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


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


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1.   Sound bites are not solutions to VA woes. At a recent congressional hearing on the VA’s new claims processing model currently being rolled out nationally, Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, demanded…
2.   Quadruple amputee Marine vet feels at home — at lastTodd Nicely was injured in Afghanistan in early 2010 when an explosion ripped off his hands and legs. He spent more than a year recovering and learning how to use prostheses on all his limbs. In the meantime, officials at the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation began working on a ‘smart house” that would allow Nicely to maintain his independence.
3.   Operation Boots to Business to train transitioning vetsThe U.S. Small Business Administration has launched a new program in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Defense Department to train transitioning servicemembers and veterans to help them become entrepreneurs and create jobs.
4.   Afghans seeking aid in Farah province guided toward self-sufficiency. The Afghan government never had much to spend on new roads and schools. But for much of the war’s nearly 11-year run, the U.S.-led coalition has stood by, checkbook in hand, ready to fund almost anything that might bring security and stability to the battle-scarred nation.

5.   Small business agency launches program to help vets start businesses.  Sun-Sentinel
“Operations Boots to Business” is a national initiative involving the Small Business Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense and U.S. Marines. The SBA announced the program Thursday. “The goal is to reach 250000 in that …

6.   Steps Announced To Reduce VA Claims Backlog. Fairfield (CA) Daily Republic Columnist Tom Philpott notes that current disability backlog is “558,000 claims out of an inventory” of nearly 900,000 pending cases. But VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has promised to “eliminate the backlog by 2015 and to raise the accuracy rate of claim decisions to 98 percent, up from 84 percent”; and according to VA Undersecretary for Benefits Allison Hickey, a “plan to get there is being executed.” The plan includes instituting a “new electronic claims processing system VA wide,” which involves “better training for claims handlers and a new operating model for how claims are categorized.” Hickey said the new “operating model will be in 16 VA regional offices by Sept. 30 this year and in all remaining regions by December 2013.” American Legion The new model is “part of a comprehensive transformation plan designed to yield an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 additional compensation claim decisions annually, while ensuring that veterans who are most in need get high priority.” Hickey said, “Our redesigned model follows comprehensive planning and testing to ensure we have the right recipe for success.”
7.   Shinseki Lauded For “Stellar” Effort To Improvement Veterans Programs. Tucson (AZ) Citizen Column, praises Shinseki for his “stellar job in implementing programs, from the expediting of the lingering Agent Orange claims to taking care of our rural veterans.” Brewer says that despite being surrounded by the likes of “political polarity, pugnacity and pugilistic radio show hosts,” there are people who “wake every day with the intention of making the world a better place”; and the VA, with “all their foibles, is one of them.” Brewer’s comments are followed by a copy of the VA press release on the new claims operating model, which was submitted to the Citizen by National Service Officer and Catholic War Veterans USA member Jose M. Garcia.

8.   VA Officials In South Carolina, Illinois Note Effort To Speed Claims Process.  WPDE-TV  VA’s claims backlog is keeping “vets waiting nationally,” including in Horry County, South Carolina. But the Columbia VA Regional Office has hired more claims examiners, according to Woody Middleton, the office’s assistant director. WPDE added that “new national initiatives…have simplified” the VA claims process. WBBM-AM “Many veterans have complained that the US Department of Veterans Affairs keeps them waiting months for benefits and, in some cases, medical care; but the VA says it’s working to speed up its process.” Beth McCoy, a regional VA director, said, “We’re going paperless. We have to go paperless.” McCoy added, “Our veterans deserve the best. They deserve the best quality, and the best timeliness in their decision-making that we can give them.

9.   Institute Of Medicine: Returning Soldiers Should Be Screened For PTSD Each Year.  AP  The Institute of Medicine in a report released Friday recommended that “soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan be screened for post-traumatic stress disorder at least once a year and that Federal agencies conduct more research to determine how well the various treatments for PTSD are working.”  New York Times The “first comprehensive review of the government’s programs” for treating PTSD recommended on that the Defense Department and Veterans Affairs “expand access to services, particularly for people in rural areas, in the National Guard or Reserves, or in combat zones.” The nearly 400-page report also urged the two departments to “improve their assessment of how well their many treatment programs work, as well as find better ways of coordinating care that can begin overseas and then continue on bases or in small towns across the country.” Friday’s report “represents the first half of a multiyear review of the broad range” of PTSD assessment and services provided by the two departments; and the “14 panel members will assess emerging treatments” for a second report, which is slated to be released “in 2014.”  Army Times The committee reviewed various treatment approaches, ranging from “individual and group psychotherapy to medication and alternative medicine, including yoga and animal assisted therapy. The panel strongly favored psychotherapy intervention, which has been proven by research and clinical use, and was less positive about drug or alternative therapies, which lack scientific studies to support their effectiveness.” As for prescription medication, which the report “says is taken by 80 percent of VA patients diagnosed with PTSD, the panel concluded more research is necessary.” Additionally, in a review of DOD and VA “PTSD treatments mandated by Congress in 2010,” the panel found that only about 40 percent of all service members and veterans who screen positive for PTSD “have received referrals for care, and of those, just 65 percent actually go on to get help.”

