Veterans news update for Sept. 29

Veterans news update for Sept. 29

Veterans news updateAfter death, VA persists to collect 59 cents (Wilmington (Del.) News Journal)
The first letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs addressed to the late David Perry arrived five weeks after he died at home June 5. “You remain eligible to receive (VA) health benefits,” it read. A handwritten yellow sticky note added, “Please provide copy of death certificate.” Helena Perry, David’s wife, thought she’d notified VA. Regardless, she said, “It’s kind of hard for him to open it when he’s not here – and even harder for him to send the death certificate.” Several days later, a VA billing statement addressed to David Perry arrived. Helena opened that one too. Her late husband, it seemed, owes the government 59 cents. “So if it’s not paid by October the 11th, I’m going to have additional – or he will have additional charges on his 59 cents,” she said. “So I did call and talk to them, and informed them again that he was dead, and I just didn’t think he would be able to pay it.”

Veterans line up for free marijuana in Colorado (Washington Times)
A marijuana giveaway at a Colorado Springs hotel on Saturday attracted about 1,000 veterans seeking an alternative to pain medications. Roger Martin, the executive director and co-founder of Operation Grow4Vets, which organized the event, said the group’s goal is to bring cannabis to veterans with service-related medical conditions. Veterans were given a bag of items that included cannabis oil, an edible chocolate bar and seeds to grow plants. Marijuana activists have tried unsuccessfully to have post-traumatic stress disorder added to the Colorado list of medical conditions that qualify for joining the medical marijuana registry. Now that pot is legal in Colorado for all adults over 21, organizers are free to give away marijuana.

Veterans of Iraq torn over airstrikes against ISIS (Boston Globe)
US military veterans watched in dread this summer as insurgents swept across Iraq and as the country the United States fought to liberate descended into chaos. They recoiled at the beheadings of hostages and mass killings at the hand of the Islamic State. But as the United States extended its airstrikes against the radical group into Syria this week, a new phase of what military leaders said would be a lengthy campaign, many military personnel who fought in Iraq said they feel deeply conflicted over the latest intervention. They said they worry the airstrikes may spiral into another intractable conflict that will lead to a redeployment of American ground forces.

Grit and granite: A monument to disabled veterans (Philadelphia Inquirer)
Four million disabled service members will be honored with the dedication of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington. The 2.4-acre triangular site — across from the U.S. Botanic Garden and about 1,000 feet from the Capitol — uses granite and glass to communicate the strength and vulnerability of service members. An eternal flame, star-shaped fountain, reflecting pool, four bronze relief sculptures, and 48 laminated glass panels with text and images tell a story of sacrifice.

California governor signs bills to help veterans, create Orange County cemetery (Los Angeles Times)
Gov. Jerry Brown signed 21 bills to help and recognize military veterans, including a measure to help create the first veterans’ cemetery in Orange County. Other bills signed protect veterans’ rights to healthcare, education and shelter. The cemetery bill requires the California Department of Veterans Affairs to work with local governments to design, develop, construct and equip a veterans’ cemetery in the former Marine Corps Station El Toro in Irvine. The state agency will apply for a grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to pay for the creation of the cemetery.

Veterans send open letter to Fox News about ‘Boobs On the Ground’ joke (Business Insider)
Veterans from the Truman National Security Project have written an open letter to Fox News complaining that offensive comments about a female United Arab Emirates pilot were “unwarranted” and “fundamentally opposed to what the military stands for.” During Wednesday’s broadcast of “The Five,” co-hosts Eric Bolling and Greg Gutfeld ridiculed Maj. Mariam Al Mansouri, the first female UAE pilot and F-16 squadron commander leading airstrikes against ISIS. “Problem is, after she bombed it, she couldn’t park it,” Gutfeld said. “Would that be considered boobs on the ground, or no?”

