Top Ten Veterans Stories in Today’s News

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Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News

1.      Chief Of Dental Services At VA Hospital In St. Louis Placed On Administrative Leave. In continuing coverage, the AP (7/2, Salter) reports, “The Veterans Administration said Thursday that the chief of dental services at a St. Louis VA Medical Center has been placed on administrative leave after the hospital urged nearly 2,000 veterans to return for blood tests because inadequately sterilized equipment may have exposed them to viral infections during dental procedures. An independent board will also investigate how employees failed to properly sterilize the dental equipment that potentially exposed veterans to infections including hepatitis and HIV, the administration said.” After noting that in a press release, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said the mistakes in St. Louis are “unacceptable,” the AP adds, “Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo., said the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee…will investigate what happened at the center and planned to hold a hearing in St. Louis.”
     Shinseki Hears From Concerned Lawmakers. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (7/2, O’Connor, 263K), which publishes a similar story, points out that Carnahan “spoke by phone Thursday with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, expressing his anger about how veterans were being treated and reiterating his demand that the VA immediately investigate what he described as an ‘indefensible breach of standard operating procedures.’.”
     The Decatur (IL) Tribune (7/2, 8K) says that in their letter, which was sent on Thursday, Costello, Hare, and John Shimkus “expressed extreme concern and alarm about the potential exposure of their veteran constituents to HIV, Hepatitis B and C and other blood-borne diseases from dental care received” at the John Cochran VAMC. In the letter, the lawmakers “called on…Shinseki to conduct an immediate investigation of the actions that led to this critical safety lapse and to take steps to ensure patient safety standards are upheld at all VA facilities, including dealing with infected patients.”

     CNN Newsroom (7/1, 10:15 a.m. ET) interviewed Sen. Bond, who said he wants to “make sure that…it is absolutely clear from the top right on down through the chain of command” at VA that proper procedures, “in this instance sterilization” procedures, “must be followed. If they’re not, then somebody should be gone.” CNN also spoke to veteran Kassy Devine, who said VA has handled the testing of potentially exposed vets “very, very well.”
     The AP (7/2, Salter), meanwhile, notes, “Barry Searle, director of the Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division for the American Legion, testified before Congress in May about quality concerns at VA medical facilities.” Searle “said in a phone interview that the VA health care system is strong overall, but that frequent turnover caused problems like the one that happened in St. Louis.”
     The ABC News (7/1, Netter) website reported, “According to a timeline provided” by VA, the discovery of problems at its hospital in St. Louis “was made in early March. Dentistry services were suspended for about three weeks while officials investigated and ordered the retraining of staff, along with a redesign of the procedure for cleaning dental equipment.”

     Suspended Chief Says He Welcomes Investigations. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (7/2, Bogan, 263K) reports Danny L. Turner, chief of dental services at the Cochran VAMC, “says he welcomes investigations into the handling of dental equipment at the hospital and blamed politics for distorting the controversy. ‘I have a lot of information that proves we were doing things correctly,'” Turner “said in an interview late Thursday in his office, after he had been put on administrative leave.”

2.      VA Offering Medallions For Deceased Vets With Private Headstones Or Markers. The Muskogee (OK) Phoenix (7/2, 14K) reports, “The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is offering bronze medallions to attach to existing private headstones or markers, signifying a deceased’s status as a veteran. ‘For veterans not buried in a national or state veterans cemetery, or those without a government grave marker, VA is pleased to offer this option that highlights their service and sacrifices for our country,’ said” VA Secretary Eric Shinseki “in a media release.”

3.      Shinseki Approves Funding For Homeless Vets Project In California. In continuing coverage, The LookOut News (7/1), a paper based in Santa Monica, California, said that since 2004, Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver “has aggressively called for three vacant buildings on the Veterans Administration (VA) grounds in Westwood to be used to house and treat some of Los Angeles County’s homeless veterans.” This week, it was “publicly revealed…that one of those buildings would receive funding for such a project. Secretary of Veteran Affairs Eric Shinseki announced earlier this month during a meeting at Sen. Diane Feinstein’s Washington D.C. office that he had approved $20 million in funding to rehabilitate a three-story, 46,000-square-foot facility known as Building 209,” one of “three buildings on the grounds dedicated for homeless services.”

4.      Local Residents Concerned About Group Running Center For Homeless Vets In Ohio. The Cincinnati (OH) Enquirer (7/2, Coolidge) reports, “A 50-bed center designed to help homeless veterans sounded like a great idea to community leaders” in Camp Washington, a neighborhood in Cincinnati, Ohio, “when talk of it came up two years ago.” Now, however, “residents aren’t so sure they want the shelter run by Volunteers of America — the same agency thrust into the spotlight last year when it kicked out serial killer Anthony Kirkland — who then raped and killed a teenage girl.” After noting that Volunteers of America received a $1 million grant from the US Department of Veterans Affairs for the Camp Washington shelter, the Enquirer says “Volunteers of America runs” a resource center in Dayton that has been touted by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

5.      VHA Official Concerned About “Gaming Strategies” To Diminish Treatment Access. Author Nora Eisenberg, who directs of the “City University of New York’s fellowship program for emerging scholars,” wrote in an op-ed for AlterNet (7/1) that an “April 26 memo from William Schoenhard, Deputy Undersecretary for Health Operations and Management” at the Veterans Health Administration, “alerts supervisors overseeing scheduling in the nation’s largest health care system that he has learned of unacceptable practices.”

Veterans Affairs “facilities have adopted what he calls ‘gaming strategies’ in order to ‘improve scores on various access measures’ by diminishing patient access to treatment.” Veterans for Common Sense Directors Paul Sullivan “told AlterNet he believes Schoenhard’s memo ‘forces a key leadership test upon VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’ to end the shenanigans and solve” VA’s underlying problems, which Sullivan says stem from a “constant stream of hurricane-force flooding of new combat veteran patients from the wars and into VA hospitals.”

6.      Gunn Defends Work Being Done By VA Attorneys. Federal News Radio (7/1, Beasley) website said Will Gunn, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ general counsel, “told House members on Wednesday that, despite a backlog of cases, his office’s attorneys are ethical and high performing.” Gunn made his comments before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, which “held a hearing Wednesday morning to discuss challenges faced by the VA’s Office of the General Counsel (OGC), such as extensive backlog of cases, incomplete or false contracting information and allegations of legal malpractice by some of its attorneys.” Gunn “says the recent budget increase has allowed VA OGC to increase its staff and start addressing” such issues.

7.      Excellent Service At VA Hospital. A letter to the editor of the North Dakota-based Forum Of Fargo-Moorhead (7/2) from Nebraska resident Don Hoppes.

8.      Our Sacred Responsibility. An op-ed in USA Today (7/2) by Lewis M. Boone, “chief of public affairs for the Army.”

9.      Flags Of Our Mothers And Fathers: Malden’s Own Iwo Jima Heroes. An op-ed in the Malden (MA) Observer (7/2, 4K) by Kevin Jarvis, an associate member of the Iwo Jima Association of America.

 10.    Vet Accused Of Faking Blindness Tells Jury He Did Not Lie. According to the Texarkana (TX) Gazette (6/30, LaRowe) a 60-year-old Texas resident named Jim Bob Shipp, who is “accused of wrongfully receiving Veterans Administration benefits for decades by feigning” blindness, told a jury Tuesday that he never lied about anything. That, however, is “exactly what the US Attorney’s Office in the Texarkana Division of the Eastern District of Texas hopes to prove Shipp…is guilty of doing. Shipp is accused of accepting more than $800,000 in benefits to which he wasn’t entitled.”

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