Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country 2/2/10

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

  1. VA Website Offers Detail On IT Projects.
  2. Workout Helps Iraq Vet Regain Strength.
  3. Hospice Receives Grant Funding For Veterans Programs.
  4. Transferability Seen As Generating Interest In New GI Bill.
  5. With Proposed Funding Increase, VA Outline “Ambitious” Plan.
  6. Lebanon VA To Cut Ribbon On Women Health Clinics, Renovated Areas.
  7. American College of Surgeons Adapting Risk Program Developed By VHA.
  8. Some Housing Complex Residents Unhappy With Move From VA Hospital.
  9. Dougherty: VA Allocating Record Amount For Homeless Veterans Programs.
  10. At 109, Last Surviving American WWI Vet Continues To Advocate For Memorial.

Have You Heard
Charleston , SC , VA Medical Center’s Nicole Coxe recently received a Golden Lamp award from the 2009 graduating class of the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) nursing program. Each graduating class votes for one faculty member and one clinical faculty member they would most like to emulate. “I’m very humbled to have received this award. I feel honored and privileged that a VA Nurse Academy instructor was chosen,” said Coxe. “I love being with the students. They taught me to emphasize more on the essence of nursing and not just the clinical skills. It is also exciting to see their transformation from not being sure about VA to loving it.” VA’s Nursing Academy program was designed to address VA nursing shortages as well as ensuring the continued world-class care of veterans. The Nursing Academy program funds additional staffing positions at schools, allowing more students to attend while providing qualified VA nurses an opportunity to teach on the school’s faculty. The class of 2009 was the first to graduate since VA academy partnership was formed with the school in 2008. Four graduates decided to join the VA workforce due to their exposure to VA through the program. For more information about VA’s nursing academy program, visit VA.Gov.

1.      With Proposed Funding Increase, VA Officials Outline “Ambitious” Plan. Stars And Stripes (2/2, Shane) reports, “Veterans Affairs officials outlined an ambitious slate of homeless services, benefits backlog fixes and improved services for women veterans under the…funding increase proposed in the fiscal 2011 budget plan unveiled Monday.” In a “statement, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki called the budget proposal a promise that the agency will respond to the need of every veteran.”

CQ (2/2, Mulero) says the Obama Administration is “proposing a large spending hike in fiscal 2011 for the Veterans Affairs Department that is in line with Congress’ desire to expand benefits for former and wounded troops. The requested $125 billion budget for fiscal 2011 would be a 20 percent increase over the current $109.6 billion budget. CQ notes that Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka “praised the overall request,” while House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner “signaled his support.”
According to the Washington Post (2/2, O’Keefe, 684K), the VA “would receive $57 billion in additional spending” under President Obama’s proposed 2011 budget. That is a “20 percent jump from 2009 and one of the largest increases for any federal agency. The request includes $50.6 billion in advance appropriations for the VA’s medical care program through 2012 to provide continuous medical care not threatened by potential budget delays.”

At the end of a story focused on the “Pentagon’s proposed $708.3 billion spending package for the fiscal year 2011,” the New York Times (2/2, A16, Drew, Shanker, 1.09M) reports, “With a record number of veterans projected to use its health care system,” the VA “has requested a $125 billion budget for 2011, a 10 percent increase. The department proposed creating more than 4,000 new permanent positions to help process a backlog of disability claims.”

Near the end of an “agency-by-agency glance” at President Obama’s proposed budget, the AP (2/2) says the “budget proposal would invest nearly $800 million in services targeting veterans who are homeless, in part, through partnerships with private and government groups. It would” also “allocate funds for counseling and medical care for female veterans” and “invest $5.2 billion in specialized care for mental health conditions.” In addition, the “budget…would allow for an increase in enrollment of more than 500,000 moderate-income veterans in the VA system by 2013.”

The FOX News (2/2) website, USA Today (2/2, 2.11M), and the Washington Post (2/2, 684K) take a similar, agency-by-agency approach to covering the budget proposal. A separate Washington Post (2/2, O’Keefe, 684K) article notes that “Obama’s 2011 Budget includes 20 cost-savings ideas submitted by federal employees,” including three that would impact the VA.

In its coverage of Obama’s budget plan, the CNN (2/2, Keck) website reports, “Obama has also proposed a partial three-year freeze on non-discretionary spending” that would “would not apply to the budgets of the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs.” But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “suggested that national security spending shouldn’t be exempt from the freeze,” although she did stress, “We will continue to fully support our veterans.” Politico (2/2, Rogers, 25K) also notes the proposed three-year spending freeze, pointing out, like CNN, that the VA would not be subject to it.





Meanwhile, the Oxford (OH) Press (2/2, Nolan, Torry) says, “Obama’s new federal budget proposal increases the defense budget,” and cuts the VA portion. The Press adds, “The Defense Department’s budget is set at $768.2 billion, up by 2.2 percent increase from the current fiscal year, and the VA’s budget is at $121.7 billion, down by 2.6 percent from the current allocation, according to The Associated Press. Congress, however, has yet to have its say about the budget.”

In an early evening broadcast, KKCO-TV Colorado Springs, CO (2/1, 5:48 p.m. CT) showed Paul Sweeney with the Grand Junction VA Medical Center saying that the budget is going to “not just be a benefit to the veterans that live in the urban environment but our rural veterans as well.”

IT Budget Matches Record Amount. In his “What’s Brewin'” blog for NextGov (2/2), Bob Brewin notes that Obama “has proposed a $3.3 billion information technology budget” for the VA “in fiscal 2011, the same as the record VA IT budget in fiscal 2010. This must make Roger Baker, the department’s chief information officer, the most sought after canasta partner in all of Washington. Not to be cranky, but when, I wonder, will Congress get around to passing the 2010 VA bill.”

