Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News – November 28, 2011

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

 

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1.       WWII vets can soon put their pride on their rides.  Broomfield Enterprise   Applications to receive commemorative World War II veteran license plates will become available Jan. 3. They can be obtained in person at local Department of Motor Vehicle …
2.       The café that’s turning ex-soldiers into peace activists.  Telegraph.co.uk  In a study of 120 service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, published in the journal Military Medicine, 62 per cent of those surveyed said they were receiving some kind of mental health care, while the US Department of Veterans Affairs …
3.       Battlefield technology put to test in exerciseTwo soldiers, their boots crunching on spent shell casings and sand in the cold desert morning, were surrounded. Barren mountains rose in the distance as they made their stand among the battered brown buildings of a small village.
4.       SWAT team’s shooting of Marine causes outrage.  Jose Guerena Ortiz was sleeping after an exhausting 12-hour night shift at a copper mine. His wife, Vanessa, had begun breakfast. Their 4-year-old son, Joel, asked to watch cartoons. An ordinary morning was unfolding in the middle-class Tucson neighborhood – until an armored vehicle pulled into the family’s driveway and men wearing heavy body armor and helmets climbed out, weapons ready
5.       This holiday, troops in Afghanistan thankful for surviving IED blastPfc. Derick Vinton was looking forward to lunch as he drove an armored vehicle back to his platoon’s base last month near this village five miles from Pakistan.
6.       Groundbreaking research looks at how blasts injure brainDuring a firefight in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province in 2002, U.S. Army Maj. Kevin Kit Parker stood atop a hill awaiting a Medevac flight for an injured soldier when a bomb exploded several miles away.
7.    The Obama Holiday Letter: From My Family To Yours.  USA Weekend  President Obama wrote, “While it’s impossible to thank our troops and their families enough, I try to do everything I can to let them know that Americans are united in our gratitude. … Nothing I say can ever fill the hole in their hearts, but I want to make sure they know how much our country appreciates their sacrifice.”
8.    Obama Calls Ten US Service Members.  NBC Nightly News “At the White House…President Obama honored the troops…calling ten members of the armed services.” Obama was shown saying, “The American people are thinking of you today, and when you come home, we intend to make sure that we serve you as well as you’re serving America.”
9.    Study Suggests Feelings Of Guilt May Be A Top Factor In PTSD.  USA Today  A “leading cause” of PTSD is “guilt that troops experience because of moral dilemmas faced in combat, according to preliminary findings of a study of active-duty Marines.” The early findings, “gleaned from 208 Marines involved in severe combat in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010,” showed that within “three months after coming home, 7% of the Marines likely had PTSD. Their condition was more closely linked to an inner conflict rather than threats to their lives, the sight of bodies or blood or family problems,” study authors said. Meanwhile, ongoing PTSD research involves “about 2,600 Marines and sailors examined before and after combat tours.”
10. Legal Battle Ignites Over Jesus Statue In Montana.  New York Times  The “Big Mountain Jesus: a six-foot statue of Christ…at the Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana” which “has been there for more than 50 years” is at the “center of an increasingly bitter” legal battle. The Freedom From Religion Foundation “says that because Big Mountain Jesus stands on US Forest Service property, it is in violation of the constitutional principle separating church and state.” However, the statue’s supporters contend that it “should be viewed as a military memorial, not as a religious shrine, as it was originally commissioned to honor returning WWII vets.” The National Forest System’s Acting Deputy Chief Jim Peña “said the Forest Service expects to make a decision on the statue in early 2012.”

 

