Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News


Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News

1.      Supreme Court Will Hear Veterans’ Disability Case As Claims Spike. USA Today (12/4, Biskupic, 1.83M) reports, that the US Supreme Court on Monday “will hear a case testing whether a veteran — in this situation, from the Korean War with severe mental illness — should be prevented from appealing a Department of Veterans Affairs denial of benefits if he missed a 120-day time limit for judicial review of the decision. Advocacy groups that have joined the case say the dilemma for vets navigating the claims system is especially compelling today and the need for flexibility in filing deadlines even more important.” But VA lawyers “counter that the 120-day deadline is set by federal statute and that it is up to Congress, not judges, to add any flexibility.” The article also notes that VA Secretary Shinseki “has asked Congress to extend the 120-day time limit for appeals by another 120 days in certain cases meriting exception,” but that would not apply to past appeals, as in the Supreme Court case.

 2.      Columnist Praises Shinseki, But Says It’s Hard To Get All In VA To Advocate Veterans. A column in the Bloomington (IN) Herald Times by the director of Monroe County’s veterans affairs office (12/4, Catt) praises Secretary Shinseki’s understanding of veterans and his desire to have all VA employees “act as advocates for veterans.” He cites the Secretary’s position on Agent Orange disabilities as an example of his commitment to veterans, with Shinseki’s remark that if this position errs, it is on the side of veterans because it is the right and legal thing to do. But, the columnist adds, “Getting everybody in VA to assume a role as advocate for veterans is a very difficult task.” Referring to the reluctance of some military and VA doctors to diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder, he surmises that “their position is if they err it will be against the veteran.”

 3.      VA “Is Testing ‘Paperless Claims Processing. The Capital Flyer (12/2, Teufel, 15K) reports VA “has selected its regional benefits office in Providence, R.I., to test a paperless system and new procedures to improve processing of Veterans’ claims for disability compensation. This test program marks a major milestone in VA’s move to paperless processing, said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. The Providence pilot is part of the Veterans Benefits Management System, one of more than three dozen initiatives in progress at VA to break the backlog. Secretary Shinseki has set a goal that by 2015 VA will process all claims within 125 days with 98 percent accuracy.”

 4.      Army, Air Force, Marines Chiefs Oppose Prompt End To DADT. NBC Nightly News (12/3, story 6, 0:25, Williams, 8.37M) reported, “There is a new split in the debate over ending the US military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. The heads of the Army, Air Force, and Marines told Congress today it would be a bad idea to let openly gay people serve, at least while Americans are at war in Afghanistan. That, as you may know, is at odds with the top Pentagon brass, their bosses, who earlier this week said the time had come to let gays openly serve.”

The AP (12/4, Gearan) reports, “Bucking the Pentagon’s top leaders, the chiefs of the Army and Marines urged Congress on Friday not to allow openly gay people to serve in the military, at least not while troops are at war in Afghanistan.” Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey told the Senate Armed Services Committee, “It’s important that we’re clear about the military risks. Repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ would be a major cultural and policy change in the middle of a war.” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos said he believes the policy will eventually be repealed, but added, “All I’m asking is the opportunity to do that at a time and choosing when my Marines are not singularly tightly focused on what they’re doing in a very deadly environment.”
     McClatchy (12/4, Douglas) reports Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norman Schwarz said, “It is difficult for me, as a member of the Joint Chiefs, to recommend placing any additional discretionary demands on our leadership cadres in Afghanistan at this particularly challenging time.” Schwarz recommended that any change not take effect until 2012.
     The New York Times (12/4, Bumiller, 1.01M) says “of the three service chiefs who oppose repeal at present, General Casey appeared to be the one most swayed by the results” of a Pentagon study that “found deep concerns about changing the law among combat forces but concluded that 70 percent of service members over all thought repeal would have little effect on the ability of their units to work together.” Casey said the “presumption underpinning ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is ‘that the presence of a gay or lesbian service member in a unit causes an unacceptable risk to good order and discipline.’ He told the panel: ‘After reading the report, I don’t believe that’s true anymore and I don’t believe a substantial majority of our soldiers believe that’s true.'”
     The Hill (12/3, Tiron) reports that after the testimony, Sen. John McCain “suggested he could move to prevent floor debate on the 2011 defense authorization bill, which contains the repeal provision. McCain expressed confidence that the rest of the Republican conference would join him because repealing the ban is not a ‘compelling’ issue at a time when the military is fighting two wars and the US economy is ‘in the tank.'” The Los Angeles Times (12/4, Bennett, 681K) and Washington Post (12/4, O’Keefe, 605K) also have reports.