10. Active-Duty Suicide Numbers Decline In June.  Army Times “As many as 11 active-duty soldiers are believed to have committed suicide in June, five fewer than in the previous month,” according to data the Army released Friday. Of the 11 soldiers who died, “two were women,” one has been “confirmed as suicide and the other 10 are still under investigation.” Thus far this year, “89 active-duty soldiers are believed to have killed themselves,” according to the Army. Also in June, “12 reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty are believed to have committed suicide.” The deaths of the 10 soldiers who were in the Army National Guard and two who were in the Army Reserve “remain under investigation.” In May, “nine soldiers from that same population reportedly killed themselves.”


Have You Heard?

U.S. Navy Veteran and longtime movie icon Ernest Borgnine died at the age of 95 on July 8. Raised during the Great Depression, Borgnine enlisted in the Navy in 1935, mainly to help his family through the difficult times. He was discharged in 1941, but quickly re-enlisted after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  During his 10 year naval career, he served on the U.S.S. Lamberton and on the U.S.S. Sylph from 1941 until his discharge in 1945.  After the war, he used his G.I. Bill to attend the Randall School of Drama in Hartford, Conn.  In 1949, his acting career was launched on Broadway and led to roles in feature films such as “The Dirty Dozen,” and “The Poseidon Adventure.”  While Borgnine was best known for his role as Cmdr. Quinton McHale in the popular television show, “McHale’s Navy,” he was also an avid supporter of Veterans. In 1987, he was co-chair, along with Army Nurse Corps Veteran and fellow actress Martha Ray, for VA’s National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans.  Working with VA’s Voluntary Service staff, Borgnine and Ray visited Veterans at numerous VA facilities, uplifting the spirits of all Veterans that they met. Borgnine also served in various capacities at many Veterans’ events and celebrations over the years.


