Top 10 Veterans News from Around the Country

  1. Prior To Passage, Shinseki Defends Healthcare Legislation. 
  2. VA Asks For Input On Agent Orange Claims Process. 
  3. VA Targets $39 Million For Homeless Veterans.
  4. Women’s Retreat Will Focus On PTSD. 
  5. Illinois Will Honor Female Veterans In Chicago. 
  6. Ex-Head Of Wisconsin Veterans Affairs Slams Cutbacks In Advocacy, Outreach Programs. 
  7. Emails Show Board Strategized About Dismissing Former Wisconsin VA Secretary. 
  8. New Mexico Veterans, Transportation Work To Clear Homeless Veterans’ Campsite.
  9. “Support Our Troops” License Plate Valid, But Paper Urges Probe Of Broader Issue. 
  10.  Veterans Court To Open In Minnesota. 



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1.      Prior To Passage, Shinseki Defends Healthcare Legislation. The Las Vegas Sun (3/22, Mascaro, 41K) reports, “As protesters kept vigil outside the Capitol, the House made history Sunday night by approving” healthcare “legislation that will provide coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans and reform unpopular industry practices while promising to reduce the federal deficit.” Prior to the legislation’s passage, Democrats “fought back an attempt by the Veterans of Foreign Wars to claim that veterans’ benefits would not be protected under the legislation.” The Sun notes that Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki “said, ‘I am confident that the legislation being voted on today will provide the protections afforded our nation’s veterans'” and the healthcare “they have earned through their service.”
     Shinseki’s comments are also noted by the “Prescriptions” blog for the New York Times (3/22, Phillips, 1.09M) and by the Huffington Post (3/22, Dunn), but WVEC-TV Norfolk, VA (3/21, 11:09 p.m. ET) broadcast that the VFW is “weighing in” on the healthcare “debate, saying, ‘Now is the time for the President and the leadership to step up and reiterate their promises to protect the VA and TRICARE systems.'”
     However, in an op-ed for The Gov Monitor (3/22), Tammy Duckworth, VA’s “Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs,” addresses the VFWS’s concerns, stating, “Let me be unambiguous: The healthcare that Veterans receive through the VA system, including dependents of certain veterans enrolled in the CHAMPVA program, will be safe and sound under health reform.” According to Duckworth, the VA Secretary “would continue to maintain sole authority over the system and for enhancing the quality and access for all eligible Veterans. In addition, TRICARE will continue to be available for all eligible servicemen and women, and their families.”

2.      VA Asks For Input On Agent Orange Claims Process. The lead item for the “Veterans Journal” column in the Providence (RI) Journal (3/22, Reilly) reports, “The Department of Veterans Affairs is asking for input on a proposed fast-track process for veterans’ claims for service-connected illnesses presumed to be caused by Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War.” The Journal notes that when VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced the news earlier this month, he said, “VA hopes to migrate the manual processing of these claims to an automated process that meets the needs of today’s veterans in a more timely manner.”
     Blue Water Vets Fighting To Have All Agent Orange Claims Treated Equally. In a front page story, the Albany (NY) Times Union (3/22, Yusko) notes that while the US VA “recently widened coverage for troops who served on the ground in Vietnam, thousands of ill veterans who served in the air and on ships aren’t being compensated for the same health problems because they’re excluded from the system based on current regulations.” But now, “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans, a group of Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Air Force and Merchant Marine veterans,” are “fighting for congressional passage of the

Agent Orange Equity Act,” which “would treat all Agent Orange claims equally.” The bill, however, “is stuck in a House of Representatives subcommittee. ‘We’re all starting to lose faith,'” said “John Paul Rossie of Colorado, executive director of the Blue Water group.” 

3.      VA Targets $39 Million For Homeless Veterans. The Lake County (CA) News (3/21) reports that the Department of Veterans Affairs “is allocating $39 million to fund about 2,200 new transitional housing beds through grants to local providers. ‘VA is committed to ending the cycle of homelessness among veterans,’ said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. ‘We will use every tool at our disposal – health care, education, jobs, safe housing – to ensure our veterans are restored to lives with dignity, purpose and safety.'” Of the $39 million, about $24 million will be in the form of grants to renovate space for about 1,000 transitional beds, while another $15 million is planned to fund new beds for homeless already in transitional housing.

4.      Women’s Retreat Will Focus On PTSD. The Rapid City (SD) Journal (3/20) reports that slots “are still available for a semi-annual Women’s Retreat on April 23-25 hosted by the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder clinical team at the Fort Meade Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The program is intended for female veterans as well as for wives, mothers and daughters of male veterans traumatized by experiences during their military service, according to a VA news release.” 

5.      Illinois Will Honor Female Veterans In Chicago. The AP (3/21) reports, “The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs says it has plans to honor female veterans in the state with a program in Chicago that is to include a resource fair. The department says it will mark National Women’s History Month by hosting a ‘Salute to Women Veterans’ on March 30 in downtown Chicago.”

6.      Ex-Head Of Wisconsin Veterans Affairs Slams Cutbacks In Advocacy, Outreach Programs. In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (3/21, Scocos, 224K), the ousted former secretary of Wisconsin Veterans Affairs writes critically of decisions taken by the board while he was deployed to Iraq to reduce the agency’s outreach and advocacy efforts. Scocos, who is suing to get his job back, writes that the veterans affairs board and the state agency “have been instrumental in reducing the Wisconsin GI Bill and are currently taking aim at the VetsEd program offered through the department.” 

7.      Emails Show Board Strategized About Dismissing Former Wisconsin VA Secretary. In continuing coverage, the University of Wisconsin at Madison’s Daily Cardinal (3/22, Furfaro) reports, “Members of the Veterans Affairs Board strategized how to dismiss former Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos at least a week before he was fired, according” to emails “obtained by the Wisconsin State Journal.” Scocos “sued the Board after his November 2009 firing, claiming he was dismissed for political reasons. The correspondence raises the question of whether the Board violated” Wisconsin’s “open meetings law, which requires all governmental bodies to meet publically.” 

8.      New Mexico Veterans, Transportation Work To Clear Homeless Veterans’ Campsite. KVIA-TV El Paso (3/20, 6:11 p.m. EST) reports that “about a dozen veterans living in a makeshift camp underneath a portion of I-10 in Las Cruces are set to get some help,” as the New Mexico Departments of Transportation and Veterans Affairs “work with residents of the camp to help them move out. State officials will also go out to the site to give the homeless vets information on how to get health and financial help.”

9.      “Support Our Troops” License Plate Valid, But Paper Urges Probe Of Broader Issue. An editorial in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (3/21, 347K) opines that although a Thursday hearing in which some state senators had questioned the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs’ use of $30,000 in revenues from a “Support Our Troops” license plate program to pay a former governor’s office staffer who did outreach for the agency “was a rout,” as “veterans from around the state mobilized to defend the program.” The editorial writers nevertheless urged the legislators to “regroup, rejigger their tactics and emerge to fight another day” to probe why Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) “relying more heavily than predecessors on ‘interagency agreements,” which allow his office to transfer some staff costs to other areas of the state budget.”

10.    Veterans Court To Open In Minnesota. Minnesota Public Radio (3/22, Mador) reports, “Many returning veterans with conditions” like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) “get in trouble with the law.” But this “summer, a new court opens in Hennepin County to divert these veterans from prison, and get them the services they need to recover.” The court “requires veterans to follow a strict, personalized treatment program designed by the judge, probation officers, social workers, defense and prosecuting attorneys and the Veterans Administration.”

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