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 Seen As One Of Obama’s Five Best Cabinet Members.
  2. VA Threatened With Lawsuit Over Agent Orange-Related Diseases.
  3. Pittsburgh VA Worker’s Disability Claims Idea Wins Contest.
  4. Women Vets Face “Roadblocks To Good Care.”
  5. Palo Alto VA Co-Conducts Study On Benefits Of Reducing Salt Intake.
  6. Concern Expressed About Efforts By VA,  Military To Support Guide Dog Programs.
  7. Iraq Veteran Charged With Bank Robbery To Undergo Psychiatric Exam At VA Hospital.
  8. Fort Wayne Incident Highlights “Broader Concern” About Toll Of Wars On US Troops.
  9. Vets Return To Iwo Jima For 65th Anniversary Of WWII Battle.
  10. CPAC Once Again Expected To Open In 2012 At Lebanon VAMC.

Have You Heard
Washington ’s record snowfall didn’t keep the VA Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) from its appointed rounds. The Board maintained a full schedule of personal and video teleconference hearings throughout a week of snow storms that shut down federal government in the Nation’s capital. Veterans with appeals before the Board are afforded the right to a hearing with a Veterans Law Judge (VLJ). The Board accommodates those requests with either in-person or video-teleconference hearings. During a typical week, the Board conducts approximately 75 video-teleconference hearings between appellants located at one of 57 VBA Regional Offices and VLJs located at the Board in Washington . Additionally, between 10 and 20 local “central office” hearings are conducted weekly at the Board. During the recent snowstorms, several VLJs and other Board employees volunteered to brave the elements and arduous travel conditions to ensure that all scheduled hearings were accommodated for Veterans who in many cases had waited long periods to get on the hearing schedule. During the snow emergency, the Board conducted more than 65 video hearings with 17 Regional Offices, as well as three Central Office hearings for Veterans who traveled to Washington from as far away as Georgia and North Carolina . Due to the efforts of Judges Cherry Crawford, John Ormond, Michael Herman, and Michael Pappas and Lee Becker, chief of the Hearing Branch, among others, the Board was able to ensure that the appeals process continued for as many Veterans as possible, minimizing the effects of the blizzard of 2010 in Washington, DC.

1.      Shinseki Seen As One Of Obama’s Five Best Cabinet Members. In his “Washington Whispers” blog for US News & World Report (3/2), Paul Bedard writes, “We polled many Whispers associates and sources, and they were quick to size up the top five Obama cabinet members.” Fifth on the list, according to Bedard, “is Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, who has turned an agency that is at the bottom of lists in past administrations into an example of how to bring federal services to the troops, injured veterans, and even homeless vets. He’s showing that the VA has a heart.”

2.      VA Threatened With Lawsuit Over Agent Orange-Related Diseases. The Navy Times (3/3, Kennedy, 54K) reports, “Three veterans groups have threatened the Veterans Affairs Department with a lawsuit if VA does not publish” a regulation “about three Agent Orange-related diseases that the Institute of Medicine has deemed should be presumed connected to military service.” The American Legion, Military Order of the Purple Heart and the National Veterans Legal Services Program “sent a letter to VA on Monday demanding that the organization publish the regulation by March 12.” After noting that Barton Stichman, joint executive director of the National Veterans Legal Services Program, said VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s “agency has let him down on paying anyone their benefits” for the three Agent Orange-related diseases, the Times adds, “A VA official said the agency is working to make sure the regulation goes through correctly — and therefore causes no more delays — after severe snow storms…shut down the federal government for almost a full week in early February.”

3.      Pittsburgh VA Worker’s Disability Claims Idea Wins Contest. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (3/3, Twedt, 223K), reports, “A Pittsburgh man’s idea for speeding up military veterans disability claims has earned him special recognition.” Jack Hudson, “assistant veterans service center manager at the Pittsburgh Veterans Affairs Regional Office, Downtown, was one of 10 winners in a nationwide innovation contest among VA employees and veterans service organizations sponsored by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki’s office. Mr. Hudson’s idea sounds remarkably simple — create and use standardized medical questionnaires for private physicians to fill out when they treat veterans to speed up the process for evaluating VA disability claims.”

4.      Women Vets Face “Roadblocks To Good Care.” On its website, ABC News (3/2, James) reported, “Women are enrolling” in Veterans Affairs “healthcare at ‘historical rates,’ about 44 percent of all Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, but say they face roadblocks to good care.” The VA, however, “which serves 1.8 million females out of 8 million total veterans, has said it has…already set in place a number of changes at its 153 hospitals and 783 outpatient clinics across the country. One important step was staffing every VA medical center with a women veterans program manager and educating more doctors in female health,” an effort that is part of a “‘national movement to raise the standard of comprehensive care for women vets at all facilities,’ said Dr. Laura Herrera, the VA’s director of Women’s Comprehensive Health.”