 5.      Oregon Legisalture May Take Up Contentious Issue Of Where To Site Veterans Homes. KDRV-TV Medford, OR (12/3, 9:04 a.m. EDT) reports that Klamath Falls could still be in the running for a multi-million dollar long-term care home for military veterans. Legislation that would put two long-term care facilities up for bid could be introduced during the next legislative session, which starts Jan. 11. Klamath Falls was one of five Oregon cities that submitted bids for a proposed 250-bed facility, but after bids were submitted, the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it would instead build a 150-bed veterans home in Lebanon and a similar facility in Roseburg. The Roseburg facility, however, has not received the necessary legislative approval.”

 6.      South Dakota Veterans Council Sets Luncheon With State Legislators. The Sioux Falls (SD) Argus Leader (12/3) reports that the South Dakota Veterans Council will host a roundtable luncheon with veterans and legislators from noon to 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Disabled American Veterans headquarters. The session will quiz legislators on their stance on creating a cabinet-level Department of Veterans Affairs in the state and other veterans issues.

 7.      VA, Utah Will Test Exchange Of Rural Veterans’ Health Data. Government Health IT (12/3, Mosquera) reports that Utah’s state designated health information exchange “will connect healthcare providers in a rural region of the state with the Veterans Affairs Department so they can share patient records of veterans and service members who receive treatment outside of the VA. It’s the fifth in a series of demonstration programs across the nation in which VA and private sector providers coordinate services to veterans through access to the nationwide health information network.”

 8.      Senate Approves US Residency For Japanese Wife Of Marine Killed In Iraq. The Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel (12/4) reports, “On a unanimous consent vote, the US Senate late this afternoon passed a bill honoring the late US Marine Sgt. Michael Ferschke of Maryville — and granting permanent residency to his Japanese wife, Hotaru Ferschke. The private bill, addressing narrowly the Ferschke family’s situation, still must be approved by the US House.” The Senate measure was offered by TN Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker (both R), VA Sen. Jim Webb (D) and CO Sen. Mark Udall (D). The private bill is needed to allow the widow and her son with Ferschke to live in the US, since they were married by proxy and did not live together afterwards because Ferschke had been deployed to Iraq.

 9.      National Veterans Golden Age Games Set For Hawaii. An American Forces Press Service release (12/3) announces that over 700 “golden age: veterans plan to travel to Hawaii to participate in the 25th National Veterans Golden Age Games, the nation’s largest sporting event for senior military veterans. Sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Canteen Service and Help Hospitalized Veterans, the competition is scheduled for May 26 through 31, 2011, in Honolulu. The 14 competitive events “are open to all US military veterans 55 or older, who are currently receiving care at a VA medical facility.”

 10.    Homeland Security, Defense And VA Account For Most Recent Growth In Federal Workforce. As President Obama proposes a two-year pay freeze for most federal workers and a deficit commission calls for elimination 200,000 federal jobs and a three-year pay freeze, In a Washington Post op-ed (12/3, Stier, 605K), the president and CEO of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service tackles what he calls “Five Myths About Federal Workers.” To one “myth,” that the federal workforce is now bigger than ever, Stier writes that the workforce “is now slightly smaller than it was in 1967, at the height of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, and today there are 100 million more Americans to serve.” Moreover, “Today, two out of three federal civilian employees work for the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs or Justice. The vast majority of government hiring since 2003 has been in these four departments.”



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