Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News – December 16, 2011


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1.    Ontario County veteran accused of lying about Purple Heart.  Rochester Democrat and Chronicle  In court documents, Christopher M. Barlow, special agent with the US Department of Veterans Affairs said Marc S. Restucci of Manchester, Ontario County, admitted to creating and submitting false documents to support a fraudulent claim for disability …

2.    I-Team 10 investigation: Fake Purple Heart.  News 10NBC  On Friday, Restucci will appear in federal court to answer charges that he submitted fraudulent documents to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, claiming he was awarded the Purple Heart. Ernest Loyd served two tours in Vietnam with the US Army and …

3.    Veterans Day Motion Sparks Debate at Fairfield School Board.  12, 2012 — or, the date designated for the Veterans Day federal holiday. Veterans Day — Nov. 11 — falls on a Sunday in 2012. Though the US Department of Veterans Affairs states that Nov. 11, whether it falls on a weekend or not, is always the date …

4.    Helping homeless veterans.  Richmond Times Dispatch  New numbers from Veterans Affairs and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development Tuesday put the homeless veteran count in the United States at 67495 in January, down 11.6 percent from 76329 in January 2010. …

5.    Marines gear up for east European missionMarines leading a six-month mission in eastern Europe were in Stuttgart this week to meet with allies ahead of a deployment that the Corps is touting as a model for maintaining partnerships at a time of diminishing resources.

6.    Air Force easing civilian hiring freezeThe Air Force is easing its months-long freeze on hiring civilians, a change that goes into effect starting Thursday. The hiring freeze, which began Aug. 9, as well as the elimination of 9,000 civilian jobs across the service, were among several measures the Air Force implemented this year to downsize its civilian workforce in the face of reduced budget funding.

7.    As troops leave Iraq, military retains one last roleFollowing years of training and reorganizing the Iraqi army, a mix of 157 servicemembers and Defense Department civilians working for the State Department’s Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq will oversee what they hope will be the next big step: the modernization of three Iraqi army divisions by Dec. 31, 2014.

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8.    Decrease In Homeless Veterans In Hillsborough Exceeds Nation.   Tampa (FL) Tribune  “Drop in the number of homeless veterans in Hillsborough County is even more dramatic than across the rest of the nation.” On Tuesday, Veterans Affairs “announced…that the number of homeless veterans around the nation fell nearly 12 percent between January 2010 and January 2011. In Hillsborough County, although the number of all homeless has nearly doubled since 2009, the number of homeless veterans has declined by nearly half, according to Rayme L. Nuckles, chief executive officer of the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County.”  American Legion  The announcement made earlier this week by Shinseki and Donovan, adding, “VA also announced it will make $100 million in grants available to community agencies across the country to prevent nearly 42,000 veterans and their families from falling into homelessness or to quickly return them to stable housing.” The grants will be “offered for fiscal 2012 through VA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, a homeless-prevention and rapid re-housing program. Last year, VA provided $60 million through the SSVF program to community providers, which will affect nearly 22,000 people through 85 non-profit community agencies in 40 states and the District of Columbia.”

9.    Military, Vets Get Home-Buying Help Under State Program.  Chicago Tribune  On Wednesday, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn “announced a program aimed at helping veterans and active duty military members purchase homes by providing $10,000 grants for down payment and closing costs.” Applicants who qualify for the program “also will be able to lock in low-interest loans at 4 percent for a 30-year mortgage and receive an additional tax credit of up to $20,000 over that same time period.” After noting that state and Federal sources are funding the program, the Tribune “estimated that 1,000 veterans and service members will qualify for the program, dubbed Welcome Home Heroes.”

