Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country

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

  1. During Texas Visit, Shinseki Discusses Goals To Improve VA.
  2. VA Program Cited As Example Of “Relentless” IT Oversight Planned By White House.
  3. Duckworth To Be Honored By US Army Women’s Foundation.
  4. Grant To Fund Expansion Of Successful Pilot Program At Tomah VAMC.
  5. Connecticut Lawmaker Honored For Helping Veterans.
  6. Legislative Aide Concerned VA Relying Too Much On Billing Private Insurers.
  7. Vet Center Team Leader Says Those Returning From War Need Comprehensive Care.
  8. Former Camp Lejeune Resident’s Injury Claim Allowed To Move Forward.
  9. Coalition Of New Orleans Business Groups Push For Movement On State, VA Hospitals.
  10. Vets Concerned About Use Of West LA Land Announce Intention To Sue.

Have You Heard
In May 2000, a computer worm nicknamed the Love Bug arrived in the email boxes of tens of millions of computer users. With the eye-catching subject line, “I LOVE YOU,” the bogus email contained a malicious attachment named LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT.VBS. Upon opening the attachment, the worm used the user’s email address to send a copy of itself to everyone in the user’s address book and also made a number of nasty changes to the user’s system. The social engineering scheme caused an estimated $5.5 billion in damages. Social engineering occurs when an outsider attempts to acquire sensitive information or inappropriate access by fooling individuals into believing that he or she is trustworthy. Follow these tips to avoid becoming a victim of a social engineering scam:

  • Never click on an attachment without first scanning for viruses
  • Be suspicious of unsolicited emails asking about employees or other internal information
  • Only provide passwords, personal or information if you are certain of the person’s authority to have it
  • Don’t respond to email solicitations for personal, financial, or medical information without verifying the identity of the requestor
  • Click on hyperlinks in emails only if you know for sure the message is authentic or the source is known
  • Notice the URL of a Web site; malicious sites may look identical to the real site, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or different domain (e.g., .com vs. .net)

1.      During Texas Visit, Shinseki Discusses Goals To Improve VA.In continuing coverage, the Army News Service (2/24, Reho) noted that on Friday, more than “50 veterans gathered…to hear Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki speak about his goals to improve the quality of life for veterans at the El Paso VA Health Care System facility.” During his visit, Shinseki, who “was hosted” by US Reps. Silvestre Reyes, Ciro Rodriguez, and Harry Teague, “toured the VA facility and the Fort Bliss National Cemetery, and he participated in a veterans roundtable before addressing the public on the purpose of his visit. In his speech, he addressed three specific goals targeting programs affecting the nation’s veterans: reducing the growing backlog of claims, improving the quality of VA healthcare facilities and reducing homelessness among all veterans.”

2.      VA Program Cited As Example Of “Relentless” IT Oversight Planned By White House.NextGov (2/25, Brewin) reports, “The White House plans ‘relentless oversight’ of the entire federal information technology portfolio, which will include a bottom-up review of all projects, Vivek Kundra, federal chief information officer, said at a news briefing on Wednesday.” NextGov adds, “A Veterans Affairs Department program to track progress and improve management of IT projects is an example of how the administration plans to monitor the federal IT portfolio, Kundra said.”
VA Terminates 12 Failing IT Projects. Federal Computer Week (2/25, Lipowicz, 90K) reports, “The Veterans Affairs Department has terminated its Enrollment System Redesign, Pharmacy Reengineering and 10 other failing information technology projects for a projected savings of $54 million this fiscal year, officials announced” during a conference call on Wednesday. After noting that the “12 canceled IT projects were among 44” that had been “halted by VA officials in July 2009,” Federal Computer Week quotes one of the officials on the conference call, White House Chief Technology Officer Vivek Kundra, as saying, “Today, under the leadership of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and CIO Roger Baker, we are taking major steps in relentless management across the IT portfolio.” Government Health IT (2/25, Buxbaum) and InformationWeek (2/25, Montalbano) both publish similar stories.
Baker: Shortage Of Experienced IT Program Managers Hampering VA. In a separate story, Federal Computer Week (2/24, Lipowicz, 90K) reported, “The conversion to paperless benefits systems and other new information technology solutions at the Veterans Affairs Department is hampered by a shortage of experienced federal IT project managers, VA Chief Information Officer Roger Baker said” on Tuesday, during a “breakfast conference sponsored by Bisnow.” However, Baker “also said organization and governance at the VA are in a strong position and the VA’s management and its IT division are working closely together.”

Blogger Skeptical About IT Task Force Leading To More DOD Cooperation With VA On EHRs. In continuing coverage, Bob Brewin, writing in his “What’s Brewin'” blog for NextGov (2/25), notes, “On Feb. 19, Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management Budget, and Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, sent a memo” to numerous Administration officials, including VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and Defense Department Secretary Robert Gates, “detailing the formation of a high-level task force to coordinate all federal health information technology.” According to Brewin, this “all sounds ducky on paper, but since Defense has passively resisted cooperating with VA on development of compatible” electronic health records (EHRs) “as far back as the last Ice Age, I asked” Vivek Kundra, the Federal chief information officer, “how this memo and the formation of yet another task force would improve things. Kundra told me that development of a joint virtual lifetime record is backed by President Obama as well as Gates and Shinseki,” but, Brewin argues, while “presidents and secretaries come and go,” the “Military Health System bureaucracy outlasts — and outfoxes — all of them.”

