Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 11-21-09


What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans 

1. With "Seven Touches" Program, VA Reaches Out To Guard Members.
2. VA Undersecretary For Benefits Dunne Will Resign.
3. General Tapped To Lead Probe Of Fort Hood Shootings Experienced PTSD After Serving In Iraq.
4. Marine, Family Seek Traumatic Injury Benefit For Severe Reaction To Vaccine.
5. VA Hospital Paving Job Given As Example Of Inaccurate Stimulus Job Creation Claims.
6. Fired Therapist Claims Marines Got Poor Care For PTSD At Camp Lejeune.
7. Time Examines The "Invisible Wound" Of PTSD.
8. Medical Device Raise Problems For VA’s IT Security.
9. Miscommunication Identified As VA Hospitals’ Most Common Cause Of Surgical Errors.
10. Discharged Vet Wants VA To Cover Costs Of His Emergency Care In Another Hospital.


1.      With "Seven Touches" Program, VA Reaches Out To Guard Members. The website of the Atlanta-based DVIDS (11/20, Soucy) satellite communications system reports that the Department of Veterans Affairs "recently implemented many new initiatives and programs as a way to specifically engage National Guard and Reserve veterans who have been deployed, VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said, Nov. 19. Called the ‘Seven Touches of Outreach’ the goal of the program is to ‘engage Guard and Reserve veterans at least seven times during the deployment cycle with targeted messages and face-to-face encounters with VA staff members,’ Shinseki told an audience at the National Guard’s Joint Senior Leadership Conference" in Washington. Shinseki told the gathering that, ""With this generation, a letter in the mail doesn’t cut it anymore," adding "There has to be personal contact for the message to get across." Starting from the moment that service members arrive at their mobilization site, they "receive an overview on VA services and benefits and are enrolled in VA healthcare," Shinseki noted. "Members are assigned an OEF/OIF program manager to contact, who will set up their initial health and dental appointments at the VA facility of their choice." Further, during the demobilization process, service members must fill out a Post-Deployment Health Reassessment, meet with a healthcare provider and self-evaluate how their health status has changed since before their deployment. Shinseki stated that of 298,000 returning combat veterans, 107,000 "have been referred for further evaluation, 61,500 members received appointments for healthcare and 25,000 to vet centers for readjustment counseling." Transitional Assistamce Advisors in each state also work with the adjutant general to connect Guard members with VA services. Other ways that VA reaches out to post-deployment Guard and Reserve unit members include sending representatives to Yellow Ribbon reintegration programs and by contacting them through the Combat Veteran Call Center. The VA Secretary also noted that the agency is "-engineering our business processes — fundamentally challenging all our assumptions for why we process the way we do — and bringing latest technologies into our workspace in order to connect to all our veterans, especially our youngest, with better, faster, higher-quality decisions and services." 

2.      VA Undersecretary For Benefits Dunne Will Resign. The Army Times (11/20, 104K) reports that Patrick Dunne, undersecretary for benefits at the Veterans Affairs Department since October 2008, "announced Friday that he will resign early next year. Dunne, a retired real admiral who is a holdover from the Bush administration, has directed VA’s disability compensation, pension, home loan guaranty, vocational rehabilitation and employment, life insurance, and education programs — including the implementation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which had a rocky start after its Aug. 1 launch." VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said Dunne "has guided the Veterans Benefits Administration through a number of challenges during his tenure as undersecretary. I applaud his service and loyalty to our team and thank him for
his unfailing commitment to our nation’s veterans." A PR Newswire release (11/20) noted that Dunne has been with the VA since 2006, and had previously attained the rank of read admiral during his Navy career. The (11/20) also reported Dunne’s resignation.  

3.      General Tapped To Lead Probe Of Fort Hood Shootings Experienced PTSD After Serving In Iraq. The Wall Street Journal (11/21, A6, Dreazen, Spiegel, 2.08M) reports that Gen. Carter Ham, the top U.S. Army officer in Europe, has been selected to lead a 45-day probe into whether it could have done more to prevent the Fort Hood shootings. Ham has discussed his experience with PTSD publicly as a way of encouraging other troops to seek help. 

4.      Marine, Family Seek Traumatic Injury Benefit For Severe Reaction To Vaccine. FOX News (11/20) reports on a Marine who experienced a severe reaction against the smallpox vaccination he got before going to Iraq, who went into a coma and still suffers from leg spasms, loss of bladder control and other symptoms. The Marine and his family are "upset because the government says he isn’t eligible for a special benefit of up to $100,000 for members of the military who have suffered traumatic injuries." But Stephen Wurtz, the deputy assistant director for insurance at the VA,says that the traumatic injury payment is "for traumatic injury, not disease; not illness; not preventive medicine." The Marine’s home state Senator, Claire McCaskill (D-MO), is introducing a bill to extend the benefit to service members adversely harmed by vaccines. 