10.   Judge Tosses Suit Against Rumsfeld, Gates.  AP  On Friday, a Federal judge named Liam O’Grady “dismissed a lawsuit filed against former defense secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates by 28 military members and veterans who said they were victims of sexual assault.” The lawsuit had “alleged Rumsfeld and Gates fostered a culture that allowed rapists to thrive and punished assault victims for filing complaints against their attackers.” In his ruling, O’Grady “said the judiciary should not intervene in matters involving military discipline and dismissed the case, even though he called the victims’ allegations troubling.” An appeal is planned, said Susan Burke, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

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  • IT Project Reviews Have Saved $4 Billion Since 2010, According To CIO.  NextGov “Federal agencies have saved nearly $4 billion in the past year through TechStat reviews that resulted in scaling back or canceling information technology projects that are over budget or delayed, officials said Thursday.” NextGov added, “The Veterans Affairs Departments has seen the greatest level of cost avoidance through agency-level TechStats at nearly $12 million, according to a Year in Review document also released Thursday.”
  •   Unions Slam VA Plan To Track Employees Electronically.  NextGov  “Unions representing Veterans Affairs Department employees blasted VA plans to include hospital staff tracking functions in draft procurement documents issued earlier this week for its $550 million Real-Time Location System.” But earlier this month, VA “said it had no plans to use the system to track staff.”
  •  Vet Receives PTSD Service Dog.  Navarre (FL) Press  Vietnam veteran Raymond Galmiche was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Press adds, “Today he is 100-percent disabled, according to his doctors at Veterans Affairs.” But Galmiche “became more optimistic in September when he was paired with Dazzle, a 2-year-old German Shepard. Minnesota Sen. Al Franken and Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson cosponsored the Service Dogs for Veterans Act, which directed the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to establish a pilot program pairing service dogs with veterans suffering from PTSD and other physical and mental injuries and disabilities.” President Obama has signed the Service Dogs for Veterans Act into law.
  •    Shinseki To Speak At Honolulu Ceremony Honoring WWII Vets. KGMB-TV  In Honolulu on Saturday, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is scheduled to be the keynote speaker during a ceremony in which World War II vets who served in the 442nd Regiment and 100th Infantry Battalion will be honored. The event will also honor “Japanese American Nisei soldiers that served in the Pacific in the Military Intelligence Service.”
  • Obama Tells Soldiers Iraq War “Will Soon Belong To History.” Wall Street Journal In his Fort Bragg speech, Obama stressed the importance of supporting veterans, pointing out that one part of his jobs bill which has passed Congress offers tax credits to companies which hire veterans.  USA Today The President “marked the fulfillment of his 2008 campaign promise to end the Iraq War on Wednesday by celebrating the 1.5 Million servicemembers who served in the conflict and welcoming them into their place in American history.” Since the President “announced the definitive end of the US presence in Iraq less than two months ago, thousands of tons of equipment have been packed up and shipped out and now only a few thousand troops remain in country. Today, the flag of the United States Forces-Iraq will be formally cased in a ceremony in Baghdad. The last troops are expected to return home ahead of the Dec. 31 deadline to withdraw all troops.” USA Today says “any mention” of the President’s “fierce opposition to the war” was “notably absent from the speech.” New York Times  The President, “who has over the years of his presidency had his ups and down with his own military leaders, if not the enlisted men and women, infused his remarks with far more shout-outs for the military than the usual few that he dispenses to local politicians at the beginning of most of his standard speeches.” The Times says the President “has been working hard to get credit for ending” the war, “but it remains to be seen whether his successful completion” of his campaign promise “will have much resonance next year, as the country continues to struggle through the fragile economic recovery.”  Washington Post  The President’s Fort Bragg speech “capped a week of events leading to the milestone when the final US troops cross the border out of Iraq by the end of December.” Before the address, the President and First Lady “met with the family of an infantryman from Fort Bragg who was killed Nov. 14 when an improvised explosive device hit his convoy in Iraq.” But while the speech focused on the troops, it did take place in a likely 2012 swing state, and the President “alluded obliquely to the hyper-partisanship and bitter gridlock that has come to define Washington politics.” He said, “You remind us that there’s nothing that we Americans can’t do when we stick together. For all of the disagreements that we face, you remind us that there is something bigger than our differences that makes us one nation, one people.”
