Veterans news update for Sept. 26

Veterans news update for Sept. 26

Veterans news updateAlaska veterans affairs official resigns at governor’s request (Alaska Dispatch News)
McHugh Pierre, civilian deputy commissioner for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, has resigned at the request of Gov. Sean Parnell, according to a spokesperson for the governor. Pierre’s departure comes as his close affiliation with Alaska National Guard commander Maj. Gen. Thomas Katkus is under intensified scrutiny. Katkus’ was the first head to roll in the wake of Parnell’s efforts to clean up a laundry list of command failures noted by outside investigators called in by Parnell to the get to the bottom of low morale, distrust and real and perceived wrongs within the Guard, including the alleged mishandling of sexual assaults and a feeling that assailants were protected instead of being dealt with.

Finish what you start: Veterans sound off on attacking ISIS (Washington Post)
The United States has been launching airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State without putting combat troops on the ground. The Washington Post asked veterans to share how their military service has affected their opinions on the current situation in Iraq. Said one veteran, “We need to recognize the limitations of American military power and that there are really nasty unintended consequences of picking sides in these conflicts, as there have certainly been in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Air power alone will not eliminate this threat. It will, however, serve to radicalize more Arab youth. This isn’t our fight. ISIL hates us over our involvement in these Middle Eastern conflicts and with Israel.”

Alabama congresswoman says she doesn’t trust Veterans Affairs (Associated Press)
An Alabama congresswoman who serves on the appropriations subcommittee that funds the Department of Veterans Affairs said Thursday that she has lost trust in the system. Republican Rep. Martha Roby of Montgomery said she’s found “a culture of complacency” at the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System and has had difficulty getting accurate, detailed information from Veterans Affairs officials in Alabama and Washington. “I have complete mistrust in the VA,” Roby said. Her assessment came one day after she met with top officials at the Central Alabama VA.

Iraq veterans and human rights advocates seek information on depleted uranium use (The Hill)Commentary: “One of the war’s toxic legacies was our use of depleted uranium (DU), used to pierce through armor in different battles across Iraq. DU creates a fine dust upon impact that, when inhaled, settles into people’s bones and internal organs.  I know veterans who are unexplainably ill and have been refused testing for exposure to depleted uranium. When veterans who have been in the line of fire come home with failing health and the cause cannot be pinpointed, psychiatrists often ascribe it to mental problems.  We need to know what we were exposed to in Iraq to better understand our health problems and get the necessary treatment.”

Woman sentenced to 10 months for theft of VA benefits from dead mother (Indianapolis Star)
A former Indianapolis resident will serve a 10-month sentence for collecting more than $90,000 in veterans benefit payments meant for her deceased mother. Rhonda F. Reddy, 59, was sentenced to five months in the Bureau of Prisons and five months on home detention. According to a release from Minkler’s office, Rhonda Reddy held a joint bank account with her mother, Dorothy Reddy.  Officials said when Dorothy Reddy died in December 2007, Rhonda Reddy did nothing to notify the VA of the death, and the benefits continued to be transmitted into the bank account monthly. Reddy began using the funds for herself and continued to do so until September 2013.

Mix-up at the VA has war vet listed as dead instead of alive (WSB-TV)
The family of an Atlanta-area veteran says the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs declared him dead, even though he’s alive. Korean War veteran William Marone, 82, is bedbound at a Henry County nursing home, but very much alive. The trouble started in June when Maroney’s wife died, and the VA declared him dead instead of his wife. Family says William Maroney’s disability benefits and health insurance have been cut off because of the mix-up. The VA says it is looking into the matter.

Caribbean VA Health System under fire by House Committee chairman (Washington Times)
The chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee demanded Thursday that new VA Secretary Bob McDonald explain serious deficiencies in the department’s Caribbean Health Care System, including the arrest of a top official and a suicide note left by a veteran who said he wanted to end his life because of the poor treatment he was receiving. Rep. Jeff Miller, Florida Republican, outlined what he called a “substantial number of incidents” in a letter to Mr. McDonald on Thursday, and questioned the leadership of DeWayne Hamlin, the center’s medical director, asking how he could have been absent for more than 100 days in a year.

VA audit: Seattle office overpays some claims because of slow case corrections (Tacoma News-Tribune)
Delays in processing claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs benefits office in Seattle are causing the agency to overpay patients after they recover from surgeries, according to a VA Inspector General report. The report says the VA Regional Office “did not accurately process” 24 percent of the 90 disability claims that auditors reviewed in a March site visit. The errors in the sample group cost the agency more than $168,000. In most of the cases, inspectors found the claims processors did not move quickly enough to revise benefits after a patient’s recovery.

Old book teaching new VA statistical tricks? (Arizona Republic)
As the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs struggles to redeem its reputation after a data-manipulation scandal, it faces new scrutiny over a book used to train up to 500 employees a year: “How To Lie with Statistics.” The popular statistics book, published in 1954, was penned by Darrell Huff, an author of several other “how to” books who later worked to debunk the surgeon general’s statistical links between cigarettes and cancer. But the book, used as recently as August to train VA employees, and its misplaced irony came under scrutiny during last week’s contentious congressional hearing over the validity of the VA Office of Inspector General’s investigative report into the Phoenix VA Health Care System.

Government is hiring more veterans, but fewer women (Washington Post)
The federal government in recent years has been hiring significantly more men than women than it did previously, according to data released this week. Women accounted for 43 percent of federal hires in 2000 but by 2012 that percentage had fallen by six points to 37 percent, the Merit Systems Protection Board said in a quarterly publication. “Our research shows that as use of veterans hiring authorities increased, the percentage of female new hires decreased,” MSPB said, adding that the result is “not surprising given that the active duty military is over 80% male.”

VA implements waiting room ‘smart chairs’ (Information Week)
The Department of Veterans Affairs is preparing to roll out “smart chairs” in waiting rooms at a small group of hospitals and clinics. This follows the agency’s nearly completed implementation of 6,000 kiosks at 1,000 sites across the United States. The Vitals Chair is not your typical waiting-room seat. It includes an antimicrobial touchscreen with magnetic stripe, blood pressure cuff, anti-bacterial wipes, thermometer, printer, sensor, and scale — all of which are FDA-approved. While many veterans prefer using the system to check in, make appointments, or update contact information, others can still opt to work with an employee, and employees use the same kiosk software to check in patients