Top 10 Veterans News From Around The Country

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

  1. Shinseki “Fighting To Reduce” Red Tape For Vets Seeking Benefits.
  2. Lawmakers Urge VA Support For New Fisher House In Colorado.
  3. White House Calls For Health IT “Task Force.”
  4. Homeless Vets Facility In Texas Could Soon Begin Accepting Residents.
  5. Stimulus Funds To Pay For Upgrades At Several VA Facilities.
  6. Turnaround At VHA Praised.
  7. Following Efforts At VA, USDA, Army Explores Telemedicine At Some Europe Bases.
  8. Ad Campaign Part Of VA Plan To Attract “Best And Brightest.”
  9. Veterans Affairs Secretary Pledges No Cuts In Services.
  10. Home For Mentally Ill Vets Opens In Alabama.

Have You Heard
Seventy-four year-old Robert Harig of Guilford , Ind. , says he’s lucky to be alive and credits a mobile clinic operated by the Cincinnati VA Medical Center for saving his life. Harig told the Enquirer newspaper, ”I am here today because I walked into that van in Lawrenceburg. Those people saved my life.” Nurse Practitioner Kathy Egan listened to Harig’s heart when the clinic made a stop in his town. She noticed an irregular heartbeat and told him to see his family doctor immediately. A few days later he had a successful triple-bypass surgery. Harig, a Korean War-era veteran never enrolled for VA health care until the mobile clinic visited his area. Since it began operating last May, the mobile clinic has signed up more than 700 Veterans who have not previously sought VA care. The idea for the mobile clinic was sparked in 2007 by John Guinn, the founder of the Thank You Foundation and Sam Arnold, a Vietnam veteran who helped launch the local Military Support Group. Richard Farmer, a retired CEO of Cintas Corp and the founder of the non-profit Farmer Foundation, read about Guinn’s and Arnold’s fund-raising efforts and approached offered to fund the project. The completed $300,000 mobile clinic was donated to VA and has since made countless stops in southwest Ohio , northern Kentucky and southeast Indiana at community events, county fairs and Veterans organization meetings. Due to its success in enrolling veteran into VA health care, the Cincinnati VA Medical Center and its satellite clinics around the tri-state area will get nearly $2 million in additional funding next year to care for the additional veterans they now serve.

1.      Shinseki “Fighting To Reduce” Red Tape For Vets Seeking Benefits. In continuing coverage, KITV-TV Honolulu, HI (2/22, 10:31 p.m. HT) broadcast, “Kauai-born” Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki “is fighting to reduce the red tape…veterans” encounter when seeking benefits. Shinseki “has already made it easier for veterans exposed to Agent Orange in the Vietnam War to get benefits” for numerous diseases “associated with the toxic chemical.”
Shinseki Urged To Take On Bureaucracy While Attempting To Reduce Claims Backlog. In a related editorial, the Wheeling (WV) Intelligencer (2/23, 19K) notes Shinseki recently “told the Associated Press he will make it a priority this year to reduce backlogs in processing veterans’ disability claims.” The Intelligencer urges Shinseki not to “shirk from the bureaucratic battles he will have to wage to keep that promise. Our veterans are worth it.”

2.      Lawmakers Urge VA Support For New Fisher House In Colorado.The Aurora (CO) Sentinel (2/23, Goldstein, 8K) reports, “Congressional representatives are seeking federal support for a $10-million, 20-bed residential center that would serve patients at the new, $800-million standalone veterans hospital” in Aurora. In a letter sent to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, “Aurora Reps. Mike Coffman and Ed Perlmutter, and Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall,” along “with other members of the Colorado congressional” delegation, “urged support for a new Fischer House facility to be built next to the new VA hospital.” The Sentinel notes that according to Leslie Oliver, a spokeswoman for Perlmutter’s office, the VA needs to give its approval if the Fischer House is to be completed by the time the VA hospital opens its doors in 2013.

3.      White House Calls For Health IT “Task Force.”Government Health IT (2/23, Mosquera) reports, “The White House Friday called for a government-wide health IT ‘task force’ to strengthen coordination of health IT among federal agencies that hold key roles in carrying out the administration’s plans for a digital healthcare system. The plan, issued in a memo” from Office of Management & Budget Director Peter Orzsag and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, “sets up a way for agencies with heavy healthcare agendas to participate formally in planning health IT adoption projects set in motion by passage of the HITECH Act last year.” The memo, which was addressed to several Cabinet secretaries, including Veterans Affairs’ Eric Shinseki, “asked the secretaries to choose a senior leader from their agencies to represent them on the task force and to send HHS their choices within five days.”

4.      Homeless Vets Facility In Texas Could Soon Begin Accepting Residents.The Fort Worth (TX) Business Press (2/22, Dillard) reported, “The finishing touches are all in place at Liberty House: the walls are painted, the carpet is in, the beds are turned down and the staff is ready to welcome home the first residents in a new transitional housing program for homeless veterans in Tarrant County. Liberty House, a partnership between Mental Health Mental Retardation of Tarrant County (MHMRTC)” and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, “could begin accepting residents by March 1, once final approval is received from the government.” The Business Press added, “Construction on the two-story, 7,500-square-foot veterans’ facility began in August 2009 after MHMRTC’s Addiction Services Division received” a $600,000 VA grant.

