Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News – October 20, 2011

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Veterans! Here’s your Top 10 News stories of the day compiled from the latest sources

 

We encourage you to browse our list so that you can take what you want and keep what you need

 

1.    Judge approves VA discrimination suit settlement.  NECN   A federal judge in Houston has approved settlement of a lawsuit several veterans groups filed against the US Department of Veterans Affairs, accusing the department of religious discrimination. US District Judge Lynn Hughes approved the …
2.    Coalition of companies vows to hire 25,000 veterans, spousesA coalition of packaged goods companies has pledged to hire 25,000 veterans and military spouses over the next two years as part of White House initiatives to aid military families.
3.    Senators want commission to consider overseas base closingsA pair of U.S. senators are calling for full review of the costs of overseas military bases, saying that closing dozens of the foreign facilities could save billions in wasteful spending.
4.    Care for Mentally Ill Vets at VA Centers May Differ Across U.S..  U.S. News & World Report   — The US Department of Veterans Affairs rivals other health care systems in the quality of care it provides to mentally ill veterans, but there are huge discrepancies in the level of care offered in various
5.    Agent Orange Studies Overlook Vietnamese Americans.  New America Media  That wartime spraying has been devastating to American veterans who came into contact with the defoliant and then developed any number of a long list of illnesses related to Agent Orange exposure. The US Department of Veterans Affairs, Institute of
6.    VFW Urges 2 Million To Fight Benefit Changes.  AP  On Tuesday, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) “urged its 2 million members to plead with Congress to spare military and veterans’ benefits as a special deficit-cutting panel looks to slash $1.2 trillion from the federal budget. In a ‘call to action,’ the VFW said it opposes any changes to the programs and decried any congressional attempt to balance the budget on the backs of military retirees and disabled veterans.” The VFW’s “plea was prompted by several” cost-saving “recommendations to the so-called supercommittee that sent shock waves through the powerful groups of retired officers and veterans.”
7.    American Legion Also Concerned By Potential Cuts To Vets’ Benefits.  American Legion  The Legion is  “disappointed with the ‘tepid’ stand taken by House and Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee leaders against federal budget cuts that would compromise the welfare of military veterans.” Legion “leaders say they plan to draft a strong and detailed response to the proposals submitted to the ‘supercommittee.’ Recently, The American Legion’s board of directors warned that proposed fiscal cuts to the Department of Defense and VA would not only hurt the economy, but would also do ‘irreversible and irreparable harm to the military capability of the US to defend the nation…'”
8.    Vulnerable Adults At VA targeted, Police Say. The State   “Mitchell Smith, charged with posing as a social worker while running two Columbia group homes for the disabled, trolled Veterans Administration facilities to find tenants, a Columbia police investigator told a judge Tuesday. Investigator Steve Narewski testified during a court hearing that Veterans Administration officials told him Smith ‘would go through the nursing home area and the care areas and try to enlist clients to go to (his) facilities over the course of some time.'” Tuesday’s court “hearing before Family Court Judge Gwen Smalls was to determine whether the seven ‘vulnerable adults’ removed Sunday from the houses should remain in protective custody.”
9.    Panetta, Shinseki Discuss More Transition Support For Vets.  American Forces Press Service  “Ways to help separating service members and veterans prepare for and launch civilian careers topped the agenda during Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta’s” Monday visit with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, according to Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby. AFPS notes that Panetta and Shinseki “lead a joint task force President Barack Obama established to promote veteran employment and boost separating and retiring military members’ career readiness.” AFPS adds, “Panetta and Shinseki addressed a range of other issues…Kirby said, including ongoing efforts between the two departments to establish joint integrated electronic health records and improve the disability evaluation system.”
10.  VA Revising Sexual Assault Claims Process.  Army Times  “Under pressure from Congress,” Veterans Affairs is “trying to come up with a better way of handling disability claims from veterans who say they are suffering trauma as a result of sexual assault or rapes suffered while in the military.” On Tuesday, VA spokesman Josh Taylor said his agency is “committed to ensuring that veterans who now suffer from in-service mental and physical disabilities related to military sexual trauma will have their claims properly decided.” The Times adds, “In a Monday letter to the VA, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee chairwoman, and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, a veterans’ committee member, raised concerns it was too hard for victims suffering mental and physical disabilities related to sexual trauma to prove their claims under current regulations.”

