Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country

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VA Note: due to difficulties this morning, hyper links are not included in today’s clips.

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

  1. VA Attempting To Make It Easier For Iraq, Afghan Vets To Obtain Disability Benefits.
  2. Chief Technology Officer: VA Needs New Disability Claims System.
  3. Shinseki Participates In Forum On Fatherhood In The Military.
  4. Officials In North Carolina Await Word On Vets Home Funding.
  5. School Officials Say New GI Bill Program Is Running More Smoothly.
  6. Iraq Vet, Doctor At Odds Over Medical Marijuana.
  7. Roseburg VA Improves Care For Women Vets.
  8. Group In Texas Trying To Help Personalize Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
  9. “In Memory Day” To Honor Vietnam Vets.
  10. NRC Fines VA Hospital For Making Prostate Cancer Treatment Errors.

Have You Heard
Watch out Starbucks! The VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System Stars & Stripes Café now has three branches. The Café is a Veteran-run enterprise serving gourmet coffees, teas, real fruit smoothies, Danishes and homemade biscotti. The business is overseen by staff from Vocational Services and the Community Support Program. Veterans initially start out as Incentive Therapy (IT) workers and then progress onto Compensated Work Therapy (CWT), with added responsibilities. Currently six CWT workers, one Chapter 31 (VBA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment) Veteran, and three IT workers are employed in the three cafés. More than 20 Veterans have worked in this enterprise since it began, with a few moving on to competitive employment.

1.         VA Attempting To Make It Easier For Iraq, Afghan Vets To Obtain Disability Benefits. In a story published by at least 74 news sources, the AP (3/19, Hefling) reports, ―The Veterans Affairs Department took steps Thursday to make it easier‖ for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans ―to get disability benefits.‖ The agency ―has proposed a regulation change that lets veterans qualify for benefits by showing only that they served in the recent conflicts, or in the Gulf War, and have a diagnosis of any of nine diseases,‖ including malaria and West Nile Virus. The AP notes that VA Secretary Eric Shinseki ―made the decision‖ to propose changing the regulation ―after a recommendation by theagency‘s Gulf War Veterans Illnesses Task Force.‖ In its ―National Briefing‖, the New York Times (3/19, A17, 1.09M) runs a shortened version of the AP story.

2.         Chief Technology Officer: VA Needs New Disability Claims System. The Navy Times (3/19, Maze, 54K) reports, ―Bailing wire and bandages can‘t save the veterans disability claims process, the Veterans Affairs Department‘s chief technology officer said Thursday at a roundtable discussion about ways to cut the growing backlog of claims and improve accuracy.‖ The comments from Peter Levin, who said ―we are going‖ to ―build a new‖ disability claims system, ―came at a meeting organized‖ by the House Veterans Affairs Committee ―to toss around ideas for repairing‖ the current system. The Times notes that a ―short-term solution proposed‖ by the Obama Administration ―is what VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has called the ‗brute force‘ option: hiring more people to process claims.‖ The Federal Times (3/19, 40K) publishes the same story.

3.         Shinseki Participates In Forum On Fatherhood In The Military. The Fayetteville (NC) Observer (3/19, Ramsey) notes that on Thursday, a ―forum sponsored by the White House‖ and the US Department of Veterans Affairs explored ―the challenges of fatherhood in the military.‖ After noting that the ―forum was held at the John D. Fuller Sr. Recreational /Athletic Complex,‖ the Observer adds, ―Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki spoke at Thursday‘s meeting and sat on a seven-person panel during the forum.‖

4.         Officials In North Carolina Await Word On Vets Home Funding. The Kinston (NC) Free Press (3/19, Anderson, 11K) reports state and local officials in North Carolina ―have their fingers crossed as they wait for word that the US Department of Veterans Affairs will release $12 million in federal funds to start construction on a veterans nursing home in Lenoir County.‖ North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue ―announced during a September 2009 visit to Kinston that the ‗conditional‘ grant had been approved — approval is contingent upon a review by the federal VA of all plans and other documents related to the home, a 100-bed facility.‖ The Free Press adds, ―The application must work its way through the federal VA bureaucracy up to the office of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki,‖ and if ―he approves, Shinseki will send a letter to the state veterans division.

