Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News – December 27, 2011


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


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1.    Wyoming architect develops device to help vets with PTSD.  Casper Star-Tribune Online  A veteran commits suicide every 80 minutes, the US Department of Veterans Affairs estimates, and tens of thousands of others have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress. The real danger, experts say, is that it can be extremely difficult to diagnose …
2.    Vets confounded by dueling medical marijuana rules.  “We can’t control whether a patient does or does not participate in a state-approved marijuana program,” said Michael Valentino, chief consultant for pharmacy benefits management services at the Department of Veterans Affairs. …
3.    State Department of Employment can help job-seeking veterans.  Rockford Register Star   The state and federal Veterans Affairs departments aren’t the only places that military members can go for help finding a job. The Illinois Department of Employment Security has staff members at its offices across the …
4.    Soldier on: Fighting spirit of Vietnam vet, recent amputee never wanes.  Middle East North Africa Financial Network  But the US Department of Veterans Affairs says on its public health website, “VA presumes veterans’ prostate cancer is related to their exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides during military service.” Glawe has applied for veterans benefits on …
5.    Group works to remember a Civil War soldier.  Columbia Daily Tribune  The US Department of Veterans Affairs will provide a stone for Wallace Lilly; the marker for Lilly’s wife, who died March 31, 1932, at about age 87, must be privately financed. Dietzel asks that anyone with information about the Lillys or who wants to …
6.    Southland VA’s expect influx of vets by March.  Redlands Daily Facts   US Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals in this region expect in influx of 16000 veterans with the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Officials at the Jerry L. Pettis Memorial Veterans Medical Center expect …
7.    For troops, cards and care packages bring a touch of home to Christmas.  Even in the dust and grime of war in Afghanistan, the yuletide spirit takes hold. Most holidays here come and go without fanfare; missed birthdays, anniversaries, and other personal milestones are more difficult. But for many soldiers, being away from their families at Christmastime is a little tougher still.
8.    Couple Helps Wounded Vet Travel For Holidays.  AP  Marine Sgt. Michael Frazier, who “lost both legs last spring in Afghanistan” to an IED, met Navy corpsman Monica Montes at “Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and when they got engaged a few weeks ago, she wanted to introduce him to her family in Florida.” As participants in the Veterans Airlift Command, Stephanie and Erwin Greenberg of Glyndon, Maryland, “volunteered to fly Frazier and Montes to Florida for the holidays on their company plane Wednesday.” Frazier said the Greenbergs are “showing him the true meaning of patriotism.”
9.    Southwest Florida Comes Through With New Home For Soldier.  Fort Myers (FL) News-Press  “A sunny apartment built with help of donations for war-wounded Pfc. Corey Kent of Cape Coral was opened Thursday for inspection.” The apartment meets “Americans With Disabilities Act standards.” Kent lost “his legs and three fingers on his left hand when an explosive device detonated near him in Afghanistan in 2010.” The city’s “building industry rallied around Kent after his injuries. … ‘Ninety-five percent of the donations came from the building industry,'” said Todd Gates of Gates Construction. Kent will return to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center “Jan. 8 for an estimated eight months of daily physical therapy” after which an “Army medical board will determine his disability level.”
10.  New Federal Report Indicated Veteran Homelessness Has Fallen.  Willoughby (OH) News-Herald  “A new government report states that veteran homelessness has fallen by almost 12 percent from January 2010 to January 2011.” According to the report, over one year, “8,834” fewer veterans “were homeless on a single night.” The VA also announced “$100 million in grants. … ‘By putting more resources into prevention services…we will continue to help more veterans and their families turn their lives around,'” said VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. VA “progress in the fight against homelessness has been significant, but our work is not complete until no veteran has to sleep on the street,” he added.


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Treatment for physical and mental wounds of war doesn’t always come in the form of medication or therapy. Rehabilitation can take other forms that speak to the expressive side of people as they sort out the difficult moments that happen during a deployment.