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  • Opinion: Camp Pendleton Cross One Of Many Religious Symbols In Government. In the Camp Pendleton (CA) Patch (11/26), former Army medic Robert Burkholder defends the erection of a memorial cross at Camp Pendleton, writing that other government sites, including the Supreme Court building and Arlington National Cemetery, contain Christian religious imagery.
  • Some Of The War’s Battles Are Fought At Home.  Los Angeles Times  “Possibly the most profound change in the last decade has involved the relationship between the Marine Corps and its families, the spouses and children who stay behind. As part of that change, the five elementary schools” on the Camp Pendleton base have “scrambled to use counseling and special lesson plans to help students…cope with the fear and stress of having a parent in a war zone. Some 345 Marines from Camp Pendleton were killed in Iraq and more than 50 have been killed in Afghanistan”; and more than “3,000 have been wounded.”
  •   Agent Orange: With More Diseases Tied To Use During Vietnam War, Bill For Veterans’ Care Skyrockets.  Dallas Morning News Last year’s addition of “ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and B-cell leukemia” to the VA list of diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure “added $236 million in 2010 and $165 million this year in compensation costs,” according to a VA report. Some top lawmakers want to know how VA will “afford the compensation claims without breaking the nation’s budget.” And even proponents admit, “scientific research can rarely provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt. ‘There’s a heck of a lot of gray in there,'” said VA Deputy Chief Dr. Terry Walters. “But the (secretary of veterans affairs) doesn’t make the decisions based on money; we try to make the decisions based on science,” he added.
  •    CBS Investigates Special: Toxin Secret. KPHO-TV “It started with a simple confession, a Valley man wanting to clear his conscious and it ends here, a half a world away, with allegations of a government cover-up, people possibly being sick from a toxin that’s long been forgotten. … Veteran Steve House says he can no longer bury his secret.” House: “I couldn’t live with what I had done. … Nobody seems to care. I’ve told Sen. McCain’s office about it…I’ve told the VA about it.” Leitner continued, “The year was 1978. House was stationed at Camp Carroll in South Korea.” House: “They started bringing us truckloads of 55-gallon drums…some of the cans said ‘Province of Vietnam, Compound Orange.'” Leitner noted, “The herbicide was so harmful that the government says the excess Agent Orange was incinerated at sea.”
  • For Vets Returning To US, Green Energy Jobs Await.  AP   Tipping Point Renewable Energy, a solar power company hiring only military veterans for its installation crews at a time when unemployment among veterans is 12%, compared to 9% for the US overall. Their efforts “echo those of companies and groups nationwide to hire veterans in the green energy industry,” such as the Denver-based Veterans Green Jobs. Also “a pilot program by five of the nation’s largest energy providers, called Troops to Energy Jobs, provides training and credentials to military veterans, as well as college credit for their military training and experience.” The renewable energy industry “is growing fast — solar and wind energy have grown more than tenfold in the last decade — and military veterans often make good fits for green jobs.”
  •  Unemployed Veterans Get Ag-Related Job Training.  Fresno Bee Unemployed veterans in the Fresno area “could be taking on a new mission under a program aimed at helping them find jobs in agriculture. The program, called Ag Warriors, is patterned after similar efforts across the country that provide veterans training, guidance and other assistance necessary to employ them in some type of agriculture-related job.” Ag Warriors “was launched recently out of the International Agri-Center in Tulare, home of the World Ag Expo. … The latest figures from the Department of Labor show that the national unemployment rate for veterans ages 18-44 was 13.9%, compared to 9.7% for nonveterans of the same age group.”
  •  More Women Veterans Seek VA Healthcare.  Houston Chronicle  The “growing number of women veterans seeking healthcare at VA hospitals and clinics nationwide, just as more women join the military and take on de facto combat roles in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the past decade, the number of women veterans using VA health services has doubled, from almost 160,000 to 315,000. VA officials say they expect the number to double again in the next few years.” The VA “is stepping up efforts to accommodate female veterans and developing programs especially designed for women wrestling with serious PTSD, traumatic brain injury, substance abuse, depression or sexual trauma.”
  •    Think You Know What Women Do In The Military? Think Again.  Houston Chronicle Katariina Fagering, “a Marine veteran, warrior poet, artist and mom openly coping with post traumatic stress.” During her deployment in Iraq in 2006, Fagering “went door-to-door with another female Marine to talk to Iraqi women — a mission her male counterparts couldn’t do because of cultural taboos. This type of ‘engagement’ carried out by women attached to male infantry and special forces units has become an integral part of the US strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan.” The Chronicle says it is “dangerous work. Fagering’s friend, Maj. Megan McClung, was the first female Marine officer to be killed in the Iraq war. She died in a roadside bombing in 2006, devastating their entire brigade.”
  • Number Of Homeless Female Veterans On The Rise. NBC Nightly News  “As more and more veterans return from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of them are having a tough time finding work in this job market, particularly single moms; and that’s leading to a troubling new statistic. … The number of women veterans has doubled in the last decade, a by-product of that is they’re also the fastest growing segment of the homeless.” The Veterans Affairs Department “estimates on any given night in this country there are more than 4,500 homeless female vets on the street, and that number is expected to grow as more return from deployments and are finding few job opportunities.” Stephanie Felder of the VA: “We make sure when we have a female veteran, we try our hardest to make sure we provide some type of housing.”
  •   How Wounded Veteran Went From Thoughts Of Suicide To Law School.  Grand Rapids (MI) Press  Zaneta Adams “thought she had ample cause for self-pity. In 2005, she fell from a truck as she was training for deployment to the Iraq war. The fall injured her back and damaged a nerve, leaving her in a wheelchair.” Adams became depressed, often contemplating suicide. “That was until 2008, when the Army veteran attended a competition near Detroit for wounded veterans.” Today, the “34-year-old Muskegon mother of five is in her first term at Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Grand Rapids”; and she helps “wounded troops and veterans through a Department of Defense research program.”
