What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans
1. VA To Presume More Illnesses Were Caused By Agent Orange.
2. VA Named One Of "’Best Employers For Workers Over 50."
3. Government Criticized For Inaction On Chemical Exposure Situation.
4. VA Backlog Said To Be Hurting WWII Vets.
5. Website Offers Assistance To Veterans.
6. New VA Clinic Dedicated In California.
7. VA Hospital, College Team Up On Orthotics And Prosthetics Program.
8. Over $100 Million Distributed To Filipino WWII Vets.
9. Following Call From TV Station, WWII Vet’s Benefit Approved.
10. Walk Organized To Call Attention To Plight Of Homeless Vets.
1. VA To Presume More Illnesses Were Caused By Agent Orange. The New York Times (10/13, A17, Dao) reports, "Under rules to be proposed this week, the Department of Veterans Affairs plans to add Parkinson’s disease, ischemic heart disease and hairy-cell leukemia to the growing list of illnesses presumed to have been caused by Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant used widely in Vietnam. The proposal will make it substantially easier for thousands of veterans to claim that those ailments were the direct result of their service in Vietnam, thereby smoothing the way for them to receive monthly disability checks" and healthcare services from the VA. According to the Times, the "shift underscores efforts" by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, himself a Vietnam veteran, "to reduce obstacles to sick or disabled veterans’ receiving benefits."
2. VA Named One Of "’Best Employers For Workers Over 50." The lead story in Ron Seman’s syndicated "Veterans’ Beat" column, appearing in the Hudson (OH) Hub Times (10/11), noted, "The health care network operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs has been named as one of the best employers this year for workers over 50" by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Seman went on to say that in a press release, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki commented on the honor, stating that his agency is "proud to be recognized as a top employer for the most experienced employees." Seman added, "Recipients of the AARP ‘Best Employers for Workers Over 50’ designation are selected for their policies and practices in meeting the needs of an aging workforce."
3. Government Criticized For Inaction On Chemical Exposure Situation. In continuing coverage, an editorial in West Virginia’s The Intelligencer (10/13) says, "The Department of Defense’s pledge to monitor the health of soldiers — including several from our area — exposed to a dangerous chemical is good news, as" US Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) pointed "out last week. But Rockefeller has also "demanded answers from the Pentagon concerning why the soldiers were exposed and why the Army waited so long to help them." The Intelligencer also notes that Rockefeller "received a letter" from Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, who "promised that veterans exposed to the chemical will receive medical monitoring to determine whether they are suffering ill-effects. While Rockefeller praised Shinseki for the decision, he pointed out that it is ‘a national disgrace’ that action has been delayed for so long. We agree." Reuters (10/10) also noted Shinseki’s plans for assisting exposed veterans.
4. VA Backlog Said To Be Hurting WWII Vets. The Houston Chronicle (10/13, Wise) says that as the "backlog of claims and appeals pending" at the Department of Veterans Affairs "approaches 1 million nationwide, aging World War II veterans often wait months – and sometimes years – for decisions
on pensions and compensation. For the nation’s oldest generation of veterans, whose numbers dwindle by the day, the VA’s record backlog takes on a special urgency" for people like 91-year-old William J. Maxson, who was told in September by a VA official that the agency had lost his paperwork on an appeals process begun in 2002. Maxson’s "problems are all too familiar to Debbie Burak, the daughter of a World War II veteran from Virginia. In 2005, Burak started…VeteranAid.org," a website "to help older veterans and their relatives navigate the VA’s bureaucracy after a harrowing experience with her own mother, who died before the government released $6,000 in accrued benefits she was entitled to as a widow of a World War II veteran." Burak "said elderly veterans are at a disadvantage in the VA claims and appeals process because they are not Internet savvy and can easily be confused by VA’s complex forms. Their plight has been eclipsed by the needs of younger veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, she said."
