1. VA Focused On Encouraging Transitioning Soldiers To Register For Agency Services. Newsday (11/26, Evans, 339K) reported, “With veterans like” 61-year-old Richard Whitmarsh, who after serving in Vietnam, “spent years in psychiatric institutions,” the US Department of Veterans Affairs is “stepping up efforts to encourage troops leaving the military to register when they are discharged, making them eligible for psychological, medical and disability benefits.” Drew Brookie, a spokesman for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, told Newsday that access and “homelessness are two” of the “top priorities” for Shinseki, who has “said helping wartime troops make the often difficult transition from military lives to civilian ones can prevent battlefield anxieties from metastasizing into more serious problems, such as substance abuse, divorce, homelessness and mental illness.” Newsday pointed out that Whitmarsh recently “took a big step toward his goal of reclaiming his life,” when he “sought help applying for VA benefits” at a “veterans ‘Stand Down'” in Freeport, New York.
2. VA Testing Ways To Speed Claims Process With Health IT. Modern Healthcare (12/1, Conn, 72K) reports, “The Veterans Affairs Department announced it aims to use health information technology to cut the time it takes to process veterans’ disability compensation claims from an average of 40 days today to seven to 10 days. ‘Innovations that will speed, simplify or improve our services to veterans are receiving rigorous tests at VA,'” said the agency’s secretary, Eric Shinseki, “in a news release.” Modern Healthcare adds, “Pilot projects to test the use of technology may involve as many as 60,000 records in regional benefits offices in Anchorage, Alaska; Chicago, Indianapolis, Jackson, Miss.; New York; Portland, Ore.; and St. Louis.” The Air Force News Service (12/1), NextGov (12/1, Fung), Healthcare IT News (12/1, Merrill), InformationWeek (12/1, Lewis), and iHealthBeat (12/1) publish similar stories.
3. House Approves Bill Of Rights For Women Vets, Injured Vets. In continuing coverage, CQ (12/1, Symes) reports, “The House backed legislation Tuesday that would require…Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities to display a ‘Women Veterans Bill of Rights’ and an ‘Injured and Amputee Veterans Bill of Rights,’ after addressing Republican concerns about abortion.” As “amended before consideration, the measure specifically states that nothing in the act ‘shall be construed to establish a right to any service excluded’ under the current law concerning veterans’ medical benefits that excludes abortions and abortion counseling.” CQ notes that the “measure would require” VA’s “secretary to ensure that all VA employees receive training on the Women Veterans and Injured and Amputee Veterans ‘Bills of Rights’ and conduct outreach to inform veterans about the bills.”
The Corpus Christi (TX) Daily Caller (12/1, May) points out that prior to Tuesday’s House vote, pro-life groups had voiced opposition to the “Women Veterans Bill of Rights,” arguing that it could result in Federal funding of abortions at VA facilities. One group, the National Right to Life Committee, had “mailed a letter to members of the House of Representatives urging them to oppose the measure or include language in the bill banning abortion.”
4. VA Expanding Service Connection Illnesses List For Vietnam Vets. The Mason City (IA) Press News (12/1, Namanny) reports, “Mitchell County veterans exposed to dangerous defoliants and herbicides while serving in Vietnam and other areas may now more easily qualify for disability pay under a regulation recently published by the Department of Veterans Affairs,” which has expanded the “list of conditions for which service connection…is presumed.” The agency 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. Eric Shinseki,” VA’s secretary, “said the decision is based on the requirements of the Agent Orange Act of 1991 and the Institute of Medicine’s 2008 Update on Agent Orange.”
Vietnam Vet Says Help From VA Hospital Saved His Life. The Yucca Valley, California-based Hi-Desert Star (12/1, Vaughn) reports, “Like many fellow Vietnam veterans,” Mike Bower “knows the effects of PTSD all too well, but with help from the Veterans Affairs hospital in Loma Linda, he says he’s made a total life transformation. ‘I would not be alive today if I hadn’t gotten the help I got there,’ Bower said.”
5. Ground Broken On Vets Home In Alabama. In continuing coverage, the Talladega (AL) Daily Home (12/1, Hodnett) reports, “Officials broke ground Tuesday” on the Colonel Robert L. Howard State Veterans Home, which “will become the most cutting edge Veterans Affairs nursing home” in Alabama. WBRC-TV Birmingham, AL (11/30, 6:12 p.m. CT) also aired a report on the groundbreaking.
6. Emmett To Chair Wyoming Vets Commission. The AP (12/1) notes that US Air Force veteran Herm Emmett was “recently selected to serve as the chairman” of the Wyoming Veterans Commission, which “works with the governor and state Legislature to study state and federal legislation and make recommendations.” The same story appears as the third item in “Wyoming Briefs” for the Casper (WY) Tribune (12/1).
