Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News




From the VA:

1.      Shinseki To Commemorate Veterans Day At White House, Arlington National Cemetery. In a story offering details on Veterans Day activities planned by the Obama Administration, the “Federal Eye” blog for the Washington Post (11/11, O’Keefe, 605K) says that while the President and First Lady “will still be overseas” on Thursday, Vice President Biden is scheduled to host a “Veterans Day breakfast at the White House,” lay a “wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery and give a speech at the Memorial Amphitheater.” Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, who will “attend Biden’s Veterans Day breakfast at the White House and the events” at Arlington National Cemetery, “plans to attend receptions hosted by the Legion of Valor and the Paralyzed Veterans of America organizations.”
     Pentagon Hopes NCA Inspires Improvement At Arlington. The Washington Post (11/11, O’Keefe, 605K) notes that the “1,700…mostly military veterans” working at the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Cemetery Administration (NCA) are under “strict orders” to treat each burial “with…dignity and respect.” To ensure that this happens, landscapers, “grave diggers, family representatives and cemetery directors must attend training courses in St. Louis that, depending on the job, last from four days to a year. The Defense Department last month asked NCA to retrain workers from the scandal-plagued Arlington National Cemetery, hoping the tiny agency’s deep devotion to perfection will rub off and keep lawmakers from transferring the nation’s most famous military cemetery out of the Army’s hands.”
     Stimulus Funds Used To Restore National Cemetery Monument. The Basehor (KS) Sentinel (11/11, Erickson) reports today “will be the first Veterans Day when” the “limestone surface” on Leavenworth National Cemetery’s monument “has sparkled like new.” The cemetery’s monument “underwent a restoration in late August, thanks to federal stimulus funds allotted to the Department of Veterans Affairs.” The Sentinel notes that the VA “allotted just more than $1 million in stimulus funds for repairs at Leavenworth, Fort Leavenworth and Fort School National Cemeteries, all of which are overseen by the office at Leavenworth National Cemetery.”
     The Fort Leavenworth Lamp (11/11, Bower, 1K) reports workers have “aligned marble headstones at Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery ‘dress right, dress’ so that gravestone markers for veterans hold perfect formation as they did in life.” William A. Owensby, director of the Leavenworth National Cemetery complex, “said that work for the $1 million headstone and realignment phase of the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery restoration project is nearly complete.”
     National Cemeteries Hosting Veterans Day Events. The Riverside (CA) Press Enterprise (11/10, Muckenfuss) said the “crew of a C-17A Globemaster III flying out of March Air Reserve Base will be busy Thursday morning,” as it is “scheduled to do flyovers for seven Veterans Day events,” including one at the Riverside National Cemetery. That event will also feature military “honors…performed by members of the Riverside National Cemetery Memorial Honor Detail, which is in its third year of presenting the program. This is the 30th year in which the cemetery has hosted a memorial event.”
          Veterans Day Ceremonies Will Also Be Held At Several VA Hospitals. After pointing out that “Rowan County will honor the nation’s veterans

on Thursday with a day of activities,” the Salisbury (NC) Post (11/10, Potts, 21K) said things “begin with a ceremony” at the Hefner Veterans Affairs Medical Center in the “Social Room of Building No. 6 at 10 a.m.” During that ceremony, “three awards will be given to the Veteran of the Year, the Service Officer of the Year and the Chaplain of the Year.” The hospital’s new director “Paul Russo, and National Cemetery Director, John Spruyt, will also be honored.”
     The North Dakota-based Forum Of Fargo-Moorhead (11/10) took note of several local Veterans Day events, including one at the Fargo Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The hospital, in “conjunction with the John Greeley AMVETS Post #7, will hold a Veterans Day program at 2 p.m. in the third-floor auditorium.”
     The Columbia-based Missourian (11/11, 17K) takes note of Veterans Day events scheduled to happen in Columbia, including an “annual Veterans Day ceremony” to be held at 10 a.m. at Truman Veterans Hospital. Frederick M. Wilson, who is the medical director of the Truman Community Living Center, “will speak at the ceremony.”
     On its website, KWES-TV Odessa, TX (11/11) said the Big Spring VA Hospital “is hosting a veterans day program at the Coliseum.” The program will “begin at 11a.m. and afterward lunch will be provided for the veterans and their families.”
     Gould: Support For Veterans Is Bipartisan. In a Washington Times (11/11, 77K) op-ed, veteran Scott Gould, who is “deputy secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs,” says both the Democratic and Republican parties “agree on the need for services and benefits for veterans of all eras, why the living honor the dead in time-honored tradition at our nation’s cemeteries and why, as citizens of the United States of America, we have a solemn obligation to express the gratitude and appreciation we feel for our freedom and the veterans who have helped us earn and keep it.”
     Obama Marks Veterans Day With Speech In South Korea. The Washington Post (11/11, Wilson, 605K) reports, “President Obama marked Veterans Day on Thursday” at a US military base outside Seoul, South Korea. Obama “used the speech to assure the hundreds of US troops who attended the event at the Yongsan Garrison, and thousands more serving in other overseas posts, that his administration would care for them when they return home.” The New York Times (11/11, Fackler, 1.01M) points out that during his speech, Obama “honored the 37,000 Americans and far larger number of South Koreans who died fighting the North during the 1950-53 Korean War. He also led the audience in a standing ovation for 62 veterans of that war who attended the speech at the Yongsan base, in the center of this city of gleaming skyscrapers and modern highways.”
     Michelle Obama To Visit Wounded Troops In Germany. The AP (11/11) reports First Lady Michelle Obama “is wrapping up an international tour with a stop at US military installations in Germany” to mark Veterans Day with servicemen and women. The First Lady will also meet today “with wounded troops at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center” before travelling back to Washington.

