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 Visits Pilot Site Exploring How To Develop Fully Electronic VA System.
  2. Shinseki To Visit Colorado For Disabled Vets Ski Clinic.
  3. Shinseki Praised For VA Change On Gulf War Vets.
  4. Colorado, New Mexico Differ On Using Medical Marijuana To Treat PTSD.
  5. Law Allows For Construction Of Vets Nursing Home In South Dakota.
  6. Quinn Proposes Increasing Costs For Staying In Illinois Vets Nursing Homes.
  7. Gaytan: TRICARE, VA Benefits Good Under New Law.
  8. Psychiatric Hospital Implements EHR System Based On VA’s VistA Program.
  9. Former POW Ceremony To Be Held At Raymond G. Murphy VAMC.
  10. VA Operating Women’s Clinic In Ohio.

Have You Heard
VA Pittsburgh’s University Drive Division hosted a Post Deployment Health Reassessment (PDHRA) for more than 335 members of the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Pennsylvania Army National Guard earlier this year. Members of the National Guard, who returned from Iraq this past fall, received information about VA health care services and resources available to them through VA Pittsburgh and local veteran service organizations.

VA Pittsburgh staff was on hand to accept referrals, process health enrollment packages, and schedule appointments as well as provide primary care and behavioral health services. Two-hundred-and-fifty of the service members were already enrolled with the VA and the remaining 60 were enrolled on-site.

Seventy-one of the service members were seen by a VA Pittsburgh primary care provider and 11 had consults with VA Pittsburgh’s behavioral health staff and many more appointments were made. There were several service members who received leads on employment at VA Pittsburgh from the human resources team, which provided guidance to more than 20 Veterans during the PDHRA.


1.      Shinseki Visits Pilot Site Exploring How Best To Develop Fully Electronic VA System. In a story run by at least 140 different publications, the AP (3/25) reports, “If the backlog of veterans’ disability claims ever has a chance of being eliminated, there’s one key step: going paperless. But how to get rid of the volumes of paperwork in exchange for a fully electronic system is the quandary, and one Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki wants to be resolved by 2012 when a modern system is set to start rolling out.” On Wednesday, at a Baltimore VA office that Shinseki was visiting, “30 claims processors have been rotated in to meticulously review virtual test pages,” part of a process referred to by Shinseki as a “serious, huge undertaking” by that office and three other pilot sites which are all trying to turn a “chapter in VA history.”

Officials:: VLER In Early Phases But Offering “Valuable Lessons.” Federal Computer Week (3/25, Corrin, 90K) reports, “The joint health data exchange pilot project between the Defense and the Veterans Affairs departments is still in its early phases, but already has taught valuable lessons about interoperability, government officials working on the project say.” In April of last year, the “Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) Health Communities Program was created by President Barack Obama in April 2009 with the objective of creating a seamless lifetime electronic medical record for all service members that will cover them from active duty through retirement. Now in its second phase of development, the requirements, designs and test plans for implementing VLER capabilities will need to be developed, reviewed and approved jointly, said Debra Filippi, director” of the congressionally mandated Interagency Program Office, which “bridges the DOD/VA partnership for electronic health records.”

County Service Office Director Casts Spotlight On VA Backlog. The Covington-based Kentucky Post (3/25) reports, “Benefits for military veterans lag behind at an all-time high” and Dan Bare, director of the Clermont County Veteran’s Service Office, “wants attention brought to what he calls” the “outrageous” situation. On Wednesday, Bare, who “says 1.3 million claims are backlogged because the Veterans’ Affairs Administration does everything via” paper, “e-mailed the other 87 veterans services offices in Ohio to bring unity among them. ‘We need to wake up a sleeping giant put pressure on our governor, state lawmakers, all the way up to the White House to give veterans what they deserve and what they were promised,’ said…a news release” from Bare, who “hopes that if enough veterans band together, politicians will take notice and try to fix the lagging problem.”

2.      Shinseki To Visit Colorado For Disabled Vets Ski Clinic. The AP (3/25) reports, “Veterans Affairs Secretary Erik Shinseki will kick off a winter sports clinic for disabled veterans at Snowmass Village next weekend.” The clinic, which “teaches disabled vets about adaptive Nordic and alpine skiing and other sports,” is “sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Disabled American Veterans. Shinseki will be present for the opening on Sunday.”

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Olympic Champion “Looking Forward” To Event. SKI Magazine (3/25, Davis) reports, “Veterans will have their chance to ski with Bode Miller next week when the 2010 Olympic champion joins 375 injured soldiers at the 24th Annual Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village. ‘I’m looking forward to getting on the hill with these veterans who’ve made such sacrifices for all of us,’ said Miller,” who added, “I bet they’ll inspire me more than the other way around.”

3.      Shinseki Praised For VA Change On Gulf War Vets. In continuing coverage, the lead story for the “Veterans Post” column in the Kingsville (TX) Record (3/25, Groves) notes that the Department of Veterans Affairs is “going to take another look at the disability claims of veterans who served in the Gulf War” and “train staff not to tell veterans that the illnesses are all in their head.” Behind this change, which “comes on the heels of the VA adding three more conditions to the list of illnesses presumed to be caused by exposure to Agent Orange,” is VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, who “so far” is “aiming the VA in the right direction.”