7. Vets Home Project In Tennessee Ranked 47th On VA Priorities List. The Cleveland (TN) Daily Banner (12/1, Davis, 13K) reports, “The local effort to build the Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home in Cleveland moved up to 47th on the priority list published recently” by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. The list “serves as…VA’s basis for awarding state home grants in 2011.”
8. VA Signs Another Lease For Location In DC’s NoMa. The Washington (DC) Business Journal (12/1, Krouse) reports, “The Department of Veterans Affairs has signed yet another lease in NoMa,” which is named for its north of Massachusetts Avenue location in Washington, DC. The 10-year lease for “52,886 square feet at Trammel Crow Co.’s Sentinel Square I project” is VA’s “fourth in NoMa.”
9. Online Tool To Allow Performance Comparison Of VA Hospitals. In continuing coverage, Becker’s Hospital Review (12/1, Oh) reports, “The Veterans Affairs Department will provide an online tool veterans can use to compare the agency’s 153 hospitals…according to a Government Health IT news report. The dashboard will allow patients and their families to see how the hospitals perform according to acute-care, patient safety and intensive care quality indicators at…VA’s Hospital Compare website, according to the report.” The Review adds, “A separate dashboard system called Aspire allows viewers to see how the facilities measure up against quality and patient safety goals as well as their progress in meeting those goals.”
10. VA Reaching Out To Traumatized Female Vets. On its website, PBS NewsHour (11/30) discussed the “challenges female veterans face after returning from war,” noting, “Women make up about 14 percent of all service members, but they are at greater risk” of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) “than their male counterparts.” The Department of Veterans Affairs, which “says nearly a quarter of women veterans have reported sexual assault by their peers while in the military,” has “created a national military sexual trauma support team to do staff outreach and education and advocate for patients.”
In Other Veterans Related News
11. Son Has Surprise Reunion With Iraq Vet Father. NBC Nightly News (11/30, story 9, 0:20, Williams, 8.37M) broadcast that at a school in California on Tuesday, a “little boy” received an “early gift for the holidays.” Inside a gift box for the boy was the “one thing he wanted most — his dad — a US Navy Reserve commander who’s been serving in Iraq and has been away from home.”
12. Wounded Vets Bicycling From Nevada To Arizona. The Las Vegas Sun (12/1, Takahashi) notes that on Wednesday, 26 injured “veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will participate in a bicycling ride event” in Summerlin. The riders, participating in a “five-day journey that will take” them “from Las Vegas to…their final destination in Phoenix on Dec. 3,” are “members of the Wounded Warrior Project’s national Soldier Ride, a rehabilitative cycling program that helps veterans find support and inspiration from their fellow injured soldiers.” KLAS-TV Las Vegas, NV (11/30, 6:06 a.m. PT) also aired a report on the Soldier Ride, which was also covered by the Lake Havasu City, Arizona-based News-Herald (12/1, Bruttell). According to the paper, the riders will stop in Lake Havasu City.
13. Wounded Warrior Project Official: CCBC Offers “Teachable” PTSD Moment. In continuing coverage, Brendan Hart, who manages “campus services for the Wounded Warrior Project,” says in an op-ed for the Baltimore Sun (12/1, 228K) that the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) mishandled a situation involving one of its students, Iraq veteran Charles Whittington, who was barred from campus after writing about “his experiences and their lasting effects” in a way that “described his violent thoughts.” Hart, who says CCBC should have “worked to understand” that Whittington’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is “something to manage, rather than fear,” says what happened to Whittington “should be used as a teachable moment regarding the larger issue of returning combat veterans and their assimilation into society, the workforce and higher education.”
14. HonorAir Knoxville To Take Vets To See Korean War Memorial. According to the WATE-TV Knoxville, TN (11/30) website, HonorAir Knoxville is “taking applications from East Tennessee Korean War veterans who have never seen the Korean War Memorial” in Washington, DC. Similar coverage is offered by the WBIR-TV Knoxville, TN (11/30) website and the Maryville (TN) Daily Times (12/1).
15. Three New Fisher Houses To Open At National Naval Medical Center. The Gaithersburg (MD) Gazette (12/1, Gantz, 42K) reports, “Thousands of military families have called Fisher Houses home while they wait for their wounded service men and women to recover at military medical facilities across the country.” Now, in Bethesda, Maryland, “three more will open at the National Naval Medical Center, as the hospital prepares to merge with Walter Reed Army Medical Center and become Walter Reed Military Medical Center.” First Lady Michelle Obama “will preside over a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new houses Thursday.”