  • Appeals Court Upholds Decision To Toss $4.4M Award For Army Vet Who Lost Hand.  Detroit Free Press  On Wednesday, a Federal appeals court “upheld a judge’s decision to throw out a $4.4-million jury verdict for an Army veteran who lost his hand while trying to defuse a roadside bomb in Iraq only to undergo disability harassment when he returned to Michigan and went to work for the Army.” A “three-judge panel of the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals” decided to “uphold US District Judge John O’Meara’s decision to throw out the jury’s $4.4-million verdict and take the Army up on its offer to reinstate McKelvey to a job with higher pay at the Tank-automotive & Armaments Command (TACOM) in Warren.” The panel, which concluded that a “hostile work environment forced McKelvey to quit his job at TACOM,” said the Army “must provide McKelvey with about $100,000 in back pay.” Similar coverage appears in an AP (12/15) story run by at least nine publications.
  •  Writing May Help Troops With TBI, PTSD Heal.  Army Times  “Patients at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence in Bethesda, Md., paint, sculpt and create music as part of their medical treatment, examining and confronting the symptoms and emotions of having a traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder.” Starting next month, “they’ll be able to use words as well, incorporating writing into the mix of ‘healing arts’ designed to improve cognition and mental health. National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Commander Rear Adm. Alton Stocks announced a pilot program Tuesday at the Intrepid Center that will team authors and therapists with patients to use writing as part of the clinical rehabilitation process.”
  •   Vets Fight In 9th Circuit For Better Treatment.  Courthouse News  “Veterans appeared before the full 9th Circuit on Tuesday to secure better treatment for service members with mental health issues.” Courthouse News adds, “A systemic challenge based on a claim of unreasonable delays in providing benefits must be based on individual cases, and individual veterans have an avenue for such redress through the VA’s appeals process…said” Veterans Affairs’ lawyer, Charles Scarborough, during his remarks at Tuesday’s hearing. No “individual veteran is injured by ‘average delays,’ he added.”
  • VA Offers Free Gun Locks To Head Off Suicide.  KRIV-TV “Every 80 minutes, a psychologically-suffering veteran of America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will attempt suicide.” Into this “battle against” post-traumatic stress disorder, the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston has “introduced a simple tool: gun locks for any veteran and their family, free of charge, as many as needed, no questions asked.” There are seven VA clinics in the Houston area, and the locks can also be obtained at those clinics. KRIV added, “‘It’s a risk-management tool that can buy some time if someone is contemplating suicide,’ said Debra Lundin, a suicide prevention coordinator at DeBakey.”
  •   HHS Launches Program For Reducing Hospital Injuries.  CQ  The Department of Health And Human Services’ Partnership for Patients program, which is “aimed at reducing preventable hospital injuries and complications” and “will distribute $218 million in awards to 26 ‘hospital engagement networks.'” Leaders at HHS “said it has the potential to help save 60,000 lives and up to $35 billion in costs.” Among the networks participating are the American Hospital Association, United Healthcare, and the Veterans Health Administration.
  •   $275K For Patient With Towels Left Inside Him.  AP  47-year-old Robert Sanner, “who had two towels left in his body after surgery” at the Louis Stokes Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, “has won a $275,000 settlement” from the Federal government. Hospital “spokeswoman Ashley Trimble says the episode is one reason why the hospital adopted new technology to keep track of sponges and other surgical equipment.”
  •   Fort Polk Outpatient Clinic Now Open And Serving Local Veterans.  Leesville (LA) Daily Leader  “The grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday afternoon for the Alexandria VA Medical Center’s new Fort Polk Community Based Outpatient Clinic marked a dream come true for many local veterans.” The opening of the facility, “which has been planned for years, means that the hundreds, possibly thousands, of veterans in an area stretching as far as East Texas can now have more immediate access to the medical care they need. Representatives for US Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.); US Sen. David Vitter (R-La.); US Representative John Fleming (R-La.); state and federal VA officials as well local officials, veterans and local residents were on hand for the event.”
