Veteran story number 7 reads: "7. Coatesville VAMC Criticized By Judge For Pursuing Charges Against Medicated Vet. The Chester County (PA) Daily Local News (8/1, Rellahan) said Judge William P. Mahon, “who oversees Chester County’s treatment” courts, “sharply criticized the Coatesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s treatment of an Iraqi War veteran and other patients dealing with mental illness.” On Friday, 'before accepting Dixon’s guilty plea to simple assault,' Mahon 'questioned why…VA would pursue criminal charges against veteran Grady Lee Dixon Jr. for punching and shoving hospital staff when Dixon’s anti-depression medication was apparently affecting his mood.' Mahon’s 'comments come as the state has begun an effort to set up a series of Veterans Courts to handle the increasing number of criminal cases involving former service men and women'.”
Top 10 Veterans Stories in Today’s News
- 1. Shinseki: VA Is Focusing On Outreach, Access. Stars And Stripes (8/1, Shane) reported, “Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki concedes that a full transformation to a user-friendly, fast-moving department is still years away, but he also insists that the focus and approach of VA workers has fundamentally changed” to reaching out and providing access to veterans who may need VA’s help. Shinseki’s comments, which were made during an interview with Stars and Stripes and which preceded “President Barack Obama’s remarks to the Disabled American Veterans Convention on Monday morning, come as the VA stares down a continuing wave of veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. They enter a complex health and benefits system which boasts state-of-the-art record keeping for some programs but antiquated paper records in others.”
- During Vets Convention Speech, Obama To Discuss Iraq, Efforts To Support Troops, Vets. In continuing coverage, the AP (8/2, Pace) reports Obama “will set a course Monday for the nation’s changing mission in Iraq as the military prepares to end its combat operations there.” The President will make his remarks during a “speech at the national convention of the Disabled American Veterans in Atlanta,” where he is “also expected to speak about the government’s efforts to support troops serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as veterans of other wars.” CNN Newsroom (8/1, 10:45 p.m. ET) also aired a report noting the President’s speech.
- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (8/3, Keefe) notes that in an interview, Scott Gould, “deputy secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, said in addition to addressing Iraq, the president will discuss his ‘principal commitments to vets’ including ensuring they all get the benefits they need. The president also is expected to tout his commitment to the Department of Veterans Affairs, which has seen its budget increase steadily despite government cuts elsewhere, Gould said.” According to the Journal-Constitution, Obama “also likely will discuss new programs aimed at reducing the number of homeless vets and caring for the growing number of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries.”
- 2. VA Using New Contract Strategy, PTSD Rule. In continuing coverage, the lead “Veterans Journal” story for the Providence (RI) Journal (8/2, Reilly) notes that Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has “announced a new contracting strategy” for information technology (IT) “projects that will give veteran-owned small businesses more opportunities to work for…VA.” After noting that the strategy is called the “Transformation Twenty-one Total Technology –– or T4 –– program,” the Journal says Shinseki “estimated…the T4 strategy will enable veteran-owned small businesses to receive $800 million to $1 billion in contracts.” The column, which in its second story took note of VA’s new post-traumatic stress disorder rule, went on to report that Shinseki “also said…VA is cracking down on contractors who represent themselves fraudulently as veteran-owned small businesses.”
- Vet Concerned That New Rule Allows VA To Retain Sole PTSD Diagnosis Authority. Veteran Neal Powers also wrote about the new PTSD rule, warning in an op-ed for the Cape Girardeau, Missouri-based Southeast Missourian (8/1) that VA “still retains the sole authority to diagnose PTSD” and that VA staff is “not even required to entertain the opinions of their civilian counterparts. Because of this, the credibility of…VA is at risk.”
- 3. Halvorson, Schumer Hope To Tighten Rules On Soldiers’ Death Benefits. According to continuing coverage from Bloomberg News (8/2, O’Connor, Evans), US Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-IL) “wants Congress to set new rules for life insurance companies that profit from accounts” holding death benefits of fallen US soldiers and veterans. Bloomberg, which says the US Department of Veterans Affairs has begun a probe of the accounts, reports Halvorson has “introduced legislation…that would require companies such as Prudential Financial Inc. to tell beneficiaries how their money will be invested and how much” profit the insurer “stands to make.” After noting that VA would be required to enforce Halvorson’s bill, Bloomberg adds, “Senator Charles Schumer…is drafting legislation to require the VA and the federal personnel office to contract with insurers that would pay lump sums to beneficiaries unless they want to use a different method, the Associated Press reported.”