2.      Ground Broken On Disabled Vet Memorial. In a story run by at least 92 news publications, the AP notes that on Wednesday, “South Florida philanthropist Lois Pope” hosted the “groundbreaking of The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial,” which “will be within view of the Capitol on a 2.4-acre plot…across” from the US Botanic Garden. Pope, a former actress, “said at the groundbreaking ceremony that she got the idea for the tribute when she learned – after performing for disabled veterans – that there was no permanent memorial in their honor.” The AP points out that in prepared remarks, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki “said…the memorial ‘will stand as an enduring tribute to the towering courage, selfless sacrifice, and steadfast loyalty of all our disabled Veterans.'” The Wall Street Journal (11/11, Rao, 2.09M), meanwhile, says Pope had a cousin who died in the Vietnam War.
     Shinseki Attends Ceremony, Praises Vets. According to Government Executive (11/11, Clark), Shinseki attended Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony, joining a “crowd of some 400” others. Shinseki, in “thanking the donors and the leaders of the Disabled American Veterans who first conceived the project 12 years ago, said, ‘The price of liberty has been paid by the vigilance and valor of the many young Americans’ who put service to country above self and ‘displayed a courage at which we can only marvel.'” Government Executive adds, “The first-of-its kind memorial to the estimated 3 million American veterans now living with war-related disabilities received no federal funding, though its planners have cooperated” with VA “and the Defense Department.” Voice Of America (11/11) also covers the groundbreaking, though it does not say Shinseki attended the ceremony.
     The New York Daily News (11/11, Sisk, 527K) “Mouth Of The Potomac” blog notes that during Wednesday’s ceremony, Shinseki, a “disabled vet who lost part of a foot in Vietnam, said the new memorial will serve as a ‘stark reminder of freedom’s cost.'” The News says the memorial, to be situated on “lot next to the Health and Human Services Department,” will “feature a reflecting pool and eternal flame,” a point also made by “The Note,” an ABC News (11/11) blog, and Politics Daily (11/11, Wagner), which offers another quote from Shinseki. While delivering his remarks Wednesday, according to Politics Daily, Shinseki “acknowledged the estimated 26 million US veterans, of whom 3 million are disabled. ‘America has always been blessed with sons and daughters imbued with that unwavering sense of purpose to something greater than self, that steadfast sense of duty.'”
     Shinseki: VA Taking Steps To Deal With Disability Claims Backlog. During an interview with USA Today (11/11, 1.83M), Shinseki discussed a number of veterans issues, including a VA backlog in disability claims. Shinseki told the paper that VA is currently trying to “make sure” that its claims adjudicators are trained and “have the right attitude” and that the process can become automated.
     Survey: Veterans’ Caregivers Have Stressful But Rewarding Experiences. The Army Times (11/11, Maze, 104K) reports, “Caregivers for severely disabled veterans report a stress-filled and largely isolated life that usually sees their own health and finances suffer – but they also say that what they do is rewarding, according to a new report” by the “National Alliance for Caregiving and the United Health Foundation, two nonprofit groups involved in studying” healthcare. The Veterans Affairs Department “and Congress have been working on programs to provide more help to caregivers of veterans, but the survey,” released Wednesday, “shows most caregivers are unaware of the programs or would not be eligible for the help.” After noting that on Monday, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki “said…in a statement that VA is trying to do more, and that it will sponsor events this month – November is National Family Caregivers Month – to raise awareness and offer help,” the Times adds, “VA also is expanding family support services, including counseling, officials said.”

