From the VA: “Soldiers killed themselves at the rate of one per day in June making it the worst month on record for Army suicides… .”
Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News
1. Most Vets Groups Pleased With VA’s New Approach To PTSD Benefits. In continuing coverage, KPBS-FM San Diego, CA (7/15, Cavanaugh, Finn) noted that this week, the Department of Veterans Affairs “announced it’s relaxing the burden on veterans who are seeking benefits” for post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD). While not “everyone is in favor” of the changes – “some say it will increase the number of fraudulent” claims – “most veterans groups are applauding the new rules as an increased commitment from the VA to address the emotional wounds suffered by soldiers of America’s wars.”
Lawmaker Also Happy With Change. The West Virginia-based Huntington News Network (7/16) says US Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) “applauded” VA’s new PTSD rules, stating, “VA has removed a huge roadblock between our veterans and the help and benefits they deserve.” HNN points out that Rahall also said, “I urge veterans suffering with PTSD to apply or re-apply for VA Disability Benefits as quickly as possible.”
Vietnam Vet: New Rules Should Have Been Adopted A “Long Time Ago.” The Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News (7/15, Miller) noted that despite “his verified combat service and obvious symptoms,” Vietnam vet Don Bender “said it took him several years to secure disability benefits for service-related” PTSD from the US VA. So “he was glad when President Barack Obama and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki this week announced a significant easing of the verification requirements for veterans seeking such benefits and treatment,” a change that “coincides with ramped-up suicide prevention efforts by the VA and the military.” The Patriot-News added, however, that Bender said the new PTSD rules “should have” come a “long time ago.” Similarly, the Charlotte (NC) Observer (7/16, 199K) editorializes, “This is a long overdue change.”
VA Helps Put End To Potentially Violent Situation Involving Female Vet. On its website, WOWT-TV Omaha, NE (7/15, Chapman) reported, “According to police, a Bellevue woman was in a chat room Thursday morning talking about killing her husband, son and then hurting herself. Thanks to technology,” however, “police got there quickly and were able to put an end to the situation before things go out of hand. That chat room the woman was using was being monitored by officials from the Veterans Administration, part of their suicide prevention program.”
Run To Benefit Stress Disorder Unit At Roseburg VAMC. The Roseburg (OR) News-Review (7/15, Korengel, 18K) said veteran John Horwath, who has “learned to live with some of the consequences” of his service in Vietnam, and “several other” Vietnam vets, are “doing their part this weekend to make it easier on returning vets. The veterans, all members of the Southern Oregon Chapter of the In Country Vietnam Motorcycle Club, are holding a benefit poker run on Saturday,” any proceeds from which “will go toward buying iPods for veterans in the residential posttraumatic stress disorder unit at the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center.”
Army Notes Record Month For Suicides, Unveils Video Designed To Combat Them. USA Today (7/16, Zoroya, 2.11M) reports, “Soldiers killedthemselves at the rate of one per day in June making it the worst month on record for Army suicides, the service said Thursday.” . Through May, there had been a “decline in suicides among active-duty soldiers this year compared with the same period in 2009” for the Army, which also unveiled a new “training video designed to combat suicides” on Thursday. Army Col. Christopher Philbrick, director of the Army Suicide Prevention Task Force, “said this was an improved video that he hoped would reach troubled soldiers.”
Army Using Therapy Dogs To Help Vets With PTSD. The Psychiatric Times (7/15, 4K) reported, “In continuing efforts to help the overwhelming number of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan” with PTSD, the US Army is “using therapy dogs. In a panel discussion” held recently “at the annual convention” of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “Col. Elspeth Ritchie, MD, the Army Surgeon General’s special assistant for mental health, said that dogs are being used ‘much more [frequently]’ to help soldiers recover from the devastating effects of PTSD.”
2. CAVHCS Employee Honored With Excellence Award. The Augusta (KS) Gazette (7/16, 2K) reports, “Julie Brandt, MSN, RN, NE-BC, Associate Director, Patient Care Services/Nurse Executive from the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, originally” from Augusta, Kansas, was the recipient last month “of the Secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, 2010 Secretary’s Award for Excellence in the Advancement of Nursing Programs.” At a ceremony in Washington, DC, The award was presented to Brandt by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki “and Cathy Rick, Chief Nursing Officer” for VA.
