Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 12-03-09


What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans

1. VA Alters Funding On 15 IT Projects.
2. VA, DOD Collaborating On Pilot Disability Evaluation Program.
3. Nashville Program "Bracing" For Rise In Homeless Vets.
4. Solar Power Systems To Be Installed At VA Facilities In Three States.
5. Vet’s Daughter Offended By Surviving Spouse Benefits Law.
6. Last US WWI Vet To Advocate For National Memorial In DC.
7. Filner, "Sgt. Shaft" Urge Better Care For Veterans Plaque.
8. "Sgt. Shaft" Urges Support For "Belated Thank-You" To WWII Merchant Mariners.
9. Lawmakers Introduce Cold War Service Medals Act.
10. West Virginia Launching Program For Vets Suffering From PTSD, TBI.


1.      VA Alters Funding On 15 IT Projects. NextGov (12/3, Sternstein) reports, "The Veterans Affairs Department has ended or cut funding for 15 information technology projects that it temporarily halted this summer, VA officials said on Tuesday night." In July, the agency "announced it had stopped 45 IT projects — budgeted at about $200 million total — that were either over cost or behind schedule to decide whether they should continue. Problems with the initiatives surfaced while VA was preparing materials for a White House" website "that tracks IT project development and launching its own new project assessment system. This approach ‘has been very, very instructive and a very powerful tool in restoring confidence in our ability to do IT,’ VA Deputy Secretary Scott Gould said in an interview with" Gould, "VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, and Chief Information Officer Roger Baker said such IT oversight is critical to supporting the nation’s veterans." 

2.      VA, DOD Collaborating On Pilot Disability Evaluation Program. The Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot (12/3, Wiltrout) reports, "Sick and injured military members navigate a bureaucratic maze when they leave the service and transfer into the Veterans Affairs health care system," but a "newly expanded pilot program starting locally in March aims to streamline the process, reducing the typical enrollment timeline to 295 days or less. Noel Koch, a deputy undersecretary of defense, said the so-called disability evaluation system is one of many initiatives being pursued jointly by the Defense Department and Veterans Affairs." The Virginian-Pilot notes that Bob Snyder, the VA’s executive director for collaboration with the Defense Department, "said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki is committed to working hand-in-hand with the military." 

3.      Nashville Program "Bracing" For Rise In Homeless Vets. The Tennessean (12/3, Mielczarek, 148K) reports, "Residential program Matthew 25," a "Nashville agency that helps the homeless," is "bracing for an anticipated rise in homeless veterans in the next couple of years." The program is "working with a local chapter of Veterans Affairs officials, a housing agency and others, to add more beds and possibly even buy an apartment complex to put up veterans who landed on the streets." The Tennessean adds, "Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki announced last month a campaign to end homelessness among veterans in the next five years." 

4.      Solar Power Systems To Be Installed At VA Facilities In Three States. The Arizona Daily Star (12/3, 110K) reports the US Veterans Affairs Department "has selected a California company to build 1.7 megawatts" of solar power "systems on facilities in Arizona, California and Nevada, including a system at the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System in Tucson. When completed at the end of spring 2010, the systems will generate approximately 2.1 megawatt-hours of electricity per year – enough to power 3,600 households – according to San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based Rec Solar Inc., which signed a deal to install the systems." The Star adds, "In July," US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) "announced that the Tucson VA hospital would get $1.14 million from federal stimulus funds to install solar panels."  

5.      Vet’s Daughter Offended By Surviving Spouse Benefits Law. On its website, KING-TV Seattle, WA (12/2, Jones) said that after Claude McDonald, "a decorated veteran who served in World War II and Korea," died, his wife "Ruth was eligible to receive benefits from Veterans Affairs. But after "Ruth passed away" in June, the VA "demanded" that her daughter "return the $1,600 in benefits provided to her mother for the month of June, even though Ruth lived for 26 of the 30 days in the month. ‘It just seems so disrespectful and petty to me at a time when a family has suffered a loss, to feel like you’re being nickeled and dimed by the VA,’ said" the daughter, but the VA is "fully within its rights to ask for that money back. In an e-mail, a spokesman says, ‘Upon the death of a surviving spouse, the VA will pay benefits through the last day of the month before the death.’" KING noted that US Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, "promised to meet with the VA to see what she can do to change the law." 

6.      Last US WWI Vet To Advocate For National Memorial In DC. USA Today (12/3, Seaman, 2.11M) reports 108-year-old Frank Buckles, the last US "veteran of World War I, wants to see a memorial to his fellow soldiers on the National Mall. To make the case, he is scheduled to appear at a Senate hearing" Thursday. He "will be there on behalf of a bill that would redesignate the existing District of Columbia World War I memorial – a modest structure not far from the massive World War II memorial that opened in 2004 – to make it a combined" DC and national memorial.

7.      Filner, "Sgt. Shaft" Urge Better Care For Veterans Plaque. In a letter to the Washington Times‘ (12/3) "Sgt. Shaft" column, US Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, asked "if there is interest and support among" the column’s "readers to improve the visibility" of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Commendation Plaque in Washington, DC. John Fales, who writes the column, replied, "I find it disgraceful that this special memorial plaque seems to have such little meaning for its visibility and maintenance by the caretakers at the wall. I join you, Mr. Filner, in urging those responsible to remedy this situation." 

8.      "Sgt. Shaft" Urges Support For "Belated Thank-You" To WWII Merchant Mariners. In the middle of his "Sgt. Shaft" column in the Washington Times (12/3, 77K), John Fales notes that the "National Association for Uniformed Services (NAUS) recently sent letters to members of Congress urging their support of H.R. 23, the belated thank-you to merchant mariners of World War II." The legislation "was approved by the full House on May 12. That bill and its Senate companion, S. 663, await Senate action." Fales says he urges the "Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to favorably consider this important legislation and the full Senate to pass it." 

9.      Lawmakers Introduce Cold War Service Medals Act. In the last item for his Sgt. Shaft" column in the Washington Times (12/3, 77K), John Fales notes, "Sens. Jim Webb, Virginia Democrat, Olympia J. Snowe, Maine Republican, Blanche Lincoln, Arkansas Democrat, and Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, recently introduced the Cold War Service Medals Act of 2009, bipartisan legislation to authorize the secretaries of the military departments to award Cold War Service Medals to American veterans." The "award of the Cold War Service Medal is supported by the American Cold War Veterans, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and other veterans services organizations." 

10.    West Virginia Launching Program For Vets Suffering From PTSD, TBI. On its website, WBOY-TV Clarksburg, WV (12/2, Lieu) reported, "A new program is being launched in West Virginia to help veterans who suffer from traumatic brain injuries" or post- traumatic stress disorder. The program is "being coordinated by the West Virginia Division of Veterans Affairs and is the first of its kind in the nation to operate on a statewide level." It is "expected to start in January." WOWK-TV Charleston, WV (12/2, 7:06 p.m. ET) aired a similar report.




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