          Over 1,100 Vets Have Lost Limbs Two Current Wars. In a front page story noting “grim” statistics about injuries suffered by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, the Washington Post (11/11, A1, Ruane, 605K) says there are “more than 1,100 military amputees from the two conflicts, which includes 21 people who have lost three limbs, 258 who have lost two and 832 who have lost one.” The Post profiles Afghanistan vet Todd Nicely, a quadruple amputee who rehabbing his injuries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
     Duckworth: Virtual Lifetime Electronic Records Will Simplify Disability Claims Processing. The White House (11/11, Schulman) blog posts footage of VA Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs Tammy Duckworth answering questions during this week’s “Tuesday Talks,” a video series in which citizens submit questions to government officials. After explaining the origin and meaning of Veterans Day, Duckworth answered numerous questions, including one about what “can be done to simplify the processing of disability claims.” In response, Duckworth said a virtual lifetime electronic records program that is being developed by VA and the Department of Defense should “cut down…tremendously” on the claims processing time.
     Injuries Not Slowing Duckworth Down. Disabled vets, including Duckworth, were the focus of a Reuters (11/10) photo essay blog. Despite being severely injured in Iraq, Reuters explained, Duckworth’s ambitions have not been slowed, nor has her drive to experience thrills, including parachuting from a plane with the US Army’s Golden Knights.

 3.      Study Finds TBIs Increase Sleep Disorders In Vets With PTSD. Medscape (11/11, Kling) reports that traumatic brain injuries increase “the prevalence of sleep disorders in soldiers with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” according to a study presented at the American College of Chest Physicians’ annual conference. Though “most patients with PTSD were taking psychoactive medications that have the potential to disrupt sleep or cause somnolence,” the researchers “found that only TBI was associated with an increase in sleep disorders.” The findings also suggest that sleep apnea “is an underrecognized problem in combat veterans.”
     PTSD Documentary Labeled “Heartbreaking.” In a review, the AP (11/11, Moore) says there “may be no more fitting way to honor the nation’s fighting men and women than to bear witness to the struggle many of them never can stop fighting.” That struggle is displayed in a “new HBO documentary, ‘Wartorn: 1861-2010,'” which charts the “heartbreaking story” of veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In a similar review, USA Today (11/11, Strauss, 1.83M) says the film demonstrates that the “military and their families have dealt with largely ignored, little-understood” PTSD for a long time.
     Shinseki: PTSD Is Treatable. In an op-ed that ran in both the Denver Post (11/11) and that Cleveland Plain Dealer (11/10), Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki writes, “On this Veterans Day, I take this opportunity to reinforce VA’s message that PTS and PTSD are treatable. Together with the Department of Defense,” Shinseki adds, “VA continues extensive work to increase the consistency, quality, and access to mental health services across the two Departments”

