Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 9-20-09


What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans

1. VA Reportedly Contacting Colleges About Late GI Bill Payments. 
2. VA Touts Suicide Prevention Campaign. 
3. VA IG Finds Significant Progress In Handling Of Endoscopic Procedures. 
4. VA Healthcare Seen As Potential Model For Expanded Government System. 
5. VA IG Faults Hampton Medical Center Doctor For Failing To Diagnose Stroke. 
6. Construction Starts On New Eastern Virginia VA Medical School Building. 
7. VA In Negotiations To Develop New Grand Rapids Outpatient Clinic. 
8. Disabled Vet Wins Award From California DVA. 
9. New Veterans Cemetery Planned For Dublin, Virginia. 
10. Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Tied To Gulf War Syndrome.


1.      VA Reportedly Contacting Colleges About Late GI Bill Payments.  Bob Brewin, in a blog post for Nextgov (9/19), writes, "I’m picking up strong signals that the Veterans Affairs Department has started contacting colleges and universities around the country to determine whether or not they will throw veterans off campus if the schools do not receive timely tuition payments as promised under the post-9/11 GI bill. VA Education Liaison Representatives during the past week quietly started contacting administrators in charge of veteran programs at colleges and universities asking a simple, but potentially, explosive question: Do they plan to disenroll veterans if the schools have not received payments from VA by the end of September? That’s an explosive question because under the post-9/11 GI bill, the department sends tuition payments directly to schools. If payment is not received, the school has two options, wait for the payment or throw the vets out." According to Brewin, "Since no school wants the horrible publicity that would result from kicking vets off campus, it leaves them little choice but to, in essence, extend large loans to VA."  

2.      VA Touts Suicide Prevention Campaign.  The Tulsa World (9/19) reports, "Twenty percent of the 32,000 people who commit suicide each year in the U.S. are veterans. That means that 18 veterans take their lives every day, according to Department of Veterans Affairs statistics. September marks the VA’s Suicide Prevention Campaign, during which a new online chat service is being promoted for veterans as part of an expanded effort to reach those who need help. … ‘There’s still the mental health stigma,’ said Juli McNeil, suicide prevention coordinator at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center in Muskogee. ‘It can be very tough for people to seek mental health care. Veterans are taught to serve their country and be tough. More and more of what the VA and the military is promoting is that it’s OK to ask for help.’" VA Medical Center spokeswoman Nita McClellan of Muskogee "said Veterans Chat, which started in July, has already had a good outcome for one veteran. The counselor persuaded him to provide his home telephone number. the veteran remained online, another counselor was able to contact the veteran’s mother, and together, they persuaded the veteran to be admitted to a treatment facility."  

3.      VA IG Finds Significant Progress In Handling Of Endoscopic Procedures.  The AP (9/19, Kimberly Hefling (AP)) reports, "Inspections show that Veterans Department medical facilities have made significant progress on fixing endoscopic procedure problems that potentially exposed thousands to HIV and other infections. The VA’s inspector general said in a new report released Friday that it did surprise visits to 128 medical facilities and that all were compliant in following procedures. It also said all but one showed it properly trained their staffs for using the devices. The findings were a significant improvement over inspections earlier this summer at several facilities that found less than half in compliance." The Ap notes, "About 10,000 veterans from veterans hospitals in Augusta, Ga., Miami and Murfreesboro, Tenn., were
told earlier this year that they may have been exposed to infections during colonoscopies or other endoscopic procedures where equipment had been improperly cleaned. … Gerald M. Cross, the agency’s acting under secretary for health, said in a statement that the IG’s findings show the VA quality assurance programs ‘identified a risk and successfully corrected that risk on a national scale.’ The VA said it took more than 40 disciplinary actions related to what happened." 

4.      VA Healthcare Seen As Potential Model For Expanded Government System.  Long Island Newsday (9/19, Evans) reports, "For years, the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system was a virtual piñata – battered by criticism from veterans groups and health experts as inefficient, unresponsive and potentially dangerous. … But after far-reaching reforms that were begun in 1995, the VA health system is increasingly regarded as a model of what government can do in the health care field. It’s lauded for its electronic record keeping, focus on preventive care and cost cutting compared with private hospitals and clinics. While critics of health reform warn against government intervention as an invitation to overspending and substandard care, clients of the VA express high rates of satisfaction." According to Newsday, "The VA health system does still have critics. Many of its 153 medical centers are aging. Several recent incidents, including a series of badly bungled colon cancer treatments by a doctor at a Philadelphia VA center, have led to calls for tighter oversight. But the VA health system provides a powerful rebuttal to those who say government cannot build a competent health system, say a range of experts. … Key to the VA’s transformation were new performance measures that forced hospital administrators to demonstrate improvements in the patients health outcomes, experts say."  

