Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 9-23-09


What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans

1. Report: VA Appears To Be Doing More To Prevent Suicides. 
2. US Navy Reviewing How It Handled Hazing Of Gay Sailor. 
3. Woodruffs Hope To Focus Attention On Vets’ Brain Trauma. 
4. Man Fires Gun Inside Jesse Brown VAMC. 
5. Costie To Direct Pershing VAMC. 
6. Vets Group Lobbying For Merchant Mariners Compensation Bill.
7. VBA Employees Responding To Request For Ideas On How To Improve Agency. 
8. VA Volunteer Encourages Others To Do The Same. 
9. Amid Controversies, Iraq Vet Resumes Duties As Wisconsin VA Secretary. 
10. Listening Posts Scheduled In Missouri. 


1.      Report: VA Appears To Be Doing More To Prevent Suicides.  The AP (9/23, Hefling) reports, "The Veterans Affairs Department appears to have stepped up its suicide prevention efforts." The VA’s inspector general (IG) "took a look at 24 facilities and found they generally met new requirements like appointing suicide prevention coordinators to track high-risk veterans, according to a report released Tuesday," which did also "say the coordinators and medical providers could do a better job of collaborating with each other. In a letter in response to the IG, a VA official said this fall, the agency would begin using a new system of tracking communication between the suicide prevention coordinators and medical providers." The AP adds, "New policies were implemented" at the VA "after growing concern about the number of suicides among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans."      CBS News Wins Emmy For Report On VA "Cover-Up" Of Suicide Risk Among Vets.  The CBS News (9/22) website, meanwhile, noted that the "CBS Evening News with Katie Couric" recently "won an Emmy Award last night in the category of Outstanding Investigative Journalism in a Regularly Scheduled Newscast for a series of reports by Chief Investigative Correspondent Armen Keteyian that exposed how officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs tried to cover-up the true risk of suicide among veterans."  

2.      US Navy Reviewing How It Handled Hazing Of Gay Sailor.  The AP (9/23, Witte) reports the US Navy "is reviewing how it handled the case of a gay sailor abused by fellow servicemen in Bahrain for two years until he sought a discharge by coming out to his commanding officer, a military spokesman said Tuesday." Joseph Rocha has "been diagnosed" with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) "from the constant hazing while he served with military dog handlers based in Bahrain to support the Iraq war." The AP adds, "A letter from Rocha’s doctor at the Department of Veterans Affairs in San Francisco confirms that he has been diagnosed with PTSD." 

3.      Woodruffs Hope To Focus Attention On Vets’ Brain Trauma.  The Lynn (MA) Daily Item (9/23, Liscio) reports, "Brain-damaged by a roadside bomb while covering the war in Iraq in 2006, television newsman Bob Woodruff retold his poignant story Tuesday to a packed Salem State College audience, flanked by his wife, Lee, who shared the emotional hardships she endured during the recovery process. Together they hope to focus attention on the medical needs of thousands" of US "troops home from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan and struggling to cope with serious brain injury." The Bob Woodruff Foundation "has been established to make sure these soldiers get the help the need and deserve. The foundation, which asks a $1 donation from every
American, makes grants to grassroots organizations trying to assist those who are having difficulty because of their injuries."  

4.      Man Fires Gun Inside Jesse Brown VAMC.  The Chicago Sun-Times (9/23, Sobol, Lansu, 293K) reports, "A man wanted for questioning in his parents’ death fired at least one gunshot in Jesse Brown VA Medical Center early this morning, officials said." Authorities "said they don’t believe the man had any hostages or shot anyone at the Near South Side facility." The "police Hostage Barricade Team is at the hospital." 

5.      Costie To Direct Pershing VAMC.  The Harrisonburg (VA) Daily News Record (9/23, 30K) reports, "Glenn Costie, a Turner Ashby High School graduate, recently was appointed chief of a Veterans Affairs medical center in Missouri." Costie "will serve as director of the John J. Pershing VA Medical Center in Poplar, Mo., according to a news release." 

 6.      Vets Group Lobbying For Merchant Mariners Compensation Bill.  The Chicago Tribune (9/23, Fitzsimmons, 498K) reports Bob McGaghie, a resident of Oak Park, Illinois, who traveled the "world on cargo ships during" World War II, "hopes a bill before Congress will finally give him and his aging comrades the thanks they deserve." The "’Belated Thank You to the Merchant Mariners of World War II Act of 2009′ has passed the House but is still being reviewed by the Senate’s Committee on Veterans Affairs. The bill would establish a fund to pay a $1,000-a-month stipend to about 10,000 surviving members of the Merchant Marine who served between 1941 and 1946." McGaghie "serves on the presidential council of the Midwest chapter of the American Merchant Marine Veterans," which is "lobbying members of Congress to help pass the compensation bill."  

7.      VBA Employees Responding To Request For Ideas On How To Improve Agency.  In continuing coverage, the Federal Times‘ (9/22, Neal) "Fedline" blog reported, "President Barack Obama said in August he wanted to hear from Veterans Benefits Administration employees on how to improve the agency, and employees are responding." In the first week, the survey site for VBA employees was visited 29,000 times by 7,000 employees, who submitted more than 3,000 ideas, said US Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and VA Chief Technology Peter Levin" in a Monday "blog post on" 

8.      VA Volunteer Encourages Others To Do The Same.  On its website, WLBT-TV Jackson, MS (9/21) profiled Veterans Affairs volunteer Clara Brent, who "last year…won the President’s volunteer service award." Brent "encourages everyone to volunteer, even if it’s only an hour or two each week, to honor the soldiers who have sacrificed for our freedom." 

9.      Amid Controversies, Iraq Vet Resumes Duties As Wisconsin VA Secretary.  In continuing coverage, the AP (9/23) reports, "Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos is back at work after serving a second tour of duty in Iraq." On Monday, the Wisconsin VA "announced…that Scocos has resumed his duties." The AP notes that it recently "reported the agency was facing numerous questions about personnel and spending decisions." The AP adds, "In Scocos’ absence, the agency disclosed it spent roughly $800,000 that was not authorized and fired the leader of the Wisconsin Veterans Home in King. In a statement, Scocos did not address those controversies but pledged ‘to ensure our veterans receive the finest benefits and services possible.’" 

10.    Listening Posts Scheduled In Missouri.  The St. Joseph (MO) News-Press (9/23) reports, "The Missouri Veterans Commission and other veterans-affiliated organizations have scheduled three town hall/listening posts in the region this month." The listening posts, which "have been endorsed" by the US Department of Veterans Affairs, "represent a joint effort by the commission and other groups to assess the needs of the state’s veterans."



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