 4.      VA Assisting Homeless Vets In Different Parts Of Country. The KOMU-TV Columbia, MO (11/10, Sander) website said that while Veterans Day “will be a day of celebration for many homeless veterans in mid-Missouri,” the “organizations aiding homeless veterans…see Thursday as just another day.” After pointing out that eight homeless assistance programs run by the Harry S Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital “and homeless shelter Welcome Home, Inc., will use the day to continue their missions of getting homeless veterans off the street,” KOMU noted that over the last year, Truman’s programs have taken “more than 170 homeless veterans off the street, and….officials only expect that number to grow. ‘For the first time, the VA has really had a full continuum of care for the homeless,’ homeless programs supervisor Sarah Froese said.”
     The Providence (RI) Journal (11/10, Davis) noted that on Tuesday, more than a “dozen…homeless veterans” sought help at a “twice-weekly clinic” in the Veterans Affairs hospital “on Chalkstone Avenue.” Thomas P. O’Toole, the hospital’s chief of primary care, told the Journal that the clinic is “seeing a significant increase in homeless” vets. The Journal went on to say that while that increase “comes as the number of homeless veterans nationally is shrinking because of government help,” Rhode Island “remains a tough place for some to succeed,” with a jobless rate that is “one of the worst in the nation.”
     KETV-TV Omaha, NE (11/11, 10:45 p.m. CT) broadcast that VA plans to serve hot meals and provide free clothing and health screenings to homeless veterans this Saturday morning at the Civic Center’s Mancuso Hall.
     VA Estimates Drop In Number Of Homeless Vets. KGMB-TV Honolulu, HI (11/10, 6:15 p.m. HT), meanwhile, broadcast, “About a year ago, Eric Shinseki, the US Secretary of Veterans Affairs, said he wanted to end homelessness among veterans in five years. It’s now a year into that plan and the VA says it’s making progress.” The agency “estimates the number of homeless veterans has dropped by eighteen percent since 2008.”
     Advocate: VA Is Following Through On Commitment To End Veteran Homelessness. In an opinion piece for the Huffington Post (11/11), National Alliance to End Homelessness President Nan Roman says that in the “last six months,” the United States has “stepped up to the challenge of creating real, lasting solutions” for homeless veterans. According to Roman, in June 2010, the US Interagency Council on Homelessness “released Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.” After noting that in this document, the “Administration pledges to end veteran homelessness in five years, a pledge echoed by a determined Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, repeatedly in the last year,” Roman adds, “Since the announcement of the plan, VA has committed the resources to follow through.”
     In a separate opinion piece for the Huffington Post (11/11), Arianna Huffington, the site’s co-founder and editor-in-chief, says that while VA statistics indicate that the number of homeless US vets is decreasing, it is “still troubling” that there are so many still out on the street. Offering “more bad news,” Huffington says “veterans are twice as likely to commit suicide as the general population. According to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, ‘on average, 18 veterans commit suicide each day,'” five of which “are under VA care at the time they take their lives.” Huffington goes on, however, to spotlight some “inspiring stories of the work being done” to help veterans.

 5.      Vets Day Ceremony To Be Held At Oregon Trail State Veterans Cemetery. The AP (11/11) reports, “The Oregon Trail State Veterans Cemetery at Evansville is scheduled to hold a Veterans Day ceremony at 11 a.m. Thursday.” Wyoming Adjutant General Ed Wright, who is responsible for the both the cemetery and the Wyoming Veterans Affairs Commission, will be the “keynote speaker for the annual event.”

 6.      Florida Seeks To Contact Veterans About Unclaimed Benefits. The Miami Herald (11/11, Klas, 175K) reports that “thousands of Florida military veterans, many of whom have failed to claim benefits they are entitled to, are being contacted by the state Department of Veterans Affairs under a new state program that uses driver licenses to reach them.” The program, called “Florida Vets Connect,” alerts veterans about “the programs available to them through state and federal programs.” Since June, the state VA “has contacted nearly 30,000 of the 1.6 million veterans living in Florida.”

 7.      Louisiana Governor, Head Of State’s VA To Host Medal Ceremony. According to the Bogalusa (LA) Daily News (11/10), Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Louisiana Department of Louisiana Veterans Affairs Secretary Lane Carson “will join local officials at the American Legion Hall in Bogalusa at 12:30 p.m. Nov. 11 to host a Louisiana Veterans Honor Medal ceremony” that is “designed to honor and thank veterans from Washington Parish and the surrounding area for their military service. Applications for the Honor Medal will be available at the event, and veterans must bring a copy of their DD214 or discharge papers to prove eligibility.”

 8.      Baker To Lead Effort To Move VistA Into Open Source Community. Federal News Radio (11/11, Miller) interviewed Roger Baker, Veterans Affairs’ “assistant secretary for information and technology and chief information officer,” who “said he will lead an effort to move VistA into the open source community.” Baker’s “decision to move VistA to open source comes after a working group from IAC/ACT submitted a report on May 4 recommending ten areas where VA could improve the program. The first was to move VistA to an open source platform.”

 9.      VA Involved With Vets Court In Illinois. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (11/10, Hillig, 238K) said veterans “who get into minor trouble are finding a more sympathetic ear – and specialized help – in Madison County. Established in…2009, a ‘veterans’ court’ was designed to help with drug or alcohol addictions or mental health issues for those accused of nonviolent crimes.” Court eligibility is “evaluated by Veterans Administration counselors.”

 10.    Authorities Searching For Man Behind Vets Charity Scam. ABC World News (11/10, story 8, 2:50, Sawyer, 8.2M) broadcast a story on a “scam wrapped in patriotism, called the US Navy Veterans Association.” Authorities “say some Americans who thought they were being patriotic and donating money to veterans in fact were lining the pockets of a fugitive” who “goes by the name of Bobby C. Thompson but whose real name and whereabouts are unknown.” Ohio “authorities have now launched a national manhunt for…Thompson,” who is “wanted on charges of…engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity that robbed needy veterans of almost $100 million.”

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