5.      VA Hospital Paving Job Given As Example Of Inaccurate Stimulus Job Creation Claims. WTVD-TV Raleigh (11/21) reporting on inaccurate jobs creation claims for the federal economic stimulus program, gives as one example a construction firm hired "money to repave the parking lot at the Durham VA Hospital and according to state numbers, should be able to hire five workers because of it. But the company says it may hire one person."  

6.      Fired Therapist Claims Marines Got Poor Care For PTSD At Camp Lejeune. The AP (11/20, Maurer) reports, "Marines treated at Camp Lejeune for post-traumatic stress had to undergo therapy for months in temporary trailers where they could hear bomb blasts, machine-gun fire and war cries through the thin walls, according to servicemen and their former psychiatrist," according to allegations that became public after the dismissal of Dr. Kernan Manion, "a civilian psychiatrist who says he was fired for writing
memos to his military superiors complaining of shoddy care of Marines returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD, a condition that can make patients jumpy, fearful of loud noises and prone to flashbacks." Manion worked for eight months for Spectrum Healthcare Resources, which has a contract with the military to provide mental health care at Camp Lejeune. Manion claims, when he was fired in September, he was told that the Navy had ordered it. Manion sent e-mails to his supervisors, the Navy inspector general and even President Obama complaining about safety and quality care issues. He also contacted NC3 Rep. Walter Jones Jr (R), who forwarded Manion’s complaints to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. An unnamed military source said Friday that the inspector general for the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine "is reviewing the allegations of inadequate care." 

7.      Time Examines The "Invisible Wound" Of PTSD. Time (11/20, McGirk, 3.37M) files a more than 2,100-word article on the causes and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. It notes that "The incidence of PTSD is on the rise as two wars drag on. In April, a Rand Corp. study concluded that 1 out of almost every 5 military service members on combat tours–about 300,000 so far–returns home with symptoms of PTSD or major depression. ‘Anyone who goes through multiple deployments is going to be affected,’ says Dr. Matthew Friedman, director of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD." Even so, almost half of PTSD cases go untreated, the Rand study says, "because of the stigma that the military and civil society attach to mental disorders." The article also deals extensively with the case of one former Navy SEAL commander, now retied and living in Colorado. There, it notes, "On the assumption that a soldier is more likely to reveal buried traumas to someone who has also experienced combat, the Pikes Peak Behavioral Health Group has lined up vets who can steer the combat-bruised troops through their personal troubles and the VA’s cavernous bureaucracy."  

8.      Medical Device Raise Problems For VA’s IT Security. Federal Computer Week (11/20, Lipowicz, 90K) reports, "The Veterans Affairs Department has problems fully protecting its networks while also maintaining network links with proprietary medical devices, according to senior VA officials. The medical products and devices, including monitors and sensors, are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration." Roger Baker, VA’s chief information officer, and Steph Warren, the department’s principal deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Information and Technology, noted in a statement issued at a federal health IT panel meeting Nov. 19 that medical devices often cannot be modified by the end user, leaving VA unable to use network security tools on them, and as a result medical devices can "restrict the application of operating system patches and malware protection updates." To cope, VA "is currently implementing a Medical Device Isolation Architecture that uses firewalls to allow the medical devices to communicate while also maintaining network security practices," effectively segregating medical devices on virtual local networks.

9.      Miscommunication Identified As VA Hospitals’ Most Common Cause Of Surgical Errors. Orthopedics news website the Ortho SuperSite (11/20) reports that researchers at VA’s Veterans Health Administration, examining surgical mishaps and incident and safety reports at VA hospitals between 2001 and mid-2006 "identified communication problems as the most common root cause of these adverse events." In a study published in the November issue of Archives of Surgery, Julia Neily, RN, MS, MPH, of the VHA, White River Junction, Vt., and colleagues found that miscommunication caused 21% of the 212 adverse events and 130 close calls. 

10.    Discharged Vet Wants VA To Cover Costs Of His Emergency Care In Another Hospital. WJXX-TV Jacksonville (11/20, Amaro, Butler) reports that a Deval Patel, a decorated Iraq veteran "is now in a bureaucratic fight with the Veterans Affairs. ‘They refuse to pay my hospital bill,’ said Patel." He complains that when he went to a VA clinic for a fever after being discharged, he was told to go home, drink some water and let the clinic monitor his condition. Three days later, he says, he was rushed to an emergency room in shock and spent four days in the ICU. The station adds, "The bill for his nine days of hospitalization was $61,000, but the VA so far is only willing to pay $3,700. The reason: Under VA rule, once you are stabilized, you must transfer to a VA facility for treatment. Patel was not aware of the rule and is filing an appeal, but he said he has been talking to the VA for seven months and there’s still no resolution."





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