Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News

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Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News

1.      The VA’s CIO Wants IT Budget Restoration.  Federal Computer Week (12/23, Lipowicz, 90K) reports, “Suspending and delaying spending on troubled” information technology (IT) projects “saved $250 million for the Veterans Affairs Department in fiscal 2010, and now Congress appears ready to reclaim some of that money. However, the VA still needs it, Roger Baker, assistant secretary for information and technology at the VA, said” during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. Baker, who “also said he has resolved his recent spat with the Government Accountability Office about agile development for IT” projects, “urged Congress to restore the full $3.3 billion requested” for VA’s 2011 IT budget.
     VA Policy On Internet-Based Storage Sites Dictated By Privacy Concerns. Government Health IT (12/23, Mosquera) says VA is “wrestling with how to let physicians securely use popular external sites that enable them to store patient data online, like Google and Yahoo, but ensure that veterans health information is adequately protected. VA does not allow its clinical personnel to use Internet-based commercial storage sites because information kept outside of the protection of the department’s systems is considered a privacy breach, said” Baker, during a Wednesday briefing with reporters “about VA’s monthly report to Congress” on potential data breaches. During the briefing, Baker said VA has to “figure out how to embrace” site likes the ones mentioned above while ensuring that “privacy and health information” is protected.
     Personal Information Of 878 VA Patients Exposed On Web Calendar. GovInfoSecurity (12/23) notes that orthopedics residents at VA’s “Chicago Healthcare System used a web calendar application for three years, exposing personally identifiable information of 878 patients, a violation of VA policy. According to…VA’s Monthly Report to Congress on Data Incidents for November, four orthopedics residents at the Chicago healthcare system maintained a calendar of patients’ data on Yahoo.com that included full names, dates and types of surgery and the last four digits of patients’ Social Security numbers.” VA “said the…patients were being notified.”
     NextGov (12/23, Brewin) reports, “According to the report, the Chicago facility discovered the Yahoo account on Nov. 23, and the VA network operations center blocked access to it the next day.” Officials with VA “deleted information from the Web page on Nov. 29 and then sent letters on Dec. 2 to veterans whose data was stored on the account.”

2.      Lawmakers Challenge GAO Report On For-Profit Colleges.  CQ (12/23, Smith) says a letter sent to Acting US Comptroller General Gene Dodaro on Tuesday challenged a “key” Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that was “critical of recruiting practices at for-profit colleges and universities.” The letter, signed by six lawmakers, including Minnesota Republican John Kline, incoming chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, and California Republican Darrell Issa, incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, “suggests that a GOP-controlled House may be more supportive of the for-profit industry, which has been in the crosshairs of a Democratic administration and key Democratic leaders in the 111th Congress because of alleged recruiting abuses.” CQ adds, “A few hours after the letter’s release, a trade group representing the for-profit industry called on the GAO to withdraw the report, which it said ‘fell short of the mark when it comes to fairness and accuracy.'”

3.      Bill Contains Land For VA Nursing Home Near Fort Knox.  The Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal (12/23, Ungar) reports, “Kentucky is a step closer to building a new veterans nursing home near Fort Knox,” after the US Senate and House “passed the Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday.” The “act includes a conveyance of 194 acres of land in Hardin County from the Army to the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs for a state veterans home and future expansion of the adjacent state veterans cemetery.” Gilda Hill, “director of the Office of Kentucky Veterans Centers, said the conveyance should clear the way for the US Department of Veterans Affairs to provide” its $19.5 million share of funding for the building.

 .      US Department Of Justice Gives Top Reviews To State Veterans’ Homes.  The Murfreesboro (TN) Daily News Journal (12/23) reports, “Recent independent reviews of the Tennessee State Veterans’ Homes (TSVH) show that the quality of patient care and home operations are exceeding the standard for nursing homes in the state.” The homes, “located in Murfreesboro, Humboldt and Knoxville,” have “passed the scrutiny” of the US Department of Justice, the “US Department of Veterans Affairs and the Tennessee Department of Health.”

5.      Collins Honored As VA Counselor Of The Year.  The Franklin (LA) Sun (12/22, Bonnette, 6K) reports, “Bobby Collins has been honored as the 2010 Veterans Assistance Counselor of the Year by the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs.” The “award was presented by David LaCerte, Deputy Secretary and Executive Counsel of Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, at a Christmas luncheon held” recently “at the Northeast Louisiana Veterans Home in Monroe.”

 6.      Faces For 2010: Vietnam Vet Battles Agent Orange.  The Naperville (IL) Sun (12/23, Millen, 13K) profiles Naperville resident Mike Barbour, a Vietnam vet who has been “diagnosed with immune thrombocytopenia purpura, in which a decreased platelet count causes bleeding and bruising. His doctors believe the cause of his condition dates back 40 years to his exposure to the herbicide used to defoliate the jungles of Vietnam.” Barbour is “campaigning to get military veterans to register for benefits” with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

 7.      Online Registry Provides Gifts To Children Of Wounded Vets. In its “Making A Difference” segment, NBC Nightly News (12/22, story 9, Williams, 8.37M) aired a profile of Walter Reed Auxiliary member Tracy Hall who founded “The Gift Tree, an online registry at Target and Amazon.” The register includes donated “clothes, books, and toys” for those “whose parents are wounded vets or currently serving in uniform overseas.” The MSNBC (12/22) website published an op-ed by Hall, who said, “Generous donations” for The Gift Tree “have been pouring in from the entire community –without the community’s involvement, this project would never been possible.”

8.      Giving Back To Those Who Gave So Much.  Karl Rove writes in the Wall Street Journal (12/23, 2.09M) that Americans, especially during the holiday season, should honor veterans by supporting organizations which provide assistance to wounded warriors and their families. According to Rove, one such organization is Ride 2 Recovery, which gives specially designed bicycles to vets wounded by explosions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

9.      Hearing Condition Plagues US Veterans.  In its “Two-Way” blog, NPR (12/22) pointed out that during a recent “All Things Considered” program, reporter Gigi Douban said tinnitus, which has no cure and causes ringing in the ears, is the “most common service-related disability among veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.” NPR noted that there are treatments for the condition, then said audiologist Florence Cuneo with the Veterans Affairs “facility in Birmingham, Alabama, tells Douban that one approach called Progressive Tinnitus Management offers a spectrum of responses, from simple counseling to the use of in-ear devices that generate white noise.” NPR added, “The Defense Department is responding to the rising number of tinnitus cases with a new earplug designed to protect hearing from loud noises while letting in the sound [of] everyday noises.”

10.    Iraq Vet Facing Eviction. WSB-TV Atlanta, GA (12/22, 11:19 p.m. ET) broadcast that a local Iraq vet named Terri Farmer-Allen is undergoing cancer treatment at a DeKalb County Veterans Affairs hospital, where Allen says her purse and several of her checks were stolen. According to WSB, the checks were used by the thief, after which time Farmer-Allen’s rent check bounced. Now, her “apartment complex is threatening to kick her out.”

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