Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News

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From the VA:

Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News

1. Congressional Appropriators Cut VA‘s IT Budget. NextGov (7/22, Brewin) reports, “Congressional appropriations committees cut the Veterans Affairs Department’s requested fiscal 2011” information technology (IT) “budget, with House members saying it chose to hold back spending for some IT projects because they are behind schedule.” After noting that the Senate “sliced $160 million from VA’s requested $3.31 billion IT budget request, and the House cut $85 million,” NextGov quotes US Rep. Chet Edwards (D-TX), “chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies,” who “said in a statement released on Tuesday the committee was disappointed systems development at the department continues to fall behind schedule, leaving large balances of unspent funds. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and VA also said in the report accompanying its version of the department’s fiscal 2011 spending bill, which was released on Tuesday, that unspent IT funds from previous years were the reason it made cuts.”
Shinseki: VA Planning To Spend Millions On “T4” Contracts. Military.com (7/22, Jordan) reports, “The Department of Veterans Affairs is planning to pour millions of dollars into information technology contracts for veteran-owned small businesses, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a July 20 speech in Las Vegas. The purchasing strategy is called ‘T4,’ or Transformation 21 Total Technology — a program already in use by the Army and Air Force, Shinseki said,” while speaking to “about 3,000 people attending the 6th annual Veterans Small Business Expo in Las Vegas.”

Company Recognized As Veteran Owned Small Business Supplier Of The Year. Reporting on Kernco Inc, which makes the shuttle’s Orbital Aft Flight Gas Sampling System for the United Space Alliance (USA), the Salem (MA) News (7/21, Roy) reported, “Last week, representatives from USA traveled from Houston to Kernco’s headquarters to recognize the company as the 2009 Veteran Owned Small Business Supplier of the Year.”

2.      Wilson Asks Congress To Hold Off On New GI Bill Changes. The Army Times (7/22, Maze) reports Keith Wilson, the “top education official for the Veterans Affairs Department,” is “asking Congress to delay until Aug. 1, 2011, any significant changes or improvements in the Post-9/11 GI Bill.” The Times, which notes that Wilson made his comments while testifying recently before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, adds, “Congress can pass changes now, said Keith Wilson, VA’s education service director, but delaying the effective date of any such changes would avoid interference with the development and deployment of a new computer system that will streamline eligibility decisions and the complicated calculation of benefits.”

3.      Gov. Patrick On Surprise Visit To Iraq. The Quincy (MA) Patriot Ledger (7/22, Reardon) reports, “Gov. Deval Patrick is visiting Massachusetts troops in Iraq with four other governors, on a trip that until 2 p.m. was kept secret for security reasons, according” to the office of the Massachusetts governor. After noting that Patrick’s “whereabouts this week have been at the center of speculation,” the Patriot Ledger points out that Patrick’s “press team said he was visiting Massachusetts troops at the Walter Reed veterans hospital.”

4.      Father Attributes Iraq Vet’s Death To PTSD. The AP (7/22, Ehlke) notes that the family of Iraq veteran Peter Louis Kastner said the injuries he suffered in war, as well as his combat experiences, left him with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The AP adds, “The psychological affliction caused him to unravel after being honorably discharged in August 2007 and eventually drove the 25-year-old to take his own life in a remote area of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, his father, Larry Kastner said Wednesday.”
     Organization Tells House Committee About Peer Navigator Program For Returning Vets. On its website, KUNC-FM Greeley, CO (7/21, Hood) noted that in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, representatives “of Pikes Peak Behavioral Health Group discussed the success of its Peer Navigator program in front of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.” The “program connects veterans returning home” with PTSD or traumatic brain injuries “with veterans who know how to navigate VA benefits” and healthcare.

5.      House Committee Approves Funding For Agent-Orange Related Benefits Claims. CQ (7/21, Mulero, Attias) said the House Appropriations Committee recently “approved…legislation that would increase” Veterans Affairs funding and “help pay for new medical claims” from service members exposed to Agent Orange. The increased money would be provided in a “$141.1-billion draft spending measure to fund military construction projects,” the VA and related agencies.
     Lawmakers Praise Agent Orange-Related Work Done By Oil Spill Fund Administrator. Voice Of America (7/22, Saine) reports, “Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator of a $20 billion compensation fund for the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, says he is independent of President Barack Obama and the energy company BP who agreed to put him in charge.” After noting that Feinberg made his comments while appearing “before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee on Wednesday,” Voice Of America adds, “Republican and Democratic members of the House panel lavished praise on Feinberg for his fairness and service to the nation in administering compensation funds” for, among others, “Agent Orange victims of the Vietnam War.” Similarly, in an editorial headlined, “Handout Man Returns,” the Bangor (ME) Daily News (7/22) says Feinberg has “paid out benefits to Vietnam veterans injured by the herbicide Agent Orange.”

6.      VA Chooses Site For Clinic. In continuing coverage, the Coon Rapids (MN) Herald (7/22, Sakry) reports, “For more than a year, veterans and developers have been waiting” for the US Department of Veterans Affairs to “make a decision on where” a “new VA clinic will be located. The long wait,” however, “is over,” because on Tuesday, the agency “announced that veterans will be able to travel to Ramsey for treatment.” According to the Herald, VA “awarded the lease for the outpatient clinic to PSD LLC.”

7.      VA Co-Hosting Informational Meeting For Homeless Veterans. On its website, KTIV-TV Sioux City, IA (7/21) reported, “Veterans in Sioux City that need a home will now have an opportunity for some assistance,” because the “Sioux City Housing Authority and the Department of Veteran Affairs are teaming up to host an informational meeting for homeless veterans.” The meeting, scheduled to “take place on Friday…at the Mid-town Community Center” in Sioux City, “will present information on how people can apply for housing choice vouchers. Veterans who are part of the program will also receive case management and clinical services provided” by VA. KCAU-TV Sioux City, IA (7/21, 6:06 p.m. CT) aired a similar report.

8.      British PM Lays Wreath At Arlington. AFP (7/22) reports, “British Prime Minister David Cameron was briefed on the military situation in Afghanistan during a visit to the Pentagon on Wednesday, a US official said.” Just “ahead of the visit, Cameron stopped at the US military’s Arlington National Cemetery, where he laid a wreath at the ‘Tomb of the Unknowns’ in a solemn ceremony.”

9.      Norwood VAMC Operating Medical Foster Home Program. WJBF-TV Augusta, GA (7/21, 11:19 p.m. ET) broadcast that a Veterans Affairs Medical Foster Home program called Where Heroes Meet Angels, which operates in the Central Savannah River Area, gives qualified people in the community an “opportunity to take care” of veterans who would otherwise be sent to assisted living or nursing home facilities. WJBF noted that 86-year-old World War II veteran Louis Puglisi, who is “part of the program,” has bonded with Shadrieka Wells, who said living with Puglisi has brought her joy. WFXG-TV Augusta, GA (7/21, 10:25 p.m. ET) aired the same report.

 10.    Memorial Service For Decorated Vietnam Vet To Be Held In Arkansas. In continuing coverage, the AP (7/22) reports, “A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday” for 64-year-old Vietnam vet Nick Bacon, “who was the last living Arkansan receive the Medal of Honor.” Bacon, who “died of cancer July 17,” was a “former director of the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs.” His funeral service “will be held at Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock, with a reception to follow at Militia Hall at Camp Robinson.”

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