4.      Colorado, New Mexico Differ On Using Medical Marijuana To Treat PTSD. In continuing coverage, the New York Times (3/25, Frosch, 1.09M) says Colorado and New Mexico have both legalized medical marijuana, but when it “comes to treating post-traumatic stress disorder,” New Mexico still “says yes to medical marijuana, while Colorado’s answer is a resounding no. Those differences were highlighted this week in the Colorado legislature when a State House committee on Monday narrowly defeated a proposal that would have directed the Department of Public Health and Environment to consider whether marijuana should be used to help people with post-traumatic stress disorder. Dr. Ned Calonge, the chief medical officer for the health department, which was against the proposal, said psychiatry departments at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Denver and the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver agreed that marijuana should not be recommended for treating the disorder.”

5.      Law Allows For Construction Of Vets Nursing Home In South Dakota. In continuing coverage, the AP (3/24) noted that South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds “has signed into law a measure allowing construction of a nursing home for military veterans” in the eastern part of the state. The “nursing home, with 50 beds, would be built by the federal government and a private company that would run the facility.” After noting that the US Department of Veterans Affairs “would pay 65 percent of construction costs,” for the home, the AP said the bill signed into law by Rounds “was needed to create an exception to a 1988 law that banned new construction of nursing home beds.” KITV-TV Sioux City, IA (3/24, 6:06 a.m. CT) and KELO-TV Sioux Falls, SD (3/24, 6:04 a.m. CT) aired similar reports.

6.      Quinn Proposes Increasing Costs For Staying In Illinois Vets Nursing Homes. The AP (3/25) reports Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is “proposing a plan that would increase the cost of staying in Illinois’ four nursing homes for veterans by as much as 45 percent.” The plan proposed by Quinn, who “has asked lawmakers to approve a $400 per month increase in the maintenance fee for veterans’ home residents,” is “designed to bring in about $3.5 million to help operate the state nursing homes in Anna, LaSalle, Manteno and Quincy.” Sabrina Miller, a spokeswoman for the Illinois VA, “says, if approved by lawmakers, the increase would go into effect July 1.” WGEM-TV Quincy, IL (3/24, 10:06 p.m. CT) and KFVS-TV Carterville, IL (3/24, 10:06 p.m. CT) both broadcast similar stories.

7.      Gaytan: TRICARE, VA Benefits Good Under New Law. In continuing coverage, Fox News’ Fox And Friends (3/24, 8:45 p.m. ET) broadcast, “Since President Obama signed a healthcare bill into law yesterday, we’ve been receiving dozens of e-mails from concerned military veterans, servicemen and women and their families asking how this will affect their coverage and their benefits.” When Fox News asked American Legion Executive Director Peter Gaytan about those concerns, Gaytan responded, “TRICARE beneficiaries will receive their benefits under this new law,” and veterans “can still access the…quality delivery of healthcare through the Department of Veterans Affairs.” Gaytan said his organization has been assured on these points by “the President” and the secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

Kathie McClure, the president of VoteHealthcare.org, made similar comments on CNN’s Newsroom (3/24, 10:18 a.m. ET), stating, “The good news is that any veteran enrolled in a program with the VA and currently receiving care through the VA will continue to receive that same care. … The same is true for TRICARE and TRICARE For Life, which are programs that provide coverage for our vets’ families and for vets after they retire.”
Similarly, numerous local TV stations in different parts of the country, including KTVK-TV (3/24, 5:41 a.m. MT), broadcast that both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki have made assurance about TRICARE and VA benefits being safe under the healthcare bill that was just signed into law.

8.      Psychiatric Hospital Implements EHR System Based On VA’s VistA Program. Healthcare IT News (3/25, Monegain, 54K) reports Connecticut-based Silver Hill Hospital, a “nationally recognized psychiatric hospital with 129 licensed beds,” has implemented the “OpenVista electronic health record” system. Medsphere developed OpenVista from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ VistA program, which is “widely credited with helping transform the VA into the nation’s most efficient and clinically effective health care organization.”

9.      Former POW Ceremony To Be Held At Raymond G. Murphy VAMC. The Albuquerque (NM) Journal (3/25) reports, “The 2010 Former Prisoners of War (FPOW) Recognition Ceremony will be held on April 7” at the Raymond G. Murphy Veterans Affairs Medical Center “in Albuquerque. The New Mexico VA Health Care System, which will host the event, said in a news release Wednesday that the ceremony is open to the public and will be held at 11 a.m. in the Education Auditorium (building 39) at the VA hospital at 1501 San Pedro Drive SE. The news release said the event is being held to recognize FPOWs from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War for their sacrifices, in addition to FPOWs who have passed away in the previous year.”

10.    VA Operating Women’s Clinic In Ohio. WBNS-TV Columbus, OH (3/24, 5:12 p.m. ET) broadcast, “With a growing number of women” in the US military, “there’s a growing need for medical care for female veterans.” So, the Chalmers P. Wylie VA Ambulatory Care Center “on James Road offers a clinic within the clinic, just for women.” Michelle Armstead, a veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, “says doctors…are more in tune with female veterans” at the Women’s Clinic.

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