Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 9-11-09


What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans 

1. VA’s "Innovation Competition" Begins.  
2.  Bath VAMC Utilizing More Advanced Dental Technology.
3. Shinseki Assures Speedy Processing Of Filipino WWII Vets’ Claims.  
4. "Much Still" To Be Decided About New VA Hospital In Colorado.  
5. VA Hosting Expo In Massachusetts For Women Veterans.
6. VA Operating "One-Stop" Facilities For Iraq, Afghanistan Vets.  
7. State Lawmakers In Oklahoma Seek Ways To Help Vets Suffering From PTSD.  
8. Wisconsin VA Secretary Returns Home From Iraq.  
9. Vietnam, US Launch Agent Orange Task Force.  
10. VA Presents Funds For Eastern Washington State Veterans Cemetery


1.      VA’s "Innovation Competition" Begins.   In his "What’s Brewin’" blog for NextGov (9/10), Bob Brewin reported, "Last month, President Obama suggested the Veterans Affairs Department tap its employees for ideas on how to cut the claims backlog at the Veterans Benefit Administration," and on Thursday, "VA Secretary Eric Shinseki kicked off the ‘Innovation Competition,’" which is "open to VA employees on an internal" website. Brewin noted that Shinseki commented on the competition, saying VA "employees who grapple with the claims process every day have the first hand knowledge and experience necessary to help us understand inefficiencies and improve the system. We are confident that our team will come forward with many creative and original ways to accelerate processes and better deliver services for our nation’s Veterans." Brewin added, "Meanwhile, for anyone who likes to count, the number of education claims pending as of this Monday…has hit 276,704." A "year ago, when the VA did not have to deal with claims under the new GI Bill, the total was only 66,261."
      Craig Newmark, the founder of, praised the competition in his "City Lights" blog for the
San Francisco Chronicle (9/10, 351K), saying that "around 5000 VBA people connected" to the internal website "on the first day." Newmark added, "I’m not privy to the specifics, but…anything that helps vets get benefits more effectively" is "pretty cool." Newmark’s blog also appeared at the Huffington Post (9/10).  

2.      Bath VAMC Utilizing More Advanced Dental Technology.   The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette (9/11, Murray) reports, "In past, needing a dental restoration meant an hour in a dentist’s chair for measurements, waiting weeks while a lab somewhere fashioned your new crown, and then going back to the dentist to see if it fit." But at the Bath Veterans Affairs Medical Center, "that arduous process has been replaced by a new system that can have a dental patient in and out with a new crown in one visit." In fact, the "Bath facility is the first VA medical center in the country to utilize computer-assisted design/computer-assisted manufacturing (CAD/CAM) technology to create crowns and other dental restorations. ‘This is state-of-the-art dentistry. It’s more convenient for the patient,’ said Dr. Steven Speroni," the Bath VAMC’s chief of dentistry. 

3.      Shinseki Assures Speedy Processing Of Filipino WWII Vets’ Claims.   In continuing coverage, the website for the Philippines’ GMANews.TV (9/10) reported, "A United States official has assured a speedy processing of claims of thousands of Filipino soldiers who fought in World War II and stand to receive benefits from the American government." On Tuesday, US Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki "personally gave the assurance to Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., who is now in the US for a five-day working visit." Teodoro, meanwhile, "thanked Shinseki for the DVA’s grant-in-aid to the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) amounting to $5.5M since 2003 and the scheduled delivery of MRI (magnetic resonance
imaging) equipment amounting to $1M next year." According to a "statement from the Department of National Defense," Shinseki "has accepted Teodoro’s offer to conduct a joint DND-DVA assessment of VMMC’s existing capabilities under the Philippine Defense Reform program." The Philippine Daily Inquirer (9/10, Uy, Burgonio) also noted the assurance given to Teodoro during Tuesday’s meeting, although the Inquirer’s coverage of that meeting came at the very end of an article focused on the possibility that Teodoro might run for the Philippine presidency next year.
Lawmaker Supports Apology For "Token" Payments.   In a related story, GMANews.TV (9/11, Lariosa) reports Rep. Steve Austria (R-OH), "the only first generation Filipino-American" in the US Congress, "vowed to continue the fight for ‘full benefits’" of Filipino World War II vets. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act "contains a provision appropriating $198 million as one-time benefit for an estimated 18,000 surviving Filipino WWII veterans," but US Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI), "who introduced the insertion of the Filipino veterans benefit" into the act, "later admitted that the $198 million appropriation was a ‘token’ amount." GMANewsTV added, "In a video interview with this reporter last Saturday," Austria "said he supports suggestions that President Obama write a letter of apology to each of the Filipino veterans to compliment the token benefits to ‘our partners’ during World War II." 

