Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News

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From the VA:

Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News

1. New PTSD Rules Part Of Changes Made At VA Under Shinseki. The Department of Veterans Affairs continued to receive positive coverage of a change in its post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) policy. For example, NPR (7/13, McChesney) “Morning Edition” program said, “For many veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs has long been seen as an adversary, not an advocate. Now, under retired Army General Eric Shinseki,” VA “has made some changes,” including issuing new rules that make “it much easier for veterans who say they’re suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, to receive benefits and medical care.”
In his syndicated column for Scripps Howard News Service (7/14), Martin Schram writes that by changing VA’s PTSD policy, Shinseki “showed decades of top-level VA non-doers how easy it was to end decades of official inaction and unfairness,” by caring “enough to act.” Schram goes on to say that “House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner, D-Calif., said Shinseki’s action ‘will immediately help combat veterans.”
Groups, Vets Approve Of PTSD Policy Change. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer (7/14, Albrecht, 304K) VA’s new PTSD “policy has been lauded by such military service groups as the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Disabled American Veterans. The change also was endorsed” by 54-year-old veteran John Campbell, an Ohio resident who “said it took years to get a disability claim approved by…VA for a life crippled” by PTSD.
The KOAA-TV Colorado Springs, CO (7/13) website said Iraq veteran Curtis Wilson, whose PTSD claims have “all come back denied” by VA, “sees new hope” now that the agency has changed its policy covering the disorder. VA officials “say it will speed up claim filing time and lessen the requirements for approval,” the WRAL-TV Raleigh, NC (7/13) website reported, “Sharon Sanders, director of Cumberland County Veterans Services, said she knows about 100 veterans who were denied PTSD benefits because traumatic events could not be verified,” a situation that will no longer occur. Arthur Laselle, a Vietnam vet with PTSD who told WRAL he has had trouble with VA’s old rules, “said he is relieved” by the new ones.
Lawmakers Also Praise VA Change In PTSD Rules. The Denver Daily News (7/13, 10K) noted that in a statement, US Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) said, “In Colorado we are fortunate to be building a state-of-the-art” VA hospital, which will have a “separate PTSD residential treatment facility.” Perlmutter also said VA’s new PTSD “rules mark a major victory for the thousands of veterans in Colorado and beyond who will benefit by having access to faster, more accurate decisions and medical care.”
The Greece (NY) Messenger Post (7/14, Sherwood) quotes US Rep. John Hall (D-NY), “chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs,” who called the change in VA’s PTSD policy a “big step forward for our veterans.”

Holistic Approach Helping Some Iraq Vets Adjust To Home Life. The New York Times (7/14, A4, Williams, 1.09M) says that as the US “military continues to reduce the number of troops” in Iraq, it “has begun to shift some focus to the home front in an effort to ensure a smooth transition for soldiers, a move prompted by lessons learned from returning veterans,” including several from the Fourth Brigade, First Armored Division in Fort Bliss, Texas, “who have struggled to adjust to lives away from war.” After noting that leaders of the “Fourth Brigade said its problems had…revealed institutional ignorance about combat stress and traumatic brain injury that forced the unit to use a holistic approach not typically associated with the military,” the Times says the approach, which includes “bringing in a civilian social worker to counsel depressed” soldiers, “appears largely to be working.”
VA Grant Allows Nonprofit To Assist Homeless, Female Vets. The Denver Post (7/13, Porter, 282K) said PTSD is “now recognized as something that affects female” veterans, “including medics, helicopter pilots, drivers and other military personnel who go in harm’s way, even if they are not direct combatants in firefights. And that’s where organizations such as Denver’s Brandon Center step in.” For the “past two years,” the west Denver facility, which “is run by Volunteers of America, a nonprofit organization, serving at-risk women and children,” “has reserved 10 of its 117 beds for homeless female veterans, courtesy of a VA grant.”

2. Shinseki Proposes Legislative Changes To VA Policy. The Army Times (7/14, Kennedy, 104K) reports, “Veterans Affairs Department Secretary Eric Shinseki has proposed a package of legislative changes to VA policy ranging from rules on presumption of service connection for illnesses to time limits for disagreeing with VA benefit claims decisions. The several pages of proposed changes would make life easier for veterans and for VA officials, Shinseki said.” Veterans advocates, who “have argued against one of the proposed changes — dropping a requirement for appeals boards to give a thorough explanation, on paper, when a benefits claim is denied” – “say others should be good for veterans.”

3. Shinseki, Lawmaker Visit Clinic, Hold Roundtable Discussion. In the middle of “Bill’s Daily Roundup,” the KQNA-AM Prescott Valley, AZ (7/13, Monroe) website noted that at Camp Navajo, US Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) and US Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki recently “visited a community based outpatient clinic for veterans, followed by a roundtable with leaders in the veterans, health care and tribal communities from across greater Arizona.” Kirkpatrick and Shinseki “also spoke with veteran patients and met with the Northern Arizona VA Health Care System Director Susan Angell, who provided briefings on Rural Health initiatives.”