16. Local Official: Proposed Study May Convince VA To Build South Jersey Hospital. The Asbury Park (NJ) Press (12/1, Larsen) reports, “A proposed state task force to study the need for a full-service veterans hospital in South Jersey may ultimately convince the US Department of Veterans Affairs to build one in Ocean County, Freeholder Gerry P. Little said” at a “freeholder meeting Tuesday. ‘Our veterans currently have…a wonderful clinic in Brick – a wonderful veterans clinic, but it is not a full hospital.'” The Press adds, “Naturally, the freeholders envision such a veterans hospital being built in Ocean County, Little said.”
17. VA Black Hills To Cut Ribbon On Call Center. In a story submitted by Veterans Affairs Black Hills Health Care System, the Chadron (NE) News (12/1, Healthcare, 2K) says VA Black Hills “will hold a ribbon cutting and open house for its new Veteran Call Center” at the VA hospital in Hot Springs, South Dakota, “on Tuesday, Dec. 14 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.” The News adds, “Information, tours and refreshments will be provided.”
18. Volunteers To Wrap Gifts At Canandaigua VAMC. The Greece (NY) Messenger Post (12/1, Sherwood) reports, “The annual volunteer Gift Wrap” at the Canandaigua Veterans Affairs Medical Center is scheduled to take “place Wednesday, Dec. 8, at 1 p.m., in Building 5 Auditorium.” During the event, approximately “150 volunteers are expected to help wrap gifts that will be for veterans who are either hospitalized or using outpatient services through…VA centers in Canandaigua or Rochester.”
19. Free Gifts Offered To Vets At VA Hospital. The KDLT-TV Sioux Falls, SD (11/30, Batson) website said veterans at the Veterans Affairs hospital “in Sioux Falls are getting an early start on Christmas shopping.” American Legion Auxiliary units in South Dakota, which “donated over 1,300 gifts” for the vets, “set up a display on the fourth floor of the hospital…and then let the veterans take their pick of the gifts, free of charge.”
20. Officials: Vets Will Still Get Free Coffee At VA Clinic. The Utica (NY) Daily News (12/1, Silano) notes that while volunteers “who bring free coffee to veterans” at the Donald J. Mitchell Veterans Affairs Medical Clinic “were worried they could no longer do so…because of a new” Starbucks “coffee shop in the clinic,” officials “said…that’s simply not true.” The Daily News adds, “To clarify, said Robert Hawes, manager of voluntary services for the regional branch of the VAMC, veterans will still be entitled to a free cup of java, and furthermore, he said, they will get their choice of a doughnut or a bagel when they come in to the…clinic.”
21. Column Urges Readers To Remember Wounded Warriors During Holidays. Near the end of the “Sgt. Shaft” column, the Washington Times (12/1, Fales, 77K) says, “As we approach our joyous holidays, it is incumbent upon all of us to remember our wounded warriors, hospitalized veterans and those military men and women defending the freedoms we dearly cherish.” The column then publishes a “moving poem” that was “written years ago by a Marine in Okinawa.”
22. Term Limits Get Tepid Reaction As Chairman Hopefuls Make Their Cases. At the end of a story noting that on Tuesday, “House Republicans appeared increasingly apathetic…about their rule limiting lawmakers to no more than six consecutive years as chairman or ranking member of a panel,” CQ (12/1, Goldfarb) says the Republican Steering Committee “will have to decide contested races for leadership of the Financial Services Committee and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.”
23. Quilting Club Gives Its Craft. The Camdenton (MO) Lake News (12/1, 4K) reports, “On Thursday, Nov. 11, at Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital” in Columbia, Missouri, 38 veterans “were presented with more than 100 quilts to choose from, all made by members of several central Missouri guilds.”
24. Veterans, Spouses Benefit Seminar Set. On its website, KXAN-TV Austin, TX (11/30) reported, “Veterans, military spouses and surviving spouses of military members are invited to attend a free seminar set for Dec. 10 to learn about Veterans Administration Aid and Attendance program.” After noting that the “event takes places at the Rennaissance-Austin retirement community, 11279 Taylor Draper Lane , at 6 p.m,” KXAN said that while VA “estimates…100,000 people are eligible” for the aforementioned program, “many, especially widows of veterans, are unaware these benefits exist.”
25. Remembering, Thanking Veterans. The Charlotte (NC) Observer (12/1, Johnson).
26. Soldier Injured In War Sees Hawkeyes In College Football Battle. The Waterloo And Cedar Falls (IA) Courier (12/1, Kinney).
27. Pearl Harbor Vet Returning To Hawaii. The WWLP-TV Springfield, MA (11/30, Bruno) website.