Denied compensation by VA for TBI, Marine veteran takes his own life (San Diego Union-Tribune)
Jeremy Sears is the kind of combat veteran that America desperately wants to help — a Marine who served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the safety net designed to support returning troops seems to have failed in his case. After waiting 16 months in the VA claims logjam, Sears was denied all disability payments and, untreated for trauma injuries and facing financial difficulties, took his own life. The 35-year-old former Camp Pendleton infantryman killed himself on Oct. 6, almost exactly two years after being discharged. Just days before, he first admitted to his wife that he might have “survivor’s guilt” — sometimes seen as a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder. According to people close to him, Sears became despondent in February. That’s when the VA sent a letter saying that the government wouldn’t pay him anything, despite acknowledging that he had traumatic brain injury and hearing loss from his military service. Additionally, Sears was never got medical help for the brain injury.
VA contracting official resigns amid agency’s attempt to fire her (Washington Post)
A top Department of Veterans Affairs contracting officer who allegedly steered work to a Virginia firm resigned Tuesday, eight days after the agency announced that it had begun the process of firing her. Susan Taylor, the Veteran Health Administration’s No. 2 contracting official, said in an e-mail to employees that she decided to “resign and retire,” effective Oct. 14. She has worked with the federal government for 29 years, spending four of them with the VA. “I will definitely miss the terrific staff I have had at VHA, both at headquarters and in the field nationwide, but I know that you will continue to admirably serve our veterans through your dedicated service,” Taylor wrote. She also indicated that the VA is trying to recruit a replacement for her. The VA inspector general’s office said in a report last month that Taylor helped steer a contract to Vienna-based FedBid and worked with the government-services company to overturn an agency moratorium on work by the firm, in addition to interfering with an investigation of the matters.
The secret casualties of Iraq’s abandoned chemical weapons (New York Times)
From 2004 to 2011, American and American-trained Iraqi troops repeatedly encountered, and on at least six occasions were wounded by, chemical weapons remaining from years earlier in Saddam Hussein’s rule. In all, American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs, according to interviews with dozens of participants, Iraqi and American officials, and heavily redacted intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
VA moving to close internal security gap affecting veterans’ personal information (Fedscoop)
The Department of Veterans Affairs has been working aggressively to eliminate dozens of instances of a so-called broker application that for the past decade has created an internal security vulnerability that could allow individuals with the right set of skills and tools to gain unauthorized access to veterans’ data, the VA confirmed in an exclusive interview with FedScoop. Message brokers, which carry out remote procedure calls for machine-to-machine communications inside VA’s network, are a central part of VA’s service-oriented architecture.
VA secretary brings recruiting tour for medical professionals to Hopkins (Baltimore Sun)
The head of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, visiting Baltimore, asked nursing students at Johns Hopkins to consider careers with the VA — part of a larger plan to combat the long wait times that have plagued the health care system. VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald, who took over the troubled Cabinet department in late July, has embarked on a national recruiting tour in the hope of luring future doctors, dentists and nurses to the VA by touting job satisfaction, a sense of mission and the institution’s contributions to modern medicine. He’s also planning to boost salaries to make the VA’s pay scale more competitive with that of the private sector. Doctors in the private sector generally earn as much as or more than they can working for the VA.
Female veterans aim for Washington while navigating the campaign trail (NPR)
A military resume has long been a big plus for political candidates. Only 5 female veterans have served in Congress, but 11 are running this year — including Republican Wendy Rogers in Arizona.