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

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What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans

1. VA, Advocacy Group Focused On Homeless Vets. 
2. Shinseki To Attend US Chamber Of Commerce Event. 
3. US Military Said To Be Facing "Intractable" Mental Health Problem. 
4. Congress Passes "Procession" Of Veterans Assistance Bills. 
5. Video Game Company, Administration To Help Vets Find Employment. 
6. VA Offering Women Vets "Head-To-Toe Care." 
7. Event To Discuss VA Clinic Services. 
8. Congress Considers Expanding Troops To Teachers Program. 
9. Invitation To Veterans And Families. 
10. Britain Honors War Dead, Including Those Killed In Afghanistan, Iraq. 

     

1.      VA, Advocacy Group Focused On Homeless Vets.  In continuing coverage, the Washington (DC) Examiner (11/9, Shoffner) says, "Many of our nation’s veterans have no home and no help," but Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki recently "unveiled a 5 year plan to end homelessness among our nations warriors." Meanwhile, an advocacy group called Vietnam Veterans of San Diego offers "Stand Down for homeless veterans," which is "held each summer" and "provides clothing, food, shelter, legal and medical assistance," as well as "referrals to jobs and housing" and "veterans benefits counseling," for "about 700 homeless veterans."
      In a related story, the
Boston Globe (10/8, Rosenberg) noted that the US VA "has increased funding to help place homeless veterans. During the last four fiscal years," the agency’s "allocation to transitional housing jumped from $92.7 million to $171.6 million. During that time, the number of homeless veterans in the United States has dropped from about 196,000 to 131,000." 

2.      Shinseki To Attend US Chamber Of Commerce Event.  WSYM-TV Lansing, MI (11/8, 10:54 p.m. ET) broadcast, "As part of Veterans Day week, the US Chamber of Commerce hosts an event focused on what the business community can do to help veterans adjust back to civilian life and start new careers. Several members of President Obama’s Cabinet will be in attendance, including Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki." Similar reports were aired by a number of other local TV stations in various parts of the country, including KRIV-TV Houston, TX (11/8, 9:39 p.m. CT) and WBRC-TV Birmingham, AL (11/8, 9:32 a.m. ET).  

3.      US Military Said To Be Facing "Intractable" Mental Health Problem.  In continuing coverage, the Los Angeles Times (11/9, Roan) reports, "In the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the various branches" of the US military "had been roundly criticized for failing to adequately address post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and other psychiatric problems. Responding to that criticism, leaders made progress in diagnosing and treating such illnesses among service members," but " Thursday’s attack at Ft. Hood — as well as two other recent incidents in which military personnel allegedly turned guns on their own" while serving in Iraq – "indicates an intractable problem not easily overcome." Journalist Dahr Jamail, "author of a new book, ‘The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan," echoed these thoughts, stating, "This issue of redeploying people repeatedly" is "creating a point of collapse in the military."
     
Fort Hood Shooting Jeopardizes Counseling Plan For US Troops In Afghanistan.  USA Today (11/9, Zoroya) reports, "The toll from the tragic shooting at Fort Hood extends beyond the base…to outposts" in Afghanistan. Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan "had been chosen to be part of an ambitious plan to treat" US troops "in Afghanistan who need psychological counseling where counselors are often not available," but the recent "rampage at Fort Hood, where Hasan is alleged to have killed 13 people and wounded 29 others, has thrown
those efforts into some disarray. At least three of those killed were therapists slotted for Afghanistan. And six who were wounded are part of the 1493rd Combat Stress Control team to which Hasan was assigned and which was heading to Afghanistan, the Army says." USA Today adds that on Sunday, "Army spokesman George Wright said…commanders are wrestling with whether to cancel deployment of the team because it was so decimated by the shootings. ‘This will represent a challenge,’ Wright says, ‘but we anticipate we can meet the challenge.’"
      The
AP (11/9, Hefling) says that with the US "fighting two wars, an acute shortage of trained personnel has left" military "therapists emotionally drained and overworked, with limited time to prepare for their own war deployments." Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, "is suspected in the shootings at Fort Hood…and the rampage is raising questions about whether there’s enough help for the helpers." Defense Secretary Robert Gates "said recently…that in the past two years, the Army has added nearly 900 behavior health providers," but he "said that still leaves the service with a shortfall of more than 330 specialists, which is a gap that will grow to more than 500 if the Army follows through on recommendations to put uniformed providers in every brigade."
      The
New York Times (11/8, WK1, Goode), meanwhile, said on the front of its Week in Review section that the "flashbacks, nightmares, and other symptoms" of a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) "appear not just to affect soldiers fighting in battle, but may deeply affect the mental-health professionals who care for them, as well."
      Similarly, the
CNN (11/7, Landau) website reported, "Those who counsel trauma victims — whether they be psychiatrists, social workers or advocates — can experience an emotional toll after intensive exposure to patients’ stories of horror. Experts call this phenomenon ‘vicarious trauma.’" Similar stories appear in the Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger (11/9, Mueller) and the Dallas Morning News (11/8, Jones, Hancock).
      The
San Antonio Express-News (11/7, Finley) noted that "one expert says psychiatrists are like anyone else – often unable to recognize the seriousness of their own condition and reluctant to seek help because of the stigma of mental illness. ‘Having looked after so many psychiatrists as patients, I can’t get that message out there strong enough: that sometimes we just can’t see it ourselves. We need our family members, we need our friends and colleagues to reach out to us,’" stated Dr. Michael Myers, "a psychiatrist and co-author of the book, ‘The Physician as Patient: A Clinical Handbook for Mental Health Professionals.’"
     
