Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News – February 16, 2012

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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.    Lawmakers question whether sequestration cuts would hit veteransVeterans programs would see a significant boost under the budget proposal laid out by the White House this week, but lawmakers were more concerned Wednesday about whether the looming threat of automatic defense funding cuts could undo those positive numbers.
 
2.    Navy gives pink slips to nearly 600 senior NCOsThe Navy is forcing 593 senior enlisted members to retire or transfer to the fleet reserve after concluding its senior enlisted continuation board, according to a Navy press release Wednesday.
 
3.    Fewer bases, same number of troops in South Korea, US ambassador saysThe new U.S. ambassador to South Korea said this week that the only impending change to the U.S. military presence on the peninsula will be the relocation of servicemembers to a smaller number of bases — not a decrease in troop levels.

4.    Athletes train at Belvoir for 2012 Warrior Games.  Belvoir Eagle  The Warrior Games are hosted by the US Olympic Committee and supported by the US Department of Defense, US Department of Veterans Affairs, USO, Fisher House Foundation and the Bob Woodruff Foundation. Nearly 60 athletes from around the country traveled …

5.    Man admits bribery in getting VA contracts intended for disabled veterans.  STLtoday.com  A man pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to a conspiracy charge, admitting he bribed a US Department of Veterans Affairs official with cash, baseball tickets and strip club lunches to steer business to a company that used a disabled …

6.    VA budget recommendation includes allocation for DoD-integrated EHR.  FierceHealthIT  Roughly $2 billion of the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs’ $3.3 billion IT budget, proposed this week, would be allocated toward healthcare systems, according to an article in Nextgov. Overall, the VA’s total discretionary budget, FierceGovernmentIT …

7.    Military budget cuts put South Dakota under the gun.  KTIV  “It is impressive and indicative of people wanting to serve our nation,” said Lieutenant Governor Matt Michels, who also serves as the head of the state’s Veterans Affairs Department. “Anytime we cut military, anytime we draw down we’re putting our …

8.    Princeton Trails Columbia in Attracting Iraq Vets to Ivy League.  BusinessWeek  “It was disconcerting that they had no idea what to do” about navigating financial aid and other services a veteran might seek, he said. Almost three years after the Post 9/11 GI Bill took effect, boosting tuition for veterans and their dependents, …

9.    Comcast showcasing jobless vets.  SouthCoastToday.com  Provided by Comcast US Army veteran Mark Jolly of Plymouth is featured in one of 26 videos aimed at prospective employers through a joint venture of Comcast and the state’s Department of Veterans Affairs. By ROBERT GOLD Comcast is currently airing …

10. VA hospital in Brockton in line for $180 million in federal funds.  Enterprise News  Lynch’s office did not have details on whether the potential money would come in the form of grants or whether it would be included in the US Department of Veterans Affairs budget. On Monday, President Barack Obama requested $140.3 billion for the …

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Have You Heard?

The National Guard has set up a toll-free, peer-to-peer counseling hotline to provide Guard members and all reserve component members the ability to speak with counselors on the phone or online.

Members of any reserve component can call the hotline 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week, and discus any issues, challenges or problems they have with a peer counselor.

Counselors at the Vets4Warriors peer support hotline are veterans, so they have an understanding and empathy for what service members may be going through when they call.

“[This is ] a peer support hotline that allows service members of any reserve component to call the center 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week, and discus any issues, challenges or problems they have with a peer counselor,” said Col. Gregg Bliss, the Army National Guard’s soldiers and families support division chief.

Bliss said that having a program dedicated to strictly anonymous, peer-to-peer counseling is a key step in letting people know, there’s no stigma in asking for help and it’s okay to not be okay.

Once the service member reaches out to Vets4Warriors, the counselor will try to match them to any of the resources available.

To learn more about Vets4Warriors, or to speak with a counselor, service and family members can call the Vets4Warriors toll-free hotline at 1-855-VET-TALK (838-8255) or go to the Vets4Warriors website.

More Veteran News

 

