Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News

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From the VA:

Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News

1.      Illness Research Causing Rift Between VA, Desert Storm Vets. The Army Times (8/4, Kennedy, 104K) reports, “As the 20-year anniversary of Desert Storm looms, one out of four veterans who served there are sick, even as veterans advocates and the Veterans Affairs Department still bicker.” Veterans “believe they have evidence showing that chemical exposure caused their ailments and that VA refuses to acknowledge those studies,” while VA officials “say they are striving to be transparent, that their newest research is based on more than 400 studies, and that the ‘mindfulness’ and ‘mood and memory’ research they have proposed is…about trying to relieve the pain issues so many Gulf War veterans face.” John Gingrich, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s chief of staff, who has “acknowledged…advocates might not trust VA’s take on the issue,” stressed that he thinks Shinseki “has made it very clear it is our job to be advocates for veterans 24-7.”

2.      Stimulus To Fund Renovations At National Cemeteries Run By VA. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (8/4, 263K) reports, “Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery will get a $1.4 million face-lift using federal stimulus funds, the Department of Veterans Affairs said Tuesday. Jefferson Barracks is among more than 100 cemeteries and similar sites getting improvements through the American Recovery and Restoration Act, according to…VA.” One of the cemeteries receiving stimulus funds is the North Alton Confederate Cemetery in Illinois, which will use the money to “repair a monument dating to 1910.”
     The Medford (OR) Mail Tribune (8/4, 28K) says the US government “has earmarked nearly $125,000 in federal stimulus funding for improvements and equipment purchases at the Eagle Point National Cemetery.” The “funding is part of the roughly $50 million in stimulus funding given to the VA’s National Cemetery Administration for 391 cemeteries and other sites it manages.” Business First Of Louisville (8/4), meanwhile, notes the US VA “has received nearly $796,000 in federal stimulus funding to make improvements and purchase equipment for four Kentucky and Southern Indiana national cemeteries.”
     News Of National Cemetery In New York Met With Cheers. The Buffalo News (8/4, Michel, Zremski, 185K) reports, “Veterans and their advocates on Tuesday cheered news that Western New York, at long last, will become home to a National Veterans Cemetery. The federal government will soon begin soliciting bids for a site that will be within 25 miles of the interchange for the Youngmann Highway and Mainline Thruway in Amherst and should be at least partially open by 2013, according” to US Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-NY). According to the News, the announcement “means loved ones of veterans seeking” VA burial “will not have to travel more than 100 miles to Bath, the closest national burial ground” for veterans. The Tonawanda (NY) News (8/4) and the AP also cover this story.

3.      Broad Operation Changes Ordered For Arlington National Cemetery. In continuing coverage, the Washington Post (8/4, Davenport, 684K) notes that the secretary of the US Army “has ordered widespread changes to the way Arlington National Cemetery operates after a report found a ‘general breakdown in sound business practices’ that included poor financial oversight, violation of contracting regulations and a lack of competition for lucrative contracts.” The report, “conducted by Army procurement” officials, “confirms the findings of a scathing review, released in June, of the cemetery by the Army’s inspector general.”

4.      Vet Center Hosting Family Peer Group Meetings. The second “Briefs” item for the Grand Junction (CO) Sentinel (8/4) reports, “The Grand Junction Vet Center will be host for an ongoing family peer group through Oct. 13 at 2472 Patterson Road, Unit 16.” After stating the group is “geared toward family and spouses of combat veterans,” the Sentinel says the topic of the next group session, scheduled for Wednesday night, “will be ‘What is Post Traumatic Stress?'”

5.      Symposium Focuses On Programs For Male, Female Vets. A front page story in the Freehold (NJ) News Transcript (8/4, A1) notes that on July 14th, in “response to concerns of a group of local veterans about not having clear and easy access to programs that exist especially for men and women who have served in the armed forces, the 12th District legislators hosted a symposium on veterans services and benefits…at Colts Neck High School” in Colts Neck, New Jersey. The News Transcript adds, “According to information provided by the 12th District legislators,” New Jersey Adjutant Gen. Glenn K. Rieth was at the event and “spoke mainly about the services available through the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.” The Vet Center, “located in Lakewood,” provided “materials and contact information about a variety of issues pertaining to veterans.”

