Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 8-25-09


What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans

1. Specter Requests Hearing On Veterans Care Booklet. 
2. Veterans Mistakenly Told They Have Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  
3. Distorting the Purpose of Veterans Affairs ‘Your Life, Your Choices.’.  
4. Housing Units For Homeless Vets In Maryland Being Considered.  
5. Bob Stump VAMC Welcomes Home Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans.  
6. Grand Opening Held For New Vet Center In Wisconsin.  
7. Outpatient Clinic To Hold Grand Opening.  
8. World War II Vets Head To Memorial Named In Their Honor.  
9. Today in History:


  1.      Specter Requests Hearing On Veterans Care Booklet.   In continuing coverage, the Washington Post (8/25, A5, Vogel, 652K) reports US Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) "called on the Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday to consider suspending its use of an end-of-life planning document that critics have dubbed the ‘death book for veterans.’ ‘There is an issue as to whether the VA document inappropriately pressures disabled veterans who forgo critical care by subtly urging them on end-of-life decisions,’" the lawmaker "wrote in a letter requesting" that the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hold a hearing on the matter. VA officials, however, "said that the document has been misrepresented by critics and that the decade-old publication, titled ‘Your Life, Your Choices,’ is an ‘educational resource’ meant to help veterans direct in advance the medical care they want in the event they are incapacitated." The Los Angeles Times (8/25, 797K) runs a similar story as the second item in its "National Briefing" column.
      CQ (8/25, Johnson) reports, "Early indications" are Specter’s "request is being strongly considered." His letter was sent to US Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, who "said ‘end of life care is a terribly emotional and powerful issue and [he] will work closely with Secretary [Eric] Shinseki to ensure that [the] VA continues to refine its efforts in this area. [The] VA is not suggesting that injured or sick veterans consider ending their lives and if this is the impression or implication derived from any VA materials, then that is wrong.’" CQ adds, "Concern about the document was raised Aug. 18 when Jim Towey, the former director" of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives "under President George W. Bush, railed against it in the
Wall Street Journal."

      VA Hospice Program Director Concerned About How Dying Patients Are Treated.   The St. Petersburg (FL) Times (8/23, Sutton) reported, "Deborah Grassman says her mother’s final eight days were among the best of her 90-year lifetime," surrounded as she was by loving family. Juanita Jones’ "death on June 9, was peaceful, even beautiful, her daughter says. The week before that, however, was another story," because Jones’ caregivers at a St. Petersburg nursing home "weren’t giving up. Staff called the doctor to order physical therapy that continued despite the ailing woman’s complaints," and a "dispute arose: Did her Do Not Resuscitate order mean she shouldn’t get further medical treatment, or just that her heart wouldn’t be restarted?" So Grassman, director of the hospice program at the Bay Pines Veterans Affairs Medical Center, "called in Suncoast Hospice and brought her mother home." She "says her mother’s caretakers were neither insensitive nor incompetent." Instead, she "blames the current ‘geriatric culture’ that emphasizes distracting people with activities rather than helping them face their end." The Times added that Grassman is the "author of a new book, ‘Peace at Last: Stories of Hope and Healing for Veterans and Their Families,’ ($19.95; Vandamere Press.)"  

2.      Veterans Mistakenly Told They Have Lou Gehrig’s Disease.   The AP (8/25, Dickerscheid) reports, "Letters were sent to 1,864 veterans about disability benefits for those with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and a ‘small number’ have contacted the VA indicating they received the letters in error," Veterans Affairs "spokeswoman Katie Roberts said Monday night." The National Gulf War Resource Center, meanwhile, "said at least 2,500 letters informing veterans of disability benefits for ALS sufferers were sent, with almost half – some 1,200 – a mistake." The AP adds, "The VA has taken some heavy criticism already this year. In June, Congress questioned the agency over botched colonoscopies at medical centers in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee that may have exposed 10,000 veterans to HIV and other infections," while last month, the VA hospital in Philadelphia "disclosed that the number of cancer patients receiving incorrect radiation doses had risen to 98 veterans over a six-year period."

3.      Distorting the Purpose of Veterans Affairs ‘Your Life, Your Choices.’.    Recently, some folks have been distorting the purpose of a Veterans Affairs planning tool called ‘Your Life, Your Choices.’ The booklet is designed to help Veterans deal with excruciating questions about what kind of health care they would like to receive if they are unable to make decisions for themselves, a topic that Secretary Shinseki takes very seriously as we continue to create a 21st Century Department of Veterans’ Affairs that provides the care and benefits our nation’s veterans have earned. The document was developed under a federally funded research grant over a decade ago and in 2007, the Veterans Health Administration convened an outside panel of experts to review the tool and assess its merits. Overwhelmingly, the panel of experts, which included a diverse group from the faith based and medical communities, praised ‘Your Life, Your Choices’ and endorsed its use in the Veterans Health Administration. Your Life, Your Choices’ is not an Advance Directive or Living Will, it is an educational resource.  The National Advance Directive that the VA utilizes today is the same document that was authorized by the Bush Administration in 2006.

4.      Housing Units For Homeless Vets In Maryland Being Considered.   Maryland’s Cecil Whig (8/25, Mattix) reports, "State veterans affairs officials say they don’t have any definite plans to build 100 housing units for ‘at-risk’ or formerly homeless veterans near" the Perry Point Veterans Affairs Medical Center, but the "agency is ‘testing the waters’ for such facility, according to Brian Hawkins, the associate director for finance at the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Maryland Healthcare System." 

5.      Bob Stump VAMC Welcomes Home Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans.   The Prescott (AZ) Daily Courier (8/25, Hedler) reports 30-year-old Iraq veteran Robert Collins "was among an estimated 90 members" of his Arizona National Guard "unit who attended the second annual Operation Welcome Home Sunday on the grounds" of the Bob Stump Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Prescott. VA officials "organized the event for veterans of the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars and members of the National Guard, and invited them and their families." The Daily Courier adds, "The VA hospital has provided excellent medical care, said Jamie Reinhardt-Larue, an Iraq War veteran who admitted suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and underwent two knee surgeries." 

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6.      Grand Opening Held For New Vet Center In Wisconsin.   On its website, WLUK-TV Green Bay, WI (8/24) reported, "A grand opening was held Monday afternoon for Brown County’s Vet Center," one of two such facilities "coming to the state. Vet Centers provide counseling to veterans and help service members dealing with…mental health issues. In 2007," US Sen. Russ
Feingold (D-WI) "led a Wisconsin congressional delegation requesting two more Vet Centers for the state. Feingold says Vet Centers are important in helping service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who face such challenges as rising suicide rates." WLUK added, "Just last week, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it will open a Vet Center in La Crosse County in 2010."  

7.      Outpatient Clinic To Hold Grand Opening.   The Selma (AL) Times-Journal (8/25, Faulkner). 

8.      World War II Vets Head To Memorial Named In Their Honor.   The Grand Junction (CO) Daily Sentinel (8/25, Wiggins). 

9.      Today in History:


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