Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News


From the VA:

Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News

1.      While Speaking At VFW Convention, Biden Expresses Optimism About Iraq, Afghanistan. The AP (8/24, Smith) notes that when Vice President Joe Biden spoke “at the annual convention” of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) on Monday, he “said…the United States will remain committed to helping the Iraqi people even after the last American combat troops leave the country this month.” After saying Biden also discussed positive work being done by the US in Afghanistan, the AP adds, “Danny White, 61, of Waukee, Iowa, was among several veterans who said they were pleased with Biden’s appearance and speech” at the convention for VFW, the “nation’s oldest major veterans organization,” which is “meeting in Indianapolis through Thursday.”
     Politico (8/24, Phillip), the Los Angeles Times (8/24, Malcolm) “Top Of The Ticket” blog, and the “Briefing Room” blog for The Hill (8/24, Viebeck) also cover Biden’s speech, as does the Christian Science Monitor (8/24, LaFranchi), which says in an analysis that the “Obama White House has been fretting for weeks over how best to portray the official conclusion of the US combat presence in Iraq at the end of this month.” The Science Monitor adds that if Monday’s VFW convention speech by the Vice President “is an indication, it will be upbeat, muscular, and just shy of ‘mission accomplished.'”

 2.      Shinseki To Throw First Pitch Out At Red Sox Salute To The Troops Night. According to the fifth “Red Sox Notebook” item for the Boston Globe (8/24, Abraham), the “third annual Tickets for Troops game” will be played Tuesday night. After noting that the “Red Sox and many season ticket-holders have donated 1,000 tickets to representatives of all six branches of the United States armed forces,” the Globe says the first pitch of the game “will be thrown” by the US Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

 3.      NJ Governor Signs Legislation Intended To Honor Military Personnel, Veterans. The Philadelphia Inquirer (8/24, Lu) notes that on Monday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a “package of legislation intended to honor active-duty and veteran military personnel.”

4.      National VFW Honors Louisiana Department Commander. The fourth “Community Briefly” item for the Shreveport (LA) Times (8/23) said the national Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) “has honored the Louisiana Department commander, Federico ‘Max’ Arends III, of Bossier City, as an All-American Commander. In a recent release, the national” VFW “says Arends is one of only 27 commanders worldwide chosen for the honor, which is based on ‘outstanding achievements in membership growth and participation in other VFW programs that benefit veterans and their communities.'”

5.      Administration CIO Announces IT Review, Cites Problems With VA Project. Bloomberg News (8/24, Brower, Shields) reports, “The Obama administration plans to review 26 government information-technology projects worth $30 billion as part of an effort to trim back or cancel contracts that aren’t meeting goals.” Bloomberg adds, “The White House worked with federal agencies to determine which projects should be included on the ‘high priority’ list in an effort to make them more efficient…said” Vivek Kundra, President Barack Obama’s chief information officer, while speaking Monday during a “conference call…with reporters.” During the call, Kundra “cited a Veterans Affairs Department project that got under way in 1998 at a cost of $250 million, was halted in 2004, restarted in 2005 and stopped again ‘after spending millions of dollars.'” A very similar version of this Bloomberg story appears on the Washington Post (8/24) website.

 6.      Vets Groups, Lawmakers Suggest VA Should Maintain Arlington National Cemetery. In continuing coverage, CNN American Morning (8/23, 6:52 a.m. ET) broadcast, “Veterans groups and lawmakers suggesting the upkeep of Arlington National Cemetery should be transferred from the Army” to VA. This “comes after an Army investigation in June found 211 American heroes had their graves mislabeled or left unmarked. Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill has said that number could actually be in the thousands.”
     CNN Anchor Questions Whether Agency Is Fit To Run Arlington. CNN Newsroom (8/23, 9:48 a.m. ET), meanwhile, devoted its “What The ?” segment to this story, a segment in which anchor Kyra Phillips said, “We haven’t cut…VA any slack on this newscast,” because the agency has made “egregious” mistakes, including allowing a “towering backlog of claims” to form. After stating that she has “to wonder” if VA has “any business running Arlington National Cemetery,” which some “veterans groups and lawmakers say” is worth considering, Phillips concluded, “It would be a shame if…VA dishonored the dead, as it has the living.”

