Death Panels.   On its website, NPR (8/19) published a transcript of an interview it conducted with Dr. David Casarett, who "started the palliative care service" at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Philadelphia. When NPR asked Casarett how he reacts when he hears "talk about death panels pulling the plug on grandma," he said, "I’m…mystified. I really can’t begin to figure out where this language is coming from," because it "bears really no resemblance to what’s in the provision of the health care reform bill. … I think most Americans and certainly all of my patients would support" what is in the bill.
      A front page
New York Times (8/20, A1, Hartocollis, 1.06M) on end-of-life healthcare also quotes Casarett, noting, "Deep sedation, to the point of
unconsciousness, may…be used to relieve intractable suffering, and it ‘has caused almost as much distress and debate in the palliative care-hospice world as euthanasia has,’ said…Casarett, a palliative care doctor at the University of Pennsylvania, who is leading a national evaluation of end-of-life care" at VA "hospitals. ‘Is it used to end a life, or up until the end of life?’ Dr. Casarett said, summarizing the debate. Among those who use it, he said, the consensus is that ‘we would never sedate with the goal of hastening death.’"  

9.      EPA Fines Two VA Hospitals.   In continuing coverage, the KSHB-TV Kansas City, MO (8/19, Seward) website said the Environmental Protection Agency fined Veterans Affairs hospitals "in Leavenworth and Topeka for hazardous waste violations." VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System, which "oversees both" facilities, "agreed to pay $51,000 in civil penalties. It will also spend $500,000 to create a plan for improved management of hazardous wastes." 

10.    At Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, Senator Praises New North Dakota Clinic.   In continuing coverage, the KFGO-AM Fargo, ND (8/19) website noted that earlier this week, US Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) "helped open the new Veterans Administration…community-based outpatient clinic in Grand Forks." The Senator "cut the ceremonial ribbon and called the facility a step toward better health care for North Dakota’s rural veterans." The "Grand Forks clinic is the latest in a series of new outpatient clinics the Congressional delegation fought to open in North Dakota over the past couple years."



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