From the VA:
Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News
1. Reaction To New PTSD Rules Mainly Positive. In continuing coverage, the Bakersfield Californian (7/15, Mayer, 57K) notes that until this week, veterans “had to provide evidence — dates, locations, eye-witnesses — to receive” benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One such veteran — Mario Muniz, who served in Vietnam – “was heartened” to learn that Veterans Affairs has eased its PTSD benefits requirement. But for “PTSD sufferer Simba Roberts,” who also “fought in…Vietnam, streamlining the rules for PTSD is like painting the facade of a burned-out building,” because, as Roberts put it, VA’s system is “flawed.” Papers, APA President Praise VA For Changing Policy. In an editorial, the Oregonian (7/14, Francis, 276K) calls VA’s new policy is a “good thing for a society…grappling with multiple social costs” stemming “from the reintegration of veterans into civilian society. As former Gen. Eric Shinseki, who heads the VA, acknowledged in an op-ed published in USA Today, ‘service in a war zone is inherently linked to increased risk of PTSD.'” The Palm Beach (FL) Post (7/15) publishes a similar positive editorial.
In a letter to the editor of USA Today (7/15, 2.11M), Carol A. Bernstein, MD, president of the American Psychiatric Association, says VA is “making a major contribution to the mental health of our men and women in uniform by streamlining” its PTSD benefits process.
Policy Likely To Increase Number Of PTSD Patients In New Mexico’s Marijuana Program. The New Mexico Independent (7/15, Childress) reports, “New federal guidelines that will streamline the diagnosis” of post PTSD for veterans “are likely to increase the number of PTSD patients in New Mexico’s medical marijuana program because they will make it easier for veterans to be diagnosed.”
Mother Of Soldier Who Committed Suicide Says VA, DOD Need To Improve Mental Health Services. The Bergen (NJ) Record (7/15, Chebium, 172K) notes that New Jersey resident Linda Bean, whose 25-year-old son, US Army Sgt. Coleman Bean, committed suicide in 2008, “told a congressional panel Wednesday the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs need to do a better job of connecting veterans with mental health services that treat combat-related conditions,” such as PTSD. However, officials with “VA and the Defense Department testified about an array of government mental health services, including a suicide-prevention hotline.”
The Army Times (7/15, Kennedy) says that even as VA officials “offered testimony that 10,000 people have been saved by VA’s suicide hotline, veterans themselves said help should come long before a person needs to make that call. ‘The suicide hotline is too much of a last alternative,’ said” veteran Melvin Cintron, who, while speaking Wednesday before the “House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s oversight and investigations panel,” said, “Either you don’t have enough of a problem and you can wait for weeks for an appointment, or you have to be suicidal.'”
2. VA, Vets Groups Criticize Claims Processing Improvement Act. The Army Times (7/15, Maze, 104K) reports, “The Veterans Affairs Department and major veterans groups showed a united front Wednesday in the battle to reduce the large and growing backlog of benefits claims. They agree that the 17 percent increase since Jan. 1 in the number of pending claims…is a sign of serious problems in the claims system,” and “that the Claims Processing Improvement Act, S 3517, introduced in June by Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman, is not the answer.”
3. Feingold: Under Health Reform, Vets Will Not Be Taxed For Purchase Of Medical Devices. The fifth item in the “Country Cousin” column for the Peshtigo (WI) Times (7/15) notes the Times recently received a letter from US Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), who stressed “that under the new health care law, veterans will” not “be taxed for the purchase of prosthetic limbs and other medical devices.” According to the column, Feingold’s letter added that Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki “recently said, ‘Let me be unambiguous: The healthcare that Veterans receive through the VA system…will be safe and sound under health reform.'”
4. CalVet Invites Nominations For Women Vets Of The Year. According to the Porterville (CA) Recorder (7/14, 9K), the “California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) has invited the public to nominate local women veterans who have shown a record of exemplary service as military service members, as veterans, and as outstanding members of the community for recognition as one of two 2010 CalVet Women Veterans of the Year. Two women veterans will be selected” for the honor and “recognized during the CalVet Women Veterans Conference, October 7 and 8 in Clovis.”
5. VA Researchers Generate New Alzheimer’s Findings. USA Today (7/15, Marcus, 2.11M) reports, “New research suggests that insulin given by spray through the nose might benefit Alzheimer’s patients. A new short-term trial of intranasal insulin in Alzheimer’s patients and people with mild cognitive decline showed benefits on certain memory and functioning tests, say researchers from the VA Puget Sound Health Care System.” The work done by Veterans Affairs researchers was “presented…this week” at the “Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease.” Similar stories are published by Reuters (7/15, Steenhuysen) and Bloomberg News (7/15, Waters, Lopatto), which notes that Suzanne Craft, who “serves as director of the geriatric research center” of the VA Puget Sound Health Care System, “said her team is now planning a larger, longer study.”
Bloomberg News (7/15, Fridson) also reports, “Patients diagnosed with dementia through screening ran up 13 percent less in health costs in the first year of treatment than before, according to a study suggesting wider detection could reduce US medical expenses. The one-year cost for 345 patients who were screened, found to have dementia and treated at US Department of
Veterans Affairs clinics with specially trained nurses fell to $11,636 each on average, from $13,378 in the 12 months before diagnosis, said J. Riley McCarten,” the study’s lead researcher, who added that “we…anticipate” screening “would save money in the long-run.” This story is also covered by Reuters (7/15, Steenhuysen) and the Wall Street Journal (7/15, Wang, 2.08M), which says McCarten is the medical director of the geriatric research education and clinical center at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (7/15, Perdue, 224K) reports, “A study of more than 700 people, many with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease, has identified a genetic factor that could help determine if a person in his 50s will develop the disease later in life.” The study, “presented Wednesday at the annual Alzheimer’s Association’s International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease in Honolulu,” was conducted by “researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health,” including Sterling Johnson, who is also a “scientist at the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center at the VA hospital in Madison.”
