Veterans news update for Oct. 16

Veterans news update for Oct. 16

Veterans news updateVA executives slated for firing find a way to retire instead (Wall Street Journal)
Top-level Department of Veterans Affairs employees whom the agency moves to fire can take advantage of a procedural delay to retire instead, despite a law passed this summer to hasten the termination process. A senior employee who VA investigators allege violated contract processes for her own gain and whose case VA inspectors forwarded to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution said Tuesday in an email to employees, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, that she would be retiring. Her announcement comes just over a week after the VA said it would be forcing her out. The VA has seen one other recent retirement of a senior executive whose firing was imminent, a VA official said.

VA secretary: I’m ‘aggressively’ firing problem employees (Navy Times)
Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald says he’s working “aggressively” to fire problem employees in his department and is frustrated by congressional criticism that dismissals aren’t moving fast enough. “If somebody wants us to move faster, then they should change the law,” he said during a news conference in Baltimore on Tuesday. “We are following the law. And we are doing it as expeditiously as possible.” The comments echo pushback from other top department officials after another round of criticism from lawmakers that not enough senior administrators have been fired for problems related to VA’s recent care delay and data manipulation scandals. In the last few weeks, McDonald has announced plans to fire five senior executives for various mismanagement and corruption allegations, using new employment authorities approved by Congress in July.

U.S. must do more to reduce homelessness among female veterans (Los Angeles Times)
Op-Ed: Ginger Miller served in the U.S. Navy as a bosun’s mate, receiving a medical discharge for an in-service accident. Although her service skills didn’t readily transfer to civilian life, she never dreamed she’d end up homeless, living on the streets for three years with her 2-year-old son and husband, a former Marine suffering from PTSD who also could not find work. This snapshot of just one woman, one family, isolated and alone, is emblematic of a persistent national tragedy that is largely preventable and completely unacceptable. The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s most recent “point in time” count of homeless veterans found roughly 50,000 on the night in January that it conducted its spot survey. Based on previous full-year estimates, we can safely conclude that there probably are more than 100,000 homeless veterans across America. Of these, an estimated 10,000 of them are female.

At VA, exploring alternative therapies for chronic pain and other ailments (Washington Post)
The acupuncturist in his glow-in-the-dark yellow Crocs gently leaned over the burly and bearded Army Special Operations officer, who was stretched across a bed in the “zen den” of the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center. Like hundreds of veterans from across the country who have come to this VA hospital for treatment of chronic pain, panic attacks, traumatic injuries and other ailments, he said he was so fed up with taking heavy-duty painkillers that he was willing to try anything. The alternative-therapy programs mark a dramatic departure in the treatment offered to troops who are returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and seeking relief from pain. Among the options: Equine therapy. Alpha stimulation. Qigong. Guided imagery. Life coaching. Yoga and Pilates. Hypnosis. Aqua therapy. Botox. The Richmond hospital and three other pilot programs offering these therapies are part of an effort by the Veterans Health Administration to reduce the dependence of tens of thousands on opiate painkillers.

Wounded veterans to test NeuroSigma device (Los Angeles Business Journal)
West L.A. medical device maker NeuroSigma announced that it has entered into a research and development agreement with U.S. Veterans Affairs for a clinical trial. The trial will evaluate the benefits of a NeuroSigma nerve stimulation device on patients with traumatic brain injury, or TBI. “There is an acute need for more non-invasive TBI treatment options, not only for our veterans returning from overseas combat operations but also for the millions of Americans involved in motor vehicle accidents, falls and sports-related concussions,” said Lodwrick M. Cook, chairman of NeuroSigma. NeuroSigma in 2012 was approved to market a nerve stimulation device in the European Union for the treatment of epilepsy and major depressive disorder. In its new project with the VA, veterans with traumatic brain injuries will receive NeuroSigma’s system nightly in their own homes for an eight-week period.

VFW reminds voters of no votes on VA reform ahead of election (Washington Times)
Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars are making sure votes made over the summer against VA reform are fresh on constituents’ minds in the midterm elections. The VFW sent out an email listing the eight lawmakers who voted against the spending package meant to fix the long wait times and poor quality care at Veterans Affairs hospitals nationwide. The $16 billion bill passed both chambers in July and was signed into law in early August. “Failing to support America’s veterans is inexcusable, and I hope every voting constituent in every home district and state remembers that, because the VFW will do our best to remind them,” the VFW National Commander John Stroud said in a statement.

VA studying an array of options to replace Omaha veterans hospital (
The Department of Veterans Affairs has begun studying an array of options to replace the outmoded Omaha veterans hospital and expects to come up with a new plan within a few months, Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., said. The Omaha congressman led Philip Matkovsky, the VA’s acting deputy undersecretary for health, and Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, on a tour of the 64-year-old facility. At a brief press conference after the tour, Terry and Miller announced a new feasibility study by the VA to look at several replacement options. They include upgrading the existing building, renovating and moving into the current Creighton University Medical Center after it closes in 2017, or building a brand-new hospital.

He’s a veteran, a college student, and homeless: A day in the life of Rick Bush (
Meet Frederick “Rick” Bush, a 44-year-old veteran who has been homeless for four weeks. Bush is an unemployed construction worker and a former firefighter in the U.S. Air Force. He served from 1989-93, including during the Persian Gulf War. He was raised in Houston, is divorced and has two teenage sons, ages 13 and 15, who live with their mother in Mobile County He’s also an ex-convict, having served time in prison for armed robbery in another state, and has faced possession charges in Mobile County. He’s been in recovery since 2012 from addictions to alcohol, marijuana and cocaine. This isn’t the first time he’s been homeless. Last time, it lasted about three months. Now, Bush says he is working to reinvent himself. He’s in his second year of college, attending Phoenix University online under a Pell grant. Rick’s story is not unfamiliar to workers in local missions.

Obama is M.I.A. on case of decorated Marine jailed in Mexico (The Hill)
Commentary: This past Sunday, President Obama played his 200th round of golf as president of the United States. And tragically, it has been just over 200 days that Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, a decorated U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran, has languished in a Mexican jail. In April, Tahmooressi crossed the southern border at San Ysidro by mistake after taking a wrong turn; he was stopped by Mexican officials who found three U.S.-registered guns in his truck. Since Mexico has extremely strict firearms laws, he was taken into custody. In response, several U.S. government authorities have shown diligence and commitment to the cause of securing Tahmooressi’s release. The U.S. State Department has maintained an open line of communication with the Mexican government on the matter, and the House Foreign Affairs Committee has advocated forcefully for the Marine’s release. Yet missing in action is the voice of Tahmooressi’s commander in chief—President Barack Obama. When will the president weigh in on behalf of this decorated combat veteran held unjustly in foreign captivity?