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  •   Furniture Store, Community Make Christmas Special For Wounded Vet.  “Six years after losing the use of his right side,” retired Army Spc. Henry Young is “counting his blessings this Christmas. Dressed in a navy blue suit and tie” on Friday, he backed “himself carefully against the plush beige fabric of his new chair,” one of the pieces Mealey’s Furniture “donated to Young, a disabled Iraq War veteran and this year’s recipient of the company’s ‘Houseful of Furniture’ giveaway, an annual gift to a local community member in need.” Young, who also struggles with PTSD, said several “area veterans and supporters have enriched his life. … Without all of them, I would have nothing,’ Young said, his eyes shining and his smile wide as he named every individual that has made his holiday brighter.”
  •  VA Mulls Moving Telecomm To The Cloud.  Federal Computer Week  Veterans Affairs is “looking to get out of the business of buying and maintaining its own telecommunications infrastructure, is considering buying cloud-based telephony services. The VA’s Technology Acquisition Center issued a request for information Dec. 21 seeking input that could go into developing a Voice-as-a-Service pilot program.” The agency is interested in exploring whether “such a service could provide basic telecommunications functions – dial tone, internal and external call transfers, common reporting metrics, etc. – while also integrating with various digital communications systems, such Internet chat, videoconferencing and voice-over-IP.” According to the RFI, the goal is to “‘continue to provide VA with a robust communications solution that has the scalability to adapt to future VA need,’ while relieving the agency of the time and expense needed to maintain its existing telecommunications infrastructure.”
  •    VA Lease Won’t Be Signed Until At Least January.  Knoxville (TN) Journal Express “The enhanced use lease for the Knoxville VA campus will not be signed until January at the earliest. On July 1, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that the Knoxville Veterans Alliance (KVA), an equal partnership between local businessman James Washington and Aubrey Wilson of Virginia, had been selected for the enhanced use lease of the Knoxville VA campus”; and the goal was “to have the lease signed by the end of the year.” Although negotiations are “ongoing,” the VA is “currently dealing with over 35 enhanced use lease deals.” In addition, Maina Gakure, the “VA official overseeing the lease process in Washington…will be out of the country until Jan. 10.”
  • Parks To Benefit From $4.4 Million Paralympic Grant.  Colorado Springs (CO) Business Journal  Veterans Affairs and the “US Olympic Committee are making it easier for disabled athletes to train in their own communities, including in Colorado Springs. The VA awarded $4.4 million in funds to 95-community based organizations in support of Paralympic sport and physical activity programs for disabled veterans and disabled members of the Armed Forces.” The Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation program, which “works in partnership with the USOC, was among the recipients.” According to Michael Welch of the National Veterans Sports, the VA has “sponsored athletic programs for disabled veterans” before but, “this is the first time the agency has partnered with the USOC, which is hosting the 2012 Warrior Games.”
  • VA Plans New VistA Medical Scheduling System.  Government Health IT  Veterans Affairs “intends to replace its legacy medical scheduling application for its VistA electronic health record system and wants industry feedback about requirements for functionality, system interface and risk reduction. A modernized system could manage appointments, patient information and coordinate associate services across all VA facilities for a single view of veterans.” VA plans the new scheduling system to be “standards-based, extensible and scalable and interoperable with the version of VistA held by the Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent.” The new system will “rely on web- and mobile-device services for quick and secure communications with veterans, support for resource allocation decisions based on data, such as adjusting capacity dynamically to meet changing needs.”
  •   ABC Names Female Veteran “Person Of The Week.” ABC World News  “Well, it was something of a reconnaissance mission for a military mom just back from Iraq. Released from duty just in time for Christmas, Army Captain Dawn McCracken-Bruce headed to the local mall for a very special surprise for her young sons. But that wasn’t the only gift.” McCracken-Bruce: “I emailed the mall at Robinson where we always take the kids every year for Santa and they were gracious enough to work with us.” ABC (Claiborne) added, “What Dawn didn’t know with that there was is surprise for her at the other end of the mall. … A star-spangled tribute by the band from her old high school. And as they played, hundreds of shoppers, strangers, stood and applauded for one of their own, finally back home with her family.”
  •   Biofeedback Program Helps Women Vets.  San Bernardino (CA) Sun  “About 18 months ago,” Dr. Idalia E. Canez, a staff psychiatrist at the Jerry L. Pettis Memorial Veterans Medical Center in Loma Linda resuscitated the hospital’s defunct biofeedback training program. Dr. Canez has been “bringing it to certain patients at the Center for Women’s Health” in Redlands; and clinical psychologists are using biofeedback “with the male patients at the main hospital.” Disabled Veterans Chapter 12 has “helped buy some of the biofeedback learning software and related sensing equipment so that women veterans who complete the course can continue the technical assistance at home.” And chapter commander Richard Valdez said the organization is also considering whether to “pay for ancillary courses, such as yoga.”
  •    Salem VAMC To Offer PTSD Programs For Female Veterans.  WDBJ-TV  “The Salem VA Medical Center will soon offer two recover-oriented PTSD programs for female veterans. … The VA acknowledges women are an underserved population and what they’re often suffering from may surprise you.” Program Coordinator Robert Guthrie: “In 2009, approximately 65,000 women were treated by the VA for military sexual trauma so there is a very, very large need.”
