Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News

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From the VA:

Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News

1.      Shinseki Touts Simplified PTSD Claims, Increased VA Funding. In continuing coverage, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (9/1, Jones, 206K) reports, “As the number of veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress skyrockets, the Department of Veterans Affairs is simplifying claims to provide help as quickly as possible, Secretary Eric Shinseki said Tuesday morning,” while addressing “thousands of veterans attending the National American Legion Convention” in Milwaukee. Shinseki also “noted that funding has been boosted considerably in the last two years as the Department of Veterans Affairs focuses on homelessness, health care, access to benefits and services and cutting down the backlog of disability claims.” In addition, he “said the number of veterans and their families taking advantage of the new GI Bills to enroll in college is almost 600,000.” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (9/1, 206K) also takes note of Shinseki’s comments in a separate article, one that leads with coverage of Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ Tuesday speech to the National American Legion Convention.
     Secretary Also Highlights Efforts To Reduce Claims Backlog, Defends Agent Orange Decision. The American Forces Press Service (9/1, Carden) says, “The Veterans Affairs Department is making great strides in its efforts to reduce the backlog of veterans’ claims, VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki…told thousands of veterans attending the 92nd Annual American Legion National Convention in Milwaukee.” The Secretary, who also “noted improved care for veterans” suffering from Agent Orange- and Gulf War-related illnesses, said it was the “right decision” to connect three new diseases to Agent Orange. UPI (9/1) publishes a similar story.

2.      Official: Planning Ahead Allowed VA To Award All Stimulus Money. Federal News Radio (8/31) reports, “Earlier this month, Veterans Affairs awarded the last of its one-point-eight billion Recovery Act grant money, and was among the first to do so.” The grant money awarded by VA “funded over fifteen hundred projects, many of them with veteran-owned companies.” Ed Murray, “VA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Finance told the Federal Drive it wasn’t easy to award all of the money, but VA benefited from planning ahead.”

3.      Despite VA Efforts, US Government Falls Short Of Small Business Contracting Goals. The New Jersey-based NJBIZ (8/31, Fitzgerald, 18K) reported, “US small businesses received a record $96.8 billion in federal prime contracts in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2009, or 21.89 percent of federal contracts – falling short of the government’s goal to award 23 percent of its contracts to small business, according to the US Small Business Administration,” or SBA. The SBA, which “also released its annual scorecard of how well individual federal agencies did toward meeting their small-business contracting goals,” gave Veterans Affairs a “grade of A.” However, the American Small Business League “said its analysis shows the federal government continues to incorrectly identify large businesses as small-business contractors, thus inflating the small-business numbers.”

4.      Deficit Commission Co-Chair Worried About Agent Orange Benefits. In continuing coverage, the AP (9/1, Baker) reports, “The system that automatically awards disability benefits to some veterans because of concerns about Agent Orange seems contrary to efforts to control federal spending, the Republican co-chairman of President Barack Obama’s deficit commission said Tuesday,” although he “declined to say whether the issue would become part of his work” on the panel. Former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, whose comments “came a day after The Associated Press reported that diabetes has become the most frequently compensated ailment among Vietnam veterans, even though decades of research has failed to find more than a possible link between the defoliant Agent Orange” and diabetes, “looked to Congress to make a change. Sen. Daniel Akaka, a Hawaii Democrat who currently chairs the VA committee, said Tuesday he will address the broader issue of so-called presumptive conditions at a hearing previously set for Sept. 23,” when, according to Akaka, his “committee will look to ‘see what changes Congress'” and the Department of Veterans Affairs “may need to make to existing law and policy.”
     The seventh “Tuesday Morning Federal Newscast” item on the Federal News Radio (8/31) website said VA “has crafted a new rule that expands the list of health problems” that the agency will presume are “related to Agent Orange and other herbicide exposures. It adds two new conditions and expands one category of conditions. VA is adding Parkinson’s disease and ischemic heart disease and expanding chronic lymphocytic leukemia to include all chronic B cell leukemias, such as hairy cell leukemia.” HealthDay (9/1), the International Business Times (9/1, Picard), the Greece (NY) Messenger Post (9/1, Sherwood), the Muskogee (OK) Phoenix (9/1), and the KELO-TV Sioux Falls, SD (8/31, Grant) website also took note of VA’s new rule.