  • NC Man Pleads Guilty To Getting Bogus VA Benefits.  AP  A resident of Fayetteville, North Carolina, “has pleaded guilty to scamming nearly $900,000” in Veterans Affairs “benefits by falsely claiming to have been injured while serving the country.” According to the AP, US Attorney Thomas Walker “says that 41-year-old Navy veteran Ronnie Glenn Eddings pleaded guilty Tuesday” in Federal court. Eddings, who is “scheduled to be sentenced” in May, “faces up to 10 years in prison.”
  • Independent Vets Budget Seeks More Construction Money.  Stars And Stripes  “The White House’s fiscal 2013 budget proposal on Monday drew mostly positive reviews from veterans groups, in large part because the Department of Veterans Affairs is one of only a few agencies that will see a jump in funding over last year.” However, a “coalition of veterans advocates released the annual VA independent budget Tuesday morning, pushing lawmakers to find a few billion to fund medical services and construction projects. The independent budget – a compilation of suggestions put together by the Disabled American Veterans, AMVETS, the Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Veterans of Foreign Wars — calls for just over $68 billion in discretionary funding for the VA, about $4 billion above the White House request,” and “roughly matches spending levels on information technology improvements, administrative priorities and medical research.”
  •   Legion Commander Says VA Construction Is “Woefully Underfunded.” American Legion  “Grateful that the Obama administration’s VA budget avoids the draconian cuts that are facing the Pentagon, American Legion National Commander Fang A. Wong called the 2013 plan for the department ‘better than a Valentine, but well-short of Christmas.'” Wong “praised the creation of the Veterans Job Corps, which VA estimates will put up to 20,000 veterans to work.” Wong added, however, that the Legion is “very disappointed that the major construction budget is taking a big hit. There are facilities that desperately need completion in Denver and Orlando. How will this affect the thousands of veterans in those areas? VA construction, both major and minor, is woefully underfunded.”
  • Veterans Affairs Department.  Fierce Government IT  “Under President Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget request,” VA “would receive a total discretionary budget authority of $61.012 billion, with information technology systems receiving a total budget authority of $3.327 billion. That means the budget for IT systems would be 5.13 percent more than fiscal 2012 estimated spending when accounting for inflation.” According to Fierce Government IT, “VA’s budget request clearly emphasizes operations and maintenance, which covers all computers, phones, telecommunication, and data systems equipment for across VA facilities.”
  • Veterans Court Bill Gets Initial Approval.  Bangor (ME) Daily News  “A bill that would create a special treatment court for veterans dealing with drug addiction and mental illness was approved unanimously Tuesday” by the Maine Legislature’s Judiciary Committee. The “bill, sponsored by Rep. Maeghan Maloney, D-Augusta,” now “goes to the House and Senate for votes.” Maloney “said if all the veterans enrolled in these new courts could meet on the same day and go through counseling together, likely with VA officials on-site, they might have a better chance of succeeding.”
  •  Veterans Secretary To Hold Area Sessions.  Green Bay (WI) Press-Gazette Wisconsin Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos “will join state Sen. Frank Lasee, R-Ledgeview, and state Rep. Andre Jacque, R-Bellevue,” for two “Veterans Stand Together listening sessions” on Monday. The Press-Gazette said the “first session will be held from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at Bellevue Village Hall, 3100 Eaton Road. The second will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Duck Creek VFW Post 7534, 754 Riverview Drive, Howard.”
  •  State Veterans Home Project Is A “Go.”  Hot Springs (SD) Star  “Several years of working and waiting paid off on Friday, when Michael J. Fitzmaurice State Veterans Home Superintendent Larry Wilcox announced that the grant to complete the funding of a new state home had been confirmed. South Dakota’s application was selected for approval from a long list of projects submitted” to the US Department of Veterans Affairs. That is according to an email from Wilcox. After noting that South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard called the news a “big win” for his state, the Star added, “‘Please take the time to thank the Governor, State Legislature,'” the “‘Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs for their support of this project,’ an elated Wilcox said.”
  •  Senate Investigates Veterans Affairs Program.  Dayton Business Journal  “The US Department of Veterans Affairs has until March 2 to provide detailed information about its process for verifying veteran-owned small businesses as eligible to win set-aside contracts to a Senate committee, which is investigating claims of widespread program failures, according to the Washington Business Journal.” The Dayton Business Journal notes that US Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), “ranking member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, sent a letter to VA Secretary Erik Shinseki Feb. 9, asking for a an update of the verification process that requires veteran-owned small businesses to be vetted and approved as legitimate by the VA before they can bid on set-aside contracts.”
  • VA’s Automated 800 Number Lacks Personal Touch For Veterans. Washington Times   “Sgt. Shaft” column publishes a letter from a veteran who wrote, “I recently called the VA’s 800 number and was really frustrated at the time it took to navigate to a real live person.” The veteran did praise VA, however, for giving him the option of staying on hold or having VA call him back when his turn for help arrived. “Sgt. Shaft” urged the VA secretary to “let his fingers do the walking over the VA’s 800 number as all veterans have to do. Hopefully, he and his apparatchiks will review and correct this veteran unfriendly system.”