Have You Heard?

The Office of Acquisition, Logistics, and Construction (OALC) began implementing its reorganization as part of the Secretary’s initiative to transform VA’s acquisition and facilities management activities on Oct. 1. The reorganization includes the establishment of the new Office of Acquisition Operations (OAO) which will focus on operational aspects of the acquisition process, including planning, procurement, management, and close out. The Strategic Acquisition Center, the Technology Acquisition Center, and the Centers for Acquisition Innovation fall under OAO and will support the acquisition of various goods and services and implementation of national contracts and strategic sourcing initiatives. “We have also made service-delivery focused changes in the Office of Acquisition and Logistics and the Office of Construction and Facilities Management to more clearly define each of our lines of business,” said Glenn Haggstrom, principal executive director of OALC. “Each of these changes was made to ensure that OALC carries out its philosophy of becoming your ‘trusted business partner.” The reorganization is designed to strengthen VA’s mission-critical functions and allow OALC to excel in contracting, logistics, facilities management, major construction, and leasing throughout the 21st century by enhancing customer service, increasing responsiveness, and modifying its organizational structure to better suit customer needs. For more information on this effort, visit www.va.gov/oalc.

More Veteran News

 

  • US, North Korea To Discuss Resuming Search For Soldiers’ Remains.  Los Angeles Times   “World Now” blog reported, “US officials have announced they will begin new talks with North Korea to seek the regime’s aid in recovering the remains of 5,500 US service members missing since the Korean War. The announcement made this week by Pentagon officials follows a six-year hiatus in such talks and may signal a warming in relations between Washington and Pyongyang.” In a statement on Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, “Most Korean War veterans are in their 80s. And the US Veterans Administration says close to 1,000 Korean War veterans die each day. We cannot wait any longer to resume this critical work.”
  • Key Barriers Prevent Vets From Receiving VA Mental Healthcare, Says GAO.  Fierce Government  “Although the number of veterans receiving mental healthcare from the Veterans Affairs Department has steadily increased over the past 5 years, a number of key barriers still hinder recent veterans from receiving it, says” the Government Accountability Office (GAO). In a “report dated Oct. 14, the GAO,” among other things, “says Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom vets often perceive the VA healthcare system as the prerogative of primarily older vets.” Officials with VA “told the GAO they’ve started integrating mental healthcare into primary care in an effort to lower the stigma and expanded use of call centers to connect vets with counseling services.” The VA officials also said the agency’s mental health staff has gone up significantly over the last few years.
  •   Beyond The Battlefield: Back Home, Severely Wounded Veterans Wish More Would Ask, Not Just Stare.   Huffington Post   “Some 16,000 young Americans who volunteered to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan have come home with devastating wounds.” But “eventually, the wounded are desperate to get out.” Sherry R. Ceperich, a counseling psychologist at the VA Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center in Richmond, Virginia, said, “They want the experience of getting out and doing normal things — getting ice cream, or going to the phone store — realizing there is life after the hospital.” Ceperich, according to the Post, “prepares the injured for initial, short-term excursions, often practicing what they should say when people approach them.”
  •  To “Hell And Back,” With A Marine And His Wife.   NPR  audio A story about Sgt. Nathan Harris. After he was injured in Afghanistan, Harris went through an “agonized struggle to transition back into a society that didn’t much understand what he’d been through.” That struggle, both for Harris and his wife, “became the focus” of a documentary called “Hell and Back Again, which won a World Cinema Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.” Harris is “still an active-duty Marine, part of the Wounded Warriors Regiment at Camp Lejeune.”
  •  VA Nurse Charged With Stealing Painkillers.  San Francisco (CA) Chronicle  “A Veterans Administration nurse in San Francisco was charged in federal court Monday with theft for allegedly stealing painkillers from patients for her personal use, court records show. Julie Weaver, a nurse at the VA’s gastrointestinal diagnostic center on Clement Street, admitted to investigators in August that she had removed Demerol from secured cabinets and used it herself, authorities said.” The Chronicle adds, “The investigation began after co-workers found a plastic bag with a used syringe in a clogged toilet in a staff-only area, authorities said.”