Commanders Hope "Resiliency Campus" Will Help Troops Recover.  The Wall Street Journal (11/9, Campoy) says Fort Hood commanders have been experimenting with things like yoga and other unconventional methods to try and bolster the mental health of troops exposed to combat, and now, those commanders are hoping that such methods, used on what they refer to as the base’s "resiliency campus," will help troops recover from last week’s shooting.
      In a related, front page story, the
Washington Post (11/9, A1, Jaffe, Rucker, Booth) says, "Fort Hood has been physically and emotionally altered by eight years of war." Base memorials "are growing month by month as new names are chiseled in stone or forged in brass," while at Fort Hood’s "Resiliency Campus,"
soldiers "and their families go for counseling, and to learn how to reduce anxiety and stress through meditation and yoga."
     
Shooting "Causing Stress And Anxiety" At VA Hospital In Michigan.  The WZZM-TV Grand Rapids, MI (11/7) website reported, "Mental health specialists say the slaughter at Ft. Hood…is causing stress and anxiety" at the Veterans Affairs medical center in Battle Creek. The WSJM-AM Saint Joseph, MI (11/8) website published a similar story.
     
Congresswoman Calls For PTSD, TBI Resources.  In a related Minneapolis Star Tribune (11/7) op-ed, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) wrote that "our nation’s commitment to meeting the physical and mental-health needs of our veterans is not temporary — it must be for the rest of their lives." She called for "sufficient Federal resources, including funding for research, care, and treatment" of PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.
      Meanwhile, in an editorial,
USA Today (11/9) says that "with hindsight, it’s easy to say now that Army superiors" or Federal "authorities should have read more into" the "warning signs" that were "missed" before the Fort Hood shooting, but "developing systems that can reliably identify the next potential killer among a much larger group with anger issues is a good deal tougher." 

4.      Congress Passes "Procession" Of Veterans Assistance Bills.  CQ Weekly (11/9, Weyl) reports, "Since the United States went to war in Afghanistan in October 2001 and in Iraq 17 months later, Congress has increased spending for the military and veterans and passed a procession of separate benefits bills, including" a new GI Bill, passed in 2008, that is administered by the Veterans Affairs Department. Under a 2007 law, meanwhile, the VA "was required to implement a program to reduce suicide among veterans." CQ adds, "Authorization for homeless veterans assistance programs was part of a 2004 veterans’ health care law," while a "2006 law for homeless vets created a program of ‘adaptive housing’ grants to disabled vets living temporarily with their families." 

5.      Video Game Company, Administration To Help Vets Find Employment.  The Washington Post (11/9, A15, O’Keefe) reports, "A video game company is donating $1 million on Tuesday to set up a foundation to help veterans find employment, organizers announced." After noting that Activision Blizzard "said its Call of Duty Endowment (CODE) will support other groups that assist veterans with their careers," the Post says private and government studies, including one conducted in 2008 by the Department of Veterans Affairs, "show that the percentage of unemployed veterans has been historically higher than the percentage among civilians." The Post, which also notes that on "Monday, President Obama is set to sign an executive order establishing" a Federal "Council on Veterans Employment, as well as veterans employment offices at most" Federal agencies, adds, "Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, welcomed any effort to help recent veterans, saying his group also plans to devote more attention to the issue next year."
  

6.      VA Offering Women Vets "Head-To-Toe Care."  In an interview with the Spokane (WA) Spokesman-Review (11/9), 39-year-old Julie Liss, who works for the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital "in Spokane as the women veterans program" manager, "talked about the ongoing VA campaign to support women veterans." When asked what "kind of services are available for women veterans at the VA," Liss replied, "Head-to-toe care." 

7.      Event To Discuss VA Clinic Services.  The Fort Myers (FL) News-Press (11/9, Yousif-Bashi) reports, "Local veterans will have more options for health care when Cape Coral’s Veterans Affairs Clinic opens in 2011. About 26,000 veterans were treated" at the VA clinic "in Fort Myers last year. But there are still thousands of others in Lee and nearby counties who don’t know what benefits and services are available." On Tuesday, however, local "veterans will have the opportunity…to learn about those services and hear updates about the new Cape clinic. The Safeguard Our Seniors event, which will focus on veterans, will take place from 10 a.m. to noon at the Cape Coral Public Library."  

8.      Congress Considers Expanding Troops To Teachers Program.  McClatchy (11/8, Hotakainen) reported, "After a 23-year career" in the US Navy, Frank McBryde "is now teaching math to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders in suburban Sacramento, Calif." The Federal "government aided in his transition, giving him a $10,000 stipend because he agreed to teach in a school where at least half of the students were poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. McBryde is one of more than 12,000 service members nationwide who’ve participated" in the Troops to Teachers program "since it began in 1994. Now Congress is considering a huge expansion" of the program. According to McClatchy, under a "pending bill," an "estimated 98 percent" of US "schools would be eligible to hire troops-turned-teachers." A "handful of members of Congress," are "promoting the legislation." Petri "said the Education Department in recent years has restricted the eligibility of schools far beyond what Congress ever intended." McClatchy added, however, that the "program has strong backing" from the Obama Administration, and that at a "hearing of the House Education and Labor Committee in May, Education Secretary Arne Duncan promised to ‘push very hard’ to sell the program."  

9.      Invitation To Veterans And Families.  The New York Times‘ (11/7) "Home Fires" blog. 

10.    Britain Honors War Dead, Including Those Killed In Afghanistan, Iraq.  The AP (11/9, Selva) reports, "Queen Elizabeth II led Britain’s annual ceremony for the country’s war dead Sunday, honoring them with a moment of silence as the military reported that more than 200 British soldiers have been killed in combat in Afghanistan." The "remembrance service is held every year on the nearest Sunday to the anniversary of the end of World War I at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, and now pays tribute to the dead in all conflicts, including World War II, Iraq and Afghanistan." 

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