  •   Online Training Helps Families Of Veterans With PTSD.  Asbury Park (NJ) Press “Family members of veterans and active military in New Jersey and parts of New York can get free online training in dealing with issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome affecting their loved ones.” The VA NY/NJ Healthcare Network and New York City-based Kognito Interactive “have launched ‘Family of Heroes,’ an interactive training program in which participants role play three common scenarios involving military members and their families. The one-hour training session is designed to help participants ‘manage the challenges of adjusting to post-deployment life,’ according to a press release about the program.”
  • 89% Of VA’s IT Projects Delivered On Time.  Federal Times  VA Chief Information Officer Roger Baker “thought he had set the bar high” by challenging the staff to “deliver 80 percent of all VA IT project milestones on schedule.” At the time, “less than 30 percent of IT projects were delivered on schedule.” But in less than “two years,” VA was delivering “89 percent of IT project milestones” on time. During FY2011, VA delivered “212 of 237 project milestones on time, including a pharmacy application to enhance the detection of potential adverse drug interactions and changes to speed processing of Post 9/11 GI Bill education claims. … ‘It’s a massive example of a culture change that has taken real effect,'” Baker said, adding and “we intend to stay there.”
  •  Baker Releases Updated VA Data Breach Report. FierceGovernmentIT  Baker discussing the “department’s monthly data breach report.” Among the occurrences in the report, which “covers the period of Oct. 3 through Oct. 30, is one stolen unencrypted laptop.” The VA now “says it can reconcile the applications to disk encryption, and so should have every laptop encrypted by February 2012,” Baker noted. The report also summarizes the “case of an upstate New York daughter of a veteran who accidentally received the discharge papers of another vet. The woman, according to the report, contracted a lawyer who ‘told her to use this as leverage with placement’ of her veteran mother.” Although the “daughter agreed on Oct. 17 to return the papers,” the report says Albany (New York) VA Medical Center had “not received it as of Oct. 31.”
  •   Kentucky Derby Festival Poster Artist Named.  AP  The “artist who is designing next year’s Kentucky Derby Festival poster has been announced. Festival officials say he is Andre Foreman of Louisville, a Marine veteran who is a self-taught visual artist and sculptor.” The poster is slated to be unveiled “Jan. 25 at The Henry Clay in Louisville, in conjunction with the Derby Festival Student Art Contest Awards Ceremony.”
  •  Plans For Homeless Complex Altered.  Tuscaloosa (AL) News  “Plans for a 70-unit, multi-story apartment complex for the homeless that was planned for vacant property at the VA Medical Center have changed, 18 months after the project was first announced. Doug Hollyhand of Hollyhand Realty and Birmingham-based MAP Development plans to restore a 70-year-old vacant building at the VA instead and turn it into about 26 apartments for the homeless. … ‘The motivating factor here is that the VA is pushing to utilize some of these existing buildings,'” said Tuscaloosa VA Project Manager Dan Conville. “It makes sense to pursue renovation,” he added.
  • Veteran’s Housing Complex Gives Homes To Vets In Tampa Hotel.  Central Florida News 13  “A new housing program in the Tampa Bay area hopes to give homeless veterans a place to live. The Veteran’s Housing Complex (VHC) is a program that is placing homeless veterans in empty or closed down hotels.” At present, the “Vista Inn and Suites in Tampa is the program’s temporary location”; and each veteran “pays $15 to $25 a night to stay at the hotel.” The occupants are also provided with “food, clothing and case management.”
  •    Agencies Rally To Help Veterans Find Jobs In Rio Grand Valley.  Brownsville (TX) Herald (11/25, Essex) reported that government agencies and service organizations are “trying to help” veterans find jobs. Cameron County Veterans Service Officer Salvador Castillo said there is a “veterans service office in each county and veterans can go to the American Legion.” American Legion Post 390 Commander George Solis “said efforts are being made on the local level to provide help to returning veterans. ‘We have four computers here at the Legion hall, where they can write resumes, get online to do job searches and write letters,'” he said. Post 390 also tries to “put veterans in touch with agencies that can help them,” Solis said. For example, one veteran returned from Afghanistan to find that his “house had been burned down…so I referred him to the Housing Authority.”
  •  Korea Veteran Gets Her Long-Awaited Medals.  Waterloo-Cedar Falls (IA) Courier  “After 58 years, Viola Beitz Rieck finally got what she deserved Nov. 18. The US government officially recognized Rieck for what she is — a proud Korean War veteran. She earned it for delivering payroll through combat zones, armed with an M-1 rifle in the event of a sniper attack.” Rieck “put up with what today would amount to harassment by her male comrades.” She “received her Korean service medal from the US Army. She also received a National Defense service medal and a United Nations service medal, for being part of the multinational UN force that served during the conflict.”
  •  Vietnam War Veteran Educates Others On Benefits.  Chattanooga Times Free Press “Larry Hester has a personal mission to improve benefits for veterans. He works at that task one veteran at a time. Each Thursday, unless it’s a holiday, he sets up a table and chair at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3679 in Rossville just to answer questions. And wherever Hester goes, he asks the people he meets if they have a veteran connection.” Hester, a Vietnam veteran, “wants to help fellow veterans, but he’s got another motive — increasing how seriously those in Washington, D.C., treat veterans benefits.” Hester said, “You know how the bean counters are in Washington. If there’s 25 million veterans and only 5 million enrolled, that’s all they’ll budget for.”
  •  Can Electronic Records Improve Our Health Without Jeopardizing Our Privacy?  New Republic  “Protecting privacy becomes a lot more essential when medical records go digital. And that raises a key question: Will the security measures necessary to protect against such breaches of privacy make them impractical to use? … If nothing else, comfort with electronic records may grow simply because younger people are more comfortable with the digital world.”

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