 7.      Denver One Of Five Cities Selected By VA To Pilot Homeless Vets Assistance Program. The Denver Post (8/24, O’Connor) reports, “Denver is one of five cities where the Department of Veterans Affairs will pilot a new program to help homeless veterans.” After noting that the program, which is “funded with a $33 million grant over five years” and which “will create a 40-bed program for chronically homeless vets,” the Post says that along with Denver, VA selected “San Diego, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Miami” as the four other cities where the program will be piloted. The Post adds, “A recent VA study of veterans who graduated from residential rehabilitation and transitional housing programs showed that 79 percent remained independently housed one year later.”
     Shinseki’s Veteran Homelessness Pledge Noted. The Moline (IL) Dispatch (8/24, Elliott) notes, “According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 92,000 homeless veterans were served by…VA’s specialized homeless programs in 2009,” a figure that represents a “15 percent increase from 2008.” The Dispatch pints out that Sarah Oliver, a “social worker at the VA Homeless Outreach Center” in Rock Island, Illinois, “said that in October 2009, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki made an announcement to end homelessness among veterans in five years.”

 8.      VA Hospital Offering Assistance To Transitioning Vets. On its website, WIAT-TV Birmingham, AL (8/23) said that while many US soldiers are “ready to head home” from Iraq, the “transition to civilian life can prove to be difficult for them and their families.” But according to WIA, some hospitals, like the one operated by Veterans Affairs “in Tuscaloosa, have options for soldiers and their families in need of care.” WIAT went on to say the VA hospital “offers physical and mental counseling, in additional to families counseling and job assistance.”
     Nonprofit Also Helping Vets Adjust To Civilian Life. According to the Smithsonian (8/24, Poole) magazine, the Pathway Home is a “nonprofit residential treatment center in Yountville, California, where active and retired service members suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) are learning to make the hard transition from war to civilian life.”
     Think Tank Estimates That Approximately 300,000 Vets From Iraq, Afghanistan Have PTSD. The Moline (IL) Dispatch (8/24, Elliott) says a nonprofit “think tank” called the Rand Corporation “estimates roughly 300,000 veterans returning from Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq may suffer from PTSD.”
     County Official Criticizes VA. In a separate article, the Moline (IL) Dispatch (8/23, Elliott) noted, “Many veterans don’t know where to go for help, said Rock Island County Veterans Assistance Commission superintendent Todd Harlow,” who criticized VA for not putting “public service announcements out there for the families and the troops that have come back — to let them know if there’s a problem, there’s help” available. The Dispatch said the VA hospital “in Iowa City did not return repeated phone calls for comment on this story.”

 9.      Fallen Iraq Vet’s Family Disappointed By Agreement Between Court, Funeral Protestors. The AP (8/24, Beck) says family members of “Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffrey Chaney, who was 35 when he was killed in 2007 by a roadside bomb” in Iraq, “expressed disappointment Monday after prosecutors and protesters from Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church reached a deal that will keep both sides out of court over actions stemming from a church member’s…protest” of Chaney’s funeral. The “11th-hour deal was signed Monday, the same day Shirley Phelps-Roper’s trial was to begin on charges of disturbing the peace and negligent child abuse.” After noting that Phelps-Roper’s “charges will be dismissed in exchange” for her “dropping a federal lawsuit against Nebraska authorities accusing them of malicious prosecution,” the AP adds, “Members of Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, Kan., travel the country protesting at soldiers’ funerals because they believe US troop deaths are punishment for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality.”

10.    Some Vets Angry That Man Who Killed Wife Will Be Buried In National Cemetery. The AP (8/24) reports 83-year-old Raymond R. Sawyer, a “World War II veteran who died in prison after pleading guilty to killing his wife,” is “scheduled to be buried” Tuesday “in Denver’s Fort Logan National Cemetery, angering some other vets.” Arizona officials “say Sawyer’s case wasn’t considered a capital offense, the only level of crime that bars a veteran from burial in a national cemetery.”


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