Top 10 Veterans News From Around the Country

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

  1. VA: Petzel Has Been Sworn In As Undersecretary For Health.
  2. VA Regional Office In Texas To Add 100 Claims Processors.
  3. Shinseki Meets With Vets In New Mexico.
  4. Shinseki Tours Chillicothe VAMC Stimulus Projects.
  5. Campaign To Honor Nisei Veterans With Stamp Continues.
  6. Duckworth: Help From Civilians Needed In Fight Against Combat Stress.
  7. Improvements Lead VA To Keep GI Bill Hot Line Open Five Days A Week.
  8. VA Wants To Hear From You.
  9. Plan To Replace Vermont State Hospital Involves VA Campus.
  10. Five Counties In Running For Oregon Vets Home.

Have You Heard
The American College of Surgeons is introducing risk calculators for surgery of the colon and pancreas and is designing similar tools for 18 other procedures. This quality-improvement program was adapted from one originated by the Veterans Health Administration which reduced deaths at VA hospitals from surgery and surgical complications by 27 and 45 percent, respectively. The calculators use data from more than one million patient records gathered as part of the College’s National Surgical Quality Improvement Program, which works with hospitals to reduce surgical errors and complications. The calculators allow surgeons to enter a patient’s risk variables and in a matter of minutes receive a customized report outlining the risk of death and specific complications. Studies show that this information not only helps assess whether a patient is a good candidate for surgery, but also helps doctors make sure patients understand what they are getting into—the process known as “informed consent.” Hospitals in the American College of Surgery quality-improvement program can also compare their performance against a national benchmark (as VA does internally), and tell patients whether their complication rates are lower than the national average.

1.      VA: Petzel Has Been Sworn In As Undersecretary For Health.In continuing coverage, Modern Healthcare (2/19, Lubell, 72K) reports, “Robert Petzel has been sworn in as undersecretary for health at the Veterans Affairs Department, the agency announced. Petzel will be heading the Veterans Health Administration, the 262,000-employee component of the VA that is composed of 153 hospitals, more than 800 geographically separate outpatient clinics or mobile clinics, and 232 readjustment counseling vet centers.” Modern Healthcare notes that in a written statement, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said Petzel’s “commitment to outstanding medical quality and access for veterans will be critical to leading VA in its 21st century transformation.”

2.      VA Regional Office In Texas To Add 100 Claims Processors. The AP (2/19) reports, “The Veterans Affairs Regional Office in Waco is adding 100 claims processing jobs to help veterans receive their benefits faster. The announcement was made Thursday in Waco by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki” and US Rep. Chet Edwards (D-TX), who “says the jobs were needed because the VA has had too few employees to handle a more demanding workload stemming from increased veterans’ health care and benefits.” The Waco (TX) Tribune-Herald (2/19, Dennis, 35K) and the Fort Worth (TX) Star-Telegram (2/19, Vaughn) publish similar stories, as does the Austin (TX) American Statesman (2/19), which makes its coverage the second item in “Texas Digest”, and the Conroe (TX) Courier (2/19, 11K), which makes its coverage the second item in “Community News”.
Recovery Act Funding New Jobs. According to the KWTX-TV Waco, TX (2/18) website, Shinseki and Edwards “scheduled a news conference Thursday in Waco to announce the new jobs, which are funded by money from the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed a year ago Wednesday by President Barack Obama. ‘Our veterans deserve this, and I am glad that the American Recovery Act funding is making it possible,’ Edwards said.” KWTX noted, “The new jobs will pay an average of more than $38,000 a year and benefits include health insurance, Edwards said.”
KCEN-TV Waco, TX (2/18, 11:32 p.m. CT) broadcast, “The 100 new employees are to start on March 1st,” while KWTX-TV Waco, TX (2/18, 6:05 p.m. CT) broadcast that “new VA employees will also be added nationwide.” KWKT-TV Waco, TX (2/18, 9:01 p.m. CT) and WOAI-TV San Antonio, TX (2/18, 6:11 p.m. CT) also aired reports on this story.
Eighty Temporary Jobs To Become Permanent. The KXXV-TV Waco, TX(2/18, Talbert) website, which said Thursday’s announcement “will likely mean the end of a giant” claims backlog, reported, “Secretary Shinseki said many of the 100 claims processors will be veterans themselves.” KXXV added, “There were also 80 temporary jobs set to expire in September but Secretary Shinseki says those employees will stay hired on permanently.”

3.      Shinseki Meets With Vets In New Mexico.The Alamogordo (NM) Daily News (2/19, Österreich, 6K) reports Veterans Secretary Eric Shinseki “spent time in Alamogordo on Wednesday visiting with New Mexico veterans and listening to their concerns.” In the “company of Congressman Harry Teague, Shinseki sat in the City Commission Chambers at City Hall and talked about where the VA is going and what it is hoping to achieve in the next few years. Teague invited Shinseki to visit Alamogordo because he thinks veterans deserve better treatment than they have had in the past and he wanted to share southern New Mexico’s issues with the secretary.”