4. Appointed Director Of Vets Home Fails Administrator Test For Second Time. The Kitsap (WA) Sun (7/13, Friedrich, 26K) said Al Knight, the “Washington Veterans Home superintendent-to-be,” will “take a study break after failing the national nursing home administrator’s test for the second time Saturday.” Knight, “appointed as director of the Retsil facility by state Veterans Affairs Director John Lee in March 2008, has successfully completed 18 months of on-the-job training in all aspects of the operation. But he can’t take over from his trainer, administrator Sharon Rinehart, until he passes the test.”

5. Montana Vet Being Honored For Volunteerism. On its website, the KXLF-TV Butte, MT (7/13, Yuill) said a Butte veteran named Phillip Lyons is “receiving the statewide John E. Sloan Memorial Award, which is given to veterans who have done volunteer work above and beyond.” Lyons “coordinates veterans getting on vans to be transported to and from the veterans hospital in Helena and Primary Care Clinic in Anaconda.”

6. Former VA Technician Says Her Warnings About Equipment Sterilization Were Ignored. In continuing coverage, the AP (7/14, Salter) reports Earlene Johnson, a “former medical supply technician” at the Veterans Affairs hospital in St. Louis, “told a congressional hearing Tuesday that she warned more than a year ago that dental equipment sterilization was inadequate, but her pleas were ignored.” Johnson “spoke at a special hearing in St. Louis called” by the US House Committee on Veterans Affairs, which “convened the hearing after the VA sent letters two week ago, warning 1,812 veterans treated at the St. Louis dental clinic that lapses in sterilization of dental equipment potentially exposed them to viruses including hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.”

Petzel Promises Case Managers For All Cochran VAMC’s Exposed Vets. The Belleville (IL) News Democrat (7/14, Fitzgerald) notes that during Tuesday’s hearing, Robert Petzel, VA’s undersecretary for health, “promised…to provide case managers to each of the 1,812 veterans exposed to infection through improperly sterilized equipment at John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis.” Petzel’s “tone was apologetic as he faced a barrage of harsh criticism from committee members,” as “well as hard questions” from Shimkus and US Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL), who both “said they were frustrated with how…VA treats veterans.”

7. Defense, VA “Pioneers In Building” Nationwide Health Information Network. In an analysis from the July 2010 issue of is magazine, Government Executive (7/1, Sternstein) said that while it is “not often the federal government leads the private sector in creating innovative online applications,” in “health information technology, the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments have been pioneers in building” the Nationwide Health Information Network, which “eventually will allow doctors to exchange digitized patient data nationwide.” The Obama Administration “has committed billions of dollars in stimulus funding to expand the network.”

8. VA Ends Most Of $400 Million Financial Management Modernization Project. NextGov (7/14, Aitoro) reports, “The Veterans Affairs Department terminated most of a $400 million project to modernize its financial management system due to resource constraints and the high risk of failure, the agency’s top technology official said during a press briefing on Tuesday. VA ended the integrated financial accounting system and data consolidation components of its Financial and Logistics Integrated Technology Enterprise program, Chief Information Officer Roger Baker said.” After noting that FLITE “was intended to manage physical assets and inventories,” NextGov adds, “The department still will move forward with the program’s strategic asset management system, which will replace multiple legacy applications and provide better control of the supply chain, according to Baker,” whose agency canceled another financial management program, the “$472 million Core Financial and Logistics System,” after it “failed during an initial deployment at a VA hospital in Bay Pines, Fla.”
Government Computer News (7/14, Weigelt) notes, “VA’s Financial and Logistic Integrated Technology Enterprise (FLITE) modernization program is not central to the department’s mission and core responsibilities, Roger Baker…said during a press conference” held Tuesday “morning. ‘Prioritization of the projects has been the primary driver of this, along with the recognition that we can’t do everything,’ Baker added.” Federal Computer Week (7/14, 90K) publishes the same story.

9. Duckworth To Speak At Ceremony Set For Homeless Vets Apartment Building. The Detroit Free Press (7/14, Angel, 287K) reports Piquette Square, an “apartment building constructed to house homeless veterans and to provide a variety of social services for them,” will “have its official opening ceremony Thursday.” The ceremony will feature several speakers, including “Tammy Duckworth, assistant secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs” for the US Department of Veterans Affairs. The AP (7/14), which runs a similar story, does not mention Duckworth.

10. Assistance Event For Homeless Vets To Be Held In San Diego. On its website, KGTV-TV San Diego, CA (7/13) reported, “Tents began to go up on the athletic field at San Diego High School on Tuesday. When finished, each tent will hold 30 veterans for a three-day” Stand Down “event that provides homeless veterans services and a safe haven.” After noting that the event in San Diego “officially begins on Friday,” KGTV added, “In 1988, San Diego was the only city to hold Stand Down, but now more than 200 cities nationwide hold similar events.” XETV-TV San Diego, CA (7/13, 10:18 p.m. PT) aired a similar report.

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