Veterans news update for Oct. 14

Veterans news update for Oct. 14

Veterans news updateSenate report questions for-profit schools’ approach to vets on G.I. Bill (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
A report released recently casts some pretty unfavorable light on the for-profit college and university industry and its continued pursuit of student veterans using their GI Bill benefits. The report from the U.S. Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, “Is the New G.I. Bill Working?” says bluntly, “The fact that so many veterans are continuing to enroll in high-cost, for-profit colleges with questionable outcomes raises questions regarding whether aggressive deceptive and misleading marketing efforts are continuing.” Although overall student enrollment has fallen at each of the eight top for-profit G.I. Bill schools, their enrollment of veterans has dramatically increased during the same period. The percentage of veterans attending public college had dropped precipitously, from 62 percent in 2009 to just 50 percent in 2013.

North Korea: U.S. service members’ remains being moved (WCSC-Charleston)
North Korea said Monday the remains of U.S. military personnel killed during the Korean War are being carried away “en masse.” They say it’s due to construction projects, but the move is seen by some as an attempt to put pressure on Washington. Tom Hudner and Richard Bonelli traveled back to the country they almost died in to try to find the remains of fallen comrade Jesse Brown. Brown died in his plane after it was shot down by enemy fire. Hudner’s daring rescue attempt was unsuccessful. Hudner and Bonelli spent 10 days in North Korea last summer, but bad weather prevented them from reaching the crash site. The veterans were told leader Kim Jong Un had taken a personal interest in their quest. “There have been some, you might say, unspoken promises made here to try to get together on this,” Hudner said. More than 8,000 soldiers are still missing in action from the Korean War. The remains of more than 5,000 of them are believed to be in North Korea. The U.S. suspended joint recovery work of American MIAs in 2005 due to security concerns. A 2011 agreement to resume ended after North Korea carried out a long-range rocket test. Any good will between the U.S. veterans and North Korean military to resume recovery efforts was not replicated between Pyongyang and Washington.

Veteran’s prosthetic leg stolen outside of Eagles-Giants game (CBS-Philadelphia)
Police are looking for a woman who allegedly stole the prosthetic leg of a disabled Vietnam War veteran in a wheelchair outside of Lincoln Financial Field. It happened around 8:30 p.m. Sunday during the Eagles game with the New York Giants. The victim, Sonny Forriest Jr., who performs for fans outside of the “Linc” during home Eagles games, tells police he was singing when a group of women surrounded him and one of them took his prosthetic leg that was secured to the back of his motorized wheelchair. The leg was recovered on a Broad Street Subway train at Fern Rock Station several hours later. Forriest, with great difficulty, made his way to South Detective Division to retrieve it.

VA employees in New Mexico got $24,000 in bonuses despite delays in care (Associated Press)
Five top administrators in the Veterans Affairs’ health care system in New Mexico received more than $24,000 in bonuses in 2013 despite complaints from veterans about lapses and delays in care. Documents obtained by The Associated Press through a Freedom of Information request show the director of the New Mexico system collected more than $8,700 in 2013. Nearly 100 other employees — from emergency-room doctors to surgeons — shared more than $2.4 million in performance pay last year.

It’s the VA’s turn to wait for PTSD patients (Pensacola News Journal)
In a paradoxical turnabout, the embattled Department of Veterans Affairs is relegated to waiting for former armed forces members who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder to seek treatment when they choose, if ever. Hamstrung by federal law and its own rules, the VA is blocked from requiring diagnosed PTSD patients to undergo counseling or re-evaluations to determine if their prescriptions should be renewed or changed. “Many times what we’d love to do is not something we’re capable of doing,” said Larry Parker, manager of VA programs that focus on veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who live in Northwest Florida and other areas of the Gulf Coast. Bound by the legal restrictions, Parker and the VA counselors are sometimes frustrated: “We’re very limited when it comes to pushing a veteran into care.”

The VA unwittingly scares PTSD victims (Pensacola News Journal)
Doctors and mental health counselors say there are several effective treatments for the post-traumatic stress disorder that plagues military veterans, but a breakthrough to ease their fears about stepping forward to actually get therapy is elusive. “I know I have had veterans ask us if they are at risk for losing their benefits if they undergo treatment,” said Dr. Candace Drake, a psychologist at Pensacola’s Joint Ambulatory Care Center, where hundreds of PTSD patients are treated. “And yes, I have to tell them, ethically.” Even though psychological help through the Department of Veterans Affairs is free through the Veterans Healthcare Administration segment for which Drake works, decisions on eligibility for disability payments on which many PTSD patients heavily rely are made by a separate arm of the VA, the Veterans Benefits Administration. The two branches of VA sometimes seem to be at odds. Drake, who counsels about 25 Pensacola area veterans each week, said, “There’s something off about the fact that financial decisions that we’re not involved in as providers are based on our documentation of treatment.”

Vet who pleaded for care at VA town hall has cancer (USA Today)
The same gut instinct that helped Robert Morgan survive war in the jungles of Vietnam spurred him to stand up and plead for quicker medical care at a public meeting. “I’ll die, and the reason I’ll die is because I don’t receive timely care,” he said to the director of the VA hospital in Nashville on Sept. 22. The Goodlettsville, Tenn., man said he probably had cancer that had metastasized. He was right. On Oct. 7, he learned he had pancreatic cancer that had spread to his liver. He spent last weekend in that hospital on an IV after days of vomiting. He has his first appointment with an oncologist Tuesday. Morgan said the cancer should have been diagnosed earlier because he had several risk factors — diabetes, exposure to Agent Orange and a flare-up of pancreatitis two years ago.

Denver VA hospital reopens for limited surgeries following contamination (KMGH-Denver)
After staff members told media outlets that the surgical unit at Denver’s Veterans Affairs Medical Center would be closed again this week due to contamination issues, Denver VA Medical Center provided an update, saying the hospital’s operating rooms are open for limited procedures, and that disposable surgical tools would be used. “We have been performing surgical procedures with disposable instrumentation, and now have completed enough resurfacing and sterilization processes to resume doing procedures with our stainless steel instrumentation,” the hospital said in a statement.  Just two weeks ago, the hospital revealed that “trace mineral deposits” on surgical equipment forced the hospital’s seven operating rooms within its surgical unit to shut down.