  •    Fisher House Provides Housing For Military Families For The Holiday Season.  CNN  “The Fisher House Foundation is giving an incredible gift to troops and their families: A home away from home for the holidays. It provides houses for families of soldiers receiving care at military medical centers, like the Walter Reed Medical Center.” The article includes an “American Morning” video of Fisher House CEO Kenneth Fisher talking “about how they’re working to give military families a happy holiday.”
  •   MHS Conference Attendees Invited To Tour Medical Facilities.  Military Health System  “Navy Vice Adm. John Mateczun, commander of the National Capital Region Medical Joint Task Force has extended an invitation to all attendees of the 2012 Military Health System Conference to tour the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital. Tours will be available Jan. 30 and Feb. 1.” The 2012 MHS conference takes place at the “Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center at National Harbor, Md. Jan 30 through Feb. 2, 2012.” For more information, visit the MHS Conference website.
  • VA Southern Nevada Chief Of Staff Discusses PTSD Treatments. KSNV-TV  “The consequences are devastating, frightening for those former service members who don’t have the right treatment. PTSD affects thousands of veterans nationwide and 3,600 right here in Southern Nevada. VA Southern Nevada’s Chief of Staff Dr. Ramu Komanduri has seen it all too often. … But treatment is available.” Komanduri: “Initially, treatment consists of an education component so the veteran and the family members learn about the symptoms, how to recognize them, how to put them in perspective. We also have a group therapy where they may participate with other veterans with PTSD.” Brown added, “And they have exposure therapy, getting veterans to imagine themselves back in combat and ultimately overcome it.”
  •   PTSD Poses Special Problems For The Holidays.  Contra Costa (CA) Times  “Holidays can be times of tension” for those with PTSD. “Family members should be patient and not pressure the vet to do something they don’t want to,” said Lois Krawczyk, a “supervising clinical psychologist at the Jerry L. Pettis Memorial Veterans Medical Center” in Loma Linda. Family members, “especially children, can misinterpret the reason for the behavior, and often wrongfully internalize their reaction, blaming themselves” but PTSD is the culprit, explained San Antonio Psychiatric Research Center Director Dr. Harry Croft. Serena Enke, a “staff psychologist at the VA’s Rancho Cucamonga community clinic, said it’s important for veterans not to have unrealistic expectations on how they will react in holiday social settings. Leaving the gathering for a few minutes…is not failure,” she said.
  •  Mobile Vet Center To Provide Counseling In Longmeadow.  Massachusetts Live (MA)  A Mobile Vet Center will “provide counseling and other services for veterans Jan. 4 at noon at the Greenwood Center at 231 Maple Road, Longmeadow, Mass. Sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Longmeadow Veterans Circle, the Mobile Vet Center provides readjustment counseling and information resources to veterans across the country.”
  •  Ridgewood Community Fights For Local War Veteran.  Ridgewood (NJ) Patch “Mark Steppe returned from Iraq in 2006 after just a year of military service, but the short amount of time still managed to change the course of his life drastically.” Steppe first returned from Iraq with PTSD and “chilling flashbacks” but in 2007, he also began “experiencing an intense amount of back pain,” and although his wife, Amy McCambridge suspected Steppe’s discomfort was related to combat, “during which he was exposed to uranium and anthrax,” Veterans Affairs “refused to be held accountable” initially. VA has now awarded Steppe “100 percent service disability,” but the fight to obtain disability was difficult “financially and emotionally, and one McCambridge believes would have been impossible without the help from certain organizations and community members throughout Ridgewood and surrounding towns.”
  •  Man Denied ‘Service Dog’ Seeks Legal Action.  Cherokee (IA) Chronicle Times James Sak, a “disabled Vietnam Veteran and retired Chicago police officer, was forced to relinquish his service dog after the Aurelia City Council voted December 14 to prohibit the dog, identified as a ‘pit bull,’ from residing within Aurelia city limits.” In 2008, Sak “suffered a debilitating stroke that left him permanently disabled and unable to use the right side of his body, and he has been confined to a wheelchair.” As the dog, “Snickers works as a service animal for a disabled person,” it should be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act and “should not be subject to the breed ban, according to a 2010 regulation issued by the Department of Justice.”
  •  Records Fail To Match Man’s Rank, POW Claims.  Westchester (NY) Journal News Fermijon Marrero, the grand marshal of New Rochelle’s “most recent Memorial Day parade, has the medals, insignia and uniforms of an Army brigadier general”; and he stories of “surviving captivity as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.” But Marrero also has a “credibility problem. Records show he was discharged from the Army at the rank of private in 1976”; and neither his name nor “variations of it” can be found in the National Archives’ POW database. On Thursday, Marrero said that when he said “general,” he was referring to his “former role with the US Army Cadet Corps,” a youth organization. But the Cadet Corps “said Thursday that Marrero had no current or former affiliation” with it.
  • Purple Heart Returned.  Holland (MI) Sentinel  “The Purple Heart which The Sentinel published a story about Monday is back in the hands of a man who VandenBosch identified as the veteran who sold it. Owner of A-Z Outlet Bryan VandenBosch called the man Friday morning and the man retrieved the medal a few hours later. The veteran, who was approached by a Sentinel reporter, denied a request to be interviewed.”


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