4.      Shinseki Tours Chillicothe VAMC Stimulus Projects.In continuing coverage, the Chillicothe (OH) Gazette (2/19, Ison, 12K) reports, “The Chillicothe Veterans Affairs Medical Center was the first stop Wednesday on a three-day tour” for US Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. Wednesday’s “brief tour of two projects being funded through more than $7.8 million in American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funds (stimulus funds) was the first time” the Chillicothe VAMC “ever has been visited” by a US VA secretary. The Gazette adds, “Shinseki said he is pleased so far with how $1 billion is being used across the VA system,” and “raised the fact about 80 percent of the VA stimulus-funded projects have gone to small businesses owned by veterans.”
Veteran Pleased With Care Provided By Hospital. In a letter to the editor of the Chillicothe (OH) Gazette (2/19, 12K), Robert Daniel Grant, a veteran living in Circleville, Ohio, says he “received only the best care from a great bunch of dedicated doctors and nurses” while being treated at the Chillicothe VAMC. Grant adds, “If VA medical care is government-run health care, I say bring it on for everyone.”

5.      Campaign To Honor Nisei Veterans With Stamp Continues.Pacific Citizen (2/19, Ko), a newspaper in Los Angeles, California, reports, “Over 30,000 Japanese Americans…served in WWII,” and the “Japanese American WWII Veterans Commemorative Stamp Campaign has been pushing for years to honor” them. Currently, “supporters are…focusing their efforts on changing” the US Postal Service’s “informal policy against issuing stamps for individual units, branches or divisions.” Gerald Yamada, “Nisei veterans stamp project liaison for the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA),” will next week ask the National Military Veterans Alliance to support that strategy, and if it does, Yamada says a letter indicating that support will be sent to the post master general, and “copied to the president, secretary of defense and secretary of veterans affairs.”

6.      Duckworth: Help From Civilians Needed In Fight Against Combat Stress.In its “Hampton Roads Recon” blog, the Newport News (VA) Daily Press (2/19, Lessig, 76K) reports, “The public must be enlisted in the fight against combat stress because veterans often don’t know they suffer from problems, a top Veterans Affairs official said Thursday.” Disabled Iraq veteran Tammy Duckworth, an assistant secretary at the VA, made her comments while appearing as the “keynote speaker at the 2010 Virginia is for Heroes Conference in Richmond.” The Daily Press notes that US military leaders “have spoken about changing a culture that rewards toughness while discouraging traumatized veterans from coming forward because mental problems are a sign of ‘weakness.’ In a later interview, Duckworth said the Defense Department is making strides in that regard, but she said many veterans simply may not know they are afflicted.” The Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch (2/19, Slayton) also covers this story.

7.      Improvements Lead VA To Keep GI Bill Hot Line Open Five Days A Week.In continuing coverage, the Army Times (2/19, Maze, 104K) reports, “The GI Bill telephone hot line is once again open five days a week, after improvements were made to reduce the number of calls that do not go through, Veterans Affairs Department officials have announced.” Created “last year to handle an expected flood of questions about the new Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Muskogee, Okla., call center has been the target of complaints.” The Times adds, “Making it even harder to get through was a decision to have the call center open only three days a week – Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday – so that education experts could” be “reassigned every Thursday and Friday to help process benefits claims,” but as of Thursday, according to VA officials, that is no longer the case.

8.      VA Wants To Hear From You.In his “What’s Brewin'” blog for NextGov (2/18), Bob Brewin noted that the Veterans Affairs Department “has opened up a new Web portal to solicit ideas from the public and from department employees on how it can become more transparent, collaborative and all those other open government buzzwords.” According to Brewin, the portal, which will be “open until March 29,” has “some real gems of suggestions on how to improve transparency, including one from an employee who recommended, ‘We should record (audio & video) and broadcast all the major budget meetings that take place at the SES level and above, specifically the one where the decisions that determine program funding are made.’ I imagine that watching a bunch of SESers slice and dice even a small portion of the department’s proposed $125 billion fiscal 2011 budget would not only enhance transparency but also induce sleep, saving VA money on sleeping pills.”

9.      Plan To Replace Vermont State Hospital Involves VA Campus.The AP (2/19) reports the Administration of Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas “wants to replace the aging Vermont State Hospital with a new, 15-bed unit in Waterbury and regional facilities in Rutland and White River Junction. The plan unveiled Thursday afternoon would create a total of 45 new mental health beds at the Rutland Regional Medical Center and on the campus” of the Veterans Affairs hospital in White River Junction. After noting that the “facility at the VA would be affiliated with the Dartmouth Medical School,” the AP said the “proposal is already drawing fire from some lawmakers, who question its funding source,” and “others who say the state should have relied more on the private Brattleboro Retreat psychiatric hospital in Brattleboro.”

10.    Five Counties In Running For Oregon Vets Home.The Roseburg (OR) News-Review (2/19, Sowell, 18K) reports, “Douglas County is one of five counties in the running for a 250-bed state veterans home.” Douglas County Commissioner Joe Laurance, “a Vietnam era veteran who has spent the past three years working with other community leaders to draw up a proposal to have the $43 million home located on a portion of the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center grounds, said Wednesday he is confident of the local group’s chances. ‘I think we have a very good shot at getting this home, which would provide a great service to veterans,’ Laurance said.”

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