Veterans news update for Sept. 12

Veterans news update for Sept. 12

13 veterans’ unclaimed remains finally laid to rest (Stars & Stripes)
Thirteen military veterans whose remains went unclaimed at a Detroit morgue were finally laid to rest in side-by-side plots after a 60-mile procession in which state troopers on motorcycle accompanied the 13 hearses to the cemetery. Funeral arrangements were coordinated by the Missing in America Project, which also led efforts to identify and verify the military service record of each deceased veteran.

VA launches massive hiring blitz (CNNMoney)
The beleaguered Veterans Affairs department is launching a major recruitment campaign to bring aboard legions of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals. Plans are to also beef up the ranks of support staff, hiring for roles as diverse as chaplain, clerk, electrician, librarian and plumber. Attracting doctors to the VA is going to be tough. The VA’s reputation has taken a hit this year from the revelation of secret waiting lists and excessively long wait times. Salary freezes and bans on bonuses have suppressed VA salaries in a highly competitive industry.

Survey shows veterans using VA as primary source for mental health care (Washington Post)
Many veterans are turning to the Department of Veterans Affairs as their primary source of mental health care, but they say access remains slow, confusing and anxiety-ridden and adds to their depression, according to a survey from the Wounded Warrior Project. Previously, the majority of veterans said they relied on peer support or speaking with other Iraq and Afghanistan veterans about their experiences to cope with stress and depression, the group said.

Permanent new boss requested for Phoenix VA (Arizona Republic)
Arizona’s entire congressional delegation sent a letter Thursday to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald urging him to name a permanent leader of the Phoenix VA medical center to replace Director Sharon Helman even though she remains on the agency’s payroll. The letter, unusual in its bipartisan consensus, notes that two temporary bosses have overseen the beleaguered Phoenix VA Health Care System since Helman was placed on leave May 1 amid allegations of fraud and mismanagement. A third fill-in is expected in November.

Opinion: Accountability is the key to real VA reform (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
Minnesota has always been known for its top-rated health care — even for veterans. During the nationwide Department of Veterans Affairs scandal this summer, the Minnesota VA touted some of the lowest wait times in the country and was essentially left out of the conversation. Until now. A recent investigative report by KARE-TV found two former employees from the Minneapolis VA who exposed long wait times, secret waiting lists and falsification of data — which at this point are almost uniform issues at the VA.

Senate passes increase in veterans disability benefits (The Hill)
The Senate passed a bill Thursday that would increase compensation benefits for veterans with disabilities. Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) introduced S. 2258, the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act, which would direct the secretary of Veterans Affairs to increase the rate of veterans’ disability compensation starting on Dec. 1. The cost-of-living increase would match that of Social Security benefits. The bill now heads to the House for further action.

VA expanding home adaptations program for visually impaired veterans (The Hill)
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is expanding a program that provides members of the military and veterans who are blind with grants to make adaptions to their homes, the agency said. Soldiers with severe vision impairments will be eligible for money to fix up their homes in ways that accommodate their disability. To qualify, they must either be completely blind or have vision that is no better than 20/200 when using a corrective lens.

Soldiers are marching back to school (Forbes)
Across the country, veterans who have served are also heading back to college in record numbers, taking advantage of exceptional education benefits. The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides up to full tuition, a monthly housing stipend and money for books and supplies to veterans, service members and their families to complete their postsecondary education. The VA has issued $43.1 billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to more than 1.2 million veterans in just the past five years.