VA Secretary McDonald: Agency will regain trust (Associated Press)
VA Secretary Robert McDonald said Saturday that the agency plagued by long veterans’ waits for health care and other problems is on the road to improvement and committed to winning back veterans’ trust. “We know we have to work harder to earn that trust back one veteran at a time,” McDonald told reporters at the VA Medical Center in Cincinnati. The former Army ranger and longtime executive of Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co. talked with reporters at the facility after meeting with VA employees and talking with patients. He said he continually stresses to employees and patients the urgent need for all of them to provide feedback needed to fix the problems. A spokesman for Disabled American Veterans said in a telephone interview Saturday that McDonald also has been reaching out to that group and to other veterans service organizations.

Senators search for ways to reduce suicide among veterans (NBC Connecticut)
U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy met with doctors and mental health professionals with the Veterans Administration to brainstorm ways to reduce the suicide rate among veterans. “There’s a consensus that if we get them in the [VA] system, then the rate of suicide goes down,” Murphy said. Doctors who work with veteran patients echoed that sentiment. “One of the things we need is access to good mental health. If you’re going to be treating a much larger veteran population then you need to have adequate mental health services” said Ismene Petrakis, chief of the Mental Health Service Line. On average, 22 veterans commit suicide every day according to the VA.

Denver veterans hospital finds tainted surgical instruments (Denver Post)
The Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center has found trace mineral deposits on some surgical instruments, forcing it to reschedule some procedures, officials said. The center is in the process of resurfacing the instruments, according to a news release by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The release said the center is using disposable equipment for now and will resume full operations once the instruments are reprocessed.

Veterans transition to civilian life, work in steps (Houston Chronicle)
The transition from active service back to civilian life is different for everyone. The change can be difficult, confusing or simply overwhelming; however, there are vast resources at veterans’ hands that help outline the steps needed to make a smooth and successful transition to civilian life. The first step to a successful transition is to understand that with these changes comes a breadth of emotions — anxiety, excitement, fear and frustration. Understanding and accepting that the transition to civilian life may not go as planned or happen as quickly or smoothly as you would like is important to your progress, as well as your emotional well-being.

Hobbled VA caregiver program dims chance of expansion (Newport News (Va.) Daily Press)
For older generations of spouses, mothers and other family caregivers of severely disabled veterans, the startling feature of the Family Caregiver Program that Congress enacted in 2010 was its exclusivity. The unprecedented package of caregiver benefits includes training to help ensure patient safety; cash stipends to partially compensate for caregiver time and effort; caregiver health coverage if they have none, and guaranteed periods of respite to protect against burn out. The comprehensive package, however, isn’t available to most family members who are primary caregivers to severely ill and injured veterans.

Pittsburgh VA investigating source of Legionnaires’ case (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
The Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System is investigating whether a veteran with Legionnaires’ disease might have contracted the respiratory ailment at its University Drive campus in Oakland, a spokesman said. VA Pittsburgh workers identified the Legionnaires’ case on Friday but have not determined where the man might have contracted it, spokesman Mark Ray said. He said the veteran received outpatient treatment within the past couple of weeks at the University Drive complex, which has a history of the common Legionella bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease.

Iowa City VA patients not told about bacteria problem (Des Moines Register)
Leaders of the Veterans Affairs hospital here plan to spend $6.5 million to combat a potentially deadly bacteria that has been found in the facility’s water pipes, but they have not informed patients about the problem. Legionella bacteria can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a dangerous type of pneumonia. VA administrators confirmed to the Register that they’ve found the bacteria in several sinks and other water outlets in the past few years. But they said they’ve been able to control the problem, and they have not seen the need to cause alarm by telling patients.

No new VA patient schedule system until 2020 (Nextgov)
The Department of Veterans Affairs will not install a new patient scheduling system to all of its 153 hospitals and 50,000 users until 2020, according to contract documents released last week. The VA views a new patient scheduling system as key to resolving problems which have consigned veterans to a waiting list limbo for months or years.  In July, acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson told the House Veterans Affairs committee the new scheduling system would be deployed in 2016.