6. Congressional Subcommittees Approve Military Construction-VA Bills. CQ (7/15, Conlon) reports, “Senate appropriators began marking up fiscal 2011 spending bills on Wednesday, joining House counterparts who have moved half their bills through subcommittee.” On Wednesday, two “Senate subcommittees approved bills” – Military Construction-Veterans Affairs “and Homeland Security – and the full Appropriations panel plans to mark up those measures, along with the Agriculture bill, on Thursday.” House appropriators, meanwhile, “continued their work on fiscal 2011 bills Wednesday, with that chamber’s Military Construction-VA subcommittee approving by voice vote a draft spending bill that would provide $77.3 billion in discretionary spending for military construction and veterans’ programs,” although before that was done, the subcommittee adopted an amendment, offered by US Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-FL), that “would require the Department of the Army to report to Congress on conditions at Arlington National Cemetery.”
The “On The Money” blog for The Hill (7/15, Needham, 21K) notes that on Wednesday, the “Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies approved more than $141.1 billion in total fiscal 2011 funding,” including “$56.99 billion in…discretionary funding” for VA, which is “$27.3 million above” the President’s request. The Hill adds, “Arlington National Cemetery would receive $43.1 million, $5 million above the request, to deal with mismanagement issues.”
7. VA Halts FLITE’s Financial System Modernization Project. In continuing coverage, Fierce Government IT (7/14, Perera) noted that on Tuesday, the Veterans Affairs Department “said…it will not go forward with a planned financial system modernization project on which it has already spent $16 million. The project, along with an also-canceled related data warehouse effort, was part of a program dubbed Financial and Logistics Integrated Enterprise and would have cost up to around $333 million to complete, according to…VA Chief Information Officer Roger Baker,” who, while speaking to reporters, said VA will continue developing the strategic asset management IT system portion of FLITE. Fierce Government IT added, “In lieu of one large financial management system effort, the VA will roll out series of smaller financial modernization projects, Baker said.”
The Federal Times (7/14, Spoth, 40K) reported, “FLITE was among 20” large financial system modernization projects that the Obama Administration recently announced would be reviewed. Baker, however, “said VA and the Office of Management and Budget have been discussing the future of FLITE for months, and the announcement was not a direct result of the reviews announced.” The Times added, “Federal CIO Vivek Kundra praised VA’s leadership for its ‘commitment to halt investments that don’t produce results.'”
Computerworld (7/15, Vijayan), which says canceling the financial system modernization component of FLITE “will result in savings of $80 million in the federal government’s 2010-2011 fiscal year alone,” reports, “VA’s decision comes just a few days after the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) ordered a governmentwide review of agency efforts to modernize their financial IT systems.” FLITE, “launched in 2008;” was “meant as a replacement for another VA project called the Core Financial and Logistics System, which the agency launched in 1998 but discontinued in 2004 after spending more than $305 million on the effort.”
8. Medical College Awarded NIH Grant, Will Collaborate With Zablocki VAMC. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (7/15, Gallagher, 224K) reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH) “said Wednesday morning it has awarded a $20 million grant to the Medical College of Wisconsin to fund its effort to collaborate with seven other Milwaukee area institutions,” including the Clement J. Zablocki Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and “move research discoveries to patients more quickly.” After noting that the “Medical College is one of nine health research centers” receiving a Clinical and Translational Science Award from NIH program this year, the Journal Sentinel adds, “The awards are significant because the NIH…is making them to centers it believes will be best at translating research into treatments, engaging communities in their research efforts and training researchers.”
9. Lawmakers, Vets Groups Upset To Learn Congress Is Not Following Employment Law. Politico (7/15, Lovley, Cogan, 25K) says a “new report showing…Congress has largely exempted itself” from the Veterans Employment Opportunities Act, a “law that aids post-military employment” for veterans, “had lawmakers and veterans groups roiled Wednesday.” The report which was written “by the Office of Compliance on the state of the congressional workplace” and which “urges Congress to apply” the law to its own hiring habits, is “already getting attention” from US Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), “an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran,” who “said he aims to push lawmakers to follow the law.”
10. VA Hospital In Minnesota Helping Wounded Soldiers, Returning Vets. The Mille Lacs County (MN) Times (7/15, Reede, 3K) notes that the Veterans Affairs hospital in Minneapolis has an Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom Program to help newer combat veterans “and a Polytrauma Transitional Rehab Unit to help…wounded troops reintegrate. And next door” to the hospital “is the Fisher House, which was created to help the family members” of wounded soldiers assist in their recovery.
Hospital’s Supervisor Touts Benefits Of Working For Agency. The Minneapolis Star Tribune (7/15, Crotti, 347K) notes that the Minneapolis VA Medical Center is hiring for several positions, according to Kathy Besser, the hospital’s supervisory human resources specialist, who says it is “good…to work” for VA, where employees “get to do something to help the country.”