5.      Troops, Parents Glad To Hear Of End To Combat in Iraq. The AP (9/1, Breed) notes that during a Tuesday Oval Office address, President Obama “called America’s troops the ‘steel in our ship of state.’ Many of those men and women of steel — and the parents who helped forge them — said they think the president is plotting the right course as he declares an end to combat in Iraq.” The AP adds, “At Fort Bliss, Texas, where the president stopped earlier Tuesday, Sgt. Jeremiah Conwell, who has been to Iraq twice, said it was ‘pretty awesome’ to hear the commander in chief thank the troops for their sacrifices.”
     Obama Visits Fort Bliss, Thanks Servicemembers For Iraq War Contributions. The American Forces Press Service (9/1, Miles) says that on Tuesday, Obama traveled to Fort Bliss, Texas, “to pay tribute to the post’s servicemembers” for their Iraq service. The AFPS adds, “As the US mission transitions in Iraq, Obama told the Fort Bliss soldiers he will insist that the country ‘serve you and your families as well as you’ve served us,’ with programs and services to support their needs. He cited increased support for veterans, better care for wounded warriors, including specialized services for those suffering from traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder, and a Post 9/11 GI Bill that provides enhanced educational benefits for troops as well as their families.”

     At Retreat Organized By Vet Center, Iraq Vets Hope For Safe Return Of Remaining Soldiers. The KXLY-TV Spokane, WA (8/31, Showman) website reported, “As Operation Iraqi Freedom ends and Operation New Dawn begins,” 18 Iraq veterans attending a retreat “put on by the Spokane Vet Center along with the Spokane Valley Fire Department and Spokane County Fire District 8” said they hope their friends still in Iraq come home safe. The goal of the retreat “is to help Iraq war veterans reintegrate into society by participating in everything from yoga to kayaking and a ropes course.” The KHQ-TV Spokane, WA (8/31) website also took note of the retreat.

6.      Ruling: Lawsuit By Vets Against KBR Can Continue. According to the AP (8/31), US District Magistrate Paul Papak “has ruled that a lawsuit by Oregon Army National Guard veterans against contractor” Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) can continue. After noting that on Monday, Papak “denied KBR’s second motion to dismiss the suit,” the AP said “26 Oregon Guard veterans” have “sued KBR, saying its managers downplayed or dismissed the presence of a toxic chemical” at a water-treatment plant in Iraq. The Oregon veterans “were among hundreds of US soldiers in Iraq who were potentially exposed to sodium dichromate, which contains hexavalent chromium.”

7.      New VA Clinic Dedicated In Ohio. The Wilmington (OH) News Journal (9/1, Cropper) reports, “Clinton County veterans will now have a local option when they need medical care,” because a Veterans Affairs Outreach Clinic has officially opened at “448 W. Main St. in Wilmington. Military veterans and medical professionals were joined by local and state representatives on Tuesday during a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony at the facility, which will provide primary care services to qualified veterans.”

8.      Sioux Falls VAMC Hosting Open Houses In Several Locations. The Sioux Falls (SD) Argus Leader (9/1) reports the Sioux Falls Veterans Affairs Medical Center “invites all veterans, their families and area residents to open houses in several areas” of the facility on Wednesday. Included “in the open houses are the MRI department, the low vision clinic, compensation and pension exam unit, and the new education center.” After noting that “VA staff will be on hand to explain the variety of services and programs and to assist with directions and tours,” the Argus Leader adds, “Refreshments will be provided.”

9.      VA Begins Patient Centered Medical Home Program In Western New York. The WBFO-FM Buffalo, NY (8/30, Kryszak) website said the Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) model, the idea behind which is to use an integrated team of healthcare professionals to “improve patient health while cutting costs by reducing duplication and costly procedures,” has “been gaining popularity” with private medical practices, and now, the “approach is being adopted by the Veterans Administration Healthcare system.” According to WBFO, Dr. Terri Julian was “recently appointed to oversee” the PCMH program for VA in Western New York.

10.    Augusta VA Nurses Plan Protest. In continuing coverage, Georgia Public Broadcasting (9/1, Treiguts) reports, “A group of nurses” at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Augusta is “planning a protest next week.” While the nurses “say…16-hour shifts” could affect patient care, Irma Westmoreland, acting head of the National Nurses United VA Council, “says the hospital wants to do the right thing…but it’s handcuffed by a budget deficit.”

 

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