4.      "Much Still" To Be Decided About New VA Hospital In Colorado.   The Aurora (CO) Sentinel (9/11, Goldstein, 8K) reports that while a "groundbreaking ceremony for the new Veterans Affairs hospital on the site of the former Fitzsimons Army Hospital" has already occurred, "much still has to be decided about the final form" of the facility, "which is slated to open for veteran care in January 2014." The Sentinel adds that when VA Secretary Eric Shinseki "announced earlier this year that funding for a new, 200-bed VA hospital in Aurora had been approved, and that progress on the structure would begin within the year, he included preliminary details about the ultimate size and scope of the new center." But the "final arrangement of the different departments in the 67,000 square-foot facility remains to be seen."  

5.      VA Hosting Expo In Massachusetts For Women Veterans.   On its website, WCVB-TV Boston, MA (9/10) said the Department of Veterans Affairs has an "image of being a hospital for only men," but as the "sheer number of women veterans grows, the VA is reaching out to this population" with a "first-of-its-kind event being held for all female war veterans." Re-entering "back into the real world is just one of the topics that will be addressed at the first ever Women Veterans’ Expo at the Shaw’s Center in Brockton, Mass., on Saturday." WCVB noted that "Dr. Megan Gerber, the medical director of Women’s Health for VA Boston Healthcare System," commented on the event, saying, "The VA is a well-kept secret. We want our women’s veteran community to know that we’re offering…women care through out the life span." 

6.      VA Operating "One-Stop" Facilities For Iraq, Afghanistan Vets.   The Tuscaloosa (AL) News (9/11, Avant) reports, "To help veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan adjust to life outside the military, the Tuscaloosa Veterans Affairs Medical Center opened a transition center in 2006" that serves as a "one-stop shop for veterans returning from war." Veterans "know the VA is there for them the moment their boots hit the ground, said Angel Kirby, a registered nurse who is care coordinator with the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center’s transition team. It’s something that didn’t necessarily happen with previous wars," and Kirby said, "We were determined this was not going to be like the Vietnam era."  

7.      State Lawmakers In Oklahoma Seek Ways To Help Vets Suffering From PTSD.   The AP (9/11) reports, "Members of a state House committee say they’re concerned about a rise in the number of returning military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder – or PTSD. The House Veterans and Military Affairs Committee is looking at ways to make sure help is available," and on Thursday, "it conducted an interim study on how state officials can prepare for an increase in soldiers seeking treatment for PTSD. 

8.      Wisconsin VA Secretary Returns Home From Iraq.   On its website, WKOW-TV Madison, WI (9/10, Angileri) reported, "Col. John Scocos — who also serves as Wisconsin’s Secretary for Veterans Affairs — is home from his second tour of duty" in Iraq. And, while his "return will likely usher a new wave of initiatives to help Wisconsin’s veterans," his "homecoming was also about family.
‘You appreciate how important family is and I’m looking forward to spending a lot of time with them and getting back to good family life and good Wisconsin life,’" said Scocos, who "expects to return to his post as VA secretary in about a month."  

9.      Vietnam, US Launch Agent Orange Task Force.   In continuing coverage, the AP (9/11) reports US and Vietnamese scientists "wrapped up their annual meetings on Agent Orange on Thursday, launching a task force to examine health issues in areas where the defoliant was used during the Vietnam War." The "task force will advise the bilateral Joint Advisory Committee on Agent Orange, which just wrapped up its fourth annual meeting, as it seeks ways to aid the disabled in ‘hotspots’ where the herbicide was stored during the war. The committee has already appointed another task force to advise it on environmental issues related to the clean up of the sites." 

10.    VA Presents Funds For Eastern Washington State Veterans Cemetery.   The Spokane (WA) Spokesman-Review (9/10, Leinberger) reports the Federal Veterans Affairs State Cemetery Grants Program "presented the state of Washington with a check for $8,794,766 last week to build the Eastern Washington State Veterans Cemetery," which "is scheduled to open on Memorial Day next year." The Spokesman-Review adds, "Elected officials, veterans, active members of the military, first gentleman Mike Gregoire," Washington VA Director John Lee, "and many others were on hand Sept. 2 to watch Frank Salvas, director of state cemetery grants of the Federal Department of Veterans Affairs, present the check." A slightly shorter version of this story appears in the Tri-City (WA) Herald (9/11).



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