3. Illinois VA To Host Benefits Fair. The AP (7/15) noted that on Friday, the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs will host a “benefits fair Friday in Calumet City.” The event is “meant to help veterans with information about federal, state and local benefits available to them.”
4. Benefit Ride Part Of Mission To Promote Flag Honoring Fallen Soldiers. The Bismarck (ND) Tribune (7/16, Eckroth) reports, “American Bikers Aiming Toward Education of North Dakota and the National Honor to Remember program will jointly host a benefit ride at 3 p.m. July 24 starting at Bismarck’s Military Service Center at 1850 E. Expressway.” The ride is “part of Honor and Remember Across America team’s mission to visit all 50 state capitals. The group aims to gain national awareness for the Honor and Remember Flag and present families of the fallen in each state with personalized flags.”
5. Advocate For Rural Alaska Vets Passes Away. The “Bush Pilot” blog for the Anchorage-based Alaska Dispatch (7/16, Saul) reports, “Mo Bailey, who worked tirelessly to bring rural vets the benefits they deserved, died recently after a long battle with leukemia.” In 2003, Bailey “founded Veterans Aviation Organization,” which “used volunteer pilots to fly outreach workers into remote Alaska villages in order to help them sign up for services like pensions” and healthcare. Each of “Alaska’s congressional delegation sent out press releases Thursday to mark Bailey’s passing.” KTUU-TV Anchorage, AK (7/15, 6:14 p.m. AKT) aired a similar report.
6. VA Preparing To Hire Medical Staff From OPM Registers. The Federal Times (7/14, Losey, 40K) reported, “By the end of the year, federal agencies,” including the Department Veterans Affairs, “could be hiring nurses and other medical staffers from centralized hiring registers maintained” by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). On Wednesday, John Sepulveda, VA’s “assistant secretary of human resources, said in an interview…that his department and OPM began working on new registers a few months ago. ‘It’s a good way of identifying highly qualified individuals,’ Sepulveda said,” adding, “I expect to see a lot of experienced veterans on those registers.”
7. Duckworth Praises Detroit Facility For Homeless Vets. In continuing coverage, the Detroit Free Press (7/16, Rossiter) reports Piquette Square, a “$23-million Detroit apartment complex…built to house homeless veterans and provide them with a variety of social services at one location,” was “hailed as a new beginning for veterans…during a grand opening Thursday.” During the ceremony, Tammy Duckworth, “assistant Veteran Affairs secretary and a disabled veteran herself,” said, “Piquette Square offers a haven” for homeless veterans “to get back on their feet.”
8. CTVHCS To Welcome Vets Home. The Killeen (TX) Daily News (7/16) reports, “The Central Texas Veterans Health Care System is rolling out the welcome mat for all Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan veterans and their families Saturday with a welcome-home celebration” in Temple, Texas. Veterans “from all eras,” however, “are welcome to attend the event, to be held at the VA Medical Center at 1901 Veterans Memorial Drive.”
9. More Vets Getting Treatment For Sleep Apnea. KPLC-TV Lake Charles, LA (7/15, 10:14 p.m. CT) broadcast that the “number of veterans getting treatment for sleep apnea is up 61 percent.” After noting that sleep apnea is “linked to a range of problems,” including obesity, KPLC reported that a “sleep expert at…VA says exposure to dust in Afghanistan and Iraq could be a contributing factor” to the rise in vets receiving treatment.
10. Senate Appropriators Approve Military Construction-VA Bill. In continuing coverage, CQ (7/16, Mulero) notes that on Thursday, the “Senate Appropriations Committee…approved a $141.1 billion fiscal 2011 draft spending measure for the Department of Veterans Affairs and military construction projects.” Under the legislation, VA “would get a total of $120.8 billion in fiscal 2011, which includes $56.9 billion in discretionary spending, about $27.3 million” over President Obama’s request. CQ adds, “Earlier in the week, the House Appropriations Military Construction-VA Subcommittee gave voice-vote approval to its version of the draft legislation, which would provide” very similar overall funding amounts to VA.
The AP (7/16) says Obama’s “allies in the Senate stepped forward with a plan Thursday to cut $14 billion from his budget for the upcoming fiscal year,” which is “double the $7 billion cut sought by House Democrats.” However, “Republicans on the Appropriations Committee said the cuts didn’t go far enough and opposed the idea — along with three appropriations bills for the budget year that begins in October.” But the committee approved both the Democratic proposal and the “bills funding the departments of Agriculture, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs, all by party-line votes.”