Your veterans news update for Thursday, August 21:
Ex-officer says she was discharged for reporting burn pit danger (Military Times)
An officer who says she was discharged from the Navy for alerting senior officials of the potential health dangers of open-air burn pits and improperly stored water at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, is suing to get her job back. Former Lt. Cmdr. Celeste Santana, an environmental health expert, said in documents filed Aug. 1 in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims that she was relieved from duty at the base in 2009 in retaliation for reporting “serious environmental health issues” affecting the safety of U.S. troops and local Afghans.
Irate veterans complain about benefits delays (Arizona Republic)
Irate veterans confronted the director of the Phoenix VA Regional Office about backlogs in benefits claims, peppering her with questions about the process Wednesday evening at one of the first of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ public forums being held nationwide. The town hall began with explosions of anger and frustration from veterans and their families, with participants in the nearly two-hour event repeatedly demanding transparency and efficiency from the VA.
Home Depot donates $1 million to foundation that gives homes to veterans (CBS New York)
The Home Depot is donating $1 million to a 9/11-related charity to help give wounded veterans homes. The state-of-the-art homes, which cost about $500,000 each, are provided mortgage-free. Almost everything in the homes — windows, doors, heating, air conditioning, lights — is operated by an iPad.
Test of gap in veterans benefits for same-sex couples (SCOTUSblog)
With six federal appeals courts already drawn deeply into the same-sex marriage controversy, a seventh — the specialized U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit — has just become involved. An advocacy group for military veterans who are legally married to same-sex partners has filed a new appeal seeking to close a gap in those couples’ eligibility for benefits, ranging from home loan guarantees to burial rights.
Treatment at a VA hospital nearly killed an agency whistleblower (Washington Examiner)
As a physician’s assistant at a VA hospital in Tennessee, Valerie Hoermann saw one of her patients, a friend and Vietnam veteran, die because of what she considered inadequate medical care. As a whistleblower, she endured retaliation after complaining about it to the agency’s inspector general. As an emergency patient in a VA hospital, she spent hours without medical treatment as her life burned away. She survived only after staggering out of the VA’s facility to a university teaching hospital next door.
Korean War veteran dies after VA ignores his medical history, daughter says (Washington Examiner)
Phillip Perez cheated death many times before it took him in March. The Army veteran survived the Korean War. He beat colon cancer in 1998 and kidney cancer in 2013. But a lingering infection in his toe landed him in a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Fresno, Calif., where his daughter says his complex medical history and fragile physical condition were ignored. He died two days after being admitted.
Lawmakers ask VA to support Gulf War board (USA Today)
Congress has demanded the VA improve its response to an independent board created to look at Gulf War illness. In a letter to new VA Secretary Robert McDonald, a bipartisan group of lawmakers details complaints that the VA forced out the chairman and other members of the board, prevented the board from releasing any reports without permission from the VA, precluded the board from having its own staff separate from VA and cut the group’s budget.