5.      Stimulus Funds To Pay For Upgrades At Several VA Facilities.The Newport News (VA) Daly Press (2/23) reports, “The Hampton VA Medical Center will receive funds to replace fire alarm and nurse call systems through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the US Department of Veterans Affairs announced Monday. The $1.5 million project to upgrade the two systems was awarded to Adira Construction Inc., a small, veteran-owned business” in Chesapeake, Virginia. After noting that the hospital will also “complete an electrical upgrade project estimated at $6.2 million,” the Daily Press adds, “Rep. Robert C. ‘Bobby’ Scott, D- Newport News, said the stimulus-funded work ‘will go a long way toward enhancing and improving the benefits our veterans have earned.'” The Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot (2/23) also covers this story, as does the “Hampton Road Recon”, a blog for the Newport News (VA) Daily Press (2/23, Lessig, 76K), and the AP (2/23).
A separate AP (2/23) story reports, “Federal stimulus funding will pay for $5.4 million in construction upgrades at the Department of Veterans Affairs Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System. A White House news release says the upgrades include replacement elevators and dumbwaiters, a replacement roof and an updated exterior finish to several buildings at the…facility,” which is located in Biloxi, Mississippi. Thomas Wisniesk, the facility’s director, “says the improved infrastructure will benefit the veterans who rely on the center’s services.” The Biloxi (MS) Sun Herald (2/23, Newsom) publishes a similar story.
The KTVN-TV Reno, NV (2/22) website reported, “Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid says more than $5 million in economic recovery dollars are headed” to Reno’s VA medical center. According to KTVN, the “money will help renovate the community living center and urgent care center,” as well as “help upgrade elevators and refurbish heating and air conditioning units and the hospital floors. Reid says not only is this money important for our vets, but it will help put Nevadans back to work as well.”
The Salisbury (NC) Post (2/23, 21K) notes that on Monday, US Sen. Kay R. Hagan (D-NC) “announced that the Hefner VA Medical Center in Salisbury has received $5.7 million” in stimulus funds for building renovations. After pointing out that Hagan called the funds a “crucial investment”, the Post notes Carolyn Adams, the hospital’s director, said the money “allows the facility to complete many energy saving initiatives.”

6.      Turnaround At VHA Praised.While being interviewed on CNN’s No Bias, No Bull (2/22, 8:35 p.m. ET), David Osborne, co-author of a book called “Reinventing Government”, praised the turnaround at the Veterans Health Administration, which, according to Osborne, ended up having the “best electronic medical records system in the world, and by any measure they had better performance in terms of healthcare outcomes, quality, and customer satisfaction than the private sector in healthcare.”

7.      Following Efforts At VA, USDA, Army Explores Telemedicine At Some Europe Bases.After noting that the US Army is “testing telemedicine as a way to give patients at remote posts in Europe better access to American specialists,” Stars And Stripes (2/23, Robson) says telemedicine “has already gained a foothold” in the US healthcare system, at the US Department of Agriculture, which recently “announced $34.9 million in grants for 35 states to increase health care services in rural areas.” Stars And Stripes adds, “Additionally, the Veterans Affairs Department is already a step ahead of the rest of the federal government in promoting telemedicine, according to a Feb. 17 article in Federal Computer Week.”

8.      Ad Campaign Part Of VA Plan To Attract “Best And Brightest.”In its “Federal Eye” blog, the Washington Post (2/23, O’Keefe, 684K) says, “If you’ve watched the Olympics or other big events on television in recent weeks, then you’ve likely seen ads with doctors and nurses talking about careers with the Department of Veterans Affairs,” which “plans to hire a mix of medical professionals and clerical staffers to fill roughly 105,000 positions by the end of 2011.” During “an interview on Monday,” VA Deputy Secretary W. Scott Gould said, “It’s a big number and a great opportunity for us to try to attract our fair share of the best and brightest.” The Post adds, “Virtually unanimous political support for the department’s planned growth should calm the nerves of weary applicants, Gould said.” The Washington Post (2/23, 684K) also publishes some of Gould’s interview responses.

9.      Veterans Affairs Secretary Pledges No Cuts In Services.A letter from Louisiana Veterans Affairs Secretary Lane Carson to the editor of the Shreveport (LA) Times (2/23).

10.    Home For Mentally Ill Vets Opens In Alabama.In a front page story, the Tuscaloosa (AL) News (2/20, A1, Avant) noted that last week, the Moundville City Council “approved opening a group home for mentally ill veterans, most of them senior citizens,” in a vacant assisted-living facility. After pointing out that back in 2006, “some residents in the city of Moundville and the City Council protested a group home for the mentally ill that had been planned” at the same facility, the News said that according to Rebecca Meyer, associate chief nurse for mental health at the Tuscaloosa Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the new home is one of 144 private group homes in West Alabama that partner with Meyer’s hospital. The News noted positive feedback from residents of the new home, and then said there is a need for such facilities “because of an increasing population of aging veterans.”

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