More Veteran News


  •  Mobile Veteran Center Stops In Conway.  WPDE-TV “More than two dozen veterans took advantage of a mobile veteran center that stopped at the Coastal Workforce offices on Thursday.” The center, which is a “partnership between the Department of Veterans Affairs, South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, Berkeley County Veterans Affairs Office and Ralph H. Johnson VAMC,” offers veterans “services such as counseling for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Military Sexual Trauma, bereavement counseling, marriage and family counseling, and resources like VA benefits information and suicide prevention referrals.”
  •   Army, VA Partner For PTSD Drug Study.  Frederick (MD) News-Post  An “Army office at Fort Detrick and a veterans program are teaming up to study drugs that could help treat combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder. The US Army Medical Materiel Development Activity’s Neurotrauma and Psychological Health Project Management Office has signed an agreement with the Department of Veterans Affairs Cooperative Studies Program that will help guide the studies, which could begin in about a year.” The goal is to “identify drugs already on the market that may help in treating” PTSD. At present, only “two drugs, paxotene, known as Paxil, and Zoloft, are approved for the treatment of PTSD.” The News-Post adds that in April, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki “announced the department would add about 1,600 mental health clinicians and 300 support staff to its existing workforce.”
  •   PTSD Training Offered Outside Fort Knox. AP  “City and police officials in Elizabethtown, near the Fort Knox Army post, will be offering training sessions for civilians to learn about post-traumatic stress disorder.” The training, which is being “organized by the police department, the Institute for Advanced Study at Lindsey Wilson College and One Knox, an agency that promotes the region,” will include a “panel of local health officials who have experience treating soldiers” with PTSD.
  •  DoD, VA Should Improve Access To Care For Soldiers And Veterans With PTSD, Track Outcomes Better.  US Medicine The DOD and VA should “ensure that service members and veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder have timely access to evidence-based care,” according to a new congressionally mandated Institute of Medicine report. The study found that of the US “service members and veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and screened positive for PTSD symptoms, about 40 percent have received a referral for additional evaluation or treatment, and of those referred,” only about “65 percent go on to receive treatment.” The IOM report also recommended that the two agencies should “institute research programs to evaluate the effectiveness of their PTSD programs and disseminate the findings widely.”
  •   Companies Seek To Dismiss Suit On Burn-Pit Risk. Army Times  A “Federal judge in Maryland will hear a motion Monday to dismiss a group of lawsuits filed against Kellogg, Brown and Root and Halliburton for operating open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.” The motion calls for “tossing out the consolidated lawsuits based on ‘derivative-sovereign immunity and preemption,’ meaning the companies believe they are exempt from litigation because they were providing services to the government.” The case involves “43 lawsuits from 42 states charging that the plaintiffs were harmed by toxic emissions and contaminated water resulting from burning waste in open pits Iraq and Afghanistan.” Meanwhile, a House panel on Friday vote in favor of requiring Veterans Affairs to “establish a registry of those exposed to toxic fumes and chemicals from burn pits.”
  • Today’s Veterans Have Resources, Come Home To Job Support. Bergen (NJ) Record  That although Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are “returning to a struggling economy,” there are plenty of available resources to help them including “job fairs, benefits seminars and an alphabet soup of job-opportunity websites for organizations like Hero2Hired and the GI Go Fund.” Moreover, there’s the DOD Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, which “steers soldiers to employment, training and healthcare resources”; and the “Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 protects” service members’ right to resume previously held jobs when they return from combat. At present, there are about “17,000 unemployed veterans in New Jersey,” according to state labor data; and according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, about “7.8 percent of New Jersey veterans were unemployed in May, compared with 11.9 percent nationally.”
  •    New Program Geared To Help Vets Start Businesses. South Florida Sun-Sentinel  The “Federal government is rolling out a training program for transitioning service members and veterans to becoming entrepreneurs and create jobs. ‘Operations Boots to Business’ is a national initiative involving the Small Business Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense and US Marines.” According to the Veteran Business Opportunity’s South Florida representative Robert Chavarria, the “goal is to reach 250,000 in that category every year.” He said SBA-guaranteed loans of “up to $500,000 are available to veterans through the Patriot Express program”; and thus far this year, the SBA has “guaranteed 73 loans worth $39.5 million to veterans in South Florida.”
  • July Proclaimed “Hire A Veteran Month.” Alexandria (MN) Echo Press Gov. Mark Dayton released an official proclamation (pdf) making “July 2012 ‘Hire a Veteran Month.'” Earlier this week, Dayton along with “Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Shellito, Minnesota National Guard Adjutant General Richard Nash, Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Mark Phillips, and Minnesota Yellow Ribbon Company US Bank,” issued the proclamation and kicked off the Minnesota Veterans Career Fair. More than “1,000 current and former veterans and 120 Minnesota businesses with employment opportunities were expected to participate in the event,” which was sponsored by the DEED, the Minnesota National Guard and the Minnesota VA.
  •   Towns Form Safety Net For Returning Vets.  Attleboro (MA) Sun Chronicle “Just a few months into its existence, the new Crossroads Veterans Service District serving Foxboro, Mansfield, Easton and Norton is an early success. Selectmen in each of the four towns backed the district as a vehicle to provide more comprehensive service, while potentially saving money down the road.” The district is also “working to establish public transportation to the closest VA hospital, located in Brockton, for veterans who might be elderly, handicapped or unable to drive.”
  •  Fourteen Veterans Hired “On the Spot” At 100,000 Jobs Event In Milwaukee.  WDJT-TV  “The US Chamber of Commerce teamed up with the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs for a hiring fair Thursday at the War Memorial. Sixty local companies took part; and of the 450 local veterans who showed up, 14 of them were hired on the spot.” East Peoria (IL) Times Courier  Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Friday “called on employers throughout Illinois to hire 100,000 Veterans by 2020.” The “100,000 Jobs Mission hiring event is being held in collaboration with the Illinois Employment Security Department, Illinois Veterans’ Affairs, JP Morgan Chase, Joining Forces, University of Illinois, American Legion, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, Student Veterans of America, US Department of Labor – VETS, US Veterans Affairs Department and the VFW.” The “Hiring Veterans Tax Credit,” which Quinn “called for in his 2012 State of the State address,” provides a “significant additional tax credit of up to $5,000 for every unemployed” post 9/11 veteran an Illinois company hires.

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