6.      WWII Vet One Of 13 Citizens To Be Honored By Obama. The AP (8/4, Sanner) notes that on Wednesday, President Obama will recognize World War II veteran George J. Weiss Jr., who started an “all-volunteer rifle squad that…has delivered the final salute at more than 56,400 military burials,” and “12 other people with the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second highest honor that can be conferred on an American civilian.” The Minneapolis Star Tribune (8/4, 347K), which publishes a similar story, points out that Weiss is a Minnesota resident.

7.      Vietnam Vet Impressed By Obama Speech. In continuing coverage, the Augusta (GA) Chronicle (8/3, Jones) said that while the “big news from President Obama’s speech to disabled veterans Monday was that the Iraq pullout is on schedule,” the “commander in chief’s words about the veterans themselves were what stuck with Augustan Willie Davis Jr. ‘He really surprised me,’ the Vietnam vet said,” adding that all the vets in attendance that he spoke to said they were surprised Obama cared so much about them. After noting that Davis, “who is the chief of staff in the Georgia Disabled American Veterans,” said Obama was given a standing ovation as he finished his speech, the Chronicle said during that speech, the President “talked about increasing the Department of Veterans Affairs’ budget and improving health care and benefits for Agent Orange victims and sick gulf war soldiers.”
     The Marietta (GA) Daily Journal (8/3, Gillooly) noted that during his speech, Obama “said his administration is making it easier” on Agent Orange-exposed Vietnam vets to address their health care needs. The Daily Journal added, “Similar help is available for Gulf War veterans. Nine infectious diseases are now presumed to be related to service in Desert Storm, he said.”
     The NEWS14-TV Charlotte, NC (8/3, Broders) website, meanwhile, said Obama “made it official on Monday when he announced the United States’ combat mission in Iraq will end by the end of this month.” While the “news is giving military family members a sigh of relief,” some “strongly disagree with the Iraq troop drawdown, such as” veteran Quincy Collins, who said, “The job is not done, until it’s done.”

8.      Advocate: Obtaining Medical Marijuana “Rather Difficult” For Vets. In continuing coverage, Fox News’ Fox And Friends (8/3, 8:54 a.m. ET) broadcast, “This week, the Department of Veterans Affairs will begin allowing patients treated at VA hospitals and clinics to use medical marijuana if those” facilities “are in states where medical marijuana is permitted..” When Fox asked Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access Executive Director Michael Krawitz to explain how “most veterans who need medical marijuana as part of their treatment” currently obtain it, Krawitz said, “It’s rather difficult for veterans.” Krawitz went on to say veterans have to go to private doctors for their medical marijuana recommendations and then find a distributor for the drug, which he said can be a complicated undertaking in some states.
     Meanwhile, in its “Colorado Editorial Roundup,” the AP (8/4) notes a recent editorial for the Denver Post said VA’s “decision…to allow patients to use medical marijuana in the 14 states where it is legal, including Colorado, is a humane and just call.”

9.      VA Clinic In Texas To Conduct Open House, Tour. The Longview (TX) News-Journal (8/3, 27K) noted that on Wednesday, a “new Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic,” located at “1005 N. Eastman Road, will hold an open house and tour from 3 to 4 p.m.” The facility, which opened in July, “replaces a smaller previous Longview clinic and is one of five clinics operated” by the Overton Brooks VA Hospital in Shreveport, Louisiana.

10.    Disabled Man Making Crafts For Other Vets To Paint. The Jefferson County (MO) Journal (8/4, Merkel, 37K) profiles 58-year-old disabled veteran Bill Baker, who “has made thousands of owls, ducks, elephants, candles and patriotic bowls” for patients to paint in the craft room of the Jefferson Barracks Veterans Affairs Medical Center spinal cord injury unit. After noting that Baker “has accumulated nearly 10,000 volunteer hours” at the hospital, the Journal quotes occupational therapist Becky Ballard, who said Baker is “part of our VA family.”

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