Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News

Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today's News

From the VA:

1.      VA Begins Questionnaire Streamlining Process. In its current issue, the Army Times (11/8, 104K) says that by releasing the “first three of what will be 79 questionnaires to guide physicians…through the evaluation that determines eligibility for disability compensation,” the Veterans Affairs Department has “taken the first step in an overhaul” of such questionnaires. The Times adds, “VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has mandated a goal of processing new disability claims in 125 days with a 98 percent accuracy rate by 2015. Part of the plan to meet that goal is to streamline the flow of information and try to collect all essential data at the beginning of the process.”

 2.      New York VA Director Pushing Congress To Spend Less On VA Facilities. The current issue of the Army Times (11/8, 104K) says retired US Army Col. James McDonough, who directs the New York State Department of Veterans Affairs, is “pushing Congress to stop spending so much” on Veterans Affairs “facilities and to instead work more closely with communities to provide health care and services. VA, he said, is maintaining ‘an aging infrastructure, some of which exists in locations no longer conducive to serving veterans.”

 3.      VA Starts Distributing Expanded Agent Orange Benefits. On its website, CNN (11/2) reports, “The government has started distributing additional benefits for Agent Orange exposure to Vietnam War veterans who qualify under liberalized rules, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced Monday. Up to 200,000 Vietnam veterans could be eligible for the disability compensation for diseases now associated with Agent Orange, including hairy cell leukemia, Parkinson’s disease and ischemic heart disease, the department said in a news release,” referring to a “chemical used…in the Vietnam War” to “destroy…jungle canopy.” The expanded Agent orange benefits are also noted by the Air Force News Service (11/2) and the “Veterans Corner” column for the Saratoga Springs, New York-based Saratogian (11/2).

 4.      VA Doctor Leads Study On Prevalence Of Pain At End Of Life. HealthDay (11/2, Gordon) reports, “Pain is a commonly reported symptom during the last few years of life, with reports of pain increasing during the final few months, a new study has shown.” The lead author of the study, which is “published in the Nov. 2 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine,” is Dr. Alexander K. Smith, a staff physician at the Veterans Affairs hospital in San Francisco. Smith “said the study’s findings show it’s important for all doctors to be able to effectively treat pain because it’s so prevalent across all conditions.”

 5.      VA Among Agencies Ready For Administration’s Hiring Overhaul Deadline. The Washington Post (11/2, O’Keefe, 605K) reports, “President Obama in May gave federal agencies until this week to radically overhaul the federal hiring process, mandating simply worded job descriptions and the end of the lengthy ‘KSAs,’ or essays that describe an applicant’s knowledge, skills and abilities.” Officials have “backed off the president’s deadline, however, cautioning that only some agencies are ready. The departments of Commerce, Defense and Veterans Affairs and NASA are in good shape, but others are working through reforms that could take years to complete, according to the Office of Personnel Management.”

 6.      Lawmaker Wants More Private Mental Health Treatment Options For Veterans. The current issue of the Army Times (11/8, 104K) notes that US Rep. Mike McMahon (D-NY) “said he believes more recognition should be given to private” mental health treatment options for veterans McMahon “said there should be a tax incentive so that families can directly hire a nurse to help care for returning combat veterans, instead of waiting for the Veterans Affairs Department to provide one.” After noting that McMahon also “said…a traumatic brain injury diagnosis from a private health professional should be all that is needed to qualify for veterans disability benefits,” the Times points out that VA has “historically opposed accepting outside diagnoses and already provides, when warranted, private nurses to make visits to homebound veterans.”

 7.      Some Vets Having Trouble With For-Profit Colleges. Bloomberg News (11/2, Golden) says Keith Melvin, who after serving in Iraq became involved in a financial dispute with Kaplan University, and “thousands of returning veterans” have been “enticed by for-profit colleges through repeated phone calls and e-mails, advertising in military-oriented publications, and alliances with veterans’ organizations eager for corporate contributions.” And, while “some veterans succeed at these colleges, others are hindered by red tape in getting federal funding and the inability to complete degrees and find well-paying jobs after graduation.” Bloomberg adds, “After being asked by Bloomberg News about Melvin’s case, the Department of Veterans Affairs plans to pay his Kaplan bill retroactively through a vocational rehabilitation program for disabled veterans, department officials said.”

 8.      Order Leads To Hundreds Of Concussions Being Diagnosed in US Combat Troops. The current issue of the Army Times (11/8, 104K) reports, “Military doctors are diagnosing hundreds of concussions among” US “combat troops because of an unprecedented order,” instituted in July, “requiring them to leave the battlefield for 24 hours after being exposed to a blast.” While some worry it could leave too few troops for combat, doctors “say the order helps prevent permanent brain damage that can result if a service member has a second concussion before the first one heals.”

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 9.      VA To Train Arlington National Cemetery Employees. The current issue of the Army Times (11/8, 104K) reports, “Arlington National Cemetery – where earlier this year investigators found 209 unmarked or improperly marked graves – is stepping up training for its workers.” Those workers will “start attending a cemetery training center run by the Veterans Affairs Department.”

 10.    VA To Help Pay For Vets Home Upgrades. According to the lead “Faces And Places” item for the Macon (GA) Telegraph (11/1), the Department of Veterans Affairs has “awarded a $409,594 grant to the Georgia War Veterans Home in Milledgeville. Provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009,” the funds will be used to help pay “for patient safety upgrades.”

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