5.      VA IG Faults Hampton Medical Center Doctor For Failing To Diagnose Stroke.  The Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot (9/19, Sizemore) reports, "The inspector general of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has found the Hampton VA Medical Center at fault after a doctor there failed to diagnose a Chesapeake veteran’s stroke, leaving him permanently disabled. The investigation also found that the vet’s medical record contained lab results from another patient and that the medical center staff turned a deaf ear to his repeated complaints in the weeks afterward. … John Morgan, 53, a Marine veteran, was in the process of moving from Roanoke to Chesapeake in November when he began suffering slurred speech and weakness in his left leg. A volunteer paramedic, he had had a previous stroke in 1991 and thought he recognized the symptoms. Morgan said in an interview that he went to the Hampton VA emergency room and told the attendant, ‘I’m having a stroke. Please help me.’ Despite what the inspector general called ‘fairly classic stroke symptoms,’ the VA doctor failed to follow American Heart Association treatment guidelines, the investigation found. He sent Morgan home without ordering a CAT scan or consulting a neurologist. The next day, Morgan’s wife took him to Sentara Norfolk
General Hospital, where he was found to have suffered a stroke and was hospitalized for six days. In addition to missing his stroke, Morgan said, the VA doctor told him his lab results were ‘good’ when in fact his blood glucose level was high. The investigation found a major documentation error that would explain that discrepancy: Another patient’s lab results had been placed in Morgan’s electronic medical record. Finally, the investigation found that Morgan’s repeated complaints about his treatment in Hampton – first to a patient advocate and later to the director of the medical center – went unanswered." 

6.      Construction Starts On New Eastern Virginia VA Medical School Building.  The AP (9/18, 6:47 p.m. p.m. reports, "Ground has been broken on Eastern Virginia Medical School’s $80 million education and research building. Construction began Thursday on the building that will provide room for 35 more medical students and 30 more students studying to become physician assistants." The project’s funding includes $59 million from the state’s 2008 higher education capital bond package. 

 7.      VA In Negotiations To Develop New Grand Rapids Outpatient Clinic.  The Grand Rapids Press (9/19, King) reports, "An increase in the number of veterans from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who are seeking treatment at the Grand Rapids Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic on the city’s Northeast Side has led officials to seek a new location and larger space. Officials in Washington say they have selected an unnamed location in the Grand Rapids area and are in negotiations with the landowner. Plans call for constructing a 97,000-square-foot building to replace the one-story, 64,000-square foot clinic at 3019 Coit Ave. NE, behind the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, which is run by the state. ‘We are starting to see more and more returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, and our programs continue to grow,’ said Todd Greenman, spokesman for the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Battle Creek, which operates the clinic. ‘We’re also seeing a lot of older veterans who lost health care when they lost jobs or just can’t afford the health care they had,’ he said." Laurie Tranter, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C., "said she was ‘not at liberty to disclose any further information’ about the site that has been selected until negotiations with the owners are complete."  

8.      Disabled Vet Wins Award From California DVA.  The San Diego Union-Tribune (9/19) reports, "A San Diego-based service representative for the California Department of Veterans Affairs has been chosen for a statewide award. Tracy Greenamyer was named ‘Southern California Woman Veteran of the Year’ last week. Greenamyer is a disabled Navy veteran of the Persian Gulf War who served 13 years on active duty. She is also a single mother of three children who recently earned a law degree from Concord Law School."

9.      New Veterans Cemetery Planned For Dublin, Virginia.  The Suffolk (VA) News Herald (9/19, Wicks) reports, "A new cemetery will join ranks with the Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery to serve veterans. Officials announced this week that the Commonwealth of Virginia has been awarded $7.2 million for a new veterans cemetery in Dublin, Va." The cemetery will serve roughly 60,000 veterans and family members living in southwest Virginia. A groundbreaking ceremony for what will be the third state-operated veterans cemetery in Virginia will be held next month, and the cemetery is expected to be ready in September next year. 

10.    Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Tied To Gulf War Syndrome.  The Denver Post (9/19, Post) reports that "as much as 16 percent of the U.S. population…describe ailments that remain a medical mystery. Sufferers call their disease multiple chemical sensitivity, or MCS. While many doctors and scientists call their physical symptoms an eruption of psychological stress, some research is uncovering scientific underpinnings to MCS. Japan, Germany, Canada, Austria and Great Britain have acknowledged the disease as real and eligible for insurance coverage. Colorado has even given MCS its own special month. … Believers in MCS point to researchers, many studying the baffling symptoms of military veterans with Gulf War syndrome, who have found particular genes and missing enzymes – ones that assist in detoxifying the body – among people who say the are chemically sensitive.



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