Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 1-28-10

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 Find out What’s Inside Today’s Local News for Veterans

  1. Committee To Mark Up Legislation, Vote On Nomination. 
  2. Efforts To Fight Veteran Homelessness Praised. 
  3. VA Under “Intense Pressure” To Improve GI Bill Processing. 
  4. Lavery: Housing Project In West Virginia Is For Vets. 
  5. VA Pharmacist Gives Presentation On Effectiveness Of New Mental Health Drugs.
  6. VA Doctor Leads Study On Impact Of Rising Copays For Elderly Patients. 
  7. Davidson: Freeze Proposal Unlikely To Cost Jobs. 
  8. Despite Noise Concerns, Council Approves Plan For Tennessee Vets Cemetery. 
  9. Arbitration Panel Sides With Louisiana On Replacement Hospital. 
  10. Heineman Stresses Importance Of Gold Star License Plates. 

Have You Heard
“Families at Ease” Program Extends Hand to Veterans’ Families”
VA Medical Centers in Philadelphia, PA and Durham, NC have begun a pilot program for families of Veterans who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. Learn more at VA’s home page at http://www.va.gov/.

1.      Committee To Mark Up Legislation, Vote On Nomination. The second half of the “Today at a Glance” section for CQ (1/28) notes that on Thursday, at 9:30 a.m. in 418 Russell, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is scheduled to mark “up a bill on drugs in public housing (S 1327) and a draft bill on exposure to environmental hazards during military service.” The committee is also scheduled to vote “on a nomination.” 

2.      Efforts To Fight Veteran Homelessness Praised. In continuing coverage, an editorial in the Orlando Sentinel (1/28, 222K) notes that Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki recently “outlined his department’s new plans to discharge veterans from the ranks of the homeless.” The VA “push is promising,” says the Sentinel, as is “last week’s groundbreaking” for a shelter in Cocoa, Florida, “that will provide…services” for homeless women vets and their children. 

3.      VA Under “Intense Pressure” To Improve GI Bill Processing. After “admittedly being overwhelmed by a deluge of new veterans seeking” Post-911 GI Bill benefits, Inside Higher Ed (1/28, Striplng) reports, “VA officials now say they have — for the most part — at least paid veterans their full benefits for the fall semester.” The spring semester, however, “will provide a true test for the VA, which — after months of public scrutiny and the occasional tongue lashing from Congress — is under intense pressure to get it right this time.” Inside Higher Ed notes that VA “has ‘committed’ to paying benefits ‘no later’ than Feb. 1 for any veteran whose college submitted the appropriate materials” by January 19th, although materials coming later than that date “will be paid at the VA’s ‘earliest opportunity,’ according” to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. 

4.      Lavery: Housing Project In West Virginia Is For Vets. The Martinsburg (WV) Journal (1/28, McVey, 17K) notes that on Tuesday, Jim Lavery with the US Department of Veterans Affairs “was quick to emphasize that a proposed transitional housing project for homeless veterans at the VA Medical Center in Martinsburg is not an emergency shelter.” Lavery made his comments while speaking to a “sparse audience gathered for a public hearing regarding the proposal.” Tim Cooke, “acting associate director of the VAMC-Martinsburg,” also spoke at the hearing, stating, “(Secretary Eric K. Shinseki) wants to eliminate veteran homelessness across the country.” 

5.      VA Pharmacist Gives Presentation On Effectiveness Of New Mental Health Drugs. The Salisbury (NC) Post (1/27, 21K) reported, “Dr. Joseph LaMotte, clinical pharmacy specialist and board certified psychiatric pharmacist” at the Hefner Veterans Affairs Medical Center, “presented an update on medications titled, ‘New Drugs in Mental Health: Are They Better?,’ at the Jan. 19 education meeting of the local affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI Rowan.” LaMotte is also working with NAMI and Piedmont Behavioral Healthcare to provide education about psychiatric medication to the area police officers attending the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.” 

6.      VA Doctor Leads Study On Impact Of Rising Copays For Elderly Patients. In its “White Coat Notes” blog, the Boston Globe (1/28, Cooney, 325K) reports, “Faced with rising copayments, elderly people visited their doctors less but ended up in the hospital more often and for longer stays, according to a new study assessing the impact of cost-sharing both on patients’ health and their health plans’ bottom line.” The lead author of the study, which appears “in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine,” is Dr. Amal Trivedi, a general internist at the Providence Veterans Affairs Medical Center, who said the “main policy implication” from the research “is that increasing outpatient copayments among the elderly is probably a lose-lose proposition for most Medicare health plans in that it’s likely to increase total health care spending and adversely impact health for elderly pats.” 

7.      Davidson: Freeze Proposal Unlikely To Cost Jobs. In continuing coverage, Joe Davidson says in his “Federal Diary” column for the Washington Post (1/28, 684K) that the “budget freeze proposed by boss-in-chief Barack Obama isn’t likely to cost” Federal employees their jobs. In fact, “federal employment probably will continue to grow. The reason: The departments exempted from the freeze — Defense, State, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs — are growth areas in the government.”
     Government Executive (1/27, Newell) reported, “The freeze will affect the ‘top line’ of the budget, but some programs that do not fall under exemptions for international affairs and for the Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs departments still will see increases, said Rob Nabors, deputy director” of the Office of Management and Budget during comments made Tuesday. 

8.      Despite Noise Concerns, Council Approves Plan For Tennessee Vets Cemetery. In continuing coverage, the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel (1/27, Ferrar) noted that on Tuesday, the Knoxville City Council unanimously “approved a plan to create a new veterans cemetery in Southeast Knox County, but not without some vocal opposition from local veterans” who “had questions about the…site because it sits across” from a “gravel quarry where blasting occurs weekly.”
     The WBIR-TV Knoxville, TN (1/27) website said Knoxville “will pay $1.4 million for 68 acres off East John Sevier Highway in Knox County and trade it with the State of Tennessee for state-owned land in Northshore Park.” On Tuesday night, the “Knoxville City Council unanimously approved both the land purchase and land swap.” The “state is now waiting for the title and deed for the 68 acres of land before designing the new East Tennessee Veterans Cemetery on the site.” The WVLT-TV (1/27, Bona) website published a similar story. 

9.      Arbitration Panel Sides With Louisiana On Replacement Hospital. The New York Times (1/28, A14, Sack, 1.09M) reports, “Ending one of the longest-running disputes left by Hurricane Katrina, a federal arbitration panel ruled Wednesday that Louisiana would receive $474.8 million — nearly all it had requested — to pay for the replacement of Charity Hospital in New Orleans, which has been closed since the storm. The ruling…gives a major boost to plans to replace Charity, a state-owned hospital for the indigent, with a new $1.2 billion academic medical center.” The Times notes that the center “would be built adjacent to a Veterans Affairs hospital.”

10.    Heineman Stresses Importance Of Gold Star License Plates. The Lincoln (NE) Journal Star (1/28, Hicks) reports, “The newly released Gold Star license plates honor American heroes — the men and women who died in service to their country — parents of two heroes said during a Wednesday news conference.” The Journal Star adds, “In addition to the tribute, income from the plates will support the Nebraska State Veterans Cemetery System, said Gov. Dave Heineman, who gave the first plates” to parents of sons killed in Iraq. The Scottsbluff (NE) Star-Herald (1/28, Holsinger) and the KETV-TV Omaha, NE (1/27) website also cover this story.

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