  • Less Surgery Done In Advanced Laryngeal Cancer.  MedPage Today  “Laryngeal cancer treatment has shifted toward primary surgery for early-stage cases and away from it in advanced cases, with mixed effects on survival, a national analysis found. The proportion of early-stage laryngeal cancer patients getting primary surgery rose from 20% in 1985 to 33% in 2007, found researchers led by Amy Y. Chen, MD, MPH, of Emory University in Atlanta and the American Cancer Society.” MedPage Today adds, “This shift seemed in step with landmark results released in 1991 from the VA Laryngeal Cancer Study, showing similar survival for advanced-stage cases with the two strategies, the researchers noted.”
  •    VA Funds Ideas To Help Disabled Vets Get Jobs. Federal News Radio  “The Department of Veterans Affairs named six winners in the VA Innovation Initiative (VAi2) for innovations that will help disabled veterans find jobs. VA will test the use of the ideas in the agency’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program, according to a VA release.” Federal News Radio adds, “The VAi2 program was launched last year to identify and fund ideas that would improve VA services.”
  •    The Top 10 Government Facebook Pages.  Government Technology   “As social media increasingly becomes part of everyday life, more government agencies are carving out a social media presence online. Facebook, not surprisingly, is perhaps the most common outlet for government social media efforts.” Government Technology noted that the US Department of Veterans Affairs — with 146,314 likes — is on a “list of ten of the most ‘liked’ government Facebook pages.”
  •  Meal Service For Veterans “Bustling” In Las Vegas.  CNN Newsroom  A report on how the economy is affecting Las Vegas. According to CNN, one “of the few places that’s bustling” in Las Vegas is “Vetserve, which provides meals for veterans who can’t afford them.” CNN showed Vetserve’s Shalimar Cabrera saying, “The economy is closing down and they’re losing jobs. So the number one reason veterans are coming to us right now is unemployment.”
  • Students Learn From Local Business Representatives.  AP On Monday, 25 “local business professionals talked” to the Danville High School (DHS) freshman class during an “all-day career information fair at the DHS’ Freshman House.” One of the “presenters at the fair” was “Suzanne Robinson, a recreation therapist at Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System.” The AP added, “The VA, she said, offers a wide variety of career choices and encourages local teenagers to become youth volunteers at the VA.”
  •  Stand Down Event At Bay Pines Seeks To Help Homeless Vets.  St. Petersburg (FL) Times  “Homeless veterans and those at risk of becoming homeless are the targets of a Stand Down event” to be held on Saturday at the Bay Pines Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Each “‘year we host a variety of events in the areas this facility serves – including Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, De Soto, Hardee, Charlotte, Lee, Collier and Highlands counties,’ said Faith E. Belcher, public affairs officer at Bay Pines.” Belcher said Saturday’s event is a “one-stop shop for veterans to get connected with whatever they need to help them get off the street.”
  •   Standing Down With Veterans.  Tuscaloosa (AL) News  “The Department of Veterans Affairs conducts stand downs every year across the nation to help veterans who are fighting homelessness, poverty, mental health issues and substance abuse.” On Friday, over 100 veterans came to a stand down that the “Tuscaloosa Veterans Affairs Medical Center hosted…at Beulah Baptist Church on 25th Street.” Both Damon Stevenson, the hospital’s public affairs officer, and Alan Tyler, its director, spoke about the importance of the stand down. Stevenson said it “helps us reach out to the homeless vets” while Tyler said it “brings us to” veterans who are in “dire need of help.”
  •   Stand Down Reaches Out To Help Homeless, Sick Veterans.  Anderson Valley (CA) Post  “For the sixth year, the North Valley Stand Down Association will be reaching out to veterans, especially the homeless ones, and connecting them with medical, dental, counseling and life services providers Oct. 20-23 at the Shasta District Fair grounds in Anderson.” During the “four-day event, local homeless veterans will receive temporary homeless shelter, job services and unemployment and insurance information, medical services, clothing, counseling and a variety of other services.” According to the Post, the US Department of Veterans Affairs “estimates that 107,000 veterans are homeless on any given night.”

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