5.         School Officials Say New GI Bill Program Is Running More Smoothly. The AP (3/19, Kallestad) reports, ―The new GI Bill program for veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq is running more smoothly in Florida after a shaky start, university and college officials assured a Senate panel Thursday. The redesigned ‗Post-9/11 GI Bill‘‖ got ―off to a wobbly beginning last fall when intended recipients often waited months for their checks and schools had to wait for tuition and fees payment from the federal government. ‗The system seems to have had some great growing pains and implementation pains, but it now seems to be moving much, much smoother,‘ said Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Cross Creek, who chaired the Senate Higher Education Committee.‖

6.         Iraq Vet, Doctor At Odds Over Medical Marijuana. Fox News‘ Fox And Friends (3/18, 7:53 a.m. ET) broadcast that ―20% of soldiers returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from‖ post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), ―and some veterans say the only way they can cope is with medical marijuana.‖ The Department of Veterans Affairs, however, ―will not pay for this.‖ Fox News interviewed Iraq war veteran Paul Caulken, the founder of the New Mexico Medical Marijuana Patient‘s Group, who defended the use of medical marijuana, and Dr. Andrea Barthwell, the founder and chief executive officer of EMGlobal, a healthcare and drug policy consulting firm, who said ―there are two‖ Food and Drug Administration-approved medications for people with PTSD and ―we expect‖ the VA ―to support a standard of care‖ that medical marijuana ―just does not meet.

7.         Roseburg VA Improves Care For Women Vets. The Roseburg (OR) News-Review (3/19, Korengel, 18K) says Marcia Hall ―started her position‖ as women veterans program manager for the VA Roseburg Healthcare System on ―Dec. 1, 2008, in response to a mandate from Veterans Affairs headquarters in Washington, DC, that all VA facilities create a position such as hers.‖ That ―mandate was meant to prepare the VA system for a projected surge in women veterans 4 knocking on the VA‘s door for medical care.‖ The News-Review notes that while Hall and veteran Kimberly Jasper O‘Neal, a Roseburg resident, ―both say there is room for more improvements‖ in medical care for women in the local VA system, O‘Neal ―appreciates how the changes made so far, such as allowing her to see one doctor for all her medical needs, have improved her life.

8.         Group In Texas Trying To Help Personalize Vietnam Veterans Memorial. On its website, KRIS-TV Corpus Christi (3/18, Vats) reported, ―A local veteran‘s group is trying to help out on a national effort to recognize those killed during the Vietnam War in a way never done before.‖ The group, which includes Vietnam vet Ram Chavez, is ―working towards the national effort to add pictures to the thousands of faceless, engraved names at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial‖ in Washington DC.

9.         “In Memory Day” To Honor Vietnam Vets. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (3/18, Crompton, 223K) reports the late Dennis Gump, ―is among 70 veterans who will be honored next month as part of ‗In Memory Day‘ at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial‖ in Washington, DC. The ―designated day honors Vietnam veterans who died as a result of their service in the Vietnam War but who do not meet‖ US Department of Defense ―guidelines to be listed on the memorial, which generally require death as a result of a combat injury. Veterans honored during In Memory Day may have died because of conditions related to post-traumatic stress disorder or illness caused by exposure to Agent Orange or similar herbicides used during the war.

10.       NRC Fines VA Hospital For Making Prostate Cancer Treatment Errors. In continuing coverage, FierceHealthcare (3/19, Bowman) reports, ―Nearly two years after medical errors at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center came to light, which involved 97 of 116 prostate cancer treatments being performed incorrectly,‖ the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) ―announced its second biggest fine ever against a medical facility.‖ On Wednesday, the NRC ―proposed a $227,500 fine against the Department of Veterans Affairs, the parent of the Philadelphia hospital.‖ FierceHealthcare adds, ―Despite the fine, the VA insists that it has taken all the right steps in dealing with this situation, according to the New York Times.‖ The WHYY-FM Philadelphia, PA (3/18, English) website also took note of the NRC fine.

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