  • Choice Of VA Hospital Site On Brownsboro Road Prompts Fears Of Traffic Nightmare.  Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal  “Even as federal officials hone in on plans for a new” Veterans Affairs hospital on Brownsboro Road in Louisville, “area residents are gearing up for a fight, saying the facility will create massive traffic problems in an already heavily congested commercial area.” The Courier-Journal continues, “Regardless of such concerns, federal officials said they expect to purchase The Midlands, a 35-acre site across from Holiday Manor, in the spring and build the hospital there after completing a final environmental evaluation.” The Courier-Journal adds, “VA officials considered traffic in the Brownsboro Road area and they are continuing to study it, but they didn’t think it was a big enough problem to prevent the Midlands site from being selected, said Jeffrey M. Leikin, with the Real Property Service division of the Department of Veteran Affairs in Washington.”
  •  Rapid City Crowd Less Angry About VA Health Care Plan. Some Concern Was Expressed About Hot Springs, Though.  Rapid City (SD) Journal  “A generally subdued crowd turned out Tuesday evening in Rapid City to hear the details of a reorganization plan for Veterans Affairs medical facilities in the Black Hills, a day after VA officials faced an angrier gathering in Hot Springs.” The “proposal unveiled Monday would close most of the VA medical facilities in Hot Springs, leaving the community with an upgraded outpatient clinic and a sprawling, century-old medical campus on a hill in the middle of town that might or might not find a new purpose.” At the meeting, there was some “concern about the loss to Hot Springs.”  Rapid City (SD) Journal  “Following Monday’s announced proposal to severely cut services at the Hot Springs VA by the administration of Black Hills Health Care, an organization meeting to form a plan of action is planned.” The meeting is scheduled to “take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 21, at the American Legion in Hot Springs. This meeting is being organized so that committees can be formed to conduct research that will counter the proposal that has been submitted by the VA Administration. All interested parties are urged to get involved and join the fight to save the VA.”
  •  Centerville Firm Lands $4.75M Dayton VA Contract.  Dayton (OH) Business Journal “A Centerville company has been awarded a $4.75 million contract” by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Contech Design Inc. “and its affiliated company Contech Engineering Services LLC will provide consulting and professional engineering services for several facilities improvements at the Dayton VA Medical Center in the next five years. ‘We are extremely pleased and honored to be the recipient of this new and expanded contract,’ said Rajeev Sinha, president of Contech Design.”
  • Brain Injuries Need Better Diagnosis, Treatment, Experts Say.  Tucson (AZ) Sentinel  “Those who suffer traumatic brain injuries need better diagnosis and treatment, according to experts who spoke at a virtual town hall meeting Wednesday morning.” The office of US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) “staged the meeting, which focused on traumatic brain injuries and their impact on civilians and military personnel – especially those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. The event featured a cadre of experts in TBIs, including…Dr. Jayendra Shah of the Southern Arizona VA Healthcare System.”
  • Orlando Veterans Hospital Gets “Green” Makeover.  WOFL-TV  On Tuesday, the Veterans Affairs hospital in Orlando “received an extensive ‘green’ makeover in the outdoor spaces surrounding the facility with the assistance of more than 100 associates from ScottsMiracle-Gro.” WOFL continued, “The beautification project at the facility located at 5201 Raymond St. in Orlando allows patients, families and the community to experience the beauty and serenity of nature gardens.” WOFL added, “The East Central Florida veteran population is slated for a new hospital which is presently under construction on a 65-acre campus in southeast Orange County in the Lake Nona area known as the ‘Medical City.'”
  •    Former Lejeune Resident Receives 100-Percent Disability.  Jacksonville (NC) Daily News  75-year-old Bill Lawson, a former Camp Lejeune Marine, “has a medley of maladies, many of which he believes can be traced to his exposure to contaminated drinking water during the 13 years he spent on base.” This fall, Lawson “received confirmation from the Department of Veterans Affairs: A letter mailed in October granted him 100-percent disability for colon cancer, first diagnosed in 1998, and 20 percent for bladder cancer, diagnosed in 2005, citing Lawson’s time aboard Lejeune as connection. What Lawson remains unsure of is what portion of his time spent on base caused his cancers: living in base housing at Tarawa Terrace, where the drinking water supply was contaminated with the organic solvents TCE and PCE,” or being exposed to leaking gas “at a warehouse building in the Hadnot Point Industrial Area.”
  •   Shelter For Homeless Veterans Shuts Down In Menlo Park.  KGO-TV
  • SC Work Force Making It Easy For Vets To Find Jobs.  WBTV-TV “The Veterans Affairs office in Rock Hill,” South Carolina, “tells WBTV they’ve seen a spike in veterans coming looking for benefits, 600 in the past two months.” But Jeff Wilcox with the SC Work Force Center, says there is help for such vets. WBTV added, “One program for vets is the Gold Card initiative where post 9-11 era veterans sign up and can get a pass to the front of the line so to speak when it comes to Veteran Benefits and jobs out there.”

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