- 4. House Gives “Overwhelming Support” To Bill With Money For Agent Orange-Exposed Vets. In continuing coverage, CQ Weekly (8/2, Mulero) reports, “The House gave overwhelming support last week to the first of the fiscal 2011 spending bills to reach the floor – a $141.1 billion measure to fund the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Pentagon military construction projects.” The legislation, which includes money for claims by Vietnam “veterans exposed to the defoliant Agent Orange,” would “appropriate $6.5 billion, or 5 percent, more than fiscal 2010 funding and matches President Obama’s request.”
- 5. Senate Com
mittee To Mark Up Vets-Related Education Bill. In the middle of “Week At A Glance,” CQ (8/2) notes that on Thursday, at 9:30 a.m. in 418 Russell, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is scheduled to mark “up legislation on post-Sept. 11 veterans’ educational assistance improvements (S 3447).”
- 6. Tuscaloosa VAMC Hosts Picnic For Veterans. The Tuscaloosa (AL) News (8/1, Grayson) noted that on Saturday, the Tuscaloosa Veterans Affairs Medical Center “reached out to veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom during its Picnic in the Park event. ‘We did this two years ago and had a pretty good turnout of about 500 people or so,’” said Damon Stevenson, a hospital spokesman, who added, “Since then, we’ve enrolled many more veterans to the services we offer.”
- 7. Coatesville VAMC Criticized By Judge For Pursuing Charges Against Medicated Vet. The Chester County (PA) Daily Local News (8/1, Rellahan) said Judge William P. Mahon, “who oversees Chester County’s treatment” courts, “sharply criticized the Coatesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s treatment of an Iraqi War veteran and other patients dealing with mental illness.” On Friday, “before accepting Dixon’s guilty plea to simple assault,” Mahon “questioned why…VA would pursue criminal charges against veteran Grady Lee Dixon Jr. for punching and shoving hospital staff when Dixon’s anti-depression medication was apparently affecting his mood.” Mahon’s “comments come as the state has begun an effort to set up a series of Veterans Courts to handle the increasing number of criminal cases involving former service men and women.”
- 8. Local Officials Create Committee To Work On Behalf Of Returning Vets. The Sherwood (AR) Voice (7/30, Knable) reported, “At its Monday meeting, in addition to property maintenance issues, the Sherwood City Council dealt with a sewer problem” and “voted unanimously in favor of creating a military liaison committee.” After noting that the council “appointed Ward 2 Alderman Butch Davis chairman of that committee,” the Voice added, “Davis said the purpose of the committee will be to work on behalf of veterans returning from war who are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and other issues.” According to the Voice, Davis “will be meeting with representatives” of several veterans organizations, the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs, and a Veterans Affairs hospital, “and will serve as a liaison between the organizations, the city and…veterans.”
- 9. Woman Hopes Book Will Help Other Daughters Of War Vets. The Ontario, California-based Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (7/31, Leung) reported, “Juju Sands’ father died at the young age of 42 in 1989. Although the coroner’s report states he had cirrhosis of the liver, she knows the real cause of his death the Vietnam War.” After noting that the 41-year-old Sands “recently published a book about her father and how the post-traumatic stress disorder he experienced ravaged not just his life but her childhood,” the Daily Bulletin said Sands’ “hope is that ‘War Dad’ will help all the daughters who have fathers returning from war.”
- 10. Advocate For Homeless Vets Passes Away. In an obituary, the Los Angeles Times (8/2, Rivera) notes that on Saturday, 55-year-old Dwight Radcliff, an “Air Force veteran who overcame homelessness to lead” the United States Veterans Initiative, a national, nonprofit “organization providing services for former soldiers facing similar obstacles,” died after suffering a heart attack. Peter Dougherty, “national director of homeless veterans programs” at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, “who had known Radcliff for 20 years,” commented on his death, calling it a “huge loss.” The Chicago Tribune (8/2) and the Kansas City (MO) Star (8/2) run the same story.