  •  Boise VA Medical Center To Offer New Women’s Clinic.  Idaho Statesman  “The Boise VA Medical Center plans to open a new women’s clinic building at the end of March, with a primary care physician and better accommodations for women patients. The clinic will be on the VA hospital campus at its Mountain Cove Road site near the main hospital, said Nancy Daniels, the women veterans program manager.” The Statesman adds, “The VA has been making an effort to improve women’s health care in VA hospitals and make visits more comfortable for them, said Daniels, adding that more women are returning to the Treasure Valley from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
  •  Local Veterans Take Advantage Of Visit By Mobile Vets Center.  Canton (IL) Daily Ledger  “Spoon River College was the 14th stop in the Department of Veteran’s Affairs Mobile Vet Center tour of Illinois Community Colleges on Tuesday, Feb. 7. The traveling counseling centers are an effort” by VA “to provide readjustment counseling and outreach services to the underserved veteran populations of rural America.” The centers “also serve as part of the VA emergency response program and have the capacity to provide emergency support for natural disasters.”
  •  Grant To Open Doors For Student Vets.  Houston Chronicle  The Veterans Services Office at the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) “is in a position to expand its outreach.” The office “recently received $25,000 in grant funding from the Hamill Foundation, which also allocated $25,000 to UHD’s Scholars Academy. The grant money will allow the Veterans Services office to award 10 $2,000 scholarships ($1,000 for the spring semester and $1,000 for the fall) in March.”
  • Efforts Lag To Improve Care For National Guard.  Washington Post  “Despite years of efforts to improve health care and support networks for the National Guard and military reserves, these service members report higher rates of mental health problems and related ills than active-duty troops, according to current and former officials, troops, experts and government studies.” Eric Kettenring, “who served in Iraq and is a Veterans Affairs counselor in Montana, said the onus is on reserve unit commanders to watch for signs of trouble. But unlike active-duty units, their commanders only see them during drills, which can be 60 days apart, as opposed to the frequent contact during recruitment and enlistment.” Kettenring asked, “When they come back and they’re no longer serving and they have problems, who’s finding them?”
  •  Innovators Turn “Disruption” Into Positive Change.  CNN  “Nearly 400 creative thinkers gathered in Lower Manhattan on a recent Saturday to fuel a dialogue that aims not only to spark innovation but to propel change in the next three to five years.” Chris Downey, a San Francisco-based architect “who lost his sight four years ago,” spoke at the early February event, which was “billed as ‘TEDxBigApple Disruptive Ideas.'” CNN adds, “In January 2009, 10 months after going blind, Downey had the opportunity to join the team building the Polytrauma-Blind Rehabilitation Center, an addition” to the VA hospital in Palo Alto, California. CNN quotes Downey, who said, “For the first time, I saw how blindness brought value to the team, project, and client. It went from being a disability to a real strength.”
  •    “Too Much Information”: Are EHRs Drowning Primary Care?  Medscape  “Although electronic health records (EHRs) are intended to streamline patient care and communication between healthcare professionals, they can lead to information overload, according” to a study published “in the February 13 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine. ‘Strategies to improve efficiency of electronic clinician-to-clinician messaging should be pursued to avoid burdening busy frontline health care providers,’ recommend Daniel Murphy, MD, from the Veteran’s Affairs Health Services Research & Development Center for Excellence in Houston, Texas, and colleagues. Their study was conducted in the outpatient clinics of a large, tertiary-care Department of Veterans Affairs facility in which the EHR includes an inbox system for ‘additional signature request’ (ASR) alerts, defined as any note requiring an electronic signature.”
  • Governor, Utahns Saluting Vets At VA Hospital. Salt Lake (UT) Tribune  “Utah’s elected leaders, youth groups and prominent athletes and citizens are visiting veterans at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City this week as part of the 2012 National Salute to Veteran Patients.” Utah Gov. Gary Herbert “kicked off the open house Tuesday morning, and valentines were to be distributed early in the afternoon. The open house continues at Salt Lake City’s VA hospital through Friday during regular business hours.”
  •   San Antonio Patriot Café Joins National VA Effort To Cut Kitchen Waste.  San Antonio Business Journal  “Patriot Cafés across the country, including San Antonio, have launched a pilot initiative that’s designed to recycle used cooking oil generated at the restaurants.” The “Veterans Canteen Services, which manages the cafés, estimates it will be able to recycle 583,000 pounds of cooking oil per year.” If results of the pilot program are “favorable, the VA expects to roll the cooking-oil recycling program at 170 additional locations.”
  •   Brevard Workforce Shows Vets Some Love. Florida Today   “Veterans seeking help with employment can now step to the front of the line in their job search through Brevard Workforce.” On Tuesday, the “organization, which links job seekers with businesses,” launched “its ‘We Love Our Vets’ campaign…to coincide with Valentine’s Day.” While the “initiative is a federally mandated program designed to assist post-9/11 veterans,” it has been opened to all vets by Brevard Workforce.
  •  Local Vets To Fight On For New Center. Helena (MT) Independent Record  “Despite a negative response from the US Secretary of Veterans Affairs, a group of Helena veterans advocates are continuing their fight to bring a veterans center” in Helena. Diane Carlson Evans, a “combat nurse in Vietnam, who served on the VA Advisory Committee on the Readjustment of Veterans under six different VA secretaries, says it’s time for Helena to make the need for a center very clear. ‘We’re going to activate the community to help us with this and get the community invested in thanking the veterans,’ she said.”

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