5. Palo Alto VA Co-Conducts Study On Benefits Of Reducing Salt Intake. In continuing coverage, the WCCO-TV Minneapolis, MN (3/2) website noted that researchers who worked on a new study “said if the food industry reduces salt by as little as 10 percent, it could prevent nearly 500,000 heart attacks” and save approximately $32 billion in healthcare costs. The study “was done by Stanford University School of Medicine and the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System in California.” The KLIV-AM San Jose, CA (3/2) website also took of the study.

6.      Concern Expressed About Efforts By VA, US Military To Support Guide Dog Programs. In a front page story, the Sarasota (FL) Herald Tribune (3/2, A1, Anderson, 100K) reported, “The demand for highly trained guide dogs to serve blinded veterans is one of the little-known consequences of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where roadside bombs are the enemy’s weapon of choice, and extreme head trauma that can cause vision problems in survivors is common.” But some “former service members…question whether the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs are doing enough to support guide dog programs and promote their benefits to injured soldiers and veterans.” The Herald Tribune adds that VA “recently took over responsibility for screening every service member returning from deployment for vision problems,” and Gale Watson, director of the agency’s “Blind Rehabilitation Service, believes the screening system is much better now at identifying significant vision problems among active service members.”

7.      Iraq Veteran Charged With Bank Robbery To Undergo Psychiatric Exam At VA Hospital. The Johnstown (PA) Tribune-Democrat (3/3, Reabuck) reports Lisa Lazzari, an attorney representing Iraq veteran John Fletcher “suggested Tuesday that the Cambria County Court consider setting up a veterans court with special programs to assist defendants such as hers.” Lazzari, “chief public defender, asked that all charges – including bank robbery – against…Fletcher be continued while he undergoes a forensic psychiatric exam at the Veterans Justice Outreach program” at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Altoona. Judge Linda Fleming, “over the objections of prosecutors, continued the cases while asking Lazzari to have the exam completed and a report on Fletcher submitted by an April 7 pretrial conference.”

Philadelphia Veterans Court To Be Formally Launched. The Philadelphia Daily News (3/3, Dean, 93K) notes that on Wednesday morning, “several judges and other dignitaries” are “scheduled to attend the formal launching ofPhiladelphia Veterans Court. The court — the first of its kind here — will provide qualified veterans in the criminal-justice system with a range of services, including linking them with representatives” from the Department of Veterans Affairs, “who will determine benefits eligibility, as well as veterans’ suitability for an array of VA programs dealing with housing, job training, job referrals and treatment for alcohol, drug, mental-health or medical issues.” The Daily News adds that on Monday, US Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), “hosted a congressional hearing in Pittsburgh to discuss the possibility of opening veterans courts across the state and country — a proposal he has endorsed.”

8.      Fort Wayne Incident Highlights “Broader Concern” About Toll Of Wars On US Troops. USA Today (3/3, Zoroya, 2.11M) reports, “Military doctors in Alaska scrambled to prevent 12 medically unfit soldiers from being sent to the Iraq war in late 2008 despite commanders’ attempts to deploy them, an Army investigative report on the incident has concluded.” The report on the “Fort Wainwright case highlights a broader concern about sending soldiers unfit for duty into battle as eight years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq have taken a toll on troops. Army brigade commanders this year are reporting that 16% of their soldiers are non-deployable, many of those because of health problems, according to Army figures.”

9.      Vets Return To Iwo Jima For 65th Anniversary Of WWII Battle. The AP (3/3, Talmadge) reports dozens of US veterans, “now in their 80s and 90s, returned to the remote volcanic island of Iwo Jima on Wednesday to mark the 65th anniversary of one of World War II’s fiercest battles.” The veterans “said they had, for the most part, come to respect the sacrifice of their former enemy. ‘Iwo Jima is a symbol of courage, on both sides,’ said Richard Lowe, 84, of Fredericksburg, Virginia.”

10.    CPAC Once Again Expected To Open In 2012 At Lebanon VAMC. The Lebanon (PA) Daily News (3/3, Snyder, 19K) reports, “Although the timeline has changed for opening” a Consolidated Patient Account Center (CPAC) at the Lebanon Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the “bottom line is still the same. When the North East CPAC begins operations — now targeted for 2012 — it will create about 450 new jobs, at an average annual salary of $60,000, including benefits. Lebanon VA Director Robert Callahan Jr. said Tuesday that the project is now back on its original timeline after having been moved forward to 2011 several months ago.”

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