2.      At 109, Last Surviving American WWI Vet Continues To Advocate For Memorial. The CBS Evening News (2/1, story 8, 0:20, Couric, 6.1M) broadcast that the “last surviving American veteran of World War I celebrated a milestone” Monday, turning 109: Frank Buckles “continues to be an outspoken advocate for a national memorial to the Great War.” This story was also covered in reports aired by CNN (2/1, 4:42 p.m. ET) and WDAF-TV Kansas City, MO (2/1, 9:49 p.m. CT), as well as stories in appearing in the Martinsburg (WV) Journal (2/2, Henry, 17K) and the Hagerstown (MD) Herald-Mail (2/2, McMillion, 31K).

3. American College of Surgeons Adapting Risk Program Developed By VHA. In “The Informed Patient,” the Wall Street Journal (2/2, Landro, 2.08M) notes that the American College of Surgeons is developing risk calculators, which have been used by heart surgeons for a number of years, for other types of surgery. According to the Journal, this effort was adapted from a Veterans Health Administration program that was shown to decrease deaths from surgery at Veterans Affairs hospitals by 27% and complications at those same facilities by 45%. The Journal goes on to say that a recent study of the American College of Surgeons’ program found that it also helped reduce complications at participating non-VA hospitals.

4.      Dougherty: VA Allocating Record Amount For Homeless Veterans Programs. The Belleville (IL) News-Democrat (2/2, Fitzgerald, 51K) reports, “More than 130,000 military veterans are living on America’s streets at any given time — or roughly one third of the nation’s homeless population, according” to survey from the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Peter

Dougherty, director of the VA’s homeless veterans program, discussed the issue, noting that his agency “has allocated a record $3.2 billion for homeless veterans programs, with a goal of providing services for 30,000 veterans — a 50 percent increase over the 20,000 who are now being served.”
VA Grant Helps Fund Shelter For Homeless Veterans. The Belleville (IL) News-Democrat (2/2, Fitzgerald, 51K) reports the Joseph Center, a shelter for homeless veterans that “opened late last year with the help of $2 million in state and federal grants and loans. The largest grants came from” the US VA and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. The News-Democrat adds, “In less than two months, the shelter has become home to 19 residents, who were referred to the program through VA hospitals in St. Louis and around Illinois.”

5.      Hospice Receives Grant Funding For Veterans Programs. The Chattanooga (TN) Times Free Press (2/2) reports, “For the second year in a row, Hospice of Chattanooga has received $30,000 in grant funding for veterans programs from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.” The money “is designed for programs that give homeless and rural veterans better access to health care. Hospice’s toll-free, Veterans Affairs Hotline is one Chattanooga project that will continue to be sustained as a result of the grant.”

6.      Transferability Seen As Generating Interest In New GI Bill. In continuing coverage, the Augusta (GA) Chronicle (1/30, Sparks) noted, “Unlike the previous Montgomery GI Bill,” the Post-9/11 GI Bill “allows veterans to transfer remaining college-education benefits to a spouse or child. The more generous allowance, some say, should swell the ranks of those attending college on GI bill assistance as the bill gains in popularity,” a “trend that has already been seen at Augusta State University.” The Chronicle quoted Jan Northstar, a spokeswoman for the US Department of Veterans Affairs, who said, “There is a whole lot of interest” in the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

7.      Workout Helps Iraq Vet Regain Strength. The Wall Street Journal (2/2, Wagner, 2.08M) notes that veteran Hector Delgado, who was badly injured in Iraq, has been following a cross-training routine known as CrossFit, which military special forces often use. According to the Journal, the vigorous routine has helped Delgado — an outreach worker at the Queens Vet Center in New York — gain the strength to walk short distances unassisted.

8.      VA Website Offers Detail On IT Projects. The “Tech Insider” blog for NextGov (2/2, Sternstein) reports, “The Veterans Affairs Department has test-launched” a website “that details the performance of information technology projects summarized on the federal IT Dashboard site, which tracks the progress of IT investments governmentwide. The ‘Veterans Affairs IT Product Delivery Dashboard’ went live about a month ago but has not been publicized yet, said

Roger Baker, the VA chief information officer, at a Monday briefing on the fiscal 2011 budget.” NextGov notes that the VA “plans to upgrade the site with more user-friendly navigation in the coming months.”

9.      Some Housing Complex Residents Unhappy With Move From VA Hospital. The Salt Lake Tribune (2/2, LaPlante, 120K) notes that some residents who were moved from a transitional housing complex on the campus of the George E. Wahlen Veterans Affairs Medical Center to Freedom Landing, a complex run by the Housing Authority of Salt Lake City, are dissatisfied with their new accommodations. VA spokeswoman Jill Atwood “said the VA’s homeless program manager is aware that some residents are not happy. Nonetheless, she stressed, ‘we’re just happy to have someplace for them that is off the streets.'”

10.    Lebanon VA To Cut Ribbon On Women Health Clinics, Renovated Areas. The Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News (2/2, Miller) reports the Lebanon Veterans Affairs Medical Center “is holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new women veterans’ health clinics and renovated primary care areas at 11 a.m. Tuesday on the fifth floor of Building 17. The Lebanon VA saw an increase of 27 percent in its female veteran population last year, and this $2.9 million project is designed to meet their needs, said Robert Callahan Jr.,” the facility’s director. The Patriot-News adds, “Also renovated in the past year were primary care areas where all veterans received care.”

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