5. Website Offers Assistance To Veterans. The Philadelphia Inquirer (10/13, Deininger) reports, "For most veterans, a culture of self-reliance makes asking for any kind of assistance the last option, said" 26-year-old Philadelphia resident Gene Rader. But a "few months ago, struggling to pay his bills, Rader," an Iraq veteran, realized that he "just needed help," so he posted his story on the website for USAtogether.org, which was "founded in December by a group of Silicon Valley professionals." Visitors to the website "can view profiles of veterans," and "decide whom to help and how." After noting that a "caseworker at the VA hospital in Philadelphia suggested Rader check out the site," the Inquirer says Dave Mahler, who came up with the idea for USAtogether.org, was invited last month "to the Pentagon to receive a Newman’s Own Award, which late actor Paul Newman’s food company gives to charities supporting wounded troops. The award came with a $15,000 grant, which, Mahler said, he intended to use to collaborate with other veterans-service organizations."
6. New VA Clinic Dedicated In California. The Sonora (CA) Union And Democrat (10/13, Rutherford) reports, "The open house and dedication ceremony for the new veterans clinic in East Sonora Friday included music by Sonora High’s Golden Regiment Band, a color guard comprised of area veterans, a ribbon cutting ceremony, and a variety of speakers. About 200 people toured the 8,000-square-foot" clinic, which is "part of the Veterans Administration’s Palo Alto Health Care System," and "shared a celebratory lunch. ‘There are three
million veterans in the VA health care system who live in geographically rural areas, and $215 million has been approved to better serve them,’ said Lisa Freeman, director of the Palo Alto Health Care System. ‘What we have here today represents the best of those efforts.’" The Union And Democrat says the clinic "will… offer" a "case manager to help veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan."
7. VA Hospital, College Team Up On Orthotics And Prosthetics Program. On its website, KPCC-FM Pasadena, CA (10/12, Guzman-Lopez) said, "While most of the campus endures budget cuts, one academic program at California State University Dominguez Hills began the school year in a much larger facility thanks to a partnership" with the Veterans Affairs "hospital in Long Beach. KPCC’s Adolfo Guzman-Lopez says it’s the state’s only academic training program for people who fit artificial limbs and braces." The hospital "spent almost $3 million to create custom classrooms and workshops for Dominguez Hills’s" Orthotics and Prosthetics program. KPCC added, "The demand is growing for people who know how to manufacture and fit artificial limbs," but program coordinator Scott Hornbeak "says this has less to do than you might think with soldiers who’ve lost limbs in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars," because, as Hornbeak stresses, "by far the greatest number of people who need artificial limbs and braces have different diseases such as diabetes or arteriosclerosis."
8. Over $100 Million Distributed To Filipino WWII Vets. GMANews.TV (10/13, Ubalde) reports, "A total of $102 million had been distributed to some of the 34,000 Filipino World War II veterans who applied for the lump sum benefits package given by the US government, a Philippine official said Tuesday. Defense Undersecretary for Veterans Affairs Ernesto Carolina said some…dying war veterans are already enjoying the pension that was inked early this year. ‘Most of them have already been paid. The processing was relatively faster,’" said Carolina, "who concurrently heads the Philippine Veterans’ Affairs Office," during an interview with GMANews.TV.
9. Following Call From TV Station, WWII Vet’s Benefit Approved. On its website, WABC-TV New York, NY (10/13, Phillips) says 85-year old Pat Romanello "came home" from World War II "with a chest full of medals," but now, a "victim of Alzheimer’s and dementia," he is "nearly penniless." Last December, however, his daughter "applied for the little-known ‘Aid and Attendance’ increased pension benefit" from the US Department of Veterans Affairs. The benefit involves a "monthly payment for vets needing continuing care. In May, Pat was approved for $1644 per month, the maximum
benefit," but "Linda never saw a dime," despite having "sent the VA proof she’s legally in charge of her dad’s finances back." WABC noted that it "called the VA" on Linda’s behalf, and "she says the benefit was approved. Her first monthly check will arrive in about 2 weeks."
10. Walk Organized To Call Attention To Plight Of Homeless Vets. On its website, WWLP-TV Springfield, MA (10/12, Becker, Caron) reported, "Some disabled war veterans walked a Hampshire county mile on Sunday to call attention to the plight of homeless veterans. They walked from the Veterans of Foreign wars post in Florence" to the Veterans Affairs hospital "in Leeds. One Vietnam veteran told 22News, he’s saddened that so many of his Vietnam era comrades have no place to live. ‘A lot of homeless veterans are Vietnam veterans. We feel an obligation to help them out as much as we can,’ said Samuel Adams."