3.      Duckworth To Be Honored By US Army Women’s Foundation.The AP (2/25) reports, “Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth will be inducted into the US Army Women’s Foundation Hall of Fame.” The induction ceremony is scheduled to take place “on March 17 at the foundation’s second annual Army Women in Transition Symposium and Hall of Fame luncheon in Washington.” KITV-TV Honolulu, HI (2/24, 10:43 p.m. HT) broadcast a similar report.
Assistant Secretary Chooses VA Over Lieutenant Governor Run. Politico (2/24, 25K) notes that on Tuesday, Duckworth “took herself out of the running for the job of lieutenant governor” of Illinois, “issuing a statement explaining: ‘I made a commitment to President Obama and our nation’s veterans to serve at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and I want to fulfill my promise before returning home.'”

4.      Grant To Fund Expansion Of Successful Pilot Program At Tomah VAMC.The fourth “News In Brief” item for the Jackson County (WI) Chronicle (2/25) says the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center “was recently selected as one of 20 sites within the Veterans Health Administration to receive a grant for systems redesign and improvement.” After noting that the “$1.3-million grant was awarded” to the hospital’s Intensive Clinical Care Management (ICCM) team, the Journal says the money will be used to expand a pilot program that “was launched in…2008 at the Tomah VAMC and has demonstrated promising patient outcomes.”

5.      Connecticut Lawmaker Honored For Helping Veterans.The New London (CT) Day (2/24, Renczkowski) noted that Connecticut state Sen. Andrew Maynard, “D-Stonington, Senate chair of the General Assembly’s Select Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, was recognized Tuesday at the fourth annual Veterans Day at the Capitol for his multi-year advocacy on behalf of Connecticut’s veterans.”

6.      Legislative Aide Concerned VA Relying Too Much On Billing Private Insurers.The Marine Corps Times (2/25, Maze) reports, “More aggressive billing of private insurers for health care received at veterans hospitals and clinics may be a way to cut costs – but it’s also fraught with errors, a House subcommittee was warned Tuesday. Blake Ortner, a legislative aide with Paralyzed Veterans of America, said if Congress and the Obama administration ‘are going to continue to rely on massive collections estimates and dollars actually collected to support the VA health care budget, then serious examination of how VA is achieving these numbers is necessary.'” The Times notes that the “national commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars raised similar concerns in early February when the Obama administration released its 2011 budget plan.”

7. Vet Center Team Leader Says Those Returning From War Need Comprehensive Care.The Florida Times-Union (2/25, Gibbons, 132K), a newspaper based in Jacksonville, Florida, reports, “Helping veterans who return home affected by the trauma of war requires a holistic approach to help them become part of the community again, the team leader of the Jacksonville Vet Center said Wednesday.” During a “lunchtime gathering,” Reginald Lawrence, “laid out the approach taken by the Vet Center, part of the Department of Veterans Affairs, to a crowd composed mainly of mental health professionals looking to help those returning from war.” The event “was arranged by Jacksonville Community Council Inc. as part of the organization’s push to help medical personnel and the broader community work with veterans wrestling with ‘the invisible wounds of war.'”

8.      Former Camp Lejeune Resident’s Injury Claim Allowed To Move Forward.In continuing coverage, McClatchy (2/25, Barrett) reports, “For what appears to be the first time, a former resident of Camp Lejeune, N.C., has been permitted to move ahead” with a personal injury claim “against the Marine Corps for years of water contamination that she says led to the development of her non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.” The US Department of the Navy, “which includes the Marines, this week lost its bid” in Federal Court “to dismiss the case of Laura J. Jones of Iowa, who lived at Camp Lejeune from 1980 to 1983 as the spouse of a Marine officer.” McClatchy adds, “The decision means the case can now move forward, said Joseph L. Anderson, a Winston-Salem, N.C., attorney who represented Jones and has heard from thousands of other potential victims at Lejeune.”

9.      Coalition Of New Orleans Business Groups Push For Movement On State, VA Hospitals.In continuing coverage, the New Orleans Times-Picayune (2/25, Barrow, 169K) reports, “A coalition of 10 business groups from across the New Orleans region came together” Wednesday to “urge Gov. Bobby Jindal to make his appointments to the governing board for a teaching hospital slated for Mid-City and to ask that plaintiffs drop pending lawsuits challenging the state project” and an adjacent Veterans Affairs hospital project. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, “which filed the federal suit, reacted” to the development “with a statement emphasizing that its proposed alternatives would produce the same economic benefits that business leaders cited in their press event.” The WGNO-TV New Orleans, LA (2/24) website focused its coverage on the press event.

10.    Vets Concerned About Use Of West LA Land Announce Intention To Sue.In continuing coverage, the San Fernando Valley (CA) Sun (2/25, Chavez) reports, “A small and highly motivated group of veterans and their supporters, some in their 60s, 70s, and 80s,” recently “braved the blistery weather outside the locked gates of the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration’s facility to announce their intention” to file a lawsuit over land on that facility’s campus. According to the Sun, the veterans “will sue in federal court to remove non-veteran entities from the West L.A. campus and are calling for the resignation or termination of some of the top managers of the L.A. VA.” The Sun notes that while the veterans have larger plans for getting a medical and rehabilitation center built on the West L.A. campus, in the “immediate future, they want to build a temporary shelter for homeless veterans on the 16 acres that is now designated as a public park and soccer field.”

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